Keep the same dance going

Psychologist Dr. Mike Webster writes often about relationships between senior management and the men and women delivering police services in our communities. He knows about moral disengagement, which allows virtuous people to commit inhumane acts. Webster’s words can help us gain understanding:

It is with irony that both the social/religious reformers and those in power are able to morally justify their behaviour. The authorities… believe they are right in responding unfairly, cruelly or violently as they are representing the greater community, and the reformers believe they are right in using similar tactics as they are attempting to bring about social/religious change.

This is where the old adage “one person’s hero is another’s villain” can plainly be seen. Moreover, here is the explanation for the failure of moral appeals to bring an end to the violence; both sides are able to justify their own behaviour while vilifying the other’s.

Moral justification is an effective tool in disengaging one’s morals from one’s behaviour. In reconstruing the violent act as having a moral purpose, no matter which party in the conflict uses it, not only do they impede self condemnation but they create self valuation. So whether it is ISIS or the “Commish” each can not only (and does) subvert self criticism for insensitive acts but rather pat themselves on the back for doing a good thing.

…Can you see the human dynamic in it all? Can you see how responding in a “knee jerk” fashion will only keep the same dance going. A new dance is needed to resolve these things. One side is as guilty as the other for keeping it going…

Categories: International, Policing, RCMP

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4 replies »

  1. The quickest way to end a dance is to turn off the music.

    The music in the dance of which Dr. Webster speaks is a harmony of religion and social injustice. It’s unrealistic to expect the former to be turned off, but if the latter can be achieved the dance may at least be reduced from a break dance to a slow waltz.

    The problem is that the latter involves religion as well. Worship of the dollar.


  2. Worship of the dollar has killed more people that ISIS ever will; add in the other 'lot' and we have the “meaning of life”
    On a lighter note.
    The Catholic Pope would seem to realise this and, I would suggest, is trying his best to put humanity before religion.


  3. When I first started reading the post I thought it was going to be about something the BC Lieberals had done,again.

    The actions by ISIS in Paris are nasty and some including Brad Wall are giving it the old knee jerk reaction as is the Pres of France. A 90 day impossion of martial law will enable their government to do a lot of damage. Who knows,perhaps they were wAiting for the occasion


  4. One aspect of the hypocrisy Mike Webster cites as the formulator of violence—and ultimately its perpetuator—is usually overlooked, that is, the almost a priori sense of urgency, the immediacy of compulsory offence which rationalizes the contingent abandonment of moral principle; I recall my late father's moral dilemma—or, should I say, the scar on his soul I don't think ever really healed: the “necessity” of the war against Hitler. As a religious Christian, he was taught that killing was a sin—it says so in the Ten Commandments. Although there was no flinching about defeating Nazi Germany, nor any doubt that the weight of righteousness was clearly on the Allies' side in destroying the systematic murderers of innocent civilians, yet I always suspected he carried a kind of nagging guilt in the back of his mind for having to kill to do the right thing, as if his admission through the Pearly Gates might have been forfeited because of the plain breach of Commandment—and as if ethical judgement might be morally incorrect in any case.

    Before the Commonwealth's declaration of war, controversy raged about either waiting for Hitler's evil reign to somehow peak, plateau, and maybe even recede back into morally acceptable territory, on the one hand (espoused by British PM Chamberlain), and attacking immediately to prevent evil from spreading interminably. The moral dilemma is distorted today by the retrospective condemnation of the wait-and-see approach, and the subsequently unexamined adoption of the kill-it-before-it-(potentially) grows rationale historians flocked to. The latter can dispense with moral “dithering” altogether—else it's “too late” to stop the perceived evil. In recent times, timing was both hailed and condemned as “the rush to war,” and the Bush administration warned of not just a massive arsenal aimed at the USA, but, critically, the immanence of its use; that sense of urgency urged otherwise intelligent people to accept blatant, smirking, and unabashed lying.

    Moral supremacism, practiced by all belligerents in every sapiens era, may always churn in the court of public opinion, but often a fabricated sense of urgency—induced panic, in fact—is deployed, more and more, perhaps, now it's revved-up in potency by the high-speed, technological world we've made for and against ourselves.

    Native, or kin, supremacism is always with respect to “the other.” It seems so strong that sapiens will even fabulate an “other” where none really exists (Serb and Croat propaganda in the 90s actually convinced otherwise genetically indistinguishable people of a fantasy discernibility between neighbours for the purpose of recruiting perpetrators of hatred and violence—each “ethnicity” being taught it was genetically distinct, and, of course, ethically, morally, spiritually, and legally supreme over the other). It's a human characteristic as far as we can tell; yet its handmaiden of urgency is always there with it, a time simple element that lends itself to cogent and memorable narrative as if the 200,000 year-old tradition of warriors boasting around the campfire, denigrating enemies always made of inferior stuff, must integrate a thread of it to hold the story together, perhaps an critical event that thenceforward accompanied the primal narrative inheritance sapiens cultivate, that the other is the other because of an urgent circumstance long ago which continues to distort our moral judgement even today, and even when we're painfully aware of it and can't seem to stop it.

    To use a computer analogy: is the solution found by rewiring, or simply by reprogramming?


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