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 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.  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 vicious and false character accusations.  The question that readily presents itself is the following: What motivated Joy Karega to engage in such vicious and malicious behavior?  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 other 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 thing 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 with one very significant and morally negative result being that he is not at all a contributing factor with respect to we who are black taking ourselves seriously.

© 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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Restrooms, Transgender Folks, & Commonsense

In the name of transgender equality, perhaps the real solution to restroom use is none other than a reconfiguration of the public restroom.  After all, an incontrovertible fact is that there has been much social change since public bathrooms were introduced many, many decades ago.  Nowadays, there is a general acceptance of sexual differences that was essentially incomprehensible a great many years ago.  If I were a woman, the last thing that I would want is a male in the restroom facilities with me.  And so it would be even if the male identifies with being a woman.  For there is the simple truth that from the fact that a male identifies with being a woman it simply does not follow that he is a woman.  And it is just so much nonsense to maintain that once a male identifies as a transgender individual, then everything is copacetic.

As an aside, it is interesting that while we hear much talk about men feeling like women and insisting that this feeling be acknowledged even in public settings, we do not hear nearly as much talk about women feeling like men.  I have no idea why there is this asymmetry.  And the claim that I am making here should not be confused with a different one, namely that there are no masculine women out there.  Clearly, there are.

But it is quite interesting that masculine women do not make as much fuss about becoming men as feminine men make about becoming women.  Notice that all the talk is about accommodating men whose gender identity is not tied to masculinity.  Ne’er a word has been said about accommodating women whose gender identity is not tied to femininity.

I have no intentions of denying the complexity and malleability that has come to be constitutive of sexual identity.  But I do not see how that complexity can possibly be resolved simply by asserting that transgender people are entitled to use the restroom of their very own choosing owing to their gender identification.  If I were a woman, I would not want to be sharing a restroom with a man who identifies with being a woman.  Not at all.  Indeed, if I were a woman I am far from certain that I would want to be sharing a restroom with a man who has had a sex change and has become a woman.  Thus, I can make sense of there being women who do not want to share a restroom with Bruce Jenner—now Caitlyn Jenner.

Perhaps in the future the issue of gender identity will cease to have the weight that it presently has pretty much throughout the world.  But it seems that we are a very long way from that reality.

In the meantime, though, a very simple and powerful solution would be to reconfigure public restrooms so that in effect each restroom user has complete private space.  Accordingly, a person’s gender or sexual orientation would be utterly irrelevant.

After all, the reality is that social attitudes have changed dramatically sense public restrooms were first introduced.  And there is not a shred of evidence that warrants the view that we shall return to the social attitudes of yesteryear.

What transgender people deserve is a measure of restroom privacy.  But guess what?  The same holds for all individuals.  Indeed, since public restrooms were first introduced, the norms of privacy have changed dramatically.

Insisting that in the matter of bathroom use transgender people have special rights is utterly ridiculous.  Transgender people deserve no more or no less privacy than any other self-respecting human being.  Indeed, the fact that nowadays there is talk about the rights of transgender people with respect to toilet use is a very clear indication of just how much change there has been in how human beings understand and exhibit basic acceptance of one another.

All that I have done is noted that this substantial social change requires a change in the configuration of public restrooms, especially those that are intended for men and only men.  Ironically, with regard to restrooms women have generally been accorded a respect that has not been accorded to men.  Alas, it is now the case that moral parity between women and men with regard to restroom configuration is absolutely in order.  This would be a tremendous advantage to individuals who have male body parts but who nonetheless identify with being a woman.  Why, such a change would be a marvelous instance of commonsense.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Sexual Consent By A Woman: Responding to Mr. J

My thinking is simply the following: Sex with a woman requires consent.  To be sure, there can be non-verbal consent: Male Person X touches Female Person Y in an erotic manner and Female Person Y responds with an erotic touch of Male Person X.  However, in the case discussed in Oklahoma regarding the oral sex scenario (see the preceding blog entry), there was no gesture on the part of the woman that could reasonably account as non-verbal consent.  Accordingly, I do not see how the judge could maintain that the male’s behavior was ***not*** open to serious moral criticism, notwithstanding the presumed reality that the woman was not harmed.  If I have fallen asleep on the steps and a person takes a $20 bill out of my wallet, then the person has robbed me.  It is true that the person has robbed me although in point of fact it is equally true, given my circumstances, that I have hardly been damaged financially by the robbery. But as surely you will agree, in the typical case the robbery of a person is not excusable just because (1) the person robbed was ***not*** financially harmed in anyway whatsoever and (2) the robbery was so discreet that the person robbed had no clue whatsoever that such a thing had happened to her/him. This point holds even if the person who committed the robbery is a close friend of the person who is robbed.

