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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holding Them Accountable

Mount Olympus
Image found at Psychology Today
Much hand-wringing has occurred over the seeming paralysis of this administration (any administration?) as regards holding at the very least the prior administration accountable for its misdeeds, not to mention current misdeeds (a quick trip to the Google brings this, this, and this - and many many more like them.) Because of the tribal conditions of our "two-headed party" system, most of these calls are coming from the left, but this an issue that is really not in conflict with conservative values. Indeed, it seems to me that if there were indeed the public will to do something about the crimes, committed in broad daylight on the national and international stage, then the sheer magnitude of the necessity of redress would overwhelm any whimpering defensiveness brought about by partisan interests.

I'd written briefly on this subject earlier this year, my focus at the time being on the sausage-making machinations that might slowly grind us towards justice, but I now conclude that it is the peoples' will that is the problem. Not that there aren't mighty efforts being expended by the guilty (and powerful) to avoid accountability, but as I stated earlier I think that if we really gave a shit, the resultant tsunami would transform the powerful into the petty - and with bittersweet dispatch.

And so, I seek to explore just exactly why we, the citizens of this (admittedly stressed) democratic republic are not eye-bulgingly outraged at acts and policies that are so at odds with what we would presumably prefer to be our image and legacy.

I believe that we, collectively, suffer from what I will call "Olympus Syndrome" (I Googled around and that seems to be a new coinage, at least in this context). In a nutshell, this "Olympus Syndrome" compels us to believe that the people that we put into place to handle the "big" problems of the world should somehow be shielded from the sort of justice that is taken for granted to be applicable to us mere mortals.

Why should this be so? Our Constitution, and other historical legal charters, make much of no one being above the law. It is our explicit intent, and no serious person would argue otherwise in good faith. There is something psychological going on here.

In the face of these "big" problems (poverty, hunger, war, "terror" - you know the drill), the guilt of our turning away is inescapable, and the assignation of these problems to "leaders" is simply inadequate to overcome our indifference - not surprisingly, inadequate to the solutions of any of these problems, but mainly here I mean inadequate against the guilt.

I believe that, in order to mitigate this guilt, we first characterize these "big" problems as outside of the scope of what we "mere mortals" could possibly handle anyway. The unfortunate corollary to this mechanism is that we would then imbue those who we do assign these issues with superhuman attributes - to do otherwise would leave naked the lie of our "concern".

If what I have written is true, then it is easy to see our reluctance: On one level, we have admitted to a class of humans who are above the rest of us, and we who are not worthy ought not to have the audacity to judge these folks.

On another level, an indictment against the perpetrators would be an indictment of our very selves.

I am not one to shy away from self-reflection and responsibility, so I would say indict away.

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