Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

Collective Guilt

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How would you like to be arrested and imprisoned because of your ethnic background, your faith or your parents’ economic class? You as an individual haven’t done anything wrong; we are just going to take action because, given your membership in suspect groups, we think you are likely to commit a crime. It happened in the Soviet Union:

Lazar Kogan, one of the bosses of the White Sea Canal construction, would, in fact, soon say: “I believe that you personally were not guilty of anything. But, as an educated person, you have to understand that social prophylaxis was being widely applied!”
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, vol. I.

This is an extreme form of collectivism; you can be guilty of a crime in the collective sense. We don’t have to wait around for you to commit the crime — or not; we can get out in front of this because you are a member of a group likely to commit a crime.

Given that we are fighting for individualism and against collectivism, we must not adopt collectivist methods ourselves. To fail to make this distinction is to become the enemy.

To label all believers in Islam as potential terrorists is to impose collective guilt. Even before examining the practical problems of implementation or considering how the behavior would play into the hands of our enemies, it is just plain wrong to adopt such methods. It is an instance of what we are fighting against.

We cannot have free government without elections and if the rebellion could force us to forego or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.
— Abraham Lincoln, 1864, on the necessity of carrying out the election during the war

When Lincoln said this, he and other informed politicians expected he would lose the upcoming election. “Everybody” knew that you could not have an election during a civil war. Yet Lincoln persisted, because he saw what was most important.

We cannot have a free society without individual accountability. If the threat of terror from radical collectivist Islam could force us to impose collective guilt on innocent people, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.


Written by srojak

December 13, 2015 at 10:06 pm

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