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Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost 
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 Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost

Please use this thread for discussing Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
Caste
The Origins of Our Discontents

Mr. Tulip points out the subtitle echoes the book Civilization and It's Discontents by Sigmund Freud. Even in considering just the cover, we are already off to a good start.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
Just talking about caste in an American context is provocative and difficult. People generally like to swim with the tide, not against it. But it seems the global tide is turning against caste-based politics.

Wilkerson opens with a mention of a famous photo of a German man among a sea of Nazis in 1936. He alone is refusing to give the Heil Hitler salute, and is thereby rejecting the mad and toxic theory of caste that Hitler was foisting upon an unwitting Germany, while all around him swim with this dangerous new tide. He alone had the courage to stand on the right side of history.

The photo and story are at https://www.csmonitor.com/World/2015/07 ... azi-salute
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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
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We would like to believe that we would have taken the more difficult path of standing up against injustice in defense of the outcaste. But unless people are willing to transcend their fears, endure discomfort and derision, suffer the scorn of loved ones and neighbors and co-workers and friends, fall into disfavor of perhaps everyone they know, face exclusion and even banishment, it would be numerically impossible, humanly impossible, for everyone to be that man. What would it take to be him in any era? What would it take to be him now?

Thanks for posting that photograph, it doesn't appear in my kindle version. The author asks the above painful questions about it.

I agree it's extremely rare for anyone to be that man. I recall photographs of crowds at lynchings. They called them mobs, but were they the KKK or neo-Nazis? No, if you were there they might have included your Aunt Millie, cousin Billy, and your Daddy - seeking entertainment, vigilante justice, and pornography. Tough to fight back against them, and so it continued...

Can you answer the questions highlighted above?



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
Chapter One
The Afterlife of Pathogens


This chapter begins by using permafrost as a metaphor for suppressed hatred. Permafrost is ground that has been frozen continuously for at least two years and as many as hundreds of thousands of years. A heat wave in Siberia started to thaw the permafrost in 2016. People began to get sick.
Quote:
The anthrax, like the reactivation of the human pathogens of hatred and tribalism in this evolving century, had never died. It lay in wait, sleeping, until extreme circumstances brought it to the surface and back to life.
p. 3

Several questions:
  • Do you think permafrost as a metaphor works in this case? It could be only a few years old or primordial.
  • What time period would the permafrost cover as suppression of hate?
  • What is the timing of the thaw, when suppression is weakened and hatred increases?
  • This seems to work backwards from other figures of speech where we mention "a thawing in race or gender relations" which signals an improvement. In this case, as in nature, the thaw brings other problems.

A bit later the author uses another natural phenomenon as a metaphor for changing attitudes.
Quote:
What scientists have only recently discovered is that the more familiar earthquakes, those that are easily measured while in progress and instantaneous in their destruction, are often preceded by longer, slow-moving, catastrophic disruptions rumbling twenty miles or more beneath us, too deep to be felt and too quiet to be measured for most of human history. They are as potent as those we can see and feel, but they have long gone undetected because they work in silence, unrecognized until a major quake announces itself on the surface. Only recently have geophysicists had technology sensitive enough to detect the unseen stirrings deeper in the earth’s core. They are called silent earthquakes. And only recently have circumstances forced us, in this current era of human rupture, to search for the unseen stirrings of the human heart, to discover the origins of our discontents.
p. 10

Discuss: Compare and contrast the use of permafrost and earthquakes. The subtitle of the book in context.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
LanDroid wrote:
Chapter One
The Afterlife of Pathogens

Discuss: Compare and contrast the use of permafrost and earthquakes. The subtitle of the book in context.

Nice set-up for this discussion, and I haven't got hold of a copy yet, but I get more of a sense of our situation from the earthquake metaphor. This is partly from what you indicated--a thaw sometimes signaling a positive movement. What is released through the heat of hate is toxic racism, as I would apply the metaphor. But we've also seen released, in reaction to hate, more recognition of the embeddedness of such racism, resulting in advances such as the majority of Americans favoring Black Lives Matter, the military acting to remove offensive names from bases, and removal of Confederate statues from Monument Row in the former capital of the Confederacy. As we know, having a black president for eight years didn't cure us of systemic racism, but Obama's terms can't be brushed aside, either, as having no bearing on our attitude toward race.

