Categories
Identity Politics Race

Thomas Chatterton Williams on race and issues of racial identy

For keen insights into the issues of race, racial identity, and identity politics, see,

1) Conor Friedersdorf, “Unraveling Race: Thomas Chatterton Williams wants to discard traditional racial categories, The Atlantin, November 5, 2019.

2) Christianna Silva, “Thomas Chatterton Williams On Debate, Criticism And The Letter In ‘Harper’s Magazine’,” All Things Considered, NPR, July 11, 2020 (5:14 PM ET).

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Race racial equality of opportunity racial equity of results

Ben Carson nails the issue on race: Equality of opportunity v. equity of results

See,

Ben Carson (Opinion), “Moving our focus from equality to equity won’t defeat racism; It’s another kind of racism,” Washington Post, April 18, 2021 (4:51 p.m. EDT).

Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2017 to 2021, is the founder of the American Cornerstone Institute.

Ben Carson has nailed the issue of race in the current debate in the United States.

Should our goal be racial equality of opportunity, or racial equity in results?

Should a white person have an equal opportunity to get a job, or should the composition of the work force at a company or in government reflect racial equity in results, if the two objectives conflict?

This is not a theoretical issue.  NBC and MSNBC have announced they will hire 50% of their workforce from minority groups.

Carson, who is African-American and grew up in an underprivileged environment, makes cogent points.

The critical issue is whether our goal should be racial equality of opportunity, or racial equity of results.

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Reading and Thinking Social media

Living offline for a year; and the author’s Twitter experience

Aaron Rosenberg lived offline for a year, trying to understand what it was like in order to help him understand the subject of his academic research.

His experience is illuminating, particularly for those of us interested in maintaining the capabilities of our eighteenth century minds.

His approach was extreme, but the experience taught him some important lessons. He has found  that applying them has been more challenging than expected.  See the following account of his experience, which is definitely worth reading.

See,

Charlie Warzel, “He Quit the Internet 2 Months Before the Pandemic; When Aron Rosenberg decided to try living offline for a year, he thought his sabbatical might be painful; It turned out to be easier than his return, New York Times, March 10, 2021 (7:07 a.m. ET).

***

My Own Twitter Experience 

I myself experienced some of the extraordinary pull of Twitter while following in extremely close fashion political developments related to Donald Trump’s attempts to hang on to power after losing the election on November 3, 2021.

The temptation to follow the news almost hour by hour was great, and Twitter was the place where you could follow developments even more closely.  The suspense, and the sense that something important might happen at any minute, kept my nervous system on high alert.

There was one other addictive aspect. By following key people and sometimes getting a notification that your tweet had been liked or retweeted or quoted, it was easy to succumb to the momentary illusion that you were having an impact on the discussion, and consequently on events.

You knew analytically that this was not likely to be the case.  Still, in some bizarre way Twitter was a place where you could react in the moment to news or other tweets, and in the excitement of the moment you could feel that you were having some kind of impact on the discussion.

And “Who knows?”  Regarding some aspects of the story where you had specific, relevant professional knowledge, perhaps you were. You can see my comments on Twitter @Trenchantobserv.

But after January 20, 2021, I was able to withdraw from Twitter, and from my obsessive watching of cable TV news channels. Almost all of the really important news eventually showed up in the New York Times or the Washington Post or other newspapers which I read.

I admit it. I’m a news addict. Maybe like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Payne or other Eighteenth Century Minds might have been too. What is different is the immediacy. They probably had to wait days or longer to to get their hands on some of the newspapers they read.

I “wasted” hours of my time on my Twitter addiction. But I have learned and am learning from the experience. Maybe it will help me break or at least sharply limit the time I spend reading newspapers online, succumbing to the at times irresistible pull of my news addiction. This is related to being a writer.

To be sure, David McCullough recounts how Theodore Roosevelt, during his years at Harvard, used to read up to 20 newspapers over coffee in the morning.  So at least I don’t suffer from a unique affliction.

