Entering into Judgment

The recent rioting in Britain is hard to account for. Doubtless poverty and racial tension have played a part, and further in the background such intangibles as social deprivation and alienation, although these are fuzzy concepts that cry out for definition. And there is also the moral failure of people who chose to steal and, apparently, commit murder. Such actions must be judged, but those who judge need to be careful.

 Some years ago I arrived in England shortly after photographs had been published showing a famous super-model snorting cocaine. There was widespread outrage, it being felt that someone who was a role model for young people should not have set such a bad example, and companies that had paid her to promote their products announced that they had cancelled their contracts. It was hard not to join what seemed to be universal condemnation of unworthy behaviour.

Nevertheless, I became unsettled. This was partly because it seemed unfair. The person in question had not hitherto set a bad example; the only instance of bad behaviour was that captured on film by an undercover photographer who subsequently sold it, doubtless for a high sum, to a tabloid newspaper, and had this not occurred her behaviour would have been judged differently. But more deeply, I became aware of taking some subtle satisfaction in judging someone. Perhaps it’s a good principle never to condemn a person or thing it gives you a kind of pleasure to condemn.

When I have dealt with areas of failure in my own life it will be time to start reaching for a stone.

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