The deep rumbling of the earth, eventually gathering force to bring quaking to the surface, can represent shocks in both negative and positive terms. Neither simple metaphor can be precise, applied to the social complexity we're considering, but perhaps the slow beginnings of earthquakes does a better job.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
DWill wrote:
The deep rumbling of the earth, eventually gathering force to bring quaking to the surface, can represent shocks in both negative and positive terms. Neither simple metaphor can be precise, applied to the social complexity we're considering, but perhaps the slow beginnings of earthquakes does a better job.

Both metaphors serve to show that social unrest and tribalism can erupt without warning, caused by unseen and perhaps poorly understood mechanisms that lie beneath the surface. My use of "erupt" suggests a volcanic eruption, which would also serve as a useful—though perhaps more clichéd—metaphor, though all such metaphors can only go so far.

Mythological metaphors may be better suited to help us connect to these underlying sociological currents. I think Joseph Campbell might spring up during these discussions. And I was intrigued reading Robert Tulip mention of Carl Jung's Wotan essay to explain the irrationality of Trumpism and to the rise of Hitlerism as well. Some may think the comparison to Hitler is unfair, but I see obvious correlations. There are primitive emotions at play, what Jung calls a "rustling in the primeval forest of the unconsciousness." Tulip's comments include a link to Jung's essay.

post175347.html?hilit=Jung#p175347

There are indeed complex unconscious mechanisms gurgling beneath the surface, very much like the he anthrax released by the thawing of the permafrost. As shocked as many of us were when Trump was elected, really we should have expected it all along. As they say, history repeats itself.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
geo wrote:
DWill wrote:
The deep rumbling of the earth, eventually gathering force to bring quaking to the surface, can represent shocks in both negative and positive terms. Neither simple metaphor can be precise, applied to the social complexity we're considering, but perhaps the slow beginnings of earthquakes does a better job.

Both metaphors serve to show that social unrest and tribalism can erupt without warning, caused by unseen and perhaps poorly understood mechanisms that lie beneath the surface. My use of "erupt" suggests a volcanic eruption, which would also serve as a useful—though perhaps more clichéd—metaphor, though all such metaphors can only go so far.

We can have both metaphors if we think of the plate movement that produces both earthquakes and volcanoes. And I like the tectonic plate metaphor anyway, in this case--plates shifting and grinding against each other. Only there's no political or moral significance to plate-shifting; we're adding that and deciding that it's bad in the context of this book's thesis (I'm assuming something here, since I haven't read a word). Others, say, Trump voters, would put their own spin on these earth-moving metaphors. What bubbles or erupts at the surface for them or puts big cracks in the crust? Maybe it's toxic socialism.

I agree the mechanisms are likely poorly understood. If psychological forces produce the change, what produces those forces? I don't have the perspective to know that, and perhaps no one really does. I was interested in an Atlantic article in which the theories of an academic, Peter Turchin, were presented as possibly explaining cycles of boom and bust in societies dating back 10,000 years. Turchin is one of those guys like Jared Diamond or Yuval Noah Harari who applies a Big History approach from a non-history field. Turchin's field was population ecology before he decided to take on history through application of Big Data. He's claiming that it's oversupply of elites that causes societies to crack up, in roughly 50-year cycles. We're about due for a big explosion, he claims, and there isn't anything we can do that will prevent it. It could be something like the turmoil of the 60s, or a civil war. I just mention this not to claim there's something to it, though the article says Turchin is gaining advocates, but just to put it out there that we have many ideas about the proximate causes of "our discontents," but about the ultimate or broadest cause, well that's a much tougher one. If you're interested: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/ar ... re/616993/
Quote:
Mythological metaphors may be better suited to help us connect to these underlying sociological currents. I think Joseph Campbell might spring up during these discussions. And I was intrigued reading Robert Tulip mention of Carl Jung's Wotan essay to explain the irrationality of Trumpism and to the rise of Hitlerism as well. Some may think the comparison to Hitler is unfair, but I see obvious correlations. There are primitive emotions at play, what Jung calls a "rustling in the primeval forest of the unconsciousness." Tulip's comments include a link to Jung's essay.
Is there something, though, that we can put our finger on as producing these currents? I think historians do have ideas about some structural social reasons for the rise of Nazism, and some of them could apply to our modern situation.
Quote:
There are indeed complex unconscious mechanisms gurgling beneath the surface, very much like the he anthrax released by the thawing of the permafrost. As shocked as many of us were when Trump was elected, really we should have expected it all along. As they say, history repeats itself.

