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Archive for the 'Culture & Philosophy' Category

A Letter to My Teen Daughters, Concerning Racism

Posted: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 (11:59 pm), by John W Gillis


It can be difficult for me to get a handle on what I want to say about something, especially on-the-spot. But I wanted to follow up on tonight’s brief post-dinner discussion of something I consider profoundly important in the world today, which is the role the idea of racism plays in the on-going cultural drama of the propagation of modern society’s religious dogmas. I hope you will all find the time to do me the courtesy of reading this through. I have tried to be brief, but that’s a challenge, too…

Some information gleaned from reputable-looking sites on the WWW regarding the KKK: 1

“At its peak in the 1920s, Klan membership exceeded 4 million people nationwide.”

{and then, over the course of a single lifetime—70 years…}

“In the early 1990s, the Klan was estimated to have between 6,000 and 10,000 active members, mostly in the Deep South.”

{and, finally, after having seen its membership drop 99.75% by the last decade of the century…}

“[The KKK] is estimated to have between 5,000 and 8,000 members as of 2012.”

These last numbers are from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is basically a left-wing agitprop organization which would be happy to find as many KKK members as they could, in order to prop up the relentless political narrative that “White” culture is awash in “racism”.

On the other hand, while the KKK was busy losing 20% of what little was left of its vanishing membership…: 2

“The American Religious Identification Survey gives Wicca an average annual growth of 143% for the period 1990 to 2001 (from 8,000 to 134,000)”

{so, 25 years ago, there were about as many KKK members as there were Wiccans (~8,000), and then…}

“According to Wikipedia, Wicca “is a modern pagan, witchcraft religion”.  It has been estimated that the number of Americans that are Wiccans is doubling every 30 months, and at this point there are more than 200,000 registered witches and approximately 8 million unregistered practitioners of Wicca.  And it is important to remember that Wicca is just one form of witchcraft.  There are many other “darker” forms of witchcraft that are also experiencing tremendous growth.”

So, the KKK, at 0.0025% or less of the population and declining steadily, continues to be held up as a despised symbol of a rampant moral and spiritual problem that no one can ever really find anymore, except in the hurt feelings of recompense-seeking victims, the self-righteous scoldings of crisis-seeking newsbarkers, celebrity-seeking entertainers, and status-seeking educators, or the mob manipulations of power-seeking politicians.

And yet, there are 1,000 times more Wiccans than Klansmen, at 2.5% of the population and growing rapidly, and nobody seems overly concerned about a crisis of paganism in America – or even one of witchcraft. Indeed, the very entertainers and newsbarkers who inveigh with holy wrath against the scourge of every under-pigmented Oscar nomination slate are quite at home embracing and propagating the cultural “sophistication” of paganism, and in celebrating its bloody sacrifices.

A final, important note on “racism”:

Racism is a word invented in the 1930s to describe Adolf Hitler’s anthropological views, and their political expression. These views were called neo-pagan, because he combined romantic elements of German/Norse paganism with modern, “scientific” ideas, including evolutionism. Evolutionism was a requisite component of his view that Jews in particular (but also others to lesser degrees), were of an inferior race. Hitler did not invent this idea of sub-human species belonging to a different “race”, but he brought it into the heart of Europe from the former colonial lands, and directed it primarily toward the Jews. And he sold it to a willing populace using an egotistically romantic notion of a master race.

You need to posit multiple races in order to have “racism”. On every level, this idea is deeply absurd, and offensive to the truth. The denial of genuine common humanity (never mind superiority/inferiority views, which are actually a distraction from the real evil being sold) is completely at odds with the fundamental Christian doctrine of Original Sin, and hence would render Christianity absurd – the salvational claim of Christianity being that God, in Christ, became one of us (i.e. a member of the one human race) in order that we could become like Him (i.e. divine: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity” – prayer at the preparation of the gifts).

The common current public spectacle of calling political and cultural opponents of Liberalism “racists” is absurd, obscene, and despicable – as is the quarrying of “racism” under every phony fig leaf.

