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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

The Last of the True Progressives Weighs in More on Caitlyn Jenner

posted by Jack Kerwick

Leon Marlensky (an alias for a fellow academic who wishes to remain anonymous) elaborates more on his disgust over, as he sees it, the betrayal of progressivism as revealed via the coverage of the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner issue.

To Those of You Who Claim to be Progressive:

No event in the pop culture more attests to the right-wing’s hold over it than the celebration visited upon the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner phenomenon.

Notice, the narrative here—Jenner has all along really been Caitlyn, a woman trapped inside a man’s body from which she deserves to be emancipated—expresses the same mind-body dualism that has been used from at least the time of Plato to justify all manner of oppression.

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From the perspective of this invidious ontology, a person is “essentially” his or her mind; he or she just happens to have a body. What this in turn means is that one’s body is fundamentally no different than any other object that one happens to own. And like any other object or thing that one owns, it is at the mercies of the mind’s desires.

“Feminists” have realized that the gender oppression that has defined Western civilization for all of its history ultimately turns on the binary opposition of mind/body, for mind has always been masculinized and the feminine, equated with mindless matter, subordinated to it.

However, what “feminists” give with one hand they take with another: No group of people have done more to entrench reactionary politics in America than “feminists.”

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For starters, the very name “feminism” legitimizes the burdensome masculine/feminine distinction. In doing so, “feminists” as well legitimize the mind/body dualism that is the locus of the oppression that pervades Western structures of power.

Even beyond the name, however, “feminists” have perpetuated the subjugation of the estrogen-endowed, the environment, animals, plants, people of color, homosexuals, etc. by way of the standard argument that they use to substantiate abortion. When it is claimed that abortion is morally right because “women”—a word, like “feminine,” that denigrates for its implication that the estrogen-endowed derive both their being and their worth from men —“own” their bodies, it should be obvious that matter is once more trampled underfoot.

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It isn’t, then, just the prenatal entity growing in the mother’s womb that now becomes but another commodity in a merciless capitalist system. Since land, water, air, animals, and plants are treated as manifestations of body or mindless matter, they too are now transformed into the properties of those who lay claim to them. If a woman owns her body and, thus, can and should be permitted to use it for whatever purposes she deems fit—including those purposes of self-mutilation (“sexual reassignment surgery”) or killing a fetus for occupying her body without her express “consent”—then nothing that lacks, or is deemed to lack, rationality is immune to the depredations of an avaricious mind.

There is another crucial respect in which Caitlyn Jenner’s public debut revealed the incorrigible bigotry against the chromosomally female that still saturates our culture: When Caitlyn debuted, she did so in such a way as to reinforce the most invidious stereotypes regarding “women.”

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Caitlyn splashed her face and body across the cover of a tremendously popular magazine as a sex symbol.

As if matters weren’t retrograde enough, along with her collaborators at Vogue and to the satisfaction of her accomplices throughout the rest of the media and the popular culture, Caitlyn made sure that she exemplified a Eurocentric conception of beauty—the same conception that has been equated with Beauty itself and, thus, wielded as but another instrument in the degradation and humiliation of non-European peoples.

In affirming mind/body dualism—to repeat, the position that one’s true or essential identity is one’s mind—Caitlyn Jenner and her millions of admirers affirm another pernicious fiction that, unsurprisingly, is also traceable to the ancient Greeks: the dichotomy between nature and artifice. By insisting that she is really a woman, Jenner insists that she is essentially, by nature, a woman.

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But gender identity is not a brute fact given by “nature.” Gender, by which we mean gender roles—it can mean nothing else—is a social construct. Self-avowed leftist progressives, before the Age of Jenner dawned upon us, claimed to know this. Yet if gender is socially constructed—and it is—then the gender-determinism on exhibit in the case of Jenner isn’t just nonsense; it is nonsense on stilts, to borrow Jeremy Bentham’s colorful phrase.

Caitlyn Jenner—it is no surprise that she is a conservative, Christian Republican—has scored a huge victory for the radical right-wing. Yet she never could’ve done it without faux leftists in her corner.

Sincerely,

Leon Marlensky, Ph.D. Literary Studies and Studies in Global Justice (University undisclosed)

 

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The Right Has Won: The Last of the True Leftists Speaks

posted by Jack Kerwick

“Leon Marlensky” is an alias that a fellow academic insists upon using in order to protect his identity. “Leon” insists that he is the last of the true leftists, that “the right,” as he calls it, has won.  The coverage of the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal events proves this, Leon argues.  This makes for an interesting read, for Leon Marlensky is nothing if not consistent–at least most of the time.

