The bad feelings welled up in me when the shell-shocked soldier, who struggling to flee more horror and death had mortally wounded a young man, later asked the dead man’s friend if the wounded man was ‘all right.’ The shell-shocked soldier didn’t know the young man was dead below deck. When the dead man’s friend pauses I felt his internal struggle and I lost it in my own mind- the struggle when evil starts to misguide your passions; when he replies ‘yeah’ it was a revelatory lighting bolt- the wisdom and the mercy of it. The dead man is all right if you have faith in heaven and grace, or even if you have faith in the rippling effects of sacrifice and heroism. More than that, by releasing the shell- shocked soldier from that burden, the soldier may live again.
I’ve been around some very bright, talented people during my time in the academy, and I noticed that these people are like very strong swimmers: the direction of their effort- the pure purpose- really is more important than their ability. I think a simple person doing a doggy paddle toward shore is better than an Olympic swimmer with great technique and strength going in the wrong direction- but then again that person might find Atlantis and return.
I read that the The European court has ruled against the Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law- saying, “given the vagueness of the terminology used and the potentially unlimited scope of their application, these provisions are open to abuse in individual cases.” https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/06/european-court-blasts-russias-gay-propaganda-law-as-discriminatory/530925/
I think that’s a good standard for laws and I’m inclined to totally agree with the ruling because the law is only capable of policing certain things. If the law isn’t incisive enough it becomes absurd and oppressive. The court would do well, though, to look at all European and Canadian laws through that same lens (Americans legally have the most expansive freedom of expression).
I can think of a few canadian laws and I gather Europeans have similarly stifling laws that certainly fit that discription of vagueness and potential abusiveness. The Russian law probably targets some speech and expression that is really harmful and misguided but it probably does a whole lot of bullying too. There isn’t a ‘group’ of people on earth that isn’t party to reprehensible speech or insightful speech. That’s the thing: although I would certainly like the government to ban a bunch of things I don’t like, I know it would be bad in the end because the government does a poor job of policing speech or personal ‘propoganda,’ usually just bullying political opponents in the end. The totality of life is too dynamic to police with legislation. The upshot is that the law can’t change hearts. The government can’t coerce people to be virtuous or tolerant- people need to discover and nurture virtue and tolerance on their own, and communities can help. So while Russia has a long way to go to be a free and tolerant country, we shouldn’t be smug and complacent in Canada: Canadians have our own vague laws and need to find virtue on our own.
Emma Green wrote an excellent, vital piece on the importance of talking about virtue- and what makes it so hard to talk about! It requires the virtue of temperance in order to strengthen our hearts by tempering our passions with humility.
It seems 1984 would be more useful in Russia as the Handmaid’s Tale would be more useful in Saudi Arabia- Canadians should be looking to Brave New World (a book I regret not looking at more closely when it was assigned in high school). What Huxley shows us in Brave New World isn’t a police state or a brutal theocracy, but a society where political nudging, social status signalling, shallow relationships, and the ideas that advanced technology and pharmacology can solve moral problems and quench spiritual longings are paramount. The dystopian world in Brave New World should help us hone back in on first principles; The wild man yearning for higher beauty and willing to hurt for it should inspire us
P.S. I think I’ll give The Handmaid’s Tale a closer look because it seems like the cause of infertility that impelled the dystopian world might be shallow relationships, status grubbing, and pollution, so tracing it back Atwood might share some of Huxley’s warnings
So the argument goes what’s more valuable- freedom or happiness? I’d say when you’re happy just to be with someone you have both, and then you’re also a kid with a charmed childhood again