Oberlin College’s Vicious Mistreatment of Jews

If Adolf Hitler were alive, he would be rather proud of the stance taken by Oberlin College students against Jews.  For a substantial number of Oberlin College students are treating Jews as if they were the most evil people on the face of the earth.  A Google search under the rubric “Oberlin College’s violence against Jews” will turn up one article after another regarding the mistreatment of Jews by non-Jewish students at Oberlin College.

Of course, Jews are not perfect.  Not at all.  But, alas, there is not an ethnic group on the face of the earth which can justifiably claim to be perfect.  While I shall not engage in invidious comparisons, it is absolutely stunning to me that Oberlin College students can be so venomous against Jews whilst exhibiting deafening silence with regard to some of the horrific treatment committed by Muslims.  The image immediately below to the left is a painfully vivid example of Muslims killing innocent people.  killingThere has been no instance of Jews engaging in such gratuitous killing.  None at all.  And then there is case of the Irish convert to Islam who murdered his mother in the name of Islam and the case of the black male in Oklahoma who converted to Islam and then committed murder.

Once more, here is no analogous behavior on the part of individuals who convert to Judaism.

Needless to say, from the standpoint of justice, it is simply not possible to have it both ways, namely be utterly offended over the supposed evil committed by Jews all the while maintaining deafening silence with regard to the horrific evil that is being committed by Muslims.  That is how I know that the stance that various Oberlin College students are taking against Jews is utterly malicious and is way too analogous to a modern day form of Nazism.  And, of course, the point applies equally to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions)-movement.

Painfully, it has become something akin to a social fashion in the United States to criticize Jews and, in particular, Israel while maintaining a deafening silence with regard to the horrific behavior that is being committed by Muslims.  A very prominent black American scholar who has taught at Princeton and Harvard has done exactly that.  To state the obvious, few things are more revealing of an absolutely horrific moral attitude than very intelligent people who (a) can see fault at every turn with respect to one ethnic group whilst (b) utterly ignoring manifestly despicable behavior that is quite frequently committed by another ethnic group.  Let me allow for the sake of argument that Israel has been less than perfect with respect to the treatment Palestinians.  Just so, there has been no case of Israelis simply lining up innocent Palestinians and killing them just because they are Palestinians.

So guess what?  I can certainly concede that there is room for moral improvement on the part of Jews and Israelis in particular.  But needless to say, that line of thought unequivocally applies just as well to Muslims (as well as to every other ethnic and/or religious group on the face of the earth).  So it is absolutely stupefying when perceptive people‑‑who claims to be ever so committed to justice for all‑‑can see just about any and every substantial moral wrong that Jews make but somehow manage to miss the unquestionably egregious moral wrongs made by other groups, for example Muslims.  One does not have to be a genius in order to see that such a stance with respect to Jews is ever so analogous to the attitude of Nazis towards Jews.

When I reflect upon the horrendous way in which Jews at Oberlin College are being treated, I am reminded of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.  A most poignant truth is that evil survives because and only because there are people who are so willing to commit acts of evil.  What we have at Oberlin College is none other than a horrific example of that very truth.  Painfully, another truth is that Adolf Hitler would be ever so proud of the students at Oberlin College who are so utterly besotted with the idea that Jews are evil that the manifestly evil behavior of others, including the evil behavior of the students in question, is utterly irrelevant to those students tripping over themselves to criticize Jews.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Courage: The Foundation to Living Well

To be courageous is to have the wherewithal to do the right thing even when so behaving puts one’s well-being at risk in some significant way, where receiving a benefit of some sort is not at all the motivation for so behaving.  Needless to say, what may be courageous for one person may be less courageous or even not at all be courageous for another.  It should be noted here that being courageous need not involve helping another, as with the case of Jews in France wearing yarmulke nowadays.  Owing to the tremendous rise of antisemitism in France, a Jew who whereas a yarmulke whilst walking about in public in France shows a considerable measure of courage, whereas that is typically not the case for a Jew wearing a yarmulke whilst walking about in public in the United States.

A quite interesting fact is that courage is relatively uncommon.  That is so because most people would much rather fit-in with this or that group than be courageous.  And the explanation for why most people have that preference is simple enough, namely that a base-line level of social acceptance is typically one of the significant benefits of fitting-in.  Thus, it is rather understandable that most human beings opt for fitting-in; for their own sense of worth does not give them the courage to be the author of their own life.

