Cosmic Justice and Classism

The economist Thomas Sowell is a true working class hero. He was born in the Jim Crow South in 1930 with his father dying shortly thereafter leaving his mother, a housemaid, with five children to raise. As a child, his encounters with white people were so limited he did not know blond was a hair color. He and his extended family eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina then to Harlem, New York City. After serving in various manual labor and other odd jobs, he was drafted into the military in 1951 during the Korean War and was assigned to the Marine Corps. After his honorable discharge, he went on to use his G.I. Bill and subsequent educational opportunities to attend Howard University, Harvard University, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago to get his Ph.D. in economics. He is now at Stanford University.

 

In many of his essays and subsequent books, he argues against the concept of cosmic justice that is required talk throughout the American upper class, its law, and its intelligentsia — its social justice warriors — to hide its will to power. He defines cosmic justice in relation to traditional concepts of justice as follows:

For those with this view, “genuine equality of opportunity” cannot be achieved by the application of the same rules and standards to all, but requires specific interventions to equalize either prospects or results. As Rawls puts it, “undeserved inequalities call for redress.” A fight in which both boxers observe the Marquis of Queensberry rules would be a fair fight, according to traditional standards of fairness, irrespective of whether the contestants were of equal skill, strength, experience or other factors likely to affect the outcome– and irrespective of whether that outcome was a hard-fought draw or a completely one-sided beating. This would not, however, be a fair fight within the framework of those seeking “social justice,” if the competing fighters came into the ring with very different prospects of success — especially if these differences were due to factors beyond their control.  “The Quest for Cosmic Justice” by Thomas Sowell

I have spent most of my life disagreeing with him, but I must now admit at least partial error in my disagreement. Gradually, as I have gotten older and fortunately or unfortunately my idealism has been diluted by pragmatic reality, I have learned to agree with him but only to the extent of rejecting cosmic justice in the rule of law but not as a normative goal through social and cultural goals that existentially may never be achieved. The existentialist absurd individual who has made a leap into morality as an individual dealing with other individuals in daily life must continue to struggle for cosmic justice as an end in itself with its own independent meaning. As I have argued before in this series of essays, social economic classes are a necessary part of human social group struggle against the universe. We need to admit their existence in order to minimize their unfairness and for society to prosper even though existentially I will always protest their existence in reality.

 

One objection to Sovell’s arguments is that even traditional concepts of fairness such as those exhibited by the rules of sports incorporate pragmatic means outside the rules to make them fair. For example, in boxing there are weight classes. It would not be considered a “fair fight” for a 135 lb. lightweight to be matched up against a 235 lb. heavyweight. These types of class distinctions are made in all rules of sports varying from baseball with its various levels of amateur and pro playing to golf with its handicaps and onto Formula and Moto racing with classes based on engine size. Mr. Sowell seems to admit to the validity of this objection in some of his other writings and implies the need for a social equivalent to sports classes. For example, in his criticism of affirmative action, he argues it disadvantages the lower classes because they cannot compete on the same level as upper class college students and thus drop-up at higher rates; he argues they would be better off attending a college with others of their class thus allowing them to graduate and work up to upper class education. “”Affirmative Action Around the World” by Thomas Sowell.

 

Furthermore, as a young man, I objected to his argument because I took on as a moral code the classic so-called Warrior Ethos: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Why should I leave any fellow workers behind in my battle for victory over the powers-that-be, especially if I win the battle or the war? Is that not also the Christian Ethos: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves”? Romans 15.

 

My first step to agreeing at least partially with him was my military service and reading of military history. Turns out warriors leave their comrades behind all the time. The trials for cowardice of the Battle of Arginusae generals for leaving stranded drowning sailors behind and the Marines dragging their frozen dead with them as they retreated from the Battle of Chosin Reservoir were a rarity in military history including Marine Corps history and for all military units in world history, on land and on sea. During hasty retreats, leaving behind the wounded, the dead, and the equipment while running like hell was much more common.

 

Next, I was changed by my years spent in the American system of injustice. In it, though one might occasionally win a battle against the powers-that-be, in the end, one always lose the war. The law is full of talk of diversity, victims, and social justice but the end result is the same as in all systems of injustice throughout history: maintain the power of the status quo. The reality of cosmic justice at work in the law is twofold: 1) changing from time to time whom it advantages and disadvantages so as to keep competing social groups including the male and female sexes in constant conflict; 2) transforming being a victim of injustice, including its own, into a culture of victimization that gives meaning to victims’ lives and to those who want power over them so they do not become motivated to force real change in life. In fact, many cosmic justice warriors and their camp followers are more happy in their culture of victimization and poverty than I have ever been or will be in fighting to avoid it; so much so that they are willing to promote and procreate their myth onto messing up the lives of posterity.

