Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Moving Beyond Race: Addressing the "White Culture" Narrative

When I was young I grew up in a predominately black neighborhood. I went to a school where I was the minority (the only Puerto Rican) and where black students were the majority. Each month felt like Black History Month as I was taught about black leaders and inventors like George Washington Carver, Henry Blair, and Madam C.J. Walker. While their accomplishments never ceased to amaze me, I always questioned why we hardly celebrated the accomplishments of Irish Americans, Russian Americans, German Americans, and Polish Americans. All groups which must have contributed to the America in some way by inventions, businesses, and culture. Nevertheless these groups aren't given a month or a week to proclaim to the rest of American society "look our culture accomplished something great within this nation."

At this point you may be wondering why this is the case, and being the curious mind that I am, as a child I asked teachers to explain it to me. The problem with my question, it seemed, was that I had made the mistake in believing European cultures within America, such as Italian, German, Irish, Polish, Russian, French, and English were actually different. What these pro-black teachers decided to do was to take these cultures and amalgamate them into one: white culture. "White culture" was described as something all encompassing, powerful, oppressive, and out of reach for someone like myself to fully grasp. It was said to have been the foundation of Western Civilization from which black people were taken as slaves, were sold, freed, and now left to live separately in ghettos with their own "black culture." This reasoning leads us to why many black people to this day believe Black History Month is valuable, because they believe those who are "black" are not viewed as part of the historical fabric of American culture or as they bluntly put it "white culture," thus a month designated for black people is the only way to promote what they view as a separate culture within American society.

Expanding upon this idea pro-blacks are marketing the concept of "being proud blacks" with sayings like "I love my blackness," and "no apologies for being black." Groups like the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter love the idea of "white culture," and use it as an excuse to separate themselves from American laws, customs, and values. Fundamentally the concept of an amalgamated "white culture" needs to exist in order for pro-black extremist rhetoric to flourish. How do I know this to be the case? If you are a black person who decides to promote American values such as freedom, equal opportunity, democracy, and the ability to achieve within the U.S. no matter your race, what will black people call you? An uncle-Tom, an aunt-Jamima, a sell-out, an Oreo, different from the rest of "black culture" and you will be shunned by those for having a difference of opinion.

Fast forward to the present, certain people within a political group called the "alternative right" in my opinion hold a similar view. Racial realists or as their critics call them "intellectual racists" propose that people with "white" European heritage are on the brink of extinction, or at least their culture is, and they are critical of the immigration policies that in their eyes have dissolved their identity within their respective western countries. "Non-white" countries are viewed as inferior by way of their political structures and culture whereby most non-white countries have no democracy or liberties in the same way that Western countries do. However, side stepping away from racial realism, the best and most persuasive video on what the alternative right means in my opinion is one made by Ramzpaul, where he says the alternative right is merely a group, usually white people, who want to maintain their survival as a culture and a heritage, he didn't outright mention the term "white people," rather he focused on nationalism and the fear of the erosion of a national/cultural identity. That is something I think most people can sympathize with and I appreciate the clarification of this group, nevertheless we are on the subject of some of those within this group racial realists, so out of curiosity there are some questions I would like addressed:

(1) If it is the case that western ideals such as freedom, democracy, and individualism were founded by white people then could the case also be made that white people founded other contradictory ideas in other regions of West including socialism, progressivism, and collectivism? Is the white race responsible for atrocities Nazism? Or are the places where they were founded, or perhaps the people who founded them not white? Again, if you are going to say that race has a direct correlation to the culture, you must also say that even horrible cultural choices decided by one member of group of your same race are inherent within everyone of that race. Is it not a surprise that with this same line of thinking one could mistake racial realists for a bunch of new wave Nazis?

Additionally how are racial realists going to convince "white" people there actually is an all encompassing "white culture" that they all are somehow apart of? Many "white" people that I have asked either don't believe it exists or if it does exist they ignore it. To try to convince them they would have to believe Irish culture is akin to German culture as well as American culture and Italian culture, etc. Also they would have to explain to "white" Americans why being white is the catalyst or contributor by which all decisions are determined. Since many race realists believe that whites have some sort of gene that predetermines individualism this should come as no shock to them that white people wouldn't be too open to the idea of collective "white cultural" thinking.

(2) Next, if the alternative right believe that white people invented ideals such as freedom, democracy, and individualism then why aren't they promoting those same values and extending the same courtesy at least to those who have come to their respective countries legally, and in good faith? Is there no hope for a legal immigrant moving to the United States to be fully viewed as someone who would accept the same values you do or is it nearly impossible for them to assimilate if they are of a different race? What about if they are of a different culture? I would agree that some cultures are incompatible with Western values however I will not go so far as to assume their inability to have a compatible culture is due to their race. More to the point, it was my belief that within American history the abolitionist movement was founded mostly by white people. These white people wanted to have an America where there was no slavery of blacks (or anyone for that matter). The civil rights movement didn't only have black activists but white activists who promoted the idea of equal opportunity and equal justice under the law. Were these white activists against their own race, or were they true to the "white values" that some in the alternative right want to promote? How could that be the case when black people were yearning and fighting for equal opportunity, one of those "white virtues" that racial realists believe blacks would never ensure if the "white race" wasn't around.

(3) Lastly, from what I have researched racial realists usually bring up statistics such as this one, which are used to imply that people of European heritage are more likely to have a higher IQ then those native populations like the people of Africa or Australia. So just for fun let us say it is true that the IQ of blacks is lower than that of white people and Asians, what do you plan on doing with such information? If the answer is nothing, then thank you for wasting my time. If the answer is something, then please by all means tell us what you are going to do. I don't understand why the racial realists hardly ever propose any constructive solutions. Rather they choose to focus on concepts that are not clearly defined such as "white genocide" and "white culture," then assume most white people (and/or the general public) know what they mean. Most present problems they find and use race and culture interchangeably in such a manner that frankly reminds me of pro-black BLM propaganda only replace the word black with white.

Equally as pointless
On the other hand, what if you were a "white" person or someone of European heritage and you didn't actually care about your race? What if you didn't care about the mere fact that you were white, and didn't want to accept values like liberty, democracy, etc are exclusive to white people? Then that would make you anti-white, race-traitor, or possibly a cuckservative depending on your political affiliation.

A political/social group upset about your decision to disregard your skin color as a culture... sounds familiar doesn't it? Moving on.

The purpose of this is not to bash one group over the other, it is merely my reaction to the flamboyant "intellectual peacocking" I've witnessed recently from all sides of this "race history/culture" issue. Moreover I'm disappointed in the level of discussion from both sides of this race and culture debate. It may seem weird coming from someone such as myself, but I do sympathize with pro-blacks and white nationalists because as I view it both groups have created a correlation between race and culture, and this is a natural human flaw brought about by our own life experiences. As much as we like to ignore it, as humans it is difficult for us to move away from racial tribalism especially in an age where we make correlations due to biased information that constantly surrounds us. We have become a society that is too eager to find information that suits our own bias and too steadfast in not listening to the other side. In the same vein pro-black or pro-white separatist groups gain followers on the Internet by way of presenting "facts" such as IQ statistics which seem to favor white groups, and pro-blacks using historical "facts" involving oppression and aggression committed by "white culture." I'm not denying that both groups have some legitimate feelings based upon their own interpretation of their life experiences: one example being pro-black groups use of racial injustices such as the police killing of Eric Garner and along with their own historical interpretation of the original Constitution as a racist document. Another example being the alternative right's belief in the present white genocide or the decrease and disrespect of the white population in the future. The difference between myself and them is that I don't believe that their race inherently causes them to feel this way, it is their personality that is the true catalyst for their reactionary responses to the oppression they feel, and personality has nothing to do with race.

