I am not my brother’s keeper

Enoch Powell

I have been reading several of Enoch’s religious books and I am indebted to Mr Powell for the idea that I am not my brother’s keeper. Citing the biblical story of Cain and Abel, Powell takes issue with the prevailing morality of the 60’s and 70’s (still occupying the moral high places today) that what my brother chooses to do is in some sense my responsibility and shows that it most assuredly is not.

The story (Genesis chapter 4) tells of how one day Cain ‘rose up against his brother Abel and slew him.’ Then God said to Cain: “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain retorted, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” This has been interpreted by those of a Leftward persuasion as proof positive that we are all interconnected and that somehow we all are custodian of our brother’s wellbeing. And yet, even a cursory reading of the reply that Cain makes indicates that what he says is said with a large dollop of sarcasm. Am I my brother’s keeper? No.

Against that background I have two things to say. The first is that I am responsible for the moral choices I make. It is not in any way the responsibility of my brother, my sister, my parents, aunties, uncles or the man down the road. The choices I make as a thinking being are mine alone. I cannot therefore lay one iota of blame at the door of another, regardless of whether I seek mitigation in the fact that he has abused me, slandered me, offended me or hurt me. If I choose to lash out, to maim, kill or mutilate, it is my decision so to do. There are no excuses. My brother is not my keeper. He bears no responsibility for my actions.

It follows that there is no excuse for bombing innocent people. Those, for example, who argue that we bombed ISIS into existence turn reality on its head. They are moral appeasers.

The second thing I would observe is that when my brother seeks to hurt me, and even when he succeeds, I am still presented with a choice. I may seek immediate retribution or I may not. Wisdom suggests that I am responsible for deciding upon a course of action that will protect me from further harm in the longer term and I am duty bound, unless I am a masochist, to act in such a way as to thwart his evil intentions in any lawful way that I can. I cannot expect to look to others to do so. They are not my keeper. I must do so for myself. If I am content to leave this in the hands of others I am inviting what Powell calls “A Paternalistic Tyranny”.

This is unfortunately what we have allowed to happen. Citizenship has been sold to us in such a guise as to numb the mind to our responsibility towards our own safety. We are told that we must leave it in the hands of those whose job it is to look after these things, those who know better than we do. This may appear to be perfectly sensible until we hear a prowler downstairs in the dead of night and ponder the choice between shooting him and phoning the local police station. Thirty minutes is a long time to wait when there are only 15 stairs.

Consequently, I shall not be browbeaten by the prevailing fashion in ideas to think that out there just beyond the horizon of my understanding there is some clear reason for ISIS and for what it does. No, there is nothing on God’s earth that can justify such crimes. Nothing. Furthermore, I shall never yield to the pressure of those who say that it is wrong to have a view, to express an opinion or to feel the valid emotion of undiluted hatred towards those who have brought these things to pass, and the creed from which they take their orders. Lastly, I will never believe that it is impossible to do anything meaningful or substantial. From another context but entirely fitting here: ‘Too often today people are ready to tell us: “This is not possible, that is not possible.” I say: whatever the true interest of our country calls for is always possible.’ – Enoch Powell, Conservative Party conference – 1968

I am not my brother’s keeper and my brother is not my keeper, my policeman, or my conscience.

Judas was paid ©