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Community Organizer’s Toolkit, An Adjunct To Mao’s Little Redbook (Part II)

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Social Darwinism, the mainstay of political philosophy known as libertarianism, would have us believe that competition provides us with the gist of the evolutionary principle at work, a naturally acquired trait which explains the survival of the individual, the species, even the society at large. This philosophy is buttressed at times by appeals to biblical if not moral themes, to “industriousness” and the “just desserts” kind of thing, and capitalism emerges as the predominant mode of production, the heart of the economic system at work: those who control the capital and, by extension, the labor of others, are either morally or intellectually superior and, in representing thus the higher rung of moral or evolutionary development, are justified on those very grounds; and the cosmic order (again, either moral or evolutionary) is being preserved. In The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber offers a penetrating analysis of the religious impulse and how it forges both the objective fact and the subjective belief. Frédéric Bastiat’s life and works are devoted to providing the justification.

As an aside, the political philosophy which goes by the name of liberalism represents an improvement. It can’t do away with competition as the key principle which governs human affairs, economic or otherwise. It can’t do so because it takes capitalism for granted and, in so doing, it is, in effect, an ideological justification of capitalism. The improvement comes in the form of offering protection, mostly by way of countermeasures, juridical-legalistic in character and political in origin – a mitigating factor, as it were, designed for the express purpose of keeping the capitalist predatory practices in check. It’s the first time in the history of humankind, I daresay, that the State is posited as an ever-present counterbalance to an economic system in place, to its potentially deleterious effects, more precisely.

That’s the dubious legacy of liberalism, this constant butting of heads between institutions political and economic while all along, mind you, the symbiotic relationship between the two flourishes. In the best case scenario, the result is a stalemate. In the worst, when the state overplays its hand and goes extreme, the result is “statism.”

As another aside, I should state that liberalsm, as I have defined it, is a step down from the vision elucidated by Adam Smith, the original polemicist on behalf of the capitalist system. To his credit, Smith spoke of “moral sentiment” as the necessary ingredient, of regulation only secondarily. And whilst it’s true that liberalism pays lip service to the former, denouncing pure and outright greed, it doesn’t take a moral stance. Just like with competition, greed, too, is taken for granted as the natural order of things, as part and parcel of the human condition, the only thing to do is to control it. Regulation is the main thrust.

I shan’t argue here with the likes of Bastiat who see in the advent of capitalism the realization of a just world order. I’m well aware it’s a popular sentiment among some, but I’m also convinced it makes a farce of what I understand as morality or moral outlook. To regard the poor and the downtrodden as in some way deserving of their miserly condition is not only cruel but downright immoral. Just because you managed to pull yourself by your own bootstraps, it doesn’t mean everyone can; and to hold it against those who haven’t flies in the face of charity. So let those who think so stew in their own juice, is my response.

It’s a different matter, however, when it comes to the evolutionary principle, when reduced, that is, to competition as the decisive element in determining the outcome of human affairs. Not only is it couched in relatively speaking morally-neutral terms, circumventing thus the usually ugly and inconclusive debate concerning justification; it’s also uniquely productive in admitting the positing of viable alternatives.

Altruism is one such alternative to competition as the all-definitive, if not vulgar, expression of the evolutionary principle, and it’s not without credence among evolutionists (Richard Dawkins, for instance) and sociobiologists (E. O. Wilson) alike. Apparently, David Sloan Wilson, the author of The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time, belongs to the same line of thinkers.

About Roger Nowosielski

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    101 -

    Baronius,

    I did say ‘every reason’ implying there is at least one more than poverty. The other would be patriarchy. Though I am aware that you likely see how men behave under patriarchal indoctrination as just natural to males, I don’t. I think males could be socialized in myriad ways. Treating others as objects to conquest or body parts is not one of the ways I find beneficial to the human race.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    Let me say it a different way. Schools function in society to replicate the dominant social construction–that means send your kids to school and they learn to replicate patriarchy and capitalism.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @ 100

    If so, Cindy, then how do you suppose it is possible to bring up kids how you want them brought up? How can your ideas possibly be implemented on any scale in the present environment?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @96

    Pretty neat, Baronius. I suppose he might endorse all of the above. So your cursory definition of “libertrianism,” at the extreme, comes down to rejecting any authority outside of oneself to tell one how to dispense with their income (which, again taking it to the extreme, would mean being opposed to any form of taxation other than for the purpose of providing essential protective services).

