Archive for category A Common Morality?
Here’s what Marx got right—profoundly, overwhelmingly, admirably right: capitalism is unforgiving to “conservatives,” those who care about neighborhood, Church, family, loyalty, tradition.
Have a look at this info-graphic. What is the take-away from seeing how religions tend to be tightly concentrated?
LMAO? No! CMEO (“crying my eyes out”).
The thing about Facebook that causes me the most grief is having to view posts that are pitiably stupid and mean-spirited put up there by people (I thought) I know (or knew) and love (or loved) and that are then commented on by other people who find these execrable posts amusing and “so true.” Good thing there is a “hide this post” option.
The most recent experience of this kind had to do with a post in my stream mocking people who are receiving government assistance funded by taxpayer dollars.
What does it say about us, though, that in tough times we take out our frustrations on those who have it worse than we do (and not on those people and policies that have caused the problems in the first place)? It says we are victims of ideology, propaganda, duped by those whose interests are served by our failure to challenge them and by our kicking others when they’re down instead. The people who post these cynical and mocking comments about the poor are not bad persons. They’re just not as good as they could be at being persons with a sense of humanity and common cause. I’d say shame on them, except it is more correct to say shame on all of us who let it get this way.
So, please, Facebookers, before you piss on somebody in the gutter try to think about how they got in the gutter in the first place. There but for the grace of God go you (or I). End of rant.
Take the example of buying chocolate from a corner shop. If I know, or suspect, that the chocolate is made from coco beans picked by children under the conditions of slavery then, regardless of what I say, I believe in child slavery. For the belief operates at a material level (the level of what I do) rather than at the level of the mind (what I tell myself I believe). And I can’t hide in supposed ignorance either for if I don’t know about how most chocolate is made it is likely that my lack of knowledge is a form of refusal to care. For the very fact that there is Fair Trade chocolate, for example, should be enough for me to ask questions about whether other chocolate is made in an unfair way. Or take the example of buying cheap clothes from a department store. Regardless of what I say, if I don’t ask some basic questions about where the clothes come from I believe in sweatshops. Or at best I believe in ignorance, in not asking questions and in the virtue of being an uncritical consumer. Again these beliefs are not ones I will admit to myself (bring to my mind) but rather they are beliefs I enact as a result of my basic desires (arising from my heart). Finally, if I didn’t stand up to protest against rendition flights, if I didn’t voice my disgust at the practices that go on in places like Guantanamo Bay in my name, then I believe in torture.
Stanley Fish comments on law professor Steven Smith’s book, The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, in which Smith argues that there are no purely “secular” reasons for policy decisions.
It is not, Smith tells us, that secular reason can’t do the job (of identifying ultimate meanings and values) we need religion to do; it’s worse; secular reason can’t do its own self-assigned job — of describing the world in ways that allow us to move forward in our projects — without importing, but not acknowledging, the very perspectives it pushes away in disdain.
This “smuggling” of the religious was pointed out at a deep level in Stephen Mulhall’s Philosophical Myths of the Fall, which persuasively shows the repetitions of the theological idea of the fall of humankind in the supposedly secular thought of Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein.
Everybody’s looking for new ideas. We’re hoping for the next “big idea” that will save us all from calamity. We face so many problems, there just has to be something new we need to learn in order to solve them. Right? Is that what we’re missing…novelty?
Astra Taylor, documentary filmmaker whose work includes Zizek! and Examined Life, makes the following observation:
Over time I’ve come to believe that our quest for “new ideas” may not be that different from our quest for new cars, new clothes or new entertainment and distraction; just another manifestation of the short-sighted, immediate gratification attitude that created our current dilemma in the first place. It’s a capitalist approach to matters of the mind: That concept is so last season! Out with the old, in with the new! If we’ve encountered a concept before, it’s summarily dismissed as yesterday’s news, as though ideas have a use-by date.
The thing is, many good insights are never put to use, let alone used up. Over the course of history, countless excellent ideas and theories have simply never gotten any traction. Would it be so bad to actually try to put some of the old Enlightenment principles of liberté, égalité et fraternité into practice? Or what about the Marxist maxim of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”? Or Kropotkin’s meditations on the possibilities of mutual aid?