But that’s not because the pagan idea of a sub-human species undeserving of the respect due human dignity has disappeared with the Nazis and the last gasps of American race slaving. Far from it. It has simply migrated from the plantations and encomiendas of America, and from the death camps of central Europe, into the abortion mills of what remains of Western civilization.

So it’s not that I actually think “racism” doesn’t exist, it’s just that I think most people are dead wrong about where it lives on today. And it’s a lot easier to thump your chest about the imagined sins of “those” real or imagined people, than to confront your own. Don’t be deceived by these fools.

 

1. The first two quotes regarding the KKK are taken from www.history.com, the third from the Wikipedia entry for the KKK.

2. The two quotes regarding Wicca are taken from thetruthwins.com

…it was the halting and reversing of a socio-cultural revolution

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 (10:18 pm), by John W Gillis


The lights have been out at this blog for about a year and a half, but I’ve been targeting to get back to it, and even made a few tweaks and updates over the past week in preparation. And I could hardly find a finer way of turning the lights back on than by sharing this illuminating article at TheWeek.com by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, who punctures the absurd conceits of the Progressive movement concerning the “inevitability” of social change, by revisiting the origins of the concept of racialism (race & racism) in early modern and – especially – Enlightenment era “scientific” liberalism:

Like other socio-cultural revolutions, it started out as a fringe idea and became mainstream seemingly overnight. The idea of studying and classifying “races” as such appears as mostly a sidebar in scientific inquiry in the mid-part of the 18th century, but by the end of the 18th century it’s all over the place and by the 19th century the idea of races is pretty much received wisdom. In the American Colonies, the first person to be legally recognized as a slave was owned by a free black man. While some colonies had laws banning marriage between free persons and slaves, none of them originally had anti-miscegenation laws. These laws were passed in a sudden wave, in a matter of a generation.

Like other socio-cultural revolutions, it draped itself under scientific accoutrements. To many people, theories of evolution seemed to naturally indicate that there were different races and that these races had intrinsic traits. “Scientific racism” was all the rage. While we hear about people like James Henley Thornwell, the Southern white Calvinistic preacher who backed slavery, we hear much less about figures like Louis Agassiz, the Swiss-born deist scientist who built a profitable public speaking career in the South promoting scientific racism.

Like other socio-cultural revolutions, it advanced under the banner of moral progress. Racism is inseparable from colonialism and the “white man’s burden” to colonize the lesser races to teach them civilization (at the barrel of a gun if need be — for their own good, of course). Another form of so-called moral progress, enthusiastically embraced by progressive elites and coevally linked with racism, is eugenicism. Margaret Sanger, the doyenne of the family planning movement and great advocate of eugenicism was, like the Ku Klux Klan, a sworn enemy of both inferior races and the Catholic Church (and in fact, spoke at a KKK event and was well received).

Part of Gobry’s point is that the progressive conceit that there is no turning back from social change once it is committed to is refuted, unawares, by progressives themselves every time they toll their signal bell claiming once-for-all social victory over the dark and “ancient” scourge of racism through the Civil Rights movement: the civil rights movement was nothing but the turning back of earlier but still relatively recent moral and cultural “progress” rooted in liberal (i.e. anti-Catholic) ideology.

To me, this is so obvious as to be pretty much self-evident, and I’ve always been baffled by the success of progressivism’s propaganda accusing its opponents (“conservatives”) of being champions of racism. Christian doctrine is as necessarily opposed to racism as it is to same-sex marriage: not simply because it’s a bad idea or evil result, but because it is an absurdity relying on a bogus premise concerning the nature of the human being, one which ultimately denigrates the race through mockery of just what it means to be a human being, created in the image of a God who is Father of all. But a lie can travel half-way around the world…

A world so lost that people no longer believe it ever really existed

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2013 (11:54 pm), by John W Gillis


Jonathan Last at the Weekly Standard has an insightful article coming out in the September 30th edition of the magazine (available now online), entitled “Two Miserable Decades” in which he compares and contrasts the periods from 9/11 until today, and the 70’s – or more precisely, the period from 1967 through 1979. Having been born in 1960, I endured that earlier period at a highly impressionable yet largely oblivious stage of life. Of course, it is common lately to hear the Obama presidency compared to Carter’s, but this article looks much deeper into the fabrics of these oddly-related eras:

So which period was worse? There’s a strong case to be made for each. Superficially, you could argue the ’70s, for all the obvious reasons: 58,000 Americans dead in Vietnam, Watergate, gas lines, the last helicopter leaving Saigon. But the deeper undercurrents suggest a different answer.

