Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Chad's Warrior President Has Died in Battle

Chad's President Idriss Déby had died. He was a staunch warrior against Islamic extremists an in Chad and incooperation with neighboring Niger. On March 8, 2015, Chad and Niger announced a joint campaign against Boko Haram.

Déby was in power for three decades and was one of Africa's longest-serving leaders. He was age 68 at his death. Déby died on the battlefield.

Read more here and here.

Related reading: Boko Haram Terrorism Spreads

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Etiology of the Cancel Culture


Alice C. Linsley

The anthropologist Loren Eiseley wrote about the cancel culture well before the term became popular. The tendency to erase history or efface time has been termed damnatio memoriae. In his 1970 book The Invisible Pyramid, Eiseley explains that this "is frequently done for obscure or depraved reasons." He writes:

Public monuments are effaced,, names destroyed, histories rewritten. Sometime to achieve these ends a whole intellectual elite may be slaughtered in order that the peasantry can be deliberatly caused to forget its past. The erasure of history plays a formidable role in human experience. It extends from the smashing of the first commemorative monuments right down to the creation of the communist "non-person" of today. (The Invisible Pyramid, pp.100-101)

Eiseley writes of times when people grow tired of history and because they cannot remake it, they seek to destroy it. The marks of such times are social disruption and intolerance, what Rocco Buttiglione terms "moral amputation."

G. K. Chesterton observed, "It is the fashion to talk of institutions as cold and cramping things. The truth is that when people are in exceptionally high spirits, really wild with freedom and invention, they always must, and they always do, create institutions. When men are weary they fall into anarchy..." (Manalive, Chapter 3)

Canceling the past involves a hatred of Tradition and attacks on institutions that preserve Tradition. These include museums, churches, and World Heritage sites. In 2016, Islamic iconoclasts blew up a 3,000-year temple at Nimrud in northern Iraq. In Nicaragua, Leftists are burning churches and attacking priests and nuns. The Puritan Oliver Cromwell attempted to erase England's religious history by destroying images and sacred objects in the churches. 

Iconoclasm can be an act of restless rebellion, or religious fanaticism, or anarchy. It can come from the Left and the Right. Effacing history may take the form of a rioting mob or an academic who projects Western civilization as so corrupt that his students feel justified to denounce it. The academic Michel Foucault attempted even to cancel Man.

Canceling the past denies a voice to the ancestors and expresses disdain for the dead. As Chesterton noted, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” (Orthodoxy, Chapter 4)

The effacers of history have shown themsleves to be self-indulgent and reckless. The Antifa agitators demonstrated in recent months that they do not care that innocent people are injured and private property destroyed or damaged. It was reported that some Muslims in New York applauded as they watched the Twin Towers collapse. Some of the most prominent leftists of the 1960s and 70s were exposed as self-indulgent hedonists in Christopher Lasch's The Culture of Narcissism. Lasch "understood that what presented itself in the lineaments of radical consciousness-raising in the 1960s and 1970s was mostly a blind for moralistic self-indulgence."

Loren Eiseley speaks of the time effacers in Western culture as "broken men" who "engage in an orgiastic and undiscriminating embrace of the episodic moment..." (The Invisible Pyramid, p. 111).

Related reading: When a Riot Becomes a Revolution; On Trusting the Elites; Another Look at Michel Foucault; Liberty and Justice Cancelled

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Twitter's Censorship of Trump


Alice C. Linsley

President Trump's Twitter account was closed permanently. I believe that Twitter made the right decision and should have shut down the account sooner. President Trump’s followers are a diverse group. Unfortunately, some resemble cult members in their behavior.

Trump supporters fear that their hero will be silenced by all the social media platforms. This is naive. The platforms thrive on celebrities and often give them a pass when they violate community standards. Mr. Trump lost his privileges at Twitter, but we will hear from him again.

It is evident that the former president vilified the Media and made enemies there. Political rhetoric has consequences. History reminds us that other charismatic figures of the past have levered themselves to positions of power by making scapegoats, among them Jews, the Media, and middle class white men.

Calling a rally on the day the electoral votes were to be counted and accepted was unwise. It seems President Trump hoped to show Congress that he has loyal supporters. Did he believe that the allegedly fraudulent votes could be thrown out, leaving him the winner?  

Some Trump followers invaded the Capitol while deliberations were in progress. There were five more states to consider.

Did his tweets and his speech incite violence? It appears they did, but the impact was that of a slow train gaining speed over the past four years. The POTUS is a powerful figure. When events get out of control and threaten lives, property, and the Constitution the censorship of inflammatory political rhetoric is reasonable.

Twitter permitted POTUS to tweet things that went against community standards. They gave him a great deal of leeway over these four years. They should apply their community standards equally to all people. You might call this "censorship" but holding people to high standards of communication is a good thing.