Interestingly, there seems to be a fascinating asymmetry between women and men.  The typical male would probably not be all that offended if he were to wake up only to discover that he is being given oral sex by a woman–especially an attractive woman.  Why that would strike many men as some form of a marvelous dream that has been realized.  By contrast, we do not seem to get the same parallel with a woman.  It would seem that some sort of positive gesture on the part of the woman is needed in order for the man to be warranted in thinking that he has the consent of the woman.  And the point holds even though it is true that what would count as a gesture of consent can very from woman tot he next.  For woman Alpha, the appropriate eye gestures on her part may unequivocally amount to a resounding “Yes”; whereas for woman Beta, a gentle touch on the man’s hand may be tantamount to a resounding “Yes”.  And so on.  While in many cases it would seem that the man has to know the woman sufficiently well in order to grasp correctly her non-verbal behavior, I do not want to insist that such familiarity is absolutely and always necessary.

The Oklahoma judge ruled that oral sex is not rape if the woman is unconscious.  Well, that ruling is just absurd.  And one very clear reason why I make that statement is that if a woman is indeed unconscious, then the judge’s assertion can certainly be extended to vaginal penetration; for surely there are cases in which a woman is so inebriated that vaginal penetration simply does not register with her.  An evaluator does not have to be intellectually gifted in order to grasp that reality.

Perhaps the Oklahoma judge is of the view that the very nature of oral sex is such that oral sex is simply not tantamount to rape, where rape is defined as vaginal penetration.   But just so, a most significant truth is that oral sex is hardly tantamount to a kiss on the lips.  If, without her permission, Jack spontaneously kisses a woman on the lips, she may react in all sorts of ways to indicate that she did not like Jack’s kiss.  But in the typical case, such behavior by a male would not count as the violation of the woman; though, to be sure, it is clear rather that he should not kiss her again.  But suffice it to say: oral sex with a woman is not at all akin to kissing a woman on the lips.  Alas, it seems to me that the judge could not have made the ruling that he made without wrongfully viewing a man having oral sex with a woman as somewhat akin to a kiss by a man of a woman whose nonverbal behavior clearly indicates that she objects to such behavior.  Given that parallel, the oral sex committed by the man of strikes me as utterly indefensible, since the woman was utterly inebriated and, therefore, was not all in the condition to give her consent–not even by (voluntary) no-verbal gestures on her part.  .

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Oklahoma: Oral Sex Without Permission is OK If a Woman is Inebriated

The Court decision in Oklahoma stands as one of the incomprehensible decisions in modern times, namely that a man does not—I repeat: does not—commit a morally wrong act by engaging in vaginal oral sex with a woman who is so totally inebriated that she has essentially lost consciousness.  Hmmm.  This is one of the most incomprehensible rulings that I have ever heard about.  For in the matter of sex, it is surely the case that the moral baseline is consent—and not whether a person is in some physical or even psychological way made worse off or not.

Now to be sure, there can be non-verbal consent.  Indeed, it is very often the case that sexual intercourse with a person involves non-verbal consent.  Leslie touches Tracy in a mild erotic manner; Tracy touches back in an erotic manner; and so things continue.  But what is absolutely of the utmost importance here is the initial voluntary sexual touching is readily followed by voluntary sexual touching in return.  So although there is no verbal consent, there is a considerable amount of reciprocal voluntary touching between the two individuals, with there being an increase in the sexuality of the touching.

The asinine decision of the Oklahoma completely utterly ignored the importance of mutual voluntary touching as a fundamental form of consent.  But ignoring the importance of voluntary touching between two individuals is utterly asinine and morally inappropriate.  Indeed, in the case of sex, ignoring the importance of voluntary touching is totally despicable.  Voluntary touching between two individuals is correctly understood as a form of tacit approval.  And it is correct that tacit approval is typically how the sex act between two individuals gets underway.