After all, American culture was fraying in the ’70s, but for the most part, society agreed that it was fraying and that this dissolution was problematic. In the 1970s, the country retained habits learned during almost two generations of the strongest growth in American history. A 40-year-old in 1970 had lived through the Depression and the Second World War, and his parents had seen the Great War, too. These people were made of stern stuff. And they could plausibly look at the world around them and see it as a terrible aberration. They could believe that the normal state of affairs was much better and that a return to normalcy was possible. That’s why the country responded to Reagan’s call for “morning in America.”

Our age is different. A 40-year-old in 2000 was a teenager during the maelstrom of the ’70s. He saw the bright spot of the mid-1980s and the respite from history that was the 1990s. But to him, the economic and social patterns of the ’00s look like the norm.

As for the culture, the social order of the 1950s may have been washing out to sea during the 1970s, but today it might as well be Atlantis—a world so lost that people no longer believe it ever really existed. When 1 out of every 10 births is illegitimate, it’s a societal failure. When nearly half are, it’s a new way of life.

Last touches on many different elements of both time periods, from the bizarre (e.g. Paul Erlich’s “Population Bomb” apocalyptic to Jimmy Carter being elected leader of the free world a few months after having submitted an official UFO report) to the banal (e.g. economic performance) to the culturally basal (i.e. the state of cultural institutions and the social expectations thus engendered – hence the notion of a world so lost as to be incredible).

Much of it was easy to follow, and hardly controversial. But Last made one comment in particular that jumped out at me as potentially very insightful – and certainly provocative. He claims that the passage of Obamacare may have an even deeper negative significance to the political fabric of the country than did the resignation of Nixon – this because of the purely partisan nature of support that saw its ugly passage by professional politicians who quite often did not really support it (indeed, how could they, since its content was unknown to those who voted it into law!), and who knew their constituencies didn’t want it, but who voted to enact it anyway, to toe the party line. In other words, he sees it as a failure of the democratic processes built into our political institutions, which is indeed a foreboding notion for a nation that has nothing else to offer toward social cohesion if democracy fails, other than television “culture”.  It is a fascinating and sobering thought, which gives some practical weight to the oft-repeated complaints of the hyper-partisan nature of contemporary political discourse, especially in Washington.

The essay makes for good reading, especially for those who think often about the era of the Western “cultural revolution”, and how it continues to influence behaviors and beliefs today.

Do the right thing, and they will follow you in zealous allegiance

Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 (11:29 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Wednesday, September 5th, 2012:

Martin Cothran, in a post from Catholic Lane on the reading habits (or lack thereof) of modern boys:

Boys, though they cannot articulate it, can usually see right through the modern psychobabble. In fact, say what you will about the Harry Potter books (and plenty has been said), they at least betray a consciousness of the old adventure ideal, and are light on the psychological reflexiveness—at least in the early books in the series, although I am told (I have not read them) that the later books portray a more effeminate Harry.

We have the mistaken impression that it was traditional children’s literature that was preachy. This is not only untrue, but it is almost the exact opposite of the truth. It is precisely the preachiness of politically correct modern literature that offends their innate sense of honesty and justice—a human instinct that we do our best to educate out of them.

Boys are not interested in getting in touch with themselves, and it is particularly off-putting when they are told that it is good for them. The minute the politically correct schoolmarms approach, they head for the woods, where they are free to pick up sticks and pretend they are swords and fight monsters and hunt frogs and swing from trees—anything but to be preached at by people whose sermons consist of high-minded meaninglessness.

Most boys are born cynics and are rightly suspicious of moralistic platitudes. They respect words only to the extent that they see them followed by actions. Tell them (in mere words) what the right thing to do is, and they will look at you suspiciously and walk away. Do the right thing—preferably at the risk of your own person or reputation, and they will follow you in zealous allegiance.

