4.27.2011

The Specific and the General

Random happenstance led me to read two articles today that have connections in ways I wouldn't have otherwise noticed and both articles are worth sharing. The first is the Specific.

In Chipotle Mexican Grill versus egalitarianism, Stephen Hicks examines the recent case against the restaurant chain for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To sum up, a man in a wheelchair sued because he couldn't see the food as it was being prepared. As Hicks writes:
The justices in the Ninth Circuit Court agreed, writing in their decision that Chipotle’s counter “subjects disabled customers to a disadvantage that non-disabled customers do not suffer.”

Let’s set aside some secondary matters to get to the key issues. So set aside the large majority of restaurants at which no customers can see their food being prepared. Set aside the children under four feet tall who can’t see their burritos being assembled at Chipotle. Set aside Chipotle’s offer to bring sample spoonfuls to their wheelchair customers.

Here are the key issues decided by the case, one ethical and one political:
Ethical: Customers should have equal food-ordering experiences as a matter of moral principle.
Political: We must use the law, i.e., physical compulsion, to enforce such an important moral principle.
What follows is a nuanced examination of how the ADA and the court enforce a bastardized form of the concept of "equal," one championed by egalitarianism where "to put it in metaphorical terms: they treat equality as a Procrustean Bed." The take home message is that the rights of Chipotle are being trampled upon by the implementation of bad philosophical principles.

As I was cleaning off my desk today, I came across a print out of the article I refer to as the General.

What happens to a society when it is being eaten alive from the inside out by countless examples like the one above? Billy Beck wrote about that nearly a year ago, and his words are even more relevant now:
This is my working concept, now: that it's over, and that all that's left are the particular details of collapse. That will be a rich story in itself, for sure, but we are living a truly unparalleled tragedy. It is unparalleled in that this was the first country in history founded on rational ideals of individualism (even accounting for the original sin of black slavery), and it is a tragedy in that it has been destroyed from within.

...Their grandfathers could build houses if and where they wanted to once they had accrued the moral authority (that's "money", kids) to do it: these people can barely un-flatpack a bookshelf, but at least they wouldn't have to beg zoning permits for that.

Even as it slides, though...they will notice the cold bite of the state. These are special generations -- the earliest of them just passing now and the last of them alive in albums with long hair and bell-bottoms -- who can see it all freezing right in front of their eyes. Their children are groomed to the cold from birth now. All the time, they know less and less about the sheer gaiety of life that once was this country, and what it took to produce that. They take for metaphysically-granted political (and their consequent cultural) structures emergent right in front of them that were once the stuff of "fevered McCarthyism". The worst part of that is the complicity of their parents, who should know better because they actually lived a great deal of what's been lost, now.
If it's not clear why I draw the connection, read both posts for yourself, especially Billy's. I'm no longer able to marshal arguments against Beck's overall assessment of America. Hick's particular example is one of seemingly infinite reasons.

In light of that, Beck's mention of "the complicity of...parents, who should know better," and that "their children are groomed" to accept the all-powerful state struck a chord. As a parent of young children, I struggle with this daily. How do I open their eyes to the fact that omnipresent government is not a metaphysical absolute, that men can deal with each other voluntarily without a statute or regulation (replete with taxes) to govern it, and that amazing prosperity and happiness are the result, without also passing on my own profound anger at it all? Right now, the anger may be all they understand, really, and that's no way to raise a reasoning, happy child. This is a battle I fight constantly, raising my wondrous, beautiful little humans in this time of decay.

1 comment:

Mike N said...

Great post C August. As the grandfather of 6 all below the age of 6, I fear for their future. I came to Objectivism late so my own three sons were raised believing regulations are ok even needed. Now I'm fighting to educate the grand kids as best I can by writing short logs when I watch them. These logs will be kept by their parents until they are old enough to read them.