Even babies fall victim to Godwin’s Law

Photo from Potency by Nina Maria Kleivan

Nina Maria Kleivan:

You need to be conscious that your actions have consequences that impact on your fellow human beings. The people I let my daughter portray didn’t give a damn about the human cost, the casualties, their thoughts caused.

The responsibility is yours alone. You can’t throw it away – as a parent, as human beings – and say that you just followed orders.

I’ve never heard someone defend their parenting with ‘I was just following orders,’ but I’ll grant the general moral thrust makes sense. However, a lot of the import is lost by focusing on larger than life supervillains. Very few people’s children (hopefully!) will grow up to be Stalin. By contrast many people’s children will grow up to be assistant manager of environmental safety at Corporation X who one day has to decide whether to overlook a potentially dangerous chemical dumping incident that will cost there company $$$ to clean up. Or whatever.

The point is most children grow up to be evil in a tremendously boring way that, in aggregate, is tremendously harmful to society. And our focus on ultimate personifications of evil undermines the severity of your child’s actual probable transgressions — “after all, it’s not like they’re Hitler!”

So I’d like to see Kleivan’s follow-up piece with her child dressed as a human resources consultant or a Army drone operator or a condo developer. And that would actually be a ‘potent’ and controversial piece, rather than just posing as one.

1 comment to Even babies fall victim to Godwin’s Law

  • These are interesting iesuss, and as a person from a working class background (of the rural sort) they are ones I’ve found myself giving increasing thought to since entering academia. In part, I wonder how much my background should even count anymore. I’ve got a couple of fancy diplomas that I could hang on my wall (if I knew where they were), and a whole lot of very important, non-book learnin’ that I picked up during that educational process. While I still have a frequent sense of “how in the world did I end up here?” when I’m sitting at a table filled with lawyers, judges, and the like, I’ve necessarily learned how to talk a goodly amount of the talk, and to keep my mouth shut when I’m not certain what the script calls for. What’s more, I’ve chosen to live in a place where my neighbors are, by and large, professionals. And while I’ll defend the character and honor and goodness of the people of my hometown to the death, the truth is that I no longer see the world in the same way. I often feel like an outsider in both camps.I’ve at least discovered that I’m hardly alone that way. Anyone interested in how a working class background can impact one’s perspectives might want to check out Alfred Lubrano’s book “Limbo.” It’s a highly readable take on what it’s like to be a blue collar person in the white collar world. For my money the perspective difference is not so much about things like the content of landlord tenant law – I think my family’s instincts are actually pretty conservative on those sorts of things – as it is a larger distrust of folks in power. (And bear in mind that differing assumptions about who is a person in power might come into play. When I was working in a poultry processing plant the summer after high school the relevant people with power were the foremen (the “blue hats” if I recall correctly) and their deputies (the “green hats”)) – folks who would be generally regarded as inconsequential in the white collar world. Folks with political power – that’s “politicians” pronounced as derisively as you can muster – were viewed categorically as liars whose talk about changing the world never seemed to make a single bit of difference to one’s day to day existence.) If Lubrano’s correct, my scholarly focus on ways to enhance the transparency and accountability of the judicial process can be attributed at least in part to my class background. Could be. One thing that’s for certain is that I’ve learned to dress it up in a fancy package of verbiage. (And I don’t mean to suggest that that’s a bad thing. Just something I wasn’t equipped from a young age to do.)Another aspect of my background that has affected my career path is that, simply due to near-total lack of any kind of history dealing with people having advanced degrees, I had no idea how to relate to faculty members in college. The same generally held true during law school – I knew that I was still learning to talk the talk, and so was pretty intimidated by and uncomfortable in dealing with them. That’s quite obviously the sort of thing that doesn’t help one’s chances in the academic market generally, and I know of one instance in which it’s come back to hurt me more specifically. I can’t hardly complain, though. One of my best friends from childhood works third shift at a factory and hates to answer the phone because it’s likely to be a collection agency. If nothing else, the notion of “there but for the grace of God go I” has a resonance for those of us from the working class that it may not for others.

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