Saturday, August 11, 2018

Dinesh D'Souza Versus Critics of DEATH OF A NATION

Rule of thumb: If Rotten Tomatoes and most movie critics hate a political flick, it must be good!  One of those critics who hangs out at the website RogerEbert.com deemed Dinesh D'Souza's latest film, Death of a Nation, so "shabbily constructed and artistically bankrupt" that it hardly "qualifies as a movie in the first place."  Peter Sobczynski doesn't deal seriously with the film's core assertions, which he cavalierly dismisses as "cherry-picked facts" garnished by "overt omissions." 

Those two terms do serve well, alongside "blatant distortions," as descriptions of Sobczynski's review.  D'Souza's movie, for example, compares Donald Trump to Abraham Lincoln only in certain respects, primarily as an American president who faces tremendous political hostility that once again threatens to divide the Union.  P.S. repeats a canard that D'Souza has repeatedly demolished, including in this film, that the parties "switched positions" with respect to civil rights in the 1960s.  This widely accepted misrepresentation ignores the fact that a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported the '64 Civil Rights bill (which was filibustered in the Senate by Southern Democrats) and that all but two of the hundreds of segregationist Dixiecrat legislators remained Democrats throughout their long careers, including former Klansman Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.  D'Souza also notes that the Democrat George Wallace carried the Deep South in 1968, not Richard Nixon, whose Civil Rights initiatives are rigorously ignored by leftist historians and movie critics who incessantly push the "Southern strategy" narrative.

P.S. also ignores the boatload of historical cherries that clearly put Mussolini's fascism on the "left" or socialist side of the political spectrum and has nothing to say about its curious "right-wing" repositioning after World War II.  Hitler, like Mussolini, was a national socialist.  D'Souza provides in this film several additional "cherries" that illuminate the mutual admiration that existed for years between Mussolini and FDR, as well as a few nuggets that show embarrassing links between Germany's early Nazi years and Roosevelt's New Deal.  If P.S. has any intellectual curiosity about such things, it isn't communicated in his epithet-laden review.  For those individuals who might be interested, D'Souza provides reams of additional evidence about the leftist origins of fascism in his book The Big Lie.

Other "cherries" P.S. "overtly omits" from his review include the re-segregation of the White House by President Woodrow Wilson, that same Progressive Democrat's White House screening of D.W. Griffith's Klan-boosting The Birth of a Nation, and the blatantly racist aspects of Margaret Sanger's progressive eugenics-based organization, Planned Parenthood.  Needless to say, P.S. has nothing positive to say about Trump and adds for his mindless readers that D'Souza never mentions "the countless [unspecified] scandals surrounding the administration."   

From my own perspective, Death of a Nation does cover much of the material that was dealt with in D'Souza's prior films, but this "repetitious" objection doesn't seem to count against the hundreds of Watergate or McCarthy-era retellings that continue to titillate Democrats and the mainstream media.  Moreover, it certainly takes more than a few reiterations to drive home points that counter well established lies like "the parties switched in the '60s" and "fascism is on the right."  Another important point the film makes is that northern Democrats opposed the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution that outlawed slavery and granted citizenship and voting rights to blacks.  Consequently, the Civil War was not just a war of North versus South, but, in some respects, a war of anti-slavery Republicans against pro-slavery (or anti-abolition) Democrats who resided in both the North and the South.  

A completely new component of D'Souza's recent film is his interview with a white supremacist leader, Richard Spencer, whose favorite presidents include the founder of the Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson, and expansionist Democrat slave-owner James Polk.  Far from being a conservative, Spencer sees rights being bestowed on us by "the state" and not "by God or nature."  P.S. writes in his review that D'Souza "twists things around" to get Spencer to say "I guess I'm a Progressive," but what D'Souza actually does is point out how Spencer's political beliefs coincide with the state-centered philosophy of Progressivism.  The mainstream media portray Spencer as a leader of the "Alt-Right" animated by President Trump, who, despite media claims, has actually pursued a non-state-centered agenda. 