So a most profound truth about a genuinely courageous person is that her or his sense of worth is not profoundly  tied to a base-line level of acceptance.  Instead, the courageous person’s sense of worth is fundamentally anchored in a very profound measure of self-knowledge, namely that she or he has the wherewithal to do the right thing even at non-trivial cost to herself or himself.  And let me hasten to add here that there is a tremendous difference between (i) having considerable self-knowledge and (ii) being arrogant.  In particular, (i) does not entail (ii).  Absolutely not.  The arrogant person is constantly drawing attention to her or his abilities or talents or accomplishments or advantages even when there is no reason whatsoever to do so.

To take an academic example, if an arrogant person is a professor with a Ph.D., she or he will very often draw attention to the fact she or he has a Ph.D. even in contexts where that fact is utterly irrelevant.  For example, if such a person is asked for directions to point Beta, the person is very, very likely to mention her or his having a Ph.D. in giving the directions.  The person will something like the following: “Well, as someone with a doctorate, I have often thought about how to get to point Beta from where we are now”.  Clearly, having a doctorate is irrelevant here, since it is obvious there are countless many people without a Ph.D. who have given thought to how to get to point Beta from the location in question and come up with an absolutely excellent route for arriving at point Beta.

Tremendously courageous people have considerable self-knowledge.  However, they are not at all given to arrogance.  This should come as no surprise; for being courageous is psychologically at odds with being arrogant.

A genuinely courageous person is someone (a) who will offer assistance to someone who, owing to no fault of her or his own, is very much in harm’s way if she or he has the ability so to behave or (b) who will state a truth that clearly needs to be stated even though so behaving will occasion considerable hostility from others.  In case (a) we have physical courage; whereas in case (b) we have social or moral courage.

Some courageous people have tremendous physical courage whereas other courageous people have tremendous social courage.  Of course, some have both.  Military leaders immediately come to mind as individuals who are  likely to have both.  Statistically speaking, teachers who are courageous are apt to exhibit social courage whereas athletes who are courageous are apt to exhibit physical courage.

At this point, let me explicitly mention that there is no connection at all between being courageous and being arrogant.  To be sure, there are courageous people who are arrogant.  However, there is nothing about the very nature of courage that makes it the case that a courageous person is more likely than not to be an arrogant person.  Nothing at all.

On the other hand, although being courageous is not at all about being arrogant, it is unequivocally the case that having courage entails being tremendously perceptive.  For the courageous response to any given situation, typically requires that things be done in just the right way and within an amount of time that is so limited that there is little, if any room, to correct for mistakes that are made.  So it is whether we are talking about physical courage or social courage.  Saving a life can require considerable skill on-the-spot, as they say.  But the same is true for social courage: The right thing needs to be said in just the right way and at just the right moment.  With either physical or social courage, a mistake can result in undesirable harm being done to the person who is supposed to be receiving assistance.

It seems reasonable to say that in an ideal society or world it would be the case that all—or nearly all—would be courageous.  But that possible truth invites the following ever so sublime question: How does a person come to be courageous?  Regrettably, I do not have an answer to that question.  Offhand, it seems to me that being courageous person is a truly marvelous instances of moral luck—to use the language of Bernard Williams—that occurs in the life of a human being.  I doubt if anyone simply chooses to be  cowardly. Likewise, I doubt if anyone simply chooses to be courageous.  In any event, being truly courageous entails valuing oneself in a marvelous and phenomenal way that is very, very far removed from being arrogant.  Hence, there is a profound subtlety to becoming and continuing to be a courageous person.  What is more, it would seem that there is very little, if any, self-deception that occurs in the life of a truly courageous person.  That reality might shed some insight on why courage is one of the tremendous moral gifts that configures the life of an individual, no matter how intellectually gifted that individual might be.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Choosing (My) Death

One day, I shall choose to die.  That shall not happen today or tomorrow.  It will not happen next week or next month.  And while I shall one day choose to die, I do not suppose for a moment that others should be forced to make that choice.  On the other hand, though, I fully reject the idea that choosing to die necessarily represents some form of insanity or psychological depression.  Quite the contrary, choosing to die can surely be a most majestic choice and an ever so rational choice.

If, as it is supposed, a human being should be the author of her ore his life, then it seems to me ever so clear that if a human being is truly the author of her or his own life, then she or he is in the position to choose her or his own death.  And it goes without saying that such a choice will be made for different reasons among individuals.

Suppose that two people have been married for 80 years.  Hence, they are now at least 100 years old.  If one spouse dies from an illness, there is a very straightforward sense in which it strikes me as ever so understandable if the surviving spouse also wishes to die.  After all, it is absolutely clear that in view of the age of the surviving spouse that individual is faced with lost is utterly irreplaceable.  Indeed, that person’s life has an emptiness that simply cannot be replaced.  So, in view of the person’s age, there is a very straightforward sense in which the person can understandably think that she or he would be better-off dead than alive.  Indeed, for the talk about being autonomous, there is a very straightforward sense in which (1) a part of that person has died and (2) there is simply no way in which the person can be comfortable living without her or his spouse.

