Thursday, 17 May 2012

After Judgement

English literature contains at least two classic statements about pre-judgement. One is the title of a novel by Jane Austen. The other is in Alice in Wonderland when the King of Hearts asks the Jury to consider its verdict before it has heard the first witness. If pre-judgement, prejudice, judging before the evidence, is wrong, then "post-judgement", judging after the evidence, must be right. But "post-judgement" can instead mean just what comes after the judgement, in particular its consequences.

The Day After Judgement by James Blish is the sequel to the same author's Black Easter which ends with the demons winning Armageddon. Despite their fantastic content, these  works address us. The Goat says:


Later, as the last magicians approach the demonic fortress, the white magician says:

"One thing is surely clear...We have been making this journey all our lives." (2)

I have argued that judgement is part of life, not its end. It may be that I am particularly aware of this. I was continually judged and found wanting by both elders and peers because I did not conform to their ideas of acceptable behaviour or personality. And I now see that I was insufficiently attentive to many aspects of social interaction. But condemnation was unhelpful. The conflict remained unresolved because we do not choose to be who we are so we cannot change our personality as easily as we can change a garment. And much of the condemnation was unwarranted. On a Sunday afternoon, I preferred to read HG Wells in the attic than to watch Z Cars in the kitchen so I was guilt tripped for not spending time with my family. I was made to feel in the wrong for reading comics instead of books, for reading about Hinduism instead of about Catholicism, for reading science fiction instead of something else and for reading instead of doing something else. It was then learned that neighbours who were a Judge and a Colonel also read science fiction. I have certainly learned how not to saddle children and teenagers with unnecessary guilt and resentment.

Making a virtue out of a necessity, I became more adept than many fellow students and work colleagues at accepting and heeding criticism and was even commended for this by an otherwise hostile Manager who, I am pleased to say, was moved out during a re-organisation. More recently, I have felt lousy when got at by an acquantance only to find out that many others regard him as arrogant. I think the problem is with me. They see it as with him.

The word "criticism" has a highly negative value and is apparently taken to mean hostile judgement or condemnation. I tried to tell a fellow student, "If you are criticising me for taking too long to do that job, then that is alright," but was interrupted after "...criticising..." with "I AM NOT CRITICISING YOU!" I gave a colleague advance warning that some criticism was coming towards his College Department and thus sparked an uproar, involving the College Principal, that was immediately traceable back to me.

I know that there are acts that it is right to feel bad about and others that I feel bad about only because of my upbringing but I cannot locate the dividing line. In the unlikely event that some higher power does judge us, he or it knows the score.

(1) Blish, James. Black Easter and The Day After Judgement, London, 1981, p. 111.
(2) ibid, p. 200.


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