Technology and Friendship

It is obvious that technology has mightily facilitated communication between people.  Owing to the marvelous technological developments that have taken place, we are doing what was all but inconceivable a mere 25 years ago in terms of communicating with folks.  But are friendships better today than friendships were 25 years ago?  In the opposite direction, it is far from obvious that an affirmative answer is ever so appropriate to the question just asked.

As Aristotle understood companion friendship, individuals who are companion friends spend a tremendous amount of time together; and it is precisely because they spend a tremendous amount of time together that the companion friends come to have a tremendous sense of each other’s character.  Aristotle correctly grasped that no story can take the place of friends actually witnessing one another’s behavior.  For Aristotle, this meant that companion friends spend a lot of time in one another’s company.  Alas, the telephone has made it possible for there to be tremendous communication between individuals even though they are not in one another’s physical presence, where the communication includes not just the words that each person utters to the other but also the tonality and hesitations and the quality of an utterance.  For instance, an utterance can come across as extremely sincere or something that a person was very reluctant to say or as an instance of tremendous joy.  And so on.  This is especially so with companion friends talking to one another, since there is a tremendous bond between them.

Now, as we all know, texting is one of the great technological advancements.  There can no doubt about it: Texting is a quite wonderful way for two individuals to communicate with one another without either individual disturbing anyone around her or him.  Without a doubt, the benefits of texting are enormous.  But there is a non-trivial downside to texting, namely that in effect sincerity or the lack thereof is absolutely inconsequential.  Leslie can send a text to Mary in which she claims that she [Leslie] had a wonderful time at Mary’s party; and that claim is surrounded by a dozen simile-faces.  Yet, Leslie is simply lying; for she thought that the party at Mary’s house was horrible.  Now, to be sure, it is perfectly possible for a person to get away with such a lie while having a face-to-face conversation with an individual.  But there can be no if, ands, and buts about the matter: It is much, much easier to get away with a lie via texting than it is via a face-to-face conversation with the person.  For a face-to-face conversation with a person requires the right body language and tonality of voice, whereas texting does not require any of that.

So, an indisputable truth is that technology mightily facilitates a measure of dishonesty that would have been all but impossible a mere 25 years ago.  Consequently, there is a quite poignant respect in which technology is undermining the existence of companion friendship.

The concluding point of the preceding paragraph can be put another way, namely as follows: Notwithstanding the extraordinary amount of communication via texting that takes place nowadays, there is not a shred of evidence that warrants the conclusion that, thanks to technology, friendships have come to be so very much richer than they used to be.  For all the texting between individuals that takes place nowadays, there is not a scintilla of evidence that warrants the view that nowadays friendships are so very much richer than they were in the past.

Friendship is routinely one of the topics I take up in my course Ethics and Contemporary Issues.  Alas, it is simply not the case that I am hearing richer and deeper and more insightful views about friendship than I heard 20-years ago.  Nor am I hearing a sublime appreciation of the ideal of friendship that mightily exceeds the rich friendships that folks had in the past.  Put another way: Notwithstanding the far greater amount of communication that takes place between individuals these days, there is little, if any reason, to believe that companion friendships nowadays have a depth and richness to them that they lacked in the past.

Indeed, my biggest worry is that owing to the tremendous amount of communication between individuals that is taking place by way of some form of technology rather than face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice telephone) communication, there may be far more self-deception with regard to whether a person has a rich friendship with an individual than was the case in the past.  I fully grasp the point of adding a smiley face to a text-message.  I have certainly done that myself.  But no image of a smiley face can come even close to having the majesty and affirmation of a genuine smile from another.  Hence, there can be no greater sign that humanity is in for a horrific decline than that the smiley face on devices has more leverage than the wonderful smile that flows from the interaction that is so mightily and rightfully occasioned by a person’s majestic and ever so genuine goodwill.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Rape and False Accusations of Rape

Rape is surely one of the most horrific of wrongs that an individual can suffer.  And one of the most striking differences between the present and yesteryear is that in the past false accusations of rape were essentially non-existent.  The very idea of making a false accusation of rape in order to get back at an individual simply did not occur to people.  Or if the idea did occur to this or that individual, so behaving was deemed to be absolutely inappropriate.