For those of us who have seen D'Souza's prior films, Death of a Nation may seem like more of the same, even if "the same" is stuff that's essential to the nation's survival.  For those who aren't familiar with D'Souza's work, Death of a Nation could be a revelatory moment that turns their political world upside-down.  At the very least, for those folks whose minds are at all open, it can be an invitation to explore whether ideas that most folks take for granted are actually true – and if they aren't true, how and by whom those lies came to be propagated.

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?" is available on Kindle.

Monday, August 06, 2018

We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to the American People, by Jason Hill


We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to the American People, by Jason Hill, Bombardier Books, New York, July 10, 2018 (192 pages, $19.07 Hardcover, $9.99 Kindle)

One can scarcely imagine the ideological venom generated among leftists by a well-spoken black professor with a doctorate in philosophy who has the temerity to make public statements like these: “Americans as a group of people are good people.  But hatred of the good for being good … has become a fashionable emotion among certain elitist groups who resent America and her people for such virtues.”  “America in the 21st century is one essentially free of racial, ethnical, and religious clashes and violence among all her varied peoples.”  “America is a place of universal belonging. It is the prototype of what a benevolent universe looks like … It celebrates civic nationalism as the political principle that would forge a common identity among strangers and foreigners from disparate parts of the globe.”  “[A]n insidious cottage-industry of victimology [is] often predicated on black suffering and white guilt, guilt for past transgressions that whites have long atoned for as a group.”

If even a third of America’s black citizens shared the views of Jason Hill, a 1985 Jamaican immigrant to this country, the Democrat Party as currently constituted would not exist.   Consequently, Hill and black Americans with similar views are despised and vilified by “compassionate” Dems and by blacks who’ve embraced the “victim” status assigned to them by “alt-left” politicians and academicians like Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is how Professor Hill puts it: “Hell...hath no greater fury like a far-left-winger rejected for his or her redemptive gestures….  Because if the moral meaning and purpose of your existence as a far-left liberal rests on my suffering and victimization as a black person, then you will need me to suffer indefinitely in order to continue to cull some meaning and purpose from your life.” 

Beyond being labeled a traitor to his race, Hill suffered professionally for his non-racial, self-reliant, capitalist beliefs in the corrupt halls of academia.  In that setting Hill struggled mightily for admission to numerous graduate schools (despite having excellent qualifications) and was ultimately denied tenure by his “far-left, postmodern, Marxist-infected” colleagues (despite possessing a sterling teaching and publication record). Fortunately, this essentially “racist” decision for the “uppity” black professor was overturned by the university’s president who was, uncharacteristically, “a huge fan” of Hill’s work.

Adding fuel to the fire of leftist hatred is this hard-to-refute argument: “I adduce my own life as evidence of the utter nonsense of this [minorities-as-victims] narrative.”  That life included interactions with countless whites in and around Stone Mountain, Georgia -- an area once considered (and by leftists still considered) Klan country.  Here in the late-80s Caribbean families bought homes and conversed with neighbors “in utter fearlessness.”   “None of us ever missed a night’s sleep,” Hill notes.  Indeed, his grandmother went to an all-white church, “and soon she was its most beloved parishioner.”

In addition to his own experience, Hill relates with sympathy the stories of many non-white immigrant friends.  Dinesh, for example, was an “untouchable” in his native India but was “embraced as an equal” by Hill’s friends, a group that included “foreigners from all over the world” as well as white Southerners.  Hill provides the most detail when discussing the success story of Thai, a young Vietnamese man who couldn’t speak English but who, with the help of his friends, was able to learn enough of the language to gain admission to Georgia State University and later to open his own restaurant.  Thai, who ultimately graduated magna cum laude, accomplished all this with no help from his family in Vietnam -- “illiterate peasants too poor even to visit.”

Countless stories like Thai’s refute the assertion by black academicians like Ta-Nehisi Coates that the American Dream is an illusion -- that it is not only unattainable for blacks and immigrants but also a denial of their true cultural selves.  In a touching episode near the book’s end, Hill contacts Thai by phone twenty years later and is “shocked to hear the American twang in his accent.”  Thai, who made additional money in the stock market and real estate, had sold his “three restaurants” and moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his grandchildren.  All this success occurred after his first restaurant failed. When asked by Hill what he now thought about America, Thai replied, “America has brought me where I am.  I can’t imagine a world without, you know, this place.”  So much for Ta-Nehisi Coates and his America-hating cohorts.  

