Thursday, September 17, 2015

Still Did Their Jobs

I'm about sick of the "Still Did His Job" meme for several reasons: 
  1. It's applied without thought 
  2. It's an OBVIOUS logical fallacy
  3. It's not that clever to start with. 
So I decided to break it.

This was the tamest of the images I could have used to illustrate the point. Sometimes personal conviction must override orders from the State. We may not agree on when that is appropriate, but it is certain that blind obedience to authority is simply stupid. 99% of the meme-writers have lost sight of that.

Here's another image I could have used:

And no, this doesn't correspond one-to-one with Kim Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses in Kentucky. I'm making a different point... a point about the meme itself, and the expectation that people should do their jobs simply because they're their jobs. When a job is morally abhorrent, you shouldn't do it. People know that. That's why Oskar Schindler was a hero.

You might argue that rank-and-file German soldiers followed the Nazis' orders because otherwise their lives were in danger. The problem is that Mrs. Davis might argue the same regarding her immortal soul, on which she may place a greater value than mere loss of life. Whether you and I disagree with her is irrelevant. [1] Disagreement doesn't make this an intelligent meme.

And we may disagree with Mrs. Davis over whether this rises to a level to where she should actively block her job as opposed to quitting it. That disagreement still doesn't make this an intelligent meme.

If Mrs. Davis has that deep-held conviction, she is morally justified in acting upon it. This is where it's appropriate for the courts to interpret the law and make a well-informed decision, which might result in her removal from the position. It's not time for half-baked ridicule from people who aren't even terribly good at it.

There are few worse ways to make your point, because it doesn't address the problem that resulted in dissent. It just confirms your willingness to blindly submit to authority. 

Do you still think that "doing your job" gives you the moral high ground?

All images used under Fair Use for the purpose of political commentary.

[1] Now, if you'd really like to know what I think on the Kim Davis subject, it's that she should do issue the licenses as directed by the court. I've explained it before, but I'll summarize it in my next post.


  1. What logical fallacy are you claiming it is exactly? I mean you may think it doesn't make sense but saying it's an OBVIOUS logical fallacy implies that there's a flaw in the methodology of thinking, which isn't necessarily true. It's a valid position that doing one's job is morally superior--you just may not agree with it. It has nothing to do with the "laws" of logic, it has everything to do with moral perspective (which is subjective, especially in this case). For example, the ontological argument for the existence of god has no logical fallacies, per se, but that doesn't mean it's not a ridiculous argument. The logic follows, but it's still not convincing. So saying it's morally superior to do your job no matter what is a perfectly valid position, it's just a stupid. And we agree that doing your job no matter what is stupid--BUT you're forgetting the MAIN point that people make regarding Kim Davis. Which is this:

    Do your job or QUIT.

    People want her to quit. They're not expecting her to do her job no matter how objectionable she finds it. The whole point is she's clearly not the right person for the job due to her beliefs. What good is somebody who refuses to do a job but still wants to keep getting paid?

    1. Oh and in anticipation of a possible response of "the nazis didn't have the option of quitting" -- that's irrelevant. If they don't have a choice, then it's not at all a job, it's something they're being forced to do. :P

      None of this is a huge raving disagreement with your post by the way, just some thoughts.

    2. I see what you're attempting, but there is logic as a mathematical discipline, and then there is applied logic. We're not talking about an abstract point of sophistry. Rather, this is a real-world application of moral choices. Though you may believe it's a "valid" position that doing one's job is morally superior, it's only a "true" one if doing your job comprises the entirety of your moral framework. Otherwise there is always a counter example that makes it inferior. The moral framework here is far more complex than a schoolroom example. The logical fallacy lies in excluding these additional terms, the only purpose of which is to make the abstraction "work" while disregarding the actual case at hand.

      As for this being "obvious"... well, I think it is. That may be due to familiarity with the position since childhood. I'm a bit older than average now. My father and stepfather fought in World War II; and I'm now old enough to be a grandfather myself. For many people today... even those my age... that war was fought by grandfathers or great-grandfathers. And being of Jewish extraction, I had immediate family members who were killed by people who were just doing their jobs. Some of them might be in these pictures... I have no way of knowing. So when I hear this argument I'm immediately reminded of the potentially devastating consequences of the error.

