Sunday, 20 January 2013

Do we really want (others) to be redeemed?

There's a story in the news about a California teacher who has been working in that profession for a few years. It has come out that, back in 2005 and 2006, she made a few porn movies in order to keep her family fed. Then she became a teacher. Presumably, she put her past behind her.

Actually, she's not allowed to put it behind her. Her past was discovered. She was fired. The grounds on which she was fired is that she "lied" about her past. This is a crock. If she had told the truth, would she have been hired at all? Exactly. She omitted giving a full and explicit account of her past so that she could leave it. She took a swing at redemption, which is now being denied her.

Think, what work can she get now? She's a qualified teacher, certified by the State, who will be denied employment in her trade anywhere in the States. What can she do to survive? I suspect the intention, if there is an intention, is to drive her away, out of mind, and without prospects of "decent" employment. Back to porn, to prostitution, to drug doesn't matter to the "decent" people who publicized her past.

If redemption means anything, it means that people can change. And that means that people must be allowed to change. Jesus knew it (John 8:1-11), but many Christians do not.

I will not link to any stories about the poor woman. That decision, unfortunately, has no power to give her privacy.


  1. Actually, we don't. We have culturally at all levels embraced and/or been indoctrinated into accepting as moral the idea of keeping separate, within and outside society, those who are deserving and those who are not. That separation is the cornerstone of today's political actions and business decisions.

    This teacher has, in our properly moral society, tried to breach the class gap by moving from being an undeserving to a deserving. We embrace just about everything else, but not that.

    As I've more closely examined the portrayal of 'proper' social choices, economic, political, and religious, the fundamental element, the cornerstone of how our choices are being made is via the class gap between the deserving and undeserving. It explains our relative equanimity regarding Picton's slaughter of women and our indifference to the existence of destitution in a society willing to spend $35 billion to buy fighter jets instead of food. The society deserves to defend itself, but the destitute are undeserving of being protected from starvation.

    A hypocritically moral society will need to scapegoat those they can as a means to parade their morality. Think of William Blake's Beadles parading once a year the enslaved chimney sweeps. And, along with children, women are still the easiest, it would seem, to scapegoat. Consider the recent banking fraud in the USA. No one has been charged, and the big players have been nearly exclusively men. Yet a few years earlier Martha Stewart was paraded to prison for improper trading practices as, almost undoubtedly, another scapegoat to prove the SEC's 'proper' moral stance.

    A curious hypocrisy, this idea of redemption. We want it for ourselves and even occasionally for others, too: but only if the 'we' or the 'they' haven't been contaminated by the stigma of being a member of the undeserving.

  2. Good comment, Guy. I keep thinking back to two formidable women of 6th century Byzantium. The Empress Theodora was the daughter of a bear-trainer and a "dancer and actress," probably a stripper. She was, herself, a prostitute working out of a low-class brothel. She left that work and became a wool-spinner. The Crown Prince, Justinian, fell in love with her but was forbidden by law to marry her. As soon as he assumed the throne, he changed the law. She co-ruled the empire as his equal. She also created laws that raised the status of women.

    Her friend Antonina was the daughter of a professional charioteer and a chorus-girl. If we can believe Procopius (who hated her), she was a courtesan who had born several children out of wedlock. Nevertheless, she married General Belisarius. Even Procopius presents her as a strong-willed woman, an agent of Theodora, and a wife who (against all custom) accompanied her husband into battle.

    Can you imagine either Barack Obama or General Martin Dempsey (Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) reaching their high offices if they were married to former prostitutes? It's dripping with irony that Byzantium allowed more social mobility than modern democracies...

    I can't quite get my mind around that.


  3. Excellent extension of the idea. This is an example of the history that needs to be known, but will remain footnoted in obscure women's or specialized history classes. I loved the contrast this history provides between what we think of as our excellent, albeit flawed, democracy and what we perceive rightly or wrongly as backward aristocracies or tyrannies.

    This is the hypocrisy Orwell went after in much of his critical writing, which is that we don't really live in a true democracy. In the economic classes I teach I argue that we live in an oligarchy. The USA lives in a mixed oligarchy and de-spiritualized Christianity which allows for much in the way of tyrannous behaviour. The easiest examples being the ascendency of big business, one of he most efficient tyrannies invented in that they have managed to gloss themselves as being democratic. The other being the firm belief in killing as a socially proper behaviour when it is done as retribution to an undeserving, someone who has by his/her actions gone from being a worthy to being worthy only of death.