Yes, an expectancy for Trump's reign can be constructed from the 80s rise of the religious right, Newt Gingrich, the Tea Party, and of course Trump's nomination for president. There must be developments pertaining more to the Democratic party or the left that also raised the possibility of Trump succeeding to a level high enough that simple chance could propel him to where no one had imagined he could reach. At that point, the fact of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server could become decisive in Trump's favor. Even an accident as minor as James Comey reopening the email investigation two weeks before the election could have been responsible for Trump's win and what we now see as the Trump irruption. None of those factors could have mattered unless the country had already reached a Trump threshold. Our peculiar electoral system of course also exerted its ancient pull to put a popular-vote loser in the WH. That must be what all the perfect storm talk was about.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
geo wrote:
Both metaphors [sudden melting of permafrost and earthquakes] serve to show that social unrest and tribalism can erupt without warning, caused by unseen and perhaps poorly understood mechanisms that lie beneath the surface.
Earthquakes well illustrate the ‘tipping point’ concept used in climate theory. Tectonic plates generate steadily increasing tension until they reach a sudden release with a major realignment. The San Andreas Fault has average movement between the Pacific and American tectonic plates of two inches per year, so if there is no surface movement for fifty years, the release of built-up tension will generate an earthquake with expected plate movement of eight feet. If the fault runs through your house that puts the kitchen where the bathroom was, but not as a neat renovation. The vast quantities of earth involved make the destructive energy of such a sudden massive movement immense.

Earthquakes are “without warning” in the sense that we can’t know which straw will break the camel’s back, but ‘with warning’ in the sense that engineers know that adding straw upon straw will eventually collapse a rigid structure, with probabilistic prediction equations.

Similarly with culture, a caste system can lock in a political model of ordinary social interaction that prevents reform of race relations. The constant additions of small humiliations create pressure for change, although a big issue with religious caste is how the cultural hierarchy makes these insults socially acceptable. If the system hypocritically pretends to be based on merit, it will generate tensions that remain largely unseen to the dominant caste, building up similar destructive potential as an earthquake. But if the system accepts it is not based on merit, it stands in conflict with fundamental ethical principles, such as claims in the US Declaration of Independence of self-evident truths.

Going back to how the climate change metaphor links to caste, it occurs to me that the Indian caste system was partly effective and sustainable in the past, in that family traditions of vocation enforced through religious expectation provided a stable and reliable way to maintain expertise. The metaphor with climate change comes from the fact that many people are excluded from these guild caste traditions, and this exclusion generates pressure to break down the rigid conventions. With climate change, our fossil fuel system looks sustainable and effective like a caste system when viewed from within, but when the larger views of its systemic effects is considered, the externality of global warming means that a system that looks good on the surface requires urgent reform.
geo wrote:
Mythological metaphors may be better suited to help us connect to these underlying sociological currents. I think Joseph Campbell might spring up during these discussions. And I was intrigued reading Robert Tulip mention of Carl Jung's Wotan essay to explain the irrationality of Trumpism and to the rise of Hitlerism as well. Some may think the comparison to Hitler is unfair, but I see obvious correlations. There are primitive emotions at play, what Jung calls a "rustling in the primeval forest of the unconsciousness."
Thanks Geo, Jung interprets cultural and political trajectory by theorising an underlying direction. What you call ‘sociological currents’ relate to identity and values that have strong causal momentum that are not easily explained in terms of rational motive. I find the Indian concept of karma useful as a way of aggregating the hidden factors of social causality, not to suggest anything supernatural, but rather just to say that the karma of a person or a group is the integrated causal influence of all the known and unknown factors of their situation.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus expressed this karmic causal principle with the aphorism 'ethos anthropoi daimon', Ηθος Ανθρωπος Δαιμων, interpreted to mean our ethos is our guardian angel, or character is fate.