To Those of You Who Claim to be Progressive:

There is much talk these days about the “leftward” drift of American society. To hear the right tell it, from academia to Hollywood, from the media to Washington, “the left” controls virtually every precinct of our culture.

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If only it were true.

Tragically, there is no left. Not any longer. Even the rhetoric of self-styled “leftists” betrays the near total extent to which our society remains captive to a regressive political agenda.

The right-wing is winning.

No, it has won.

No event in the pop culture more attests to this than the celebration of Bruce Jenner’s “transition” to “Caitlyn.”

To hear Jenner—and his legions of admirers—tell it, there is no sex change here: “Bruce” was born Caitlyn. “Bruce” had always been a mask that Caitlyn, due to the tragedy of having been born into some male’s body, had been forced to wear. But now, at long last, she can shed this vessel and assume one that she finds more congenial to her gender.

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What an awful story.

And it is awful precisely because it perpetuates precisely the same mind-body dualism that has been used from at least the time of Plato to justify all manner of oppression. Since, from the perspective of this invidious ontology, a person is “essentially” his or her mind, he or she just happens to have a body. What this in turn means is that one’s body is fundamentally no different than any other object that one happens to own. Thus, the body, having but a contingent relationship to the mind to which it belongs, is objectified, denigrated, another resource to be expropriated courtesy of the exploitative designs of the mind that rules over it.

In their more honest and sober moments, “feminists”—I hate this word—have realized that the gender oppression that has defined Western civilization for all of its history has depended upon casting thought in terms of the binary opposition of mind/body, for the latter has paralleled that of masculine/feminine inasmuch as the “feminine” has been depicted at the level of body while masculine has been associated with mind.

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Yet now these same feminists, along with every other troglodyte, celebrate from the hilltops Bruce Jenner’s “transition” to Caitlyn Jenner.

Of course, this is scarcely the only time that “feminists” have doomed themselves.

For starters, the very name of “feminism,” far from so much as ameliorating, much less eliminating, gender oppression, only serves to strengthen it. Again, the masculine/feminine binary has just as long of a history in the West as does that of the mind/body. There’s a reason for this: In practice, the two are inseparable. “Feminists” legitimize these binaries. In doing so, they legitimate both the idea that there really is an “essential” difference between men and women and the idea that women, as the “natural” counterpart(s) to body, deserve to be ruled by men.

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“Feminists” have also argued for abortion on grounds that reinforce mind/body dualism: When it is claimed that abortion is morally right because “women”—another word, implying as it does that women derive their being and worth from men, is radically self-defeating—“own” their bodies, it should be obvious that the body generally and women’s bodies in particular are objectified. However, objects are mere means toward the ends of those who, by nature, lord it over them.

Do you see where this thinking gets us? It isn’t just the prenatal entity growing in the mother’s womb that now becomes but another commodity in a merciless capitalist system. Since the environment generally, and animals and plants specifically, are manifestations of body or mindless matter, they too are now transformed into the properties of those who lay claim to them. If a woman owns her body and, thus, can and should be permitted to use it for whatever purposes she deems fit—including that of killing a fetus for occupying her body without her express “consent”—then to the extent that humans, being minds, can make property claims to all other mindless beings, humans can and should be permitted to use animals and plants in whatever ways that they wish to use them—even if this means destroying them for fun.

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This mind/body dualism that has blighted the Western imagination since nearly its inception has and continues to account for all manner of degradation and brutality. Yet the Republican conservative Caitlyn Jenner—it is wholly unsurprising that she is a right-winger—and her “progressive” allies have just done more to market it than anyone of recent memory. Plato would be proud.

Though in the common parlance these evils are none other than “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “colonialism,” “imperialism,” and the like, common usage reflects and exacerbates the hegemonic rule of Eurocentric thought over the rest of the globe.

The notion that, for example, “racism” is an evil is a function of the notion that “the individual” assumes moral priority. In other words, if it is true that “racism” is a great evil, then “individualism” is normative. But “individualism” is a uniquely Eurocentric or Western moral doctrine. By promoting the idea that “racism” is an evil, people of European descent are guilty of doing what they’ve been doing for centuries.