Hill’s love for America has as its logical corollary a passionate hatred for America’s corrupt universities.  “The biggest breach in this country,” Hill declares, “is not between blacks and whites.  It is between the intellectuals and the people.”  Put more succinctly, “The American professoriat hates America!”  Consequently, the author boldly declares a remedy that would do wonders were it actually implemented: “The solution is not just to defund the American humanities and social science departments in current universities, but to also shut them down entirely and rebuild them from scratch.”  Beyond seeking the unlikely defunding of these institutions by the government and alumni, Hill’s “rebuild from scratch” prescription appears to be, for all its rhetorical merit, a Dream too far. 

Overall, Hill’s book is marvelous for its use of personal details to bolster profound psycho-political insights. On occasions, however, the author’s academic language detracts from his mostly engrossing narrative.  This “scholarly” tilt often produces needlessly complex and extended formulations.  (The term “metaphysical,” for example, appears as a qualifier dozens of times.)  This problem unfortunately characterizes much of Hill’s introduction.  I would advise readers to skip all but the first few pages of that section and to read the intro in full after finishing the book.  One other problem I had was the insertion of material where Hill describes, with poetic sensitivity to be sure, his own battle with suicide -- a struggle that was not linked clearly to any professional or political issues and had a familial precedent.

That said, Hill’s book is well worth reading for its glowing tribute to America, its penetrating insight into the essentially racist mentality of the left, and its concrete examples of these two conclusions.     

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Golf's Latest Sacrificial Victim

Brittany Lincicome is the latest sacrificial lamb to be offered on the altar of gender equality.  This talented and successful professional golfer on the LPGA tour was thrown last week into the lion's den of men's professional golf.  The result at the Barbasol Open near Lexington, Kentucky was predictable but will doubtless be spun in the direction gender ideologues insist on.

Lincicome failed to make the cut, finishing five over par after two rounds.  The cut (consisting of the top seventy players and ties) was at two under par.  ESPN's stable of P.C. clowns (which now includes the "worst person in the world," Keith Olbermann) will doubtless note that her second round was under par and that she did better than a dozen male golfers.  Omitted from their reportage will be the fact that the leading score after two rounds was fifteen under par (twenty strokes better than Lincicome) and that some of the guys she "beat" actually had lower scores but withdrew from the competition when it was obvious they wouldn't be around the following rain-delayed day.  Two other males she bested (while the top PGA players struggled overseas) were fifty-three and fifty-seven years of age.

No one should doubt that Lincicome is a good golfer and a superb female golfer.  I am sure she would beat me by a dozen strokes on almost any course, but then so would almost any good high school golfer.  The issue here isn't whether some female athletes can beat many or even most men.  It's why folks in elite media and corporate ivory towers keep putting female golfers in positions where they are certain to fail – at least by the standards applied to male golfers. 

That last clause is critical.  No male golfer would be touted for failing to make a cut and finishing near the bottom of his fellow competitors.  But whenever a female "accomplishes" this feat, P.C. prima donnas with microphones hail another "shattering of the glass ceiling."  Ignored in all this virtue-signaling is the glass-shattering damage that might be done by throwing good athletes into competition that's above their heads – an unintended consequence that also applies to many affirmative action placements.  More importantly, elites ignore the profound social damage that's done by pretending males and females are equal in every respect. 

Poor Michelle Wie was almost destroyed by the P.C. rush to prove she was as good as any male golfer, an ideologically fueled imperative that led to a string of eight missed cuts (with increasingly poor scores) that started in 2004 when Michelle was a mere fourteen years old and ended four years later.  Fortunately, the great Annika Sorenstam had already established her Hall of Fame credentials with dozens of LPGA and European wins when she missed the cut at Fort Worth's Colonial tournament in 2003 – a result that didn't deter P.C. enthusiasts from insisting on their nature-be-damned beliefs with young Miss Wie.

