Not Exactly Jörmungandr

"Not quite Jörmungandr" --

Reading a line like that, I couldn't resist linking to this.



Cassandra has a post on the Superbowl commercials -- which I will not see until starting 1800 tomorrow, which is 1000 your time, so please recall that in your discussion in case I happen to have time to get to a computer between now and then.

The topic is public v. private behavior, and the importance of maintaining a public space that is acceptable and comfortable to everyone. This is familiar ground for all of you who read her site and mine, as it is a point of commonality (more or less) in our philosophies.

In the comments, though, she says something that strikes me as worth a reply.

I also don't want to have to stop and constantly explain to my kids or grandkids that certain things are not right just because fringe behavior is thrust in my face when I least expect it.
It's the phrase "fringe behavior" that I find interesting here.

Not too long ago I went by the MWR and saw a soldier playing one of the Grand Theft Auto games. It involved carjacking and robbery, murder not just cold-blooded but entirely random (and highly frequent), gang membership, thuggery of every sort, but also just outright reckless driving of an extreme sort that would be certain to get a bunch of people killed.

The soldier playing it was (I surmise from his rank and position) a responsible man who has consistently demonstrated leadership and military virtue over the course of several years. He will by now be on at least his second deployment. Yet the "fringe" behaviors depicted here are are apparently appealing to him -- at least, to his imagination.

More, the game series is (I have been told) one of the highest selling in the history of the video game industry. It has only gotten more violent and extravagant as years have passed. This indicates that the fringe desires here are, frankly, not fringe at all -- they are appealing to a large number of people. We can point to the obvious popularity of a large number of other things (such as Superbowl commercials) as evidence that this may be true more often than that a genuinely "fringe" behavior is at fault.

The danger is that the impulses are not fringe. They are not perversions of human nature. Rather, they are highly common and powerful desires with very bad practical consequences. For some they are a morass, for others a precipice. Not everyone is equally imperiled -- most of us are simply not tempted by at least one if not several of the vices, though suceptible to others.

Some of us become highly skilled at navigation and rock-climbing, and during periods of strength can explore in relative safety. (Although saying that may mark the sin of pride, which is the worst sin of all.) Yet it is discipline that enables such exploration to occur without disaster, discipline gained only through time and experience (and not without a few scars).

That is another reason why places where children may be present ought to be kept clean of certain things. It isn't that the behavior is necessarily fringe. In fact, one of the best reasons to clean it up can be that it isn't a fringe desire at all. Children need time to learn and to develop the inner discipline that will let them navigate these perils. These pleasures and vices are called "adult" not as a euphamism, but because adults are the ones who may (sometimes!) have the proper strength to handle them.

Of course, we have defined down what is meant by the term "adult" as well; so perhaps that too is no fit place to hang our sign. That, though, is another conversation.