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They are guilty of coercing, whether overtly or subtly, by a thousand cuts, as it were, those outside of their group into accepting their own vision of morality.

What a vision this is.

This bourgeois doctrine of “individualism,” indispensable as it is to the rise and legitimation of the savage capitalism that has reduced everything that it touches to things to be bought and sold, is only kept alive by packaging evils in terms of “racism” and the like.

Discourse over issues of race and “racism” is another area that puts the lie to the fiction that the left has achieved some sort of cultural dominance.

Right now, a young estrogen-bearer by the name of Rachel Dolezal is at the heart of a media-contrived controversy. Even though Dolezal, the president of the Spokane (Washington) chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is of European descent, she claims to be “black.”

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This is the controversy.

A reporter asked Dolezal if she was “African-American.” To her credit, Dolezal responded with incredulity, insisting to the reporter that she didn’t understand his question.

If the left was a real influence in this country, the question itself would’ve been seen for the racially inflammatory—the “racist”—garbage that it is.

The term “African-American” is offensive. First, no inhabitant of the land mass referred to as “Africa” ever used this name until it was assigned by Europeans. “African” has etymological roots in Latin, the language used by the Romans. There was no “Africa” until the Romans declared it so.

As for “America,” this name too is of European lineage, for what we now know as America was named after the Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. “African-American” is a Eurocentric fiction, a category straightjacket within which people of European descent seek to corral and trap those with salient Negroid features.

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“Black” is just as racially offensive as the term “African-American.” White/black are among those binary oppositions that Westerners have relied upon to oppress those deemed more like body and, hence, inferior. Furthermore, “black” is another category that people of European descent invented to render invisible the diversities that exist among those taken from “Africa.” “Black” implies not white. With one simple word, the personhood of hundreds of millions of human beings around the globe is eliminated.

A true leftist, a consistent leftist, wouldn’t need for all of this to be spelled out.

Sincerely,

Leon Marlensky, Ph.D. Literary Studies and Studies in Global Justice (University undisclosed)

 

 

 

 

 

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Academia, Mental Conformity, and Evil

posted by Jack Kerwick

St. Louis University, a Roman Catholic institution of “higher learning,” capitulated to student and faculty demands to remove a 19th century statue from campus.

The statue, which commemorates the missionary efforts of Jesuit priest, Pierre-Jean De Smet, depicts the latter on an elevated platform holding a cross over the heads of two American Indians.

The school paper, The University News, featured an editorial by SLU student, Ryan McKinley. According to McKinley, the statue deserves to be removed from campus because it reflects “a history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy.”

Ironically, it’s a shame that this event gained national news coverage, for in doing so, the public risks receiving the impression that there is something unusual afoot at SLU.   However, the tragic truth of the matter is that the anti-Western ideology—and, hence, the anti-white, anti-Christian, anti-American, anti-male ideology—underwriting the fuss over the De Smet statue is the conceptual lens of the whole academic world.

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But it’s even worse than this: The ideology on display at SLU transcends academia, for it is the Zeitgeist of contemporary Western and American culture.

What all of this in turn means is that academics are guilty on three scores.

First, they stand convicted of preaching an ideology—any ideology—while they should have been teaching.

Secondly, in advancing the anti-Western ideology that is our culture’s dominant worldview, academics are guilty of promoting an especially pernicious ideology.

Thirdly—and this is the most egregious of the crimes for which they stand condemned—academics are guilty of promoting an ideology that is their culture’s dominant worldview, i.e. the status quo.

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When Hannah Arendt observed the trials of Nazi war criminals, she claimed to have been struck by “the curious, but quite authentic, inability” on their part “to think.” It is this phenomenon, Arendt noted, and not any especially wicked motives, that accounted for the Holocaust. Neither Adolph Eichmann nor any of his partners in crime were inclined to think beyond their stock of conventional phrases and clichés. This inability or unwillingness to think critically is inseparable from, if it isn’t identical with, an inability or unwillingness to exercise self-rule or autonomy: the defendants were only interested in obeying others.

Of course, Arendt knew that there was nothing unique about the Nazis in this regard. Most people much of the time and all people some of the time succumb to the temptation to relinquish critical thought. After all, it is far easier to go along in order to get along. It requires no courage, no mental exertions, to conform to prevailing opinion, to “obey.”

