Actions, Not Intentions, Determine Culpability

Unlike many people, I believe that the ‘foot-soldiers’ of any ideology deserve to be brutalized, tortured and killed with the same intensity as their purported leaders. The common objections to my stance are usually some version of-

But, it was not their idea.. they were just trying to survive.

My answer is- Who Cares? A non-retarded person who is consciously hurting or killing another human being has the same culpability as the person who is “in charge” or the “source” of that idea.

The People who did the dirty work of Hitler or Stalin were as culpable, if not more, as their leaders. Similarly every member of a judicial-legal system that prioritizes the persecution of lesser “criminals” (blue-collar) over bigger criminals (white-collar professionals) are more culpable and hypocritical than either group. Any member of a bureaucracy that fucks over the very people they are supposed to help are scumbags even if they were following all the ‘rules and regulations’ to a T. Physicians who are enriching themselves at the cost of their patients well-being are bigger scumbags than contract killers. Academics and administrators at universities are no less culpable than slave owners and robber barons from a previous era.

The children and grandchildren of such scumbags also share the taint of their ancestors action- because they indirectly benefit from their actions. The fact that they did not commit crimes is immaterial as long as they benefit from its fruits.

Intentions behind actions are immaterial. Does gravity ‘forgive’ you if you fall from the 10th floor of a building? Does fire ‘forgive’ you if you put your hands in it? There maybe a perfectly sound reason to fall from the 10th floor and put your hands in a fire, but you will get hurt regardless of your reasons.

So why should people ‘forgive’ you for your actions?

Is a bureaucrat who stops a patient from getting adequate and proven pain relief or medical treatment any better than a guy who was an overseer in a concentration camp or gulag? If anything, the camp and gulag guys were more honest about the nature of their work. What about people who enforce laws based on morality (drugs/sex) and religious-type beliefs. How are they different from people who conducted inquisitions and witch/heretic burnings? What about people who work for banks or other financial institutions? Are they not culpable for the policies which they help implement?

What about soldiers who go abroad to fight and kill people who may not have hurt them? What is the difference between such people and soldiers in the armies of ww2 era Germany and Japan- apart from being more dishonest about their intentions. Do aging whites really think that the same people who they treated as second-class human beings won’t return the favor when circumstances change?

Good intentions without corresponding actions are meaningless.

The biggest reason people believe they are good even if they are doing horrible things is the fear that they may be eventually held culpable for their actions. Those who do horrible things are fully aware of the nature of their actions, even if they claim otherwise. Therefore, people (and their progeny) do not deserve any mercy for their actions, regardless of their pathetic attempts at rationalizing or justifying them.

Comments?

  1. July 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm | #1

    II concur, Ano Diaboli. I suppose our present system came about as way to prevent conflicts from devolving into aimless eye-for-an-eye squabbles, but it clearly has its own fatal weaknesses.
    At a certain point one must punish the foot soldiers. The Western custom of just punishing the few most responsible makes the strategy for any dissembler quite clear:
    Simply diffuse responsibility so that no action clearly corresponds to an agent and you can do what you like and get away clean.
    Responsibility laundering if you will.

    A resilient system must ensure there are consequences for supporting factions inimical to the common interest. Such a system is not interested in excuses any more than is a boss or manager. Performance is decisive. Justifications and finger pointing are not.

    I suppose present Americans can’t be blamed personally for conquering Native Americans. But by their very existence they continue to enjoy the profits of plunder.
    You have a good point because if beneficiaries are allowed to walk the perpetrator is rewarded and the victims further punished.

    Many people readily admit that conquering the Americas was inherently unjust. But it amuses me that no one ever really explores the implications: what might indigenous peoples be ethically entitled to do about it had they the power?

  2. Mr. Stricter
    July 21, 2011 at 4:51 pm | #2

    A lot of good points here however there are reasons that eschewing collective punishment of lower ranking actors was abolished even though it seems ethical.

