August 24, 2006

Total Depravity and the Crux of Our Democracy

I’ve wondered for quite a while what our society would look like if we could no longer make the implicit assumption that most folks would generally obey the law. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a rallying-cry of American (and most Western) democracies—but is by no means a universally-held human right. (A novel I recently read, Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle, shows quite clearly how Stalin’s Russia assumed everyone was guilty, and used it to his advantage.) So far, our culture has done surprisingly well with this assumption. Total depravity has not done us in legally, although one could easily make the argument that our culture has long ago been done in morally and spiritually. But will it last?

A somewhat disturbing article about defeating standard locks make me think about this again today. Security—from front doors to airports—has never been about stopping every evil-doer. Rather, it’s been about stopping as many as possible: the low-hanging fruit, the uncommitted, the simple and careless ones. But is that needing to change? And what will truly prevent our society from entering Russia’s free-fall in the process?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And, please, don’t go burgle.

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