As far as I can see, the reasoning in the above paragraph is flawless.  In particular, it is not based upon fear or misunderstanding.  Furthermore, there is the simple fact that at this point in human history a person who is 100 years old rightly supposes that she or he is at the end of her days.  So the death of the person’s spouse results in an emptiness that, on two accounts, cannot be eliminated.  For one thing, it is obvious that there is no way to replace the loving spouse who died.  For another, the surviving 100-year-old spouse is simply not in the position to form rich ties with other individuals.

So it would be entirely reasonable for the surviving 100-year old spouse to hold that she or he would be better off dead than alive.  Perhaps one day human beings shall commonly live for 500 years.  In that case, a person who loses a spouse when she or her is merely 100 years of age is left with a lot of time to form a rich and rewarding relationships—including romantic ones—with other individuals.  Alas, at this point in time, living 500 years is not at all on the horizon.

The very sacredness of life is part of the reason why I hold that it is possible for choosing death to be a reasonable choice.  For the sacredness of life is not just about inhaling and exhaling.  Rather, it is about doing things and, at the very least, having rich personal bonds whereby one can be affirming of others and one can be affirmed by others.  Being affirming and being affirmed is one of the significant ways in which life has genuine meaning for human beings.

A 100-year old person who losses her or his spouse of some 80 years (or thereabout) rightly grasps that she or he has forever lost a profoundly deep and irreplaceable source of affirmation in her or his life.  And surely it can be fully rational for such a person to hold that she or he would be better off dead than being alive without her or his beloved spouse.

It strikes me as a most interesting fact that with the progress that human beings are making in medicine, the time will come soon enough when there will be 100-year old individuals who, owing to having recently lost a beloved spouse, will reason that should seek another relationship.  Indeed, that will be an ever so rational choice on their part.  But we are not there yet.  Not even close.

I have been very fortunate in that I have had, and I am continuing to have, the opportunity to live a very rewarding life.  Indeed, in terms of regret, I doubt if I can think of 5 instances of regret that plague my life.  But in due course, things will change and it will no longer be true that I am living a meaningful life.  I will then welcome death and choose that end.  My so doing will not be an act of cowardice.  Rather, it will be a very profound act of courage on my part.

Of course, it is often the case nowadays that death is chosen for very inappropriate reasons.  I have not in anyway whatsoever denied that reality.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Barack Obama’s Inspiration of Black Americans?

What tremendous inspiration among black Americans would surely be occasioned by Barack Obama as President of the United States.  No doubt that is what everyone thought upon the election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States.  The inspiration would be owing not only to the reality of Obama being the first black president, but also to the examples of excellence and advice that Obama would offer to black Americans.  Arguably, so it seemed, not since Martin Luther King, Jr. has there been a black person who could be more inspiring of blacks across the United States.

Well, a most painful truth is that in comparison to Martin Luther King, the reality is that Obama has been no more inspiring to black Americans than the leaves on a tree have been.  King masterfully inspired blacks to more fully value themselves.  By contrast, Obama has not inspired blacks to live more meaningful lives and to be the proprietor of success in black neighborhoods by, for example, owning the small Mom & Pop stores in black neighborhoods that presently are owned by members of other ethnic of groups.

Let us concede that the United States is not racism free.  But that truth is compatible with the reality that nowadays blacks have enormous opportunities that simply did not exist for blacks several decades ago.  Significantly, and most poignantly, there is not a sentence that Barack Obama has uttered that can be construed as encouraging or inspiring blacks so to develop such successes in their own communities.  And that has to be construed as a very willful omission on Obama’s part.  For surely there a multitude of ways in which he could have been encouraging of blacks in the respects just indicated without in anyway jeopardizing his standing as one who is the president for all Americans.

After all, Mr. Barack Obama has quite clearly and creatively exercised his authority in getting Arabs and Muslims from the Middle East to gain entrance in the United States.  If Obama were half as committed to getting blacks to be the author of their own lives in their own neighborhood as he has been to admitting into the United States Arabs and Muslims from the Middle East, we would surely be seeing something akin to a marvelous economic reformation in numerous black communities across the United States.

So, the ever so poignant reality is that Obama has exhibited an unspeakable and utterly inexcusable level of moral callousness in failing to encourage blacks to be the author of their own lives.  It is utterly stupefying to me that Barack Obama could be so committed to getting Muslims and Arabs into the United States while there is absolutely deafening silence on his part in the matter of encouraging blacks to be the author of their own lives.  There is no story or line of argument or form of intellectual ratiocination that would warrant, let alone, justify the reality articulated in the preceding sentence.

