Informal Rant: Higher Expectations for Social Discourse

Update (Aug. 14, 2017): Jordan Peterson released a video, and its a strange coincidence. Here’s an illustration on the sort of thing Journalists are doing by placing political labels on people without backing it up. The danger is that the news-skimming populace will take what they read for granted. 

I’m incredibly angry that the public discussion on racism and other social issues in North America has been led by unqualified, uneducated and ignorant people who have little capacity to make fine distinctions. The typical sophomore is now a widely read political columnist, and journalism has departed from source-citation and making coherent and compelling information available to the public. Nearly every article written regarding August’s protests in Charlottesville has made accusations that, while true, are not backed up within the articles or by those making them (even links to relevant information are widely missing, though widely available). How is one video on twitter a more reliable source of firsthand information that a report compiled by a journalist?

Protesters at Charlottesville were white supremacists and were channeling Nazi rhetoric, but how do I know this? Not from articles titled “White Supremacists March on Charlottesville,” because no attempts are made to link the protests with these ideologies.
Why have the lazy and uninspired masses been allowed to steer a nation? Why have uneducated and even cowardly conservatives been allowed to hold sway in electing Trump? Why have ignorant “liberals” been allowed to accuse anyone they want of bigotry?Why has “liberal” and “conservative” come to refer to ideological sides admitting no variance within their members?
Why have educators spent years of their lives studying educational theories but not themselves seeking to learn? The number of “progessive educators” who have, in any serious fashion, read the writings coming out of the Civil Rights movement is astonishing. Yet so many feel qualified to teach social studies and American history. I remember the attempts at right-wing indoctrination in high school, and now I see other forms occurring. Why have we settled for non-academic teachers?
I don’t know! I don’t know how to answer my questions! I really am not sure what economic theory is correct; I cannot express a justified view on the metaphysical nature of race; I am not at the proper level of understanding to declare how psycholgists should treat transgender people. Are you? I seek to be! But it takes hard work! Still, there’s no excuse: nearly every American has access to grand resources through the internet!
Many things are cut and dry, but moving into the more complex issues must be done with care.
I don’t know, and I’m tired. I want to figure it out. Everyday until school overwhelms me I will be reading literature from the Civil Rights movement, paired with reading Ethical Theory. Will anyone do this or something similar with me?

Thoughts on Principles for Dividing the Academic Disciplines

Thoughts on Principles for Dividing the Academic Disciplines

Many practitioners of various disciplines declare that their “discipline (d) does y”—that is, what it is to practice d is to do y. History is sometimes said to involve the formal seeking of knowledge regarding the psychological states of some (human) agent which have some relation of relevance to a certain event—this was the position of Collingwood.[1] Some may say that to do history is just to attempt to gain such knowledge (whether or not success be possible or impossible)—nothing more, nothing less. Others will give other definitions on what it is to do history.

But what reason do we have for so narrowly defining what a discipline is essentially? Why must what history really is be so narrow? How are academic disciplines divided, if they can be genuinely divided at all? What does it even matter?

(I) A Fable of Philosophical Divisions

It seems to me that, if we start from the following narrative, the nature of academic disciplines should be slightly more clear: we all start doing what I will call “Philosophy.” Philosophy here is simply the seeking of a full or nearly full understanding—that is, something like a quest to know any or all truths, any or all knowable truths–it is supremely general.[2] Included in these truths are truths about events and non-events (like mathematical objects, universals, logical principles, possible worlds, etc). To have a full understanding will be to know all truths about all events and all non-events. Since no man can possibly live up to Philosophy, we seek to narrow our focus: we seek only partial understandings. That is, we seek to know only certain truths regarding only certain events or non-events; we specialize by becoming philosophers sans Philosophy–we divide our focuses into disciplines (supposedly) according to the types of events or non-events we seek to know truths about, and we subdivide these likewise.

It seems obvious that my notion of seeking and focusing contains that of teleology, so that disciplines are not merely divided by differences in types of truths sought about kinds of subjects, but by the place that their subjects hold in inquiry. For it seems at least reasonable to suppose that it is possible for two disciplines to have complete overlap in their subject matter while still being truly distinct; further, it seems probable that one discipline may seek a set of truths about a set of subjects which contains the entirety of that which another discipline seeks, while the latter discipline should not merely be absorbed into the former as a sub-discipline. How do we explain this? Perhaps we can, as Joynt and Rescher do for history, posit that disciplines are divided by which kinds of truths and kinds of subjects are sought to be apprehended in and of themselves, or as the ultimate ends of that discipline’s inquiry.[3]