    1st, it reduces all obedience and hierarchy outside of clan/tribe which makes organized action for good or ill a lot harder. Can’t run a society if the worker bees won’t have anything to do with anyone who is not kin. And yes even in post industrial world you still need organization . This problems is partially why Arab societies don’t thrive and even if they exterminated their oligarchs never could. Its me vs my brother, my brother and I vs my cousin and my cousins and I vs everyone (supposedly an Iraqi saying )

    2nd, it raises costs to suppress. If I was a solider or an agent o the state say and I knew I faced the ruin of my life, regardless of whether I deserved it I have no incentive to surrender or accept your legitimacy . Attempts to up the stakes by execution or attacking families or the like and you risk retaliation in kind. In an era with guns, nukes, germs warfare and chemical weapons, even a grossly outnumbered foe can inflict enormous harm and if lucky even a civilization ending move .

    3rd . Most apparachik can be rehabilitated ands become citizens of the new order.

  3. July 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm | #3

    When taking over a country, you obviously can’t be too harsh or you’ve got a lot of people on your hands with nothing to lose.

    But what of a society’s day to day dealings? Especially the sorts of dealings that are frequently subject to abuse?
    If your entire order is getting ripped up from within because the laws of the land have been rendered impotent, there has to be some kind of countermeasures to close up loopholes.

    Clearly, declaring blood feuds is counterproductive for everyone.
    Yet there has to be reasonable ways of penalizing members of an organization if there is no clear set of individuals who are responsible.
    Or at least, responsibility laundering has to be made less attractive as an organizational strategy so the society can continue to function.

    If you were a foot soldier, wouldn’t working for Shredder be more attractive if you knew he was at risk but that you were effectively immune from adverse consequences?
    Thus, Shredder’s always going to find new followers easy to come by.

    What about a panoptic approach? Let’s say you’ve just taken over Nazi Germany and you’ve just rejected Stalin’s proposal to exterminate several tens of thousands of top Nazis.
    You can still go ahead and have war crimes trials of prominent leaders. But suppose you also have a group punishment lottery. You select a pool of several tens of thousands of the worst trouble makers but only actually punish a small fraction of their number.
    Then you take your time and stagger out the drawings, letting all the people with tickets live in suspense.
    You avoid removing all incentives for cooperation while still inflicting a form of punishment on the vast majority who do not ‘win’ the drawings.
    Most importantly, you’ve created an element of risk, an element that reduces the incentives to side with unscrupulous organizations.

  4. Columnist
    July 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm | #4

    Whites in America are well advised to learn Native languages like Nahuatl and Ojibwe.

  5. treacle
    July 22, 2011 at 2:18 am | #5

    You have a taken an idea to the extreme which if you continue you could say that: anyone who buys into the idea of the money system is responsible for money driven crimes because they are perpetuating a corrupt system. If this is the case then everyone is corrupt and therefore it all starts to cancel itself out. Were the allies in WW2 culpable for killing the Nazis even though they were protecting millions from certain death? Or does it depend who’s side you were on? In that case then you are put your own moral rules on who is bad or good.

  6. July 22, 2011 at 7:38 am | #6

    I suspect your tone is tongue in cheek, columnist. Yet Mexican Spanish and Spanish spoken in any majority mestizo nation is quite distinct from the European varieties. In many ways, indigenous languages continue onwards within the languages of their conquerors.

    Treacle, I think there’s the danger of a slippery slope to absurd outcomes at either extreme here. So perhaps we ought to be looking for some sort of golden mean?

  7. Columnist
    July 23, 2011 at 9:50 am | #7

    No, I am dead serious. Power relations have changed. Actually, Ojibwe should be mandatory on schools in Canada, and Nahuatl in USA.

  8. July 23, 2011 at 11:26 pm | #8

    Diablo–what do you think of men whom were drafted?

    Did you not register for Selective Service?

    I did. If there was a draft like Vietnam, I might have been forced to go or go to prison. Looks like I couldn’t even flee to Canada as that loophole got sealed up. Your overxsimlifying as if everyone has great options….

  9. December 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm | #9

    You may be interested to look at this, regarding following orders vs morality. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

  1. July 31, 2011 at 4:13 pm | #1
  2. October 29, 2011 at 10:14 pm | #2
  3. November 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm | #3
  4. November 20, 2011 at 10:48 am | #4
  5. December 23, 2011 at 2:06 am | #5
  6. January 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm | #6

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