At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Problems with the Morality of Human Rights

posted by Jack Kerwick

It is commonplace for most contemporary commentators to think of the Declaration of Independence as embodying our “national creed.”  This in turn explains the equally commonplace description ofAmericaas a “creedal” or “propositional nation.”

The idea is this: the Declaration, with its affirmation of “rights” that are “unalienable” and “self-evident,” expresses a universal morality, a morality unencumbered by the contingencies and relativities of place and time, culture and history.  America, the Declaration makes clear, is committed to the advancement, not of this or that person or group of persons, but of “the rights” of all mankind.

America was founded by white Christians from a specific place in Europeand at a particular juncture in their history.  And American life, up until the present day, has been informed overwhelmingly by European or Western ideas and traditions.  Still, it is emphatically “un-American”—maybe even “anti-American”—to think of our country in ethnic or racial terms.  Put another way, it is immoral—“racist,” “bigoted,” etc.—to recognize in America anything other than the first nation ever to have been erected upon a “timeless principle” or “ideal”: the principle that all human beings everywhere and always possess (pre-political) rights.

Not everyone today endorses this vision of America’s founding.  But more people than not, including people with clashing political visions, endorse the morality of “natural” or “human rights” embodied by the Declaration.  This is unfortunate, for only its ubiquity prevents its champions from recognizing the burdens with which their morality saddles them.

For one, if everybody has equal rights, and if Americais supposed to be committed to advancing these rights, then it is only upon practical or strategic grounds that objections can be raised against the American enterprises of welcoming massive Third World immigration, on the one hand, and launching equally massive military interventions abroad, on the other.  As Ilana Mercer noted some time ago, “Inviting an invasion by foreigners and instigating one against them” are inseparable engagements (emphases original).  She also observed, correctly, that the glue that holds them together is the notion of America as a “proposition nation.”

Yet, interestingly, the “proposition” responsible for this madness is just that proposition to which Ilana and many other sensible folks (like Pat Buchanan, for instance) subscribe: it is the proposition that all human beings have “unalienable” natural rights.

The point is that if America is committed to natural or human rights, then, ideally, she should be embracing as many immigrants and toppling as many oppressive foreign regimes as possible.  The means by which she fulfills this mission may be morally dubious; but the mission itself isn’t just morally permissible—it is obligatory.

The logic of the morality of human rights pushes us even further, though: because it is universal in character, because it makes no distinctions between persons, by its lights it is immoral for both the United States government as well as the American citizen to show partiality toward American citizens over non-Americans—regardless of where the latter are located.  The universality of the doctrine of human rights entails impartiality.  Thus, it is just as immoral for Americans—again, whether political office holders or citizens—to act partially toward Americans over non-Americans as it is immoral for Americans of one race to give preferential treatment to their fellow members over those Americans of other races. 

To put it simply, from this perspective, patriotism is as abhorrent as “racism,” for both are a standing violation of the universality and impartiality of the morality of human rights.

This brings us to a third problem.

If the “racist” is a reprehensible character because he prefers the members of his own race over those of other races, then there is no way to avoid the conclusion that anyone who is partial toward his own in any context must be equally reprehensible.  This would include not only the patriot but, more disturbingly yet, those who are partial toward their families over the families of others.

On the logic of the morality of human rights, “familyism,” then, joins “racism” and patriotism as evils. 

Those who think that this last is a stretch should consider that it has been quite some time since contemporary moral philosophers have branded human beings’ preference for their own species over others as “specieism” and added it to the litany of such abominations as “racism,” “sexism,” “classism,” and the rest.

This is where “the proposition” upon which America was supposedly founded leads us.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. 

 

  

 

 

Obama and the Ideology of Blackism Part II

posted by Jack Kerwick

Recently, I wrote an article in which I contended that Barack Obama is a “Blackist,” an adherent of “Blackism.”  The latter, I explained, is an ideology.  As such, it differs in kind from both biology and what has been called “black culture.” 

Skin pigmentation is an accident of birth.  Culture, consisting as it does of a complex of traditions that are years and years in the making, is an acquisition.  Ideology, though, is the product of choice.  What this in turn means is that the Blackist is a fundamentally different sort of being than the person who happens to be black. 

It would be a mistake, though, to think that there is no relationship between the ideology of Blackism, on the one hand, and black culture and biology, on the other. 