My hypothesis, then, is that disciplines have their individuality in virtue of the types of truths about the kinds of subjects the practitioner sets as the end of his/her practices. Teleological goals, then, are the main dividers of disciplines. Those who practice history, for example, do so in virtue of purposing their various practices towards attaining knowledge of those certain types of truths regarding certain types of subjects that history has as its end (whatever they are!).[4]

(II) First Line of Support; Differing Methodologies not Sufficient for Fundamental Divisions

Back to history as a case study: Oakesshott is said to have taken history to be a study of merely particular events; no generalizations or abstractions can feature in a truly historical explanation.[5] Hempel and his followers disagree, [6] however: history must involve abstraction, for any adequate explanation of an event will be either of a D-N or I-S form.[7] Oakesshottians and Hempelians may practice what they call “history,” although both are clearly being defined as fundamentally distinct fields.[8]

However, both Oakeshott and Hempel, in doing history, study common subjects (or common types of subjects) (let’s say, the French Revolution, or perhaps revolutions in general). Even if we assume that their respective modes of explanation have no non-accidental overlap (which is probably false, since it seems clear to me that all explanations as to why e occurs will be of a generically Hempelian mode), we can still ask the following: is there something these two practices have in common that can justifiably lead to them being labeled as “History?” It seems prima facie probable, when we consider that they both seek to contribute portions of a full understanding of particular, human-centric events (when doing history).[9] [10] If, when we investigate the particulars of their inquiry, find such a united telos, my fable of mega-Philosophy in section (I) would account well for their appearance of disciplinary unity. For my myth purports that, so long as the practices of Hempel and Oakshotte have a common telos with regards to certain types of knowledge and practices, they both belong to a common discipline (when performing these practices). What has been said here, of course, can be generalized to explaining what unites two historians despite completely non-overlapping methods (see also section (IV)).

(III) Second Line of Support; Interdisciplinary Contamination

Is it sufficient for two practitioners to belong to the same fundamental discipline if they both seek to discover truths about the same subject (or kind of subject) as the end of their practices? Ehrman will claim that historians cannot come to a conclusion regarding the occurrence of a miracle-event while still doing history[11]—but what does this amount to? What is history? Ehrman writes that “historians by the very nature of their craft can speak only about events of the natural world.”[12] What principle of division between history and non-history does Ehrman stand on?

One may suggest that, by incorporating (narrowly) philosophical/theological methods into historical research, one ceases to do history. But why? Philosophical methods are the backbone of every discipline—especially if what I have said about a broad conception of Philosophy is correct.[13] Why think that interdisciplinary contaminations of this sort indicate that history has ceased and something else has begun? Consider that deduction and induction are practices underlying every discipline while knowledge of both, formally, falls under the philosophical discipline. Further, in reconstructing some historical events, psychological generalizations would be heavily relied upon.

Clearly, academic disciplines can have overlapping subjects while still retaining individuality. In fact, the account I have given for the individuality of academic disciplines seems to account well for the impossibility of academic isolation—that is, the fact that every academic discipline has deep overlap with at least one other, so that to have never practiced one discipline would probably result in the crippling of another. For, if I am correct, all academic disciplines are united as sub-divisions of Philosophy—each are joined by a supremely general concern with knowledge, and thereby a concern with truth about a perhaps infinite set of events and non-events. Supposing that any events and non-events which are understandable are so through a set of methodologies, we can see that one academic discipline may be individualized by a seeking of understanding those methodologies (which are themselves non-events). And, if this is correct, some level of disciplinary overlap between this methodological discipline and others will be inevitable. For any discipline will need to access this methodological knowledge so far as it relies on this methodological knowledge to fulfill its telos.

I will briefly clarify the argument I just offered: let us consider that there is a range of events and non-events forming the set of all events and non-events which may be referenced in true propositions. There is (at least potentially or formally) a discipline for each type of event and non-event, since there are potentially many ways one could divide that large set into subjects of seeking/inquiry. One category of non-events are methodologies. So, there is (at least in form) a discipline seeking knowledge of these methodologies. And since we would identify any knowledge about these methodologies as belonging to this discipline, we would say that any discipline which needs some bit of knowledge regarding methodologies would have content overlap with this methodological discipline. Thus, a direct consequence of my fable in (1) is exactly what we find in our own experience, for every academic discipline does rely on such a methodological discipline (which some have identified as philosophy in particular).

