Magazine article Insight on the News

Carrying Victimization a Step Further

Magazine article Insight on the News

Carrying Victimization a Step Further

Article excerpt

This country has suffered too long from the dangers of passive smoking. I mean, people around us smoke, and we get lung cancer. But smoking is not the only bad thing engaged in by other people for which we suffer the consequences. Take sex. We suffer most abominably from passive sex.

We behave ourselves, you understand. We're chaste, spotless. We might even abstain completely from all forms of sexual activity, known or yet to be discovered. But we're surrounded by feckless people who engaged in sex unwisely: feckless teenagers, feckless homosexuals.

And when a feckless homosexual gets AIDS, or a feckless 15-year-old has a child out of wedlock, or a feckless father abandons his wife and children to cohabit with some other feckless person, who gets stuck with the bill? We do.

Irresponsible smokers, acting in their own selfish interests with no regard for the community, breathe unwanted smoke into our nostrils. And irresponsible sexual egotists, with equal disregard, breathe this unwanted sex into our nostrils. Well, it's not exactly the same, but it's kind of the same. They get the fun, and we pick up the tab.

I'm indebted for this whole new way of looking at society's sex-related ills to a Briton named Digby Anderson, editor of a stunning new collection of essays titled The Loss of Virtue: Moral Confusion and Social Disorder in Britain and America (National Review Books). Anderson's basic thesis is that our own historical period, unlike other periods, strikes a peculiarly amoral tone. Although laws themselves are little other than codified morality, people can no longer bear to be addressed morally. Or to be more precise, as Anderson carefully observes, it's really only the "hard" moral qualities whose demands now make society uncomfortable: manliness, duty, honor, fortitude, diligence, thrift, self-control, self-improvement. By contrast, the "soft" moral qualities are all the rage: compassion, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, gentleness, tolerance, benevolence.

No more clear-cut, public example of this can be found than the swooning adulation -- particularly evident in our semieducated media -- over the role of the U.S. military in Somalia. As Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded the country, common sense should tell us that the prime function of our military is war. When the country is in danger, the military's mission is to wreak destruction upon the enemy. It's a harsh and bloody business, but that's what the military's for. As writer George Orwell pointed out, people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence in their behalf. …

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