Monday, March 20, 2000

Week of 03/20/2000

Target: Moralism - Part 4
Confronting Moralism
- by David Matthews 2

"In any free society, the conflict between social conformity and individual liberty is permanent, unresolvable, and necessary." - Kathleen Norris

There is a scene in the Brian De Palma movie "The Untouchables" where Sean Connery’s character asks Kevin Cosner’s Elliot Ness just how bad he wants to get Al Capone. Ness replies "I’ll do everything under the law to bring him down."

Connery’s street cop character nods and then asks "And THEN how far would you go?"

When Ness didn’t understand, Connery explained how things were done in Chicago.

"He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He puts three of your men in the hospital, you put three of his in the morgue. THAT’S the Chicago way!"

Of course, Ness is hesitant about going that far. He still had principles and values that he respected. But he eventually realized that the people he was fighting against didn’t have such principles and values. They did whatever they had to do to get the job done. No boundary was off-limits to them. By the end of the movie, Ness realized that the only way to beat Capone was to fight "the Chicago way."

If only things were that simple when confronting a moralist. I really don’t think there would be a problem with moralism if things were on such an even playing field.

Unfortunately, moralists prefer not to involve themselves in such actions. They’re instigators, not participants. They would much rather hide behind the shield of more powerful thugs - namely government. They are lazy, cowardly tyrants who would much rather influence people by force than through the strengths of their arguments. And although they consider themselves to be the Elliot Nesses of this endless struggle for dominance, in action, attitude, and principle, moralists are no better than Al Capone. Or perhaps even worse, because at least Capone was willing to take matters into his own hands when he had to.

So how do you fight that?

Well, let’s get brutally honest here… you can’t fight moralism the way it has been fought. Moralists have always been on the offensive; pushing, shoving, and insisting that government heed their will. They are constantly pushing government officials to enforce antiquated laws, write new laws, and rewrite laws that have been ruled unconstitutional. The people fighting moralism have been forced to fight a defensive war, fighting for every legal inch of freedom, desperately trying to maintain the status quo.

Moralists do not play to win. They play for keeps. One law gets struck down, they get that law re-written and passed all over again. If a judge rules against them, they do everything in their power to replace that judge with one that is more sympathetic to their causes. Same holds true with politicians. If a mayor or council member doesn’t do their bidding, moralists work to replace that elected official. They continue to fight, because they know that it is a battle of attrition, not how many battles are won.

The first way, then, to fight moralism is to change tactics. It is no longer acceptable to play to win, as it has been in the past. If one really wants to fight the scourge of moralism, one has to be just as active as they are.

In other words, it’s time to fight this fight "the Chicago way."

By that, I don’t mean through violence, although some extreme moralists have advocated that route. What I mean is to fight the fight on the level of the moralist. To be passionate and spirited about not letting some dysfunctional thug dictate how things must be in the community. They must be prepared to fight not just one battle, or two, or three, but a struggle that continues until their opponent drops.

Moralists have several weaknesses. The first is the truth. As demonstrated in the past, moralists often rely on unsubstantiated rumors, innuendoes, idle speculations, superstitions, and sometimes outright lies to get the public’s attention. Unfortunately, it often takes time to gather real facts, which is often why moralists don’t rely on them. Timing is everything to them, and the same must apply to those who are fighting moralism.

If you are going to take on a moralist and win, you must respond to their accusations immediately. Don’t wait and formulate what you are going to say later. Don’t wait to gather facts. Take the moralists to task immediately and demand proof. If they can’t provide it, then be quick to paint them as the unreliable liars they are.

If by chance the moralists have proof, question it. Question everything about it; who provided it, when was it provided, how relevant is it to this instance, how did they come to their conclusions. Be skeptical of their information, and make others skeptical of it as well. Don’t ever let it be accepted as fact until you are able to counter it with your own information.

As I stated earlier, moralists love to be instigators. They love to hide behind the shield of government and let politicians do their dirty work. So to counter moralism, one must be willing to remove that shield. Make the battle personal. Do not let the battle be "The Government versus you", but rather make it "the moralists versus you". Find out which group is behind the latest outrage, and name names. Make the government’s role in the issue nothing more than the puppets they are, and show that what is being done is not "the will of the people" but rather the will of a group of elitists.

It also wouldn’t hurt to create your own political organization to rally against the moralists. Moralists use this tactic all the time. Some group called "Mothers Against Offensive Things" sounds a little more important to a politician than simply a gaggle of pissed off housewives with time on their hands and a collective chip on their shoulders. Likewise, a group called "Parents For Free Speech" sounds more respectable than a group of swingers trying to keep the local adults-only club open.

The next step is hard, but one that must be done if you are to truly win out against the moralists. You must become politically active, not just on the national level, but on a local level as well. Be aware of who is running for office, and what their stances are on issues that affect you. Pay attention not just to the city council and mayor’s races, but also to the local zoning board, school board, and library commission. You would be surprised how such branches of government would have an effect on the community. Being active in local politics lets the moralists know that you will not let them run roughshod over your life or your livelihood. Not now, not ever.

Fighting off this evil called moralism not an impossible task. The community of Holland, Michigan, recently fought off the scourge of moralism as it pertained to their regional library system. The various special interest groups both local and national managed to get a resolution placed in that state’s primary election that would force the regional library system to install filtering software on all of their Internet-active computers. The moralists thought this would be a no-brainer vote, especially since they pulled out all of their usual scare tactics. In the end, however, the voters shot down the resolution.

How was this done? How could a conservative community like Holland strike down what many thought would be a no-brainer? Simple. The people who fought for freedom and real personal responsibility did it by playing the same game as the moralists. They formed their own local political group. They took advantage of the fact that those who were pushing for those filters were being sponsored by several national organizations, and they argued that a group of outsiders were going to tell the people of Holland how to live their lives. They matched information and spin, questioned the arguments made by these pro-censorship groups, and urged people to get out there and vote.

And therein lies the real solution to fighting moralism. It doesn’t come from letters to the editor or lawsuits, even though those have been the only traditional recourse. The real solution lies in perseverance and persistence. It is getting your arguments out there, making your own voice large, while making the moralist’s voice small. It means stop being a passive observer in how government operates, and getting involved if for no other reason than for your own well-being. It means staying in there, fighting the fight, and not letting up until the other side falls.

Here endeth the lesson.

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