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Yet this inability to think, to obey The Majority, has given rise to the worst sorts of evils.

It is this inclination toward mental conformity that accounts for the readiness with which otherwise reasonable, intelligent people imbibe the ideology of the students and faculty at St. Louis University. It is this inclination that explains the seeming inability of such folks to think or speak beyond the ideology’s stock terms.

“Colonialism;” “imperialism;” “racism;” “white supremacy;” “Christian supremacy”—these are the soundbites, the talking points, the bumper sticker slogans, that define both the substance and the boundaries of the PC Zeitgeist. A Taoist scholar once wrote that every “ism” is a “wasm.” His point is that once a current of thought has been abstracted from its place in the complex of mental activities and frozen as a doctrine, an “ism,” it has been divested of the dynamic character, the nuances and open-endedness that originally made it a living belief.   The dogma that replaces it is necessarily an oversimplification, a caricature.

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It’s of no surprise that our student and faculty activists at SLU (and everywhere else) must think in terms of “isms.”

Yet, as I mentioned, students don’t start learning about the “isms” once they get to the university. Regrettably, the ideology that their professors reinforce in the college classroom is the same ideology on which their minds have been fed by the larger culture all of their lives.

From their first day in college, students are disposed to acquiesce in the ideology with which their professors will besiege them for the next four (or more) years. So, rather than inculcate in students those intellectual virtues—curiosity, daring, discernment, and excitement—necessary for challenging the prejudices that they’ve inherited from the larger society, faculty strengthen those prejudices.

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In doing so, faculty strengthen their students’ “curious, but quite authentic inability to think.”

But in burdening them with this handicap, the self-same professors who ache to make their students into little saviors of the world actually frustrate the pursuit of their own goal, for, as Arendt observed, the inability or unwillingness to think—to cultivate individuality—all too often translates into the ability and willingness to aid and abet evil.

Edmund Burke famously said that the only thing that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. He was right. However, there are plenty of reasonably decent people that may not be aware that evil is in their midst if they lack the ability, or the willingness, to genuinely, thoroughly, think about the ideas that “everyone” accepts as true.

As for those who dare to think, they don’t have their college professors to thank for it.

 

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The Truth About Stand Your Ground Laws

posted by Jack Kerwick

Lee Gwira is a lawyer, friend, and all around bright guy.  Below, Lee takes a sledgehammer to the prevailing (left-wing) narrative regarding Stand Your Ground laws (SYG), exposing it for the lie that it is. 

On the evening of October 29, 2012, Jay Lewis, an employee of the IRS and a former law enforcement officer, had his world turned upside down as he was driving from work to his home in Des Moines, Iowa.

Lewis, who was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, was attacked by James Luddick and Justin Lossner. Lewis warned them to retreat. They didn’t listen. Lewis fired his gun, injuring one of his assailants. The other fled. When police arrived, Jay—a black man—explained that he shot at his aggressors—two white men—in order to defend himself.

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Yet Lewis would spend the next 112 days in jail.

His bail was astronomical. While incarcerated, the managers of the apartment complex at which he resided heard about the shooting incident. They mailed Lewis an eviction notice that he wasn’t able to receive because of his incarceration. So, after 30 days had passed, management vacated Lewis’ unit itself, dumping his belongings on the lawn outside his apartment. His neighbors helped themselves.

Eventually, a prosecutor would drop most of the charges against Lewis and a jury would determine that he did indeed shoot in self-defense. Lewis was free!

However, he was also homeless, without his possessions, and, now, jobless.

To make matters even worse, Lewis had accrued a massive debt to his attorneys.

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Had there been Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws in Iowa, Jay Lewis’s life would have been vastly easier over the last few years than it has proven to be.

You wouldn’t know this, though, if the conventional media is your primary source of information. Media soundbites convey the impression that SYG laws permit citizens to act as judge, jury, and executioner. Furthermore, such soundbites are meant to imply that SYG laws are exploited by trigger-happy white racists who are encouraged to murder young black men with impunity.

In reality, SYG laws supply a legal procedure to determine if a killing was done in self-defense.  If the defendant can prove this, he or she is granted immunity from further prosecution.

In most SYG states there is no duty for an armed victim to retreat from his or her assailant: the use of deadly force is allowed. Conversely, states devoid of SYG laws prohibit the use of deadly force as long as a victim could’ve retreated.  In states with a duty to retreat the defendant is not allowed to use deadly force, if the jury concludes that the victim could have safely retreated from the situation.