 

One clear example of this process at work is American Indian culture — a fabricated culture that does not really even exist. If there is any meaning to the words “American Indian” other than to give upper class Americans and their intelligentsia something to pity, it would be only to reference a particular trial culture, i.e., Cherokee, Navajo, and so forth. However, these tribal cultures died out long ago with the best and brightest individuals of those cultures long ago having mixed into American culture as all other immigrant groups of the past have done and as occurred throughout history between conquerors and those conquered. What remains of those dead tribal cultures consist of a bunch of modern day Americans pretending to be tribes as a source of meaning in their lives and as a means to get government assistance. American Indians are the most impoverished social group in the country and statistically lead in single parent households, mental illness, child abuse, crime, drug problems, and education dropouts with a resulting lead in juvenile crime. Yet, their so-called leaders with their will-to-power need to protect their fiefdoms of power on government provided reservations continue and foster the farce of American Indian culture. At any level of power, those in power, including the big fish in the small pond of American Indian reservations, will convert any intentions — either good or bad — into a means of power as an end in itself, even intentions of cosmic justice. No good deed will go unpunished by the powers-that-be if they can use it as a means of maintaining their power or of obtaining more power.

 

A future example of this culture of victimization will be the black Americans left behind by their upper class brothers and sisters using new school racism as a means to get and stay upper class. Please see my previous essays on New School Racism. As I predicted in those essays and in greater detail in “Between the World and Us” (that is already coming to life by the demands of black Harvard University students for a separate graduation ceremony for black graduates), the solution for racism by Ta-Nehisi Coates and other black members and friends of the upper class is: establish a separate but equal education system for “black bodies”, letting black men commit self-genocide by continuing to kill each other, letting black women raise families by themselves, and creating black ghettos with the help of a new 21st Century slave master: government. Thus, thanks to cosmic justice warriors, we have come full circle: the solution to racism will be racism.

 

For any working social construct concept of fairness to be useful to humanity’s struggle with the universe to survive, as with fairness in rules of athletics and other sports, it must accept the presence of social economic class struggle as a present and future necessity. This presence is not a basis to create laws giving preference or preventing discrimination among class as occurs with all preferences present in civil rights laws serving only to hide class conflict while aggravating it. The acceptance of the necessity to have class conflict is necessary as a basis to eliminate and negate such law in order to allow classes to work and struggle within themselves for individual success and to compete with each other for overall social success. Civil rights laws result from the arrogance of the Orwellian High who view workers as hopeless idiots doomed to a life of misery, drug addiction, violence, and meaningless deaths without their aid and control. Billions of Orwellian Middle and Low throughout history have loved and been loved and have struggled and triumphed in every day struggles for life, property, and liberty. These struggles have created modern Technological Society. As basic fairness, this Society must allow us the freedom to continue our struggles among ourselves to control the present and future of the Technological Society our struggles have created.

 

A cosmic justice concept demanding illusionary equality for all enforced by the law’s monopoly on violence at the expense of equity for all through social and cultural pragmatism helps only the powers-that-be. The first stumbling block for application into Technological Society of Sovell’s “genuine equality of opportunity” with social economic class acceptance will be the law. How can we bring this pragmatic concept of fairness to life in the present delusional reality of the American system of injustice in which law negates and then demands a monopoly of violence for its power of negation of all social and cultural norms other than its cosmic vision of justice?

To Be An Ethical Person Or To Be A Good Person, That Is The Question: Part IV

So, finally, what should a person do, be an ethical person or be a good person? At this point, the only solace I have is that I am not alone in not having an answer. The working class hero Albert Camus spent a serious part of his unfortunately short life asking various forms of this question in such writings as The Fallen, The Plague, and The Rebel, but even he was never able to answer it. In the end, all he could say was “The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown.” The problem with the question is the subtlety of the problem that like the tip of an iceberg hides the enormity hidden beneath consisting of a defect in the human soul.

 
As I have written before, the power of law and the classism it maintains and enforces seems to be a necessity part of reality because of humanity’s inherent struggle for survival with the natural world trying to kill us. In this battle to exist with the universe, humanity needs to be organized in an efficient hierarchy in the same way any community involved in a battle would need to be organized to win. This need for efficiency is the foundation and source of all of our historical, material, and economic progress. This was Plato’s argument against state rule in the form of a democracy: it is simply too slow and cumbersome to work efficiently when democracies are confronted with tragic problems of survival, and thus democracy will eventually become anarchy and then tyranny. So far, history has not falsified his theoretic predictions for the path of democracies. Fine, so we will always have laws and a legal system to maintain the necessary injustice in life of social and economic classes regardless of whether it be a democracy or a tyranny or anything else. Thus, for workers the question of whether to be law-abiding or a law breaker is analogous to asking whether one should or should not comply with the orders of someone holding a gun to one’s head. It is a question of how suicidal your situation has become or of how lucky one feels. For workers and for everyone except for the minority at the top of any society’s class structure, it is an obvious problem with obvious options: work or go to jail.

 
With ethics, the problem begins with the first thought of it being a problem: questioning ethics implies you are a bad person, even when the ethics is simply a fabricated set of rules by a small group designed substantively only to maintain that small group’s power with little or no connection to any pragmatic reality except for maintenance of that power. Ethics is a religion that denies being a religion which makes it worse than a religion. At least with the major Western religions, a person can be virtuous and moral by good intentions though they do not act upon the knowledge or intent. “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum” (Love the sinner but hate the sin). — St. Augustine, His Letter 211 at 424. This is not enough for ethics. Ethics is personal. It is a scarlet “E” placed upon sinners indicating to all one is unclean.

