No Respect but Fear

One big difference between working class and non-working class and between old school blue collar working class and the modern white collar working class is the present respect and expectation of law and police as being a good. This difference is also one reason I know cosmic justice organizations that are blaming racial problems on institutional racism and white privilege are really a technique by upper class privileged and their intelligentsia to strengthen their power and classism.  Only the non-working class looks at the police and the law as a good to be respected and from which good is expected. As far back as I can remember in detail, I never respected the law nor the police just as no working class person should respect it. I feared it as any working class kid should but never respected it as no working class kid did or should — even in the present white collar working class. This is one major difference between the old school blue collar working class and the new white collar working class. If I ever had any hope for justice, it was for justice in the next life not in this one. Usually, I had no hope for justice just for peace. This is not because the working class is a bunch of dump hillbillies who did not know any better as falsely marketed by a new friend of the upper class J.D. Vance in his book Hillbilly Elegies telling the upper class and its intelligentsia what they want to hear (that the working class is dysfunctional). Our conclusions on law and the police were and are very rational and based on the reality of working class life. I write here as a summary of my life experience.  For a working class person’s analysis of Hillbilly Elegies that is not intended to say only what rich people want to hear, there are critiques such as The Self-Serving Hustle of “Hillbilly Elegy”.

The law was not and is never there when workers need it and when it was there it usually did and does make things worse. Some of this was a technology problem. We did not have 911 growing up. To my memory 911 was not added in Chicago until the early 80’s. So even if you had a burglar breaking through your window in the middle of the night with a gun, your first option was not to call the police. Even if you had memorized the number, which I never did nor knew anyone that did, picking up the rotary phone and dialing seven numbers with the clicking of the dial being heard all through house including the burglar was a fairly stupid option. Unless you had a gun yourself and were willing to use it and risk getting shot yourself or killing someone, the options involved running away, staying quiet hoping they take what they wanted and leave, or yelling to wake up the neighbors hoping one of them would call the police — at which point a rational burglar would leave. If someone jumped you in an alley, you could not pull out your cellphone and call the police. You either avoided the alley, fought back, or gave in. Now the law and police are everywhere and the average person commits three felonies a day without even knowing it. Worse, everyone is accustomed to having this Sword of Damocles the police everywhere and anywhere anything social is occurring.

More important, socially, the police were just another working class group fighting for the same resources we were. They had their turf just as the greasers (gangsters) had their turf. Smart thing to do was just to leave both of them alone as much as possible. If a cop with a gun told you to do something, you did it in the same way you followed the orders of a gangster with a gun. We did not expect reasonableness from either. Many police were former greasers; for many greasers as they got older, it was a choice between being a criminal and being a cop. The smart ones mostly became cops and the dumb ones criminals. That is pretty much how they investigated matters. The cops knew who the bad guys were, it was just a matter of waiting until they screwed up and they eventually always did. Being a cop was much safer though it did not always pay better in those days but the smarter ones found a way to make it pay better as I wrote in my previous blog essay on ethics. We did not have anything to steal and since we did not take vacations there was always someone at home and we did not have to worry about burglary. The big problem was violence inside the home and street violence. The police could not help with the family violence and still cannot except by destroying the family. As far as street violence goes, as long as you did not go out looking for trouble at night (as Ta-Nehisi Coates clearly did in his desire to be a big man in the neighborhood by beating up others and his teachers), you were not completely but fairly safe in terms of criminal violence. The smart and disciplined knew where the trouble was and worked around it or with it. The police and the law were the last not first option if one did need help.

Luckily, I grew up before the upper class introduced illegal drugs into working class communities, so I did not have to watch entire families being torn apart and generations of men jailed for something that should be legal and taxed with medical aid going to the addicted and their families.

Also, by the time I got to high school, I knew enough history to know that most of the good things we and the working class had in life consisting of the eventual union job for my Dad with its better pay and benefits and even basic concepts such as a 40-hour week, weekends, and over-time, double-time, and golden-time pay plus health insurance and a union pension were not the result of the law but of hard-fought physical fighting against the law — almost all of it involved illegal fighting, some of it done with the help of organized crime that was organized enough to take on the law. In fact, most of the successful union organizing and strikes were considered organized crime in their fruition and were prosecuted as a criminal conspiracy by the majesty of the law in the early days of union organizing. This is true throughout history. Capitalism maintains that humans are naturally greedy and compete and thus through this competition in a free market that wealth is created. The problem is that in practice what this means is that it is good for the rich to be naturally greedy. Just like the immigrants who are supposed to come to this country for truth, justice, and the American way not just for material wealth, workers are expected to be simple altruists: being a greedy materialist worker is simply being a greedy materialist worker not a good. Capitalism without doubt does create wealth, but the wealth is not and was never voluntarily distributed in any significant amount to the working class: they took it by violence. I wrote about this history in a previous blog essay dealing with the Haymarket Square riots and the resulting worldwide May Day celebration ignored in the United States.

My Dad’s Local in the Labors’ International Union was well known to have mafia connections and I do not doubt it did. As I stated before, I think the mafia is a bunch of scum. Admitting their involvement in union organizing is not meant to be praise. Their involvement in union organizing was not based on any altruism but purely on economic opportunity. It is not a coincident that union membership, strikes, wages, the 40-hour work week, job security, and the imposition of what is essentially a 24/7 on-call workweek for many white collar workers is occurring at the same time as the disappearance of unions and criminal enterprises strong enough to aid unions to take on the law. I am not saying it is directly associated but it is part of the same process. At the height of labor organizing in the late 19th and 20th Century there were thousands of strikes each year. There were 11 in 2014. There was a time when 30% of the labor force was unionized; it is down to 6% now with most of that government employees such as the police. The anti-union marketing and outright brainwashing have gotten so bad that white collar workers think worse of unions than they do of the law that is creating wage slavery to replace its chattel slavery.