So, what we have is none other than an absolutely tremendous measure of moral betrayal on Obama’s part.  And let me be clear: I do not hold for a moment that Obama should have made the well-being and success of blacks the primary focus of his presidency.  That would have been horrendously wrong and quite inexcusable.

But en passant there is so very much that Obama could have said upon occasion here and there that would have served as a marvelous catalyst for blacks moving forward and taking the initiative here and there to transform for the better black communities.  And this point mightily holds given both Obama’s considerable intellectual abilities and his tremendous powers of articulation.

So, we have two options that explain Obama’s silence in this regard: (1) He was afraid.  (2) He did not really care.  Well, it seems clear to me that (1) is out of the question.  It is all too obvious Obama is not much troubled by criticisms of him.  Indeed, it is rather clear that he is mightily indifferent to criticisms of him.   So that leaves us with (2).  Given that there are so many very subtle ways in which upon occasion, and with grace and aplomb, that Obama could have been encouraging of blacks—without at all coming across as being someone who cares only about blacks—that his silence in that regard calls attention to itself.  For all the world, it looks as if he did not really care.  And that is one of the most poignant truths that the circumstances of reality have ever required me to recognize.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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$10,000 Fine for Kissing Daughter During Halftime Performance

weddleThe very idea of fining a father for kissing his young daughter during the halftime performance of the football game is ever so morally despicable and bespeaks a horrific level of moral callousness.  It is simply not possible to be morally decent and impose such a penalty.  And as been said by others, this point holds all the more so when one considers some of the truly despicable behavior which sports players commit.  Obviously, it would be quite inappropriate for the father to give his young daughter a kiss whilst in the very midst of the game.  But it is very, very clear that the father—Eric Weddle—did no such thing.

I know very little about football.  Let’s see.  There is something called a touchdown and there is something called a pass.  And yeah: Even I know that during halftime the members of the two football times are not playing.  I cannot say much about what team members are supposed to be doing during halftime.  No doubt making love is out of the question ! ! !  But the simple gesture a football player affirming his child who is present at the game and seated in the front row is unequivocally a moral excellence of parental affirmation that cannot possibly be open to moral criticism.  And the very reality that Eric Weddle has such a majestic parental bond with his child that during halftime he gave the child a hug is a gesture that should be profoundly admired.

Thus, the venomous response on the part of the San Diego Chargers to Weddle’s admirable gesture of affection towards his daughter reveals a truly deep and horrific measure of moral callousness on the part of the officials of the San Diego Chargers.  I do not know whether there is a hell or not.  But if there is one, the officials of the San Diego Chargers surely deserve to rot in hell for penalizing Weddle $10,000 for that simple display of affection that he showed his daughter during the halftime performance—a point that holds all the more so given that the daughter was seated on the front row and thus Weddle remained on the field as he hugged her.  Even during halftime, it is easy enough to see the impropriety of a player leaving the field in order to show parental affection.

Surely the gesture of a player giving his child a hug from the field is essentially on a par with two players on the field giving one another a hug owing to a truly excellent move that one player had been made which so marvelously benefited the other player.  And the parallel here is precisely what enables me to say without any hesitation whatsoever that fining Weddle for hugging his daughter from the field (for she was seated in row 1) ever so clearly indicates that there are some truly moral despicable officials who run the San Diego Chargers—individuals who have a level of moral callousness that makes them none other than the very handmaiden of evil.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Fitting-In Versus Being Rational: Reflections on Human Nature

When the distinguish sociobiologist Robert Trivers introduced the idea of fitting-in, I was extremely impressed.  Yet, I thought to myself that nonetheless Immanuel Kant was absolutely right in holding that (1) by their very nature human beings are fundamentally rational creatures and, therefore, that (2) being rational is more important to human beings than fitting-in.  Alas, serious and honest reflection has required me to reject the Kantian conception of humanity and to embrace the conception of humanity advanced by Robert Trivers.

Of course, human beings are capable of a level rationality that far exceeds any other living creature on the face of the earth.  But from that truth what does at all follow is that human beings are primarily animated by rationality.  Indeed, there is way too much behavior that the assumption of rationality simply cannot explain.  By contrast, it is stunning just how much behavior on the part of human beings that the idea of fitting-in can explain.  My sagging pants 22favorite example in this regard is the wearing of sagging-pants nowadays by men as in the case of the picture to the left.  As everyone surely recognizes, in the typical case wearing sagging-pants requires the wearer to be constantly making sure that, in effect, the pants do not fall down.  And so one would have thought that such a constant concern would have effectively eliminated the style of sagging-pants.  But that is not the case at all.  Needless to say, the continued popularity of sagging-pants reveals just how much importance human beings attach to fitting-in.  In effect, there is an extent to which human beings would rather fit-in than do what is rational.