 
Ethics is a choice of work or no work that in some ways is worse than jail since individuals trying to be and to do good in life need either work ties or social ties to give meaning to their lives. Karl Marx saw work as a source of alienation for workers, however, being unemployed because one is “unethical” with no resources to strive, to contribute to society, or to enjoy one’s leisure time by some form of creativity is a mental prison for good persons as bad as imprisonment and worse than any alienation caused by work. Furthermore, ethics is enforced not by the hacks that visibly and directly make up the legal system and therefore are an enemy one can see and fight but by fellow workers — again just as is a community’s religion. It is a Western form of being made an outcaste only without a formal caste system and thus without the social support of other outcastes. Thomas Sowell’s book “The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy” calls this modern ethics based view on what should be pragmatic considerations a “vision of the anointed”; he calls it a cosmic view of virtue as a basis for policy decisions instead of using the reality of dealing and solving problems. He directs his accusations to the American liberal intelligentsia but it could just as easily be applied to the right except for the fact that the polemics of the right are at least honest about their cosmic visions of virtue being religious.

 
A simple answer would be to comply with any given rules of ethics, keep one’s job, and do not make trouble. Following orders and doing what one is told to do without question, there is an answer that has always worked out well for being a good and moral person — not.

 
My only answer is: empathy. Unlike the thousands of new laws enacted and enforced upon us anew each year in addition to the libraries of law already out there by the Inner Party and its Outer Party house servants, ethics is enforced by workers upon workers. In our modern Technological Society rule of law, the average person commits three felonies a day without even knowing it. (See generally, “Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent”, Encounter Books (June 7, 2011.)) Any time the law wants to get us, any of us, it can. We are all in the same unethical boat. Remember this next time you want to look with disdain about the “unethical” practices, conduct, views, or acts of fellow workers regardless what may be the employment, social, or political situation. More than ever, if we are to be judged by a secular religion called ethics, the religious advice “he who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone” is more important than ever.

To Be An Ethical Person Or To Be A Good Person, That Is The Question: Part III

Despite their inherent dishonest and fraudulent nature, the popularity and quantity of codes of ethics have grown during the last few decades seemingly exponentially. They are omnipresent everywhere in all aspects of government and private sector organizations of any type. Why? During these same decades, local, state, and federal agencies passed 5,000 to 6,000 new regulations a year with some years going as high as 13,000 to 16,000 new regulations in one year. With these new regulations, there have been added thousands of new government agencies, millions of additional government workers, and billions of dollars more spent on enforcement and prosecution of all these various versions of new laws. These legally enforced normative “ought” statements tell us what we “ought” to be doing in every conceivable area of human private and social conduct varying from age discrimination to zoo-keeping. Every moment of our waking and sleeping lives are directly or indirectly affected if not usually outright governed by numerous laws. The average person commits three felonies a day without even knowing it. So, what could possibly be the need and source of demand to add ethics “ought” codes — and thus ethics code interpretations — to this omnipresent and ever presence mess of “ought” rules by both government and private entities.

 
According to many historians, the ethics code fad in the United States started in the 1970’s with the Watergate scandal during which the Washington Post and then it seems everyone else in the United States and the world decided in the paraphrased words of Captain Renault from Casablanca, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that [dirty trickery] is going on in here” in the White House. They were shocked because apparently the Washington Post and the other powers-that-be involved had never bothered reading the history of past political dirty tricks, lying, bribery, perjury, fraud, destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, and much more (such as trying to kill the opposition and actually killing the opposition as in the famous Burr-Hamilton duel) reported and contained in the Washington Post and its archives. Whatever, for reasons beyond the limitations of this essay, President Nixon’s dirty trips were considered unacceptable. To prevent it from ever happening again, the powers decided we must have ethics codes for all government officials and employees especially government lawyers and then this fad escalated into having ethics codes in all private sectors jobs and job training — to have ethics codes everywhere and anywhere.

 
Why would Watergate cause such a fad? President Nixon had to resign (first President in United States history to do so) and only avoided jail because his chosen successor gave him a full presidential pardon; he went from being considered historically one of our most intelligent and competent presidents both for domestic and international affairs to being considered a fool and demon. Everyone else involved suffered one to all of the following: prison, lost their jobs, divorce, lost their families, and loss their life ambitions and hopes. Their lives were completely ruined except for the few who were upper class enough to rebuild their lives once released from jail or who “found Christ” in jail and thus are out now lecturing us on what we ought to be doing. If these results and the risk of suffering such results did not, do not, or could not prevent a repetition of political dirty tricks, how can ethics codes do it? If the thousands of other laws, law enforcement personnel and agencies, and legal and political risks associated with “dirty tricks” do not stop them, how can it possibly be the case that ethics codes would stop them?

 
They will not and do not. There is no evidence nor any basis in all known human history to believe that whatever improvement has occurred in government and private honesty, ethics, or morality is in anyway due to dishonest and amoral (at best) ethics codes. Take away the technological and material progress of the last few decades and any remaining ethics codes (and even most of the laws passed during these times) would be as farcical as talking about the glory and honor of the Roman Senate and Emperor at the times the Praetorian Guard was selling the Empire and the emperor’s crown to the highest bidder.

