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Be very concerned when certain groups of people consider themselves untouchable and their ideas sacrosanct. Religious belief on the right and on the left (gender religiosity) is poisonous for a society that values free speech and communication.

James Lindsay purports to find a common thread among the new critical theories that have garnered attention in the United States and to a lesser extent, Canada.  For the purposes of the podcast, he summarizes what Marxism is and some of the related terminology (including marxist-feminism 18:50).

Different points of view and different analysis are necessary when evaluating ideologies and systems present in society.  Lindsay is a critic of Marxist methodology and it is important to hear his critiques.

“We often hear that Woke Marxism is a new ideology in the world. I’ve even said so. Well, it isn’t. It’s just an old one repackaged in various ways without any essential changes made to it at all. Critical Race Theory is Race Marxism in the same way as what we usually call Marxism is Class Marxism. Radical Feminism is Sex Marxism. Gender ideology and Queer Theory are Sex, Gender, and Sexuality Marxism, or just Gender Marxism or Sexual Marxism to be more concise. Fat studies is Fat Marxism. Disability studies is Ability Marxism. Critical Education Theory (Critical Pedagogy) is Knowledge Marxism in terms of what it means to be formally educated or literate within the existing system. Postmodern postructuralism is Language Marxism. Postcolonial Theory is National Origin Marxism. And on it goes, with all of these cobbled together by intersectionality, which is Identity Marxism.”

 

Sometimes a concept is so good one must ruthlessly crib from another source – So here ya be, the notion of Chesterson’s Fence and how important it is to understand the reasons why something was done in the first place.

“Second-order thinking will get you extraordinary results, and so will learning to recognize when other people are using second-order thinking. To understand exactly why this is the case, let’s consider Chesterton’s Fence, described by G. K. Chesterton himself as follows:

There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

***

Chesterton’s Fence is a heuristic inspired by a quote from the writer and polymath G. K. Chesterton’s 1929 book, The Thing. It’s best known as being one of John F. Kennedy’s favored sayings, as well as a principle Wikipedia encourages its editors to follow. In the book, Chesterton describes the classic case of the reformer who notices something, such as a fence, and fails to see the reason for its existence. However, before they decide to remove it, they must figure out why it exists in the first place. If they do not do this, they are likely to do more harm than good with its removal. In its most concise version, Chesterton’s Fence states the following:

Do not remove a fence until you know why it was put up in the first place.

Chesterton went on to explain why this principle holds true, writing that fences don’t grow out of the ground, nor do people build them in their sleep or during a fit of madness. He explained that fences are built by people who carefully planned them out and “had some reason for thinking [the fence] would be a good thing for somebody.” Until we establish that reason, we have no business taking an ax to it. The reason might not be a good or relevant one; we just need to be aware of what the reason is. Otherwise, we may end up with unintended consequences: second- and third-order effects we don’t want, spreading like ripples on a pond and causing damage for years.”

Speaking your mind can be a dangerous activity.  In the halls of academia though, it is purportedly the name of the game.  Please go and read Dr.Bert’s full post and enjoy her eloquence and clarity of thought in full.

I thought I would highlight some of the points that should be of interest to those who believe in academic freedom, and freedom of speech in general.

“[…]

‘I am a sociologist after all—and interrogate this current moment in which a certain contingent of social activists have deemed it not only justifiable, but proper, to silence any discussion about sex and negotiation of competing sex-based and gender-identity-based rights. Some might say, and I might agree, this is part of the larger ‘woke’ movement among those who identify with the Left. I might note that my political beliefs position me on the Left, but I believe in the importance of evidence, reason and logic, and a material reality in which we all exist).'”

Her resignation letter (from the Division of Women and Crime) really knocks it out of the park, it is a clarion call to those who remain on the non gender religious Left. (**ed.  It was mistakenly reported here that Dr.Burt’s letter was to the Editorial board, when in fact it was from the Division of Women and Crime – change applied to the relevant parts of this post and apologies to Dr.Burt**)

“However, a division that traffics in mantras and refuses to engage with people raising valid concerns (dismissing people for ‘hateful wrong think’), is not a group I wish to be a member of. For those of you who consider me a ‘meany’, baddie, hater who is a transphobe, you’re probably relieved. But you are wrong. I am not a transphobe, and I do not hate trans people or males or anyone. 

Just this week reports came out of a male who self-ID’ed into the women’s prison in Washington state and raped a female prisoner housed there. I think that’s something to discuss; your explicit position is that doing so is hateful transphobia that must be silenced for inclusivity and the well-being of transgender people. But what about females and transwomen who would be harmed by predatory males self-ID’ing into women’s spaces?