But times have changed quite a bit.  Nowadays, we are hearing way too often of a charge of rape that in point of fact is false.  Even more painfully, it is happening often enough that males who are falsely accused of having raped a woman are so utterly devastated by the false accusation that they turn around and commit suicide.  Jesse Cheshire is one such student.  I hold that in no respect should properly helping one group of people constitute a justification or an excuse for wronging another group of people.  In respect at all.

I can fully understand that a woman may not like the sex that she agreed to have with a male or that she is much bothered by the fact that she was so inebriated that she went against her very own moral principles or against her personal preferences in agreeing to have sex with some male.  That is, I can completely grasp a sense of regret that a person—female or male—might have over having had sex with someone.  But a false accusation of rape is entirely beyond my comprehension.  A false accusation stands as one of the most horrific forms of evil that exists in society nowadays.

I take it as obvious that the false accusation of rape is owing to the reality that, for some reason or the other, the woman regrets having had sex with the male in question.  I can easily make sense of such regret even by a male.  Alas, the false accusation part amounts to none other than a form of psychic absolution—a way of defusing any plausibility of blame on the part of the woman.  Why the female can even talk to others about what happened and yet entirely block any assessment that she was not handling herself in the morally right way.

And the very eager concern on the part of institutions of higher learning to make it manifestly clear that they take women seriously has been a very significant factor in women being able to get away with a false rape charge.  For giving weight to the male’s claim is readily seen as being akin to the sexism of yesteryear which privileged males over females.  And it is an indisputable truth that nowadays institutions of higher learning are absolutely determined not to be seen as embracing nowadays the attitudes of yesteryear that prevailed with respect to women.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that.  But as I said at the outset: In no respect should properly helping one group of people constitute either a justification or an excuse to wrong another group of people.  The sexism of the past is no more an excuse to wrong innocent men nowadays than is the racism of yesteryear against blacks an excuse to wrong innocent whites nowadays.

Encouraging and underwriting genuine respect across gender differences, ethnic differences, differences in sexual orientation, and so on, is one of the greatest contributions that institutions of higher learning can make to society whilst instilling tremendous knowledge and insight among students.  Alas, turning a blind eye to false accusations of rape is none other than a truly despicable form of evil which, in the long run, will surely do far more harm than good.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Elie Wiesel (1928-2016): A Tremendous Gift to Humanity

Elie WieselElie Wiesel was a moral and intellectual giant.  He was a moral giant who was an ever so modest and thoughtful individual. I had the honour of meeting him with him on three occasions.  Indeed, I have had the pleasure of dining with him on one occasion.  Quite simply, being in the presence Elie Wiesel stands as one of the most marvelous moments of my life—a moral gift for which I shall always be grateful and that I shall treasure all the days of my life.

Although he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, his self-presentation was ever so admirable.  Indeed, I do not think that I have ever met a more humble person than Elie Wiesel.

He was a person of absolutely extraordinary moral character and depth of insight.  And even though he was a Holocaust survivor, it is manifestly clear that he never allowed the evil of the Holocaust to render him a bitter person.  On the other hand, his work on the evil of the Holocaust is absolutely extraordinary.  His books Night and The Trial of God have played a most significant role in my life.  Indeed, the reading of Night made it manifestly clear to me that I needed to go to Poland so that I could view Auschwitz with my very own eyes.  And The Trial of God has played a major role in how I now understand forgiveness.

I have taught Night in the course American Slavery and the Holocaust (listed in temporal order) which I every three years.  And all that I can say is that in each case the reading of Night was rather like reading it again for the first time in terms of both the insight that I gained and the inspiration that his work inspired.