 
Parenthetically, I doubt if there has been any substantive change in the honest, ethical, or moral nature of humanity and society since the 1960’s with or without ethics codes or anything else. As sociologists such as Jacques Ellul have pointed out in critiques of technological society, technology and material progress reduces the need and options for individual moral choice and thus society appears morally better since everyone must follow orders and not make waves to maintain and continue technological and material progress. Not having the opportunity to sin assures that one will not sin but does not make one any more or any less a sinner. The only substantive change has been in the sophistication and subtlety of political and private sector dishonesty and the degree of adverse or beneficial effects that any individual can make on society. Consider the following two examples.

 
These days, if my illiterate Dad were around and starting out in the same situation as he did in the 1960’s, it is true he would not need to bribe a government official to pass the drivers’ examination. He would be allowed to take it in his native language and pass it legally. However, other than further eroding the nature of the United States as a melting pot, such advantage would make little difference to my Dad and makes little difference to any modern lower class immigrants or working poor since now it is not worth getting a driver’s license because they could not afford to legally drive a car anyway. The costs of new sales taxes (one of the most regressive taxes), new inspection fees, mandatory insurance, more and higher registration fees, higher maintenance costs, and even simple costs such as parking tickets requiring a half-day of minimum wage work to pay off, all make legally owning and driving a car for the working poor practically impossible. (Raising fees sounds nicer to the powers than raising taxes despite the regressive adverse effects of such fees on those least able to afford them.) As a result, if they unavoidably must own and drive, they do so illegally. Such illegal use avoids having to prosecute a government official for bribery but the end result is the same. Criminal and thus unethical  behavior is still needed for survival and especially for improvement out of the poor and working classes into upper classes for all but a rare few.

 
John Dean, the supposed “master manipulator ” of the Watergate scandal and the upper class snitch who received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation on those who did the dirty work for him while he kept his hands clean, has kept his upper class audacity to tell others what they ought to be doing. In a statement to Solon.com on 3 October 2003, he gave a rare insight into the workings of our 1984 Outer and Inner Parties and of his class:

I thought I had seen political dirty tricks as foul as they could get, but I was wrong. In blowing the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame to take political revenge on her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for telling the truth, Bush’s people have out-Nixoned Nixon’s people. And my former colleagues were not amateurs by any means.

 

Thus, there is the appearance of progress in social ethics but really no substance to the progress. As always, all social and economic classes are relative to the times, but as the Good Book says at page 542, “the law given and the law taken away, as it was in the beginning, and now, and ever shall be.” Personally, I think we would have more success in controlling ethics between government officials and private powers if we went back to  allowing them to duel among themselves as in the days of Burr and Hamilton.

 
So, what could possibly be creating the demand and proliferation of dishonest, unethical, and amoral codes of ethics that serve no useful purpose? I could not answer this contemplation until I went back to my secular bible, George Orwell’s 1984. “Power is not a means it is an end. … The object of power is power.” How stupid of me. As usual in my working class naivete, I assume all work is toward a goal or a purpose. The powers-that-be by definition are those that can enforce what they think “ought” to be on the rest of humanity. Codes of ethics spitting out verbiage for no purpose other than to fraudulently talk about what “ought” to be are perfect wordgames to engage their time when not engaged in the wordgame of being the law.

To Be An Ethical Person Or To Be A Good Person, That Is The Question: Part II

Theoretically, in the abstract, omnipresent business, academic, and government codified rules of ethics present a serious philosophical dilemma for anyone whose morality considers honesty to be a virtue — really for anyone whose morality is other than might-makes-right and especially for any morality accepting as an imperative any concept of Western Classical or Christian virtues. Codes of ethics are dishonest in substantive foundation, dishonest in essential procedure, and dishonest in execution. If a basic imperative of your personal morality of goodness is honesty or at least the desire for honesty, to be a good person one should reject modern codes of ethics. However, such rejection makes a person by definition unethical by modern ethics codes and therefore also immoral or amoral by such codes — as contemplated earlier, modern ethics codes do not recognize their own irrationality nor emotively seek empathy with personal morality that opposes or contradicts it so any opposition or contradiction is by definition unethical. In practice, this dilemma is heightened in concrete practice by the necessarily irrational and arbitrary nature of how codes of ethics operate in practical reality even when faced with the simplest of problems.

 

Personal morality may be personal but once a person lives in society with others, one’s personal morality must include a workable method, intuition, algorithm, or whatever one uses to resolve conflicts with the billions of other personal moralities out there. At one extreme, if one’s method of resolution is having personal duels to the death with any conflicts, the majesty of the law will eventually make your sense of morality unworkable by your imprisonment; for this extreme this contemplation is meaningless. At the other extreme, if one’s method of resolution for any conflict between personal morality and codes of ethics is to follow orders and not make trouble, my contemplation is also fairly worthless since following orders blindly and not making trouble by definition means that codes of conduct and law will be your personal morality. Historically, it is this final method of resolution that has been and will be the dominant one by the majority of persons at any given time.

