Friday, April 06, 2007

Colonel Westhusing, Jane Jacobs, & the Guardian Moral Syndrome by Louis Evan Palmer

Death is an occasion for sadness. How much sadness will vary with how close one was to the deceased, the circumstances of their passing, and the character and charisma of the departed.

It is always more poignant when the person was young. or there was a miscarriage of justice or the person had special talents or genius such as in music or writing or, in the particular case I want to touch on, in philosophy.

The world is short of philosophers. It always has been and I think it always will be. If we had more philosophers, and we listened to them more carefully, the world would be a dramatically improved place. Every time a philosopher dies, there should be a pause in the life of a country and a summing up.

At age 44, Colonel Westhusing was found dead in Baghdad, It was ruled a suicide and appears to have been the result of deep depression and disgust brought on by the conduct of America as the occupation force in Iraq. Colonel Westhusing was a philosopher.

In 1992, the book “Systems of Survival” by Jane Jacobs was published. It is a book on the “Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics” and is done in the style of a Platonic dialogue which is appropriate because it was Plato who first elaborated on a society comprised of a Philosopher-King, Guardians and Producers. Jacobs has used this idea and infused with ideas from chivalry and the samurai and various caste systems, she has distilled the specific set of ethics & morals that guide the Guardian class versus the Commercial class. It is a remarkably powerful analysis and it clearly shows why Colonel Westhusing would so deeply feel the way he did.

Guardians are different from Producers. Throughout history, there has been a division between the two which is not arbitrary but based on the incompatibility of doing both jobs properly in a single person or a single occupation. For example, a society cannot have its police negotiating their services directly with the citizenry; where that happens, there will be a breakdown in the law and a diminishment of life & commerce. Guardians protect and maintain the framework of a society including its borders, its standards, & its laws. Loyalty, honour & prowess are watchwords for a Guardian while Service for the public good animates their actions.

Jane Jacobs outlined how problems arise when the ethics & morals from the Commercial syndrome are mixed or conjoined with the ethics & morals of the Guardian syndrome or vice versa. Society would see what she refers to as “monstrous hybrids”. Soldiers & Police for sale; bureaucrats well-schooled in rules & regulations and hierarchies trying to run businesses that need inventiveness, efficiency and initiative. Giant “managed care” corporations attempting to mix Guardian service to society and Commercial trying to maximize profits.

Mercenaries are also “monstrous hybrids” and one that Colonel Westhusing found particularly upsetting. The Colonel tried to fight the corruption and disreputable, even criminal, conduct he saw but he found that the bureaucrats were adept at ignoring his entreaties. Guardians are taught and believe in loyalty and respect hierarchy and this makes it especially difficult for a true Guardian to “treasure honour” and “show fortitude” when these values are being betrayed by rent-a-soldiers and disregarded or whitewashed by his own command. That the mercenaries make 2 to 3 times what regular soldiers earn makes it all the more galling.

The current American administration, chock full of strutting chickenhawks, is doing more than bankrupting America's finances & reputation. They are destroying their Armed Forces morally. At some point, probably when most needed, these guns for hire will melt away and there will be precious few left to “serve”. The moral authority of the leadership will be gone with the whirlwind. When a nation's moral compass is wrecked, it can take decades to recover.

Worse, when the Commercial sector is also corrupted with Guardian ethics, it no longer functions either. Vast government-largesse-dependent companies will quickly fail when their public tax-fed troughs are taken away. America will soon have its arms-makers as the only sizable domestic manufacturing it has left. That practically guarantees more war and eventual doom.

Maybe that is also what the good Colonel saw – that impending doom and a profound betrayal. Don't let Colonel Westhusing's death sink beneath the waves and out of memory. When a person of this calibre sees no way out, then this should be taken as seriously as possible by the rest of us because a philosopher can see deeper and better and farther than the rest of us. Read some philosophy, contemplate, and then take positive action!

Colonel Westhusing, Jane Jacobs, & the Guardian Moral Syndrome, The Way It Can Be, Louis Evan Palmer,
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have been published in numerous publications.


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