Stephen C. Rose
Apr 15, 2015 · 3 min read

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Not long ago I launched an idea called Triadic Philosophy. It is summarized in Triadic Philosophy 100 Aphorisms available at the Kindle Store.. It grew into several more books. Harm is a chapter in a successor work in progress called “The Collapse of Leadership”.

The gradations of harm range from acts of selfishness and mindlessness, to the casting of judgments on others, to exclusions and ganging up, to the acceptance of intolerance, the denial of democracy and human rights, to the inflicting of intentional injury, to killing — murder, homicide, genocide.

Most harm IS inflicted. One may except events such as earthquakes and tsunamis, but as time goes by we become more and more aware of the interaction of human beings with the cosmos of which we are a part.

We cannot say that deaths from pollution are not humanly caused, even if the perpetrators are billionaire philanthropists like the Kochs. We cannot say that the deaths and related injuries of the futile wars of recent decades were accidents or acts of god. They were the predictable result of decisions made by human beings with suits and ties. People who saw themselves as virtuous.

Ultimately I am against judging others and for accepting the binding nature of forgiveness. Nothing is gained by revenge and revenge is exactly what most justice is about. But we are engaged in massive delusion if we do not admit our fallibility and our common need for forgiveness because of our common involvement in the creation of harm. We need pull no trigger, strike no blow. Somehow, some way our lives intersect with a world where the trillions of willful acts daily both inflict and prevent harm.

That is what life is. We are part of the mix.

We require daily confession and daily forgiveness. Otherwise we have no freedom whatsoever. Because freedom is our capacity to consider, act and express on the basis of our fallible choices.

There is nothing wrong with being happy. There is nothing wrong with feeling free. But if we are not at the same time penitent and mindful, we are simply opening ourselves to the very descent which creates and enables harm.

The most clear expression of this culpability which is universal is the capacity of actions that we mindfully believe to be good to be woefully bad — to result in serious harm. My poster child reality at this point is our love affair with the automobile. The car is a virtual case study in the generation of harm.

We may say that on balance there was progress. We may say we meant well. We may say we fought no wars to keep oil flowing. We may say all the injiries and deaths on the road have been worth it. We may say driving hours every day is a good use if time. We may say all manner of things. But there can be no real answer until big data applies the same perspicacity to the investigation of harm as to limning of what I like to buy.

Johnny Carson was not a happy camper after he lost his son to an automotive death. Cars create sprawl and abet polarization. They menace children. They define the economy, the world.

We are only at the threshold of determining the harms of complex phenomena we generally deem to be good.

The cyber era really does change everything.

When it enables is to more accurately say what causes harm and what does not, it will further establish that the persons who are, with the rest of the cosmos, engaged in the continuity we call life are those who by their actions determine the course of progress.

Stephen C. Rose

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