Saturday, May 21, 2016

What Students Should Know About Totalitarianism

Alice C. Linsley

A totalitarian government is a single-party dictatorship that controls all aspects of public and private life. Citizens do not enjoy rights such as freedom of expression or the right to assemble. Totalitarian governments silence critics who speak against the government's policies in public or on the internet. Residents are subject to censorship and arrest, and the media is state controlled.

Totalitarian governments occur where an individual or small group of individuals take power and implement policies designed to enhance their power. Such leaders are usually called "dictators" though some have been called Pharaohs, Emperors or Kings.

Dictators enforce their will by decree or by passing legislation that makes it possible for the leader to be the absolute ruler of a sovereign state; to govern outside the accepted rule of law, and to maintain or increase power through developing a cult of personality.

Totalitarian leaders in history include Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, and Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Stalin gained control of the Soviet Union in 1924, and forced millions of peasants to relinquish their land and work on large, government-run farms. He is responsible for the death of millions of Russians who refused his effort to collectivize. 

Benito Mussolini 

On 28 October 1922, King Vittorio Emanuele's appointed Benito Mussolini as prime minister of Italy. Mussolini needed to convince the people that fascism would work to their benefit. The word was spread that Mussolini had turned the dilapidated Italian rail system into a dependable mode of transportation. It was said that in Mussolini's Italy, all the trains ran on, but the many Italians who depended on the trains knew otherwise.

Hitler gained control of the nationalistic, anti-communist Nazi Party in the 1920s and established perhaps the most notorious regime in modern history. The Nazi ideology viewed Jews as a political and economy disease to be eradicated. The ideology also opposed Christianity. Efforts were made to limit the influence of Christianity on the German people, since, in the words of Martin Bormann to Alfred Rosenberg in an official letter, "the Christian religion and National Socialist doctrines are not compatible."

Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was characterized by corruption, rape, censorship, torture and terror tactics. Human rights organizations reported hundreds of thousands of civilian executions during Hussein’s reign.

Kim Il-sung ruled North Korea from 1948 until 1994. The leadership then passed to his son, Kim Jong-il, and then in 2011 to his grandson, Kim Jong-un. Human rights organizations report systematic abuses including torture, religious persecution, slave labor, infanticide, and public executions.

Hitler Youth 1933
Indoctrination of the Youth

A prime directive of totalitarian governments is the indoctrination of the youth. As Lenin said, "The best revolutionary is a youth devoid of morals." He insisted, "Give us the child for 8 years and it will be a Bolshevik forever."

On July 4, 1926 at a Nazi rally the German Youth Movement was renamed as the Hitlerjugend, Hilter Youth. The Hitler Youth were regarded as the Aryan hope for a glorious future and were indoctrinated as fighters Nazi Germany.

Totalitarian Versus Authoritarian: A matter of degree

Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976) was the founder of the People's Republic of China. He tolerated no resistance to his Communist system. His government was extremely thorough in its Communist propaganda and indoctrination of young people. He portrayed himself as the benevolent leader who would make China great. However, his "Great Leap Forward" proved disastrous for the Chinese people. 

On June 4, 1989, Chinese troops and security police fired on students who had gathered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to call for greater democracy. Hundreds of students were killed and at least 10,000 people were arrested. This tragedy gained much world attention and other nations pressured China's leaders to grant greater liberty to their citizens.

Since China became more open to the West and to other Asian nations, it has eased some of the restrictions that were initiated by the Communist Revolution. Today China is more accurately described as an "authoritarian" state, as it does allow its citizens some personal freedoms and absolute power no longer rests with a single individual.

However, government policies are still strictly enforced and political dissidents continue to face imprisonment and censorship. There has been resistance to the government's limit on the number of children a couple can have, and the restriction of religion. To protest the lack of religious freedom, at least 122 Tibetan monks, nuns and civilians have committed self-immolation between 2009 and 2013. During the same period, at least 53 Chinese killed themselves by the same means to protest the government’s demolition of their homes.

