jeudi, mars 24, 2005

On Power Illusions

If I am not mistaken, some Christian denominations explicitly affirm their belief in the potential physical immortality of humans, which, according to their doctrines, will be realised, i.e., become a concrete fact after the resurrection day. Besides these Churches, I know of no group who admit this hidden assumption.

The non-admitted belief in human physical immortality is important to justify the belief in the highest power. Human societies believe that the highest power is the power to kill. Governments and rulers vest themselves with such prerogative, because they believe that if a State lacks the power to kill it has no power at all.

But members of society also want power and dispute the monopoly of the power to kill. Not surprisingly, from time to time there come groups who demand or revindicate the right to kill in some circumstances. Movements in favour of capital punishment, abortion or euthanasia or against gun control are motivated by the unconfessed belief that they will gain some share of power if they are entitled to kill, i.e., if they possess the divine prerogative of choosing who lives and who dies.

The power to kill is nevertheless illusory, i.e., it is not a true power, if all humans without exception die sooner or later. And it is difficult to understand how can individuals consciously believe in human mortality and still retain the illusion that a license to kill entails some power.

The Schiavo and other similar cases seem to be a power dispute of this sort. Although consciously the parties in the recent controversy allege other reasons, what is sub-consciously behind it is a dispute for the prerogative to kill. The conservative majority in the US Congress think that only the State must hold the power to kill, i.e., to decide who lives or dies and not private citizens. Terri Schiavo's doctors and relatives, on the other hand, want private citizens to have that power too and dispute which of them will have a say in whether she lives or dies. All such parties are pro-choice in this sense and want to make the choice.


At 5:48 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

This just seems incredibly simplistic (and in some aspects far from reality). How can my support of capital punishment mean I want any power over anyone? I'm not supporting the ability for me to kill anyone. I think a government has an obligation to put certain criminals to death under certain conditions. I think any government that doesn't meet that obligation is immoral. How that has anything to do with my own power is beyond me.

I agree with you that abortion is often about power. Women want to have power over whether they have offspring. Men want to have power over whether their women can continue a pregnancy they helped begin even if the men don't want to be fathers. Feminists want to have power over women by claiming they're betraying women by being pro-life.

If you look carefully at what most of the opposition to the murder of Terri Shiavo is all about, it has to do with Michael Schiavo's power over Terri and with whether the state has the power to take from God the divine power to ok this kind of killing. That's how people are talking. It's not about taking power from the people. It's about not allowing one man to take that power from a women who didn't consent. It's about not allowing the government to go against what God has said. You've got both backwards.

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Tony Marmo said...

Thanks for the comments.

Well, one may always argue that a Government has certain moral obligations. To meet such obligations, Governments need power to implement what they are supposed to do. So, it is always a matter of how much power a Government will have. Of course, power does not dismiss obligations.


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