Elie Wiesel has been a tremendous fountain of inspiration in my life.  I shall always be grateful that our paths crossed.  With truly extraordinary majesty, he commanded my respect.  And his goodwill towards me stands as one of the most magnificent moral and social gifts of my very life.  Without a doubt, there are countless many others who can make a similar claim.  There can be no doubt about it: Elie Wiesel was a gift from Hashem to humanity.  Without a doubt, it is true that, on the one hand, Mr. Wiesel shall always be missed.  On the other hand, though, there is the indisputable truth that his presence on earth constitutes a most majestic moral gift to humanity.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Self-Disclosure: A Moral Gift and A Moral Impropriety

Self-disclosure is very well defined.  The self-disclosure on Beta’s part could be about Beta’s economic resources or Beta’s dislike for a given individual or an absolutely horrific experience that Beta had.  And so on.  Typically, we have self-disclosure on the part of person Beta to person Gamma when person Beta offers information about her or his life to person Gamma.  I could say that Gamma would not have realized such a thing on her or his own (even though Gamma is a very perceptive and thoughtful person).  But I do not think that line of thought is correct.  It happens often enough that a very perceptive person can pick up on what is happening to another.  And if there is the possibility of enough harm, it can be ever so appropriate for the perceptive individual to approach the other person.

At any rate, with self-disclosure at its very best, an absolutely necessary condition is warranted trust in the person to whom the self-disclosure is being made.  So even though a person who self-discloses is only talking about herself or himself, an indisputable truth is that the self-disclosure on the person’s part can be ever so inappropriate in the absence of any evidence whatsoever that the person is trustworthy.  Even if a person very much needs someone to talk to, it is nonetheless utterly inappropriate for that person to talk with someone who is not trustworthy; for self-disclosing to an untrustworthy individual can do far more harm than good to the person who is self-disclosing.

Moving in a different direction, if an individual is indeed trustworthy, it should turn out from time to time that someone or the other will pick up on that.  About 10-years ago, a most fascinating instance of trustworthiness took place at Marshall Square Mall a female student told me that she is a lesbian.  The self-disclosure began with “Professor, I like the fact that you interact so comfortably with so many different kinds of people”.  And just as I was in the throes of basking in the compliment, the student then said “So I know that you will handle with grace my telling you that I am a lesbian”.  Fortunately, I came back with just the right remark, though my remark was not a response to her comment.  I said “It is my hope and prayer that your parents are fully comfortable with you being a lesbian and that their love for you has remained ever so majestic and affirming”.

Might there have been a more appropriate remark that I could made?  Perhaps.  But what I do know that the remark I made was taken by her as ever so accepting and affirming of her.

I went on to ask her why she was willing to disclosure her sexual orientation to me.  And she came back with a remark take from the novel A Color Purple, namely the following “A good listener listen not only to what one says but also to what one does not say”.  Well, the student had noticed that for all my spontaneity in the classroom, I never said or implied anything negative about this or that group of individuals.

Alas, one of the tremendously important gifts that we give to ourselves is to be sufficiently attentive that we can ascertain with whom we can and with whom we cannot have a deep and meaningful conversation that involves self-disclosure.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

 

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The Gift of Trust Between Companion Friends

Trust is entirely without equal in terms of its significance.  Without trust, there can be no genuine romantic love.  Without trust there can be no genuine friendship.  Without trust, the parent-child relationship flounders and flounders mightily.  Without trust, some of the simplest forms of human interaction disintegrate.

Of course, trust is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon.  It is perfectly possible to trust a person in one respect and not another.  Quite interestingly, though, one form of trust between adult friends consists in each trusting that the other will not make any comments or inquiries with respect to her or his private life unless either (a) that “door of conversation” was explicitly opened by the other or (b) there is an extremely significant matter that absolutely needs to be discussed otherwise considerable harm is very likely come about.  An example of (b) would be that a horrific and false rumor about the friend has started circulating and it is manifestly clear that the friend needs to be made aware of that rumor in order to be able to address the matter.

For instance, suppose that the rumor is that Jacque spent the weekend in Brazil, whereas in point of fact Jacque did no such thing.  Well, there are no particularly negative implications that are occasioned by that rumor.  One the one hand, then, Jacque would hardly need to spend a lot of time correcting that rumor.  On the other hand, it is quite clear that Jacque needs to make sure his best friend knows that no such trip took place.  Likewise, Jacque’s best friend should seek clarity about what happened and Jacque should expect his best friend so to behave.  For one sign of tremendous trust between any two close friends is the tremendous clarity that they voluntarily bring to their interactions with one another, where it is absolutely clear that in the absence of some major issue neither will proceed beyond the boundaries of trust that are in place.