For clarification, I do agree with the alternative right's assertion that white straight men within Western society have been viewed as the villain by media and the government, and while many think that some within this group may be racist, from my own interaction with the alternative right I don't think most are. This group is reacting in the same manner most other racial and ethnic groups have been: lashing out in very provocative ways in order to gain attention from a world they feel no longer respects sacrifices or achievements they believe their race has made. Honestly, I find the whole reaction to be wasteful, silly, and fostering a divisive atmosphere where there needn't be, especially since you cannot choose your race, and someone of a different race can represent your values just as much, unless of course your values are "we of x race need to promote the idea of x race having different inherent values and needs that must be represented." Which is the ultimate problem I and many others have with race realism and pro-black nationalists including those in Black Lives Matter.

As a conservative Republican who doesn't fit the Republican stereotype, the alternative right along with pro-black nationalists make my job of representing and sharing American ideals to different ethnicities difficult. How can a person who isn't white believe that they can actually have the same opportunities in the United States if they are being told that only white people can be responsible for ensuring western values by both pro-black separatists and some in the alternative right? On that note how is saying that your race is the only race capable of ensuring a democracy, not be considered racist? Racism is the belief that a specific race possesses abilities specific to that race (be them negative or positive). Is this not thereby promoting learned helplessness? Are they promoting the very thing we on the Right accuse Democrats of doing to gain votes and make people feel like perpetual victims?

Would the alt. right address widespread BLM campus protests?
Now you can imagine who is going to have to clean this mess up, and here's a hint it's not going to be the alternative right or pro-blacks or even the diversity enthusiasts within the progressive left. It's going to have to be people like me. You know, the worker bees who also has to clean up liberal problems with illiberal college universities. A conservative libertarian who actually wants to propose solutions for issues like college racial discrimination and intellectual discrimination, free speech zones/restrictions, inner city crime, overzealous drug laws, voter fraud, and illegal immigration.

Nevertheless, after all of these questions and comparisons one question remains: are we as a society moving beyond race? Can we move beyond petty racial tribalism and actually have an honest conversation about culture and how someone of a different culture can assimilate to Western society,  or if they should do it at all? Furthermore does the term "white culture" actually help "white people" within Western society or does it do precisely what some in the alternative right detest: create another group that will lobby the government in order to obtain special privileges based on nothing but skin color? Am I the only one who laughs at how ironic this sounds?

Overall, I love the United States. I believe the virtues and values promoted within my nation are exceptional. Oddly enough I didn't have to be white to say that.

"The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous."
-Frederick Douglass

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Examining Higher Education Subsidies: The High Cost For Low Education

As a former college student, now college graduate I'm always reminded how important a college education appears to be. It is a fact that the higher a person's education, the higher their median income will be. It also a fact that the average cost each of college, whether the university is private or public, increases exponentially every year. However, according to a Gallup poll, "recent graduates are less likely to agree that college was worth the cost." Just 38 percent of recent graduates (2006-2015) strongly agree that their college was worth the cost. How can this be when they have the opportunity to earn more and in turn have more influence than those with just a high-school diploma?

To begin, the idea of government investment in college education is simple. If we as a society, by way of monetary investment, try to get more students into college we would expect two things: the recent graduates will have well paying jobs, and our investment will be returned. What do you think is the problem with this investment? Not only have recent graduates (mostly those with Bachelors of Arts or Science) flooded the free market, making it so that a simple BA or BS isn't going to catch the eye of an potential employer, but the investment has not been returned. In fact the class of 2015 on average will graduate with each student being $35,051 in the red. I don't think we need a crystal ball to foresee that these students are going to have a hard time paying it back.

Turning to a government solution, as most college educated people tend to do, has lead to some politicians to suggest an alternative to the cost of education. The alternative is to make it free. This election season you will hear from politicians that a college education is important, so important it should either be free. Now I ask you, what is more important, the cost of the education, or the quality of the education? Government (in this societal investment) care about what contributions the college student achieved after college, whether it is paying the debt they accrued, or providing a new service to enhance the welfare of the nation. Notice how the government never asks or takes into consideration the actual quality of what they are subsidizing. Also worth noting is the incredible lengths to which government will imply that increasing the number of college graduates is a moral imperative of society at large. I make the claim that it is not.

If higher education isn't affordable for most people, why do we view this as unacceptable? Why is it every time this topic is raised there be a moral fight for everyone to have a college education, especially when the market is already over-saturated with recent college graduates, and not enough jobs for these graduates? Why isn't there a moral outrage due to the quality of education in our society, rather than a principled frustration over the cost? When dealing with the principal of something, one should not look to the cost but to the quality. We should ask what are the qualities of the college, what classes are being taught, what virtues are being promoted, what is the standard of the faculty, and so on. Our government never does this. What the government does do, some say too often, is invest in a system to which they have little idea about what actually goes on, while at the same time asserting injecting funds into the school system is the best solution.

How do I know that government doesn't have any idea of what truly goes on? Simple, look to how they subsidized primary schools and high schools using the same principal goal. The investment was along the same principle, "if use tax dollars to invest in students education at least until they graduate high school, they would invest back into society." Has this happened? Well, I should actually ask has this happened lately, because the quality of a high school education is different than it was in the past. High schools used to include classes that were more hands-on, technical, and directly associated with job obtainment after graduation. Modern high schools do nothing of the sort, but what they have done is increased the amount of they spend per student, with the average being $10,658 per individual student. The monetary cost increase of each student did little to change the educational quality, in fact the quality has decreased so greatly that a high school diploma within the job market has become worthless.

As for college, cost was never the issue, it was the quality of education. Remember in the Gallup poll featured above the statement proposed to the recent graduates was, "My education from [University Name] was worth the cost." It is the quality of the education that is the problem, not merely the cost. Nonetheless you will hear from pundits and politicians how the cost has risen, and how something needs to be done to prevent students from falling into more debt. The thesis of this post is very simple: the problem was never the cost, it was the quality, and when you discuss quality, monetary investment is not necessarily a factor to obtaining quality. I and my fellow graduates would gladly pay more for higher education, if it was worth it. What do I mean by worth it? How about not having classes like "God, Sex, and Chocolate: Desire and the Spiritual Path," (UC San Diego) or "Interrogating Gender: Centuries of Dramatic Cross-Dressing" (Swarthmore)?

Do we really believe that if the government were to decrease the cost of college the quality of a college education would increase? This is laughable. When has a good or service being free meant the quality of that good/service increased? Never. Again, I'm not saying that cost and quality aren't intertwined at times, however I'm saying that when looking at the principle of something (the moral reason for even engaging in the educational system), cost isn't the issue. The issues begins with what colleges offer. When starting college students are introduced to government promoted programs, grants, and loan opportunities to ensure that they won't have to pay directly for classes like "Zombies in Popular Media" (Columbia College). Ultimately the question we have before us as a society is who should pay for that decision to enter college, take these types of classes, and enhance their own education level? Should it be the student who directly benefits from it, or the a person who doesn't receive that level of education?

