Having been out of blogging action for a little while (leaving, moving, settling, starting, lacking wi-fi, mind on other things, etc.), it’s one word that has got me going again. In my last post following the killing of Osama Bin Laden, I stated that ‘vengeance is not necessarily the same as justice’.
Apparently, this sort of thinking is just ‘hand-wringing’. The Archbishop of Canterbury questions on moral grounds the killing of Bin Laden – not a man who often resorts to unthinking utterance – and this is reduced to ‘hand-wringing’.
OK, let’s get one thing out of the way first: can the journalists who use this lazy cliche find something more interesting and less patronising?
The real point, however, is that ridicule is simply a way of avoiding difficult moral argument. Simply deride those who have the guts to face the questions the rest of us don’t want to wrestle with.
For example, my own involvement in Zimbabwe led me to believe that unless and until the rule of law is established there, little else can happen to sort the place out. What should Robert Mugabe learn from the killing of Bin Laden? Either the rule of law is fundamental or it isn’t.
The decision to kill Bin Laden is understandable at a number of levels, not least that of political pragmatism. The implications of putting an iconic figure like Bin Laden on trial in an international court raises more than a few questions and fears. But, to ask uncomfortable questions about the morality, the philosophical undergirding, the ethical rationale and the capacity for consistent application of the decision to ‘take him out’ (which, for once, seems an appropriate term) is not ‘hand-wringing’; rather, it is the essential thinking that someone needs to be doing when political pragmatism goes in directions we might find less ‘appropriate’ to our interests.
The irony, of course, is that the more the term ‘hand-wringing’ is used as lazy, dismissive, patronising journalese, the more it suggests that there is, in fact, a case for deeper – and more disturbing – questioning.
Hands up for the hand-wringers.