Scraping Off The Labels Redux Dept.


I don't normally post about politics, but I had a curious line of thought about Andrew Breitbart.

Someone I know mentioned that he was sorry Breitbart was dead. Someone else I know (in parallel, not as a response to that comment) mentioned he was not sorry Breitbart was dead, because Breitbart had done a great many reprehensible things with the power and attention he had wielded during his time on earth.

I can think of one reason to be sad at the passing of someone even that contentious: now that he's dead, there's no chance he'll ever be able to make up for the bad things he did. A dead man cannot own up, save face, or mend his ways.

The problem is, I'm not sure I can make myself believe that.

I've noticed that when people get a lot of power and use it for demagoguery, the odds of them ever having a turnabout and changing their minds about what they've done approach zero. They have so much invested in being who they are, even if who they are is grotesque. To become anything else requires such an effort of reinvention that most people never bother unless they have no other choice — and even then we question their motives.

We like the people we know to be simple, predictable, easily-labeled and just as easily discarded. I am no more immune to this than anyone else. I suspect this exists because in many cases human inertia is such that to label people is a remarkably good survival mechanism. But that doesn't mean we can't see it for what it is and be skeptical about it.

So, I'm sorry he's dead, and I'm not sorry he's dead, and the above is my explanation for why that's not a cop-out or a contradiction. At least until I come up with a better way to think about all this.


Tags: dharma sociology




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