Shards of Thought on Human Rights and Wrongs

I am the voice of one saying Hi in the wilderness

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Victimhood ultimately has no gender, color, country, religion or any other affiliation. When victimhood becomes a part not only of one's experience but of one's very identity, of one's answer to the question "who am I?" then a small tragedy has occurred. To make victimhood a part of one's identity is to increase the probability that one will fail to appreciate fully or even notice the victimization of those who do not share the other components of that identity. To see victimhood as part of a group's identity is to make it easier for members of that group to victimize those who are not of the group - with few even realizing that any wrong is being perpetrated. If every Arab citizen of Israel were made to wear a visible yellow star at all times to help identify Arab citizens easily for security purposes, I grieve to imagine what percentage of Israeli Jews might actually breathe a sigh of relief.

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Think of the phrase "I am a human being, but so are you." Note its precise wording. Now think of how many things it can mean, depending on context.

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Modesty and selflessness are in a sad strange way essential to our species. The history of world religions is proof of it. Humankind will love absolutely anything and everything before ever loving itself.

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If an old white male immigrant from Ukraine who has spent his entire life in poverty and survived his country's brutal famine has difficulty being sympathetic on hearing a black woman tell of her struggle with obesity in the face of a racialized stereotype of the fat black woman, what is the word for this phenomenon? Yet perhaps one should not simply dismiss acts of moral calculus to decide which is more worthy of a third party's understanding and empathy.


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Writers who set out to understand and describe a certain set of circumstances and chain of events in the past are historians. Writers who survey these circumstances and events in order to find culprits and distribute blame, treating the historical record as if it were a morality play or judicial proceeding, may quite possibly be historians too. I'm not sure. I do know that many things sell better than actual history, and most people find a story to be more engaging if it has good guys and bad guys.

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One could say that cultural identity is a chronic disease contracted through prologued contact with infected individuals, usually in childhood. Though seldom fatal, all humans, even the seemingly immune, should be considered carriers and potentially contagious. The only consistently effective treatment is for infected individuals to place themselves under quarantine and avoid all human contact for several years. However, symptoms will reappear upon resuming contact with infected persons.

But if one does allow oneself to say this, how can one be sure that he or she isn't simply manifesting the symptoms of the condition in question?

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What is happiness? More importantly, is it necessarily good for you and those around you?  Think of what might make you happy. Now think of what you could be happy with. Don't ever conflate the two. Think of everything that you have known people to be able to be happy with. Is happiness good or evil? Do you really care? What does or doesn't that say about you?

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The glass ceiling is made of glass and can be broken. The challenge is somehow managing to climb high enough to reach that ceiling and not be so tired from scaling the ladder whilst carrying all the heavy baggage they saddle you with, that you can't muster the strength of body and mind to finally smash your fist through that glass. I do not know whose fault that is if anyone's, but it certainly isn't yours.

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How often do humans conflate "saying something different from what I'm saying" with "trying to silence me?"

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Did the Virgin Mary really consent to being inseminated when heaven had a wad to blow, or was she somewhat coerced? Was Leda any less free to say No to the swan than Mary was to the Holy spirit?

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 Go through the gospels and see how many times you see Jesus being dismissive of, or even misogynistic toward, his own mother with such outbursts as "woman what am I to do with thee"?

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New Testament expressions like Greek δοῦλος θεοῦ (translated as Latin Servus dei) mean "God's slave" and only got translated into vernaculars as "servant of God" once slavery (of Europeans anyway) started to trouble Christendom's conscience. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine and countless others offered justifications for slavery. In the Middle Ages, slaves who ran away from their masters were routinely condemned by the Church (in both East and West) and barred from communion and faced the fear of hellfire. Slavery was hard to see as unchristian thing when the slave-owners were Christian, otherwise it was easy. Jews owning Christian slaves was easily banned in Byzantium. Before the American civil war, the probability of an abolitionist being an atheist was much, much higher than that of a slavery-enthusiast being an atheist. With this in mind, what do you suppose is the reason why John Newton's biographical trajectory is of such importance to so many modern Americans?

Did Christianity only recently start, or only recently stop, being Christian?

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How many things in this world do you hate? How many do you love? What's your ratio?

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What could be more revolutionary than being oneself to the fullest?

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If poor blacks and poor whites in the US joined forces and fought for social justice writ large together, they might succeed. The pathology of race, and the discrimination it leads to, helps keep poor blacks and poor whites from finding common cause with one another. The problem is not white people. The problem is the instrumentalized thing called whiteness, which helps maintain social segregations most severely among poor people lest they all see themselves in one another, by making poor whites easy to control and manipulate against their own interests. If "racial privilege" is enjoyed by those who do not suffer systemic oppression on account of race, then in the final analysis race is only truly a privilege of the wealthy at the expense of the poor, whom it is not as convenient to silence outright so much as to keep divided so that anyone paying attention quickly gets tired of hearing poor people squabble over skin color. But perhaps it is wrong to be this correct.