With Hitler, Germany’s catastrophic explosion that he instigated was in this sense a karmic result of the fate of national character, although we can’t tell if the accidents of history mean these explosive berserk energies could have been contained and channeled into constructive directions. The underlying theme was that overweening pride in cultural identity sought confrontation in war.

The USA did the same with the Vietnam and Iraq wars, which were both insane on any rational cost-benefit analysis, since vastly better outcomes could have been achieved at far lower cost through sensible dialogue and investment. But caste systems rest upon religious pride, and US pride about its secular religion of pioneer individualism failed to see how that anti-communist mentality has to be balanced against collective needs.
geo wrote:
Tulip's comments include a link to Jung's essay. post175347.html?hilit=Jung#p175347
Wotan is one of Jung’s most important contributions, exploring how the spiritual roots of cultural identity generate rigid political blockages. Such blockages produce a public inability to analyse problems dispassionately, hence also the relevance to Caste of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents.
geo wrote:
There are indeed complex unconscious mechanisms gurgling beneath the surface, very much like the anthrax released by the thawing of the permafrost. As shocked as many of us were when Trump was elected, really we should have expected it all along. As they say, history repeats itself.

And as Mark Twain aphorised, history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes.

The legacy of Nixon, Reagan and Bush has pushed the American right toward the polarising confrontation of emotional pride seen in Trump. If he hadn’t won in 2016, he probably would have in 2020, through his Hitlerite capacity to generate resonant myths of cultural fantasy, such as the Big Lie of the Lost Cause of electoral fraud.

The Trumpian boil of distorted belief in manifest destiny and exceptional providence summed up in the MAGA meme would only have festered and grown during a Hillary Clinton Presidency, which would have been the object of sustained massive cultural and political attack.

How well Biden manages to lance that boil through managing caste-based sentiments will be an interesting challenge. Biden now has the advantage of global experience showing that strong central states relying on scientific knowledge have been most effective in managing the pandemic, while the viral meme of liberty has brought capitulation to the real virus.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
Quote:
What humanity learned, one would hope, was that an ancient and hardy virus required perhaps more than anything, knowledge of its ever-present danger, caution to protect against exposure, and alertness to the power of its longevity, its ability to mutate, survive and hibernate until reawakened. It seemed these contagions could not be destroyed, not yet anyway, only managed and anticipated, as with any virus, and that foresight and vigilance, the wisdom of never taking them for granted, never underestimating their persistence, was perhaps the most effective antidote, for now.

Chapter 1 ends with that quote plus another metaphor about summarizing your medical history for a doctor.
Quote:
The Vitals of History
When we go to the doctor, he or she will not begin to treat us without taking our history—and not just our history but that of our parents and grandparents before us.
...Looking beneath the history of one’s country is like learning that alcoholism or depression runs in one’s family or that suicide has occurred more often than might be usual or, with the advances in medical genetics, discovering that one has inherited the markers of a BRCA mutation for breast cancer. You don’t ball up in a corner with guilt or shame at these discoveries. You don’t, if you are wise, forbid any mention of them. In fact, you do the opposite. You educate yourself. You talk to people who have been through it and to specialists who have researched it. You learn the consequences and obstacles, the options and treatment. You may pray over it and meditate over it. Then you take precautions to protect yourself and succeeding generations and work to ensure that these things, whatever they are, don’t happen again.

Discuss: What do you think the capacity is for America to learn from twin pandemics and examining history?
  • The world has known for 100 years that another pandemic was coming.
  • There were several close calls with previous microscopic organisms that did not take over. Did we learn from that or deride scientists as over-reacting?
  • Is America able to examine history fearlessly? If not, what are we afraid of?
  • Consider the 1619 Project that sought to align the beginning of America with the arrival of the first slaves. Then the backlash* attempting to nullify and shut down that line of investigation.
  • Is America taking significant precautions to protect succeeding generations from a repeat of these pandemics?

