Sunday, November 19, 2006

In defense of paternalism:

Excerpt from this evening's conversation with my dear friend:

"Well of course she should call the police. Calling the police is the most compassionate thing she could do in that moment, because you know what it would do to him if he hurt her. Right?"

She knows.

None of us are as cohesive as we pretend. Refusing to collude with another's self-betrayal in a moment of extremis is an act of compassion.

3 comments:

fluffy said...

it's probably just a linguistic quibble [i'm prone to them], but paternalism strikes me as being interference in other peoples' lives, saving them from themselves, whether they need it or not.

saving people from themselves only at the moment they need it and only because they can't do so themselves right at the moment is more along the lines of looking out for each other, lending a helping hand.

TenaciousK said...

pa·ter·nal·ism (pə-tûr'nə-lĭz'əm) pronunciation
n. A policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities.

All thanks to the American Heritage online addition, and all that. Root word is Pater, which is "father" in Swedish. If you act in what you believe is in a person's best interest, despite what they are saying is their best interest, you are being paternalistic. The issue comes up often in mental health, for example, with suicidal clients, or involuntary commitment.

Though the word has acquired connotations associated with unneeded intervention, that's not really what it means,

fluffy said...

ok, i'll quibble a bit more and then shut up.

paternalism

i'll agree with you partially on the connotations, but connotations are important when trying to choose the mot juste.

side note: i've been attending a series of seminars, "the people's law school," and tonight's topic was the juvenile justice system.