Thursday, February 22

The Silent Majority

“…Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil, which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

- A line from the movie, the Boondock Saints

A cult favorite that never saw wide release, the Boondock Saints portrays two working class brothers who receive a call from God, inspiring them to execute criminals, prostitutes and other degenerates. The Bostonians become known as saints for their work in “cleaning” up the city. The brothers are a quintessential example of what I term zealous moderation. They represent the average American: blue collar, hardworking, and religious men who are fed up with infringement of the Russia mob in the heart of Irish Boston. Yet, unlike many of us, who limit our criticism of current culture to mere words, they take matters into their own hands and exact justice on criminals. The brothers are rebelling against the current mores in society, which permit perverse and immoral behavior. The screenwriter, Troy Duffy, was inspired to create this film after he had seen a dead woman wheeled out of a drug dealer’s apartment across from his.

I do not believe in capital punishment, nor do I believe vigilante justice belongs in a culture built by the rule of law. However, the quote is a stinging critique of contemporary society. The majority of people in this country could be labeled as moderate or “good men”. Our primary concerns involve making ends meet, caring for our families and maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. Most of the empty promises hurled at us by politicians are ignored. The issues really on our minds are those that directly affect our lives: taxes, health care, and sustained employment. We are a group the late President Nixon referred to as the “silent majority”.

Yet whose voices do we hear the most? The players in deep left or right field that promote agendas in sharp opposition to what may be considered rational thought. Listen to Sean Hannity or the raving ideologue at the Daily Kos and you almost want to throw your hands into the air and jump. Their contributions to political discourse are valuable, as we should respect all viewpoints. However, the venom and seething hate emanating from much of their material only has a polarizing effect. Friends and families are divided by labels and pigeonholed into stereotypes of how a liberal, conservative, Marxist or libertarian should think. So, if one believes capitalism is flawed or that abortion is wrong, are they assumed to be a socialist or a misogynist trying to deny a woman of her rights? No.

Personally, the most accurate description of my beliefs is utilitarianism. An ideology first developed by John Stuart Mill, utilitarianism defines the moral worth of an action to be derived entirely from its contribution to overall utility. In short, the objective of a society should be to increase the overall welfare of its members. Unfortunately, labor movements and international trade have ensured welfare improvements are asymmetrical. Job outsourcing, while negatively affecting the lives of people in a particular industry, allow for cheaper products to be produced, benefiting the entire population. I think where we have gone terribly wrong in this country is our intense focus on the individual instead of the community. Why is there no real incentive to fix social security, scrap farm subsidies, or establish a universal health care system? Because self-interest prevents our government from doing what is best for the country, as a whole. Though I agree with Adam Smith and his theory that self-interest drives markets and growth, it is not a catchall system (which is a topic I will pick up on at another time).

Regardless of your adherence to a religion or set of values, we do live in communities and must abide by the laws society has set forth. Considering the welfare, and ideas of our neighbors is a pursuit we seem to have forgotten. Rational, moderate people in this country, including myself, need to stand up for logical, intelligent thought, and against vitriolic backstabbing and squabbling.


  1. I strongly agree that most people are out for their own self-interest. Society trains these people to think and act in this manner. People want “it all”, but at what cost? Society idolizes the rich and famous, but often fails to acknowledge the do-gooder with a simple life and a small income. People want fame and fortune, and they want someone to acknowledge every good thing they do. But, as the quote says, “our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”

  2. How do you think society would function if everyone had a utilitarian mindset? Pretend for a minute that everyone is working to increase the overall welfare of society. Even if 90% of people are satisfied with one particular action or viewpoint, there will be opposition by the remaining 10%. Although everyone wants to promote overall welfare won’t we still have conflict in government and policy-making? Will the majority label the opposition as looking out for his own self-interest and fail to acknowledge that he simply has a contrasting opinion of what he thinks is best for society? Should he give in to the consensus of the majority and betray his own beliefs just to move forward or should he continue to fight for what he thinks is best?

  3. I think the easiest way "skirt" the issue per se, is a comparison of utilitarianism with present-day politics. Currently, our domestic policy tends to benefit a slim majority, i.e. the half of the country that identifies as a Democrat or the other half with the Republicans. Helping 90% of the population is immediately more noble than a mere 51%. And yes, there are always dissenters to any policy, but what is more important: not taxing the rich or taxing them to help feed the poor? It is rarely easy to make policy in the best interests of everyone, which is why it is so important to have a democratic system and separation between federal & state rights.