So, the tremendous popularity of sagging-pants stands as quite substantial proof that it is simply not the case the case that human beings are quintessentially rational creatures, where that is understood to mean that rationality dominates.  Kant was just plain wrong about that, although most philosophers who write about Kant and Kantian ideas are determined to show that he is right.  Fitting-in has played an absolutely major and decisive role in the survival of human beings.

Interestingly, the proof that human beings are not nearly the rational creatures to which so much philosophical argument pays lip-service is none other than the reality that even in 2015, it is still the case that ethnicity has enormous weight; though from a purely biological point of view ethnicity is essentially inconsequential.  To be sure, it is only in modern times that the scientific evidence has made it manifestly clear that ethnicity is no more than an “outer shell” which essentially has no bearing at all on the inner-configuration of a human being.  For instance, if a person of ethnicity A needs a blood transfusion and person of ethnicity B is both healthy and of the same blood type, then the person of ethnicity B can give a blood transfusion to the person of ethnicity A even if it is manifestly obvious in terms of physical appearances that person A and person B are from different ethnic backgrounds.  But even in the face of incontrovertible scientific evidence that our equality mightily transcends ethnicity, our loyalty to ethnicity shows no signs of diminishing.

From the standpoint of evolutionary theory, there is a very straightforward sense in which human beings are configured to attach more importance to being loyal than they are to being rational.  And upon reflection, it should be clear why that is so, namely that survival has often had more to do with folks being loyal than with folks being quintessentially rational creatures.  Indeed, the Holocaust is one instance of the significance that loyalty can have.  And guess what, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States is another instance of the significance that loyalty can have.  We have evil in the first case.  We have admirable moral determination in the second case.  But in both cases, there was truly a significant amount of loyalty.

Loyalty can of a tremendous benefit to evil.  Loyalty can be of a tremendous benefit to moral excellence.  And the psychological structure of the loyalty is the same in each case.  What is more, loyalty is a quintessential form of fitting-in.  And guess what, it turns out that few people have the strength of character to go against the grain when it comes of fitting-in.  And from an evolutionary perspective, this should come as no surprise.  Fitting is so very, very, very often a key factor with regard to survival.  Alas, the reality is that loyalty can be equally pressed into the service of evil or into the service of good.

If human beings were configured so that far more weight was attached to being rational than is attached to fitting-in, then there is a very profound sense in which many forms of human interaction would be radically different.  Most interestingly, the idea of marriage confirms the point being made here.  Surely marriage at is very best is far more about two human beings fitting-in with one another than it is about the two of them engaging in rational interaction with one another or becoming rational to the fullest or, at any rate, to a far greater degree.

To conclude, a most interesting human capacity that lends enormous support to the line of thought presented in this blog entry is none other than the capacity that human beings have for self-deception.  There can be no better evidence that Kant got it wrong than the fact that human beings are capable self-deception and often are self-deceived about something or the other.  In far too many instances, being autonomous bows to some form of self-deception.  Indeed, Kant himself was more than a little self-deceived regarding who counts as a full-fledged human being; for he insisted that blacks did not.  Needless to say, his stance was none other than a form of fitting-in.  And guess what?  Numerous philosophers are so committed to keeping Kant on an ever so high pedestal that they mightily ignore the point about Kant to which I have just drawn attention.

As I trust that one can see, the work of Robert Trivers regarding fitting-in has quite extraordinary explanatory power.  Perhaps one day humans will become rather like Spock of the series Star Trek.  But this much is absolutely certain: We are not there yet.

© 2015 Laurence Thomas

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Exhibiting Excellence Versus Protesting: The Black American Issue

If blacks were as committed to excellence as they are to protesting wrongful behavior committed by whites against blacks, then the following would most certainly be true: Blacks would be one of the most successful ethnic groups in the United States.

As is manifestly clear, blacks readily join together in order to protest an injustice committed by a white person—who is often a white police offer—against a black person.  I hardly object to such protests, though I am troubled by some of the destruction to the black community by blacks that protests by blacks sometimes occasions.  But I must confess that the thought that cross my mind time and time and time again is that if blacks devoted as much time to the pursuit of excellence as they do to protesting racial injustice against blacks, then blacks would have extraordinary power and influence throughout the American society.  The point just made is so obvious is that the failure of blacks so to behave cries out for an explanation.