Trust is so significant to friendship at its best that if the trust is violated by a friend and there is absolutely no efficacious excusing condition, then there is a truly profound respect in which that violation is likely to end the friendship.  An example of an efficacious excusing condition would be that the friend had been forcefully or unwittingly drugged.

The profound and majestic trust of companion friendship is inextricably tied to the deep and ever so warranted belief on the part of each friend that the other has the self-command to fully respect the self-disclosures of the other.  And for any morally decent person, that is a most profound form of affirmation.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Brock Turner and Brock Turner’s Parents

For loving parents, surely one of their most painful moments in life is that of having their child commit a horrifically evil act.  Indisputably, the act of rape clearly counts as such an evil act.  This is particularly the case when it is utterly indisputable that an act of rape was committed.  Alas, that is the case with Brock Turner who raped an intoxicated and unconscious female.  Turner’s parents are begging that a measure of mercy be shown to their son.  It goes without saying that there are times when a measure of mercy is ever so appropriate with respect to a wrongful act that a person committed.  I can make sense of a starving and homeless person stealing some food.  Or, if a person of ethnicity Alpha has been brutally beaten on two different occasions by persons of ethnicity Gamma, then I can make sense of that person of ethnicity Alpha being generally afraid of persons of ethnicity Gamma, even though two occasions of being beaten-up by persons of ethnicity Gamma hardly entails that Gamma folks in general are inclined physically attack person of ethnicity Alpha.

Alas, the raping of an unconscious woman by a male requires a truly horrific level of moral callousness on the part of the male—so much so that I can only regard such an individual as evil.  For raping a person is not just a matter of giving into a temptation analogous to committing a simple act of thievery such as stealing a bag of potato-chips whilst walking out the store or lying to a friend that one left one’s money home when in point of fact one has significant amount of money on one’s person.  And so on.  Some people think that it is always wrong to lie.  But an immutable truth is that it is not at all the case that every lie constitutes a significant harm to the person who was lied to.

By definition, rape constitutes committing a quite significant act with a person’s body without that person’s permission, where the aim of committing the significant person is not to help the person by, for example, minimizing some deep pain that the individual is suffering.  Quite the contrary.  Rape is unequivocally a matter of person Beta using to his sexual satisfaction the body of person Zed entirely without the permission of person Zed—indeed, even without the form of approval by way of non-verbal behavior that indicates acceptance on the part of Zed of what Beta is doing to Zed.

What makes it so very, very, very obvious that rape is utterly vicious is just the fact that (i) rape is entirely without consent and (ii) the rapist could surely achieve a quite breath-taking orgasm on his own.  And the point just made holds all the more when the rapist is raping a woman who is essentially unconscious.  Thus, what surely follows is that a male who commits rape is psychologically deranged.  And this derangement is not an excusing condition.  Quite the contrary, given the knowledge that one is so deranged, it thereby follows that one has a profound moral obligation to take the appropriate precautions in just the way that an alcoholic, for instance, must take the appropriate precautions.

I take it as a given that every human being has quite intense sexual feelings from time to time upon which she or he absolutely should not act.  Alas, part of what distinguishes human beings from all other living creatures is precisely the fact that we have the wherewithal to bring it about that we do not to act upon such intense feelings.  In the language of the great economist and philosopher Adam Smith, human beings are capable of exercising the appropriate measure of self-command whereby they bring it about that they do not perform the action that they fully grasp that they should not perform.  All that is necessary is a gesture whereby one distracts oneself.  And technology reveals that human beings are absolutely masterful being the source of their own distraction.

The very nature of the sex act is such that it is essentially impossible not to see the significance of what we are doing in engaging in the sex act with a person.  Accordingly, we mightily grasp the ways in which our sexual behavior would be inappropriate.  No male in his right mind could think “Ah hah, she is unconscious.  So she must want me to have sex with her.”

