Archive for category A Common Morality?

Church Decline and Karl Marx | “Sublunary Sublime”

 Here’s what Marx got right—profoundly, overwhelmingly, admirably right: capitalism is unforgiving to “conservatives,” those who care about neighborhood, Church, family, loyalty, tradition.

More: Church Decline and Karl Marx | “Sublunary Sublime”.

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Many religions heavily concentrated in one or two countries | Pew Research Center

Have a look at this info-graphic. What is the take-away from seeing how religions tend to be tightly concentrated?

See more:  Many religions heavily concentrated in one or two countries | Pew Research Center.


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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.

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What I Believe…?

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.

link: » I Believe in Child Labour, Sweatshops and Torture

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What about it? Are there “secular” reasons?

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.

Read a review of Mulhall’s book here.
Read the rest of Fish’s article here.

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No silver bullet…we already know what we need to know.

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.

[Read the rest of Astra Taylor’s essay here:  Read more of G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy here:]

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Dear Mr. President—From Jennifer First

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.

Jennifer First


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Here’s one of those things….

One of those things that makes you scratch your head: is giving away “free” stickers promoting clean energy for America. It is a very attractive sticker, designed by the same person who did the Obama “hope” poster.  The website notes:  “Stickers are 4″ by 5.125” (about the size of a postcard) and will take 5-7 weeks to arrive.”  If you would like more than one sticker, you will have to make a small donation; but the first one is “free.”

There is a nifty gadget on the site that gives you an up-to-the-minute count of how many stickers have been given away “free.”

As I write this (1:50 pm on 7/11), 203,678 stickers have been given away free.

In the time it took me to type these letters, the number has grown to 203,707.  At the current clip, I’d say about 25 stickers are being given away every minute for “free.”

So, the head-scratching: What is the carbon footprint of this promotion?  The 203,707 “free” stickers will be made out of 29,000 square feet of some kind of paper/plastic material, will be produced on machines (running on coal-generated electricity, most likely at this point in time), and will use some sorts of interesting chemicals for the inks and stickum.  The 203,707 “free” stickers will have, backing paper you have to peel off,  I’m guessing.  That’s 29,000 square feet of waste backing paper that will end up in the landfill.  Each one of these “free” stickers will be mailed–i.e., sent on trucks and planes (mostly not using green technology)–to their recipients.  The recipients will stick them, I’m guessing, on their automobiles (even the best of which burn fossil fuel).  Or on their laptop cases, which use (probably) coal-generated electricity as well.

I’m just asking….

But at least we’ll be able to prove we are green.  We have a sticker.  And it was free!

2:13 pm…204,685…Current rate now looks like 44 stickers per minute…..


"Free" green sticker. Note (and I swear I am not making this up): the filename for this graphic is "pu_sticker." Perhaps they meant "stinker"...?

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Food for thought, after yesterday’s celebration of our American revolution:

“The Chiapas rebellion was distinctive among guerrilla struggles in that it did not seek to seize state power.  Instead, it aimed to win the right of people to govern themselves within their own communities.  It did not call upon other Mexicans to take up arms for a new national social agenda, but for the space and means to elect popular, democratic movements tied to particular locales.  One commentator, Gustavo Esteva, called it a ‘new kind of movement’ and the ‘first revolution of the twenty-first century.’  By that he meant the feisty manifestation of a growing struggle of people around the world for economic and political survival and sovereignty within their own communities. […] It wasn’t a Marxist guerrilla group, for example.  It had no clear-cut socialist ideology or political platform and no one leader.  Nor was it a fundamentalist or messianic group.  Its members came from different Indian groups, professed different religions, spoke different languages, and were explicitly ecumenical. […] As mentioned, its goal was not to seize power to govern the country but rather to reclaim the community.  It did not eschew, but used, modern means of communication and a strategy of networking varied coalitions of dissent.  Perhaps most strikingly, it did not call upon the government for cheaper food, more jobs, more health care, and more education.  Rather than trying to find its niche in Mexico’s efforts to solve its problems by strengthening its role in a global economy organized around the needs and wants of a consumer society, it sought to order its own world around the organic needs of community.  In Esteva’s words, it was not a revolt in response to a lack of development but a response that Chiapas was being ‘developed to death.’  People ‘opted for a more dignified way of dying.’ This more dignified way consists of a ‘commons’ the community carves out for itself in response ‘to the crisis of development’; ‘ways of living together that limit the economic damage and give room for new forms of social life’; ‘life-support systems based on self-reliance and mutual help, informal networks for the direct exchange of goods, services, and information’; and ‘an administration of justice which calls for compensation more than punishment.'”

–Larry L. Rasmussen, Earth Community Earth Ethics [Orbis 1996], pp. 128-129.

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You heard it here first about the President’s “reasoning”…

…on embryonic stem cell research, but of course not as eloquently as Charles Krauthammer puts it.   He writes, in part:

I am not religious. I do not believe that personhood is conferred upon conception. But I also do not believe that a human embryo is the moral equivalent of a hangnail and deserves no more respect than an appendix. Moreover, given the protean power of embryonic manipulation, the temptation it presents to science and the well-recorded human propensity for evil even in the pursuit of good, lines must be drawn. I suggested the bright line prohibiting the deliberate creation of human embryos solely for the instrumental purpose of research — a clear violation of the categorical imperative not to make a human life (even if only a potential human life) a means rather than an end.

On this, Obama has nothing to say. He leaves it entirely to the scientists. This is more than moral abdication. It is acquiescence to the mystique of “science” and its inherent moral benevolence. How anyone as sophisticated as Obama can believe this within living memory of Mengele and Tuskegee and the fake (and coercive) South Korean stem cell research is hard to fathom.

It gets even testier, but deservedly so.

And, nota bene, Krauthammer is not completely opposed to embryonic stem cell research.  This complaint about bad thinking should be a concern of everyone, regardless of what side of the issue you are on.

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