I find the answer is within economist Milton Friedman's statement, "society doesn't have goals, people have goals." The goals of people are not common. Some people want to go to college or perhaps a technical school, others may want to start a business. Should the government also subsidize those who want to start a business? Using the exact principal used in subsidizing education, wouldn't it be in the best interest of society to have more small business? Regardless, the government doesn't do this, and yet people still work hard, and start their own companies and become successful in contributing to society. Government may claim they have a goal to uphold, along with a moral imperitive to society, but what is more immoral than making people who will never directly benefit from college, pay for those who we know now in the long term find that education to be meaningless? So meaningless, it seems, some would rather it be free than worth anything at all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Good The Bad And The Triggering: Making The Case Against Trigger Warnings

In the recent Guardian article "Trigger Warnings; what should you be told before you read this piece?" Victoria Finan addresses critics who, "say trigger warnings wrap people in cotton wool," by asking, "But don't suffers of post traumatic stress disorder deserve to be warned if content is disturbing?" Using this question as a guide she states he position, in citing three main points: (1) trigger warnings are already used within society, (2) trigger warnings are for those who are sensitive to graphic material, especially after they have suffered or experienced trauma in real life, (3) and overall trigger warnings are an extension of courtesy and good will, thus they are morally and ethically necessary if we want to express our solidarity and care for another person's experience.

Finan is correct to address "trigger warnings" in everyday life. If there is a particularly gruesome scene, a television show will most likely state, "viewer discretion advised." A judge will surely inform the jury when horrific evidence will be displayed to the court. However, even though both of these instances inform the viewer of the graphic image, a juror cannot just get up and turn off the television. To be on a jury you must be selected and undergo being a jury candidate. You are questioned before you can even view any of the ghastly evidence that could possibly trigger you. If you just so happen to be triggered by the questioning, then you will not have the privilege of being part of the jury. Any lawyer worth their salt will make sure to remove someone who has a crippling traumatic experience while being prone to having triggering emotional events by evidence. A juror's judgement may be tainted due to their prior traumatic experience. As for television, these stations are capitalistic, as they work to provide a wide array of channels that will suit specific tastes or in this case triggers. Are we to assume that a company provides multiple channels because they are worried about someone becoming "triggered" by a particular program? No, they care about complaints, bad press, and their bottom line. According to Finan the virtue of tolerance or consideration is what fuels trigger warnings in everyday life, but I beg to differ. Again a juror when part of a court preceding must (if they wish to have an informed decision) view all the evidence presented. Television stations have multiple programming, and in all honesty don't care if a person suffering from PTSD is triggered by a war documentary, but they will inform the viewer of the graphic content, just so they will not be bothered by any complaints as they cross their fingers and hope you visit one of their sister stations. Fundamentally, these graphic warnings are usually meant to alert parents with children present that the material may be unsuitable for a child's age group. It is as if we assume most adults are capable of viewing the material and not being triggered, unless of course you are a college student but we will get to that later.

The second point seems be her best point given that it is hard for the average person to grasp due to its emotional foundation. It usually begins with questions such as, how would I know how someone with a crippling feels when viewing something that even slightly reminds them of a traumatic experience? Shouldn't we do what we can for those within our society who are sensitive to graphic material? Isn't that what we would do for our family, friends, and loved ones? It is here where people lose themselves into an answer that is nothing but unclear, fuzzy, and gray. As a society we want to help those around us who are enduring hardship, especially those who of no fault of their own have to engage with the world around them. A world which can be in many instances cruel and unforgiving to their sensitivities. What must be noted is that if someone does suffer from a traumatic experience that causes them to be triggered by words, or reenactments of actions, or a heinous actions that are displayed to a general audience, this person is needs help beyond a trigger warning. What is ignored by Finan and others, is that we live in a society that does care, so much so that there are doctors, medical facilities, treatment programs, etc, whose purpose is to help those with PTSD so that they can live in a pluralistic and democratic society that will not take into account their sensibilities. Treatment is for the restoration of some normalcy to the life of the victim. Many people understand this treatment as helpful, so it should come as no surprise when I liken trigger warnings to a children's band-aid on a severe gaping wound.

Sleepwalker by Toni Matelli 
Personally, I have never met anyone who both suffers from PTSD and wants trigger warnings to be used throughout academia, media, and anywhere else their sensibilities may be bruised. Nevertheless, everyday we find more instances where trigger warnings are being used to diminish academic freedom and limit freedom of speech rather than what those in favor of trigger warnings contend. The American Association of University Professors when addressing trigger warnings, cited an incident where Wellesley College students objected to "a sculpture of a man in his underwear (entitled Sleepwalker) because it might be a source of 'triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault.' While the student's petition acknowledged that the sculpture might not disturb everyone on campus, it insisted that we share a 'responsibility to pay attention to and attempt to answer the needs of all our community members' Even after the artist explained the figure was supposed to be sleepwalking, students continued to insist it be moved indoors." Although Finan acknowledged that trigger warnings are treated as a joke, and that in some cases trigger warnings hinder free speech, she writes, "but being triggered emotionally, psychologically, is not the same as simply not liking something." She thereby concludes that Time's columnist Mick Humen's statement in which he compares trigger warnings to "wrapping people in cotton wool" as insensitive, "insulting, and dangerous." To this I must ask, what is more dangerous, displaying a public statue of a man in his underwear, or taking the statue down because someone felt it may psychologically harm someone else (of whom they have never met)? In my case, as someone who finds academic freedom to be the foundation of a ideal university, the latter is extremely insulting and dangerous to the function of a University. Are Universities the appropriate venue to treat PTSD? A reasonable person would answer no. The problem with Finan's argument is the assumption that (1) a person who has suffered traumatic experiences will be triggered, and (2) that people will not take advantage of the relative nature of definitions and construe the phrase "trigger warning" to mean "anything I personally find objectionable." Is Finan going to be the one to condemn college students, feminists, the illiberal liberals among us who have decided to push trigger warnings out of the realm of the Internet and into academia? No. This seems to be a task for those of us who promote freedom of speech and intellectual diversity, which I guess is superseded by more important issues such as being offended by a Disney movie because it isn't as feminist as you would have hoped.

It should come as no surprise that Finan's last point slightly offends me, because not only is disagreeing with trigger warnings just an intellectual dispute, it has caused many to label those in disagreement as hateful unethical or immoral people. The devolves into questions of, "We care, why don't you? Aren't you part of a society that wants to treat victims with respect? Do you want to increase the suffering of others?" These questions present a lose-lose scenario, where if you acknowledge them as legitimate you are descending into the realm where feelings formulate the list of inappropriate trigger words, and if you don't answer these questions you will be deemed uncaring, unjust, and even unfit to work in certain professions (such as college professor).