Many of you were part of the LGBT movement in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and some of you weren’t. I was. We didn’t effect change by refusing to engage, dismissing those who disagreed, and censoring any discussion of negotiating gay rights. We were successful because we talked. We tried to understand the positions of others and helped them see ours. Maybe your attempts to censor any discussion of sex will work to effect the change you wish to see in the world. Maybe it won’t. Regardless of the outcome, I do not find the division’s silencing discussion of issues, which are complex and multilayered and sometimes uncomfortable, acceptable in academia or in the Division of Women and Crime. 

I wish you well, and I’m sad to go. But I refuse to go along silently with a group that calls discussion of gender/sex-self-ID ‘transphobic’ when there are real issues to discuss here that have everything to do with the safety of females and transwomen and nothing to do with hate or bigotry.”

Wow.

 

*applause*

 

 

It is a wonderful time to be alive.  Our social sphere is a dividedly partisan uncharitable hot mess.  Nothing gets done because the status quo recognizes that people working together have the capacity to radically alter society.  Internecine conflict and partisan yelling matches are not an accident.  They conveniently combust all the oxygen in the public sphere, keeping threatening systemic change far at bay.

Consider, we fecklessly embrace capitalism and the ruthless exploitation and environmental destruction that goes along with it.  Yet, at the same time we have our scientific classes raising the alarm that we are rapidly making our planet uninhabitable.  A few eyebrows are raised, but in general, the system continues to chug along.  Here is one foundational parts of our capitalism system, the ever present race for the bottom and thus maximum profitability (at all costs).

It’s gonna suck when the earth strikes back and decides our defining passion for hoarding slips of paper is not a desirable evolutionary trait.  Pete Dolack writes for CounterPunch:

 

“And as the race to the bottom continues —  as relentless competition induces a never-ending search to find locations with ever lower wages and ever lower health, safety, labor and environmental standards — what regulations remain are targets to be eliminated. Thus we have the specter of “free trade” agreements that have little to do with trade and much to do with eliminating the ability of governments to regulate. And as the whip of financial markets demand ever bigger profits at any cost, no corporation, not even Wal-Mart, can go far enough.

Despite being a leader in cutting wages, ruthless behavior toward its employees and massive profitability, when Wal-Mart bowed to public pressure in 2015 and announced it would raise its minimum pay to $9 an hour, Wall Street financiers angrily drove down the stock price by a third. Wal-Mart reported net income of $61 billion over the past five years, so it does appear the retailer will remain a going concern. Apple reported net income of $246 billion over the past five years, so outsourcing production to China seems to have worked out for it as well.

The Trump administration’s trade wars are so much huffing and puffing. Empty public rhetoric aside, Trump administration policy on trade, consistent with its all-out war on working people, is to elevate corporate power. Nationalism is a convenient cover to obscure the most extreme anti-worker U.S. administration yet seen. Class war rages on, in the usual one-sided manner.”

In Defying Hitler, Sebastion Haffner’s disturbing 1939 memoir chronicling the rise of Nazism, the author, a law candidate, describes the insidious day-to-day changes in attitudes, beliefs, politics, and prejudices that began, for Germans, the slow descent into a “trap of comradeship” in which this culture of cruelty flourished as many of them become “owned by it”.  “Comradeship” as the Nazis meant it, became a “narcotic” that the people were introduced to from the earliest age, through the Hitler Youth movement (Hitlerjugend), the SA, military service, and involvement with thousand of camps and clubs. In this way, it destroyed their sense of personal responsibility and became a means for the process of dehumanization:

‘It is even worse that comradeship relieves men of responsibility for their actions, before themselves, before God, before their conscience.  They do what their comrades do.  They have no choice.  They have no time for thought (except when they unfortunately wake up at night).  Their comrades are their conscience and give absolution for everything, provided that do what everybody else does.’

Haffner goes on to describe how this comradeship, in just a few weeks at camp, molded a group of intellectual, educated men into an “unthinking, indifferent, irresponsible mass” in which bigoted, derogatory, and hateful comments “were commonplace, went unanswered and set the intellectual tone.”  The Nazis used a variety of psychological stimulations and manipulations to this end, such as slogans, flags, uniforms, Sieg Heils, marching columns, banners, and songs, to help create a dangerous, mindless “group think.”  One of the most disturbing aspects of this comradeship was how the men in the camp began to behave as a collective entity, who “instinctively ignored or belittled anything that could disturb our collective self-satisfaction.  A German Reich in microcosm.”  This collectivity is the “and” in Arthur Eddington’s mathematical formula.  The bullies and the bystanders become a deadly combination that is more than the sum of its parts.