(IV) Anticipating Objections; Defeating an Entrenched Principle; Third Line of Support

Perhaps one may suggest that any attempt of doing history and coming to a miracle-event-conclusion will fail to apprehend the relevant truths, and thereby say that, because any attempt of doing history this way is inadequate, it cannot truly be considered history. That is, some seem to reason that, because doing x fails to or cannot possibly accomplish what some discipline seeks to do, that doing x cannot be an action considered within that discipline. In my reading, AJ Ayer divided speculative metaphysics from philosophy on this principle,[14] as well as Oakeshott; it also seems likely that Hempel would declare any historical explanation which does not even tacitly involve a D-N or I-S explanation as inadequate (since we can only attain the relevant knowledge by explaining in such a way), and therefore inadequately historical.[15]

Consider, though, the following situation: Bridget, a history student working on her doctoral dissertation, is seeking to provide an explanation for why Alexander Hamilton threw away his shot, and subsequently opened himself up to death. Let’s suppose that this scholar has consciously decided to seek the truth about a small event in history: that is, she, through her work, is attempting to discover the causal process which led to Hamilton’s firing in the air. However, she fails to come up with a correct explanation—in fact, her methodology with which she explains events could never correctly explain any event, for it intimately involves an acceptance of backwards causation (and I assume this is an incoherent notion). Should we say that her account is non-historical? If we make use of the principle previously laid out, we would have to, for she both fails to attain knowledge about a historical event and could not possibly do so through her explanation. But it seems obvious to me that she is practicing history, though she is practicing bad history.

Our judgement that Bridget is doing history despite not possibly being able to fulfill the function of the historian is consonant with the account laid down in (I). Further, my hypothesis is made more plausible given that it provides an answer to, “why is Bridget doing history despite such failure?” For Bridget’s intentions regarding her practices are to fulfill such a function (whatever it is), and according to my account this alone is sufficient for doing history.

I conclude, on the basis of the intuitive plausibility of my hypothesis and its explanatory power evidenced in sections (II-IV), that disciplines have their individuality in virtue of the types of truths about the kinds of subjects the practitioner sets as the end of his/her practices. Teleological goals, then, are probably the main dividers of academic disciplines.

[1] Dray, William. Philosophy of History. 10-12. It may be suggested that Collingwood simply believed that

[2] The etymology of “philosophy” seems to bear out this broad conception of philosophy.

[3] Rescher and Joynt. “The Problem of Uniqueness in History.” 153.

[4] I am writing here of only academic disciplines, which clearly have sorts of knowledge as their ends (academic disciplines are all fundamentally Philosophical subdivisions); but a similar principle of division for the non-academic disciplines is not far from us. We can perhaps say that non-knowledge-seeking disciplines are divided according to their goals; the athlete has as their end some sort of physical proficiency, and the auto-mechanic something like the preservation of proper automotive functioning. It is worthy to note that here seems to lie the most fundamental division of human disciplines: the division between Philosophical and non-Philosophical—knowledge seeking and non-knowledge seeking.

[5] Dray, 8.

[6] (Dray. p8) Hempel would probably say that Oakeshott was practicing history, even despite his lack of D-N or I-S explanations, so long as he (whether he knew it or not) was tacitly giving them in giving a historical explanation. Oakeshott would not, however, be so charitable: any generalization was anathema to the historian.

[7] (Dray, 9.) Roughly, D-N explanations posit a general law and particular circumstance which, when combined, imply that the event in question will occur. I-S explanations posit a general law and particular circumstance which, when combined, implies that the event in question is more-likely-than-not to occur. Both explanation forms answer the question “why” e has occurred by attempting to reconstruct the actual sufficient conditions for e or the plausibility of e. Many detailed theories of D-N and I-S explanations exist, but teasing out a particular account is not currently important.

[8] I am, of course, aware that neither Oakeshott nor Hempel were properly considered historians, but this matters not. Take my reference to their doing history as reference to those who follow their methodologies’ practices.

[9] I do not mean this to be taken as the necessary and sufficient conditions for the discipline of History.

[10] The issue of the essence of what it is they do is complex—and their practices may have distinct essences while still being united by one, perhaps just as Pierce and Emily are both essentially man, yet Emily is not essentially Pierce, while Pierce is, and vice versa. These two instances of man share a common nature, while also having a distinct nature (I am here using nature and essence interchangeably).

[11] Ehrman, Bart. “Historians and the Problem of Miracle.” (https://ehrmanblog.org/historians-problem-miracle-members)

[12] Ibid.

[13] For then every discipline would be a sub-discipline of philosophy.

[14] (Ayer, AJ. “Language, Truth and Logic.” 1952. Ch1.) Consider just why Ayer cuts so much from philosophy: the pseudo-philosophical could never attain to truth, given the unverifiability and thus meaninglessness of their questions and hypotheses.