    My stand with respect to governmental authority is even more extreme. Does that make me a libertarian?

    You’re also correct in that in many cases, the notion of right (except for “natural” rights, I suppose) inheres the notion of a corresponding moral obligation. A right is not a stand-alone concept.

    So much for architecture. Let me throw you a curveball, then. Does Dave support the capitalist system which produces the kinds of inequalities it does with respect to income and accumulated wealth?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Haven’t I always expressed the claim that schools function to indoctrinate children into the dominant culture?

    Why wouldn’t they? Even if your aim as an educator is altruistic rather than doctrinaire, a partial goal of education is always going to be to equip your students to function in the society they find themselves a part of.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    103 Roger,

    I’m pretty sure they cannot, Roger–not on any scale. Not with people being what they are.

    Or do you mean that in a practical sense–what would the education process look like?

    Here are some ideas people have come up with.

    105 Dr.D,

    Because to do so is to equip them to replicate the pathology of the culture. If one wants to be altruistic wouldn’t it be better to expose and counter the indoctrination? To teach children to question and think for themselves?

    Let me be clear that I am making an analogy with that link. I am not saying, ‘look what could happen’. I am saying what we are doing is much the same preparation that led to what they did. I find the same seeds sown in this and every other hierarchically arranged domination oriented culture. Again, see the Stanford Prison Experiment. Should similar cultural pressures emerge, the result is the same. This can be seen now in the celebration of the military and the denial of what it really is as well as the game-playing surrounding the training of future serial killers.

  • zingzing

    cindy: “If one wants to be altruistic wouldn’t it be better to expose and counter the indoctrination? To teach children to question and think for themselves?”

    there’s plenty to suggest that that’s exactly what’s going on. “critical thinking,” or however you want to put it, is one of the major goals of early education, and as one goes forward in education, the production of something “new” is the major quantifier of success.

  • Baronius

    Cindy, if you can show me a pre-capitalist or non-capitalist culture in which women weren’t prized and sexuality isn’t related to power, well, you’re not talking about humans. That’s not an endorsment of the conduct. It’s just, come on, an economic system isn’t going to make a guy less likely to pick a fight to impress a girl, or any of the other stupid things that happen when genitals are involved.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    What I do mean, Cindy, that the project you have in mind must be doable in spite of the conditions. You never have the kind of conditions you desire — the object is getting there. In short, we must make do with what we’ve got. There’s no other way and it will always be like that.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Because to do so is to equip them to replicate the pathology of the culture.

    Argumentum ad hitleram, Cindy. Just as disease is an inescapable part of the natural order, so every society is pathological in some way. But at the same time, just as athlete’s foot is not as serious a disease as the Ebola virus, not every education system can be equated to the Hitler Youth.

    If one wants to be altruistic wouldn’t it be better to expose and counter the indoctrination? To teach children to question and think for themselves?

    That’s why I said a partial goal of a good educator was to train students to become members of society. Of course they should also learn critical thinking skills, and an education that doesn’t do this is practically useless. But acquiring these skills doesn’t necessarily mean the newly-trained thinker will conclude that the culture she finds herself in is intrinsically wicked or evil.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    We’ve been over this before, Cindy. In order to be able to overcome dominant values and culture, you’ve got to know what they are. One can’t become a purist out of the blue, by having been raised in a pristine environment. An certain exposure even to bad things is a must.

    The kind of ideas you’re espousing are similar to those held by many fundamental Christians who, if they life depended on it, wouldn’t send their kids to public schools for fear of contamination.

    By all means, let’s work on developing an alternative education system, but that won’t happen overnight. So the question again is — what do we do in the meantime?

    What is the necessary state of mind, ask yourself this, on the part of a caring parent to send their kids even to a “bad” public school without fear and trembling?

    A hint — it involves making a quantum leap!

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    I don’t have a project. I am analyzing and assessing. I have, likewise, no idea, for example, of how to achieve world peace. Though I think it is a sound idea to aim for and sorely lacking. I posted a link to unschooling. Did you look at that? That is one idea. There are others.

    For myself, Roger, I have decided (at the moment) to retire myself from world-changing in the up close and personal sense. I am not at all confident that I can be of much service at the moment. I plan to work on some children’s books with the goal of aiding them in questioning the mantras of the dominant culture and maybe some for parents as well. Perhaps I will develop some workshops for interested adults and/or children.

    Dr.D,

    Can a true believer teach others to ‘think critically’ about what they believe?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    I think you don’t quite comprehend what I mean and I repeat: would you send your children to the church of scientology to educate them?

