For a very long time, the idea that Rome might be sacked was unthinkable, and only partly because for much of that time it was also implausible. Sulla or Caesar might cross the Rubicon, or they might compile proscription lists*, but there were some lines they would not cross. Rome herself was sacred. Even while Aurelian was burning Alexandria to reunite the Empire, the idea of burning Rome (by then an Imperial backwater) remained unthought.
Then, one day a Gothic mercenary in arrears on his
At which point everyone shook themselves and looked at each other and said, "Hey..." What had been unthinkable was now thinkable; and before you knew it, everyone and his great aunt Matilda was sacking Rome, or trying to.
*proscription lists. The rulers would make secret lists of Roman citizens who could be killed without trial. Fortunately, America doesn't have... um, err....
**Galla Placidia. The quote is from R.A.Lafferty's idiosyncratic Fall of Rome.
The Slippery Slope
Perhaps you have been to a party in which there was a turd in the punchbowl. Or perhaps not. Such garnishments are more often metaphorical than real. But let us suppose some genuine abashment has taken place. No one wants to be the first to bring it up. There will be a long period in which everyone talks about something else before finally someone mentions it. Then, like a seed crystal dropped into a supersaturated solution, this precipitates the conversation and suddenly no one is talking about anything else.
The Perceptive Reader will note the resemblance to the concept of Tipping Point or Slippery Slope. The latter is sometimes called the "Slippery Slope Fallacy" by those whose notions of fallacies are formed by Internet discussions. (Many such folks, I find, are not even clear on the distinction between formal fallacy and material fallacy!) This is illustrated by the following cartoon:
"Puppy Love: Man Marries a Real Dog"--headline, Toowoomba (Australia) Chronicle, Dec. 1
A YOUNG Toowoomba man yesterday tied the knot with his best friend – a five-year-old labrador.So apparently, people marrying housepets really was just around the corner; not because of the collapse of some modern prejudice, but because of the collapse of the basic concept of marriage. Recall, too, the young woman who married the Eiffel Tower
In perhaps a first for the Garden City, Laurel Bank Park hosted the wedding of Joseph Guiso and Honey, a labrador he adopted five years ago.Thirty of the couple’s closest friends and family were in attendance for the emotional ceremony, held at dusk.
It was freezing in Paris, that day in January, 2004, when [Erika LaBrie] and a friend set eyes upon the Eiffel Tower. When they entered, a special feeling came over her; one she can only describe as intense love, a chemical attraction. That feeling of finding The One.
“Everyone was all bundled up and I felt so warm inside,” she says, recalling the moment with fondness. “I thought, ‘I don't feel cold, I feel so much warmth coming from the Eiffel tower.'”
For three years, the professional archer from San Francisco would visit the object of her affection, going for weeks at a time, spending all day touching the tower. And then on April 8, 2007, Erika LaBrie became Erika Eiffel in a commitment ceremony before 10 of her closest friends.
Alaric has already sacked Rome. Others will follow.
Social engineering consists of two phases:
- What could possibly go wrong?
- How were we supposed to know?
It Takes an Intellectual
Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.
This is part and parcel of the Late Modern/Post Modern fear of life. I tabbed the story prior to the Medical Crisis and find now that the abstract is taken down. We find it commented upon here. At first, some suspected that the article was a spoof, perhaps by evil abortion opponents; but that appears not to be the case. The authors are impeccably progressive and utterly in earnest. And their argument in favor of infanticide is premised precisely on the right to abortion. They are not warning of a slippery slope, they are advocating it.
The editor of the "ethics" journal states in the authors' defense:
What is disturbing is not the arguments in this paper nor its publication in an ethics journal. It is the hostile, abusive, threatening responses that it has elicited. More than ever, proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics [sic] opposed to the very values of a liberal society.Well, at least we know what he thinks are the values of a liberal society. It's not the liberalism of old. It's the faux-dispassionate attitude of the Wannsee Conference. And to be a "fanatic opposed to the very values of a liberal society" one now need only express outrage over infanticide. It is bad taste to point out that one is engaged in a "proper academic discussion" of something utterly repugnant.
The risk is not that state legislatures -- or even federal judges -- are about to implement the progressive thought embodied in the article tomorrow morning. (One is less certain about Executive Orders.) It is that such things are now regarded as "thinkable" by the policy elite. A wedge has been hammered into the crack. In the next generation, the ynglings will not even know that infanticide was once considered beyond the pale.