March 18, 2013

The rationalization of evil

Sam Smith- You don't need a lot of evil people for evil to spread. You just need evil's acceptance by people who think they're just going along with the flow. Especially when they're in the mass media. As John Ralston Saul put it:
"The Holocaust was the result of a perfectly rational argument -- given what reason had become -- that was self-justifying and hermetically sealed. There is, therefore, nothing surprising about the fact that the meeting called to decide on "the final solution" was a gathering mainly of senior ministerial representatives. Technocrats. Nor is it surprising that [the] Wansee Conference lasted only an hour -- one meeting among many for those present -- and turned entirely on the modalities for administering the solutions .... The massacre was indeed 'managed,' even 'well managed.' It had the clean efficiency of a Harvard case study "
We are far from the evil of the Wannsee Conference, but too many in power are thinking and acting in the way that eventually leads to such things. Increasingly, we are treating evil as normal or simply a fiscal or technical problem.

A case in point is Paul Ryan's budget. The mass media is ignoring or underplaying the evil effects involved. In fact, it's fair to say that Ryan's budget, if approved, would cause more Americans to die or become ill, starved or impoverished than any non-military legislation in time remembered.

The Tax Policy Center calculates that the poorest 20% of Americans will get a $60 tax cut. The top one percent will get $227,420.  And along with this the Ryan budget will rip tens of millions of Americans from healthcare, food stamps, and other forms of welfare as it takes 66% of its budget cuts from programs that aid the poor.

But how is the general public to understand the evil involved or Ryan's greed, selfishness and corrupted thinking, if the mass media treats it as so normal that a recent presidential poll found Ryan neck and neck with the likes of Biden and Cuomo in a state like Pennsylvania?

And there's little hope of a change when a publication like the Washington Post runs a column by Stephen Perlstein that argues:
Another reason for the correlation between income and life expectancy is that lower-income people lead less healthy lives - they are more likely to smoke, drink and take drugs, their diets are less healthy, they get less exercise and they don't take advantage of the health care that is available to them. This raises a different sort of moral question that conservatives are quick to raise and liberals prefer to ignore:
Why should the rest of the country be prevented from making a needed, common sense reform to its retirement program because some people refuse to take personal responsibility for their own health?  Where is the fairness in that?
Rising income inequality is a big problem, no doubt about it, but it seems to have encouraged some people to view every public policy issue primarily through a distributional or class prism....
Just about every policy you can think of has a disproportionate impact on certain classes, races, genders, regions, industries or age cohorts, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't adopt them. Sometimes what is "fairest" is doing what's best for the whole country.
When it's no longer considered fair for the country to do what it can for the most, we have become a society that looks on its less fortunate not only as "people who refuse to take responsibility" but as those to whom we owe nothing including their continued survival. Where will it stop?

There is no doubt that the evil is being spread by the likes of Paul Ryan. But the likes of Steven Perlstein, in making this evil seem rational, are doing as much damage if not more.