    If not, why not? If so, why on earth would you think it is necessary?

    Why do you think the institution of school is a necessity? That is a socially conditioned belief you have adopted and you treat it as if it were reality. It is preventing you from seeing things in new ways. I am reminded of your trying to teach me for over a year why I am wrong about anarchism and why liberalism was the only right way.

    I am growing weary of discussion, Roger. Though I am not growing weary of you. I have partly not been around because with every conversation I have I grow more certain that the world will never change. I am planning to focus on my own world and my own happiness and that of my small community I have direct contact with.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    And, as I have said before, I only really care much for underdogs, Roger. I think I would rather work directly with them than talk and talk and talk in circles to the privileged who have no stake in changing anything.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    zing,

    See 112 to Dr.D.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @114 – so do I.

    But when you get a chance, think about the question I posed at the end of #111.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger, I sent you an email.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That’ll be just fine.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Cindy (thanks for #70) I looked at your link about the “war toys are fun!” recruiting strategies on high school campuses. On display are attitudes that are a hop, skip and a jump from those demonstrated in the Wikileaks video where the US combatants shooting at unarmed civilians were hardly distinguisable from teens at an arcade shooting gallery. The link I posted includes statements from a former soldier from the company in the “Collateral Murder” video who is now working to promote alternatives to war; he says that the video depicts a typical day on the job.

    Here’s a baby-step suggestion. If schools are truly interested in developing critical thinking skills, then, to expose students to an alternative viewpoint, there could be an assembly featuring a local representative from Veterans for Peace. (There’d likely be children of servicemen in the audience; he’d know how to be sensitive.)

    Ah, but that might mess with the pep rally schedule, so you might have as much trouble with the athletic department as you would with the recruiters. “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton.” It’s pervasive. I understand and appreciate the biological imperative for a male to be the protector of the children he’s sired and their vulnerable mother. The continual focus on aggression, though, is an aberration of this natural drive.

    Cindy if I don’t see you for awhile, let me just say that I’ve appreciated the things you’ve brought to everyone’s attention, if they were listening (and missed the same message, from different camps from yours, in Chalmers Johnson’s “The Sorrows of Empire,” or or from publications (too socialist for my taste, but still one of the other lights in the darkness)like the Catholic Worker, the mischief the IMF is doing in third world countries. I never knew about the plight of the children who work as slaves to bring us candy bars, until you brought it up. Even if your METHODS aren’t always the same ones they’ll use to address those evils, you’ve inspired some to make a difference.

    I know this might be offensive to some, but I really intend it as a blessing: to EVERYONE on this thread (even the ones who don’t like Ron Paul) may God help you all as you go about, each in your own ways, fighting evil.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Can a true believer teach others to ‘think critically’ about what they believe?

    Now you’re poisoning the well, Cindy. By dismissing educators as “true believers”, you give yourself an unmerited free pass on even considering that what they teach might not be without merit.

    Or is even the entire canon of what we call “critical thinking” to be dismissed because it was a bunch of establishment white guys who came up with it?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    I don’t have a problem with Ron Paul. He’s a decent enough old duffer.

    An unhealthily large segment of his supporters, however, seem to be (present company excepted) flying-mammal-excrement crazy.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    One person’s true believer is another person’s heretic. A great example is the ‘debate’ – as idiotic as it is – between evolution and creationism in our schools.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    I have a real big problem with Ron Paul. He’s a whole load of excelsior disguised as good intentions that would lead where they often do…and I’d even rather see Perry as president before him!

    But in the interest of peaceful discourse in this thread, I’ll refrain from going down that road.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Okay, Dr.D if you say so. But all you have said functions like some rational auto defense. It has prevented you from grasping the meaning of what I am saying.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @122

    A heretic is a true believer no less than an orthodox — not because his or her beliefs are true but because he believes truly.

    It’s Eric Hoffer’s usage.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    If I am indoctrinated into a system so that the system is my reality (which is what I have been arguing) to the degree that I have very little ability to to be critical, how on earth can I teach other people to be critical?

    *Are you grasping the meaning of INDOCTRINATED? Can a true indoctrinated soldier raised in a military environment to act in certain ways and accept certain things as reality be critical of his own reality?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Or let’s say he can be, but is this the ordinary position?