Since I don't care much about losing, I will answer the question with one of my own, are trigger warnings moral? For the purposes of this article, I will concede that they may be ethical, given the nature of society where we must at least act in a way that promotes consideration of the emotions and sensitivities of others. As for the moral worth of putting up a trigger warning, I find that there is none. It is neither moral or immoral to display a trigger warning, but the intention behind the trigger warning is what I find immoral. I understand that trigger warnings may be likened to information about a book. If it is the case that a book contains domestic violence placing a trigger warning could be viewed as just information so the consumer can make an informed purchase, but this is not what trigger warnings are being used to do. Trigger warnings are a means to dissuade a person from purchasing, reading, or engaging in material that would be offensive to others or themselves. Trigger warnings define the action of purchasing, recommending, or viewing material that is categorized as racist, sexist, or homophobic, an immoral action. To put it bluntly, it is pretentious censorship by those who claim moral superiority. For example, if a professor tells their students that in order to participate in classroom discussions you must read F.Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and the book is accompanied by trigger warnings such as suicide, domestic abuse, and graphic violence, wouldn't the progressive among us say the professor is acting immorally? They would shout that teacher is promoting rape culture, domestic violence, and possibly suicide. The question then becomes if you are promoting the purchase, or reading a book that has trigger words are you also promoting those triggers? This then extends into the author's intent, which will consist of two options: create a piece without triggers, or have triggers within the context of a message that we (progressives) wholeheartedly agree with.

To this I will state something that I have mentioned many times to those who are obviously care more than I: there is no such thing as an evil book. A book, movie, video game, picture, etc, has no agency. Only people can have moral agency. When you are offended at any creation enough to proclaim that the it is sexist, homophobic, misogynist, and/or racist, you're actually implying that the creator is sexist, homophobic, misogynist, and/or racist. Is the creator actually all of those horrid labels and more? Who cares when their creation is going to be held up as the example of their obvious immoral outlook on life. Was it the intent of the creator to create something that offends you? As we can see in the case of Wellesley College, the sculptor's opinion on their creation's triggering nature did not matter in the slightest to those who were offended. To be fair, although the creator's intent would shed some light on why the creation was made, but within the context of determining the morality of the object, I don't believe this matters. A creator has no moral obligation to create something that does not offend someone. If this was the case nothing would be produced. People with the intent to use trigger warnings as a means of hateful disagreement are people who lack the prudence to accept simple truth: there is no evil book, and subsequently no need for trigger words. Therefore the illiberal liberals among us are not just promoting trigger warnings for the purpose of protecting the sensitive as Finan suggests, but for protecting all of us from our own unethical, immoral, and imperfect nature. After all they care, and we don't.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

When Solving the Trolley Problem- I Choose Not To

Let us imagine there is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Up ahead on the tracks there are five people tied up and unable to move, and the trolley is headed straight toward them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. The other choice would be to pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.
Which is the correct choice?

Left: Fat Man Problem /Right: Original Trolley Problem
I've proposed the trolley problem scenario in many philosophy and political science classes, and for most people the correct choice would be to intervene, pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the other side, thus killing one person. Their reasoning lies with their belief in the normative ethics theory of utilitarianism, where moral actions are determined by maximizing utility. Although utility mean many things, here most people describe it as maximizing happiness. If they save the five their will be a greater chance of lack of suffering. As for the one person, well tough luck on being happy.

Suddenly once we add familial variables to the trolley problem utilitarianism dissolves, and what are left are reasons for choices which are wholly subjective. For example, if we describe the one person as their loved one, spouse, or family member, then pulling the lever to save the five vague persons seems to not matter. They want to maximize the happiness of either themselves and/or their loved one, while the five, well what about the five? They are just five people of whom remain nameless and begin to look unfavorable, unless of course you prefer to stick by the principles of utilitarianism, or if you just so happen to not have a love one.

Other variations of the trolley problem, such as the fat man problem, also leave students having mixed reactions. The fat man problem is as follows: a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You're on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed? (The last question is usually inferred to be would it be correct to proceed?) In this case most students will not push the fat man because they would be directly killing someone instead of just pulling a lever and passively killing one person (who may or may not be fat). The class did not want to physically push and kill anyone to save the five, due to their feeling that if they engaged in this direct murder the action would be immoral and/or unethical. I highly doubt if the people tied up on the tracks below were loved ones that the life of the fat man would matter at all, but let's move on.

How do I answer the original trolley problem? Easy, I don't. It is a trick, and a somewhat cruel one at that (at least from my perspective). Firstly, the situation is purposefully vague. We don't know how or why there are people on the track to begin with. It is difficult to make such a specific and life altering decision, if we don't know why or how the situation began in the first place. Ignoring this point, however, we find my second issue, which lies with the word "correct." The question assumes there is a correct choice, when in my mind there never was. I say this because I've sat next to eager students, of whom strongly state that they would pull the lever because it is truly the correct choice. Does correct mean morally correct or ethically correct? Morality implies absolutism (within a set of universal principles) while ethics imply guidelines which are determined by a specific society. If a society favors saving one instead of saving five, then that would essentially be the correct ethical choice. As for moral absolutism, since students usually change their answer when we define the one person as a family member, I don't believe they are using an absolutist definition of "correct." So what exactly are these students thinking?

My guess is that they are engaging in consequentialism, where the moral action is one that will produce the good outcome. This theory can be summed up in it's extreme form by the phrase, "the ends justify the means." As for the definition of "good," since we now live in a world that supports (in many instances) the use of relativism as a means for determining the good. Allowing the good to be whatever you want it to be.

As for myself, if I was tied up to a trolley track and had to answer the question I would answer it by saying it would not matter, no action would be morally superior. If you're wondering if I'm a deontology (one who believes strongly in absolutism even when dealing with broad situations), don't worry I'm not. Just to set the record straight I would not kill the five to save the one (regardless of loved one because let's face it I'm too evil to have any), but I also would not say I acted truly correct, because I would have merely acted ethically or the way society would usually act, not morally. Most people within our society would save the five, but it should not be viewed as a correct action, especially one that someone is selfishly proud of. Why? Yes, you saved people, but did you do so for their happiness, or for your own? Regardless of my choice, I'm more worried with character or the soul of those students who proclaim their choice was benevolent, when in my mind killing the one so eagerly should be considered malevolent. Looking at the student's this way makes me wonder if the correct action is actually a selfish action of someone who has the power to end a life as well as save lives. The scenario presents no way in which you actually risk anything, other than what I view as your character or virtue, however students will not explain it that way. They merely state that it would be the correct action to take according to what they deem is "good."

Lastly, what is important to understand by this problem is that everyone who answers wants their answer to be correct from either a moral or ethical standpoint. It seems as though humans have an urge to make every action a moral action, regardless if that action has nothing at all to do with morality. This in my view is what makes humans so remarkable. Every action we engage in must be in such a way that reveals a moral purpose or catalyst. We can see that here with our examination of the trolley problem. If you would like to see how a feminist answers this problem (hint: they don't) then watch my video on the feminist republic.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sowing the Seeds of Our Destruction

Photo: Gary Varvel
Each morning, it seems, I wake up to a new social consensus. Most of these small standards have no bearing on my life, just in so much as I merely recognize their existence. That is how I initially decided to treat the sudden removal of the Confederate flag on the state capital grounds of South Carolina. It was something that happened, and by no means was the act something to praise or disapprove. If the state of South Carolina wanted to show solidarity to the families and communities that were harmed by the dreadful act of racist domestic terrorist Dylan Roof, 21, by means of removing the Confederate flag, then according to the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution, they (along with the people) may do so. However I was ignoring one simple truth: humans believe in creating moral and ethical justifications for their actions.

This week the removal of the Confederate flag has become a social fad that has extended itself to imply moral superiority. If you do not take the flag off of your capital grounds, off of your state flag, remove it from your school grounds, and strip the flag off of your memorabilia or merchandise, you will be labeled as intolerant, hateful, and racial bigot. If you disagree, this just solidifies the accusation. Any discussion thereafter becomes mute. End of discussion.

