Last night at my older son’s hockey game (yes, June 25. We play hockey year round in the Niagara Frontier), anyway, last night at my son’s hockey game stood a man of about sixty, maybe seventy, watching intently his son or grandson play goalie. Well, to his great displeasure, my son’s team scored about twenty goals against him; by any goalie measure, that’s a bad night. After the first goal, I cheered, and this man glared at me. That’s not a good sign. And then he breathed in my general direction. From ten yards away, in a well-ventilated building with the ventilation pointing the other way, he literally gave me the vapors. The mom standing next to me looked at me as if I were the one coming to a kids hockey game completely fractured. I made eye gesticulations to indicate that it was not me. After a few goals, gramps left the building, then came back, and he breathed on us his spirits. Holy Moses! And then he himself began to make gesticulations indicating his deep dissatisfaction with his goalie grandson. It is safe to say that this man is an angry man.
It has become my lot in life that, two or three days a week, I deal with people whose best condition is hung-over. It’s not a terribly pleasant vocation, but it gives me the opportunity to put my morality where my mouth is–or, to be less flippant, to actually engage the human condition at some level, being a moral person amidst people who, at best, struggle with morality. Now that’s a tendentious statement; nevertheless, in that particular community, I am to all persons involved functioning as Morality. Police officers function as Justice. And so we make a triangle. The problem is that Justice is often angry, desirous to punish, Morality is indignant, desirous to condemn, and the guilty parties, the filthy corner of the triangle, are belligerent, pitiful, pathetic. They are, it might be said, functioning as Anger; they bring the anger of the whole world into our context. That’s a whole lot of anger. It spreads. I am not immune to the flow of anger.
Hence my deep interest in Adam Gurri’s little post on Justice, and my even broader interest in the Sweet Talk blog. Here is where, I hope, the disparate theoretical fields we bring to the social gathering, drink in hand, smiles in greeting, we can help each other in application.
One of my favorite teachers, espousing to us the wonders of Deconstruction, was put on the defensive by a recalcitrant fundamentalist, a.k.a. post-Enlightenment Modernist, who said, “All this is great in theory, but it won’t work in practice.” My teacher retorted, “Good theory makes good practice.” Man, did I love that. He’s absolutely right. Nevertheless, I also love the critique against contemporary philosophical inquiry, which, as I see it, is interested in the inquiry for inquiry’s sake. It is, as it were, good theories to make even better theories. I think Adam Gurri explained it to me as “Blackboard Economics,” or some such, as it trickles down.
As it trickles down, I’ve got to figure out what question to approach someone like Grandpa Gesticulations: “Are you a neo-Kantian fusionist with Foucault’s Post-modernity (Star Trek), or are you more in the Existentialist Woven Horizons camp (Star Wars)?” Or whatever. You get the point. I’m being silly.
I suppose I want to know the why of why we ask why. That is not to say I want to be the fellow who finally finds the shut-off valve for the flow of anger in the universe, but I would like to be able to improve my ability to apply what I’m learning from the Sweet Talk folks. There’s an angry human being on the other end of the telescope who knows nothing about Hume or Hegel or Kierkegaard. The application context, in other words, is the one that can get folks hurt.
As it happens, while I was composing this, Spivonomist posted this helpful insight over at Euvoluntary Exchange. I didn’t know economists were allowed to read Shakespeare. Seems unjust.