    I am saying people are acting based on indoctrinated positions they do not have clarity about. How can they be critical of things they don’t even know they don’t know?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cindy,

    You do draw a bleak picture. If it were exactly as you’re saying, then it would be well nigh impossible to ever get out from Plats’s cave. No one’s saying it’s easy, but you’ve got to admit, there have been some escapees.

    In every generation, there are those who strive for freedom and struggle against domination.

    The human spirit is not to be denied.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    It is all to rare, Roger. To me, it is very bleak. That is why I intend to withdraw.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Why do you think that the world is so very hard to make a dent in. Look at all the conversations here. How much real understanding has even been exchanged?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    You live in California, Dr. Dreadful. The person who delivered door hangers to YOUR house had five inch guages in each ear. AND dreadlocks, and is confident enough to be impervious to insults, who’ll deliver Ron Paul literature come rain, hail, sleet, snow or dark of night. I love those guys.

    Some of the most brilliant and productive geniuses have been bat-shit-crazy.

    BOY HOWDY THOUGH! How ’bout that straw poll!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Another surprising group of political activists: the Hip Hop Republicans. I wouldn’t call them bat-shit crazy by any stretch though; the first video had me tearing up a couple of minutes into it.

    Glenn, don’t make a pest of yourself on their Twitter page. And when on another forum where you MIGHT find support for your “anyone who criticizes Obama is a racist” views, please do NOT, EVER again, use “real” as an adverb. I’m getting REALLY, REALLY tired of it.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Will he win? Maybe you don’t want him to, Cindy. But he’s the ONLY candidate getting any attention who’s speaking out against the War(s) on Terror (aka the neocon military contractor’s vision for the next eon) and the forty-year old failed War on Drugs. And HOPEFULLY that will change. Ron Paul never claimed to be the only one who could carry this message.

    His voice is attracting listeners, YOUNG, enthusiastic, dedicated activists, who are getting involved and running for offices at the local level. That’s where a turn around the corner to a more peaceful future might be coming from. And that isn’t hay.

    They won’t be abolishing capitalism, not any time soon, anyway. Some of them might think anarcho-capitalism is the ideal, but if they get there, they’re going to get there in a way that wins an educated following. No bloodshed, please God. No dehumanizing “the enemy.”

    Cindy, their ideal economic system might be different from yours, but their ideal of peace and justice isn’t. They look at the current failed capitalist system, and see the same rotten apple on the ground that you do. Maybe they’ll plant a new apple tree. Maybe they’ll plant something different, new and improved.

    Don’t give up hope.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    (Not all Hip-Hop Republicans are Ron Paul Republicans. The ones on that page were, though.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, Anarcissie, now that the storm has subsided, perhaps we can discuss aspects of Hillary’s thesis whenever you’re ready.

    I’m concerned with the applicability of Alinsky’s model in the present. Initially, the main thrust was local. In time, Alinsky himself came to a realization that there is a need to expand the model to cover broader scope of action — beyond the local community. But that was in the seventies.

    One wonders whether the present-day conditions call for a reconsideration and a shift back to the local community as the most effective theater for activism.

  • Baronius

    “Okay, Dr.D if you say so. But all you have said functions like some rational auto defense. It has prevented you from grasping the meaning of what I am saying.”

    Not bothering with the well anymore, I guess. Poisoning him directly.

  • tro ll

    Why do you think that the world is so very hard to make a dent in.

    how about: blame the dialectic

    we cling to an explanation and understanding of movement and change as based on the conflict and balance of opposites and reproduce the concepts in our behavior

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Interesting. That means we’re in the business of re-enacting.

    So what’s the remedy? Consensus rather than conflict? Flies in the fact of Alinksy’s power/conflict model. Garnering of power is the necessary first step, he’d say, to get you to the negotiating table so you might reach new consensus.

  • Clavos

    The thing that jumps out at me in all discussions of “better” politico-philosophical “systems,” including this discussion, is that all those who, like Cindy, support their ideas with the belief that, given enough education, indoctrination or otherwise convincing, all humans will see the light and some form of good and just system of governance will prevail.

    My point is that there is never a consideration of just how many truly evil people are afoot in the world; never, that is, until a Hitler or a Pol Pot comes out from under his rock, and everyone gasps and agrees as to how horrible National Socialism or the Killing Fields were, but once the evil one is vanquished everyone seems to disregard the fact that there are millions of truly abhorrent, completely amoral animals roaming around in human bodies.

    These scum will never disappear, and will always be around to throw a monkey wrench (and much worse) in “the best laid plans.”

    It is unrealistic and dangerous to ignore their existence.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    A view from the bridge, Clavos.