This discussion, or should I say lack thereof, began with the discovery of Dylan Roof's website manifesto, where he laid out his belief in white supremacy, support of segregation with an added array of defamatory language against African Americans. Along with these hateful words, Roof posted photographs of his visit to a South Carolina Confederate Museum, while others show Roof posing with the Confederate flag. Thus while the digging into Roof's manifesto was underway, the question what would cause Roof to have so much hatred for African Americans is answered for us by the State. The answer: proliferation of the Confederate flag.

Why not? What else could spur a man to hate but the historic Southern Confederate flag? You may say a deep seeded emotional or mental disorder, or perhaps some event in his past involving his upbringing could account for his racist and hateful ideology. However, this is ignoring the fact that he had a Confederate flag in his hand, and as we all know symbols like a flag are powerful messages that persuade us more than any event in our lives.

The meaning of the Confederate flag as a symbol has been defined for us by preachers, politicians, and businessmen. Thank goodness! I would have never known the true definition by studying the historical context in which the Confederate flag was used. It's not like that historical context can be found printed online or in a book. So let's move on to the definition:

In a recent editorial "The Cross and the Confederate Flag," Russel Moore (the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention) writes, "The Confederate Battle Flag was the emblem of Jim Crow defiance to the civil rights movement, of the Dixiecrat opposition to integration, and of the domestic terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Councils of our all too recent, all too awful history." Furthermore, since the flag has been steeped in racist rhetoric, from it being used as a "emblem of Jim Crow defiance" and "Dixiecrat opposition to integration," this flag is incompatible with the teaching of Jesus Christ. His final opinion states, "None of us is free from a sketchy background, and none of our backgrounds is wholly evil. The blood of Jesus has ransomed us all “from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers” (1 Pet. 1:18), whether your forefathers were Yankees, rebels, Vikings, or whatever. We can give gratitude for where we’ve come from, without perpetuating symbols of pretend superiority over others." In conclusion he begs white Christians to listen to their African-American brothers and sisters, and even though these whites can care about their own history, remember it's a shared history.

South Carolina put the Confederate flag to a vote, and it's removal passed 103-10. In Mississippi, Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said in response, "We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us," Gunn said Monday night in a Facebook post. "As a Christian, I believe our state's flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi's flag." I guess by begin having conversations, he means "the conversation is over, now to tell people who support the flag that they have been actually supporting segregation and slavery the entire time." How do I know this? Those who could put up an argument against taking down the flag have decided not to. Mississippi's U.S. senator Republican Roger Wicker said, "As the descendant of several brave Americans who fought for the Confederacy, I have not viewed Mississippi's current state flag as offensive. However, it is clearer and clearer to me that many of my fellow citizens feel differently and that our state flag increasingly portrays a false impression of our state to others."

Forbes recently reported that Walmart has now pulled the Confederate flag from their shelves. Walmart spokesperson Brian Nick, "We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer. We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment, whether in our stores or on our web site." He goes on to note, "We have a process in place to help lead us to the right decisions when it comes to the merchandise we sell. Still, at times, items make their way into our assortment improperly...this is one of those instances." So, out of all the items they sell, the Roof's actions did not cause them to remove the selling of guns, bullets, or horrible hair cuts from their stores. They decided the Confederate flag was a more integral part of Roof's hate.

There you have it. They have made their decision and now comes mine. If we are going to kill context let us do it elegantly and with grace, not with silly assumptions, accusations, and religious rhetoric. What I find odd about this situation is that the reasons for removal are more of a knee-jerk response to a radical racist taking a picture with it. Am I to believe that the history of the flag suddenly changed, and that everyone just woke up and realized, "hey, this flag we actually had no problem with yesterday is actually a symbol of hate." Will there come a day where we all just wake up, turn to the American flag and realize that it too can be a symbol of hate. America has been accused of racism, irrational war, genocide, and murder. The United States created Japanese internment camps, dropped two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima and the other on Nagasaki. Would it then be appropriate for our Japanese allies to decide to take away any symbol of the American flag from it's country? Would it be appropriate for U.S. citizens of Japanese origin to step on the American flag, or disregard the 4th of July?
I and many others associate the Confederate flag with it's historical context, meaning that it is not necessarily a flag of slavery or hatred, but a rebel flag. I hold it in the same regard as the Betsy Ross 13 Colony flag, which was the flag of the American Revolution. The South made this same claim, saying they had a legal right to succeed from any tyrannical government, and if we consider the American Revolution as precedent, the South was within it's legal right. Many scholars do not believe that the Civil War, or as the South calls it, "The War of Northern Aggression," was about slavery, rather it was about the South's belief that Lincoln (along with the Republican North) were tyrannical because they were denying the South their (immoral) economic model. The South would not have believed that their economic model was immoral, because as we know slaves were considered "property" and not people. They, just like us, believed that damaging one's own property is not a moral offense. The Civil War was fought brother against brother, families from the North and South had to fight each other, we would be ignoring the sacrifice made by both sides if we were to take the Confederate flag down. After the Civil War why didn't the North make it so that any Southern symbol would be deemed traitorous? There are statues, streets, banners, colleges, military forts, and city names all dedicated to Confederate generals. The Confederate Memorial Monument is on the grounds of the Alabama state capital and was been there since 1898. Are they going to change all of these historical names and monuments? In response to this overwhelming moral and political consensus, I let Sir William Wallace have the last word.

“Any society which suppresses the heritage of its conquered minorities, prevents their history or denies them their symbols, has sown the seeds of their own destruction.”
-Sir William Wallace, 1281

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Modest Secular Proposal for Gay Marriage Supporters

Conservatives have already lost on the topic of gay marriage. Yes, I'm sorry if I burst your bubble my fellow conservatives but according to recent Pew research polls, there are "changing attitudes on gay marriage." Currently 57% of Americans polled support gay marriage, and I highly doubt the Supreme Court will rule against institutionalizing gay marriage as a some sort of constitutional right due to the equal protection cited by the 14th Amendment.

It may come as a shock, but as a conservative Republican, I don't necessarily have a problem with people holding this opinion. Honestly I expected it, although I strongly suggest that when it comes to topics like gay marriage, the 10th Amendment should be upheld (which states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people"). However, before they claim victory and begin their protest over at the Christian bakery, I'm still left pondering certain points that are proposed by those who support gay marriage. Let us begin with the term "gay marriage."

According to the progressive revisionist view of the definition, marriage would be defined as, "the union of two people (whether of the same sex or opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of the hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy boy partners find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear."

Is that the most accurate description of the institutionalized concept of marriage? I would say no, and in doing so I will use the English definition and application of marriage, along with Platonist theories and concepts to say that "gay marriage" is actually an oxymoron, and legally speaking a gay couple could get more benefits if they defined their extended partnership as a civil union.

Firstly, I've never understood why if you support of gay marriage, why would you use the term gay marriage when you believe that gays should be just married. Why would you put the adjective gay in front of the substantive noun marriage? Why not just call it marriage if you believed it to be equal? Which is an odd subject to think about, especially when we conservatives have been told that gays are just like everyone else, and wanted to be treated like everyone else, hence wanting to be married. Nevertheless, their words emphasize my point, because a substantive noun is a noun that exists as a concept that cannot be influenced by factors that are outside from it. Therefore marriage in the practical sense describes a specific instance in which one man and one woman are united monogamously and sealed their union by conjugal acts or reproduction. This is the first instance of a "marriage" from the context of natural bonding that usually results in the production of children.