[15] Rosenberg, Alex. Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. 2011. Ch3.

Over-Consumption and a Simple Life

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise. (Luke 3:9-11)

(1) I imagine John did not have more than two tunics at a time while I stare at a new Lee jacket in my closet; it was bought with a violated conscience and is now unable to be returned. The guilt bothers me—I have more than two jackets, and none serve a unique, justifiable function. My purchase was consumeristic, and potentially harmful to others. The money spent could have comforted some suffering soul, while its loss would have had absolutely no effect on me. Further, I’ve encouraged a company which will in turn encourage many to similarly spend irresponsibly.

I have desired a very simple life—one free from materialism—for some time. I tell others to live simply in the same mode Jefferson condemned slavery. A simple life requires ceasing over-consumption; doing so is of great virtue, for over consumption comes with great harm to (1) the self, (2) other individuals, and (3) society. The self’s character is diminished by an ever-increasing focus on its property, and as it becomes accustomed to gain in the face of harm to others and society, it becomes skilled at placing its own pleasures above others. Other individuals (may/probably do) receive harm in virtue of supporting poor working conditions, and by stripping them of charitable funds which, though these are gifts, are given as responsibilities of any who can make them—clearly over-consumers fall into that category. Consider here Anselm’s view: even the most pious life will be a life of doing only what was originally expected of the pious; even our acts of spontaneous charity go towards paying reparations we can never complete.[1] The exhortation to give one of two tunics is not framed as a mere suggestion.[2] Further, wider society is harmed because the collective—soul (whether this be something over and above a generalization about the average moral character of members in a society or not) is corrupted through and in the same manner as the corruption of the individual’s character.

I have given the most cogent argument I have for living such an idealized life, though I admit they are still underdeveloped—vague. There are a few more, but I am confused even in regards to my best; a thorough development would require more time than I can allot to the subject currently, involving tracing supply lines and manufacturing methods and processes. Still, what I have given seems persuasive enough to me. I am convinced and can at least identify a significant number of cases in which my own over-consumption features. Metaphysics is straightforward—ethical judgement often have to be formed through the sentiments (thanks, Hume), or what I call “intuition,” and this should not count against ethical judgement-formation. Further, if one replies that we are not sure if/how production and consumption harms “without more data,” intending to somehow counter the slight conclusions I have come to, I will in turn reply that we should not (unless forced) support powers accused of such incredible wrongdoing while in ignorance.

(2) Is my position not worth respectful consideration? Tell me, imaginary followers, why, when I express my views on consumption, I am mocked? I understand (somewhat) the difficulties involved if one consistently adopted my skeletal views, including working out exactly what it involves. My new jacket testifies to my own debt to God—I will be judged in the end. But even the raising of questions is met with defensiveness and irritated scoffs. Can we not put down our own inconveniences, so that we might take up assisting others?[3] My life must serve its proper function—I must die. Is this too much? Am I juvenile? Authors and journalists cover the sins of our nation and wrongdoings of a corporate consumerism, but few move beyond legislative exhortations while still encouraging consumption.[4] Do we improperly imbibe while waiting in hope for an improved mode of consumption—allowing a tarnished conscience in the meantime? Or should we come to temperance? I wish to consume what is necessary for the fulling of the proper function given (again, what this involves is not settled in my mind). But, I am weak: I willfully align with failure, conforming to social pressures and private desires, instead of being transformed toward the good itself.[5] Perhaps a radical restructuring is in order.

(3) I am lonely. For whatever reason, it is difficult to find receptive company—likeminded encouragement. But, to avoid promoting a hopelessness, I want move to note some non-NT authors who I have come to take as my friends and mentors. These have helped me greatly, least of all in providing a tradition to fall into:

  1. Anselm of Canterbury: Though I do not accept Anselm’s theory of atonement in full, Anselm is an inspiring philosopher/theologian with strong moral teachings, even those woven into his satisfaction theory. As I cited earlier, Cur Deus Homo is a wonderful work to explore long-lasting atonement theories and so the situation man finds himself in.
  2. Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianzus: Both these early Church fathers developed a theory of atonement involving an ontic-restructuring of the soul; for them, Christ’s work really reconstitutes the soul of man, providing a foundation for understanding how the life of the Christian needs to be so radically restructured from the previous dysfunctional state. See Athanasius’ On the Incarnation of the Word, and Gregory of Nazianzus’ “Fourth Theological Oration” and “Second Paschal Oration.”
  3. NT Wright: Wright’s works, especially How God Became King, flush out a picture of God’s Kingdom and what subjection to God consists in. Obviously pairs well with the work of Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianzus.
  4. Charles Foster Kent: See Kent’s The Social Teachings of the Prophets and Jesus. This work is just as it sounds, and functions well as a reference text for social implications of ancient preaching. It has been some time since reading this work, and my citing it should not be seen as a full endorsement of any views it contains.

