Preemptive Offenses

Monday, April 1, 2013

"Fair:" A Coda

"It's not fair!" has become the national plaint. It's heard from every imaginable side, every point of view, and about every facet of life in these United States. I could explain why "fair" is a completely inapplicable concept to matters outside one's own control, and one's own grasp of morals and ethics, until my fingers literally drop from my hands...and it would make no difference at all.

"It's not fair!" is America's National Whine. (No, there's no accompanying cheese.)

I'm thoroughly sick of it. I hear it so often that it's begun to seem as if no one has anything else to say. Indeed, there are days when the profusion of such emissions brings me near to joining them...for having to listen to them.

So I've begun the search for a countermeasure.

Isabel Paterson's marvelous book The God of the Machine contains much wisdom and insight, but no item therein exceeds her analysis of the fundamental function of the emperor in the early Roman Empire:

To adapt the disrupted mechanism of Rome to the new potential of energy from outside, the parts had to be interlocked or offset again by an indivisible nexus and semiautomatic distributor. The best that could be contrived by a desperate resort to expediency was a kind of jury rig.* One man was used as if he were a separate, and breakable, but replaceable object. His new position had no reference to his previous place in the social organism. He was something like a crude fuse plug, which may blow out, but it should be borne in mind that the blowing-out of a fuse plug is a measure of safety in certain contingencies. Practically any man who would do for the job would do; and if one failed, another must be thrown into the gap by the turn of events. He was the emperor, as long as he lasted. He had to take the incoming current and re-distribute it outward. So he must not have any other social function in particular. The first man who made it stick did so mainly by that negative qualification, being neither a great soldier, an eloquent orator, nor a popular figure. The various men who had those gifts—Julius Caesar, Cicero, Mark Antony—died by violence, which was their natural end, since they represented the instruments in collision: the army, the Senate, and the Roman populace. They had to take the impact, which Augustus nullified by representing no separate part. He did not have a visible party; but he did use, or was used by, the new moneyed men. Augustus broke the patricians by proscription, thus reducing the Senate to impotence (though keeping the shell of it); he put the army on a professional basis; he paid off the plebs with the dole, and organized a bureaucracy which furnished places and perquisites for the upper and middle class. [Emphasis added.]

When social and economic tensions in the Roman Empire became intolerable, it was the emperor who was sacrificed. That gave him a powerful incentive to pacify all the contending parties -- to compose a grand bargain that would persuade all the forces in motion that it was not yet time to strike at the king.

However, a continuous, querulous, omnidirectional whine isn't something even an emperor can cope with. Anyway, getting an amendment passed that would create a national emperor would be, to say the least, a difficult project.

But we might be able to create another office of great utility to which practically no one would object.

The kings of old had their court jesters -- "fools," in the parlance of the times -- whose function was to remind the king of his own mortality and fallibility. Granted that a few of them did so by jesting "inappropriately" and thus being sent to the royal headsman, but the idea remains the same. A king who drew the appropriate moral from the antics of his fool tended to live longer, and reign more pleasantly, than one who did not.

We don't need fools; we have our elected officials for that. What we need is a figure to whom we can whine, who will listen wide-eyed and pat our heads, give us a sweet and send us home: still sniffling but somewhat reassured that "everything is going to be fine, dear."

We need Official Mommies.

The position should exist at the federal, state, county, municipal, township, school district, and incorporated village levels. It can have a staff and an operating budget, but it must have absolutely no power. The position can be elective or appointive, though in the latter case the person selected must not be allowed to decline the honor. His office must be open continuously, and to all within the relevant district who need someone to whine to.

(Whether a Mommy's staff members should bear titles such as Deputy Assistant Under-Mommy For Sniveling About Zoning Restrictions is a separate study. I intend to apply for a federal grant.)

The course of preparation for such duties would be arduous to say the least. Most applicants would fail out quite early. However, it would bring its graduates two benefits at the very least.

  • They would be well versed in the critical skill of listening without hearing;
  • They would be ready for real parenthood.

Inasmuch as a Mommy would never be "off the clock," his compensation should be substantial, possibly the highest at his level of government. More, every Mommy should be pre-indemnified against:

  • Litigation alleging emotional cruelty or invasion of privacy;
  • Suits for slander, libel, or defamation of character;
  • Charges of assault and battery for assaults with a weapon no deadlier than a stapler.

(Yes, sports fans, these are all developments one must expect in the office of a public Mommy. After all, think how often your mother threatened to staple your tongue to the wall.)

And of course, subsequent to the creation of these offices and the installation of the appropriate persons in them, public whining of any sort shall become a misdemeanor offense, punishable by one night in the stocks under a large placard bearing the legend ASSHOLE.

And with that, I yield the floor to the critics.

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