A Blackist must be biologically black.  This is far from a sufficient condition for subscription to Blackism, but it is necessary. 

This is how the ideology in question is related to biology. 

It is related to black culture, however, in the way in which a grammar is related to the language to which it belongs. 

A language’s grammar consists of propositions embodying rules and/or principles.  The grammar is a truncated version—an extremely truncated version—of the language from which it is an abstraction.  What this in turn means is that the intricacies and nuances that distinguish the language as the language that it is, those of its particularities that have been shaped by all manner of contingencies, are inescapably lost in its grammar.

Similarly, Blackism is an abstraction—and a distortion—of black culture.

Now, that a grammar or an ideology distorts the language or culture from which it is derived is not itself a terrible thing—as long as this is recognized.  As long as we refuse to conflate the caricature with the person of whom it is the caricature, no harm is done.  In fact, the caricature may even draw our attention to features to which we may have otherwise remained oblivious. 

But the ideologue is not likely to grasp that it is a caricature with which he is dealing.  He is much more disposed to think that between one end of the ideology and the other, all that is worth knowing can be found.  Moreover, the ideologue is wont to put the cart before the horse: the ideology he will treat as a timeless Truth by which the temporary and topical are to be judged.

Yet it is the tradition, (the language, the culture, etc.) that comes first; the abridgement (the grammar, the ideology) follows.

Just as the rules of a grammar can be sandwiched between the covers of a textbook, accessible to anyone and everyone, a moral ideology too is designed to accommodate those who have not embarked upon the far more time consuming and formidable task of acquiring a genuine education in a moral tradition.  For example, the ideology of “natural rights” or “human rights” or whatever we are calling it these days is a small set of propositions that anyone can easily confine to memory.  Yet it is the distillation of a rich, centuries-old English political-moral tradition into which only a relatively small handful of the Earth’s inhabitants have been educated. 

The ideology of Blackism is a drastically oversimplified distillation of black culture.  The latter is a way of life.  The former consists of a few basic propositions.  Any black person is eligible to endorse Blackism.  Not every black person, though, has immersed him or herself in black culture.  Thus, Blackism provides a fast track for any black person in search of racial validation: all he or she has to do is affirm the tenets of the ideology and, presto, he or she is declared “authentically” Black!

There is no one for whom the ideology of Blackism is better suited than our President.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it is a contrivance for people just like him.  Black culture is as alien to Obama as it is to any white person.  In fact, Obama was further removed from black culture than many whites (like me) who were raised in predominantly black cities.  Obama, let us not forget, was reared by whites.  The vast majority of his friends growing up were white. Not only did he never attend a public school, he attended nothing but the most prestigious of private educational institutions—all of the way through law school. 

A correspondent leveled two criticisms against my analysis of Blackism and Obama’s allegiance to it. 

First, he thought it curious that I would feel the need to devise a new word—“Blackism”—to reference an old concept—“racial consciousness.”  After all, it is to black racial consciousness that I refer, correct? So why not just say so?

This objection misses the mark.

“Racial consciousness” is a term that means very little because it can mean so much.  In a multiracial world, it is impossible for anyone to literally be devoid of all racial awareness.  We learn about ourselves as much from who we are not as from who we are.  Thus, any black person, like every other person, has some “consciousness” of the race to which he or she belongs. 

Moreover, racial consciousness is one thing; racial absolutism is something else entirely.  The Blackist differs from the black person not in having a greater degree of race consciousness.  The difference between the Blackist and the black person is a difference in kind.  The Blackist is one for whom racial consciousness consumes every other conceivable sort of consciousness, if you will. More clearly, for the Blackist, the creed of Blackism trumps all other considerations. 

The term “racial consciousness” simply fails, and fails quite abysmally, to do justice to a reality that is significantly more complex that it would suggest. “Blackism,” in contrast, accommodates crucial metaphysical and moral distinctions that the vague “racial consciousness” never acknowledges.

My critic also objected to my description of Obama as a man who differs from Jesse Jackson, Louis Farakkhan, Al Sharpton, and Jeremiah Wright only stylistically—not substantively.  While Obama does indeed possess “racial consciousness,” he claimed, it is unfair to lump him into the same class with these other “race men.” 

I admit to being more than a bit stunned by this last.  Let’s think about this.