There’s much wisdom in this brief entry concerning the emasculation of boys in our smarmy, therapeutic culture – even if Cothran seems to miss what I believe is the underlying subtext of the vampire genre, which I think is a proxy and symbol for homoeroticism. Modernity seems hell-bent on sucking the boyness out of children, and it’s nice to see the boys defended. He provides a suggested reading list for boys, which parents of boys will find very useful.

Dante Meets the Moralists

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012 (1:20 am), by John W Gillis


Somehow summoning the wherewithal to ping my poor, neglected blog, and recalling in particular (if vaguely) my next-to-last entry, I implore anyone out there regretting not taking the time to study Dante to get on the stick before the moralists of the Order of Perpetual Outrage crush your obviously sadistic fantasies in the name of tolerance. Why?

The Guardian is reporting that the UN-related Italian “human rights” advisory group Gerush92 is calling for Italy’s school system to eliminate Dante’s Divine Comedy from its curricula, claiming that it is “offensive and discriminatory”. Among other unpardonable sins, the epic poem suggests that Islam is heretical. Oh my.

FWIW, this group’s web site ironically defines racism as the “negation of biological and cultural diversity”. Say what? Assuming that phrase is intended to be intelligible, I must ask: what does it mean? I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it seems to me the only way to “negate biological diversity”, at least as it relates to “race” (a phony construct to begin with), would be through massive miscegenation. Do they really think that would be racist? And how exactly do you go about negating cultural diversity except by suppressing cultural expressions that differ from the spirit of the age? Oh my.

HT: FirstThoughts

The great danger that bedevils any powerful heuristic or interpretive discipline is the tendency to mistake method for ontology

Posted: Friday, September 30, 2011 (1:57 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Friday, September 30th, 2011:

David Bentley Hart, from an On The Square article today over at First Things, on the inherently epistemologically-limiting nature of intellectual methodology, and the dangers of ignoring that fact:

The great danger that bedevils any powerful heuristic or interpretive discipline is the tendency to mistake method for ontology, and so to mistake a partial perspective on particular truths for a comprehensive vision of truth as such. In the modern world, this is an especially pronounced danger in the sciences, largely because of the exaggerated reverence scientists enjoy in the popular imagination, and also largely because of the incapacity of many in the scientific establishment to distinguish between scientific rigor and materialist ideology (or, better, materialist metaphysics).

This has two disagreeable results (well, actually, far more than two, but two that are relevant here): The lunatic self-assurance with which some scientists imagine that their training in, say, physics or zoology has somehow equipped them to address philosophical questions whose terms they have never even begun to master; and the inability of many scientists to recognize realities—even very obvious realities—that lie logically outside the reach of the methods their disciplines employ. The best example of the latter, I suppose, would be the inability of certain contemporary champions of “naturalism” to grasp that the question of existence is qualitatively infinitely distinct from the question of how one physical reality arises from another (for, inasmuch as physics can explore only the physical, and the physical by definition already exists, then existence as such is always “metaphysical,” or even “hyperphysical”—which is to say, “supernatural.”)

This interesting little aside into the role of methodology in the intellectual life got me to thinking about the role of religion in the academy. It seems to me, when you get right down to it, that the idea of methodology serving as a definition of the limits of knowledge, thus marginalizing thought which falls outside the methodology as non-knowledge (or “un-scientific”, as one hears it imprecisely put today), is essentially a superstition. Superstition, after all, is nothing more than a belief that a methodology (i.e. cult), whether in act or incantation, will cause effects which in reality are quite independent of their alleged explanations, despite appearances to the contrary (superstitions that did not appear to “work” some convincing proportion of the time would, of course, never have been held). This is not merely a conflation or confusion of correlation with causation (though it certainly can involve that), but an actual belief in the power of allegedly explanatory phenomena, which misdirects the intellect away from its proper end, which is the contemplation of truth. That’s a fancy way of saying that people are deceived by their own cleverness, and so take their eyes off of God.