On the one hand, then, the Court would be right in ruling that words are not necessary for voluntary sex between two individuals.  On the other hand, though, the Oklahoma Court is absolutely and unequivocally wrong in failing to take into account the significance of voluntary touching.  And when there is no response on the part of Leslie to the voluntary touching of Tracy, then it is absolutely and unequivocally inappropriate for Tracy to perform a sex act upon Leslie.  And in this regard, it is absolutely phenomenal just how little is needed in terms of a response.  Suppose that Tracy touches Leslie’s upper-thigh.  All that Leslie would need to do is touch Tracy’s hand in a warm manner; and that would suffice as a clear indication to Tracy that he can proceed in sexually engaging Leslie.

Alas, a person who is so inebriated that she or he is in effect unconscious simply does not have the psychological wherewithal to give consent.  Alas, only a morally callous—indeed, a morally bankrupt—person would hold the view that if a person is utterly inebriated, then consent is unnecessary.  It takes very little reflective thought in order to see that such a line of reasoning is utterly horrific.

Thus, the argument of this blog entry entails that Oklahoma judges who rendered the decision that it is alright to have oral sex with an unequivocally inebriated woman who is thereby unable to give consent have revealed themselves to be utterly callous morally speaking.  Accordingly, they do not deserve to be a judge.  It is my hope and prayer that the citizens of Oklahoma will rise up and demand the resignation of the judges who made such a morally despicable and horrific ruling.

With lots and lots of issues, there is room for disagreement between morally intelligent people of goodwill.  From what counts as an adequate salary for this or that job to whether the death penalty is morally acceptable when certain forms of quite horrific wrongs have been committed, there can be disagreement between reasonable people.  But with the ruling of the Court that a man may engage in oral sex with a woman who is unconscious on account of being utterly inebriated, there is absolutely no room for disagreement on the part of morally decent people.  The Court’s ruling is absolutely and unequivocally morally indefensible.  The indefensibility of the ruling is so obviously the case that the only reasonable conclusion to draw is that the ruling reveals a most horrific level of moral callousness on the part of the Court—so much so that it is manifestly obvious that the judges in question are unworthy of being judges.  Conservatives and Liberals may join forces here, since the truth in question mightily transcends their differences.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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The Pope’s Majestic Claim: “You Can’t Download Happiness”

There are not many times in my life when I have heard a claim made by a Pope that I found to be ever so profound and insightful.  Well, Pope Francis’s claim that it is not possible to download happiness easily stands as one of the most majestic, insightful, and appropriate claims that I have heard in recent years.  The only thing that bothers me is that he took his claim to be primarily applicable to young people; whereas I bear witness to the reality that there are numerous individuals who are well into the 40s and 50s who are quite besotted with their gadgets.  I frequently see such adult individuals texting while driving.  Worse, I have seen numerous parents with their infant in a stroller attending more to their cell phone than to their infant child.

Although the Pope does not speak to the issue, a fundamental capacity of human beings is the wherewithal to be self-deceived.  No dog is running around thinking that it is a beaver.  No lion supposes that perhaps it is a monkey.  No snake thinks that it is really a spider.  And so on.  But the capacity for self-deception on the part of human beings make it possible for human beings to embrace beliefs about themselves and their behavior that are unequivocally false.  And it is my considered judgement that owing to technology self-deception has become far more commonplace than it was years ago.

Here is an interesting example of the point of the preceding paragraph.  Judging by the extent to which people go back and forth with texting nowadays, one would think that owing to technology friendship has required a depth and majesty among human beings that hitherto it lacked.  Alas, that is manifestly false.  I have not seen anything that would suggest that owing to technology friendships nowadays are better than the friendships of yesteryear.  Most poignantly, there is no respect in which this appears to be the case.  Quite the contrary, it is arguable that there has been a decline in insight.  And the explanation for that decline would seem to be none other than the reality that in far too many cases individuals seem to be far more besotted with their technological communications with one another than face-to-face communications with one another.