Indeed, I often wonder why liberal whites do not make this suggestion and encourage blacks to pursue various forms of success.  For surely liberal whites mightily grasp the reality that when a people are profoundly successful, it is typically the case that they thereby command respect that they would otherwise not receive.  Indeed, it is generally the case that profoundly successful people are tremendously admired, it is being understood that tremendous affirmation is more affirming than basic respect as such.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, nothing I have said entails ignoring the wrongs that are committed against blacks.  But it is simply not the case that the wrongs committed against blacks are an immutable barrier to blacks being the other of their own lives and acting in concert in order to bring about one success after another.  Obviously, the point being made here could not have been made about the situation of blacks during American Slavery.  But it is unequivocally clear that nowadays, blacks have a freedom to pursue excellence that would have simply been utterly inconceivable during the era of slavery.  And the point that I am making is that it would be absolutely awesome if the freedom that blacks have nowadays were used by blacks to bring about excellence.

A very poignant truth is that no social conception of equality can take the place of or render irrelevant performances of excellence on the part of individuals.  My favorite example in this regard is the Chinese restaurant.  In many cases, the Asian owners of the Chinese restaurant can barely speak English.  Yet, they own the restaurant.  And guess what?  Owing to the successes of Asians that we witness, we generally think of Asian people as tremendously industrious people.  The idea that all people are equal is absolutely not the basis for the quite positive view that we have of Asians.  Rather, it is the success on the part of Asians that that we witness time and time again.  Likewise for Arabs.

Here in Syracuse, I have asked myself time and time again why is that blacks do not own most of the Mom & Pop stores in their own neighborhood.  As it happens a large number of these stores are owned by Arabs.  I not at all angry at Arabs.  Just so, it is utterly mystifying to me that most Mom & Pop stores in the black neighborhood in Syracuse are owned by Arabs rather than blacks.

Indeed, precisely what I cannot figure out is why blacks have not united to open their own Mom & Pop stores in their very own neighborhood.  That should be an absolutely obvious idea.  And in this regard, there is deafening silence on the part of white liberals.  I mention this because it is my considered view is that if one really cares about a person whom one knows, then at the very least one inspires that person to be excellent.  It is not possible to care about a person and yet allow that person to wallow in mediocrity.  Thus, there is a most significant regard in which white liberals are doing blacks more harm than good.  The same claim holds for black leaders. Al Sharpton quickly comes to mind here.

To be sure, compassion is a good thing.  But compassion should never be an excuse for not encouraging a person to achieve some of the excellences of which she or he is capable.  If blacks were as committed to excellence as they are to protesting the wrongful behavior committed by whites against blacks, the truth of the matter is that blacks would mightily command the respect and admiration of people of every ethnicity.  Human psychology is such that nothing anchors the belief in the ability of another like bearing witness to the excellences displayed by that individual.  After all, no one (regardless of ethnicity) doubts that blacks are tremendous at such sports as football and basketball precisely because people routinely witness considerable excellence on the part of blacks in their playing of these sports.

A quite sublime and profound truth is that no ideology of equality can take the place of witnessing excellences on the part of the members of an ethnic group.

© 2015 Laurence Thomas

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Marsha Ann Levine: Her Profound Moral Depravity

Marsha_LevineProfessor Levine is a Jew who is pro-Palestinian.  Whilst I am somewhat surprised by her stance, my criticism of her is from a very different direction.  A 13-year old girl from Israel inquired of Professor Levine about horses.  And what I found absolutely despicable on the part of Professor Levine is that she excoriated the character of the 13-year old.  Even if one allows that Israeli Jews have not at all treated Palestinians fairly, what surely does not follow at all is that Professor Levine’s horrific treatment of the 13-year old Israeli girl was either justifiable or even excusable.

Professor Levine has to be a most morally callous person not to grasp the reality that the 13-year old Israeli girl is not blameworthy for that wrongful ways in which she—Professor Levine—believes that Palestinians are treated by Israelis.

The great philosopher and economist Adam Smith introduced the term self-command.  Surely Professor Levine should have had sufficient self-command to recognize that a 13-year old Israeli, whether the person is male or female, is not at all in the same moral league, with respect to moral responsibility, as is a full-fledged adult.  Indeed, an adult has to be an ever so morally callous person not to recognize that reality with respect to a 13-year old.

Thus, notwithstanding Professor Levine’s opposition to the presumed mistreatment of Palestinians by Israelis, it takes a moral callousness like none other for the professor to treat a 13-year old Israeli girl in a horrifically venomous manner owing to the wrongful manner in which she (Professor Levine) thinks that Israelis are treating Palestinians.  For there is obviously a very straightforward and indisputable sense in which the 13-year old has nothing whatsoever to do with the way in which Palestinians are being treated, and so the 13-year old cannot at all be held morally responsible for how Palestinians are being treated.