This is reminiscent of Chesterton’s remark that it wasn’t, for instance, that Christianity had been tried and found wanting; it’s that it has never really been tried. In his Orthodoxy he generalizes:
Man will sometimes act slowly upon new ideas;but he will only act swiftly upon old ideas. If I am merely to float or fade or evolve, it may be towards something anarchic; but if I am to riot, it must be for something respectable. This is the whole weakness of certain schools of progress and moral evolution. They suggest that there has been a slow movement towards morality, with an imperceptible ethical change in every year or at every instant. There is only one great disadvantage in this theory. It talks of a slow movement towards justice; but it does not permit a swift movement. A man is not allowed to leap up and declare a certain state of things to be intrinsically intolerable.
I only say that whatever is justice ought, under given conditions, to be prompt justice.
Thus we may say that a permanent ideal is as necessary to the innovator as to the conservative; it is necessary whether we wish the king’s orders to be promptly executed or whether we only wish the king to be promptly executed. The guillotine has many sins, but to do it justice there is nothing evolutionary about it. The favourite evolutionary argument finds its best answer in the axe. The Evolutionist says, "Where do you draw the line?" the Revolutionist answers, "I draw it HERE: exactly between your head and body." There must at any given moment be an abstract right and wrong if any blow is to be struck; there must be something eternal if there is to be anything sudden. Therefore for all intelligible human purposes, for altering things or for keeping things as they are, for founding a system for ever, as in China, or for altering it every month as in the early French Revolution, it is equally necessary that the vision should be a fixed vision. This is our first requirement.
The point is that we already know what we need to know. We just have to have the will do follow our conscience and the courage that will take.
Have a look:
Dear Mr. President,
On October 5, 2009, I witnessed my mother, a 55 year old grandmother be assaulted by your Secret Service right in front of your house. It was so frightening for me, and what your protectors did in your name destroyed any faith that I had left in your willingness to listen to your citizens to end the violence being committed by our country.
My mother, Joy First, is the most peaceful, loving person that I have ever met. She has always had a completely selfless altruism that has led her to take care of others, even when it puts her own personal comfort and safety in jeopardy. As a mother and grandmother, she has always given up much for her children and grandchildren, in an effort to see us not suffer. In the past several years, my mother, Joy has extended this mothering and altruism to all of the children of the world. She has put her comfort and safety on the line countless times in an effort to stop the killing of the world’s children and grandchildren. On October 5th, my mother, Joy, went to your front door to plead with you to stop bombing and shooting of innocent children in Iraq , Afghanistan , and Pakistan .
My mother, Joy, was joined by a group of almost 2 dozen other peaceful civil resisters who were asking you to end the senseless killing in the Middle East . Instead of engaging in civil dialogue with these resisters, someone from the house where you live with your family sent out around two dozen armed secret service agents to assault these peaceful people. So, as I was watching what I believed to be a demonstration of our American democracy, I saw the scene descend into what frighteningly became much more like a scene from an Orwellian novel than from the America I had learned about in Social Studies. And then all of the sudden, people were being dragged, and then, there was my mother, being bounced around like a ping pong ball and being pushed violently by members of your Secret Service.
I ran over to where my mother, Joy, was finally pushed on the ground, and she was sobbing as she was being helped up by her friend. Her friend was so angry that he began to yell that the Secret Service was pushing people’s mothers; they were pushing grandmothers. And I felt the anger swell up inside of me as I saw my mother crying, and I looked at the large, strong men who had been violently pushing my 55 year old mother to the point of tears. Resisters and their supporters wisely moved to a park across the street to process what had happened and decide what to do next. And in the park, I comforted my mother, as I sat next to her in shock.
I don’t mean to make this personal, but you have made this personal to me when your Secret Service attacked my mother, and you have made it personal to the families of the world when you have killed their relatives. How would you feel if your daughters Sasha or Malia witnessed their mother Michelle being assaulted by armed guards? How do you think your daughters would feel? What would it do to Michelle? What would the world say? Well then, please imagine how I felt and how my father felt when he heard when happened right in front of your house where your family lives.
Mr. President, I voted for you in November because I believed in you. I believed that you would put an end to the policies and unjust wars of the Bush administration. Since you have been in office for the past 9 months, I have listened to the excuses that people have made for your continuation of the wars, and I have felt torn between feeling sympathy for your situation and a childish expectation that you will rise to the occasion to protect the children of the world from harm. But on that day, Mr. President, you stole my youthful naiveté and innocence. I left Washington without faith in my government or in my president. It was instead replaced with fear. I am lucky that I have seen such strength and resolve in my mother and her community of peaceful resisters. So I have faith that this senseless killing will stop, but I know that it will not be by your hand.