The history of true religion, be it Christianity or the Israelite religion that spawned it, is a history of struggling against and overcoming the superstitions of pagan religions, and of pointing to the one, true, un-manipulable Cause. It’s ironic that the Yahwists of yore could be denounced essentially as atheists for their rejection of the cosmology, cult, and attendant morality of pagan religion, while their modern descendants are reviled as “religious theocrats” by people often calling themselves atheists, who are practitioners of a methodology (cult) believed to be bringing relief (salvation) to the human condition, but which superstitiously claims both to explain things clearly beyond its competence and invalidate ideas beyond its scope, furthermore is based on a cosmology of Original Violence, or intrinsic struggle – with its resounding similarity to pagan mythology – and is producing in its wake a social morality that resembles nothing so much as pagan hedonism.

It’s been said often enough that wisdom depends on an apt understanding of the meanings of words. Our society could benefit greatly from a non-obfuscatory working definition of religion.

It is hard to imagine zero-tolerance bullying prevention without schools becoming mini-bureaucratic-police states

Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 (3:10 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Wednesday, September 14th, 2011:

Mary Rose Somarriba, writing yesterday at Public Discourse, on the recent anti-bullying legislation recently enacted in New Jersey (hewing closely to Obama administration policies), in an article called “A Bully-Free World?”:

Why, one might ask, would the president lead a conference on preventing something like bullying, which is ultimately impossible to prevent? It could be, perhaps, because bullying is something that everyone agrees is wrong, and it is something that everyone can relate to, because everyone has been bullied at some point.

But sadly, bullying is like any unfortunate human conflict and will exist as long as humans do. This does not mean it is okay to bully; it means it is problematic to imagine that we can create a world in which conflict doesn’t exist. It is hard to imagine zero-tolerance bullying prevention without schools becoming mini-bureaucratic-police states—the likes of which only belong in films like Minority Report or Adjustment Bureau—where kids could be criminally charged for hurting each other’s feelings, “different” kids could be targeted as “likely to be bullied,” and so on. But that is exactly what this boils down to: a child’s version of hate crimes.

In reality, laws like New Jersey’s risk worsening the problems of bullying. There is reason to believe that hotlines where kids can anonymously text-message tips to incriminate bullies are yet another technology that kids will abuse for the purposes of bullying. Further, bullying prevention is arguably the wrong goal altogether. It would be better to focus on conflict resolution than on conflict prevention. Devoting all effort to preventing the inevitable is not only wasteful policy; it is a failure to do what actually might lessen the damage of real-life conflicts.

One of my kids – probably the youngest one – mentioned something during dinner the other night about the latest anti-bullying campaign at her school, and I was too tired and cranky to resist letting out a snort. The kids were a little flabbergasted when I said I thought the current anti-bullying hysteria is moronic. Of course, they assumed that anyone who didn’t “like” anti-bullying must therefore “like” bullying – that’s the way these things are framed society-wide, the way immature minds tend to work naturally, and certainly fits the Facebook zeitgeist we and they inhabit. I pointed out the hypocrisy of adults shoving anti-bullying propaganda down the throats of helpless populations of schoolchildren, and made some references to the long stream of social do-goodism in the schools, of which anti-bullying is not merely the latest fashion, but an almost inevitable consequence of previous efforts by the same kinds of “progressive” people to coddle school children, eliminate discipline, abandon authority, and eradicate the stain of “judgmentalism”.

I don’t think I did a very good job of explaining myself, and fortunately, Somarriba does a pretty good job in this article of explaining at least why the anti-bullying agenda is impractical. But I really dislike the agenda for reasons she comes close to, but doesn’t address. She suggests that perhaps President Obama wants to get out in front of this because everybody agrees that bullying is wrong, and she’s dead right about that: it’s a convenient platform for cheesy moralism. You won’t lose any votes by thundering denunciations against bullies, after all. And that’s the real problem here: it’s symptomatic of a culture that feels the need to find something phony with which to fill a glaring void, a void where genuine morality deserves to be found, but cannot be allowed expression lest it upset the libertarian apple cart of mutually assured disregard of vice.