[…]

 

In all three genocides [Armenian, Jewish, Tutsi], it was found that if one person (or small group of dedicated people) refused to go along with the genocidaires, some others who were potential witnesses actually became witnesses, defenders, and/or resisters themselves.  This group readily admitted that if it were not for those who took the lead in desisting, they probably not would have had the courage to do so themselves.  In his research in “atrocity producing situations,” Robert J. Lifton came to the conclusion, “There’s no inherent human nature that requires us to kill or maim…  We have the potential for precisely that behaviour of the Nazis …or of some kind of more altruistic or cooperative behaviour,  We can go either way.  And I think that confronting these extreme situations is itself an act of hope because in doing that, we are implying and saying that there is an alternative.  We can do better. ”

 

‘It is immensely moving when a mature man [or woman] – no matter whether young or old in years- is aware of a responsibility for the consequences of his conduct and really feels such responsibility with heart and soul.  He then acts by following an ethic of responsibility and somewhere reaches a point where he says: “Here I stand; I can do no other.”  That is something genuinely human and moving.   [Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation]

-Barbara Coloroso.  Extraordinary Evil – A Brief History of Genocide.   pp. 85 – 87

 

Barbara Coloroso has done exemplary work in writing “Extraordinary Evil – A Brief History of Genocide”.   Second time around on this book, now going low and slow to really get down with the text and understand what she is saying.  I wanted to share some of the passages that resonated with me.

A Jewish officer in the US Army during World War II, Lieutenant Meyer Birnbaum wrote about a young Jewish boy he found near death in Ohrdruff, a concentration camp annexed to Buchenwald.  The young boy requested bread and then broke down sobbing as he spoke of his murdered family:

After about fifteen minuets of bitter sobbing, the sixteen-year-old boy suddenly looked at me and asked whether I could teach him how to do teshuvah [repent].  I was taken aback by his question and tried to comfort him.  “After the stretch in hell you’ve been through, you don’t need worry about doing teshuvah.  Your slate is clean.  Your slate is clean.  You’re alive, and you have to get a hold of yourself and stop worrying about doing teshuvah,” I told him.  But my words had no effect.  I could not convince him.  He kept insisting: “Ich vill tuhn teshuvah – I want to do teshuvahIch muz tuhn teshuva – I must do teshuvah.”

Finally, I asked him, “Why must you do teshuvah?” in the hope that talking would enable him to let go of some of the pain I saw in his eyes.  He pointed out the window and asked if I saw the gallows.  Satisfied that I did, he began his story:

“Two months ago one of the prisoners escaped…the camp commandant was furious about the escape and demanded to know the identify of the escaped prisoner.  No one could provide him with the information he was seeking… In his fury, the commandant decided to play a sadistic game with us.  He demanded that any pairs of brothers, or fathers and sons, step forward.  We were terrified of what he might do if we did not comply.  My father and I step forward.

They placed my father on a stool under those gallows and tied a noose around my father’s neck, the commandant cocked his Luger, placed it at my temple, and hissed, “If you or your father doesn’t tell me who escaped, you are going to kick that stool out from under your father.”  I looked at my father and told him, “Zorgst sich nit – Don’t worry, Tatte, I won’t do it.”  But my father answered me, “My son, you have to do it.  He’s got a gun to your head and he’s going to kill you if you don’t, and then he will kick the chair out from under me and we’ll both be gone.  This way at least there’s a chance you’ll survive.  But if you don’t, we’ll both be killed.”

Tatte, nein, ich vell dos nit tuhn – I will not do it.  Ich hab nit fargessen kibbud av – I didn’t forget kibbud av [honouring one’s father].”

Instead of being comforted by words, my father suddenly screamed at me: “You talk about kibbud av, I’m ordering you to kick that stool.  That is your father’s command.”

 

Nein, Tatte, nein – No, father, I won’t.

But my father only got angrier, know that if I didn’t obey he would see his son murdered in front of him.  “You talk about kibbud av v’eim [honouring one’s father and mother],” he shouted.  “This is your father’s last order to you.  Listen to me! Kick the chair!”

I was so frightened and confused hearing my father screaming at me that I kicked the chair and watched as my father’s neck snapped in the noose.

 

His story over, the boy looked at me… as my own tears flowed freely, and asked, “Now, you tell me.  Do I have to do teshuvah?”

 

Barbara Coloroso. Extraordinary Evil – A Brief History of Genocide. pp. 93 – 95.

 

 

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