The fundamental mendacity that permeates "gender equality" lunacy is illustrated by the taglines that accompany Babe Zaharias's forays into men's golf.  A tremendous multi-sport Olympic medalist, Mrs. Zaharias (née Didrikson) made the 36-hole cut at the L.A. Open but failed to make the 54-hole cut.  She is nevertheless hailed as "the only woman to make the cut in a PGA Tour event."  Never mind that in January of 1945, there was this thing called World War II going on and that Zaharias's score of twenty-three over par after three rounds was hardly stellar.  Moreover, at that time, the L.A. Open, according to the Golf Historical Society, "was not a regular tour event, and was played for War Bonds by both professionals and a sprinkling of amateurs."   

A PGA website, "The history of women playing in men's PGA Tour events," further misleads folks by observing that Zaharias also "made the cut" in 1945 at Phoenix and Tucson.  In fact, though Zaharias "qualified" for these War Bond tournaments, the Arizona Daily Star's 2006 historical retrospective of the Tucson event noted, "The Babe finished 39 shots off the lead, but ahead of five men in the 47-player field."  Joining in the mendacity, an online Phoenix magazine observed that Zaharias "made the cut" in the Phoenix Open and finished thirty-third, failing to add that "thirty-third" (in a field of unknown size) amounted to being thirty strokes behind the eventual winner, Byron Nelson.

We are all supposed to nod our heads and pretend, along with our progressive betters, that these "accomplishments" prove that women can do anything men can do – and do it just as well.  So if a 29-year-old Billie Jean King beats a 55-year-old has-been, Bobby Riggs, this result presumably indicates some kind of equality of the sexes.  (I had forgotten that Riggs had just demolished Margaret Court, who, as even a P.C. "Battle of the Sexes" website puts it, "was in the midst of a career that produced more Grand Slam singles titles than any other player – man or woman.")  This "man or woman" coda is now ubiquitous among sport commentators, implicitly declaring that any accomplishment in women's sports is equal to any accomplishment in men's sports – an assumption that works as long as fans are dutifully aware of their P.C. obligations and the sport in question doesn't involve stopwatches, weightlifting, or specific distances like shot-putting.

Just once I would like to see a female officer on "Cops" take down a large male suspect like Lt. Benson regularly does on "Law and Order."  Unfortunately, in the military and various other occupations for which upper body strength is crucial, Hollywood fantasy doesn't reflect the real world.  Perhaps when some girl gets severely injured playing football with the guys, folks may wake up to the obvious truth, but I doubt it.  Instead, they'll focus on football's violence while sticking their P.C. heads in the "gender equality" sand and dreaming of a future in which male-female distinctions are a thing of the past. 

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?" is available on Kindle.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

12 RULES FOR LIFE: AN ANTIDOTE TO CHAOS by Jordan Peterson Touchstone Book Review

Dr. Jordan Peterson has recently been all over TV and the Internet making a number of
courageous, politically incorrect observations. The comment that has most driven the PC crowd
to distraction is the now heretical claim that boys and girls are actually different both physically
and psychologically—an assertion that the self-proclaimed party of science doubts in spite of
evidence that has been “settled” for at least half a century.
Now comes Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life—a work that not only provides extensive
evidence of how the sexes differ but also gives “progressives” even more reasons for conducting
hate sessions against the Canadian psychologist. Among the author’s PC transgressions is his
trenchant protest against know-it-all ideologues who ought to put their own houses in order
before criticizing the world. Peterson notes that beneath a pose of limitless compassion these
self-styled savants typically exhibit personal psychological aberrations detectable in their
adherence to utopian belief systems that subject existing reality to constant criticism.
Part and parcel of this ideologically fed self-deception is a hatred of tradition, a lack of gratitude
to one’s forebears, and an unwillingness to listen to anyone who doesn’t reflect one’s own views. To
the great chagrin of leftists, Peterson repeatedly cites the disastrous and murderous failures of
communism to illustrate these points. His comments about the destructive unwillingness to
tolerate dissent would have been even more cogent, however, if he had aimed them directly at
academic dogmatists and college snowflakes who fail to acknowledge that “the person you are
listening to might know something you don’t.” Another obvious but neglected target of this
principle would be the “climate change” ideologues.