 
Many supposedly good and moral preachers of ethics criticize humanity’s tendency to follow orders blindly as unethical — while of course demanding such blind compliance with their codes of ethics — quickly pointing to the atrocities of World War II as examples. However, as usual when pundits use historical argument, this argument is not historically valid. As pointed out in earlier essays, humanity’s battle to survive in a universe that is at best indifferent to our existence when it is not actively trying to kill us is essentially a war in which society is analogous to a military in a battle for its life. Unfortunately, many times in this struggle against the universe, society often is more in need of pure disciplined and organized group will-to-power than individual freedom to act as the individual thinks best. If humanity did not have an instinct to follow orders and not make trouble in situations that call for quick, organized, action against the universe, we would not be living in caves but would have died out as life long ago. Without such an intuition to blindly follow orders or authority in some circumstances, as bad as the results are sometimes, modern technological society would not be possible and World War II would have been lost by the Allies. The gross injustice and unfairness of this reality created by destiny, fate, God, nature, or whatever you want to call it is contemplated elsewhere.

 
So, what about when a person’s options are somewhere in between these two extremes? Even for modern individuals who try never to make ethical trouble, there will be times when there will occur a dilemma created by a personal morality conflicting with a code of ethics. In such case, my contemplation here is worthwhile but still seems to be unable to resolve the dilemma. Since this is a contemplation for workers and not academics, I will submit my first memory of being faced with this dilemma in real life as a means to further this contemplation.

 
As a young child emigrate to this country, I went to school very young and thus learned English quickly by being immersed in it — there was no such thing as bilingual education at the time. This was not true of my parents. They spoke their native dialect at home, with their other immigrate friends, and usually at work. Even into their old age, they spoke only broken English and were never literate in English. My Dad worked as a construction laborer. Since we lived in the city and the better construction work was what seem at that time to be in another world of far distant suburbs being built to which there was no public transportation, my Dad needed a car to maximize his earning potential. The problem was that he could not read and write either in his native language or in English. The illiteracy in his native language did not matter since at the time government tests such as the driver’s license written examinations were only given in English, but the latter illiteracy was a big problem needing to be resolved.

 
Since he took me with him to the DMV in case any translation was needed, I saw how through the decades the immigrant community had resolved this problem. He knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy at the DMV who for a payment of $25 – $50, do not remember the exact amount, would make sure my Dad passed the driver’s license written examination. Given that a worker’s annual income in those days was about $5000 a year, this $25-$50 was good money. So the following happened: my Dad walked up to this guy’s booth at the DMV as directed; made the filing fee payment plus the bride; got the blank test back with his name and address written in by me copying from my Dad’s green card (immigration card); we waited for a few minutes while my Dad pretended to fill in the test; took the blank test back to this dude; and magically a few minutes later after this dude hand-graded the exam as was done in those days, the test was filed in the paper drawers with a sufficient number of correct answers to pass. My Dad then got his driving permit; went over to the driving exam section; took the driving road test; passed it; and he had his drivers’ license that same day. Do not remember if someone drove us to the DMV or if he drove to it as an unlicensed driver.

 
So, what occurred was definitely illegal, but was it unethical or immoral? Since it was illegal, it would by definition also be unethical though I am not aware of any code of ethics that would have applied to the situation at that time in the 60’s. Until the 1970’s, most codes of ethics were limited to so-called professional organizations such as medical associations and attorney bar associations. So, was it immoral; was my father a bad person for doing what he did? He needed a license to better support his family. No one was hurt. My father knew how to drive as well as or better than anyone; he drove about 20,000 – 25,000 miles a year to and from construction work and had no at-fault accidents that I remember. He was not a danger to anyone since he knew how to drive both physically and mentally. So, what is the moral problem? Every illegal act is unethical but most certainly not every illegal act is immoral. In fact, many illegal acts from anti-slavery revolts to slave revolts are the epitome of moral acts and courage showing no respect for the “rule of law”. Was he responsible for the corrupt government official? No more than anyone else and none of them did anything about it. They were all too busy trying to prosper by getting what they wanted from the government and others.

 
In theory, what “ought” to have happened is that my father after working construction all day should have spent six months, a year, or more attending English classes to learn to read and write English well enough to take the written driver’s examination. Obviously he was too lazy to do it. So what? “Progress is not made by early risers. It is made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” — Robert A. Heinlein. During construction season, he spent 6 – 7 days a week digging ditches; wanted to continue doing so to support his family; wanted to save time and money by driving to work instead of paying and wasting time trying to get rides; did not want to spend his hard-earned money and 6 months or more of his off-time to learn English when less money and time would get him the license he wanted. No doubt, many will see in this bribery the usual complaint about the working class lacking the discipline and having little concern for future consequences instead preferring to “live for the moment” and engaging in self-defeating anti-social behavior. This type of criticism is easy to make when one has a future that can be reached with little or no discipline in which very little is self-defeating. My dad as a man in his 30’s with a family to support had no future other than work or jail. The fact that he would risk jail in order to be able to work six days a week as a construction laborer shows discipline, planning, and courage that are way beyond the so-called discipline, planning, and courage shown by most I have met in the ruling classes of the United States. In short, my dad was moral and good at that moment in time. Given the circumstances, he did good for himself and his family, though without doubt he was also an unethical criminal at that same moment in time.

 
Given the times, even the government official who took the bride was more good than bad in terms of practical economic reality. It was a form of direct democracy. He was immoral only in the sense of charging money for something that he as a government official should have been doing for free.

