Categories
Identity Politics Race racial equality of opportunity Reading and Thinking

The dead end of “white guilt”

See,

John McWhorter, “I’m With Condoleezza Rice About White Guilt,” New York Times, October 29, 2021.

As someone who was a strong supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr. and racial equality when that was not a popular position to take, and as an educated person who knows something about other countries and about history, I believe that the whole “white guilt” trap is a false path for African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, or anyone else to pursue.

The “white guilt” trap places the emphasis on victimhood, not the triumph of individual self-achievement. It tries to make white people feel personally guilty for the “sins” of their ancestors, who may have been people who in many ways were good people but who lived in an age in which  social injustices-and not only those related to race–were commonplace, a part of the social structure of the times.

The Greeks and the Romans lived in ages in which slavery was common. The inhabitants of other states which had been defeated on the battlefield, even Greek city-states, were enslaved by others of the same ethnicity in Athens, Rome, and many other places. By current standards, great injustices were committed. Yet should current-day Greeks and Romans feel guilt over the crimes of their ancestors?

More recently, the Germans who lived during the Third Reich under Hitler (1933-1945) committed abominable crimes, including the extermination of the Jews. Are Germans who were children or not yet born during those years guilty of the sins of their fathers and mothers, or ancestors?

The Question of German Guilt* throws a bright light on the Question of White Guilt in America. Should a child or a descendent of a war criminal or someone guilty of crimes against humanity ever be considered to be guilty of the crimes of their parents or ancestors?  Or to bear guilt for those crimes?

Is a German today to be viewed as guilty, as responsible, for the sins of Germans who are dead, when they themselves did not take part in the commission of any crimes?

Do we believe in ethnic guilt? That one may be guilty because of the genes one bears?  Of genetic guilt?

Any arguments in favor of such propositions would be preposterous, and also lay the basis for endless ethnic conflict and war.

Those who seek to make whites in America feel guilty for the actions of their forebears, in which they themselves took no part, are prophets of a false path. Following that path, while it may benefit some in the short run (e.g., academic proponents of such theories), will in the end only foster ethnic conflict, and persuade individuals they are victims, instead of focusing on their enormous potential for self-achievement.

Institutions and practices that express current racism should be opposed, and reformed. Programs aimed at helping those particularly disadvantaged by past racism, including racism against Native Indian peoples, should be supported.

But this should be done within a broader framework which does not rely on white guilt for its motivational force.

Social programs to help disadvantaged members of society, including white individuals, should be based on empathy and our shared sense of humanity. In a democracy, they should also be based on the ultimate power of individuals to vote.

Spirit of Voltaire

*See Karl Jaspers, The Question if German Guilt (1947), a translation ofDie Schuldfrage, originally published in German in 1946.

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
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