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Paris: The Morning After Part II

Nov 15

G’day all! I’m going to post Chapter II on this topic today as tomorrow I must leave for a few days and I try to remain “electronically unencumbered” when I travel. I treat myself to a “book”. What’s that you ask? It’s one of those things with covers and pages that you can put on a shelf, admire from afar, and feel ever so intelligent as your library grows before your eyes; even if you are not.

I recommend that you brief yourself on the initial offering on this topic (Part I) to ground yourself for what is about to follow. Last time we spoke of moral standards, their universality, their ability to guide behaviour, how they must be activated to serve as guides, and introduced the idea that we have several mechanisms we can use to selectively activate or disengage our moral standards from our behaviour. I’d like to look at some of the major ones, in this piece, and as usual reserve the decision as to where to stop based upon how well I express myself. (I usually stop when I begin to confuse myself!))

Here we go…..we find it much easier to aggress against others if we can spin our behaviour as serving some moral purpose. With a moral purpose, what would usually be regarded by most as unacceptable, magically becomes acceptable. Perhaps an example might be the way the “Commish” shits all over the membership? It might be in his mind, that he is serving the Canadian public well by doing so. So with this moral purpose, what would be considered by most as unacceptable suddenly becomes acceptable. With regard to “terrorists”, violent acts become more socially and personally acceptable when they can be viewed as morally justified. Once moral justification has been established, we can view our aggressive behaviour as fulfilling a moral imperative.

Even well socialized people who have not previously considered aggressive action can be quickly converted into violent social activists (ever heard of a couple of “hombres” by the name of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Nelson Mandela?) The process doesn’t require gross changes of personality, value systems, or aggressive drives. It simply requires the cognitive reconstrual of the moral value of the aggressive act. Ordinary people can do some extraordinarily violent and aggressive things when they are convinced they are saving the environment, animal species, democracy, a religious belief, fighting for the poor, or battling an evil social policy. There is nothing quite like a good crusade to get people to attack each other.

Violent social and religious reformers regularly appeal to morality to justify their coercive tactics. This leads to heated conflicts with government authorities over the legality and morality of their violent actions. Those in power often clumsily resist, with force if deemed necessary, any change in policy that would threaten their self interests (sound familiar to you RCMP members?) This self serving response creates fertile ground for violent conflict. (By the way, when I tell you that “blood” must be shed to gain your rights as workers, you don’t think I mean real blood do you?) Social reformers can now consider their violent tactics as morally justified because they are aimed at changing unfair or harmful social policies. Government authorities (in your case politicians, and RCMP Senior Execs) now denounce the violence as unjustified and unnecessary because less violent means exist to deal with dissatisfaction. The government now frames the violence as an attempt to force change without popular support; and a violation of the democratic process. Social/religious reformers argue back from a position of moral justification. They are firmly convinced that they are fighting under a moral imperative. Their argument is that when unjust or harmful social (religious) policies benefit the majority, at the expense of the minority, these policies receive widespread support. Therefore their violent tactics are justified, as the disadvantaged are either outside the system, or without the power necessary to effect changes from within using more responsible means.

It is with irony that both the social/religious reformers and those in power are able to morally justify their behaviour. The authorities (Mr. Paulson?, Mr. Hollande?) believe they are right in responding unfairly, cruelly or violently as they are representing the greater community, and the reformers believe they are right in using similar tactics as they are attempting to bring about social/religious change. This is where the old adage “one person’s hero is another’s villain” can plainly be seen. Moreover, here is the explanation for the failure of moral appeals to bring an end to the violence; both sides are able to justify their own behaviour while vilifying the other’s.

Moral justification is an effective tool in disengaging one’s morals from one’s behaviour. In reconstruing the violent act as having a moral purpose, no matter which party in the conflict uses it, not only do they impede self condemnation but they create self valuation. So whether it is ISIS or the “Commish” each can not only (and does) subvert self criticism for insensitive acts but rather pat themselves on the back for doing a good thing.

I think I’ll stop here. Are you getting this? More importantly, are you unsophisticated national threat assessment/behaviour analyst types following? If not give me a call. I welcome a call. No need to monitor from afar as I have heard you are. I’m not your enemy. The latter, may be the person who assigned you the “Webster” file? Can you see the human dynamic in it all? Can you see how responding in a “knee jerk” fashion will only keep the same dance going. A new dance is needed to resolve these things. One side is as guilty as the other for keeping it going. C’mon let’s hear from you! How would you resolve a conflict of this nature. I’ll be back in a week or ten days and will post your ideas.
Don’t forget to support the “wonder women” on or about the 25,26,27 of this month. I’d love to meet you for a drink. I promise not to lose my “fancy touch” and go all socialist on you.


Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych.


From → Other

  1. borody1089 permalink

    One nuke, the end, answer is not making arms manufactures richer. One Nule the end, like Japan this will not end otherwise.

  2. Cynthia Thibeault permalink

    My personal thoughts:
    It is the 21st century twist of the crusades. I wish they would all agree to disagree.

    Mike … Please feel free to email.

    Cynthia and Rob


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