Where do we stop?

Sometimes it is important to ask where something is going and where it will stop. Politicians tend to erode rights rather than taking them away in massive, easily spotted slashes. Selling off our assets bit by bit. Where will we stop when profit is more important than planet? Where will we stop with pollution? When there’s an obvious trajectory and a run of small moves along it, asking about when we stop is a very good idea.

However, where does this stop can also be a derailment tactic. I’ve seen it used repeatedly in this way. What happens is that the trajectory imagined is not a logical one – take Jeremy Irons’ bloody stupid suggestion that allowing gay marriage would mean fathers could marry their sons. This is ‘where will it end?’ logic. Pick a ridiculous outcome that will make people feel uncomfortable and pronounce it as the logical conclusion of letting the thing happen.

Then, rather than talking about the real issue, you have to deal with the derailment. You have to explain that this is not a logical progression. Further, these derailments often have a sting in them – note how the Irons unpleasantness creates a link between being gay, and incest. The derailer will often have a go at invalidating the centre of the argument by such associations. What next, giving the same rights to animals? (Because this lot are so close to animals that I see it as a logical progression…)

The other thing the derailer may do is to make some issue of theirs centre stage, or some imagined fear. This distracts from the actual issues. Take for example, the suggestion that we should be licensing acid to make it harder to buy. This is because throwing acid in the faces of people has happened a lot in London this year. Response: Where will it stop? Are we going to ban all dangerous chemicals? What about my drain cleaner? (I paraphrase). Now, to my mind, the right not to have acid thrown in your face should quite obviously be more important than the right to pour dangerous chemicals into the water system. The freedom of the person who is not directly affected by anything at this stage should not be more important than the wellbeing of people who have already been hurt, and the people who realistically will be hurt in the future. How much are we inconvenienced if buying chemicals for home use requires jumping through a hoop or two? Far less than we are by having those same chemicals used as weapons.

Of course what complicates things is that oppressive governments play with this in sinister ways. Fear of terrorism is a popular way of getting a population to accept monitoring, loss of privacy, restriction of rights and so forth. There’s never going to be a tidy answer here.

On the other hand, are we looking at a restriction of personal freedom that represents social progress? The loss of freedom to privately assault one’s spouse is a loss I think we should all feel good about. The loss of the right to keep our data private is an example in the other direction. Very little good can come from it, and in the wrong hands it can do considerable damage. I think the only answer is to look hard at what’s at truly stake, and pick your fights carefully.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Where do we stop?

  • John Davis

    Your reasoning makes sense to me. I think the key phrase came right at the end….”pick your fights carefully”. A one-size-fits-all approach will never take into account the different circumstances. I can vaguely remember lectures on ethics during my course on theology (40 years ago!) and having to write an essay about the relative value of imposing a strict universal principle (Kantian Universalism?) as opposed to a more responsive case-by-case approach (Fletcher’s Situation Ethics if my memory is right). The latter seemed to me to serve the greater good better than a system of inflexible rules that don’t take each situation on its merit…John /l\

  • ghart98ghart98

    In the state of Kentucky where I live, we have strict law when dealing with certain cold meds because of one of the chemicals is used in making of Meth. It is hard to get a hold of the medications. At first you were not allowed get more than a box of two at a time at any given pharmacy. Then people learned how to by pass the process by going to different places to get them.

    Skip to three years later, we now cannot get cold medicine over the counter. We have to go to the doctor to get a prescription to get it. Making it harder for people who need it because most insurance companies will not pay for them because they are over the counter meds. Despite them knowing it is against state law for the person to buy it without a scribe from the doctor.

    Before anyone says that the meds are affordable. Yes they are, to those who have the money to spend. You see, Kentucky is THE poorest state in America. Half the state’s population is on a limited income or some type of welfare just to make ends meet their every day Life. So getting this cold medicine is a luxury to get. Not a nessassity.

    • Nimue Brown

      What a horrible situation. The whole American medical system seems incredibly cruel and unfair.

      • ghart98ghart98

        It’s is. Before Obama passed the affordable healthcare act, also known s Obamacare, people who needed insurance couldn’t get it. Mainly Medicaid, which is like UK’s national healthcare. They are a little more relaxed with paying over the counter medicine. And it’s now much better but it’s still left up to the insurance company that is funded by Medicaid to allow it to happen.

        Now many people, including me, is living in constant fear of loosing our coverage with them because of the current Congress wanting to undo what Obama did for us.

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