If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Thursday 13 September 2012
Read gnomica 1-100 here!
Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart;
for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.
James Baldwin (2 Aug 1924 – 1 Dec 1987)
This definition of a ‘dangerous man’ strikes me as covering a wide swath of territory, from the fanatical purity of the terrorist operating on orders from divine authority down to the terrorizing school-yard bully swathed in the impermeable purity of belief in his own superiority. These extremes bookend an averaging scale of sliding loci, and I would venture that at some times most of us fit – if not at either extreme – surely at some points on that scale.
The person in question is responsible for untold horrors throughout human history, and is alive and well in our own day. He (or she) is unaccountable to reason, filled with fossilized convictions, justified by the sheltered righteousness that props up his impregnable certainties. One simply cannot ‘reach’ this purity-cocooned individual.
The most obvious examples that come to mind are the religious fanatics of whatever creed and whatever inevitable sub-segmented splinter groups of same who do the work of their deity in the interests of some muddled notion of doctrinal purity – here one may well think of the hair-cutting-off Amish in and around Bergholz Ohio in the USA or the head-cutting-off Taliban in and around the Panjway district of Kandahar in Afghanistan. Off with their hair, off with their heads … what’s the motivational diff here? — and all this anno domini 2012 at that! On the basis of what one can gather from various news reports, both sets of true believers insist that their actions are pure, the necessary correctives to remind ‘apostate communities’ of their wayward ways. It is perhaps of some marginal psychiatric interest that these two very different sets of ‘pure’ acolytes often claim to believe in a merciful and peace-loving deity whose teachings they venerate. Psychopathology, or what?
But religion is of course not the sole stage on which this ‘dangerous man’ struts. I am sure that you yourself, for example, could list one or two such characters you have run across, even if that be in connection with venues no doubt less consequential than those dealing in the serious matter of purity of religious dogma.
What, for example, is a pure-at-heart American? a pure-at-heart socialist? a pure-at-heart pater familias? a pure-at-heart …?