Rather than waste time recapitulating what I have written, I conclude only with a long passage from St. Gregory of Nazianzus’ “Second Paschal Oration.” Here, Gregory commands his listener, no matter what sort of person they are, to follow Christ in all they do–to construct their lives in a way that fulfills the function God gives them:

XXIV.  If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up the Cross and follow.  If you are crucified with Him as a robber, acknowledge God as a penitent robber.  If even He was numbered among the transgressors for you and your sin, do you become law-abiding for His sake.  Worship Him Who was hanged for you, even if you yourself are hanging; make some gain even from your wickedness; purchase salvation by your death; enter with Jesus into Paradise, so that you may learn from what you have fallen.  Contemplate the glories that are there; let the murderer die outside with his blasphemies; and if you be a Joseph of Arimathæa, beg the Body from him that crucified Him, make thine own that which cleanses the world.  If you be a Nicodemus, the worshipper of God by night, bury Him with spices. If you be a Mary, or another Mary, or a Salome, or a Joanna, weep in the early morning.  Be first to see the stone taken away, and perhaps you will see the Angels and Jesus Himself.  Say something; hear His Voice.  If He say to you, Touch Me not, stand afar off; reverence the Word, but grieve not; for He knoweth those to whom He appeareth first.  Keep the feast of the Resurrection; come to the aid of Eve who was first to fall, of Her who first embraced the Christ, and made Him known to the disciples.  Be a Peter or a John; hasten to the Sepulchre, running together, running against one another, vying in the noble race.  And even if you be beaten in speed, win the victory of zeal; not Looking into the tomb, but Going in.[6]

[1] (Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo in Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works. Oxford University Press. 1998.)

[2] John 3:11

[3] Mark 8:34

[4] For example, see (Hobbes, Michael. “The Myth of the Ethical Consumer.” http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/the-myth-of-the-ethical-shopper)

[5] Romans 12:2

[6] (Gregory of Nazianzus “The Second Oration on Easter” in Schaff, Phillip, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, SII.v7)

Quick Rant: Christian Issues Media and Simplistic Answers to Simplistic Questions

The Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news, and as such it was proclaimed by its earliest preachers… (F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, ch.1)

Christianity is built on a perspective-forming story, and knowing this leads me into a rant. So SHUT IT while I yell at an audience of one.

I detest what I call “Christian Issues Media.” What I have in mind here are the sorts of pop-level, simplistic pieces of media which address a range of questions similar to “is it wrong to missionary date?” or “do I have to go to Church on Sundays and if I go on Saturday will I go to Hell?” I’m thinking here of a innumerable amount of articles on gotQuestions?.org and Q&A programs like John Piper’s.

Christian Issues Media can often be a source of quick help to an uninformed questioner (especially Piper’s); but the solutions to the sort of problems found in this media are often simplistic, lack supporting sources, well thought out arguments, and, worst of all, suggestions for further reading (other than a slew of proof texts). The genre is both inept at answering anything but the most obvious questions (given the tendency to lack proper support) and nearly superfluous: many questions in Christian Issues Media would be answered fully just by the questioner becoming familiar with that fundamental story I mentioned before–the gospel. 

What of more difficult questions? Most questions found in Christian Issues Media, when not immediately and effectively satisfied by gospel-acquaintance, can be solved by study requiring such slight sophistication that nearly any person can do so; to give an easy, unsupported answer discourages thorough (though fairly palatable) learning. The shallow nature of this genre (whatever format it inhabits) seems to enable an ignorance of the gospel; too many imbibe a swath of Christian Issues Media and let the authority figures writing them act as their educational-substitutes–the Pastor knows, and it’s his job to tell me what I know through him. He’s done the work for us! Rather than real learning, since learning presupposes understanding, the stunted leaner will only become a disciple of the answer-er.

But what of a third category of questions: even more difficult ones; isn’t answering those the function of Christian Issues Media? Shouldn’t the Church have people who selflessly provide information to the poor, unfortunate, and uneducated laity? Questions truly requiring more than shallow sophistication will in no way be truly met by a brief answer: how could they, especially when the format answers are delivered in tends to be uncritical? 