A final comment.  Increasingly, it seems to me that one of the major drawbacks of modernity is that our reflective powers are diminishing to a considerable degree.  Brock Turner’s parents strike me as a most poignant illustration of that reality.  They seem more distraught by the 6-month jail sentence that their son received than they do by the fact that he committed an ever so morally despicable act, namely rape.  Indeed, it is easier to make moral sense of someone mistakenly killing an innocent person than it is to make moral sense of the act of rape.  If, nowadays, it is increasingly the case that true parental love is thought to entail that a 23-year old child’s voluntary committing of an act that the 23-year old knows to be quite horrific and morally wrong to another is somehow excusable, then parental love is increasingly becoming none other than the very handmaiden of evil.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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The Evil of Rape

There are various wrongdoings that I can at least understand how a person might be tempted so to behave.  For instance, I can understand why sometimes a person tells a lie by, for example, articulating a far more positive image of herself or himself than the facts warrant.  And from time to time, there are simple acts of theft in a store around which I can rap my mind.  For example, suppose that a person has just gone through the checkout counter and is on her or his way out of the store when the individual sees just the kind of potato chips that she or he routinely craves.  Instead of buying the 50 cents bag of potato chips, which would require getting back in-line, the person grabs one of the bags of potato chips and continues on her or his way out of the door.  Without in any way approving of what the person did, I can wrap my tiny mind around how a person might so behaved.

Alas, rape is a wrong that is utterly incomprehensible to me.  I mean how is it even remotely possible for a male to get any satisfaction at all out of raping a woman since her behavior throughout the act of rape makes it unequivocally and absolutely clear that she is utterly repulsed and deeply pained psychologically by what is being done to her.  And if the victim of rape is so unconscious that she has no sense of sense of what is happening to her, then I am still puzzled by the act of rape on the part of the male.  If the woman is either (a) entirely unconscious or (b) objecting tremendously and yelling and screaming or the rapist is silencing her by putting his hand over her mouth, then (c) it would seem that a very creative act of masturbation would be far more satisfying.   After all, the male is not getting any approval from the female who is being raped while the act of intercourse on his part is being performed.  So if the male is willing to forgo approval from the female, then claim (c) above is all the more plausible.

Part of what makes rape so utterly despicable is that it is virtually impossible for a male not to realize that he does not have the woman’s consent.  As is well-known, the consent does not have to be verbal precisely because the appropriate instances of voluntary behavior can make it manifestly clear that she is on board with the act of having sex unless, of course, she explicitly states that I am unaccepting of any additional forms of touching.

The evil of rape is unequivocally tied to the indisputable reality that the female in question has not—I repeat: has not—given the male who is seeking an erotic romp with her the indication that she wanted to pursue vaginal intercourse with him.  And while there certainly can be moments of unclarity with respect to how much consent is given, it is next to impossible for the entire sex act to be without such clarity.  And it is in this regard that I see male rapists as utterly horrific human beings.

By hypothesis, any male who rapes a female is a morally despicable human being.  Indeed, given his complete indifference to whether his behavior is giving a female any pleasure or satisfaction makes it ever so clear that his real intent is to be disrespectful to the wishes of the female—indeed, he takes delight in being disrespectful to the wishes of the female.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that such a male takes more delight in being disrespectful of the female than he does in the act of intercourse that he has with her.  And that line of thought is quite in keeping with the idea that male rapists are psychologically deranged in some fundamental way.  For in the matter of having an ever so satisfying orgasm, surely a male can do much better on his than he can with a female whom he must systematically subdue throughout the entire sexual encounter.  Indeed, the indisputable reality that consensual sex on the part of both the woman and the man brings about marvelous affirmation for both mightily speaks to the horrific moral callousness and moral vapidity of the rapist.