*Much more on that later.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
CHAPTER TWO
An Old House and an Infrared Light


Chapter two begins with another delightful metaphor. I'm starting to think this is a better way to teach this subject than a diatribe with statistics, perhaps a way to leverage the subconscious.
Quote:
An old house is its own kind of devotional, a dowager aunt with a story to be coaxed out of her, a mystery, a series of interlocking puzzles awaiting solution. Why is this soffit tucked into the southeast corner of an eave? What is behind this discolored patch of brick? With an old house, the work is never done, and you don’t expect it to be.
America is an old house.

Isabel Wilkerson continues with fears and aggravations that the owners of old houses must contend with.
Quote:
The awkward becomes acceptable, and the unacceptable becomes merely inconvenient. Live with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal. Exposed over the generations, we learn to believe that the incomprehensible is the way that life is supposed to be.
p.16

Wow.

I'll supplement this with a snippet from a speech I heard Louis Farrakhan, head of The Nation of Islam, make on the radio. Paraphrasing from memory:
"America is like a large old house with a freshly painted picket fence out front, a new hardwood floor at the entrance, a roaring flame in the fireplace, but a very different scene in the basement. There you have leaking pipes, vermin, mold from occasional floods, and a rattle-trap furnace. America likes to point to politeness in certain cities while dismissing overt racism in the South and homelessness in nearly every community. But America cannot separate different sections of the house to be admired or try to hide defects from a sales agent.
AMERICA! YOU OWN AND ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENTIRE HOUSE!



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
LanDroid wrote:
Is America able to examine history fearlessly? If not, what are we afraid of?
Oh, goodness, one could go on and on. Remember that 30 percent or more believe in some version of Young Earth Creationism. How can someone with such a mindset bring themselves to examine dangerous facts with courage? Certain things simply *must* be true, because there is no viable alternative mythology.

How many Americans "get" that WWII was won by Stalin, not by America? How many Americans "get" that our era of greatest absolute growth (not necessarily percentage growth rate) coincided with a vastly enlarging, activist government and very high tax rates? How many Americans are willing to sit down and consider the evidence that Roe v Wade and the decline in unwanted children contributed a third or more to the remarkable decline in crime rates over the last 30 years?

The rise of Andrew Jackson (Trump's favorite president) was due as much to the relentless organization of coalitions and symbolism by Martin Van Buren, claiming to back a candidate of the people not politics, as to Jackson's charisma and military victories. The success of John F. Kennedy (another winner of a knife-edge election) was largely due to his claim to be a better Cold Warrior. Deficits have exploded under three of the last four Republican presidents, despite their image as the party of fiscal discipline. The Northern states were, and are, bastions of de facto racial segregation long after de jure segregation was gone.

What are we afraid of? I would say, the loss of myths that evolved for their usefulness.

More on this after the next question.
LanDroid wrote:
Consider the 1619 Project that sought to align the beginning of America with the arrival of the first slaves. Then the backlash* attempting to nullify and shut down that line of investigation.


Academic America has become a wasteland of moral posturing. The human disciplines have come to be dominated by "crits" - people whose claim to academic worthiness rests on moral critique of pragmatic arrangements. And this posturing is very appealing to young people, especially young people whose commercial prospects are fairly limited.

There are good reasons for the criticisms. Our past is shot through with terrible injustice, our sociological structures continue to be based heavily on patriarchy (as are nearly all societies on earth) and capitalism continues to be as merciless as its critics claim. Furthermore, it is easy to mount a critique of the myths that have arisen to justify all this injustice and to show how the society falls short of its own notions of its own virtues. Win-win: a way to get tenure, and a way to offer moral superiority to students.