And let me be clear: I am not writing as some old person who barely knows how to use this and that device.  Few can do all that there is with respect to technology.  And while there certainly are students who can do with technology things that I cannot do, it is also the case that I can do things with technology things that my students cannot do.  When it comes to editing music and using Adobe Acrobat, I easily hold my own.

Yet, for all the love that I have of technology, it remains the case that nothing takes the place of the inspiration and insight that flows from a wonderful conversation with a dear friend.  In other words, no technology has occasioned a corresponding degree of insight and inspiration in my life.  None at all.

Without a doubt, technology has contributed to the richness of my life.  Just so, there is no respect in which technology has replaced the richness of human interaction.  And it is that truth that profoundly underwrites the moral significance and majesty of the claim made by Pope Francis.

Pope Francis did not disparage the use of technology.  He did not deny its many benefits.  But he is absolutely right in claiming that there is depth of happiness that human beings can achieve which simply cannot flow from the use of technology.  Trust is one of the simplest ways to see this.

There is absolutely no respect in which it can be said that the numerous devices of technology that I own have a measure of trust me.  By contrast, the trust that some individuals have shown in me (be they students or not) has been none other than a most majestic fountain of both affirmation and inspiration.

It is not owing to technology that I strive to be an upright human being.  Rather, insofar as I am so motivated, that motivation stems from the trust and affirmation that I receive from various individuals.  And the point just made very nicely speaks to Pope Francis’s claim.  It is with great joy that I have download this and that program.  But I can say without hesitation that the far greater joy has come from the ways in which I have been able to put this or that program to use in order to do something ever so pleasant for and affirming of another—be it moral or intellectual.

Words cannot do justice to just how much I love technology.  But my love of technology is inextricably tied to the good that technology has enable me to do.  For instance, technology permits me to embed a wonderful song or a significant part of a film into the syllabus that I send to my students (it being understood that the editing of either the song or the film is a function of technology).

There is an ever so profound sense in which my life would be less rich without technology.  But that is owing to the sublime truth that owing to technology, I can inspire affirmation or insight in ways that were heretofore unavailable to me.  And in that regard, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that my gratitude for the rise of technology is without end.  For technology has contributed mightily to the self-knowledge that I have with regard to the good that I can do for others.  A fundamental aspect of my joy is anchored in that reality.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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An 840% Increase in New York: Self-Command In Today’s World

Texting while driving is said to have increased 840% in New York.  That is as clear an indication as one could have that the denizens of New York simply do not give a damn about the inappropriateness of their behavior, as is made clear by the reality that rarely does the typical text message pertain to a matter of urgency.

As an aside, there is a straightforward sense in which there are emergencies in which a text message would be ever so inappropriate.  If, for instance, I have just witnessed my friend’s spouse being shot to death, it would take a direct order from the Almighty before I would inform my friend via a text message of the horror that I have just witnessed.  Indeed, I would call my friend if and only if I could not immediately get to my friend’s home.  If I could get there in 5 minutes, there is as they an ice cube’s chance in hell that I would send my friend a text message informing her or him of the horrific lost that she or he has just suffered.

Needless to say, there is no reason whatsoever to suppose that the dramatic increase in texting while driving is owing to emergencies.  Quite the contrary, the dramatic increase in texting whilst driving is owing to none other than a despicable form of self-centeredness that is animated by moral callousness, as the following example helps to make clear.

I am lucky in that I can easily type 120 words a minute.  But an indisputable truth is that I cannot type 120 words a minute if I am distracted.  So when I set out to do some serious typing, all distractions in my home are turned off.  Often enough that even includes turning off my phone.  I can no more type 120 words a minute and given adequate attention to a television or radio program than I can walk backwards with the grace that is constitutive of walking forward.

Texting requires a quite serious measure of attentiveness.  And there lies the rub with respect to texting and driving.  It is simply not possible for a person to give full attention to both driving and texting simultaneously.  And an indisputable truth is that the slightest distraction whilst driving can be the occasion for a serious disaster.  But the point just made is roundly ignored by countless many individuals nowadays.  On any given day, I watch numerous individuals texting whilst driving.  Quite simply, that is a horrific level of moral callousness.

