Friday, October 12, 2007


Milgrim had at least one more speech in him, before the end of the novel. And this one he even managed to speak aloud...
"A nation consists of its laws. A nation does not consist of its situation at a given time. If an individual's morals are situational, that individual is without morals. If a nation's laws are situational, that nation has no laws, and soon isn't a nation.
"Are you really so scared of terrorists that you'll dismantle the structures that made America what it is?
"If you are, you let the terrorist win. Because that is exactly, specifically, his goal, his only goal: to frighten you into surrendering the rule of law. That's why they call him 'terrorist.' He uses terrifying threats to induce you to degrade your own society.
"It's based on the same glitch in human psychology that allows people to believe they can win the lottery. Statistically, almost nobody ever wins the lottery. Statistically, terrorist attacks almost never happen."

I thought of this particular exchange today during my class on education and child development, though I can't say I'm absolutely sure why. A classmate was commenting on previous courses she had taken, and a peculiar confluence she had experienced when three different classes were all covering the same certain revolutionary political philosopher. I don't know enough about what she had learned to have commented in any interesting way, so I didn't, but then she remarked that "he ignored entire aspects of humanity." Suddenly, I heard myself saying, "Well sure. Propounding your ideology is often so much easier when you flat out ignore certain parts of humanity. It's the kind of thinking that seems to get people elected to high offices of government."

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