Like the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson, Obama too worked as a “community organizer” while living inChicago.  And like Sharpton’s and Jackson’s enterprises, Obama’s community organizing consisted of “organizing” blacks.  And like their enterprises, Obama’s required for its execution the routine employment of intimidation tactics that he brought to bear against banks and other businesses.

Obama, like the foregoing Blackists, never fails to affirm the cardinal tenet of Blackism: Every act and every utterance, whether overtly or covertly, must preserve and strengthen the narrative of perpetual White Oppression and Black Suffering.  Subscription to this tenet explains virtually everything that Obama has done since he has been President (to say nothing of what he has done prior to this juncture).  From Obamacare, his treatment of business, and his handling of the economy, to expressing solidarity with blacks regarding those racially-oriented incidences that never should have been national news to begin with, Obama has proven that he is bewitched by an ideology that insists upon rectifying, “by whichever means necessary,” the historic injustices that Whites have been forever inflicting upon Blacks.

But there is much more proof in the pudding for my contention that Obama is a Blackist, substantively indistinguishable from other nationally known Blackists.

Obama—once more, a man with no roots in black culture—entitled his first memoir: Dreams from My Father: A Story of RACE and Inheritance.  Obama’s is a story of a man on a quest for racial authenticity, i.e. Blackness.  From beginning to end, Dreams is chockfull of anecdotes of indignities and injustices that blacks—mostly in the person of Obama—have to live with on a daily basis. 

This in and of itself, I would think, would be sufficient to make my case. 

Yet there is one final consideration not to be overlooked.  Let us never forget that for over two decades, Obama belonged to Jeremiah Wright’s church, a church seeped in Black Liberation Theology.  He donated large sums of money to this church, and he had Wright baptize his children.  Obama referred to Wright as his “spiritual mentor.”  Wright is a man who is good friends with Louis Farakkhan.  He once endowed the latter with his “Lifetime Achievement Award.”  Though Wright considers himself Christian while Farakkhan regards himself as a Muslim, as far as their views on white/black relations are concerned, there are scarcely any differences. 

Now that Obama was as close to Wright—his pastor and “spiritual mentor,” mine you—as he was for all of that time renders inescapable the conclusion that he thinks along the same lines as the latter.  And, for that matter, he thinks not all that differently from Farakkhan when it comes to racially-centered topics. 

The charge that I am guilty of employing a disreputable “guilt-by-association” tactic against our President is easily met. 

Wright is a Blackist extraordinaire.  Obama sought him out and remained under his “spiritual” tutelage until it became politically inexpedient to any longer do so. Still, twenty years is a long time, and there can be no question that Wright—with his Black Liberation Theology—exerted a tremendous influence over Obama’s intellectual development.

Blackism is an ideology distinct from “black biology” and black culture.  And Obama is a Blackist. 

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Successes of Ron Paul’s Campaign

posted by Jack Kerwick

Ron Paul will not get his party’s presidential nomination.  This much is now for certain.  The prize will go to that candidate—Massachusettsliberal Mitt Romney—for whom the GOP leadership and its surrogates in the so-called “conservative” media have been rooting the entire time.

Yet it is doubtful that it is primarily the presidency on which Congressman Paul has had his sights.  Unlike his rivals, from the outset Paul has been interested first and foremost in gaining an ever broader hearing for his ideas.  While his supporters are doubtless disappointed that their man will not be President, they would be well served to consider that from Paul’s campaign, liberty lovers have reaped—and continue to reap—much fruit.

There is no shortage of politicians who do not pay lip service to the United States Constitution.  In fact, there are very few Americans, whether politicians or otherwise, who do not allude to the Constitution when it serves their purposes to do so.  But it is not at all difficult to recognize this rhetorical grandstanding for what it is.

In the case of Ron Paul, things are otherwise.  He is a rare find among contemporary national figures in that, whether one agrees with his reading of the Constitution or not, it is obvious to all that Paul has actually read this hallowed document.  Moreover, it is just as obvious that he actually believes in it. 

And this is what makes all of the difference.

The Constitution, with its innumerable “checks and balances” was intended to safeguard our liberty.  The Constitution codifies into law the decentralization of power and authority to which Americans had grown accustomed before America achieved its independence.

Of all of the presidential contestants, no one was more eligible to remind the American voter that the key to the liberty that we enjoy is the Constitution.  And no one was better positioned to call to their attention the state of neglect to which this hallowed document has been relegated by both major political parties.