By the way, my classroom experience with students makes it is clear as the night follows the day that it is extremely difficult for a person to be in the throes of texting and yet be rather attentive to what is going on around her or him.  The typical student whom I see texting in class is essentially clueless as to what I have said while she or he is in the throes of texting.  I know that because I have asked and the student responses with a most befuddled look.

The issue that mightily presents itself is whether or not as a result of technology human beings generally will lose their self-command.  Part of what it means to have self-command is that notwithstanding the desire that one has to do act in a certain way, one will refrain committing the action in question given the recognition on one’s part that it would be inappropriate to behave.  Alas, an immutable truth is that having self-command is rather like speaking a language.  If we routinely speak a language, then we will sustain our command of the language in question.  Likewise, we will sustain our self-command if and only if we routinely underwrite our self-command by exercising self-command.  In particular, we will sustain our self-command with respect to technology only if we routinely exercise wisdom with respect to our use of technology.  Alas, the evidence is overwhelming that we are not exercising much self-command with respect to technology.  And a quite fascinating indication of the truth of the preceding sentence is the amount of self-disclosure on Facebook, for example, that has become so commonplace.

To use a modification of Ronald Reagan’s famous question: Are we better off on account our routine use of technology?  Without a doubt, some individuals are.  Alas, an indisputable truth is that there are far more individuals who are worse off.  My evidence of this is none other than the writing of my students.  On the one hand, I am seeing far more grammatically bad sentences and far more sentences with painfully poor wording than I was seeing in 2005—a mere 11 years ago.  On the other hand, I am not seeing either the intellectual novelty or the creativity of students that I routinely saw 11 years ago.  There can be no doubt that nowadays students have a phenomenal familiarity with their devices.  But that very familiarity seems to have occasioned considerable intellectual passivity.

Here is an indisputable truth: If current students were as intellectually creative as they are familiar with their devices, the world would absolutely rock in terms of extraordinary intellectual progress.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

Here is the link to the article regarding the claim made in the first sentence:


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The Diversity of Love

Love admits of majestic diversity   There is parental love.  There is romantic love.  And there is the love of friendship.  On the one hand, each of these forms of love is very, very different.  On the other hand, each of these forms of love have something in common that is ever so profound, namely that each is a most profound form of affirmation.  No child can provide herself or himself the affirmation that child’s parents can provide her or him.  And no matter how much self-command and self-knowledge that an adult may have, it will never be the equal of being genuinely trusted and affirmed by another adult who is either a friend or a romantic partner.

The very psychological make-up of human beings makes parental love absolutely foundational.  Now, Aristotle made the quite fascinating claim that having a perfect friendship—or a companion friendship, as I prefer to say—is of the utmost importance to every human being having a complete and proper conception of herself or himself.  Indeed, the truth of the matter is that Aristotle placed companion friendship above romantic love.  Well, surely part of the explanation here is that when Aristotle wrote about friendship, women did not have the same standing that by and large they now have.  So, there is a straightforward sense in which during the era of Aristotle marriage could not have been seen as having the kind of mutual affirmation, between women and man, that nowadays we take to be a fundamental characteristic of marriage at its very best.

Interestingly, though, there is a respect in which Aristotle is right about companion friendship; for it is arguable that marriage at its very best is a specific kind of embodiment of the ideal of companion friendship.  Of course, we all know that sex is a major component of marriage at its very height.  But sex at its very best is rightly seen as embodying a most profound level of mutual trust, where that mutual trust is taken to be none other than the manifestation of love at its best.  And guess what?  Mutual trust is one of the defining aspects of companion friendship at its best.  Indeed, the similarity between the trust of friendship and the trust of romantic love is quite striking.  Of course, there are legal factors that are a formal aspect of the very configuration of marriage whereas no such thing holds with companion friendship.  But a quite interesting truth is that the legal matters do not underwrite the trust.  In other words: The legal matters that are a part of marriage do not make for a deeper trust or a more profound trust between a married couple.

Now, what strikes me as ever so interesting is the following: While marriage is characterized often enough as a most majestic and elevated form of friendship, no one thinks to characterize friendship as a most majestic form of marriage.  What is more, marriage is not seen as rending friendship irrelevant.  Not at all.  Wife Susan may have her close female friends; and husband Jack may have his close male friends.  Indeed, notwithstanding the marriage between Susan and Jack, many would think that something is quite wrong if Susan does not have any close female friends and Jack does not have any close male friends.   And that very truth suggests that Aristotle’s conception of companion friendship is more plausible than one might first suppose.

