Wednesday, April 2, 2014


My most excellent wife pointed out to me that what I wrote at the beginning of yesterday's post might not have had the desired effect. Some may have taken the statement as setup for a joke instead of a sincere disavowal of any such things and then spent the day waiting for an April Fool moment to happen. Those who did have my sympathies, but I offer no apology; I did not lie, and so I did not do a damned thing wrong. I have nothing for which to apologize--at least not in that respect. Others...I likely have much yet for which to apologize.

I do find myself apologizing quite a bit; "I'm sorry" leaves my lips often. Sometimes it is because I have honestly erred (although I do not recognize so many of my mistakes as I perhaps ought), and it is appropriate to apologize in such circumstances. (It would be better to amend the behavior so as to preempt the error and eliminate the need for apology thereby. I am not yet so skilled.) Sometimes, though, it is because I feel guilty for something that I perhaps ought not, for something that is not my fault or is not wrong but that somehow produces feelings of culpability in me. I have a guilty conscience, I suppose, although I am not entirely certain why.

I say "entirely" because I can account for it in part. I know that I benefit from things that I did not do but which were and are horrible and exploitative, and there is some guilt in that. Shakespeare says it well through Claudius in Hamlet 3.3.56 (Gee, an English major citing the Bard: how novel!): "May one be pardoned and retain th' offense?" I cannot be eased fully until I divest myself of those benefits which accrue to me through agents unseemly--yet I cannot meet my obligations to my family and my work unless I retain those benefits. I am, to pull from earlier in the same soliloquy, a man to double business bound, although I do not stand in pause; I retain the benefit and the guilt of it. I remain complicit in systems of oppression, and I dare not accept the risk involved in removing myself from those systems--for they are not mine alone.

Yet my participation in those systems also affects other than me, and while my inclination is of course to attend to Ms. 8 and my lovely wife (and in that order), I cannot say that their lives are worth any more than those of the people my actions inadvertently help to oppress and hold down--or that the lives of others are worth any less. Those who make the things we use, who work diligently to do so under conditions those who use the things would find intolerable and for all too little pay, are people of value, doing what they can to support themselves and their families no less than I am myself and mine. It is only chance that has placed me such that I benefit from their labors more than they from mine--and in a global system of production and consumption that validates that uneven benefit. And it is not to my credit that I do not do more to even the odds, for which I apologize.

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