Wisdom from the Lion’s Den
Here is a sampling of the many worthwhile observations proffered by Peterson in his book:
(1) The “insistence that all gender differences are socially constructed” is “insane.” (2) Ideas that
are “new and radical” are “almost always wrong.” (3) “To think about culture only as oppressive
is ignorant and ungrateful, as well as dangerous.” Furthermore, “there isn’t a shred of hard
evidence . . . that Western society is pathologically patriarchal” or “that the prime lesson of
history is that men, rather than nature, were the primary source of the oppression of women.”
(Five-minute PC hate session to follow!) (4) “It took untold generations to get you where you are.
A little gratitude might be in order.” (5) “Parents should come in pairs” because it is incredibly
difficult to raise children alone. (6) “Children in father-absent homes are four times as likely to
be poor” and “twice as likely to commit suicide” as children whose fathers are present and active
in the home. (7) Hierarchies are pervasive in nature. Thus, human hierarchies are inevitable and
not necessarily oppressive since “the collective pursuit of any valued goal produces a hierarchy.”
(8) Evil is real. Some actions are “intrinsically terrible” and “run counter to the proper nature of
human Being.” (9) Columbine murderer Eric Harris simply took to its practical conclusion David
Attenborough’s spectacularly egotistical ecological judgment that humans are a “plague” on the
planet and the Club of Rome’s view that humanity is a “cancer” within nature.
These observations, which have made Peterson a folk hero in some quarters and a reactionary
villain in others, aren’t among the specific “rules” that comprise the book’s twelve chapters, but
are comments made within those chapters. The rules themselves, which form the chapter titles,
Peterson drew largely from problems he confronted in his clinical work. Here are the first three:
Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are
responsible for helping. Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you. As these
examples show, 12 Rules for Life contains many poignant observations—backed by scientific
evidence, as well as the author’s professional interactions and personal experience—that run
counter to the politically correct nostrums that permeate our culture.


A Few Caveats
Readers should be aware, however, of the verbal terrain they often must traverse to arrive at
these gems. Chapter one, for example, begins with a lengthy description of lobster and wren
territoriality, only one of a number of socio-biological detours the reader will be sent on throughout
the book. Moreover, Peterson often gives extended Jungian interpretations to biblical stories and
religious symbols—a fact that might lead a reader to wonder whether, for the author, God has been
reduced to little more than a psychological abstraction.
Nevertheless, if readers are able to overlook a lack of conciseness and to embrace the much-
neglected “rule” of actually listening to someone who isn’t an intellectual clone of themselves, they
will find Dr. Peterson’s book well worth perusing. After all, a good man is often recognized by the
enemies he makes.

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy:
“Who’s to Say?” is also available on Kindle.

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/issue.php?id=209

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Discrimination and Disparities by Thomas Sowell


“Just the facts, ma’am.”  That was Joe Friday’s interrogation refrain on Dragnet.  The same comment could serve as the sub-title of Thomas Sowell’s recent book, Discrimination and Disparities.  Few works focused on politically explosive topics maintain such a consistent focus on empirical evidence while avoiding rhetorical jabs at opponents.  On the other hand, empirical evidence cuts deep, especially when critics can’t protest the author’s “nasty” style. As radio talker Larry Elder observes, “Facts are to liberals what kryptonite is to Superman.”

Sowell’s title, if employed by a member of the leftist intelligentsia, would doubtless imply a causal link between statistical disparities and some form of discrimination--usually racial. Sowell, by contrast, marshals an abundance of evidence to show that this automatic assumption isn’t justified.  Focusing simply on statistical probabilities, Sowell notes that if five prerequisites are needed for success in a particular field, and if the chances are two out of three that any person will have each characteristic, the chance of possessing all five characteristics is still only one in eight--a calculation that helps explain why most pro golfers have never won a PGA tournament while Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods have collectively won over 200 times.  Consequently, “Given multiple prerequisites for many human endeavors, we should not be surprised if economic or social advances are not evenly or randomly distributed among individuals, groups, institutions or nations at any given time.”