      I haven't forgotten the main point. To clarify that, I addressed it the same day I posted this, and it's linked above. As I state here, *this* post is intended to address a *different* point... one about the meme itself, and one which, sociologically speaking, is more important to my mind than the particular case of one county clerk which will resolve itself with due process.

      Remember, logic is only one of several reasons I gave (and I didn't give them all). First among them was thoughtlessness. There are occasions when simply quitting isn't enough... where where active opposition is required to fulfill your moral obligations. Hence my rather extreme example, taken from history so as to divorce anyone of the mistaken position that a slippery slope is always mere fallacy. I do not agree that Kim Davis' position rises to that level. It's quite flawed as well. I happen to agree that she should step down, and I say so, linking here to a preceding and subsequent post, where I give explicit reasons. The fact that *she* thinks she must do this makes this an issue for the courts and the electorate in her county. And we have a process for that. The end result would likely be that she is forcibly removed from office. That would be a case of a process working. But the fact that we would prefer that to happen doesn't make this particular meme any more thoughtful.

      BTW, the bulk of the German people were not Nazis, as in party members. And they *did* have a choice. Let's not forget that Hitler was elected to office, by people who did not see the error of doing so. Their rights and privileges were then restricted using much the same reasons as are used to restrict our rights and privileges today. We have the vision of hindsight, and their example, so we can't claim their ignorance for ourselves. Liberty is a frightful thing to exercise, and a dangerous power to wield, but that is no excuse for giving it away.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

  2. "Though you may believe it's a "valid" position that doing one's job is morally superior, it's only a "true" one if doing your job comprises the entirety of your moral framework."

    -Not necessarily. I'm just saying that morality is already subjective in many ways, so it's very reasonable that a culture would put doing one's job over anything else. And a person could adhere to that without that being their entire moral framework. You can believe your job trumps everything, including family and health (as is probably the case in places like North Kora), but still have a moral framework beneath that--even if your job comes in to override it occasionally. e.g. "it's morally wrong to steal, unless my boss tells me too."

    As rational people, you and I can see why that would be stupid--but it follows logically as an argument that doing your job is of utmost importance. Really it's not a big issue aside from the fact that you called it an "obvious logical fallacy," which I just don't think is explicitly true. It's neither obvious nor a fallacy, it's just a stupid moral stance--from our perspective. Again, I agree with you that doing your job no matter what is dumb, I just don't think logic has anything to do with it. This is hair-splitting semantics, though, because some people use logic to just mean common sense. But using the words "obvious" and "fallacy" suggest that you meant it literally.

    But about it being obvious, that's fine if you thought it was. Maybe it is, but it seemed a little insulting to the many people who love those memes, because it implies they're too stupid to notice the obvious. Most are probably like me and just didn't think very far into the pictures when they saw it enough to consider the argument you mentioned--which could be part of your annoyance I suppose :)

    "As I state here, *this* post is intended to address a *different* point... one about the meme itself,"

    -Oh okay, fair enough. I'll check that out in a second.

    "There are occasions when simply quitting isn't enough... where where active opposition is required to fulfill your moral obligations."

    -Yeah but now we're getting into a totally different area. Nobody is posting these memes saying that it's universally wrong to speak out against a job you disagree with on principle--they're making these memes because her protest is asinine. Nobody who posts these memes is signing a contract that says "Everybody should do their job or quit, no matter what." There's an implicit understanding at A) Kim Davis' particular excuse for not doing her job is stupid and B) the vast majority of jobs DO need to be done and have no moral ambiguity.

    1. I go into whatever area I want. My blog, my rumination. :)

      I already know why people are posting the meme. And as I state above, "There are few worse ways to make your point." The post illustrates why I think so.

  3. I know you aren't defending Kim Davis, but defending the non-pathos aspect of it by saying that it's okay in some circumstances to refuse to do your job without quitting is not really an argument worth making, in my opinion. You can pick apart any meme in the same way. Like socially awkward penguin, you could say "I'm tired of these memes because it's an obvious logical fallacy to assume that every socially awkward situation is a mistake. Some people make those awkward choices on purpose and for good reasons." It's like... okay, so what? Just like the Kim Davis meme there's an ongoing implication that these situations would be painfully awkward for most people. Just like there's an ongoing implication that Kim Davis' particular objection to her job is an especially stupid one.