On the other hand, I need to remind myself that I am not a freshman at Harvard, or anywhere else, I don’t have a political career ahead of me, and there are many other potential uses of my time.

Aaron Rosenberg’s experience is instructive. When thinking about my Twitter experience, I recall reading somewhere that the average life of a tweet is about 15 minutes.

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Reading and Thinking Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON

Deep Reading

Adam Garfinkle has published a thought-provoking article in National Affairs about how, with the introduction of Smartphones and the Internet, younger generations seem to have lost the ability to really engage with a book or a text, in a way Garfinkle refers to as “deep reading”.

George F. Will, in a column in the Washinton Post, summarizes Garfinkle’s argument. For those still capable of “deep reading”, the full article by Garfinkle is highly recommended.

See

Adam Garfinkle, “The Erosion of Deep Literacy,” National Affairs, No. 44 (Summer 2020).

George F. will, “What we lost when we stopped reading,” Washington Post, April 17, 2020 (7:00 a.m.)

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Cult Cult of Adolf Hitler Cult of Nazism Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON SEA OF UNREASON UNREASON

Navigating in a Sea of Irrationality

When we are surrounded by individuals swarming in a sea of irrationality, of UNREASON, how can we and others like ourselves with old-fashioned eighteenth-century minds navigate our way through this SEA OF IRRATIONALITY, in order to maintain our rational bearings and connect with other eighteenth-century minds?

The first step in this process is to study and understand the elements of UNREASON which surround us.

When we look at or engage with another human being we tend to assume that he or she is a rational human being, operating as it were more or less on the same planet as we are. This assumption has been pretty accurate in the past, with some notable exceptions.

One period of exception was in Europe in the 1930’s, most notably in Germany where the madness of UNREASON took hold in the form of Nazism and a blind cult of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Something similar happened in Italy, beginning in 1922, with Benito Mussolini. For keen insights into these phenomena, see the brilliant play by Eugene Ionesco entitled Rhinoceros.

If you lived in Nazi Germany, it became extraordinarily important to be able to quickly perceive whether you were talking to a dedicated member of the Nazi and Adolf Hitler cult. Indeed, such recognition could be or become a matter of life and death.

But not all encounters with UNREASON are fraught with such immediate potential consequences. The risk may simply be that you waste an inordinate amount of energy and emotional investment trying to persuade, with reason, someone who is in effect on another planet, swimming in a SEA OF UNREASON.

Such individuals usually, but not always, cannot be reached by reason. If it is important to reach this or that person, some other approach, some other means of communication, must be found.

One approach is through the use of PROPAGANDA, and all of the tools that it employs to persuade individuals by manipulating their emotions. Here, the science of mass psychology is brought directly to bear. This approach is problematic, however, for advocates of a return to REASON. What can be done is perhaps to learn effective techniques of communication, developing methods for piercing propaganda bubbles and inducing individuals to return to the SEA OF REASON.

To reach an individual lost in the SEA OF IRRATIONALITY, the first thing that should be understood is that the goal must not be to win a rational argument on this or that point, or this or that fact or policy.

Rather, two goals must be simultaneously pursued.

The first is to get the person to pay attention and to listen to what you are saying.

The second and main goal must be to free the individual from the grip of UNREASON, to somehow get him or her to return to the world of Reason, to swimming in the SEA OF REASON.

This is harder to accomplish than it may sound.

To recap:

  1. Don’t waste your energy or emotional engagement on someone who is captivated by a cult or otherwise swimming in the SEA OF UNREASON; and
  2. If you engage at all with this person, do not try to win a rational argument over a fact, a public action or a policy. Instead, focus your efforts on using other means to burst the bubble of irrationality in which they are living, and to bring them back into the SEA OF REASON.

Applying these points to engaging with a Trump believer, there is little to be gained, for example, by arguing about the facts of the coronavirus pandemic.