The very nature of companion friendship is such that friendship is always a fully voluntary relationship.  Hence, the friendship effectively ends when the affection of friendship on the part of one friend towards the other essentially dissipates.  By contrast, it happens often enough that years later two individuals stay married even though the love between them is not at all what it used to be.  The primary reason seems to be that getting a divorce would be way too much trouble.

Significantly, no one trivializes friendship or criticizes the nature of friendship because a friendship does not always last forever.  Thus, I end with a question.  Are we being more than a little self-deceived in viewing very nature of the love of marriage to be such that it should last a lifetime?  And that question has more force nowadays than it did in the past.  Why?  Because human beings are living longer and, moreover, far more options are likely to present themselves nowadays than was the case in the past.  Of course, I hardly object to romantic love between two individuals lasting a lifetime.  But is it plausible nowadays for that expectation to be a defining feature of marriage?  Indeed, in a world where self-reflection is not at all like it used to be and the grounds for contentment are not like they used to be, I ask the following question: Is substantially more harm than good done by cultivating the expectation and hope that marriage is supposed to last forever.

A most significant fact is that an analogous question does not at all rise with respect to either parental love and the love between companion friends.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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The New Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust

I grew up thinking that something like the evil of the Holocaust the very aim of which was to exterminate Jewscould never ever happen again.  In 2016, I am no longer convinced that Holocaust could never happen again.  Indeed, it is absolutely stunning just morally horrific the criticism of Jews is becoming.  And lest there be any misunderstanding, I am not at all of the opinion that Jews are perfect and, therefore, no criticism of Jews is ever appropriate.  But then there is absolutely no ethnic group that I take to be perfect.  More precisely, it simply cannot be held that when the moral character of Jews generally is compared to the moral character, generally, of some other ethnic group, it is always the case that the moral character of Jews is far more morally despicable than is the moral character of the members of that other ethnic group.

And what stuns me more than I can possibly put into the words is the rise of antisemitism at institutions of higher learning.  Indeed, while I shall refrain from mentioning any names, there are some well-known academicians who make utterly vicious comments about Jews.  Indeed, given the views of some of these academicians, it is as if Jews are none other than the very handmaiden of evil.

One reason why I am utterly stupefied by this horrific characterization of Jews is that even after one has adjusted for the difference in population size between Arabs and Jews, it being obvious that there are far more Arabs than there are Jews, it still cannot be claimed that horrific moral behavior is more characteristic of Jews generally or Israeli Jews in particular rather than Muslims.  Indeed, there is absolutely no respect in which the behavior of Jews comes even close to being on a par with the morally horrific behavior of the Islamic group known as ISIS.

There is essentially deafening silence when it comes to the horrific behavior committed by the members of the Arabic group known as ISIS.  Yet, the Jews of Israel are deemed to be horrific although the facts make it manifestly and unequivocally clear that Jews do come even close to committing the kind atrocities that are committed by ISIS.   For instance, in 2015 the newspaper The Daily Mail claimed that in about 10 years ISIS is likely to eliminate Christians from the Middle East.  No such claim can be made about Jews so behaving with respect to Christians or Muslims or any other ethnic group.  So how is it that ever so intellectually gifted and perceptive folks fail to see this very clear difference between how Jews treat others and how Muslims treat others, where it is unmistakably clear that Muslims are viciously harming innocent people?

The concluding question of the preceding paragraph is very, very poignant.  I can concede that Jews sometimes engage inappropriate behavior with respect to non-Jews.  But an indisputable truth is that the wrongs committed by Muslims against non-Muslims far, far surpasses the wrongs committed by Jews against non-Jews.  Yet, there are talented and gifted people whose political stance against Israel would suggest that it is Jews who are routinely killing innocent people; whereas Muslims are doing nothing of the sort.  There are talented and gifted people who hold the stance just articulated even though the evidence is absolutely overwhelming that just the opposite true, namely that it is Muslims—and not Jews—who routinely kill innocent people.