    I guess I don't get what your final argument is. Is it that, since some people have good reasons not to do their job we should NEVER make fun of people who choose not to their job? Again, we do it in this instance because she has bad reasons, but nothing about the memes imply universal application to every occupation.

    "BTW, the bulk of the German people were not Nazis, as in party members."

    -I know I'm full blooded German. My Grandma has a German accent and she fled from Germany in WWII for obvious reasons.

    "And they *did* have a choice. Let's not forget that Hitler was elected to office, by people who did not see the error of doing so."

    -Okay two things, 1.) You're proving my point: do your job or quit. And 2.) People may have supported Hitler to begin with as a choice, but it wasn't as simple as saying "I quit" when you've already joined the armed forces and you're neck-deep in his dictatorship. You have a "choice" in the literal sense, but you don't really have a choice. Basically, many Germans were trapped in a choice they may have regretted. But if you're arguing that they have a choice the whole time, then my point is made: do your job or quit.

    1. No. You do your job, you quit, or you actively work against it. If your job involved killing innocents, would it be morally correct for you to merely step aside so others can pick up the axe and carry on? I say not.

      That is not to say that you can't have the courage of your convictions and still be wrong. But you offer a false dichotomy... another fallacy.

    2. "I guess I don't get what your final argument is."

      Simple. It's that I don't like that meme. Sometimes the roots of an argument don't go terribly deep.

      As I mentioned before, "There are few worse ways to make your point". And no, I don't mean that you should *never* make fun of anybody. For instance, by using such an obvious and extreme example that should have sprung immediately to mind, I'm making more than just a little bit of fun of the people who thoughtlessly repeat the meme. Not ALL of the meme-writers, if you'll note... just the "99% of the meme-writers [who] have lost sight of that."

      In accordance with my Ground Rules, I feel no obligation to present equal time, as this is a forum for my opinions. This one is in response to others who have already had their say; or who have the opportunity to do so. The Internet has room for all.

      I write for my own purposes, but if I did have a secondary reason for being blunt and somewhat absolute in my statements as well as for refusing to "do the homework" of others, it's to provide incentive to others to think of an issue in ways that perhaps they previously haven't. I appreciate your long responses. They show me that you *are* thinking about the issue, unlike many who seem to think it's just funny to pile on.

      This makes my day. For what it's worth, if we were having this conversation in person, I think we'd have a grand time over a couple of beers (or in my case, hard apple cider) and a game of pool.

  4. Also, even in the case of Nazis, I still think quitting is a better option than staying in the position for protest. That's a perfectly reasonable position to say "do your job or quit" in EVERY single case. Because even in the case of war crimes, you could argue that a person should quit BEFORE protesting to A) send a message of protest and B) get the hell out of there for your own safety and/or to avoid affiliation with something you oppose. And if you're arguing that the whole point of people NOT quitting while protesting their job is to dismantle the job from the inside, then that is essentially quitting. So if you're saying "active opposition" is necessary from the inside to destroy the institution or harm it in some way (like Kim Davis did by not issuing ANY licenses), that's not really doing your job. That's keeping a position in order to do the opposite of your job.

    BUT here's the Kim Davis difference: she wants to do ALL of her job except ONE part she doesn't agree with. That's not "active opposition" to a morally objectionable occupation. Nor is it trying to dismantle the institution from the inside. That's asking for special treatment. That's micro-managing the parts of your job that you find icky. And that's what spawns these memes to begin with. She's not failing to do her job in protest, she's asking that the law of the land be amended to allow for a special exemption for herself and her "authority" alone. So the equivalent here would be a Nazi soldier who doesn't hate Jews, but still wants to take over the world. Or maybe even still hates gay people and doesn't mind killing them, he just doesn't want to kill Jews. It's like, okay you still support the job, you just don't like one part of it. And regardless of the moral implications of any job, expecting special exemption from ONE part of your job is lame.

    Okay, sorry for the long response. Thanks for an interesting discussion!

    1. This has never been a discussion about opposition to an occupation, merely to a particular action. And I disagree with your conclusion in its entirety. Take Planned Parenthood as an example... they provide women's services, contraception, health screenings... and oh, yeah, they also do partial birth abortions. It is hardly "lame" to wholeheartedly support all of the services EXCEPT one. I take that as solidly demonstrated.