For American foreign policy the distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian is significant. If faced with only these options, the United States should support an authoritarian government over a totalitarian government. This is what Jeane Kirkpatrick argued during the Carter Administration. The US often is faced with the choice to either back an authoritarian regime, or destabilize it, giving opportunity for the rise of totalitarianism. Kirkpatrick's distinction between authoritarianism and totalitarianism was a good one. However, she did not foresee the global thrust of Islamic extremism which is ready to fill every political vacuum. Destabilization has proved to benefit movements like ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Vulnerability and Human Dependency

Are vulnerabilities desirable, even necessary, to our moral identity as humans?

There has been growing interest among ethicists in the theme of vulnerability. Some have gone as far as to suggest that vulnerability could serve as a new principle in bioethics. In a recent edition of the journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, a number of leading bioethicists explored the topic of ‘human vulnerability in medical contexts’. This recent journal edition – a first among any of the leading bioethics journals –provides significant insight into the notion of vulnerability and its relevance to contemporary clinical practice. Xavier Symons, the deputy editor of Bioedge, recently spoke with guest editor Stephen Matthews about the key themes discussed.

Stephen Matthews is a senior research fellow at the Plunkett Centre for Ethics and a member of the Centre for Moral Philosophy and Applied Ethics at Australian Catholic University. Steve co-edited the special edition with Bernadette Tobin, Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics.


Xavier Symons: You contend that vulnerability need not always be seen as “an obstacle or pathology to be removed”. Do you think this idea is relevant to the treatment vs. enhancement distinction in medicine?

Steve Matthews: Yes, it’s absolutely relevant. An implicit assumption of those whose moral position is quite permissive of the technologies of human enhancement is a kind of perfectionism, or at least a maximising kind of attitude that can tend to swamp moral contemplation regarding vulnerable traits, the possession of which is not undesirable.

This is the idea expressed in John Quilter’s very thoughtful piece, and I take it that something like this is being expressed for the medical context in the article by Wendy Rogers and Mary Walker.

Actually there is a background fundamental question to all of this and it’s about whether certain vulnerable traits we have as subjects are desirable to our moral identities as human beings. If we think there are such traits, this would inform the treatment vs enhancement question from the outset. It may be that we possess such traits and we should be concerned not to enhance ourselves to eliminate them. It may be, also, that we should not be jumping in to treatment occasioned by the slightest deviation from the path of a happy life.

Read it all here: Vulnerability in medical contexts: An interview with Steve Matthews

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Calling Out Jonathan Rauch

Alice C. Linsley

Gay activist Jonathan Charles Rauch describes himself as "an unrepentantly atheistic Jewish homosexual" which is to say that he has completely rejected the traditional wisdom of his ancestors.

Jonathan Rauch is so lacking in critical thinking skills as to be dangerous. Rauch’s “Case for Gay Marriage” is full of fallacious arguments, as I have demonstrated to my Ethics students.

J. Rauch’s First Premise:

Marriage is necessary to providing reliable caregivers. 

This assumption is not true. It is, in fact, verifiable false since we are able to observe that reliable caregivers exist who are not married to the people to whom they provide care. In fact, some paid caregivers are superior in their reliability than some spouses.

Second Premise:

Marriage is necessary to tame men. 

This assumption is hypothetical and unverifiable. The term "tame" has not been defined. Does it mean to make men more effeminate? Does it mean they learn to cook and clean? Does it mean that the responsibilities of marriage tend to mature a man? Why should this apply to men only? Are all unmarried men untamed? Are all married men tamed?


Therefore, marriage is equally necessary for heterosexual and homosexual couples. 

His conclusion is not valid. Rauch’s premises are not verifiably true, so this is not a sound argument.

Further, his conclusion does not logically follow from his premises, so this argument is not valid. Lacking true premises and a valid conclusion, Rauch’s argument is said to be “fallacious” or logically false. Time to call him out on his poor reasoning!

Rauch is a product of a society that is not able to discern legitimate expertise from popular pulp and:
Has lost the ability to use the library.
Fails to define terms and intentionally abuses language, making words mean whatever one wants them to mean.
Irresponsibly prolongs intellectual childhood to justify teaching less in more subjects.
Confuses fact and opinion, or the proven and the plausible, in the media and in public discourse.
Uses sophistry in public debate, rather than logical rhetoric.
A government that addresses mostly irrelevant matters to form public policy based on "diversity" and assertion of rights.
Has become so specialized that Americans are unable to make connections between the disciplines or integrate learning, which is a mark of true education.
Has produced thinkers who fail to adhere to the basic principles of logic, thus presenting speculation as facts.