Furthermore, every concept has certain components within it. When I mention the word chair, you know exactly what I'm talking about, regardless of the chair in question. We both know that chair has intrinsic components that can be viewed by way of nature. If we were to dissect marriage in the same way would we find that it is compatible with pro-gay marriage concepts? Let us say that X=CDEFGH, meaning the concept X (a marriage) has the properties, C (opposite sex), D (vaginal intercourse), E (may result in children), F (social institution), G (union of two persons), and H (economically valued). Supporters of gay marriage support Y=ABCFGH, in which Y (revisionist marriage) has the properties of A (assumption of love), B (same sex), C (opposite sex), F (social institution), G (union of two persons), and H (economically valued). Both of these concepts exist in nature, I will not deny that, but it just so happens X is both natural and statistically normal, while the other includes homosexuals, who only make up about 3.4% of the United States population.

It is here were I and I suspect most non-secular people feel slighted. Pro-gay marriage groups would like Y to equal X, and this bothers me, not from a theological standpoint but from a logical standpoint. They have come to the consensus that X=Y citing their emotions as a catalyst, holding posters like, "all love is equal" or "marriage is about love not gender." Please, don't bring that feelings nonsense here.

Moving on to why most people actually choose to get married today, which is usually for the legal benefits and security provided by the government. Law is founded upon specific concepts, logical reasoning and experiences in nature. In order to have a successful law there must be some experience (or concept) specifically tied to that law. If we agree that X does not equal Y then this would make them separate experiences in nature. The law should then treat them as such. I suggest that anyone who supports "gay marriage" should actually support domestic partnerships because this word succinctly defines the experience of a homosexual partnership.

Now I know what some are going to say, they are going to cite the civil rights experience and mention that the phrase "separate but equal" was found unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, but the way the Supreme Court decided that phrase was unconstitutional is because of the scientific evidence they found due to the fact that it harmed children. Secondly unlike homosexuality or heterosexuality, race should not and could not indicate an action. Can a person act black, or white? No, because an adjective such as black is superficial to the verb/noun before or after it. In order to obtain the label of homosexual or heterosexual, you must engage using a specific set of behavior or actions. Making homosexuality not only an adjective, but a verb. So when dealing with laws that effect homosexuality, it must be crafted in a way that is specific to these actions that could effect instances of divorce, child custody, taxation, etc.

Here's a true dilemma. What do you do when two women divorce and they are fighting for custody of one child? They both have the "motherly aspect," one has given an egg, the other birthed the child. Does the judge do the Biblical ruling and threaten to cut the child in half? From my own experience, homosexual divorces are the most gruelling battles I've ever winessed. The law has to deal with these and other specific issues and define them differently than if they were dealing with a man and a woman fighting for custody of a child, because as we all know the woman would likely get the child in this type of situation regardless of her character. If this were to occur homosexuals would be able to have domestic partnership rights or benefits that are specific to their relationship. In turn this would allow these benefits to have a different title attached to them such as civil union or partnership. It would not infringe Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which is constantly cited by those in favor of gay marriage. 

Some would object saying that a civil union implies that the homosexual partnership is inferior to the heterosexual relationship, but to this I would say I'm not making this claim. Legally they are both natural experiences, to which the law should apply only separately because the different properties and situations that reveal themselves within the distinct relationships.

Some have objected to my proposal citing three reasons; (1) concepts are relative and marriage has become a relative term thus there can be no true concept of marriage, (2) marriage can encompass different actions if society defines this to be the case, and (3) marriage comes with inherent properties that can be applied to the homosexual relationship and therefore there is no difference.

To say that marriage is a concept that is relative ignore it's natural foundation. Relativity in language usually applies to adjectives. If I were to look at a painting and found it beautiful, and you were to look at a painting and find it was ugly, we have both described the same experience of viewing the painting, but we did not agree on a feeling about the painting. This is where adjectives find their value, but our discussion is asking if the painting has changed, not if you feel the painting has changed. Did the experience of witnessing the painting change in both instances? No. Marriage or instance X does not leave room for interpretation. It is a noun for which an adjective could apply such as perfect or poor, but these words that are added are founded upon an opinion.

Some will bring up that there are imperfect marriages, thus marriage is relative or open to interpretation. If an apple has a worm in it, making it imperfect, does it lose it's appleness? No, the specific principles of the apple have not been changed as to destroy the concept of the apple. Thus marriage no matter how you perceive it cannot be changed by instances of imperfection such as divorce, or infertility (because the concept of marriage is fully applicable where procreation may be possible.) As for adoption, this action of adopting a child implies that the couple has the need to obtain a child, so if a couple cannot conceive a child and are married, adoption alone means that their marriage is considered unfruitful, and by correcting this the couple is admitting that their marriage was imperfect.

Society has no power over concepts that appear naturally or in the mind. The concept of marriage is no exception, and has two parts the supporters of the revisionist view must overcome. First, the historical and natural context of marriage will always be there, no matter if society changes. If we were to imagine there is a world that is only the color red. All the persons in this world would not be able to know of the concept of red, but the concept still exists, and the property of that world exists, even if society says it does not. The second problem lies with the fact that if marriage describes a specific set of guidelines found in nature, even if the concept were to add the components of a homosexual relationship, there will always be a specific distinction between the two marriages. It is sad, but no matter how much the LGBTQ movement craves normalcy for it's membership it is statistically impossible at this point. Gay marriage will mostly be used for homosexuals, and marriage will mostly be used to describe heterosexual marriages.

I am not here to cite any Biblical passages against homosexuality, or cite supposed effects a homosexual partnership may have on a child's development, or say that your relationship will threaten the sanctity of my marriage. I am not against your partnership or afraid of it. What I am afraid or should I say tired of, is the overabundance of groups like the LGBTQ whose soul purpose is to make clear that homosexuals should be married because of the yearn for normalcy which can never be attained statistically, and to proclaim gays should be part of an institution that they feel is all about purely about love. Due to my own opinion, I have been labeled countless times as homophobic and bigoted. On that note I want to make this point very clear, I will be flexible or as President Obama puts it, "evolve" on gay marriage if we can all finally agree that this movement is about benefits and not love. The only reason people in favor of gay marriage bring up love is to garner sympathy and tug at your heartstrings. My heart is not a lute. If your movement is about benefits, the best option in my mind is to have your specific relationship with distinct properties be given a new title with legalities that focus on immediate issues that are natural within it.

This is just one honest man's proposal, and although I understand most people will disagree for whatever reason, it stands that those who are pro-gay marriage have already won the million dollar jackpot: societal acceptance and now Supreme Court approval. My advice? Don't go wasting all your winnings on something even more illogical, like feminism.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Un-Safe Idea Behind Safe Spaces

An inclusive meeting quickly turned exclusive. The Ryersonian reported that on March 11, two white students were kicked out of a Racialized Students' Collective meeting because they were "not victims of racialization." The Racialized Students' Collective is part of the Ryerson Students' Union and is self described as opposed all "forms of racism and work towards community wellness for (Ryerson University) students,” along with the goals of “building an anti-racist network” and “fostering an anti-racist environment through campus-wide services, campaigns and events." Why would a group promoting racial tolerance enforce racial intolerance? It's because the meeting was a safe space, with the RSU coordinator stating, "We don’t want (racialized) students to feel intimidated, that they can’t speak their mind because they are afraid of being judged or something they say might be used against them."

