Monday, November 12, 2012

The Moral Climber

I just wrote this in response to my  friend pointing out a high-horse post by Chris Hedges abiout how liberals suck but he doesn't....

I just co-organized a panel of public housing activists here in Chicago, and work, and therefore have colleagues who work, in some of the city's poorer communities.  And I just presented a project on police torture I worked on with my students, and showed another piece about a former student killed for being gay.  

And I have to say, people like me are obnoxious.  The whole Thomas Paine "Humanity is my religion and the world my country" thing has undeniable moral force, and equally undeniable arrogance.  The somber, reverent candlelight-vigil recitation of every place in the world where there is suffering is a masquerade of ethicized piety; not that it can't inspire good action, but it is a masquerade.  

And it is obnoxious because it's so often all about ME.  Where's my Pulitzer?  Where's my Nobel?  Where's my emeritus professorship?  I got this innocent tortured man freed from prison, but where's my honorary plaque?

Anyhow- I understand the emotional strain of the well-intentioned person, since I experience it, and I understand how good validation feels-- pride, as an aspect of gratitude, is not all bad.  But there needs to be another reference point beside oneself as St. George and the corporate-ogre dragon.  There needs to be some happiness and giddiness and celebration, not of or against trauma, but as a universal side-effect that can channel transcendence.