Quite simply, rape has nothing whatsoever to do with sexual satisfaction and everything to do with undermining the sense of worth of the woman who is raped.  Therein lies the horrific evil demeanor that is characteristic of a rapist.  At its most morally significant level, the act of rape is not at all about having sex.  Rather, it is about using the sex act in order to destroy the since of worth of the victim.  This way of viewing the behavior of rapist mightily brings out the poignant truth that a rapist is one of the most despicable human beings to walk the face of the earth; and some sort of horrific mental misconfiguration, there is simply no respect in which a rapist does not grasp that he is committing the wrong of rape.  It is against the background of that truth that I cannot begin to comprehend how it is that Judge Aaron Persky assigned only six months of prison to Brock Turner, the former Stanford University student, who raped a female.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Moral Sensibilities, Trust, and Student Self-Disclosure

To have tremendous moral sensibilities is to have one of the greatest of moral gifts that a human being can have.  Of course, it goes without saying that having tremendous moral sensibilities is not in any whatsoever tantamount to having achieved some form of divinity.  Just so, having tremendous moral sensibilities constitutes one of the most significant forms of moral excellence that a person can achieve.  Indeed, it is arguable that moral sensibilities are necessary for the proper expression of other moral excellences such as courage and honesty.

After all, being courageous is not a matter of merely taking a stand for or against this or that.  Likewise, being honest is not simply a matter of always telling the truth.  There are times when it can be quite inappropriate to take a stand for or against something, although one is rather well-informed about the matter under discussion.  Likewise, there are times when a person should refrain from offering input about a matter even though the individual is well aware of what the truth of matter actually is.  After all, from the fact that a person unequivocally knows the truth about something, what surely does not follow is that the individual’s truthful account of matters will be properly respected by others.  Ironically, it happens often enough that one of the wisest and morally decent things that a person can do is say little, if anything, about a matter.

One of my most poignant examples of the point made in the preceding paragraph is that of a student during office at Marshall Square Mall informing me that she is a lesbian.  As an explanation for her doing so she made the following remark: “Because of your tremendous moral sensibilities LT, I knew that I could open up to you regarding my sexual orientation without me being subjected to any form of ridicule or morally inappropriate criticism”.  Several years later, a male student disclosed his gay sexual orientation to me.  In both cases, what was manifestly obvious at the very outset is that the two students were absolutely convinced that I would never let their sexual orientation get in the way of my appreciation of the strength and excellence of their moral character.  And that was a most profound and ever so sublime instance of moral affirmation on the part each student.

As should be obvious, the tremendous affirmation of each student was unequivocally tied to their trust that I would react in the proper way and that I would continue to have the high intellectual and moral regard for them that was well in place.  On both accounts, I did not disappoint either student.  Neither one of the students expected me to offer insights about how they should continue living their life.  And I made no such attempt.  Rather, I made the following simple observation: “While your sexual orientation is not in any way trivial, it is not at all definitive of the moral and intellectual person that you are”.  Literally, each teared-up upon my uttering those words.  As should be obvious, the point holds equally for the heterosexual orientation.  Only a fool would think that the very nature of things is such that the sexual orientation of a person entirely exhausts the person’s identity.  Human beings are way too complex for that to be true.  Indeed, if a person’s identity is entirely exhausted by her or his sexual orientation (be it gay, straight, or whatever), then an indisputable truth is that the individual is quite unhealthy psychology.

It is the truth of the last two sentence of the preceding paragraph that played an absolutely central role in (a) how I responded to the students who (some 4 years apart) revealed to me their non-heterosexual orientation, which in turn (b) had a most salubrious impact upon how the two students experienced my reaction to their self-disclosure.

Being trusted by another is a truly wonderful thing, given that the trust does not involve tolerating or discounting evil behavior.  And part of what makes life ever so interesting is that it is often not possible to prepare oneself for a profoundly deep instance of being trusted.  I was not at all prepared for the first student who came out to me during office hours and revealed her lesbian sexual orientation.  And the same holds for the second student who some 6 years later revealed his homosexual sexual orientation.  Indeed, when I look back upon some of the most meaningful instances of my life, it is absolutely striking to me that the vast majority of those instances involved a significant matter of trust in a context in which I had least expected trust to be a central factor.