Among leftists, however, assumptions about the random distribution of characteristics stand at the heart of various discrimination suits.  Thus, if proportionately more blacks than whites are given tickets for speeding, this statistic provides for them prima facie evidence of racial discrimination.  Sowell, however, offers clear counter-evidence that black drivers are more likely to exceed the speed limit than white drivers.  Similarly, the assumption that racial discrimination is the primary reason blacks are overrepresented in the prison system is countered by noting that blacks are vastly overrepresented as both perpetrators and victims of murder--a crime that’s hard to ignore.  Sowell further observes that fatherlessness clearly increases the likelihood that a person will end up in prison since a majority of prisoners “were raised with either one parent or no parent” --a domestic circumstance that applies to well over half of all black kids in the U.S.  

In short, Sowell shows that many or most of the disparities that afflict black Americans are due to behaviors to which even other blacks have objected.  In the early twentieth century, for example, long-time black residents in Chicago publicly chastened new arrivals from the South for behaviors that would, and eventually did, have negative repercussions for the entire community.  Today, however, most black leaders ignore the plain fact that merchants in high crime areas, for example, must charge higher prices to squeeze out lower profits than stores in safer parts of town--preferring to blame the proprietors’ racist-fueled greed. Only blacks who’ve moved to safer suburbs can be counted on to protest  government policies that again place large groups of unsavory characters near them under the failed assumption that a middle class environment will alter bad habits.     

Sowell also provides surprising examples of cases where the desire for profit actually won out over racial discrimination.  Early in the twentieth century, for instance, attempts to maintain a white Harlem were foiled by the sheer economic advantages available to landlords who ignored the neighborhood’s segregation policy.  Likewise, privately owned municipal transit groups and railroads both protested and often ignored laws that mandated segregated facilities.  Indeed, railroad management actively worked with Homer Plessy to overturn segregation mandates in that industry--a legal effort that ended unsuccessfully with the Supreme Court’s Plessy v Ferguson “separate but equal” decision in 1896.  Amazingly, Sowell shows how the profit motive often trumped segregation laws or compacts even in apartheid South Africa and in the post-bellum South.  Put succinctly, it was racist politicians, not transit owners, who insisted that Rosa Parks sit at the back of the bus.

Sowell focuses additional attention on well-intended government policies that succeeded in increasing, not decreasing, racial disparities.  In this regard significant space is devoted to the negative consequences of minimum wage legislation.  Sowell notes that in 1948, when the minimum wage was economically inconsequential, black teen unemployment was actually lower than white teen unemployment and a fraction of its rate when the minimum wage was substantially increased.  Sowell also laments the destruction of a traditionally stellar black educational institution, Dunbar High School in Washington D.C., when self-sorting, education-focused black families and students were subjected to politically-driven and empirically-destructive fantasies that involved bussing and the abolition of selective institutions like Dunbar.

Similarly, in order to racially “unsort” neighborhoods (as they “unsorted” schools) politicians ignored economic facts that explained why banks (including black-owned banks) disproportionately rejected blacks’ mortgage applications.  Instead, legislators insisted that financial institutions lower lending standards to achieve the politically desired “random” racial distribution of house ownership--a misbegotten policy whose economic chickens came home to roost in 2009.  Meanwhile, various government laws that decreased the supply of housing and increased prices were “successful” at reducing the Bay Area’s black population in 2005 to less than half its number in 1970.

Throughout the book Sowell discusses a number of other factors that clearly lead to “disparities,” leaving aside the kneejerk assumption of racist motives.  Being first-born or an only child, for example, has immense advantages, benefits indicated by the fact that twenty-two of the twenty-nine original Apollo astronauts fell into one of those two categories. Additionally, in a chapter titled “The World of Numbers” the author debunks several beliefs about disparities that are rooted in false assumptions about statistics and the lack of economic mobility.  Thus, one study found that 95% of the people in the bottom income quintile were no longer there fifteen years later and that 29% of them had risen to the top quintile.  Elsewhere Sowell explains how falling “household” incomes are consistent with rising “personal” incomes simply because the average size of a household has fallen substantially.  (A two-person household where each individual earns $20,000 represents a household income of $40,000.  But if both members of the household begin to earn $30,000 and establish separate residences, the income of each one-person household is now 25% below what it was before.)

Much of Sowell’s book is recapitulated in his final chapter--and with a bit more rhetorical intensity than previously exhibited.  A few new topics, however, like the destructive consequences of a grievance mentality and “black English,” are also addressed.  