It is behind this dramatic backdrop, that fourth year journalist Aeman Anasari decided to write her opinion piece, "Ethnic Minorities Deserve Safe Spaces Without White People." She outlines that there are two sides to the story but as we can read from the title her view is apparent, believing "marginalized groups have a right to claim spaces in the public realm where they can share stories about the discrimination they have faced without judgment and intrusion from anyone else." Like the Racialized Students' Collective, she shares the opinion that if you are of a certain race, ethnicity or gender you carry the burden of being marginalized. Who cares if you have to do a journalistic report on this Racialized Students' Collective meeting. Who cares if you are genuinely interested in hearing stories of those who feel they are being marginalized by society. If you're white you have no plight.

For Anasari the problem wasn't the exclusion of white students but that the meeting was not labeled a safe space, and if it was shooing the white students away would not be as controversial. In fact the embarrassment faced by the white students, in Anasari's words is "isn't as important as the other issues involved here." So what are these issues? (To my white readers I suggest you not read the rest of this post. Below is my safe space and they include ideas that are anything but safe.)

Safe spaces are where issues of oppression are discussed such as African nations and the modern prolonged effects of colonization. It's like history class only without any class. You would have to sit in a circle and have people like Anasari say, "the West has a history of oppressing people of colour: from Africans who were enslaved and brought to the New World, to native people whose land was stolen by Europeans." Due to this historical oppression, privileged people can't be there. Anasari explains that, "the presence of any kind of privilege puts unnecessary pressure on the people of colour to defend any anger or frustrations they have, to fear the outcome of sharing their stories." You're right Anasari, who wants to defend their story when they're too busy offending others.

Now I have three reasons why this is (to use a progressive intellectual term) problematic.
First, it is offensive to anyone who believes in actual racial equality, and due to the exclusion of white students it is reinforcing a racially segregated atmosphere. I am not saying that there is no such thing as racism. This is a good example of that. I am not saying that this group should not exist or should not have their meetings, but the idea of safe spaces is not a safe one.

More importantly, I previously mentioned the progressive stack and how using that framework of thinking college organizations are doing more harm than good. Colleges are institutions that are for the exchanging of ideas in a (more or less) public forum. If the Racialized Students' Collective used this public forum to discriminate then they're a mockery of the educational system that works diligently to ensure that every student is able to critically analyze themselves and the world around them, to realize their biases, and formulate an argument for their ideas that is strong and based upon evidence. Safe spaces are a diametrical opposite to institutions of higher learning. Notice that within the soft confines of the safe space you can't really question anything that anyone says because every experience is valid. Why no questions? As Anasari puts it, "the attendees are trying to move forward by supporting each other and they should not have to defend themselves, they should not fear the consequences of raising their voices." Does Anasari mean to tell me that if you are a strong, independent, proud, non-white college student and you decide to share your own personal experience of turmoil and oppression, you can't answer a question about it? On that note, is this even legal?

My third reason is merely my lingering suspicion in the illegality of this exclusion. If you want a safe space that is private, where you can exclude anyone you want for whatever reason, then it has to be private. If you use any state or federally funded public or college venue for your safe space meeting then it becomes an issue, especially if you are excluding people on the basis of race. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1955) did away with "separate but equal" doctrine and stated, "radical discrimination in public education is unconstitutional," and if you're wondering there is no asterisk saying that this does not apply if within safe spaces. Anasari has a different view, "We understood the people there had a right to privacy. They had a right to collectively work through the challenges society had imposed on them. They had a right to claim parts of the campus, parts of the world, for a few hours in hopes of creating broader social change." I'm fine with this group having a public space to share their ideas, experiences, and feelings, however to say you're an inclusive, anti-racist group then shun those who you feel are more privileged because of race is nothing short of racism.

It is becoming incredibly apparent that when faced with critical questions about how oppression is defined, what does social change mean, or why are safe spaces essential to the college experience, those well-intentioned progressives get defensive and angry. This is because they have never been asked to explain themselves and their ideology in college, public, or private. Students should make social change by asking questions, no matter the consequences or setting. Broader social change starts with rigorous academic inquiry into why society is the way it is using scientific and statistical means. Without this, change is nothing but a progressive buzz-word used to shun those who you deem unworthy. Doesn't that sound like privilege?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Examining the Progressive Stack and Its Influence On Academia

In modern society today it would be politically incorrect to say America is exceptional, or that there is no such thing as a gender pay gap, or even my opinion that gay-marriage is an oxymoron. Someone somewhere will be offended and their offense to your ideas trumps your opinion. What you should notice the minute you or anyone you know displays a hint of these same ideas, is immediately you will be categorized within the framework of progressivism as lesser. Lesser in kindness, caring, intellectual and feeling. This framework of progressivism is founded upon the correlation of victim-hood and privilege within society. 

Using this correlation, a category is formulated by taking the details of a person, such as their sex, gender, race, and sexuality. Building upon historical, political, and anecdotal biases, people who use this way of thinking make rulings on whether or not your opinion matters within the context of what is being discussed. A great example of this is what is known as the progressive stack, performed by Occupy Wall Street protesters so that people deemed marginalized would have a chance to speak. The theory behind this stack is that those who are not marginalized (meaning those who are white, heterosexual, a young adult and male) are already encouraged by society to express themselves. Groups that have special consideration are those that include women, homosexuals, transsexuals, bi-sexual, non-whites, children, and elderly people.

So lets say I'm a young man who has something important to say regarding capitalism and its negative impact in my life. I would have to start from the bottom of the queue. If a marginalized person wants to speak I would have to be bumped down, while they get bumped up. Why would this happen? Two reasons come to mind.

Liberal groups are using progressive stacks to establish an equity of experience, in which all experiences are valued no matter the percentage of a specific category represented in society. Therefore if the group is made up of 60 percent white experiences and 40 percent non-white experiences within society, modern progressive liberalism would focus on trying to equal the percentages to either balance out both or encourage one over the other in a specific forum. This ensures an equity of experience circle, where one minute you are an oppressed group the next you are a group that is given privilege of speaking because you are actually an oppressed group that is usually never given a chance to speak, until of course this very moment.

The next theory is more cynical as it allows for people of marginalized status to speak not because there is a correlation between value of experience and marginalization but experience of a person is not valued, rather it is tolerated because they have to tolerate it. No one truly cares about person X's experience but they must let them speak because they are part of the marginalized group. So we must listen and respect a homosexual woman's opinion not because of the content of her opinion but because she is a woman and homosexual. She is different and we want to show that we respect her for being in these categories.

Feminist Alison Burtch tweet on 'progressive stack'

Both theories could be possible, although I have doubts with the second theory due to the fact that most groups emphasize the collecting and gathering of many peoples experiences for evidence. Thus if you were to give a pro-choice argument the value of a woman's experience or opinion is going to be viewed as having more value than a man. Now we could make the claim that the content of her experience is going to be ignored, but I find that her anecdotal evidence would be viewed as integral to the argument and thereby immense value. That value is determined by what she says, not only the fact that she said it. A conservative woman's opinion on abortion is not going to be viewed as valuable by those who want to promote a more progressive argument. The correlation between victim-hood and privilege brings about the belief that those who are more likely to have privilege are less likely to care as much as I do.