But the average crit either believes that socialism will fix all this, or publicly assents to such claims for the sake of status among other academics. Many could not put together a budget for their own university, much less make a business run effectively. Yet they think they know how an economy should run, based on the criticisms that got them tenure. The way such a process would work is a black box. At best they can point to Sweden and Denmark. At worst they offer apologies for Russia and China. In high school debate we learned that you have to offer a case (that the status quo needs to change) and a plan (how to change the status quo). They have skipped over the second part.

And frankly I think the current paroxysms of irrationality have a lot to do with that disconnect - more, I would claim, than with the election of our first Black president. When a college education has come to mean four years of learning how bad our society is, then the bulk of those who are skeptical of the practicality of utopian fixes will come to scorn that education and feel alienated from the cultural power structures. To put it as bluntly as I can, Fox News will sound like common sense.

If our intelligentsia cannot do any better than moral criticism, and things don't seem to be going very well, populism is going to sound like the only source of coherence. I am very sympathetic to the goal of working discrimination out of our social structures. But I don't believe in magic wands, or Diversity Fairies. In general, I think our elites need to be systematic about creating understanding of practicalities, and adopting rhetorical appeals and strategic pathways that leverage practical forces. Consider me a Krugman Democrat.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
Harry Marks wrote:
Certain things simply *must* be true, because there is no viable alternative mythology.
That situation defines the tectonic problem of cultural change. A conventional set of beliefs evolves that justifies the legitimacy of a culture. In feudal England they used the idea of the rich man in his castle and the poor man at the gate to reflect a sense of necessary social divisions, justifying tensions that led to civil war. The Chinese theory of dynastic cycle defines cultural legitimacy as the mandate of heaven – the sense that all is right with the world while the governing empire has a divine blessing, but instability involves a loss of this legitimate metaphysical mandate. Modern China has taken on something like this mandate of heaven idea, if not explicitly, to assert the primacy of political stability over human rights.

The problem, like the tectonic tensions that produce an earthquake, is that the old paradigm has anomalies, and keeping it in place requires that those anomalies be ignored. The result is a social and political rigidity, a refusal to discuss difficult ideas, the syndrome that Orwell called ‘thoughtcrime’.

Institutions such as churches go into decline because outsiders see their blinkered views as ridiculous, as requiring some sort of Dunning-Kruger overestimation of their own intelligence on the part of believers, who view any dissent as a heretical thoughtcrime.

And the social system becomes more polarised, brittle and fragile.
Harry Marks wrote:
What are we afraid of? I would say, the loss of myths that evolved for their usefulness.
This is such a key point. Wilkerson looks at the religious roots of caste thinking, how the Bible can be read to justify racial divisions. She describes the myth that all whites are intrinsically superior to all blacks as part of the genetic inheritance of the USA since Plymouth Rock.

Despite being obviously false, this social myth served for centuries to legitimise slavery, and therefore continues to traumatise the culture in ways that are both overt and hidden.

This traumatic brittleness of religious culture is a big reason why I call for a reformed scientific Christianity, to recognise that divisions can be dissolved through forgiveness, but forgiveness needs to be conditional on repentance.

I gave a sermon at church recently that touched on these themes, including the following comments
Quote:
“John gives a baptism of forgiveness for repentance (Mark 1:4). This means that while God’s love is unconditional, God’s forgiveness of sin is conditional upon our recognition of our wrongdoing. John’s baptism provides access to the healing grace of God, in return for genuine sorrow and reflection about our mistakes that have made forgiveness necessary. Restorative justice comes through dialogue and understanding about truth and reconciliation.
John is saying that our salvation, putting us into right relationship with God, requires that we understand what we have done wrong, why it was wrong and what harm our wrongs have caused, and that we feel genuine remorse for our wrong actions and words and thoughts. Only when we are truly sorry for our mistakes can we commit to a life of repair and restoration, of love grounded in truth. The forgiveness that comes through repentance gradually opens us up to a deeper understanding of the love of God, working to build expanding islands of grace and creative power amidst the oceans of emptiness in our deluded world.”
Harry Marks wrote:
Academic America has become a wasteland of moral posturing.
I often wonder why we don’t get any academics engaging in discussion on Booktalk. I suspect that a similar rigidity that constrains conventional religion also applies in the wasteland of critical theory. People find it very difficult to engage in dialogue with people who disagree with them.
Harry Marks wrote:
you have to offer a case (that the status quo needs to change) and a plan (how to change the status quo). The current paroxysms of irrationality have a lot to do with that disconnect.
This points to a key insight of paradigm theory: people won’t change just because there are anomalies identified in their beliefs – they need a better alternative framework. In my view that is the major problem with the climate change goal of net zero achieved through emission reduction – it is basically both impossible and inadequate, and furthermore sets up a needless level of social and economic conflict, so we still need a viable vision of a stable climate before it will be possible to make meaningful change.