Overall, Sowell’s book is a protest against the unfounded assumption that “there would be no disparate outcomes unless there were disparate treatment.”  Sowell observes that this ideologically-driven assumption “seems almost impervious to evidence.”  Accordingly, those who cling to this dogma with religious fervor will likely avoid Sowell’s fact-filled book like kryptonite.  Folks with less dogmatic proclivities, however, would do well to peruse this concise work.   

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle .


Sunday, December 31, 2017

THE BLACK REDNECK VERSION OF “RESPECT”

“You can’t give respect unless you get it first.”  That was the ethical maxim presented to me over a decade ago by a young black high-schooler. The assertion possesses a superficial plausibility that attends so many pop-cultural aphorisms—like the bogus observation that folks can’t love others unless they first love themselves. It would have been nice had the student put forward his dictum in my class as a topic for reflection.  Instead, the saying was proffered in a hallway as justification for the chip he carried on his shoulder toward a classmate.   

Fortunately, as an ethics instructor I was able to offer what I considered a convincing refutation of his  motto by asking the young man to envision a room full of strangers all demanding respect of everyone else because, “You can’t give respect unless you get it first.” Under this not-so-implausible scenario, a simple meet and greet is transformed into a confrontational game of “respect chicken.” “You respect me first.” “No way!  You respect me first.” No individual can respect anyone else because he or she hasn’t “first” been respected by the others. The issue at the center of this interpersonal standoff revolves around the term “first”—with one party required to submit to another and offer respect without “first” having received it. Clearly, what’s at stake here isn’t mutual respect but rather establishing a pecking order that’s akin to kissing Godfather’s ring.

By contrast, the traditional moral view is that all persons should be afforded respect unless there is some good reason not to do so.  And even in the latter circumstance, politeness is, with few exceptions, the default position. The cultural basis for this practice is largely religious—grounded in the belief that all persons are created in God’s image, though one could also argue for mutual respect on philosophical (e.g. Kantian) grounds. What interests me, however, is the cultural genesis of my student’s faux-maxim. Where did he come up with this very flawed vision of respect?

In the last half-century “respect” became a very important term in black communities and especially in what is colloquially called “the hood”—neighborhoods characterized by broken families, substandard housing, and a degree of violence most Americans would find appalling. In this milieu being “respected” came to be associated more with being feared than with being the by-product of respectable behavior. Gang leaders, for example, were “respected” because of the terror they instilled in subordinates and the power they possessed to do as they pleased.

Not being “respected” thus became a challenge to one’s manhood akin to the “it’s on” or “you’ve been served” idioms. The idea that receiving respect implied acting with reasonable concern toward others was lost thanks to a survivalist environment and innumerable media images that glorified this misbegotten vision of black life via tough guy stereotypes like those made famous by Samuel L. Jackson. Meanwhile, morally condescending white liberals reinforced hip-hop and gangsta-rap perversions of civility by hailing them as authentic expressions of “black” or “African-American” culture.  Thus, these self-appointed moral mandarins succeeded, as Thomas Sowell ironically describes in his book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, in saddling blacks with a violence-soaked, respect-me-first identity akin to the racist Southern culture they had struggled against for centuries and whose origins can be traced back to the Scottish highlands.

In short, like millions of other young persons (not just African-Americans), my aggrieved student had been indoctrinated by an incestuous cadre of Hollywood, New York, and D.C. elites in an ethical formula that’s guaranteed to produce violent confrontations and resentment. What better way to keep that large cohort of individuals perpetually dissatisfied, mostly marginalized, and overwhelmingly Democrat!  

     


  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Harvey Weinstein, Socialism, and Mass Murder

“The frivolity of evil” -- that’s the phrase coined by British author and physician to the poor, Theodore Dalrymple.  The words appear in his 2005 book, Our Culture: What’s Left of It.  Dalrymple’s analysis of the precipitous decline of British society provides a salient response to the “motive” question that currently permeates our media in the wake of the “senseless” murders in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs.  