 Related reading:  The Moral Revolutionaries Present Their Demands: Unconditional Surrender; Why Many People Are Resorting to Anger in Debates

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Barth's Critique of Religion of "Good People"

In the midst of the carnage of the first world war in Germany, the great Protestant theologian argued that Christianity involves more than inner morality and being a ‘good person’

By Giles Frazer

It will be a century this coming summer that the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth began his revolutionary commentary on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. A quiet and studious man of simple tastes, Barth was an unlikely revolutionary. He listened to Mozart, smoked his pipe and read the paper: “Theology is done with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other,” he said. But mostly he sat and wrote. His Church Dogmatics is more than six million words. And no, I haven’t read it all. But his considerably shorter Epistle to the Romans, written earlier, was the decisive turning point in 20th-century theology. It was a book that dropped a bomb on the comfortable assumptions of German liberal thought. And it’s a bomb that needs dropping again – but this time much closer to home.

Barth’s target was the sort of theology offered by his tutor, Adolf von Harnack. For the universally admired Harnack, Christianity was a religion of inner morality – of good people, in their local congregations, who sought nothing more than personal transformation. They respected the state and didn’t cause trouble. It was, to use the language familiar today, religion as a private matter, equally suspicious of outward forms of ritualism and popular superstition. Cultured and rational, it stayed out of party politics and set its mind on higher things. For Harnack, Christianity was fundamentally a religion of individual righteousness.

On the day war was declared between Britain and Germany, the Kaiser gave a speech to the assembled members of the Reichstag in which he made the moral case for Germany going to war. The speech was partly written by Harnack. Two months later, an open letter by 93 German intellectuals – 11 of whom, including the great theoretical physicist Max Planck, went on to be Nobel prize winners – made the same case. The war was a sacred mission. It was a question of survival for a superior culture that had given the world Goethe, Beethoven and Kant. Harnack’s name was among the 93 signatories.

And Barth's world was in tatters.

Read it all here.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Big Mouth Candidates and Free Speech

Having the freedom to express one's views in public does not mean that we should always do so, and certainly not in a manner that incites people to act in ways that may cause injury to others. Such behavior, regardless of who is doing it, should disqualify a person from holding the highest office in the land.

“Intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”--Alexander Solzhenitsyn

“Cruz, Rubio and Kasich criticize Trump for creating ‘environment’ for Chicago protest,” by David Weigel, Washington Post, March 11, 2016:
…Rubio, who is camped out in his home state in advance of the March 15 primary, told Megyn Kelly of Fox News that Trump was finding out that his “words have real consequences.” But roughly half of Rubio’s analysis was a criticism of the political left. After stating his appreciation for Chicago’s police, Rubio said that the protests needed to be put in contest.
“This is Chicago, protesters are an industry,” he said. “It is clear, just from watching some of these images, that this was an organized effort, an orchestrated effort, from groups that wanted to disrupt this event, and Chicago is a hub for that sort of activity. I would also say that people have a right, whether you disagree with someone or what he’s about to say – and I certainly disagree with Donald Trump on many things, it’s why I’m running against him for president – you don’t have a right to take away the First Amendment right of people to speak freely. I think you’ve seen some of this on college campuses recently. There was an article, not long ago I think, that [conservative commentator] Ben Shapiro tried to speak on a campus, and they basically shut him down. So I think this is crossing over into the broader society, and it’s problematic.”

About our free speech event in Garland, Texas last May, which was intended to be a stand for free speech against violent intimidation, Donald Trump said:

I watched Pam earlier, and it really looks like she’s just taunting everybody. What is she doing drawing Muhammad? I mean it’s disgusting. Isn’t there something else they could be doing? Drawing Muhammad?…They can’t do something else? They have to be in the middle of Texas doing something on Muhammad and insulting everybody? What is she doing? Why is she doing it? It’s probably very risky for her — I don’t know, maybe she likes risk? But what the hell is she doing?”

