Social Criticism

Social Criticism


Ethnic Studies Courses for White Children

ethnic studies October 30th, 2018

The following blog is written by guest blogger Jon Greenberg, a high school teacher, activist and writer. I wanted to present this take on white privilege because I believe that it is important in this time of hyperpartisanship, ethnic divisions, and political demagoguery. I am pretty much on the left when it comes to how I feel about race, racism, privilege, institutionalized racism, etc. That is to say that I am not all the way to the left; for example, I find Mr. Greenberg’s use of capitalization in the phrase “People of Color” to be silly and overdone. However, it is only slightly more mistaken than a lot of the beliefs and customs that my fellow European Americans to the right of me hold. Somewhere in between political correctness and social justice is where I come down on this topic. What follows is why Mr. Greenberg believes ethnic studies courses are useful for his white children (and white Americans everywhere):

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Exemplifies Civic Duty

October 20th, 2018

We find it hard to ask, whether in asking for more than we have, or more than we think we can get, if we are in fact asking for the right things. In the wake of a 2016 election defined for many by the fear of “falling behind,” of losing the material security promised by the American Dream, we need to think about how we define the contents of that dream and examine the entitlement behind the notion of “falling behind.” We now know that many more voters were galvanized this year by appeals to fear and entitlement than were moved by visions of social justice and equality. We need to address the appeal of fear and entitlement before we can go on to articulate a larger vision of a just society where there is opportunity for everyone. This is a blog about virtue and values, self-interest and self-indulgence, moral complacency and spiritual emptiness, by Jaime Hovey, Ph.D. of the University of Chicago.

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The Mystery of Good Character

character October 16th, 2018

The following is a guest blog written by A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University, Christian B. Miller. In it, he addresses character and introduces the reader to the concept of a character gap. His new book is entitled The Character Gap: How Good Are We?  There is also a link to a blog written by Jason Merchey entitled “The Values and Virtues America Desperately Needs”

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America’s Oligarchy Is Repugnant

oligarchy is repugnant September 12th, 2018

I am now preparing for Hurricane Florence to pummel the crap out of my family and me. It is astonishing, angering, and outrageous to hear a tape of Donald Trump touting the great job he and his team did with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. He is just such an appallingly poor excuse for a president I can hardly describe it without throwing my computer monitor out of the window. It’s that bad in my opinion. I thought G.W. Bush was bad, but now when I hear him talk, I long for those days! It’s just topsy-turvy in the extreme. My point in this blog is that I hope Hillary Clinton, Bill, Chuck Schumer, the DNC, and especially Debbie Wasserman-Schultz wake up every day and lament their actions in the 2016 Democratic Primary. The Ancient Athenian historian and general Thucydides pointed out that “Ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows. For on public matters no one can hear and decide so well as the many”; he was speaking against oligarchy in favor of democracy. Though democracy has never been perfect, and our founders feared granting power to anyone but aristocratic white men, it seems abundantly clear that America’s oligarchy is repugnant. 

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Wisdom Is Ever-Ready to Guide Us From Here

Wisdom is ever-ready to guide us September 5th, 2018

For the moment, envision the high values and virtues – wisdom, truth, justice, beauty, passion, love, honor, strength, courage, etc. – as upon high; imagine they are personified, represented by gods and goddesses. Athena of course would symbolize wisdom; courage might be Apollo; Woden is strength, and so on. This idea was exemplified to great effect by Ancius Boethius. What he was thinking popped into my head when I looked at a picture of the anti-Christ, Donald Trump. Let me tell you about philosophy and Boethius. In his  The Consolation of Philosophy he spoke reverently of the word, and use the pronoun she to refer to wisdom and philosophy. He believed she watched over him, guided him, and could save him from his fate as a prisoner. I have hope that Wisdom is ever-ready to guide us from here to where we as individuals, communities and especially as a nation, we need to be.

