Today I was thinking about modern sayings and how they really don’t make a lot of sense. We hear them all the time, either as bumper stickers or responses to common problems, but when put under analysis, these sayings are actually illogical.
1) “Violence doesn’t solve anything/Violence isn’t the answer.”
Is it true that violence doesn’t solve anything? This attempts to bring up the sentiment that it’s good for people to work out their differences in a civilized manner. Certainly if all parties involved in a dispute are civilized, then violence makes little to no sense; violence between civilized persons would only seek to exacerbate the problem rather than solve it.
If, however, one person is civilized and the other person is uncivilized or unwilling to work out the differences, sometimes violence is the answer. If you witness a man beating up and robbing an old lady and you can’t reason with him, violence is the answer. Violence (physically apprehending the perpetrator would be a minimal use of violence, but violence nonetheless) does actually solve this problem. Violence solves the problem of the man beating up the old lady.
If we didn’t believe violence was ever the answer then we wouldn’t have police. Even the most ardent leftists in our country want police (the same cannot be said for the ardent on the right, who are Anarchists, but they are few and far between). But if violence is “never the answer” or “doesn’t solve anything,” then why have police? They have to use violence in order to apprehend an uncooperative suspect.
A better saying would be, “Violence should be the last resort.” This still shows that violence is never preferable, but is sometimes necessary in order to get the job done.
2) “That’s true for you, but not for me.”
If this saying merely applied to certain temporal existences, then there’d be no problem. For instance, the statement, “I am currently in France” might be true for John, but not true for Jane, who is currently in New York. Or, “I currently have on a red shirt” might be true for one person, but not for another. Unfortunately, this saying is applied to ethics.
This saying itself is meant to promote the ethic of tolerance. When applied to temporal states, the statement is logical. When applied to abstracts, such as ethics, the statement is self-contradictory. “It might be true for you, but not for others” implies, “don’t shove your beliefs on others.” But if one thing is true for me and not for you, what if the original statement (“It’s true for you, but not for me”) isn’t true for me? Do I still have to adhere to it? If, however, that statement is universal, doesn’t that mean that there is at least one absolute moral, thus negating the sentiment inherent within that statement?
Is it true for me that murdering is wrong, but not true for someone else? Does our judicial system work on the idea that morality is subjective to the person or culture, or does it (at its very base level) work on the idea that there is an absolute morality? It was, in the very least, founded on the belief that morality was absolute and that even if you disagreed with the moral sentiment of the culture, you still had to submit to it.
Regardless, the saying is illogical as it contradicts itself. It’s a popular saying, but an illogical one nonetheless.
3) “Going to war for peace is like having sex for virginity.”
This one always leaves me scratching my head. War and peace exist temporally, that is to say neither is permanent and can come and go. Virginity is a default setting and a one-time thing; once gone it can never return. No amount of surgery or psychotherapy can make someone a virgin again. War and peace, however, can come in and out of existence.
The sentiment behind the saying is that because war is the antithesis of peace, it subsequently cannot bring about peace. While we should always do everything we can to avoid war, sometimes war is unavoidable in order to secure peace.
Examples from history would include:
- WWII – the Allied involvement in the war brought about peace for Europe (albeit temporary)
- The Civil War opened up the road for peace for black slaves; though they had to wait (and in many instances, still wait) for peace, without the Civil War such peace was not a guarantee.
- Caesar’s invasion of Gaul – the Celts from Gaul had continually raided the northern Italian peninsula, destroying farms and life. Caesar’s invasion brought about peace in Gaul and stopped the tribal warring as well as the invasions into Rome.
War, sadly enough, can produce peace because it takes two opposing sides and eradicates one of them. When one side is gone, the other continues on peacefully (for a while). War, therefore, can produce peace, whereas once I have sex, I have no hope of being a virgin again.
Of course, war is not the ultimate solution. War is always a temporary fix and cannot provide an eternal peace.
These are just common statements that are popular to say and accepted as undisputed truth, but are really silly. They’re illogical and don’t even align with the facts of history. They show a lot of bravado and might sound deep, but once someone actually applies some depth to the statements, they’re shown to be empty.