The poor laity! What are they to do? Where should they turn to have their questions answered? We shouldn’t weep–the majority (in the West, at least) merely refuse to pursue learning, rather than facing genuine inability (just do a google search for average IQ by country). Those who, through no fault of their own, face overwhelming obstacles shouldn’t be discarded, nor are they somehow essentially inferior to the learned. But these poor folks do not make up a large portion of the laity. I’m convinced that most, choosing those comforts of simplicity, make themselves complicit in the development of a frail mind. If we take seriously the Athanasian view of Atonement–where through progressive intellectual and moral character development (made possible by Christ’s life, death and resurrection) we are healed and remade in the image of God–the intentional underdevelopment of the mind should be worrisome. Christian Issues Media is often an enabler of the worst kind. 

Something Evil Underlying/Why I’m Not Trustin’ A Soul

Update (Aug. 2017):

Man is made up of many willfully broken and ignorant people. The majority has taken up arms against one another in the name of vague, convoluted and unjustified ideologies, and will continue to do so. More will come, until man is made into a race of subjects. 

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia (Aug. 2017) have served to confirm some of the fears expressed in this post. The pro-monument protestors’ links to white supremacist and vaguely Nazi views is highly disturbing. As far as evidence goes, here is what I take to be linking these protests to those ideologies:

Slogan with Nazi links chanted by protestors in makeshift riot gear.
Richard Spencer (a speaker at the protest) talks to Aljazeera, displaying modern white supremacist views while disavowing the title.
Violence breaks out at Charlottesville rally in the name of White Supremacy.
The KKK was involved in a protest regarding the same issue one month prior (and yet managed to have a safer protest).

Militia in Charlottesville.

Anxiety Mounting

I’ve been surprisingly worried lately; I’ve been anxious, and I keep finding myself getting my family’s important belongings organized into stackable crates and backpacks. I, without fully realizing it, have almost gathered enough supplies for a few weeks away from everyone. I guess I’m reluctantly loaded up and ready to leave if “shit hits the fan.”

I hate preppers. Why have I become one? I didn’t mean to do so. I think it was mostly accidental; I would find myself buying several extra cans of food every time I shopped. And whenever I passed up the opportunity to do so, I found myself imagining my dogs and wife starving (who cares about the reptiles?). An extra rifle, and an extra knife. Two more orders of rope. An extra backpack full of gear to give away.

I feel helpless, I think. Often I do, regardless (I am at the mercy of a faulty immune system, after all). But this has been different: I feel like there’s something waiting to pop up that many of us have been in denial over.

Background

A few months ago I wrote a small, informal blog-post referencing the Caning of Sumner. The point was that, in light of Trump’s election, and other then-current events, we should no longer be surprised at what we might encounter in other people. For, though we live in an era of much progress, we are mistaken in believing that this progress has been flowing through the character of our society, and the individuals within that society. The thought is nothing novel: people have been both inwardly and outwardly evil for a very long time, so to assume that, in the period between the Civil War and 2017 (roughly 152 years), the change in the “hearts and minds” of Americans has been significant seems to be naive. Have we really put down our canes? I do not minimize the physical dropping of canes–that is wonderful. But have they really been dropped?

Whoever has hated has murdered; whoever lusts has committed adultery. 

I’m still being surprised. I feel as though there’s a “something” eagerly waiting to destroy a “something” else. And I feel threatened, which is from where I take my surprise.

My Experience with Non-Physical Violence

There’s been a dark and violent part of people forever. From this is where the worst destructive behaviors and the most horrifying events in history come. This violence and darkness fought for slavery, and when it lost, it went underground–it had to settle in, and wait.

I have seen that common violence manifest itself personally. In High-school, particularly American History, I was taught that the Civil War was fought over states’ economic rights–I left with the impression that my teacher (a Southern California Pastor) wanted us to empathize with the pain of the South. While he did not endorse slavery, this minimization seemed strange. In the Sciences, I was taught that Young Earth Creationism was the only acceptable view of the world: the same pastor, who ran my school, insisted that this be taught. I remember when two teachers, much more learned than any others at the school, expressed uneasiness at stating their true beliefs to other faculty.

Within my Southern California, Orange County community, I heard shouts of the war on Christmas, Christians and Christ. Unsubstantiated claims were used to stir up impressionable people to anger. Arguments were feuds and never discussions. Any request for sources was brushed aside.

