Friday, March 01, 2024

The Goggles

As an historian it would never occur to me to don the googles of moral righteousness before analysing events in the past, so it is a mystery to me why people seem so determined to do so before commenting on events in the present.

There are of course situations in all periods which are located in close proximity to what we could describe as absolute wrong. But possibly not as many as today's Twitterati (X-twats?) seem to presume. And applying a filter which removes all the grey from one's black and white images is a horrendously lossy process. 

Take one example. Consider Bullfighting as something done within an ancient cultural milieu as opposed to one which persists into our own world. 

We are far more likely to judge it in overtly moralistic in the latter instance, in part because we tend to believe that it is within the powers of our free will to make a change. We innately prioritise suffering experienced in the present moment, that forever moving point with hints of a dotted line extending into the future.

However, in doing so today we open ourselves up to a couple of avoidable hazards. 

Firstly, we get such a buzz from this militant sense of virtue that we do indeed start to apply it in retrospect, dispatching forthwith into hellfire all kinds of historical actors living at some temporal distance from our own culture and its shibboleths.

Secondly, the righteous mentality has a way of mis-reading and ultimately perverting relative goods (or even relative bads) which historically has led inevitably towards some of those rare cases of absolute bad. 

In both cases we end up with a dogmatically unified, totalist perspective shorn of all shade and sometimes also of useful complexity.

By squeezing all nuance out of the exposition, it becomes like a cliff-face with no hand-holds.





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