Monday, 4 April 2016

A Most Ridiculous Abomination: An Editorial By Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲)

Last week, after the murder of that three year old girl in Taipei, I made a couple of points. The first was that nobody really seems to know "why" or "how" human monsters come into existence, all we have is a set of conjectures, nothing solid. The second point was that people in the media will nonetheless use these conjectures to attribute blame to their political adversaries for the crimes these monsters commit.

Yesterday the Taipei Times ran an op-ed by Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲), the well known environmentalist, in which he writes:
"As people denounce the perpetrator or blame his family, few are willing to point the finger at themselves. Going on a witch hunt makes it easy for people to divest themselves of responsibility, overlooking their role as parts of the society who jointly shape the collective consciousness, including apathy, ignorance, anti-intellectualism and competition for material gain, as well as the cowardice of kneeling before the powerful, but bullying and humiliating the weak."
What at first may appear to be forming into a criticism of blame attribution very quickly turns into blame attribution itself. This isn't just a straight barb directed at those who blame the monster or his family for the crime... it has a twist: it is the insinuation that they themselves are to blame, if not for the crime itself, then indirectly by forming a "collective consciousness" that creates monsters. It is similar to the remarks of the principal of Tunghai University in bestowing "responsibility" upon his fellow faculty members and other Tunghai students for the MRT killing spree by Cheng Chieh (鄭捷) two years ago.

Well, it is at once both an invidious and... utterly ridiculous pretense to knowledge.

It is invidious because attributing the blame for the crime to the individual or to the family that raised him is at odds with moral collectivism, in which blame must be attributed to "society" in order to provide a moral excuse to would-be social engineers like Pan to argue for greater government powers in areas like education and social welfare.

It is utterly ridiculous because...

Well look: if you are going to blame say me or some other person, for the existence of a human monster who decapitated a three year old girl, because I somehow had a "role" in "jointly shaping" a society in which somebody, somewhere was ignorant of something... or somebody, somewhere once couldn't be bothered to do something... or somebody somewhere worked overtime to get some extra cash... or somebody somewhere once made a joke about bespectacled nerds... then maybe Wang Ching-yu (王景玉) wasn't the only one with a mental illness.

Now I couldn't possibly comment, but might it be that Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) is engaged in the narcissistic act of regarding the products of his own florid imagination as long verified, established empirical fact?

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