Posted: Monday, May 30, 2011 (7:34 pm), by John W Gillis
When I saw this headline, I thought it was a joke – perhaps something from the Onion. Apparently, the story is a few days old, but I just saw it a few minutes ago:
Seven scientists and other experts were indicted on manslaughter charges yesterday for allegedly failing to sufficiently warn residents before a devastating earthquake that killed more than 300 people in central Italy in 2009.
Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella ordered the members of the national government’s Great Risks commission, which evaluates potential for natural disasters, to go on trial in L’Aquila on Sept. 20.
Italian media quoted the judge as saying the defendants “gave inexact, incomplete, and contradictory information’’ about whether smaller tremors felt by L’Aquila residents in the six months before the April 6, 2009, quake should have constituted grounds for a warning.
This is how civilization ends.
Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010 (11:44 pm), by John W Gillis
Quote of the Day for Thursday, December 16th, 2010:
Local man quoted in today’s Boston Globe, after he and his lawyers completed a successful $152M shakedown of tobacco company Lorillard, Inc., in a suit alleging the company was responsible for his mother’s smoking-related death at 54 in 2002:
“She was addicted,’’ William Evans said today. “Obviously, had she had a choice, she would not have smoked, and the record was clear about that. She made over 50 attempts to try to stop smoking and she was addicted. She had no free will.’’
Had she had a choice? She had no free will?
Is there a more brazen example of the lunacy that has spread its tendrils from the sanctimonious halls of academia into the barrios and slums of the modern underclass? It’s bad enough to not be able to grasp the difference between not having self-control and not having free will. It’s bad enough to go looking for a convenient third party to blame your problems on. But when a society allows this kind of legal larceny to go on, nobody’s means are safe from a clever enemy – and when the government is in on the scam like this, there is no place to turn for justice, except for a crapshoot appeals process within the same system that abets the larceny.
Mr. Evans may be a very rich man today, but the rest of us are just as much poorer – and in more than greenbacks. OK, he’ll probably never actually collect, but the principle of the whole stinking thing still stands…
Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 (11:31 pm), by John W Gillis
So, a majority of people in the country, at least according to this poll, want somebody else to pay for the looming health care program – you know, like those rich people, who are most likely rich because they’re cheats, anyway. Why am I not surprised? Isn’t this just the perfect embodiment – and inevitable end-result – of modernism’s rejection of personal responsibility in favor of paternalistic political super-structures? I suppose I exaggerate though; the actual end-results of these left wing muggings of the rich have not infrequently climaxed with their murder, not their robbery – but we’re more moral than that in this country, right?
The welfare state may start out with the intention of protecting the weak from their inability to compete successfully, but without a solid and explicit grounding in virtue, it ends up inculcating widespread irresponsibility, and finding itself having to resort to thievery to survive. How is it that we haven’t learned this yet? To those who do not look too deeply at the means being employed, confiscatory tax policies might give the appearance of achieving social justice, but they are driven by a politics of envy, systematically breaking down the bonds of communal charity, through both the embittering of the few through the violation of their property rights, and even more so in the coarsening of the many, whose capacity for gratefulness, goodwill, and even civic responsibility, is undermined by an ethic of entitlement and usurpation. If the means you employ are criminal (like, stealing), your results will not be just, regardless of what you choose to call them.
Given the opportunity, and enough easy living to break down the backbone of self-discipline, the reality is that way too many people will not only sign up for a free lunch, but will order the filet if it’s on the menu. The problem is that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and those who advertise it as such are either knaves or fools. Of course, once they’ve targeted whom they will coerce the payment from, there’s no longer a lot of question as to which they are.
Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2008 (11:36 pm), by John W Gillis
O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. (“O Antiphon” for December 18th)
I must admit: it is hard, in my circumstances, to relate meaningfully to the desire to be set free. I guess I have it pretty good. Freedom is, ostensibly at least, the fundamental principle of modern democracies. We not only don’t lack it, we could hardly get away from it. One could make, I think, a convincing argument that we have so much freedom, it is problematic.
In a certain sense, I know so much freedom that I become complacent, unable to see well enough past the easy life to notice the darkened corners of creation awaiting the visit of God’s mighty hand. In another sense, freedom is so pervasive that it is vulgarized, reduced to the ability to get away with irresponsibility.
As I was reaching the end of my agonizingly long ride home from work tonight, I was listening to a lecturer reflecting on Jean Paul Sartre’s take on freedom and responsibility. I surely can’t agree with Sartre on everything, but I think he was right on target in his understanding that we are always free, in that we always have choices to make as subjects, and that even seemingly overwhelming constraints in our circumstances never force us into specific responses as persons, as beings. The upshot to that is that there is no legitimacy in the constant refrain of excuses people make for their behaviors. We should not confuse expediencies for necessities.
The concluding prayer to today’s offices implores God to set us free from sin, and there can be no argument that I, like you, am by no means free from it. But I think Sartre’s point is well taken, and that even a total enslavement to sin is still a totally free disposition, in that it is freely chosen by the sinner. What we call compulsiveness is not truly compulsion, even when we have debased ourselves through chronic submission to a point of servile reactionaryism and passivity.
There is a sense in which freedom is an eschatological promise, yes, but it is also a fierce responsibility in this time of trial. We are burdened bearers of the awesome dignity of freedom, and we have no excuses. We call for Him to come, but will he find faith on earth? (cf Luke 18:8)