Similar challenges occur in the politics of race, where overly polarised views fail to recognise the validity in the views of their opponents.
Harry Marks wrote:
elites need to be systematic about creating understanding of practicalities, and adopting rhetorical appeals and strategic pathways that leverage practical forces.

That means we need a story about how to get from here to there. A big part of that is what the Romans called a modus vivendi, an arrangement that allows conflicting parties to coexist in peace.

For example rather than calling to abolish religion or fossil fuels, a better and more practical path is thinking through strategies that can reform them to accommodate with modern scientific knowledge.

With racism and the caste system, the goal needs to be judgement based on the content of character, as Martin Luther King said. That involves a dialectic of pride and shame, an ability to recognise the achievements of compromised systems while pointing toward reconciliation, something that requires an intrinsic place for religious spirituality.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
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Is America able to examine history fearlessly? If not, what are we afraid of?

You're asking some great questions, but if I could partly duck this one, we'll always have difficulty agreeing on what the past has meant, so I don't know if fearfulness is the biggest problem. We need to allow for different views and not insist on one. Then, people might be more willing to move toward a given destination. It's always iffy, though. Thinking of the two Confederate statues in our town, we might get to the point of moving them out of public space. Those who value the statues might come to that point of acquiescence, grudgingly it's true. But if the campaign to remove them also sounds like a campaign to deny people any pride in their Confederate ancestry, they'll dig in. So, soft-pedaling the racist/slavery connection seems the best approach. If the pro-statue folks want to believe that the statues honor heritage, not slavery, let them. Keep eyes on the goal (removal) and don't directly confront cherished notions about the past.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 1 - Toxins in the Permafrost
LanDroid wrote:
I agree it's extremely rare for anyone to be that man. I recall photographs of crowds at lynchings. They called them mobs, but were they the KKK or neo-Nazis? No, if you were there they might have included your Aunt Millie, cousin Billy, and your Daddy - seeking entertainment, vigilante justice, and pornography. Tough to fight back against them, and so it continued...

One of Michelle Alexander's main points in The New Jim Crowe is that the vast majority of people turn a blind eye to injustices taking place in plain sight. All we have to do is open our eyes. The war on drugs may not have been designed explicitly against blacks, but it ultimately affected the black community in very disproportionate ways. For example, we had different penalties for crack cocaine than we had for cocaine, for no viable reason whatsoever except that the crack form was used predominantly by young black men. Because of this policy young black men were railroaded into prisons for decades. We still haven't talked about this particular travesty of justice. Nor have we talked about how time and again the Supreme Court paved the way for police to conduct search and seizures on minorities, simply because it was expedient and convenient, and because most white people didn't care what was happening to blacks. Systemic racism is very real in the USA. This book opened my eyes to this truth. Fortunately, we live in a time when underlying racist attitudes are being exposed, but there are still way too many people who don't bother to see it.

LanDroid's question is an excellent one. What does it take to be one of these guys who can see through the bullshit? Who can see that the emperor is, in fact, stark naked? It takes character and honesty and a willingness to look into the darkness.

Kurt Vonnegut was certainly one of these guys. And I think Wendell Berry is another at least in terms of exposing environmental crimes by corporations.

I heard Chris Rock in an interview describe entrenched racist attitudes in a joking way, but one that has stayed with me because it's so brutally honest. He said: "the real narrative should be that these people, the black people, are being abused by a group of people that are mentally handicapped. And we’re trying to get them past their mental handicaps to see that all people are equal."

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/16/arts ... fargo.html


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