Few things are more indicative of the reality that a person has a truly despicable moral character than the utterly harsh manner in which that individual treats children who are simply trying to learn and who are not in any way whatsoever threatening the person’s well-being.  It is obvious that an adult person is entitled to protect herself or himself from a 13-year old who is in the throes of trying to kill him or her.  But we do not have anything remotely resembling that scenario in terms of Professor Levine and the 13-year old Israeli girl, who was simply inquiring of Professor Levine about horses.

No, what we have is a horrific level of moral callousness on the part of Professor Levine.  The very fact that the professor could somehow think that she was justified in slamming the 13-year old girls moral character, given the professor’s commitment to Palestinians, tells me just how morally callous, despicable, and morally depraved a person Professor Levine is.  For that would be rather like me—a black male—treating a 13-year old white American who inquired of me how to say something in French as if the 13-year old was some sort of dyed-in-the-wool racist.  Even if I had been the victim of some racial wrongdoing at the hands some whites, it would still be most inappropriate for me to treat a 13-year old while child as if he were a dyed-in-the-wool racist.

When someone who claims to be for the justice of a group of people behaves in horrific ways towards innocent individuals of a different group, that is my incontrovertible clue that the person is not nearly as committed to justice as she or he claims to be.  In Professor Levine’s case, the argument simply cannot be that in the name of justice for Palestinians, it thereby follows that mistreatment of the most innocent of people, namely children, is thereby permitted.  Such a stance constitutes a most incontrovertible instance of moral depravity.  This point is so obvious that it is simply not possible for a person of Professor Levine’s intellectual abilities not to grasp it.  And that is one reason why I can be ever so confident that Professor Marsha Ann Levine is a morally depraved individual.

I have written Professor Levine two letters about her stance.  Of course, she he has not responded.  Perhaps she thinks that I, too, am an Israeli ! ! !

© 2015 Laurence Thomas

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Texting and Friendship

Texting is an extraordinary trend nowadays.  People are texting just about anywhere and everywhere.  Perhaps a bit more accurately, I should say that young people are very much in the throes of texting.  Students who arrive to class early are more likely to pass their time texting than actually talking to one another.  So it is even in the case of friends sitting next to one another.  Each is more likely to be occupied with texting various folks than actually talking to one another.  And, of course, the moment class is over, countless many students immediately turn to texting as they are leaving the classroom.  Indeed, few things intrigued me more than watching two friends walking together, where each of them is in the throes of texting rather talking to one another.  And that is ever so common nowadays.

If texting is a sign of the majesty and depth friendship, then thanks to technology friendship has achieved a height that not even Aristotle envisioned when he advanced the idea of companion friendship (or perfect friendship, to use Aristotle’s very terminology) as friendship at its very best.  For as Aristotle advanced the idea of companion friendship, companion friends take enormous delight in being in one another’s company precisely because they thereby have the opportunity to converse with one another, and thus to react to one another’s ideas and to share their sentiments with one another and to witness the behavior of one another.  Indeed, Aristotle thought it absolutely clear that one aspect of the very depth of companion friendship between two individuals is fundamentally tied to either (a) the phenomenal degree of trust between them as is revealed by the profound personal knowledge that each shares with the other and the sublime observations that each makes of the other as such knowledge is shared or to (b) the reactions on the part of the other that each witnesses when something has just occurred.

Are the companion friendships of today profoundly richer and deeper than the companion friendship of yesteryear?  Is there a substantially greater degree of trust between companion friends nowadays?  Do companion friends have more knowledge about one another nowadays?  Are old folks rightly in awe of the majesty of friendship between young people that they—the old folks—are witnessing?  Indeed, are old folks saying to themselves that owing to the level of technology that has been achieved, young people are experiencing a majesty with respect to friendship that heretofore was simply inconceivable?

Or let me put the question another way.  In teaching about friendship, do I need to make a series of fundamental changes with regard to the conception of friendship that I advance in class precisely because the typical 20-year old student is far more likely than not to have experienced a depth of friendship that substantially—nay, mightily—exceeds the account of companion friendship that Aristotle advanced?

Most significantly, I do not see that I do.  Not at all.  To put the point another way, I see no reason whatsoever to suppose that the majesty of friendship has become so very much more common among young people, thanks to technology.

So while it is indeed true that we have a considerable richness of interaction between companion friends, what does not follow at all is that such richness of interaction is realized between two individuals for whom their texting one another is far more the centerpiece of their communication with one another than not.