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When those who had long been silenced and are now fighting for a voice feel they must take it upon themselves to decide who does and does not have the right to speak his or her own mind, it is clear that someone has forgotten the point of the conversation. And it is not always clear who.

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Are you sure you know physical abuse when you see it?

When a man slaps a woman's face in a parking-lot, what do you think about the man? When a woman slaps a man's face in a parking-lot, do you think the same about the woman? If not, then perhaps you have gender-prejudice issues to work out.

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What is the difference between equality and fairness? If fairness is unequal, and inequality fair, then perhaps we have a semantic problem. Perhaps we must revise our definitions. Or perhaps a fair equality and an equal fairness are simply beyond your power to effect, and you must find it in yourself to choose the lesser of two equals.

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Men, not women, are undeniably responsible for the overwhelming majority of violence that occurs in the world. Yet the majority of victims of that violence are also men. Men are the ammunition, and the bullseye, for the institutional weapons whereby wars are fought, won and lost.

Men are statistically more likely in many countries including the US to be physically assaulted by a female partner than to assault her. Because everyone, especially men, wants to think that a man can handle things, and because when you don't want to hit a girl you leave only boys to bludgeon.
I suppose it is no surprise that these things are seldom talked about. The male experience is not something to which most people who question gender have perpetual inescapable access, and so few are those who know how to ask intelligently: Is a social order being perpetuated that blinds people to the possibility that a man can not only sustain injury, but be hurt? If a non-male calls attention to it, is taken more seriously?

If this sounds like I'm using a derailing-tactic and false equivalence, I'm disappointed. You weren't speaking to me, so how could I have changed the subject when we weren't conversing? And if you think I am equating, you have apprehended the near-opposite of what I am really saying.

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Do not say "I love you because you are a human being," for why should we make someone we love feel unspecial in light of how easy human beings are to come by? Say instead, and simply, "I love you." You ought find some other way to communicate the other part. If you cannot do so, then you probably have reached the point where they really do need to be reminded verbally that they are human.


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You cannot institutionalize independent thinking.
You cannot create a skeptic community without some lack of skepticism and some reserve of faith.
You cannot reject all labels without being an anti-labelist.
You cannot seriously believe this, regardless of whether it's true or not.
So can you believe it unseriously?

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Here is an excerpt from Earnest Fenollosa's essay "The Coming Fusion of East and West" written in 1898:
"...It is not merely that the West shall from its own point of view tolerate the East, nor the East the West; not even that the West shall try to understand the East from the Eastern point of view—but that both, planting their faith in the divine destinies of man, shall with co-operation aim at a new world-type, rich in those million possibilities of thought and achievement that exclusion blindly stifles."
Here are the final two paragraphs of the essay:
"If it be, then, that the responsibility rests upon the Anglo-Saxon race, let us accept it in fear, prayer, and resolution. It alone can conceive of a fine balance between society and the individual, of a universal federation and arbitration, that shall sound the victory over war.
And now, a last word to Americans. We have awaked; let us awake enough! But last night we were as narrow as Tudor feudatories, content with our local issues, our private curse of slavery, intent to erect a little island of silver coinage. How could we unify our scattered aims with no centrality of focus on the needs of a common humanity? This morning we have waked to find ourselves citizens of a new world, full of Drakes, and Sydneys, and Philips, and Armadas; rich in immeasurable colonies, investments, adventures; of an unlimited mind-expansion; of a race-sympathy new in human annals. Columbus and his discovery were but a four-century-old stepping-stone to it; for we were obstacles in his western path that had to be first mastered. Today we enter literally into his dream, and carry the Aryan banner of his caravels where he aimed to plant it—on the heights of an awakened East."
We so often assume racism to be the result of hatred or disdain for the Other. We are wrong. If profound love and desire for equality can be racist, then we must ask what racism really is.


1 comment:

  1. Thoughtlings, vox populi, that bring to mind the Platinum Rule: "Treat others the way they want to be treated." Which means that you must first recognize a person, respect them, honor them deeply before you can even fathom how they would like to be treated. And even then, you could make a mistake at any moment.

    "Yet the majority of victims of that violence are also men. Men are the ammunition, and the bullseye, for the institutional weapons whereby wars are fought, won and lost."

    Also an excellent point. And a trigger for the boomerang effect of violence.

    It takes a great deal of labor to care for another person, for their well-being. We act as mirrors to one another even unwittingly--some say the specialization of mirror neurons is part of what sets humans apart from other species.

    If we could but comprehend what we were doing to one another, truly -- we'd be in horror so much of the time.

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