Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, made him famous, but Robert Pirsig’s second book, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, provides the framework to describe the country’s current civil unrest.

          Pirsig constructs an evolutionary scale of conflicting values within the world. He says that objects have inorganic and biological values. Further up the scale are subjects: social and intellectual values. “That evolutionary relationship is also a moral one.”

          Thus, inorganic objects represent an improvement over chaos. Biological values develop the inorganic objects. But, to restrain this raw life urge in people from becoming an anarchy, social values arise.

          Above this level, sits the intellect, whose “historical purpose has been to help society, find food, detect danger and defeat enemies.” Maintaining his value hierarchy, Pirsig says, “It is immoral for the intellect to be dominated by society.” Medieval Europe and the Soviet Union provide horrific examples of independent thinkers being regarded as heretics.

          There exists constant friction among the levels of value. Outlaws oppose society’s restrictions. Society resents intellectual criticism and intellect fights against societal limitations.

          Currently, we have the idea that all people deserve equal treatment pitted against society’s prejudices toward a status quo that often fails this ideal. Compounding the problem are the biological urges of vigilantes, looters and arsonists – hooligans all.

          Intellect tries to rise above society. Looters and their like also oppose society. They glom onto the legitimate protests as a point of entry for their own evil ends. In a perfect example that the enemy of my enemy is NOT my friend, society most assuredly protects intellectuals from the mobs as much as it protects its own interests. It behooves the Black Lives Matter contingent to continually disassociate themselves from the thugs.

          Similarly, armed vigilantes also oppose the intellect. Their antagonism arises from their anti-intellectual foundations – the lies that unite them. They ally themselves with society’s antagonistic stance against the intellect (as represented in this case by law enforcement), but they are every bit as much outside the laws of society as the looters and arsonists. Police organizations need to disassociate themselves from those who believe in no law except anti-social brute force.

          Also, traditional Republicans who embrace society’s status quo, need to remember that President Trump is not of their community, but has lied and cheated social norms his entire life – relying on the power of family fortune to pursue his low, biological urges and then escape accountability. I say remember because, here in Oklahoma, Trump polled just 28.3 percent of the vote in the 2016 Oklahoma GOP primary. That 70 percent knew the truth then.

          In mid-August, Steve Sack, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis – the city where George Floyd lost his life to a police choke-hold after being arrested as a suspect for passing a fake $20 bill – drew a scene featuring two neighbors.

          One guy (wearing my cargo shorts) has planted two signs in his front yard. One says, “Black Lives Matters.” The other says, “We Support Our Local Police.”

          Over his left shoulder, he tells his neighbor (with my mustache): “If you think they conflict, maybe it’s you with the problem.”

          I don’t have that problem.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)

Conflicting values create civic unrest

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