A man develops a craving for child pornography, and acts on it. Later, he is diagnosed as having a brain tumour. When it is removed, his craving disappears. When his craving returns, the tumour has recurred too. Now, when the brain tumour is first mentioned, attitudes towards the man change dramatically. Instead of blaming him for his behaviour, people rightly blame the tumour, which of course he didn’t choose to have. But what if he hadn’t had the tumour? What if his addiction had come about only because of his genes and environment? The fact is, he’d be no more blameworthy.
This is the most emotive case Raoul Martinez could have picked. Why not kleptomania?
A prisoner no more deserves his sentence than the judge who passes it. Just as we are getting concerned, he says, this doesn’t mean that we should never imprison or punish certain people. Whew.
He is also emotive on culture. An Israeli points a gun, a Palestinian throws a rock. If they had been swapped at birth, so that each child would be raised in the other’s culture. In time, would each not end up fighting for the other side—a different flag, a different religion, a different ideology? No one would be surprised by this outcome. Again, an emotive case, a well-known intractable conflict. Why not, an Episcopalian could have been a Unitarian? Yes, we do not choose our genes or our culture. So?
Our culture shapes us even if we rebel against it, he says. Noticing that, we are better able to choose. I am like this because my parents were the same or the opposite. What would I be if there were more alternatives?
When considering how we are with others, this is a powerfully communal argument. We should all look after each other. The bell tolls for thee. There but for the Grace of God. He wants it to be revolutionary. Throughout history, people have been conditioned to defend oppressive ideologies, support destructive systems, and believe downright lies…we need to question the forces that have shaped us… materialistic values saturating advertising have a toxic effect on our happiness…we need to question the information we receive, but also to ask what information has been left out. Who benefits? Not us. To stay in touch with reality we need to be able to make discoveries and to question the agendas behind our culture, education, media, religious institutions, and the economic and political ideologies that underpin our lives.
All good stuff. So, should I buy the book?
Raoul Martinez Ted Talk.