Dr. Dawg

Resident evil at Penn State

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I’ve been watching the unfolding of events at Pennsylvania State University out of the corner of my eye for a few days now. There’s something of the perfect moral storm about it: as though ordinary human flaws had been magnified a thousand times.

I’m not referring here to Jerry Sandusky: there is nothing at all ordinary about him. What we call evil is precisely the radical selfishness he has exhibited: a fundamental severance of human relations, the complete absence of empathy, a lack in this case that was actually masked by its opposite. Other people for the Sanduskys and the Drabinskys and the Bernardos of this world are simply material to satisfy wants and desires, like food and drink.

In that respect, some of the necessary comparisons have already been made. Not every coach, and not every priest, preys on little boys, brutalizing them for their own pleasure. But for each one who does, there is an army of institutional enablers.

There’s more to it than institutional inertia, of course. A good part of the problem is the structure of current society itself, and the character of its supporters.

When it comes to defending capital, for example, the police are assiduous, smashing progressive, peaceful protests. Not so when they’re dealing with angry jocks rioting in support of a morally dubious coach. For the former, capital provides the motive, means and opportunity to behave like barbarians. For the latter, kicking an inflated piece of pigskin around prime acreage becomes a licence for players and fans alike to bray, guzzle and throw stuff. Cops tend to turn a blind eye when jocks get out of hand, because, frankly, they’re cut from the same cloth.

Decent people see evil and instinctively avoid it or, in unhappily rare instances, stand up against it. But evil can soon become silted over with layers of cowardice and deceit as its enablers move in, their tortuous excuses are made and structures—a church hierarchy, a police command structure, a university athletic coaching staff—give them cover.

Here’s merely one of the many excuse-makers: the Ottawa Citizen’s David Warren, that great po-faced defender of traditional morality, coming as close as he dares to defending child abusers and their institutional enablers against “political correctness.” When push comes to shove, a simply astounding moral sinuousness manifests itself:

Here, to my mind, is the interesting thing. The background condition of human life is such, that the sexual abuse of minors, and sexual immorality more generally, keeps happening. Children have been, are, and will be molested in schools, at athletic events, in summer camps, by babysitters, and even by priests and choir directors. That we must always be vigilant against it ought to go without saying. But it remains a fact of life.

That persons in positions of institutional responsibility do not go out of their way to publicize institutional failures, should also be understood. This is not a quirk of college football authorities, or even of the hierarchy in the Catholic Church. Nor is their “inaction” necessarily morally contemptible. For they are in a position to see that more harm than good could come of it - and a lot more harm, in some instances.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Through the darkness that such people spread, legions of the mindless sleepwalk , gibbering, twitching and shambling, ignoring, rationalizing, until the monstrous erupts, too grotesque to be covered up as it rears from the mud. Then ordinary folks wake for a moment, look at each other and ask, How could that have happened under everyone’s noses? What happened to the noble principles that were supposed to guide our institutions?

And when they eventually discover the will to answer those questions, we will have found a solution for the problem of evil once and for all.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on November 13, 2011 7:10 PM.

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