Quite significantly, it is not possible for a human being to have a deep and accurate sense of the extent to which she or he is trustworthy in the absence of having had the kinds of defining experiences which affirm that such is the case.  There is no amount of ratiocination that can take the place of experiencing the genuine trust of another.  And a quite fascinating truth here is that there is no telling when and who might display genuine trust towards one.

One of the most memorable moments of my life took place when I was a diner guest at a family’s home in Puteaux (a suburb of Paris).  Halfway through diner, the mother started looking for her pocketbook; and within minutes, I immediately started supposing that everyone will think that I had somehow gotten ahold of her pocketbook.  And when with a broken voice I stated that I had not touched the mother’s pocketbook, everyone looked at me with an utter sense of absolute dismay; for the idea that I had somehow gotten ahold of the mother’s pocketbook had simply not occurred to anyone.  Their trust in me was so deep that they were all utterly stunned that I had somehow supposed that they took me to be guilty of stealing the mother’s pocketbook.  Recognizing the trust of a trustworthy individual is one of the greatest gifts that one can experience.

It is ever so rare that an individual is trusted by everyone.  But if we have had enough moral luck in life, then there will be those individuals whose trust in us is ever so genuine and ever so deep.  And such trust stands as one of the most majestic moral gifts that we can experience.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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False Accusations: Blacks versus Jews at Oberlin College

To state the obvious, no ethnic group has any perfect members.  There are no perfect Arabs.  There are no perfect Asians.  There are no perfect Blacks.  There are no perfect Jews.  And so on.  Fortunately, it is not necessary to be perfect in order to exhibit basic decency and thus to refrain from committing acts that (a) are clearly wrong and that (b) are such that one clearly has the wherewithal to refrain from doing.  And the reality is that every psychologically healthy person is configured in such a way that she or he can refrain from making utterly false accusations about another, especially if person’s very life is not in any way dependent upon making such false claims.

It is against the backdrop of the incontrovertible truth of the remarks made above that the horrific and false claims made about Jews by Joy Karega must be considered.  She is an African-American who is an assistant professor at Oberlin College.  She blames Jews for the horror of 9/11 as well as for the demise of the Malaysia Airline flight.  She blames Jews for other things as well.  And in so blaming Jews, she does not offer a scintilla of evidence to support her claims.  Imagine someone blaming Blacks in the world for the Holocaust that occurred in Nazi Germany.  It would take an awful lot of evidence in order for that claim about Blacks to have any credibility whatsoever.  Indeed, the evidence would have to explain just how it turned out that on the surface of things it did not at all appear as if Blacks were involved the Holocaust.

An analogous point holds for the claim made by Joy Karega.  There is not a shred of evidence that supports the negative claims that she has made regarding Jews being responsible for 9/11.  What is more, Joy Karega does not offer a single consideration that gives her negative claims about Jews any plausibility whatsoever.

Painfully, it does not appear that Karega was at all criticized by Marvin Krislov, the President of Oberlin College.  Indeed, I wrote to him about the matter; and I never received so much as an acknowledgement from him.  All that I can say is that if his silence counts as being supportive of Blacks, then it is manifestly the case that in the matter of enriching the intellectual stature of blacks he is doing far more harm than good.

And then there is the issue of the kind of model that Joy Karega is for Black students at Oberlin College.  It is my hope and prayer that Black students have recognized the utter impropriety of Karega’s behavior.  Next to physical bodily harm, the next horrific form of evil viciousness is horrifically false character accusations.  The question that readily presents itself is the following: What motivated Joy Karega to engage in such vicious and malicious behavior of falsely accusing Jews of committing a horrendous wrong?  The answer, I believe, is the biblical claim: “Jealousy is as cruel as the grave” (Song of Solomon 8:6).

Now, it is claimed that Oberlin Jewish students maintain that they greatly admire Karega.  Alas, it does not take a genius to figure what motivated Jewish students to take their stance; for they readily grasped that any criticism of Karega on their part would make them the object of horrific venom on the part of countless many others on the Oberlin College campus, including faculty members.  By claiming how much they admire Karega, the Oberlin Jewish students simply cover their derriere.  After all, it is makes no sense to admire someone who falsely accuses one of having committed a horrific act of evil.  Why, that would be analogous to a woman who has been raped claiming that the rape experience was, indeed, tremendously worthwhile because as a result of the rape experience she learned so much about herself that is wonderful and illuminating.