 
I am not implying that in practice anything goes in terms of what is ethical, moral, or good. Again, philosophical and theological ethics is behind the scope of this essay. We are dealing with codes of ethics. Unfortunately, in the reality of the social life of codes of ethics, if need be, any rational person can rationalize any act to be either in accordance with or in violation of any rule especially any code of ethics. In philosophy of language, this is called Wittgenstein’s “following a rule” paradox. Again, we go back to Hume’s Law. Since there is no way to rationally go from an “is” statement to an “ought” statement there really is no way to rationally defend any code of ethics. If a code of ethics does not factor this problem into its ethics, something no secular modern code of ethics does, in order to avoid an infinite chain of rationalization, all codes of ethics at enforcement will end by an arbitrary assertion by someone with power saying: “do it this way or else”.

 
These days, no doubt there is a code of ethics somewhere for DMV workers, government workers, for the construction business, and for construction laborers that would make what my Dad and the DMV official did both illegal and formally unethical and thus give a basis for both of them to be terminated from employment regardless of whether or not they were ever arrested and prosecuted for the activity. So, how have codes of ethics changed anything that the natural progression of history and technology have not changed?

 
Eventually, as our economy improved, government employees such as DMV employees have become better paid with better benefits and covered by civil service instead of being patronage employees. Also, the technology for these tests has gotten better: no more hand-graded tests; no more money changing hands without detailed computer records; video, data, or audio recording of all transactions. If an immigrant tried to repeat now what my Dad did, mostly likely it would fail and an arrest would occur for the attempt. Few if any government employees would be dumb enough to risk nowadays their nice government job by accepting a bribe. I do not remember any prosecutions for DMV bribery occurring in my old neighborhood until the 1980’s; so, the old-timers at the DMV who were doing it were probably retired and long gone. So, government is apparently more honest and ethical now thanks to what? Codes of ethics? If you take away the codes of ethics but kept the better government pay, civil service status, and benefits and the technology, would bribery make a comeback? How about the other way around? Keep the codes of ethics but reduce the pay and benefits to relative levels below what workers now would consider just; make them patronage employees again; and eliminate the computer record-keeping and testing technology; what then? Would the codes of ethics on their own prevent a return of bribery?

To Be An Ethical Person Or To Be A Good Person, That Is The Question: Part I

Rules of ethics as with calls for ethics, preaching about a need for ethics, and committees on ethics are omnipresent. Everyone who is anyone from the extreme political right to the extreme political left seems only to agree on one thing: ethics is good. Just for that reason, it is something of which the workers and powerless of the world should be suspect. If those who rule over us agree on one thing that one thing must not be good for the ruled. Theoretically: what is “ethics” that everyone seems to worship and admire it; is it any different from law; is being an ethical person the same as being morally good? Practically: why is it that throughout the history of injustice and evil including racism, ethics as with the law is almost always on the wrong side, and yet in any present ethics as with the law, both always claim to be on the right side of history?

 

In practice, “ethics” for philosophy including its subset theology describes a set of rational principles that are supposed to be universal to all concepts of individual morality: that is to all concepts by which individuals define good or evil. Outside of philosophy and Christian Theology, no one especially no one in politics, academia, business, or in any field outside philosophy or theology defines “ethics” in such a way. This is true for one simple reason often called Hume’s Law or Hume’s Guillotine named after the philosopher David Hume stating: one can play as many wordgames as one wants, but no matter how you change your syntax or semantics, there is no way to deduce nor induce from descriptive statements of “is” to conclusions expressing a new relation of a normative, evaluative, or perspective “ought”. Thus, normative statements of what one ought to do cannot be rationally derived from what is: ethics is not rational. This is the foundation problem of all philosophical and Christian theological contemplation on ethics that are beyond the subject matter of this blog. In dealing with this problem, all philosophers and Christian theologians analytically contemplating it have reached at least one set of rational principles that in the end may be all there is to ethics: 1) we must apply Ockham’s Razor to ethics in that rules of ethics must be as simple and as few as necessary to reflect morality given the multiple of possible individual moralities; 2) execution upon any principles of ethics is by necessity tempered by the emotion of empathy in which the will recognizes the existence of struggles between individual moralities and acts on this struggle with the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and courage.

 

However, popular “ethics” by all powers from the left to the right ignores the substance and essense of Hume’s Law in their omnipresent pontificating on ethics. Instead, for them the word “ethics” describes codes of written conduct formally put forward by any socially acceptable group. In this descriptive use, it is dogma never to be questioned that ethics is unquestionably rational and it is dogma that any violation of their rationality must be punished untempered by any emotion — in fact, emotive considerations in execution of a group’s ethics would be in itself unethical. In popular ethics, Ockham’s Razor is ignored: the more rules of ethics there are, it is dogma that the better the rules of ethics must be. The final attribute of popular ethics is its dogma that it is not dogmatic.