What does this mean for academia?  Most concepts that stem from progressivism, such as this progressive stack and diversity are learned and is not usually something people are accustomed to knowing or understanding in nature. Some say progressivism is something that is taught, not something that people readily know by way of natural (logical) thought. For example, some American children are taught to feel shame when celebrating Columbus day or Thanksgiving.
That being said it is incredibly telling when you realize that most of the Occupy Wall Street protesters were college educated. They believed the progressive stack was not only a means to support who they deem are oppressed, but rather it's a process under the banner of diversity.

Universities who want to promote diversity are likely to make judgements that are along the same lines as the progressive stack. They are using superficial categories to define what it means to be oppressed and privileged, in turn colleges make decisions that support those who they determine are oppressed, no matter the circumstance of the person they find has privilege. Beyond affirmative action, decisions like the progressive stack could imply that professors have a bias toward students who they feel are less privileged, these groups would get special consideration, topics will be aligned to this way of thinking, and hiring decisions of future professors who subscribe to progressivism could also be a result.

As someone aspiring a professorship this is troubling, not because I'm conservative, but because college is extremely lacking in the diversity of ideas, making students highly unlikely to engage in critical thinking causing them become unable to fully understand why they associate themselves with certain ideologies. This is exemplified when someone shares ideas that is viewed as not progressive they are simply labeled as racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or any other adjective that is meant to belittle their statement. Students are not encouraged to critically analyze work they are taught to merely react to it by way of an emotional or anecdotal response. If I were to say that I disagree with the concept of gay-marriage, regardless of my reasons why I would be labeled homophobic. Now if you were to ask the student why, they can't answer that question. These students have formed a correlation which has been entrenched deeply into their way of thinking that there is this dichotomy of those with privilege and those without, and it leads to oppressing those who they feel oppress others. This correlation between victim-hood and privilege reinforces the belief that those who are more likely to have privilege are less likely to care as much as I do. The issue we find most offensive is that colleges don't challenge that assumption or oppression, rather promote what they consider to be "safe spaces" for the purposes of diversity and acceptance of those who they feel are oppressed by society in general. My next post will be devoted to the dissecting concept of "safe-spaces" and why they are detrimental to the purpose of education and intellectual diversity.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Using The Big Five to Discover the All-Natural Feminism (2/2)

Feminism, like all political ideologies, is a natural result of inherent biological traits. Due to this, I formulated a hypothesis using the Big Five psychological traits. The Big Five are used by political scientists as political indicators, so that they can determine the connection between personality and political attitudes and choices. Of course without any data specifically on specifically feminist attitudes, I hypothesize the modern typical all-natural "feminist" is one who is open to experience,  not conscientious, moderate extraversion, agreeable, and lacks emotional stability.

Looking at prominent feminists such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Hillary Clinton, Ellen Page, Lena Dunham, and Emma Watson, helps to tie together common personality traits that could be associated with this particular political ideology. Further examples include Lena Dunham saying, "Do you believe that women should be paid the same for doing the same jobs? Do you believe that women should be allowed to leave the house? Do you think that women and men both deserve equal rights? Great, then you’re a feminist." Or an even more popular example of feminist activism, when Emma Watson promoted her #HeForShe campaign in association with the UN. It makes an attempt to get more men into the modern feminist movement.

These examples along with lesser known YouTube feminist personalities like Laci Green, Claudia Boleyn, and Rebecca Watson leave me to conclude firstly that a typical feminist likes to be open to an experience. These women search out information that either promotes or questions their own beliefs, whether they internalize the any information that challenges their views is another matter entirely, but these women focus their efforts online. They use social media such as twitter and tumblr to promote their own views and search for the views of others through mainly the Internet. These women or should I say feminists are not conscientious, they are relativists in the sense that what they value is always in flux. One day they are for a woman's right to engage in sexual activity, the next they are fighting against ads that promote a woman's sexuality. Most protests seemed fueled by anger and a disgust with tradition, or as they put it, social activities or luxuries fabricated by men such as women not being legally allowed to go topless, or men spreading their legs on public transportation.

As for extraversion, I would find that those who participate in the major speaking roles of protests, or group activities (online or otherwise) are extroverted. Those who are introverted don't usually partake in group activities for extended periods of time (due to the fact that social interaction causes them to become tired). To put it bluntly I don't find extroversion to be a deciding factor in any political ideology.

On to agreeableness, which I believe this is extremely high within modern feminist ideology. Feminists, along with most ideologies that claim to be "radical" want to also be agreeable. Watch the Emma Watson #HeForShe campaign, which in my opinion was a decree that "us feminists want to be more agreeable to everyone, including men." Go to any "woman" focused news category and you will find writers enthralled with the idea that people like them, writing pieces like, "The Weight of a Woman," "Why We Need Terrible Female Engineers," or "Five Reasons to Think Twice Before Calling a Woman Crazy." Every article clings to the idea of "we care about you, so much we won't even acknowledge your flaws. We want you to like us." Most blogs and articles focused on women and women's issues use terms that reflect the inherent need to show "caring," "cooperativeness," and "kindness." Those high in agreeableness don't like conflict, which is one of the terms feminists dislike. Ever ask a feminist what would happen if there were more female world leaders? Most respond by saying less conflict and violence, and this is viewed as a positive thing.

As for emotional stability, I don't believe I can make a definitive statement regarding the emotional state of feminists, especially when there is little to no strong research on neuroticism and its role in political behavior. However it is very difficult to ignore public instances of protest that in many ways display a level of unhealthy narcissism that is not being dealt with, probably because of the "agreeableness" factor. You don't want to tell anyone in your group that they are being crazy, when in fact they are being crazy. Examples of this narcissism include the protest against equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers, when feminists protested and pulled the fire alarm at a MRA event, or when Mat Taylor was brought to tears when he had to apologize to feminist complaints about his shirt. It is surprising that feminism does not have that great of a PR network to handle these sort of embarrassing examples, however modern feminism is an ideology not a movement, and when it is a movement it is a specific movement with specific people that no one is responsible for.

To conclude, the goal of this exercise is two fold, to promote the fact that there is a correlation between personality and political affiliation and ideology, and to selfishly explain to those who are anti-feminist that the confusion and sometimes "hatred" of feminists is unnecessary. I can't tell you how many times I have seen a YouTube video creator ask the question, "Why would s/he make that statement? Why would anyone want to be a feminist?" It's not that a person wants to be a feminist, it's that they fit the personality criteria which directly results in them accepting that ideology, and this not only goes for feminism, but all the -isms that most people cling to.

It's incredibly odd that a group (usually men's rights, or recently atheists) who promote looking into the scientific differences between men and women as the foundation of certain points (such as why men and women play different sports) decide to overlook the science that would indicate that a person's inherent, genetic, all-natural personality effects what political decisions they make. Some women and men are going to be born feminists and this is not a bad thing. Those against feminism make bold claims like "they want men to hate women," but leave it at that, never going into why they believe this to be the case from a psychological or scientific perspective. I think people, especially those who are strongly against feminism should begin to recognize and respond to the personalities that encompass this ideology, and in doing so understand their own political attitudes.