Have I claimed that Jews are perfect?  Absolutely not.  Have I claimed that Jews are incapable of being racist owing to their own history of having been horrifically mistreated?  Again, absolutely not.  But one does not need to be anywhere close to perfection in order for it to be the case that a given charge of wrongdoing is unequivocally false.

There can be no doubt about it: Free speech is truly wonderful.  Just so, it is not an excuse nor a justification for malicious and manifestly false charges—charges for which there is not a shred of evidence.  Joy Karega has made two very horrific charges against Jews.  Yet, she did not produce a scintilla of evidence that would give her charges an ounce of credibility.  And a most poignant truth is that free speech has never meant that making manifestly false charges against someone is either completely acceptable or, in any case, quite excusable.

Finally, there is the support that Joy Karega has received from the President of Oberlin College, Marvin Krislov.  There can be no doubt that he wishes to maximize the intellectual presence of Blacks on the Oberlin College campus.  Alas, in that regard he does more harm than good if, in the name of achieving racial equality, anything negative that a black says is at least acceptable.  For there is a very real sense in which so behaving President Krislov is not taking blacks seriously; accordingly, he is not at all contributing to we who are black taking ourselves seriously.  Not at all.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Do Black Lives Matter to Blacks?

By now the claim that Black lives matter is rather commonplace.  But a non-trivial question is the following: “To whom do Black lives matter?”  Of course, the presumed answer is that Black lives matter to Blacks.  In particular, the idea is that black lives matter to Blacks more than such lives matter to non-Blacks.  But is that the case?

I am not about to suggest that Blacks commit more crime against Blacks than the members of any other ethnicity commit against the members of their ethnic group.  Rather, I wish to make the quite simple point that it cannot be said that the respect that Blacks are showing towards one another stands as a tremendous model of the respect that the members of any ethnic group should show to one another.  It is simply not the case that the respect which Blacks show one another nowadays stands as a truly tremendous model of moral excellence for all.

For example, Blacks have not shown a respect towards one another that is on a par with the respect that Arabs and Asians have shown to one another.  Another way of putting the point just made is that in terms of productivity Blacks have not cooperated with one another to the extent that Arabs and Asians have cooperated with one another.  My favorite example in this regard are the Mom & Pop stores which are owned by many Arabs and Asians.  These stores can be found throughout many black neighborhoods.

Needless to say, the question that mightily presents itself is the following: Why is that Blacks do not own numerous Mom & Pop stores in their own neighborhood or even in non-Black neighborhoods?  And if one Black lacks the financial resources to open such a store, then two or three blacks could join together in order to do so.  And at this point in the history of the United States, it is utterly false and implausible to claim that racism is the explanation for why Blacks have not made and are not making the move just suggested.

The most positive indication that the lives of an ethnic group widely matters to the individuals of that very ethnic group is that there is substantial cooperation between the members of that ethnic group with respect to achieving various forms of success.  And in 2016, there is no ethnic group in the United States which has a legitimate excuse for there not being such cooperation between its members.  Blacks are not the exception here.  And any Black who thinks so is utterly mistaken.

Lest, there be any misunderstanding, I do not for a moment deny that some measure of racism against Blacks continues to exist.  But as I have already indicated, it has to be acknowledged that the racism of yesteryear was far more horrific than the racism of the present.  Accordingly, there can be cooperative success between Blacks nowadays that, quite simply, would have been absolutely impossible many decades ago.  Hence, there is no excuse these days for the absence of tremendous and truly significant cooperation between blacks.  None whatsoever.

Do Black lives matter?  Alas, a more poignant form of that question would be the following: Do Black lives matter to Blacks?  Well, the sociological facts suggest that whenever the lives of an ethnic group genuinely matter to one another, then inevitably there is significant cooperation between the members of that group with the aim of achieving excellence.  There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to think that Blacks are the exception to that ideal.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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