Later, I became a Christian, and when I vocalized non-evangelical, non-ultra-conservative views, I was talked down to, accused of having little faith, and told that I was trying to “stir up conflict.” Many told me to “stop being so controversial,” and to “let things go.” Genuine theological and philosophical questions I had were avoided in a sort of gas-lighting fashion. I entered into years of depression and isolation. Even after dedicating myself to Philosophy and Theology, many questioned my faith: upon hearing that I was studying philosophy, one ignorant Church-goer whom I had just met asked, with indignation, “are you even a Christian?” I responded, “yes, but not the kind you are: I’m trying to be like the early Christians.” Time and time again I was met with anger and even, I believe, hatred. For what? Being an outsider.

I was a victim of non-physical violence, and so were many others.
Connecting My Experiences with Evil to the Past

Do not think I am trying to connect every issue to slavery–that I am trying to make every occurance of evil somehow have its origin in the racism of the South. I am merely stipulating a common power between Church abuses, Southern Racism, and the Caning of Sumner. I find several commonalities:

  1. At least a hesitancy to engage in fair debate,
  2. A persecution complex,
  3. A desire to preserve current culture,
  4. A willingness to preserve current culture through anti-intellectual and harmful means,
  5. A suppression of other viewpoints (often through shame and power-tactics), and
  6. A feigning of superiority (in intellect and culture).

It goes without saying that each of these characteristics disposes individuals and groups toward reactionary thinking and increases the probability of violent and harmful outbursts.

Current Manifestations

The cause of my current anxiety is the recognition that this evil is widely manifesting itself (or that is coming to surface). I do not want, here, to argue about President Trump, or Kellyanne Conway, aside from noting their involvement. I also do not want to stir up conflict with those who voted for him.

Aside from the overly-political branches of the Church (which are very common in the evangelical world), there are potentially five more places that 1-6 can clearly be seen. I will not illustrate exactly how they manifest these characteristics, for the sake of brevity:

First up is the Men’s Rights Movement under the banner of “RedPill.” It’s surprising how many conservatives, and in my own experience, Christians, come under the banner, or at least thinking, of a group which believes women must be manipulated into loving men, and that men are really the only sex capable of true love. The group is a pseudo-philosophical alliance of men who are “fed up;” their rhetoric is surprisingly similar to the Alt-Right, and they regularly classify men who disagree with them as outsiders, and, overall, lesser men. It’s clear that folks like Milo Yiannopoulos have pulled much of their support base from groups like these (just read some of Milo’s anti-feminist articles).

Second, Milo Yiannopoulos and his support. One of Milo’s most infuriating comments was to claim that “the best science is out” on gender/sex differences, as if this somehow lent itself to his contrarian position. This looks to me to be an attempt at puffing himself up, and making an argument from vague and unsubstantiated premises.

Third, possibly PewDiePie! No further comments on this. It’s almost a joke.

Fourth, the Trump Administration (check sources below for relevant articles).

Fifth, Dave Koresh, his cult, and other cults. I don’t even need to discuss this: it’s clear from common knowledge that his way of governing his cult met 1-6 perfectly.

Why I Worry

Alright, so far I’ve listed the following places as being home to a terrible sort of common evil:

  1. The people who Caned Summer,
  2. The Civil-War-South,
  3. The Conservative-Evangelical Church (this is not to say that every evangelical group is bankrupt, but I do believe many are),
  4. Southern California Conservative Circles,
  5. Men’s Rights Groups,
  6. Milo Yiannopoulos and the Alt-Right, and
  7. Dave Koresh and other cults.

Briefly, here’s what worries me: I have known many, many people who have the characters consistent with acting out violently towards outsiders. Those people, with those dispositions, I thought, were fairly isolated, but I am now coming to see that those sorts of individuals make up a large part of the U.S. (and even world) population. I once considered much of them as simply misguided, and in need of correction, but am now becoming convinced of a much more serious problem. To have pretended that these sorts of people do not pose a serious, physical threat because of their low numbers was mistaken (they do not have low numbers, it seems!). There has not been a change in character, but there has been a shift in public policy, which has obviously frustrated many! What frustrations will increase, and what would it take for chunks of the population to reach their (stupid) limits? The reasons for frustration are complex, but we know that some who have shown similar characteristics are pushed, for whatever reason, to violence (see sources for more).

I leave you with this amazing video, of a conservative saying that, because Milo did not get to exercise free speech at UCB, we have the right to…shoot people? 

Disclaimer: Again, I want to emphasize that my point in writing this is not to cast suspicious eyes over every evangelical, conservative Christian, or to degrade them as a whole. The point is, however, that I have found, through my own experiences, worrying similarities between violent groups and many of the organizations and people I have previously associated with. This is written as a personal article, about what motivates my own worry, and has pushed me to begin a sort of withdrawal from many others. It is about why I find myself unable to trust very many anymore: why the earth seems to be falling away from my feet, and why I am increasingly preparing.