This is one enormous benefit that we have gained from Paul’s campaign. 

Yet there are others.

The Texas Congressman is the incarnation of the Republican Party plank of “limited government,” “individual liberty,” “fiscal restraint,” “national security,” and all of the rest of the GOP boilerplate.  There is no one among his colleagues in this race who comes remotely as close as Paul to embodying these ideas.  In glaring contrast to his fellow Republicans, Paul talks the talk and walks the walk, and he does so even when he is not running for an election

In short, Paul’s very presence effortlessly exposes the inconsistencies and outright hypocrisies of his own party.

It isn’t just his fellow politicians, though, upon whom he sheds light. 

Self-styled “conservatives” in the so-called “alternative media” have labored long and hard crafting a particular image of themselves.  Paul’s candidacy has revealed that image for the house of straw that it is.

In other words, given their unconscionable treatment of Paul, talk radio hosts and Fox News personalities who have depicted themselves as “independent minded ‘conservatives’” and the like have betrayed their role as Republican Party chatter boxes.  The “conservative values” that they routinely espouse are a smokescreen under the cover of which they advance the GOP in its struggle to either regain or preserve its power.

This is quite an achievement in its own right. 

Faux conservatives are perhaps as large, if not larger, a threat to American liberty as are their leftist counterparts.  The reason for this is simple: the leftist has put us on notice as to who he is and what he plans to do.  The faux conservative, on the other hand, is no friend to Constitutional liberty, but he would have us believe that he is. 

It isn’t necessarily that the faux conservative sets out to deceive the rest of us as to his true intentions; chances are better than not that if he deceives anyone, it is himself.  Yet his true intentions aside, the fact of the matter remains that in effect, the faux conservative imperils liberty to at least as great an extent as does the leftist.

Paul’s campaign has heightened awareness of the dubious character of “the conservative media.”   

There is a third benefit to Paul’s campaign.      

Paul has made it clear that “the conservative movement” or the Republican Party or whatever name we choose to give it is not nearly as monolithic as its most visible and vocal champions would have us think.  Furthermore, Paul exposes the fissures with which it is riddled, for he gives expression to a “libertarian” strain that it has not yet succeeded in extracting from itself.

Fourthly, Paul has done something that no Republican since Reagan, if then, has managed to do: he has not only reached large numbers of American youth; he has energized them.  Few people, including Paul supporters, have grasped the significance of this.

The proponents of Big Government have to do very little to appeal to people—especially when those people are young people.  After all, the bigger the government, the more power its custodians possess to distribute goodies.  People of all ages find the promise of something for nothing difficult to resist.  Yet when those people are barely beyond adolescence, it becomes virtually impossible not to embrace it.  The old truism, “Nothing is free,” is a truism because it is, well, true.  But this is readily ignored. It is ignored because while present goodies do indeed come at a cost, when that cost is the gradual loss of something as intangible as freedom, the desire for immediate gratification is likely to prevail.  And considering that the time horizons of the young are far narrower than those of any other age set, it is almost a foregone conclusion that the young will not only welcome Big Government; they will assume that any political-moral philosophy that denies Big Government is impoverished.

It is almost a foregone conclusion that the young will embrace Big Government. 

Ron Paul’s campaign has shown what can happen when someone who truly believes in and understands liberty takes the time to explain it to the young.  This is no mean feat.  Paul does not draw youthful voters to his campaign by promising to pay for their medical insurance or their college tuition.  He does not pledge to extend their unemployment benefits, and the assertions of his critics to the contrary notwithstanding, nor does he attract them by promising to legalize drugs. 

Through a style all his own, Paul wins over young adults by doing nothing more or less than treat them as adults. 

And this means simply and solely that he commits to allowing them to live as free men and women. 

The verdict is clear: Ron Paul has executed what may perhaps be among the most successful campaigns of all time.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American 

 

 

Obama and the Ideology of Blackism

posted by Jack Kerwick

Barack Obama’s election to the presidency was supposed to usher in a “post-racial” era in American life.  This, at any rate, is what the former Senator and his supporters in the media tried to sell us. 

It was nothing short of a lie.

The President never had the slightest intention of using the visibility of his office to improve race relations between whites and blacks.  Moreover, if an improvement in race relations is what we were after, then there couldn’t have been a worse person for us to have elected than Obama.