College as a way to babysit 18-year-olds is not very efficient for anyone involved

Posted: Sunday, June 5, 2011 (7:36 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Sunday, June 5th, 2011:

Naomi Schaefer Riley, writing in the June 3rd Washington Post, on the value of a modern college education, and the disconnect exposed by PayPal’s Peter Thiel when he recently thumbed his nose at the university system:

Executives at U.S. companies routinely complain about the lack of reading, writing and math skills in the recent graduates they hire. Maybe they too will get tired of using higher education as a credentialing system. Maybe it will be easier to recruit if they don’t have to be concerned about the overwhelming student debt of their new employees.

Employers may decide that there are better ways to get high school students ready for careers. What if they returned to the idea of apprenticeship, not just for shoemakers and plumbers but for white-collar jobs? College as a sorting process for talent or a way to babysit 18-year-olds is not very efficient for anyone involved. Would students rather show their SAT scores to companies and then apply for training positions where they can learn the skills they need to be successful? Maybe the companies could throw in some liberal arts courses along the way. At least they would pick the most important ones and require that students put in some serious effort. Even a 40-hour workweek would be a step up from what many students are asked to do now.

If tuition continues to rise faster than inflation, and colleges cannot provide a compelling mission for undergraduate education, we may move further away from Obama’s vision of education and closer to Peter Thiel’s.

It seems to me there are few areas of public life more dysfunctional than the la-la land of higher education (well, maybe the K-12 public school system…). The “Obama vision” referenced here is the widespread vision, shared among the cultural elite (especially the professorial class), of universal higher education, which, like most every “progressive” idea, sounds wonderful – if you are naïve enough to believe the utopian hype without bothering to think through the nuts & bolts of the details, and understand their consequences.

The reality is that as the reach of “higher education” spreads deeper into society, both the relative and objective values of higher education plummet toward irrelevance – much to the detriment of most of us, but especially of the least capable in society, who find more and more vocational possibilities being pushed out of reach in the credentialing game, and yet much to the benefit of – surprise, surprise – the professorial class, who find themselves with ever increasing power in the marketplace, and the liberal governing class, who see higher education as the next frontier for state domination over the intellectual/spiritual/religious formation of its subjects, having already accomplished a virtual monopoly over the formation of youth from near toddlerhood through adolescence.

Scientists who didn’t predict quake are indicted

Posted: Monday, May 30, 2011 (7:34 pm), by John W Gillis


When I saw this headline, I thought it was a joke – perhaps something from the Onion. Apparently, the story is a few days old, but I just saw it a few minutes ago:

Seven scientists and other experts were indicted on manslaughter charges yesterday for allegedly failing to sufficiently warn residents before a devastating earthquake that killed more than 300 people in central Italy in 2009.

….

Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella ordered the members of the national government’s Great Risks commission, which evaluates potential for natural disasters, to go on trial in L’Aquila on Sept. 20.

Italian media quoted the judge as saying the defendants “gave inexact, incomplete, and contradictory information’’ about whether smaller tremors felt by L’Aquila residents in the six months before the April 6, 2009, quake should have constituted grounds for a warning.

This is how civilization ends.

The way things are done now makes us importunate, dependent, and increasingly unfit to govern ourselves

Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 (11:18 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Thursday, May 26th, 2011.

The always-readable J. E. Dyer, published in the Green Room over at HotAir, on the burgeoning bloat of judicial control over the character and content of America’s social order:

When the law is in proper relationship to the people, the scope of the judiciary is very limited, but actually more meaningful to the enterprise of “good government.”  Today, we have a body of law so huge and burdensome that it has started going 15 rounds with itself on a regular basis, and the judiciary acts as a referee on intricate and inherently political questions of policy.

It is possible to think in different terms, and to conceive of a regimen of law and jurisprudence much more like that envisioned by the Founders.  Americans need to wake up and recognize that accepting the way things are done now makes us importunate, dependent, and increasingly unfit to govern ourselves.

This short article provides a fascinating glimpse into what is threatening to become the perpetual silly season of legal posturing and social engineering by examining a convoluted “environmental” (Cap ‘N Trade) law and related lawsuit in California. Dyer’s concern regarding the foolishness of modern approaches to such problem solving is made all the more poignant by the fact that she’s happy, from a practical perspective, for the imposition of the injunction that provides the jumping-off point for her article, yet she is wise enough to understand, from a principled perspective, at what cost a “victory” obtained in such fashion must come.