Sources/Links

Regarding Trump:

  1. Spicer Lies/Misleads: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/trump-puts-iran-on-notice-iran-calls-threat-useless.html
  2. Conway Misleads: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/02/03/politics/conway-bowling-green/index.html
  3. Trump reactionary and anti-intellectual: http://patch.com/california/berkeley/president-trump-threatens-uc-berkeley-funds-following-riot

On Milo:

  1. Here’s Milo setting himself up as an honest intellectual. He tells liberals they can change his mind “if they only brought facts and logic,” as if he’s never had a critic engage him on that level (skip to 5min). He casts liberals as “self involved,” “stupid” and “lazy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPIMWCCG4fg

“Neighborhood Terrorists”

  1. List of Attacks by So Called “White Nationalists”: https://news.vice.com/story/10-plots-and-attacks-by-white-people-the-white-house-left-off-its-terrorism-list
  2. Who Is Hiding Among Us? http://www.newsweek.com/2016/02/12/right-wing-extremists-militants-bigger-threat-america-isis-jihadists-422743.html

Citations:

  1. Redpill and Sexism https://therationalmale.com/2011/12/27/women-in-love/
  2. Milo’s Anti-Feminism http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/06/15/heres-why-there-ought-to-be-a-cap-on-women-studying-science-and-maths/
  3. Milo’s Posturing https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0n76ZozxQAM
  4. PewDiePie’s Alleged White Supremacy http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/2/17/14613234/pewdiepie-nazi-satire-alt-right
  5. Quebec Mosque Shooter White Supremacist http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/30/quebec-mosque-shooting-two-students-arrested-gun-attack-mosque/
  6. Conservative Youtuber Loves Guns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mznp4-LzsZU

Ghost Town Update: Sacred Heart and Fallis, OK

Sacred Heart Mission
Giving into a longstanding desire, my wife and I went up to Sacred Heart, OK, in order to start our Ghost Towning hobby. Sacred Heart Mission was established in the late 1800’s by Jesuit Priests  with a desire to educate and convert local Native Americans. Eventually, the Sisters of Mercy–a society of nuns who would later establish the Mercy Medical Network–would come to reside at the Mission, working as teachers and, it seems, in medicine (the founder of this order is buried in the graveyard pictured below).

Cross Graveyard Sepia.jpg

After a large fire, the Mission began to decline. I would not presume to be able to recount this process, but more information can be found at the links at the end of the post. Today, a new Church stands within the tiny, unincorporated town, a direct descendant of the original mission. Following friendly signs welcoming curious visitors, the small Catholic Church disappears as you move down a small hill and through the original gates to the Mission. Within the grounds once sprawling are several structures: a bakery, a two-story cabin, a partially collapsed dwelling, stables, foundations to the main Mission, and a beautiful graveyard. The small Church evidently has great love for the original site, and, though preservation has largely failed for the buildings, the graveyard is in beautiful condition.

Between fairly racist views, a French immigrant living in Sacred Heart revealed a wonderful sentiment (similar to those which I found myself with after moving from California to Oklahoma) in his 1887 diary entry:
“The best thing about life at Sacred Heart is that one has no intimation whatever of the existence of any administration, There is no prefect, sub-prefect, nor mayor; there is no tax collector, field keeper, game keeper, river keeper, forest guard, road engineer, policeman or gendarmes. For a Frenchman who could not take ten steps in France without bumping his nose against a uniformed functionary of some kind or other, this is a pleasant and very welcome relief. One feels as free as an eagle that soars up in the air and it seems that one can breathe easier.” 

Resources:
(Contemporary Accounts of Sacred Heart, Including Firsthand Accounts) http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Chronicles/v005/v005p234.html

(Summary) http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=SA004

Fallis
The second town we went to was Fallis, OK. There was nothing much to see: notably, a wrecked school-bus, a vacant community center, and a few abandoned houses, only one of which was able to be entered. It’s strange seeing so many very old houses abandoned only after TV’s became popular–one house in particular was so old it had no indoor plumbing, only outhouses, yet it had been “modernized” with electrical wiring, and was home to several 1970’s television sets.

I offer here only a reflection: coming from Southern California, I’m shocked to find a large amount of Oklahoma history thrown away to decay–very little back home is left behind unless intentionally preserved, and preservation is taken very seriously. On the one hand, being able to explore abandoned buildings and areas as they really were, instead of how a preservationist restores them, is an amazing gift. But, still, my heart breaks for the narrative being lost with each collapsing roof: the story of Oklahoma’s development is decaying.

Resources:
http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=FA008