The reason for this is simpler than one may think: Obama is a “Blackist,” an adherent of “Blackism.”

Blackism is a racial ideology.  In this respect, it is differs sharply from black culture. It also has little to do with mere skin color, biology, or genetics.

Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, a black right leaning commentator, once told Sean Hannity in no uncertain terms that there are absolutely no substantive differences whatsoever between Obama, on the one hand, and such notorious race baiters as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and Jeremiah Wright, on the other.  They are all of one mind when it comes to their view of “white America” and the place of blacks within it.  More specifically, they regard America as a bastion of “white racist oppression” and perpetual black suffering. Their commitment, first and foremost, is to extracting reparations of one form or another from whites to give to blacks.

Peterson was correct.  Obama’s ever growing list of alliances and appointees—from Wright, Farakhan, and Harvard professor Derrek Bell, to Van Jones and Attorney General Eric Holder—reads like a rogue’s gallery of white America’s enemies. 

And it is hostility toward whites that we should expect from any proponent of Blackism.

An ideology invariably consists in a small number of abstract concepts systematically linked. Through these few ideas, the ideologue filters every conceivable aspect of reality.  An ideology isn’t just a theory, mind you. Theories spring from consideration of this or that subject matter.  Ideologies, in contrast, are comprehensive.  The ideologue lives by his ideology alone.  There is nothing to which he will not bring it to bear.

Now, Blackism is an ideology.  The Blackist sees the entire world, from “the beginning,” so to speak, to the present, in terms of racial categories, yes, but, more importantly, from the perspective of black deprivation.  Race is the organizing principle of his schemata, but “Blackness” is the category to which he ascribes most significance; all others are subordinated to it.

Yet we would be gravely mistaken if we assumed that it is with mere color that the Blackist is preoccupied.  Not unlike any other concept, that of Blackness is not self-interpreting.  For the Blackist, membership in the Negroid race is a necessary condition of Blackness, though it is far from sufficient.  Blackness signifies commitment to the advancement—“by whichever means necessary,” as the Blackist par excellence, Malcolm X, famously stated it—of the ideology of Blackism. 

In his book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Obama references Malcolm X numerous times.  There is no person who appears to have more influenced his thinking. 

Again, the ideology of Blackism is not to be confused with black culture.  This, though, isn’t to suggest that there is no relationship between the two.  There is: the former is a caricature or abridgment of the latter.  That is, like any other ideology, the ideology of Blackism is an abstraction from a complex, concrete, historically-specific tradition.  In this case, the tradition in question is that of what we call black culture.

Blackism, like any other ideology, supplies for its adherents a method, a relatively few basic principles or rules to which any black person living in any place and at any time can subscribe.  To put it more clearly, unlike so-called black culture, Blackism doesn’t require immersion in a traditional form of life.  Fluency in a culture is like fluency in a language; it is a hard won achievement that can be had only after much practice and over an extended period of time.  Mastery of an ideology, in glaring contrast, is something that can be gotten within no time, for the rules or principles of an ideology are propositions that readily lend themselves to memory. 

The difference between learning a culture and learning the ideology that is abstracted from it is the difference between, say, devoting time to the study of a literary classic, on the one hand, and, on the other, reading the cliff notes on it.  The difference between culture and ideology is the difference between a living faith and a static creed. 

Those who have mastered a tradition engage in it effortlessly.  Whether it is dancing, a martial art, or cooking, the professional dancer, the martial artist, and the chef seem to ply their respective crafts with all of the unselfconsciousness of a bird in flight.

Things are otherwise, however, with those who aspire toward a connoisseurship in these areas (or any areas).  The aspiring chef relies upon a cookbook (his “ideology”) and the aspiring martial artist and dancer too may very well consult books delineating “step-by-step” lessons accompanied by photos and illustrations. 

The cooking student is to the chef what the Blackist is to the black person who was reared in black culture. The cookbook was written for the amateur cook; the chef has no need of it.  Similarly, the ideology of Blackism was written for those blacks, and only those blacks, for whom black culture is an alien entity. 

Blacks like Barack Obama are most in need of Blackism.  Obama was raised by whites a world away from America’s ghettos.  Most of his friends growing up were his white classmates from the prestigious, private institutions that he attended.

The ideology of Blackism was made for people like the President. And he has unapologetically embraced it.

Obama may be only half-black.  But he is 100% Blackist.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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