Monday, March 30, 2009

An incomplete meditation on good and evil, innocence and wisdom

Wisdom and innocence are incompatible. Innocence implies ignorance of evil. Wisdom implies knowledge of it. To be knowledgeable of evil, one must have either taken part in it or been its victim. Knowledge of evil cannot be theoretical, or it is not properly understood, only suspected.

Understanding of evil does not imply power to control it - as one can understand the laws of physics, one nevertheless cannot control them, one is only beholden to them. To understand evil does not mean that one has the power to defeat it, or bend it to one's own will. The most that one can hope to achieve is to manage its effects, either by limiting them or taking advantage of them. Clearly good lies in limiting evil's effects and evil in encouraging them.

Claims to wisdom are suspect. To claim to be wise is to presume to know what one does not know. The core of wisdom is recognition of ignorance. Wisdom is aspired to, not possessed.

Innocence is inevitably surprised by evil. Because an innocent does not know evil he or she cannot recognize its advance. Evil is known by its intentions and its effects. An innocent, once exposed to evil, is contaminated by it, and no longer innocent. Lack of innocence implies guilt. Wisdom implies guilt.

Guilt does not imply evil. Evil is celebration of guilt. Good is not so seduced. Good knows guilt and regrets it.

Just as innocence is ignorant of evil, it is also ignorant of good. As such, innocence is only potentially good, or evil. Innocence must be lost to achieve that potential, or stain. One must suffer the effects of evil, or taste it and reject it, in order to become good.

Good and evil are subtle. Both seem to disappear under close inspection, leaving nothing to identify one way or the other. Good and evil are not objectively real, they are not identifiable substances. As such, they are vulnerable to claims of the supernatural, but that is no more than an appeal to maintain ignorance. To choose to remain ignorant of evil is to give it free rein. To choose to remain ignorant of good is to betray it.

It may be more difficult to understand and identify good than evil.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Semper Fi

I once heard it said that women do not have the same sense of honor as do men. It has been too many years for me to remember who said it or in what context, but it has stuck with me. That is not to say that I think it is necessarily true. Too often claims like that are interpreted to mean all women and all men and it does not define what is meant by honor, a quality which is itself very much open to interpretation.

With all that spineless qualification said, however, I now find it quite plain that western society does not hold women to the same level of honorable behavior as it does men. Yes, I am fully aware that this statement can be read in two ways. I feel secure enough in the claim to make it without reservation and rarely do we see it as plainly demonstrated as here: Marine free after conviction tossed out.

Embroiled in a nasty divorce and custody case, a man's wife claimed he "spousal-raped" her some years before. Despite an apparent complete lack of evidence, he went to jail for 17 years of which he served ten before the appeals court finally got around to reviewing the case and kicking it out. The only real novelty here is that the whole thing was before a military court because the man was and is a US marine.

A number of points leap out at me:

- Sergeant Brian Foster appears to bear no grudge against the system which, on the word of a completely unreliable accuser, took away ten years of his life. Far from it, he appears to see this as a success in that the military court eventually pulled its finger out and did the right thing. I guess this all depends on your degree of indoctrination, or what you are comparing against.

- An army prosecutor declared this to be "a black eye for the military justice system". A man loses ten years of his life and the "system" gets a black eye. Clearly, this was not a fair fight.

- This was a military court, so my guess is that the vast majority of the people involved were men. One can hardly claim, as is so often the case, that the "patriarchy" was looking after its own. Quite the reverse, in fact. The powers that be tore their victim to shreds and tried to forget about him. Was this a blatant case of scapegoating in an atmosphere of hysteria against the "rapist" male? Are we talking about a bunch of testosterone-laden men wound up to destroy one of their own by a manipulative woman? Is, in point of fact, the "patriarchy" actually the opposite of what it is supposed to be - more destructive to non-alpha males, who are inevitably the majority, than to any woman?

- The mother has lived nowhere near Fort Leavenworth, where Foster was jailed, nor Texas, where his parents live. There is no mention in the entire article as to whether Foster has even spoken to his boys during his incarceration. Indeed, no-one seems to give a damn that the mother has taken off with the two boys and completely eradicated their father from their lives, they're not even sure where she is. I don't know about you, but I call that child abduction. (Remember, this was a man, a soldier, who fought for custody of his children, not someone who wanted to walk away from them.)

- Foster hopes to get back pay, but will be happy to serve as a Marine until his retirement. “The courts," he says, "which I joined the Marine Corps to defend, ultimately made me free. It just took a little bit of time.” Frankly, the military ought to be falling over itself to give him whatever he wants.

By the way...

I have been quiet for a while. A number of anniversaries have passed. I have still not seen my son. Life goes on. I distract myself as I can. Perhaps I am a little better able to cope with the ongoing loss, but that does not make it any less of an outrage, nor am I any less committed to whatever I can do to put anything right. Like Foster, I am not fighting a fair fight.

I have received a few comments on my blog recently. Most tragically from a woman who found "How to talk to a disenfranchised father" and who expressed her gratitude for it from a woman in the same shoes. I feel for her because if there is so little compassion for a father who is shut out of his children's lives by the courts, even less will be found for a mother. This may seem odd for an institution so dominated by the idea of mother-as-victim, but the fact is that this system generates invisible victims in the form of non-custodial parents, whether fathers or mothers, at the behest of vindictive custodial parents, all in the name of protecting a meaningless concept labeled "the best interests of the child".

I've also gotten some flames, particularly and unsurprisingly, in "Feminist-bashing, a rant". I don't publish these comments in fair trade for the typical feminist's blog's inability to suffer dissent either. Nevertheless, there is a common thread in that the commentary is typically an ad hominem attack from someone who is not interested to understand my point of view and hasn't noticed that the posting is a carefully constructed point-by-point reply to a newspaper article on feminism. More pointedly expressed, the article is a long whinge from a feminist and my reply an extended "quit whining!" exhortation to grow up and out of it. Fair's fair grrlz, you complain unreasonably, you get flamed.