From where I stand, there is no better sign that the Holocaust (against Jews) could occur again than the reality articulated in the preceding paragraph, namely Jews are deemed evil notwithstanding the fact that in the name of Islam Muslims are committing far more horrific behavior against non-Muslims than Jews are committing against non-Jews.  Even if we allow the obvious, namely that Jews are no perfect: It still turns out that Muslims are committing far more horrific behavior against non-Muslims than Jews are committing against non-Jews.  Yet, it is utterly stupefying that there are so very many observant thinkers who fail to acknowledge this indisputable truth.

It is my hope and prayer that the Holocaust (against Jews) will never again occur.  But the evidence increasingly points to the painful conclusion that the world is becoming ever so ripe for the occurrence of the second occurrence of the Holocaust.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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Self-Command, Technology, and Evil

When Adam Smith introduced the idea of self-command, he introduced one of the most significant concepts ever that is applies to human beings.  There is nothing—I mean absolutely nothing—that can take the place of self-command.  Indeed, for all the wonders that are characteristic of love‑‑be it the love of parents or romance or friendship—not even love can take the place of self-command.  An individual who does not have self-command is worse off in a myriad of ways even if the individual is the beneficiary of truly phenomenal love.

In a word, self-command is the wherewithal to act in the appropriate manner notwithstanding the fact that one very much desires to behave otherwise.  For example, there are times when it is understandable that a person—say, Leslie‑‑feels a measure of jealousy towards a friend—say, Tarik.  But if Leslie has self-command, then Leslie will treat Tarik with goodwill notwithstanding the feelings of jealousy that Leslie has towards Tarik.  And in behaving with goodwill towards Tarik, the result will be that Leslie’s feelings of jealousy will certainly diminish to a considerable degree, if not entirely.

Self-command reflects the profound truth that the nature of human beings is such that while human beings do not have direct control over the feelings and desires that they experience, it is nonetheless the case that human being have the wherewithal to act appropriately whatever desires and feelings that they might be experiencing.  In this regard, human beings are fundamentally different from all other living creature on the face of the earth.  No other creature on the face of the earth has that capacity.

My view is that technology is mightily destroying the capacity for self-command that has been definitive of human beings.  It is stunning to see just how besotted individuals are with their technological devices.  And this point holds all the more so in view of the fact that there is no evidence at all that there is some profound respect in which human beings have developed some phenomenal moral or intellectual excellence as a result of being so pre-occupied with their gadgets of technology.  There is not an ounce of evidence that warrants the view that generally speaking individuals are more thoughtful or more honest or more perceptive or more altruistic or more sincere or more understanding of others.  And so on.  Indeed, the evidence mightily points in the other direction.

Whether physical or mental, the truth is that no skill can be maintained without sufficient practice.  Thus, a very disconcerting truth is that with respect to having self-command human beings are in the throes of a horrendous psychological decline.  And that makes humanity tremendously ripe soil for evil.

Social perceptivity is a skill that has to be reinforced.  And technology has become a most profound impediment to the reinforcement of social perceptivity, occasioning a horrifying indifference to what is taking place in a person’s immediate surroundings.  I would be very much for the preoccupation that people have with their technological gadgets if I could see a respect in which there quite significant changes for the better.  But I do not witness greater insight on the art of individuals.  I do not see that individuals are more perceptive with respect to understanding what is taking place around them.  I do not see greater majesty of expression.  I do not see greater insight with respect to either personal or social behavior.  Quite the contrary, I see a substantial decline in all of the areas just mentioned.

As I have said in the past, evil is opportunistic.  Alas, the evidence is overwhelming that we are seeing a tremendous rise in evil.  The tremendous decline in social perceptivity owing to our pre-occupation with our gadgets even in the public sphere has been the moral equivalent of green light with respect to evil behavior.  And things will get much worse before they get better.

If the rise of evil does not inspire human beings to nurture their capacity for self-command, then humanity is doomed.  People are quick to point the following “Hey, I am not harming anyone by being preoccupied with my gadgets”.  And that, of course, is quite right.  But there is the other side of the coin, namely that of not noticing what is going on around one.  And the reality is that when that lack of observance holds for sufficiently many people, then evil has been accorded a tremendous advantage.

In a way that Adam Smith most certainly did not envision, self-command is ever so crucial to the survival of human beings.

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

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