Monday, May 09, 2005

Student Politics Sour Grapes Ranting

There was another post here. I have removed it, because it was fairly f*cking juvenile. I got rather angry at an MCR open meeting. Fortunately, given this is inevitably what happens, there aren't any more before I leave. The major issue at hand was that MCR funds were stolen whilst under the control of the executive committee, and that the theft was, because of actions not taken by the executive committee, much larger than it need have been. Specifically, a cashbox containing bar-takings was not emptied by the MCR committee for over a month, and so, when it was stolen at least £290 were lost, rather than the hundred odd quid that should have been in it. It also seems possible that some other money may have been stolen from the box before then.

I argued that since the executive had had ample opportunity to empty the cashbox, they were responsible for the loss as a result of the theft to the extent that loss exceeded what it would have been reasonable to have in the cashbox, and so liable for it. I don't like them personally, because of things which have happened at past MCR meetings, and that influenced me to bring the motion which would have made them liable. A group of MCR members, who have never been my favourite people, a feeling which is probably reciprocated, disagreed, for whatever reasons, and the meeting degenerated into a slanging match, which, by virtue of there being more of them, my side lost. Whether or not the principle in question was a good principle to apply in the case in hand is effectively irrelevant, because it was significantly the continuation of a personal feud, and in circumstances which meant that it could only ever be a personal feud. I now find the whole thing rather depressing. Righteous ire gone, lesson learnt, Sunday evening wasted.

In particular, the lesson learnt - so this isn't just an example of what has amusingly been termed masturblogging - is that in seeking to approximate an ideal speech situation - which is genuinely what I believed I was doing - it is not enough to approach the situation with what seem like principled arguments. It is also important to approach the situation with good-will, with the intention of convincing all those present, even if you do not believe that all others engaging in the forum are likely to do so. The unforced force of the better argument cannot operate unless the argument is meant to be accessible to all, and that is what I failed to do: the argument was aimed at achieving vengenance of some sort, an intention which was writ large across its face, and so it is unsurprising that it led to the rhetorical violence that it did. An argument which was not aimed at achieving vengenance would not have been the same argument, and so a desire which could never be public, because it aimed at the humiliation of some members of the public in question, shaped what were supposed to be my public arguments, rendering them private and sectional.

I suppose this has some implication for the status of all-things-considered moral judgements, because in the particular case it would have been impossible to justify what could be plausibly presented as justice - the repayment of the part of the theft for which the MCR executive members were, through their negligent failure to empty the cash box, which would have been the fulfillment of their obligations to the MCR, assuming that no obligation of the MCR to them would have been violated in holding them liable. If it would have been just to make them compensate the MCR, but that could never have been justified - because making the argument, as long as I made it, would have always, in this situation, been sectional - then justice can't be equivalent to our all-things-considered moral judgement, even in cases like this which are explicitly public. That's interesting, because justice is often taken to be the virtue on which all other virtues rest - in the absence of justice, there can be no other virtues - whereas in this case, achieving what is ex hypothesi justice would have undermined the possibility of the institution instantiating any other virtues: even attempting to achieve justice has probably done that. To put it another way, being nice matters more than being right sometimes.

1 comment:

jonny-no-stars said...

My apologies for being so trite:

'It takes 2 to tango'