And now, after Leftist fascist thugs forcibly shut down one of Trump's events in Chicago, Trump’s Republican opponents, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich, are effectively saying, Well, he had it coming, he brought it on himself, just as Trump did of Pamela Geller after Garland.

Is there no candidate who understands the importance of the freedom of speech? Rubio comes closest to articulating it below, but then shows he doesn’t understand it himself. He says: “Whether you disagree with someone or what he’s about to say…you don’t have a right to take away the First Amendment right of people to speak freely.” But then he says, “I think he bears some responsibility for the general tone.”

So the thugs shut down the Trump rally, and it is at least partially Trump’s fault, because he told people (obviously facetiously) to beat up people who were trying to disrupt his events.

Read it all here.

Related reading: Why Many People are Resorting to Anger in Debates


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Thailand Holds 100 for Human Trafficking

Thailand is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. It is a destination-side hub of exploitation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, for both sex and labor exploitation.
Fish for sale in Thailand market

Thai police said Monday over 100 people have been arrested in a crackdown on human trafficking since the European Union threatened to boycott the country’s multi-billion dollar fishing industry over the issue.

The EU hit Thailand with a “yellow card” warning last April, threatening to ban all seafood exports unless the military government tackled rampant illegal fishing and labour abuses among its fleets.

A delegation from Brussels visited the kingdom last month to assess progress but did not say when it would reach a decision on the boycott, which could cost Thailand $1 billion annually.

Thailand is the world’s third largest exporter of seafood – a status that rights groups say is achieved through overfishing, and a reliance on low-paid trafficked workers from neighbouring countries, such as Myanmar and Cambodia.

It is desperate to avoid any costly sanctions on the fishing sector.

A spokesman for the Thai embassy in Brussels told EurActiv that Thailand was “committed to combat illegal fishing and to preserve the marine resources for our future generations”, pointing out that Thai authorities have now inspected some 8,398 fishing vessels operating in Thai waters, and that nearly 94% of fishing vessels have now installed a “Vessel Monitoring System.”

The Thai cabinet has also approved measures to ensure the legal minimum age for working in the industry is 18, and promised to expedite the judicial process for human trafficking cases, he said.

Read it all here.

Related reading: EU to decide on Thai seafood ban; EU Team Visits Thailand to Assess Fishing Industry Cleanup

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rapes in Finland Cause National Outrage

Tapanila railway station appeared quiet and chilly on Monday evening. A few people ran for the train heading towards the Helsinki centre. In front of the station, an elderly woman strolled the street with an aid of a walker.

Just a week earlier a crude act of violence shocked this suburb lying on the outskirts of Helsinki when near the station, on March 9, a young woman was raped.

The news caused an outrage on the internet and in the streets, especially, after the ethnic background of the suspects was revealed.

The young woman had stepped in a local train at the Tikkurila station at 21:10. She had only two stops to get home but it took only a few minutes for a group of five boys of Somali heritage in the age of 15-18 to summon and starting to harass her.

After five minutes, she left the train in Tapanila in her home neighbourhood, a park like residential area dominated with detached, terraced and apartment houses. It was a possible exit to the hellish situation she had unknowingly stepped into.

She lived within a walking distance from the station. But the group of boys decided continue to follow her, and after the train station, in an outdoor recreation area, they raped her.

What the boys didn’t know, was that they were followed and they were quickly caught by the police.

The boys were taken into custody for interrogations. On Friday, they were jailed as suspects of committing aggravated rape.

Read it all here.

In this case the police caught the rapists, but they failed to prevent or stop the crime. National outrage at the uptick in rapes by immigrants has led to the formation of vigilante groups such as the “Soldiers of Odin”. The group has taken to the streets to protect citizens against the invasion of Muslim refugees. The group was founded last year at Kemi, a border town in Finland which is an entry point for migrants. The group has now branched out into other parts of Finland with about 500 members across the country.

They formed this group because they feel the police are failing in their duties, so they stepped up to the plate to serve as eyes and ears. Finnish police files reveal that cases of sexual harassment has doubled in four months; however, police reports do not include ethnic descriptions of the perpetrators. It is important to note that Finland received about 32,000 new asylum seekers last year.

Related reading: Finland: Asylum Seekers will Work for Free