 

For the powerless workers of the world, popular ethics clearly creates a problem in principle and eventually in their execution in practice. Ethics is founded upon dishonest dogmatic belief. This dishonesty compounds itself as it is formalized into rules and then enforced. Popular ethics in practice never admits to its inherent intellectual dishonesty but instead does all it can to hide it, and it is unchecked by reality consisting of procedures that would act as a check on its inherent dishonesty or pragmatic results that can somehow be tested — regardless of whether or not the tests can result in falsification. For example, all formalized codes of conduct by socially acceptable groups are internally formalized by socially acceptable members of the group. What happens is that a dozen or so socially acceptable members of a group chosen by an even smaller number of the powers of a group get together and decide the “ethics” that will then be enforced upon thousands to hundreds of thousands or millions of members of the group with direct effect upon millions if not billions of that group’s customers, clients, patients, or whatever none of whom had any say in the ethics being enforced upon them. This form of governance is so unique to modern technological society that there appears to be no name for it. I would call it a technocracy except that the technicians formalizing the rules are not technical experts on ethics; based on their social status, they are simply chosen by the powers to formalize rules for them. In fact, as contemplated by www.sandpebblespodcast.com, this technique can be used to define the powers-that-be: those few who can enforce irrational conclusions as to what ‘ought-to-be’ upon others — i.e., Orwell’s Inner Party and their servant members of the Outer Party.

 

The supposed practical intend of codifying rules as “ethics” is to protect the weak from the strong. A wordgame in which a small group of socially accepted humans appointed by an even smaller group of powerful humans within a socially acceptable group is expected to create rules to protect the weak from themselves and the powers that appointed them is a game proving the game’s developers to be completely ignorant of human and natural history and of human nature. As with the law, as contemplated in  www.knightsofthermopylaeinnofcourt.com, such a game’s result consisting of the wordgame that is “ethics” is always the exact opposite: protecting the strong from the weak grouping together and overpowering them. As the Romans used to say after putting down the Spartacus slave rebellion, even a pack of dogs can kill a man if there are enough of them.

 

Furthermore, there is never any attempt to see if the supposed intended result of protecting the powerless from the powerful is ever achieved. In fact, such pragmatic analysis of popular ethics is — in accordance with and as practical proof of Hume’s Law — not only avoided but often outright condemned as an evil. For example, if a politician honestly states they will sell a political appointment or a political position to the highest donor, it is unethical and even criminal regardless if they actually do it — the speech is enough for execution of loss of livelihood and imprisonment (i.e., former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich). However, if a politician actually does give a political appointment to the highest donor or legislate the highest donor’s political needs it is ethical and legal as long as the politician keeps their reasoning to themselves and does not admit verbally that both were bought and sold (i.e., every politician in the history of the world). From the pragmatic perspective of the voter, especially in a society that supposedly worships free speech, how is this ethics forcing politicians to hide their dishonesty in anyway a moral good? It is not.

 

This type of analysis can be applied to any popular form of ethics. I am not engaged in this analysis to try to create an idiocracy. Our modern technological world is so very complicated that it is easy to forget the basic premises of human thought that have made us successful so far in beating the natural world’s will to kill us. For example, mathematics is incredibly complicated, yet all of its incredibly convoluted, rationally challenging complexity begins with one simple operation: addition. If you do not understand that 2 + 2 = 4, all of mathematics is worthless farce. Before we can go on to questions of whether ethics or morality is any different from law or whether being an ethical person is the same as being morally good, one must accept that “freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows” — Orwell’s 1984.

Immigration and Historical Argument

As an immigrant to this country, it is extremely painful intellectually and emotionally to listen to present day argument on President Trump’s attempted immigration ban or on immigration overall. As contemplated in my previous “Classism and Democracy” submission, I see this argument as further proof of Plato’s and historical precedent’s prediction that democracy eventually becomes anarchy which then eventually becomes tyranny. The most painful part is listening to all parties make arguments from or based on history.

 
I love history. There is no reading more enjoyable then reading a detailed factual history written by a scholarly historian. I am not talking about popular histories that sacrifice factual detail in order to bring supposed important personalities or dogma to life such as those written by Howard Zinn or Doris Kearns Goodwin that are really polemics. I mean detailed factual histories in which the reader must use their life experience and imagination to bring the participants to life: regardless of whether it is a lone forever unknown soldier or sailor defending their post to the death or the general or admiral who put them there. It is really a beautiful thing to have come to life in my imagination some part of the generations of human lives dead now whose struggles have made my world what it is.

 
Regardless of this love, in the present I know history to be — maybe it always was — a fungible commodity to be changed, amended, altered, or outright lied about in order to support whatever the powers and their house servants (such as Ta-Nehisi Coates) believe the present ought to be or whatever they want to make of the future. They all do it. The Left argues that the Right’s arguments against feminism or transgender whatever are the same socially marginalizing arguments made against women and homosexuals in the past while ignoring that their arguments for a socialism-based system of morality based on government power are the same as used by every modern form of Western tyranny from communism to Nazism. The Right argues that the Left’s arguments for a socialism-based system of morality based on government power is the same as every modern form of Western tyranny from communism to Nazism while ignoring that their arguments for individual freedom and social responsibility for individual decision ignore the unavoidable reality that the majority of humans are not free to choose their economic, social, or religious positions in life.

 
Argument from history requires detailed historical knowledge and the ability to critically analyze historical details. One cannot do the latter without the former. The former takes work unless reading history is your version of having fun — humans in the latter category in my experience are few and far between. Unless you have a large stockpile of historical facts in your mind from all aspects and views of history there is nothing for your mind to critically analyze. As far as I can see, except for history scholars or nerds such as me who spend their free time reading history instead of having modern fun, few engage in the work required to critically analyze history to the point of allowing for honest argument based on history.