More promising, perhaps, would be a visit to a morgue with Covid-19 victims’ corpses, or failing that publishing a list of all the names of people who died in a given city, in a given state, and in the nation as a whole, on each day, in all the corresponding newspapers, in all the social media, and on all the websites which those who swim in the SEA OF UNREASON usually frequent.

A name, a picture of a corpse (with family permission), or a picture of a funeral may have a better chance of puncturing that bubble of UNREASON than all the rational arguments in the world.

Cults of personality are not the only phenomena that may be responsible for individuals not operating in the SEA OF RATIONALITY.

They may simply not be paying attention. They may be lost in one of the other psychological worlds which the Internet, Social Media, and modern technology have made available to them.

Indeed, it is conceivable that we may one day be living in a world where most individials are simply not paying sustained attention to actual reality (a redundant but necessary term), making them all the more vulnerable to manipulation by masters of mass psychology and propaganda.

See Ruchir Sharma, “People Aren’t Reading or Watching Movies, They’re Gaming; During the pandemic, digital three-dimensional environments are where much of life is taking place,” New York Times, August 15, 2020.

The first step for eighteenth-century minds to keep their bearings, therefore, is to understand what is going on in the consciousness of those we encounter, who may or may not be experiencing reality as if they were on the same planet.

Only after we understand the geography of the IRRATIONALITY that surrounds us will eighteenth-century minds be in a position to navigate through the SEA OF UNREASON, and to try to protect ourselves from the depredations which UNREASON may unleash around us, or even aim in our direction. Only then will we be able to link up and plan effective action.

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Epistemology of truth Reading and Thinking

About The Eighteenth Century Club: A Home for Eighteenth Century Minds

July 5, 2020

In the Eighteenth Century, the century of The Enlightenment in Europe and America, people read newspapers and read books.  Education was highly valued.  Knowledge was highly valued.  Many, including the Founders of the American Revolution and Constitution, were steeped in knowledge of the Classics, from Plato and Aristotle to Homer and Virgil, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, and on up to Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot and the French Encyclopedists.

Knowledge of History was valued.  Reason and Science were the hallmarks of the age.

Now, in the Twenty-First Century, this rich heritage which some high schools, colleges, and universities still seek to instill in the minds of the best students, is under threat.

The threat comes from many sources.  The first has been the development of mass media, from television to social media, which as they have developed–particularly when under the direction of commercial imperatives–have led to an increasing focus on the present moment. This focus on the present entails or is accompanied by an increasing disregard for history and the broader context which the 18th Century mind would have taken for granted, but which today to increasing numbers of members of younger generations seems irrelevant.   Or to put it more precisely, out of the range of their consciousness.

The Eighteenth Century Club is meant to be a home for those Eighteenth Century Minds which remain.  These are the minds that largely run the world, though there is increasing evidence that their grip is slipping.  In America and other countries today, we see manifest evidence of a loss of belief in Science, Expertise, and their foundation, Reason. The Enlightenment, we may recall, was also called The Age of Reason.  Our 18th century democracies were founded on tenets such as Reason, Science, and Expertise. These assumptions appear to be increasingly called into question, or so the evidence seems to suggest.

We invite all those who were fortunate enough to be educated to have an Eighteenth Century Mind to join in our project to herald the virtues of the monumental achievements of the Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions, which have lost none of their relevance or significance for today and the future.

Here we aim to celebrate the Eighteenth Century Mind as one of the crowning achievements of mankind’s long struggle to escape from despotism of all kinds, from tyranny and the absolutism of monarchs and other rulers to the despotism of the mind which held freedom and creativity captive for so many centuries, subjecting both to mind-numbing orthodoxies.

We invite your active collaboration.

Collaboration can take the form of making recommendations for articles appearing elsewhere which might be referenced for the benefit of our readers. It can take the form of submission of articles by participants/readers, to be published here.  It can take the form of recommending steps and taking actions to increase the reach of our articles, by expanding both readership and participation.