Community standards should be applied equally. Celebs included. Why do some people get a pass? It appears that the more famous you are, the less likely you are to be censored. 

President Trump's tweets were lightning rods that drew criticism from his opponenets on the Left. The closing of his Twitter account exposed their hypocrisy. They oppose censorship, yet they resort to it when threatened. The same can be said of opposition on the Right. Nobody wins the news slinging contest. 

Twitter is a private business and can ban anyone. Bakers legally can refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple on grounds of their religious convictions. Roman Catholic institutions can refuse to provide health insurance covering birth control and abortion. Gay couples are not silenced by the refusal of the bakers. They still can "marry" and enjoy their cake from another bakery. A Catholic can buy birth control and get an abortion by other means. Twitter has not violated President Trump's First Amendment right. He no longer has a voice on the Twitter platform, but he has options, as we all do.

Now, if every platform is closed to him, Trump has grounds for a big lawsuit. But why would all the platforms shut him out? Shutting out President Trump means loss of income and benefits reaped from his celebrity.

So the issue is not censorship which takes place every day at multiple levels. Some Facebook friends don't like what I post and they "unfriend" me. Fox, CNN, MSNBC screen and edit new stories to fit their bias. It is no surprise that the average American wonders what to believe and distrusts Big Tech.

I have managed seven Google blogs for over thirteen years and I never have had anything censored by Google, and believe me, I have posted many politically sensitive articles.The one time a blog post was censored (at Christian Women in Science) it was because someone claimed that the post went against community standards. I appealed and Facebook reserved the decision. The educational site Christian Women in Science was cleared of the malicious claim. There are ways to say things that are acceptable. President Trump often failed to measure his words and consider how his angry tweets might influence his supporters.

I use social media extensively. I try to use it constructively, respectfully, and responsibly. How has President Trump used it? Being POTUS, he was allowed to tweet comments that would have been censored were they posted by ordinary citizens.

The best way to keep speech free is to speak more often and to express a range of views. That is a reason to blog, write for publication, discuss these matters on social media, and use every available venue for expression. In the end, free speech is hard work and requires being an adult.

Related reading: The Ethics of BloggingArguing About Social Concerns; Giant Tech Faces Antitrust Hearings; Regulation of Big Tech; Social Media Bots and Political Propaganda; The Media Stokes Anger and Radicalization; Trapped in a Web of Punditry; Political Debate and Search Engine Politics

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Overcoming White, Jewish, and Hungarian Privilege


Alice C. Linsley

At times and in places black and Hispanic Americans have been greatly inconvenienced. They have had to deal with discriminatory practices and abuses that "white" Americans have not. This is called "white privilege" but it isn't about race as much as it is about abuse motivated by fear of the unknown and self-serving attitudes. 

Palestinians experience great inconvenience when they try to take their children to school and have to cross Jewish checkpoints where they are often held up for hours. Should we call this "Jewish privilege"?

Muslims trying to immigrate to parts of Europe can't go through Hungary. This is a great inconvenience to them. Do we call that "Hungarian privilege"?

People who discriminate are motivated by many factors: fear, personal and familial histories, culture, economic forces, and socio-political trends.

Early exposure to people of other ethnic groups has a tremendous impact a person's perspective. Parents should introduce their young children to people, customs, and beliefs that are different from their own.

As I young child my parents provided many such experiences and these formed my love of Humanity in all its diversity. At age 9, I visited a remote village in the mountains of Luzon where we were greeted by the chief of the headhunters. The outskirts of the village were circled by shrunken heads on stakes.

In India, I saw extreme poverty, leprousy, ornate palaces, and Hindu temples. I saw the faces of hungry children as they pressed against the windows of our passing car. 

In Thailand, I ate unfamiliar foods and observed the Buddhist monks in their saffron robes enter the gilded temples. I heard the temple bells and smelled the incense as it was carried on the breeze.

Experiences like these made me who I am, and laid the groundwork for my research in anthropology. I realize that most parents cannot take their children to far-away places. However, they can expose them to diverse peoples where they live. Perhaps a neighbor is from Iran. Reach out to that person to learn about their culture. It takes effort, but the child will become a better citizen of the local community and of the world. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Arguing About Social Concerns

In a nation as polarized as the United States of America it is difficult to discuss social concerns in a rational way. This undermines democracy, and causes us to forget that as a nation of diverse peoples, we hold many essential things in common.

This article is not for ideologues and political fanatics. It is for people who genuinely want to discuss social concerns to become better informed. If you are driven to promote your political party, favorite candidate, single issue, or ideology, stop reading now.

To those who think ethically about social engagements, read on!