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Is American Patriotism Getting Out of Control?

patriotism September 3rd, 2018

It’s been called the last refuge of scoundrels. It is undeniably linked to “us-against-them” tribal impulses, rooted in emotion and often impervious to reason. It feeds nationalism and militarism, making it a potentially dangerous phenomenon in a world of modern weaponry. Yet patriotism — outward, vocal, and enthusiastic patriotism — is still considered a vital element in American politics, an aspect of our culture that we not only tolerate but encourage. To many humanists, this is worth rethinking.

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The Values and Virtues America Desperately Needs

the values and virtues America desperately needs September 2nd, 2018

America, if it were a person, would be experiencing anxiety, self-doubt, egocentrism, confusion, self-loathing, and narcissism. Life has never been easy or uniformly positive for all but the wealthy, and even then, the rich aren’t any happier than the other social classes. It’s true, there was what some consider to be a “golden era” as we came out of World War II. The wealthy and corporations paid a large share of the tax burden, had more in common with the other social classes (e.g., “the Commons” were more robust then), and jobs were well-paying and fairly secure. Despite the racial, gender and sexual orientation problems that plagued America then, it was a time of general prosperity, social mobility, and optimism. Something has gone awry to an increasingly dire degree; if America were a person it would be spending a lot of time in bars, occasionally getting into a fight while intoxicated, and dealing with a persistent cough. The values and virtues America desperately needs are the subjects of this blog. It entails social criticism, but I think America can look to its “better angels”, as Lincoln put it. We have to do it. 

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Discrimination, Affirmative Action, & Distributive Justice

discrimination September 1st, 2018

As of this writing, another rights issue has taken the stage: Asian-Americans ability to gain entrance into the most selective private universities. Now, I went to the University of California, Irvine which as high as seventy percent non-white. Diversity is a societal good, and discrimination – not so much. The Asian-American students who are suing for an end to race-based preferences at Harvard University have a point to make, namely, that when it comes to education, the country should be purely a meritocracy. Is it discrimination when private colleges and universities such as Harvard have a quota for the maximum number of Asian-Americans they admit each year? Some considerations around affirmative action, distributive justice, and fairness are considered. Harvard’s history of anti-Semitism must be considered as well.

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Quotes About Fiscal Responsibility and Integrity

fiscal responsibility August 31st, 2018

I am going to attempt to demonstrate in this blog that Republicans have not been, at least in my lifetime, the Party of fiscal responsibility. This has a substantial affect on our finances and our lives. To some degree, Dems in Congress have in times-past been kinda spendy and porky. But it seems inarguable to me that Republicans in Congress and in the White House do not have fiscal integrity (or the peoples’ best interests at heart). In general, Republican politicians talk a good game, but when it comes to fiscal responsibility and integrity, they tend to cut taxes and increase spending. It has resulted in over $21,000,000,000,000 of debt. Red state Trump backers need to know that the GOP is not the party of the working class and that it cannot go on unchecked. 

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Democrats Make a Move Toward Progressive Politics

progressive politics August 28th, 2018

Boy, was I angry at the Democratic National Committee’s treatment of Bernie Sanders in 2016. Their chicanery (supporting Clinton for the nominee for patently political reasons) really rubbed me the wrong way. That cynical and corrupt situation plus a lot of Bernie supporters being unenamored with Hilary Clinton probably swung the election, because I believe Sanders would have prevailed in a few of the states Clinton lost. I mean, she didn’t even visit Pennsylvania, and Sanders had a robust following in many of those blue-collar swing states. It all added up to a bunch of crap, if you ask me. We are now enjoying the worst presidency in American history – an embarrassment for us in 2016, since we have so much more information and better education than they did during Pierce’s or Taft’s presidencies. We are supposed to be going in a progressive direction, but at least since 1980 there has been a reactionary counterforce in place, most notably perhaps with Donald Trump. Democrats made a big step a couple days ago that will help this whole country.

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