Dalrymple’s professional life as a psychiatrist working almost exclusively with prisoners and England’s underclass gave him a perspective miles apart from shrinks who massage the egos of celebrities and millionaires on New York’s Upper East Side.  Dalrymple (nee, Anthony Daniels) actually has the temerity to focus on the self-destructive actions of his patients and especially on their abysmal family lives.

Dalrymple speaks of “the frivolity of evil” (a telling modification of Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”) to fit the self-conscious actions of women whose serial romantic choices condemn both themselves and their luckless children to neglect, assault, and rape.   The same applies to aimless, drug-addled men who, without compunction, sire children by various women and thus multiply the number of souls who’ll endure the same paternal abandonment they themselves curse.  

When considering why such irresponsible behavior has become endemic in Britain, Dalrymple points in two directions -- first, toward a welfare structure that undermines personal responsibility and even rewards irresponsible choices.  In this system mothers without husbands or employment are set up by the government with housing, food, and enough money to focus on something that gives their lives meaning.  Often that something revolves around romance and domestic trauma -- even at the expense of their children.

If one asks why the government supports this dysfunctional system, that query points in another direction, toward intellectuals and their cohorts in the media, including “novelists, playwrights, film directors, journalists, artists, and even pop singers.” According to this mélange of moral miscreants, the poor must be viewed as victims who aren’t responsible for their actions.  External factors such as poverty, “food deserts,” and capitalism are seen as the true culprits -- an analysis that bolsters the ego of nonjudgmental elites and places ever more power in the hands of government officials, therapists, and social activists “who have themselves come to form a powerful vested interest of dependence on the government.”   

Moreover, these benefits showered on the poor are seen as theirs “by right.”  Thus, no moral stigma attends failure to make personal choices that would secure these basic benefits, and no government is so callous as to suggest that most folks should care for themselves. 

In addition to these beliefs, intellectuals and their media cohorts have embraced the notion that the elimination of taboos constitutes the royal road to personal and social Nirvana.  In the world of entertainment, I note, this process is uncritically hailed as “pushing the envelope” -- where taboos like cursing, adultery, drug use, and ever-increasing depictions of violence and sexual perversity fall by the wayside.  Dalrymple observes that “the prestige intellectuals confer upon antinomianism soon communicates itself to non-intellectuals.  What is good for the bohemian sooner or later becomes good for the unskilled worker, the unemployed, the welfare recipient -- the very people most in need of boundaries to make their lives tolerable or allow them hope of improvement.”

Instead of obligations, especially to one’s children, emotional self-fulfillment becomes the primary basis for action.  After all, as the popular saying goes, “How can you love others unless you first love yourself?” Ignored in this self-destructive psychological calculus is the fact that self-respect derives precisely from fulfilling one’s obligations.

My conclusion:  Who better in contemporary American society to symbolize the philosophy of taboo-breaking than a member of the media establishment who embodies the very antinomianism he disseminates constantly to the general public -- namely, Harvey Weinstein.  And lest we dismiss Weinstein as an anomaly, let us not forget the standing ovation given at the Academy Awards to child rapist Roman Polanski.  

In an environment where personal responsibility is undermined by Socialist dogma and where intellectuals and their media groupies constantly tout the elimination of taboos, is it any wonder that some folks (as in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs) will take these beliefs and actions to their logical destructive conclusions.

I’m not responsible.  Others are the reason for my failures and disappointments.  Child rape is now ok. Harvey Weinstein got away with all kinds of illegal acts.  Society owes me.  Now “society” is going to pay for my misery -- Quentin Tarantino style!   
 
A culture with over a million abortions each year and illegitimacy rates well north of 70% in some communities shouldn’t have to scratch its head when mass murders occur.  Intellectuals and media powerbrokers, however, never look at the destruction their ideas and actions have wrought.  If they did, “they might feel called upon to place restraints upon their own behavior” or give up the cherished notion of their moral superiority.  Consequently, “neither pols nor pundits wish to look the problem in the face.” 

Nuclear families that eat together and acknowledge legitimate obligations and reasonable moral boundaries are what hold a society together.  Socialism, intellectuals, and Harvey Weinsteins in the media pull it apart -- sometimes violently.


Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle . This article appeared in American Thinker Magazine (online), 
11-12-17.