During the recent election, I sat with my family to watch the returns and projections on Fox News, CNN, and Bloomburg. My family members were fairly evenly divided. Some voted for Trump and some voted for Biden. That night we had an beneficial conversation about politics and our hopes for the future of the nation. The first rule of our family conversation is to respect disagreement. The second rule is to ask questions in a non-confrontational manner. Why do you believe that? What do you think is at stake for you? Questions like these help us to gain a better understanding of the concerns of the other person.

These days, social conversations are like cutting through thick brush to reach a sunlit clearing with open sky overhead. We have to navigate through gaslighting, misinformation, and heated rhetoric. We face shifting lines as news sources that have been considered reliable in the past are increasingly politicized. In other words, getting at the facts is hard work. Read and consider all sources with equal skepticism. Don't rely on official fact-checking. Check the facts for yourself.

Poorly informed people who cannot address the substance of an argument often resort to in-explicit language and obscurantism. If you are unable to understand what someone is saying, this may be the reason. Asking the person non-confrontational questions can help them to consider the topic on a deeper level.

In politics, obsurantism or the refusal to address issues of concern to the general public may be due to a hidden agenda. In this case, attempts to draw out pertinent information by asking questions usually does not work. A better approach is to research the political figure's past voting record.

In social media, the humble poorly informed tend to remain silent, and the arrogant tend to resort to ad hominem. Discern the difference. Engage the humble and ignore the arrogant. Respect traditional wisdom and community knowledge, but remember that the unconventional thinker may offer something of value. 

Social media platforms are mainly used to interact with family and friends. Many do not regard social media as a serious venue for social conversation, but it can be. This medium has great potential for sharing informed positions in a non-confrontational way. Consider social media a tool that should be used ethically.

Always consider your motivation when engaging others on social issues. Self-awareness is important for measuring your sensitivity to how issues are presented and discussed. Avoid presenting opinions as fact, and be respectful of all opinions. However, do not hesitate to present facts with reliable links. Social engagement should be viewed as an opportunity to learn and to share learning.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Questioning Aristotle on Democracy


Alice C. Linsley

A proper understanding of Aristotle's view of democracy requires recognizing his assertion that the Polis, or city-state, is prior to family and the individual. He sees this as a natural development along with nature's endowment of humans with speech and the ability to articulate moral concepts such as justice. As human beings are by nature political animals, we seek positions of power from which we can shape our communities.

The ideal of democracy is that we should be fair in the exercise of power. Yet "democracy" is elusive. No political system exists that is entirely fair. Further, the democracies of the world do not share a common political system.

This leads to another of Aristotle's questions: Does "democratic behavior" refer to actions that are pleasing to world democracies, or to actions that preserve world democracies?

If democratic behavior refers to actions that are pleasing to world democracies, some common substance must be universal to the ideal. What is that common substance? Is it that all are equal before the law? Sadly, that often is not the case in the best political environments. Is it that each citizen's vote counts for something? Unfortunately, sometimes those who scream the loudest about democracy manipulate voting. Perhaps the ideal of democracy is a nose ring by which the citizenry is yanked about?

Given Aristotle's view of government and human nature, it is likely that "democratic behavior" refers to actions that preserve the state. By this definition, insurrections and revolutions pose a grave threat to democracy. Too often they lead to unchecked power by those who take control. Congress is a community of communities, each working to tilt the balance in their favor. Winning the votes, passing the pork bill, getting the dirt on one's opponent - these non-democratic behaviors break bonds of friendship.

True democracy entails power sharing, conscientious public service, and mutual respect. These are fundamental. For Aristotle, the polis is held together by friendship. He regarded men with many friendships as good men. Today friendship in Washington is less important than politically advantageous alliances, and sharing power is rare because there is no trust between the parties.

Beyond these democratic behaviors, there is the necessity of a common vision of a good society. As we near the November 2020 presidential election it is clear that the Democratic and Republican parties have very different notions of what makes a society good. 

Related reading: Thoughts on Democracy; What Makes a Good Society?; When a Riot Becomes a Revolution

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Thoughts on Democracy


This is the first principle of democracy: that the essential things in men are the things they hold in common, not the things they hold separately. And the second principle is merely this: that the political instinct or desire is one of these things which they hold in common. Falling in love is more poetical than dropping into poetry. The democratic contention is that government ... is a thing like falling in love, and not a thing like dropping into poetry. It is not something analogous to playing the church organ, painting on vellum,..., being Astronomer Royal, and so on. For these things we do not wish a man to do at all unless he does them well. It is, on the contrary, a thing analogous to writing one's own love-letters or blowing one's own nose. These things we want a man to do for himself, even if he does them badly. .... In short, the democratic faith is this: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves--the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state. This is democracy; and in this I have always believed. ”

― G.K. Chesterton

I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they are not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a henroost, much less a nation. Nor do most people - all the people who believe advertisements, and think in catchwords and spread rumors. The real reason for democracy is just the reserve. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows...."

― C.S. Lewis

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is a force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."

― George Washington