Asking "How Could They?"

David Brooks of The New York Times this week penned an indignant several paragraphs entitled "Let's All Feel Superior" to the 300 million hypocrites currently living in the United States who ask "how could they have let this happen" concerning the men involved in covering up the boy rapes at Penn State University. Mr. Brooks was able to say, from the comfort a very Baby Boomer chair, that by and large human beings are willing to prevaricate/lie/deceive themselves in order to avoid confronting evil; happily, he is sufficiently self-aware to avoid feeling superior.

Unfortunately calling men hypocrites is not a solution to anything. Brooks asked how we might overcome the natural tendency to evade and self-deceive. The best the column could do was to suggest that asking this question could be a first step in the solution to this "hypocrisy problem".

There is too much passivity here. The question the public seems to be asking is not "how could they have let it happen", it's "how could they do it?" There was more than turning a blind eye at Penn State; there was collusion. There was conspiracy.

The problems that Brooks raises are real ones. It is obvious that human beings are prone to choose ease and compromise over good, and with Brooks I believe that this is a vice Americans today are particularly subject to. We are outraged by what has happened at PSU, but support in massive numbers a sex industry that is no less than slavery, from shady porn studios to the kidnapping and sale of children. It is indeed very human to tell oneself that there's no real connection between your viewing a pornographic video of "underage" girls and the sale of real underage girls in a townhouse a short distance away. (Although of course there are all sorts of wonderful and righteous things that come out of your decision to only eat slow food this year.)

Nonetheless, asking searching questions is an unsatisfactorily Baby Boomer way of combating wickedness. (Yes, I despise Baby Boomers.) Probing deep into one's soul to wonder whether one has the moral fiber to stand up and fight leads only to hesitation and doubt. To being like the blonde at this link, instead of the like the silvers (don't ask me what that means, just click and watch a few seconds, then come back). Even asking how we might overcome a tendency is not as active and robust as a simple concept, apparently lost in all this PSU filth: the concept of duty.

I believe that none of us have the strength to withstand and destroy evil except through God. But regardless of where the strength might come from, how can it appear to make sense that asking questions is the answer? One gains the strength by being resigned. Not by being passive, but by assuming. We must be resigned to fighting wickedness. Resigned to doing our duty, because it is what we must do. There is no other choice.

We live in a society that mocks courage to its face and celebrates serial killers.  So the real problem isn't that we're asking the wrong questions. It's that we're defining the terms badly. Or throwing away the terms we don't like. Words like good and evil, courage and cowardice. We can't pull out a word like "evil" at the moment of witnessing a rape or a murder. The word means nothing to you now, because you've come to terms with the pornography industry and the bobloblaws of Voltaire.

We should be glad there's still some innate sense of what is good and what is evil. We should be glad people skip "real" questions about overcoming a tendency and move straight to rhetorical questions like "how could they?"

"How could they?" I know what you mean. You mean they are wicked cowards.

[caption id="attachment_8819" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="A wicked coward."][/caption]


  1. Well spoken. There is more to be said.
    On the baby boomers...why the discontent?
    They aren't the "great generation" of WWII but they are those folk's children and must have something good going on.

  2. I think that (and of course, I'm generalizing) they're a morally wishy-washy group of entitled whiners who are now old men and women. They squandered the inheritance their fathers handed them. That being said, they didn't pop out of the statue's head fully formed, they're the fruit of the tendencies of several generations, including the Greatest Generation.

  3. I appreciate the clear thought process required to write this article, as I could not be so eloquently spoken on the subject.

  4. Thank you, very kind. Glad it was helpful!


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