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In order to have a coherent discussion about SYG laws there are two legal doctrines that must be discussed first. The first is that of “Self Defense”. The other is “The Castle Doctrine.”  These two laws form the legal basis for SYG Laws.

The doctrine of Self Defense springs from English Common Law. Historically, the doctrine has asserted the right of citizens to defend themselves, as well as others, in situations of immediate and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or great bodily harm.  In order to do this, the Bristish Common Law established a three-prong test to determine if the action taken was indeed self-defense.  Self-defense must satisfy the criteria of “ability,” “opportunity,” and “jeopardy.”

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Ability:  Did the attacker have the ability to exert deadly force, normally a fatal injury or crippling injury.  This can normally be done with a weapon, but it can also take the form of a disparity of force.  Disparity of force comes into play when an attacker is unarmed, but has such physical advantage, he is likely to kill or cripple the armed victim.  That physical advantage becomes the equivalent of a deadly weapon.  Common scenarios that illustrate a disparity of force are when the attacker is an average male and the victim an average female, or when the attacker is part of a group.

A disparity of force can also be created in the middle of an altercation.  For instance let’s say two men get into a fight.  One of the men manages to knock the other to the ground, climb on top of him, and start punching.  The man on top is now in a position to cause death, or great bodily injury.  Due to the dangerous position in which the victim finds himself, the law recognizes his right to use deadly force to defend himself.

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Opportunity: Is the attacker capable of immediately causing harm, or great bodily injury?

Jeopardy:  Would a reasonable person in this situation interpret the assailant’s words/and or actions as manifesting an intent to cause death or great bodily injury?

When these three criteria—ability, opportunity, and jeopardy—are satisfied, deadly force in self-defense is warranted.

The Castle Doctrine is an extension of the Self Defense Doctrine applied to the home.  The Castle Doctrine, too, dates back to English Common Law. According to the Castle Doctrine, a citizen’s home is his or her castle.  If attacked in one’s domicile, there is no duty to retreat—even if one can’t defend oneself in the absence of the use of deadly force. Of course, the force used must be reasonable under the circumstances.

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In essence, SYG laws extend the logic of the Castle Doctrine to encompass public places.  As long as a victim is someplace that he is legally permitted to be and is not engaged in any illegal activity, he is not obligated to retreat when attacked. If a person has a reasonable belief that his attacker is going to cause him and/or someone under his mantle of protection (a family member or customer in the immediate vicinity of the attack), great bodily harm or death, he may use deadly force.

But how, we must ask, is the criterion of “reasonableness” to be determined?

Although this standard of reasonableness is the backbone of modern western law, it doesn’t appear to be codified in state or federal law.   Most states define reasonableness using the common law Doctrine of the Reasonable/Prudent Man. To determine whether a defendant acted reasonably and prudently in defending him or herself, the trier of fact (a judge or a jury) must establish what a reasonable and prudent person with the defendant’s knowledge at the time would have done in the exact same situation.

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One of the alleged fears regarding SYG laws is that they grant citizens an excessive degree of discretion: Citizens, it is contended, are permitted to act as judge, jury and executioner. However, this is simply not so: Whether a person uses deadly force justifiably or not is constrained by the standard of the reasonable person.

Stand Your Ground Laws have been codified in 23 states, and nine states, while not specifically having Stand Your Ground Laws, have enacted SYG doctrine through substantially similar provisions, or through judicial decisions.   While the media would have you believe that only a handful of states have enacted SYG legislation, the truth of the matter is that a majority of states have done so.

Only 19 states have a duty to retreat, and even in these cases, this duty is qualified: There is no duty to retreat if doing so will not guarantee the absolute safety of the defendant, or of anyone in the defendant’s mantle of protection. There are very few instances where that duty to retreat will be enforced. To paraphrase Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Brown V. United States (1921), a state with a duty to retreat is asking for “detached reflection when in the presence of an uplifted knife.”

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SYG laws are words on paper. The intent behind the law can be as pure as the driven snow, but it’s the application of the law that’s germane. Opponents of SYG laws say that the application of these laws has largely been used to the detriment of people of color, and this is why they should be repealed. In my next article I will examine the application of SYG laws in their home state of Florida.

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