Of course, texting can wonderfully supplement the richness of interaction between two individuals, especially close friends.  But texting can never really be the centerpiece of the interaction between two individuals who are truly close friends.  And if texting becomes the center piece, then what unequivocally follows is that only there is a significant psychological deficiency on the part of the individuals in question.  And the proof of what has just been said is none other than the fact that no one is maintaining that, owing to technology and the tremendous measure of communication using various devices that is made possible by technology, it has turned out that friendships between individuals is reaching a depth and a majesty that heretofore was utterly inconceivable when Aristotle wrote about friendship.  Absolutely no one is making that claim.

Nor, again, is anyone maintaining that owing to the communication between individuals occasioned by technology, it has turned out that friendship at its best—namely companion friendship—has reached a depth and a majesty that far surpasses anything that Aristotle imagined.  No, it is Aristotle’s account of friendship—his account of perfect friendship in particular—that continues to cast a very magnificent and ever so bright shadow across the reality of humanity.

© 2015 Laurence Thomas

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Carol Wain: Liberalism versus Conservatism

During the Civil Rights era liberalism was none other than an extraordinary moral and social gift to black Americans. There can be no doubt about it: The Civil Rights Movement would have failed had it not been for the support of white liberals. Their support was a moral gift like none other.

Most interestingly, white liberals no longer play a supportive role in the lives of blacks. Quite the contrary, the defining feature of white liberals nowadays is none other than a horrific form of paternalism. And the case of Professor Carol Wain at Vanderbilt University mightily brings that out. To hear white liberals tell it, Professor Wain is a morally despicable and intellectually incompetent person; and that is for no other reason than the fact that she mightily embraces conservative values. I am not just speaking of Vanderbilt students here, but also of some members of the administration at Vanderbilt University.

For example, there has been moral outrage over her criticism of Islam. But it is stunning to me that there can be such outrage over her criticism of Islam, when there is virtually deafening silence over the stance of Muslim with respect to the horrific horror committed in France in the name of Islam. Have there been Muslims who have expressed their profound disapproval over what took place in France? Absolutely. But has there been a tremendous outcry on the part of Muslims across the globe? Not at all. Imagine that across the globe Muslims had gathered in the streets to protest the evil committed by various Muslims in France. The moral significance of that behavior would be off the charts. I find it rather interesting that the truth of the preceding two sentences seems to have been lost on liberals.

No doubt there are many ways to characterize the difference between contemporary liberals and contemporary conservatives. For me, the difference is that contemporary conservatism attaches tremendous importance to responsible behavior. And basic responsibility applies whether a person is rich or poor. More precisely, being poor is not ipso facto an excusing condition; for a poor person can have the wherewithal to perform various forms of just and morally decent acts. Being poor is not a barrier to a young person helping an elderly person to cross the street or calling a person’s attention to the fact that she or he dropped something. Quite specifically, being poor does not at all excuse acts of violence. After all, there is simply no respect in which committing acts of violence constitutes a form of personal social advancement in society.

As to the attitude of white liberals at Vanderbilt University towards Professor Carol Wain, my view is very simple, namely that there is a conception of white liberalism embraced by most academic institutions these days that has become horrifically paternalistic towards minorities and especially blacks. Countless many whites have more or less have embraced such paternalism, with one very untoward consequence being that minorities—blacks, in particular—are expected to show a general measure of obsequiousness to white faculty and officers of the institution.

It strikes me as obvious enough that the real problem that folks have with Carol Wain is that she is failing to show the obsequiousness that institutions of higher learning has come to expect of blacks. In other words, she has not succumbed to the prevailing attitude of paternalism towards blacks that nowadays is characteristic of so very many institutions of higher learning in the United States. And the attitude towards her op-ed essay concerning Muslims strikes me as clear proof of this. For there is an extraordinary evil that is being committed in the name of Islam by some Muslims without there being anything remotely resembling a tremendous outcry on the part of Muslims throughout the world, especially in both Europe and North America. It is utterly stupefying and ever so revealing that whites at Vanderbilt are more animated by the desire to criticize Wain for her critical op-ed essay of Islam than they are concerned by the reality it has not at all been the case that there has been widespread outrage on the part of Muslims throughout the world over the evil committed by Muslims in France.

Which is worse, (a) the criticism that Cain raised against Muslims or (b) the deafening silence on the part of so very many Muslims across the globe with regard to the horrendous wrong that was committed by Muslims in France? Notice that even if it is allowed that Cain’s critique of Muslims is wrong, it can nonetheless be ever so justifiably held that the deafening silence on the part of Muslims with regard to the wrong committed in France is surely much, much worse.

© 2015 Laurence Thomas

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