 
So, knock it off! We live in a complicated world. There are enough facts to learn and critically analyze in the present in order to use for argument on what the future ought to be or on what ought to be. If there is any hope of avoiding Plato’s prediction of anarchy and then tyranny, forget history and stick to knowing and analyzing the present. One lesson from reading history I have learned is that it does not repeat itself out of ignorance and it is not a straitjacket. If one pragmatically understands the present, one can change the future. When history does repeat itself, it does so out of destiny, fate, luck, or whatever one wants to call it, and there is nothing anyone can do about avoiding that repetition, either out of knowledge or ignorance.

Lilies of the Field

Why are you anxious about clothing?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.
They don’t toil, neither do they spin.

So says the bible. This saying along with the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard long ago convinced me that God hates the poor.

 
Before and during the Big Dig Project in Boston, there were two lilies in particular I remember. One was this old, twisted, dirty, broken, pear tree growing in some broken up gravel in a parking lot crevice between a fence and a concrete support left over from something but I never knew what. The other was some kind of yellow flower growing in a crack in the construction barriers between the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 93 that was an elevated highway at that time.

 
The pear tree had been growing in that same spot for so long that part of the parking lot fence was encased in its bark. It never grew to more than six or seven feet talk. Its bark was wrinkled with cuts and ridges, there was no smooth part anywhere on it. It probably tried to grow higher but could never make it, someone or something would always wind up breaking any branch that got too far from the trunk. I watched it for about four to five years come to life every Spring, put out skinny green leaves, and then some sad excuses for white blossoms. Then at some point in late Summer, it put out a small handful of the smallest yellow and black pears that I had ever seen. I had no idea how long it had been growing there. Given the fence encased in its bark, it must have been quite awhile. No one watered it, no one fertilized it, no one took care of it, and no one cared for it. Most definitely, no one talked to it and it never had a companion. Yet, regardless of Summer heat, Winter cold, flood, or drought, it lived. Almost every workday I saw it as I walked by; it seem to me to be one of the most beautiful of lilies. One night, the Big Dig decided to rip up the parking lot. Next day, I went to work and it was gone. Gone without a trace, as if it never had existed.

 
In crossing over Interstate 93 via a walkway that existed at one time, one year in the Spring I saw this big yellow flower growing in a crack next to one of the highway’s north-south lane barriers. Traffic on one side was traveling six inches to a foot away 24/7 at 65 mph on average during non rush hour. During rush-hour, I would guess thousands of cars crawled by it every hour. It was a big bright flower, I could see it clearly a good 50 – 60 feet away, but I never knew what kind it was. No one watered it, no one fertilized it, no one took care of it, and no one cared for it. Yet, regardless of the Summer heat and the Summer drought of that year in which it barely rained in July and August, it lived growing in concrete. Every workday I saw it live its solitary life either from my office window or walking by on the walkway; it also seem to me to one of the most beautiful of lilies of that Summer. One night in late Summer, the Big Dig closed that section of highway and ripped up the barriers during the night. Next morning, I went to work and it was gone without a trace, as if it never existed.

 

This is how God takes care of his lilies of the field. More accurately, this is how His lilies take care of themselves in spite of having Him as caretaker.

 

In the area where my beloved pear tree and highway flower once grew, there now are some gardens of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway maintained by the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. These Greenway gardens contain a wide variety of all types of flowers, including so-called “wild flowers”, in carefully manicured plots that are well maintained, well watered (usually with a sprinkler system), well fertilized, and above all maintained by design in an organic and “natural state”. Humanity’s “lilies of the field” consisting of idle rich Boston philanthropists and their chosen government agents, artists, and humanists who make up the Conservancy would not allow their wage workers to maintain their gardens in any other way. Often, the Conservancy has meetings in the gardens in which they discuss the beauty of the world they have created in their image to which they invite visiting “artists” whose “art” is a further topic of discussion. One year, artist Janet Echelman at a six-figure cost hung a big multicolored net between buildings above a portion of the Greenway gardens so that the Conservancy’s gods and lilies of the field could look up at it and experience the beauty of her art as if it were a sail moving in the wind — like the sails moving around for free in Boston Harbor just a couple of hundred feet away. The purpose of this expensive art was so that these gods and their lilies of the field while in their gardens could look up to their heaven and feel how exceptional they were for being able to appreciate such art instead of thinking it to be a complete waste of their trust fund money and of tax dollars as most hoi polloi would think.

 
Well, they can all go fuck themselves. Individually or in combination, the pear tree and highway flower in their struggles for life whether in concrete or in the farce called the natural world were more beautiful and have given me a collection of more beautiful and inspiring memories that are a further basis for both philosophical and pragmatic thought than anything the Conservancy, its demigods or lilies of the fields, or their self-centered delusion called art have ever done or will do.

 
On this presidential inauguration date, a few will celebrate their notoriety in history gained at the expense of millions of forever unknown souls. Most workers once they have some time to contemplate after work celebrate only “meet the new boss same as the old boss” instead of being followers who cry for or worship their old or new leaders. In memory of my parking lot pear tree and my highway yellow flower and the billions of God made not demigod made lilies of the field who have made this world and hopefully will make the future once they renew their will to power and fight the powers-that-be, I publish one of the few citations from a President’s inauguration speech that are worth knowing and repeating:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt