Monthly Archives: April 2018
Edited on 4/25/2018 for clarity and a few careless grammar and spelling errors.
Radicalization has come to be synonymous with Islam and Islam signals folks who are non white although there have been a few notable Caucasian converts. It’s generally reserved for people who fall of the liberal western wagon and fall into the muddy ditch of identitarian authoritarianism. In other words radicalized = converted to radical Islam.
We use the term which should serve as a general description of anyone who has committed beyond reason to an ideology, usually a violent and destructive one, as a shortcut for signaling Islam. It’s a mistake that both reflects and colors our values, one that on some level is not a mistake at all but instead a value judgement based on so many assumptions.
We do operate in the sphere of cultural supremacy, the combination of assuming that so-called western values are the most “right” and that those values have all their roots in white western culture and those roots are purely derived from Europe and the cultural superiority of being American. Both are pretty ignorant, they assume that the blanks of history are all colored in White. They assume that, given all the interaction between the subjugated and the subjigators both here and abroad, now and in the past, that there is only one way to rub off.
They assume that missionaries and explorers, slavers and guests, never had any contact with people who produced any kind of two-way exchange. They assume that the spices and foods, culinary habits being one of the first and best introductions to a culture, were never traded. They assume that hunting and gathering and farming in different climates did not have some impact on those who observed them. They assume things that we in our daily lives know to be patently untrue. In the US, our art, culture culinary traditions and language borrow so much from outside influences that we’ve sometimes assumed they started here.
We operate, despite evidence to the contrary, in a blanket of assumptions that color our culture and language. We assume that only the Islamists are radicalized, we reserve that word for non-whites and race traitorous converted whites. When an instance of violence occurs perpetuated by a person of white European descent we make every excuse for their actions even when the targets and methods would suggest otherwise. We assume there is any other motive than what would be obvious if they were Muslim.
Until we can call a terrorist a terrorist, regardless of the color of their skin, until we can equate acts of violence based on ideology, regardless of what that ideology is, we are hopelessly lost in our delusion that White western culture is the only source from which civilization springs. We are also ignorant of our own cultural infancy as Americans, our civilization is not half as old as those we pull influence from and we can’t seem to integrate that into our collective consciousness.
We keep arguing around these issues, talking about SJWs instead of just being courteous enough to each other to simply listen, consider and then react, we keep using language that diminishes the concerns of people to tropes, on all sides. We color “flyover states” and BLM with broad brushes, not recognizing the breadth of opinion in the pigeonholed groups we create. We talk about western culture like it came about in a vacuum and ignore all the surrounding pieces assuming that the history we know, despite so many obvious modern parallels, is history with nothing left out.
We make a lot of assumptions, we kind of have to, but with the expanse of information we have at our fingertips we ignore even the slightest tweaks to our own worldview.
Even when it is as obvious as the growing number of violent acts perpetrated by those steeped in “western values.”
A few weeks ago, I looked at what Jeff Sessions stance on Marijuana might change the potscape, barely scraping the surface of what that means for communities of color. THIS goes into much more detail and says some of the things I just couldn’t get my head around when I wrote the original piece.
Note: You can skip right over this if you have no interest in Charles Murray or the ripple effects of his being on Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” podcast. If you ARE interested in learning about the controversy and why it matters, a simple google search for Sam Harris will provide all the background you need and probably a lot more.
I’ve mentioned before my fondness for podcasts and audiobooks, one of my favorite producers of both is Sam Harris. Through listening to his Waking Up podcast I’ve been exposed to ideas I would have not been otherwise, been privy to conversations I would have missed out on and just generally feel wiser and more informed as a result of being a listener.
What I am not is a devotee, a fan or a follower of his. He, like the rest of us, is human, very human in fact despite his vulcan-like demeanor and “just the facts” presentation.
I referenced his conversation with Charles Murray of The Bell Curve fame before and am no fan of Murray’s policy solutions or his belief that any attempted impact on IQ by social policy is a fool’s errand. Even if no significant increases in IQ are driven by so-called entitlement programs, the simple fact that education, at even the basic level, is largely dependent on resources including health care and nutrition as well as simple things like oh say….housing is enough to convince me of their absolute need. As I’ve also stated before, government intervention was what made the middle class possible (and the fact that said intervention was largely a white phenomenon) post WW2 is a critical component of any argument concerning “The Great Society.”
Although I see through Murray’s ideological bent, I also see how many current pols hold the same beliefs and use the same data to justify them (outgoing Speaker Ryan is one) so the focus on Murray for holding these beliefs and being assaulted and de-platformed for them while the really dangerous folks who have a real dangerous ability to enact retrograde policies is misspent ire.
When Harris invited Murray for a discussion on Race and IQ about a year ago, the blow-back is actually part of what brought me to the podcast in the first place. I wanted to revisit the controversy, having never read the book myself, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
Now, a year later, unfortunately Harris has turned a groundbreaking discussion into a reflexively toxic sideshow.
The discussion he had with Murray wasn’t a game changer for me, I’d always believed that people should be allowed to speak their minds at college campuses and if we oppose those ideas we have the right to voice our opposition. This back and forth is crucial for the functioning of democracy, even on such a tiny niche level. Even bad ideas should get an airing, when exposed to sunlight bad ideas are for the most part burned away and rejected, it may take some time, but rigorous debate and a civil discussion of even the most outlandish ideas is a crucial component of a functional democracy.
As far as the content, Murray’s glaring omissions, or glossing over of data that didn’t meet the narrative was obvious so that didn’t change my mind at all. What was refreshing and enlightening was the conversation itself. Harris challenged Murray on many of the things I would have, the social science that was left out of the data, the lingering results of the yoke of slavery and its genetic contributions to racial difference, no problem there. In general the conversation left me with the same feelings about Murray’s work as I did prior to listening, that the book and the data presented is fully supportive by design of his social stance, not the reverse.
The resulting effect on Harris’ public image is the subject of much conjecture, from a whole group of new neo-fascist, illiberal classical liberals and the alt-right (AKA actual racists) there seems to be a Ben Shapiro-like exaltation of him as a defender of racist IQ purveyance, from everywhere else a bemused take down of Harris’ “cult”. From my point of view, neither get it truly right.
My criticism of Harris doesn’t come from a place of worry about what he himself believes. Although his petulant debate with Klein definitely makes him a useful idiot for the right, I don’t believe like some others that it is by design. He’s never indicated to me that he believes or cares about the race and IQ debate and in some cases seems to dismiss IQ as a factor for determining who can and cannot have a full meaningful (and wealthy) life. My criticisms come from the sizeable ego it has exposed.
Debating Klein could have been a defining moment had Harris not failed to realize and admit to his own blind spots. Harris clearly missed the fact that his personal feelings of persecution and the persecution of others made him deaf to the very real concerns (and alignments) he and Klein shared. Klein made some salient points about this although I think he phrased them wrong and failed to follow-up on them Harris failed to see that he put himself in Murray’s shoes a little too much.
What this does to Harris’ career, his podcast and his public persona is yet to be seen but I would have made a few suggestions prior to the conversation that would have made the conversation a whole lot less unbearable for those of us who chose to listen to it.
- He should have gotten to know Klein personally before having the debate. He should have taken a cue from one of his guests Christian Picciolini (a former neo-nazi) and as he did with Richard Spenser (a current neo-nazi) sit down and get to know him outside of their personal history. It’s so much easier to define ground rules and speak kindly of someone who you disagree with if you know them as a person first.
- Take a cooling off period after meeting off-line. Both parties would have had a much better time of it if they’d met, exchanged a few clarifying emails and tried really hard to keep it civil.
- Simply agreed to disagree.
Harris has been rightfully been a bit jumpy about being misquoted, something people do and have done regularly, but not taking the proper time and doing the proper warm-up exercises is no excuse for stumbling and falling on your face right out of the gate.
On this 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King I’d like to say a few things.
We are, despite our division, in a much better place then we were in 1968.
Despite that we still have a long way to go.
For anyone who wonders if the words and actions of the civil rights movement still have relevance, remember that within most living people’s lifetime there were laws that restricted citizen’s rights to marry, travel and raise children.
That… economic strength, passed on through the generations, was not as strong for women and communities of color, if you were a woman of color things were at least twice as hard.
That… the modern middle class was built on the strength of a massive war effort and the financial benefits that came with it, and that African-Americans were largely exempted from those benefits. These foundations were even further distant when considering that discriminatory hiring, firing and salaries were common and when African-Americans tried to band together to demand better conditions violence always ensued.
The current conditions, economic disparities supported by racist assumptions that are now being used to prove those very assumptions, have been with us a very long time. If the country is over 200 years old and Civil Rights have been in place by law for 50 of those years, even assuming everyone instantly got the rights they deserved, which they didn’t, we have been a bigoted country supported by racist institutions for 3/4 of our existence.
Making it personal, If you have made any “mistakes” in your 20’s are 50 and are still paying for them you are, those mistakes put you about where we are as a country now, older and not really all that much wiser.
Post-racialism is a myth concocted by people who hope we get too lazy to do the math or too distracted to not look at the calendar. If we do nothing else lets not forget that we are only a short few steps into this new paradigm and it isn’t too early to lose it all.
RIP MLK 4/4/1968