    Isn’t it the case, though, that the arrival of strongmen, along with the kind of devastation they can sow, are made possible by conditions which pretty much spell out an advanced breakdown of society so as to provide a fertile ground?

    So it’s not exactly from under some rock that these “monsters” crawl out.

    Likewise in the other direction. The rise of Hugo Chavez may be seen as a response to years of the ruling class domination, just as it’s the case with the Arab Spring. No different with the rise of cartels in Mexico and parts of Latin America.

    It’a been a seesaw between action and reaction.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Baronius,

    Here’s a better formulation. From a purist, perhaps classical standpoint, political philosophy oughtn’t concern itself with the economic system in place — only with how to attain a just society. In any case, the impetus behind political philosophy oughtn’t be economic considerations as its source, nor should political philosophy become reduced to the role of a servant.

    In actuality, however, for too many people, political philosophy serves as a/n (ideological — to say this is redundant, in a way) justification of the economic system in place.

    So when I spoke of libertarianism, I did have in mind this loaded sense. For which reason, I posed the question I had posed earlier: Does Mr. Nalle approve of the capitalist system or does he not? And in that sense, a discussion of political philosophy can no longer be divorced from economic thought which in more cases than not, underpins it. The rather recent turn of phrase, “political economy” — abandoned by now for understandable reasons — underscores this point.

    Thanks for making me think, Baronius. It was a good exchange.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Clav,

    I don’t think humans will see the light. I think that the nature of societies insures indoctrination will be invisible and therefore the constructed social reality will be seen as just natural. And I don’t like where it is going. Forget Pol Pot, I don’t much like what I see in ‘Joe next door’. ;-)

    I do think that we are what we are because of what went into us. Thus, my suggestion that the world will not change until we change the diets of the children we raise.

    That said, evil abounds. I am more interested in turning the ship for the long voyage. Someone must start working now if we are to achieve change a thousand years hence.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    137 troll

    Thanks for clarifying that. That sounds right.

    Irene,

    Thanks for all your posts. I have been reading and appreciating them.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’ve got to distinguish, Cindy, between your kind of brandwash and this one.

  • Anarcissie

    Alinsky and Rodham were working within liberalism. They were smart people and thus their writing is entertaining, but their ideas didn’t change anything fundamental. I am more interested in fundamental stuff because I have learned through long experience that I will have little effect on superficial, even if practical, matters. This is not to say that the superficial matters are unimportant; it’s just that I have to pick my battles and I might as well pick interesting, whole-hog ones.

    In regard to Ron Paul, he makes more sense than any other prominent politician I’m aware of, but this is saying very little. Given my view of the relation between the ruling class and the government, I think there is zero chance that he can be elected, unless he’s a better faker than I think he is. His function is to delude people with limited libertarian impulses into thinking they’re involved in system of democratic governance. He might stir something up, but if so that will be by appealing to something off the liberal board.

    In regard to Clavos’s view of human nature: I think we know very little about human nature. I too am fairly pessimistic about its chances, but as continued mass sociopathy will lead to the early demise of the human race I am working toward more interesting alternatives. (Götterdämmerungen are exciting but brief; the silence which follows will drag on for a long old time.)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Irene –

    And when on another forum where you MIGHT find support for your “anyone who criticizes Obama is a racist” views, please do NOT, EVER again, use “real” as an adverb. I’m getting REALLY, REALLY tired of it.

    That’s a great example of exaggeration, Irene. I have never said, never even hinted that “anyone who criticizes Obama is a racist”. But I DO call anyone a racist who makes racist comments and hasn’t the courage to own up to them. One of them is Ron Paul – he allowed them in his magazine over a period of years, and I showed that his own campaign staff thought the comments were his! Of course, those who support Paul will gladly take his own word (a politician’s word, mind you) about something he did wrong, even over the word of his own staff and his own magazine.

    So next time, please be REAL careful about blowing things out of proportion…and about being so eager to believe a politician when the evidence is so strong to the contrary.

    P.S. Thanks for the correction on ‘real’ as an adverb. You’re right and I’m wrong, and I appreciate the correction.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Continued live coverage of Death Row Vigil for Troy Davis out of Georgia.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The stay of execution has been denied by SCOTUS.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Wonder if anything will change in how GA handles these cases?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Nah, Georgia is a member of the Blooddeathrevenge Confederation. I don’t think it particularly matters to them if the right person gets executed for murder, as long as somebody does.