Think about what would have to be accomplished if Millennials, Generation X, and others got tired of burning to death living in old warehouses (as is occurring in Oakland CA) making minimum wage because they could not afford decent apartments and decide to start a union. So, how do you organize one? Where do you get the money to do that? Private equity or venture capital? Unless you have a trust fund that you are willing to risk, there are no legal options for getting financing. Then what? No one cares. You move on anyway. Instead of putting on a mask and going to Berkeley to beat up on each other over gender identity, you go on strike and block the entrance gates of your employers’ place of business and prevent the hiring of new employees. How long do you think that will last? A few hours, a few minutes? You are now terminated from employment; cannot pay your rent and have no money. You do not even qualify for unemployment because you were terminated for cause. Your union and the strike are essentially over a few minutes after it started. Labor organizing is a risky business even in the best of times; there were hundreds of annual strikes during the Depression. Not only were the union organizers facing financial ruin but also facing the police and the army if necessary as strike breakers putting union members in jail not the employers. Both for money, personal protection, and for leverage, many times the only option those union organizers had for help with these necessities was organized crime. In theory, any private contractor in the Chicago area could have hired non-union construction laborers any time they wanted instead of hiring them from the Laborers’ Union. Some did. It was usual for that contractor to shortly thereafter suffer an office fire, the construction equipment stolen or destroyed, and the construction sites suffer fires and other vandalism. Predictably, when the contractor hired union labor, the problem stopped never to occur again. Lesson learned.

The working class is not made up of idiots. As with everyone else, 90% of them would probably have done nothing and taken whatever crumbs were given to them by the upper classes. Ten percent would not. When that 10% by luck were able to get the other 90% united with a will to fight, they all fought hard for what they got as they have throughout history.

Without doubt as everyone is quick to point out many of these unions were divided along ethnic, racial, trade, locality, and many other differences that caused them to fight each other as much as they fought their employers. At least they fought. As my life and the lives of many other in the working class establish, a solitary individual cannot fight the law and is simply a criminal. It takes social support: an extended supporting family, a group identity, an ethnicity, or anything to create a social unity and force strong enough to take on the law — legal or not. The first strike in America was by Polish workers: Jamestown Polish Craftsmen’s Strike of 1619. The strength of the first successful black union consisting of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was successful because it could count on 100,000 black members to act in unison in an economic fight against the Powers. Do you think anyone could get 100,000 of anyone these days to act in unison against the law on anything? Or even suggest it without being arrested and jailed? If the new generation of white collar workers now wanted to take up the fight against the Powers, what social support would you have? Family? Maybe, if you have more than a single mother as family, but that is it. Fellow Polish, Italians, whites, blacks, the village, the neighborhood? Who? As far as I can see, the future that the new school working class wants and will get consists of unisex, homogeneous, culturally stagnant, one color, paper-cutouts of each other living solitary lives of temporary jobs without family, community, or other social support except for the handouts they get from Big Brother. Well, good luck with it. At least you will find the peace I always hoped for in this life.

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?

“White No More” / Part II

The below diagram is taken from one of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s contemplations on the nature of language and is called a duck-rabbit (it is covered in more detail at www.sandpebblespodcast.com):

duck_rabbit

If you have any life experience with ducks and the word ‘duck’, when I tell you the word “duck” while you view the above diagram, you should see a duck. If you have any life experience with rabbits and the word ‘rabbit’, when I tell you the word “rabbit” while you look at the diagram, you should see a rabbit. What someone who has had no experience with ducks or rabbits would see in the above diagram is up for grabs. This diagram and similar diagrams and contemplations cannot be ignored as dealing with “optical illusions” otherwise all of reality should be ignored as optical illusions since you have no way of telling when you are in the position of someone whose limited sense experience sees neither a duck nor a rabbit or only one but not the other. How do you know there is not another animal in the above diagram that you do not see because you have no word for it?

 
The point of this diagram and the associated philosophy is to establish that once the human mind is sophisticated enough to create and think with rational symbols such as words, the thinking is a two-way street between sense experience and words. Reasoning consists of a “fabric of language” as the philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine beautifully described it. At the exterior is the sense experience that acts as the starting threads of our language but almost instantaneously the threads are intertwined with words describing that sense experience; some or all other experiences and words; and the relationships between some or all other experiences and words so that almost instantaneously it becomes difficult and perhaps impossible to separate the words from the sense experience. As empiricists in a scientific age, we must assume that all of us have the same sense experience for the above diagram and its reality does not change as different individuals view it, but such is not true of the words used to describe it. Eventually, words become their own reality and create sense experience that seems to be there and to be as true as the initial sense experience that started the threading. The essential job of modern Western philosophy is to point out when we are confusing or making the reality of words into something more real than the reality of reality. As Quine beautifully and concisely stated in his essay The Two Dogmas of Empiricism:

The totality of our so-called knowledge or beliefs, from the most casual matters of geography and history to the profoundest laws of atomic physics or even of pure mathematics and logic, is a man-made fabric which impinges on experience only along the edges.

 

It is because of the above problem that science uses the scientific method to become pragmatic and differentiate itself from non-science or pseudo-science. If you want to get into these issues in more detail, I suggest any book by the philosopher Norwood Russell Hanson or starting with the philosophy of language and science podcasts at www.sandpebblespodcast.com.

 
Even through just a casual inspection of the language of racism, we can see the above two-way street at work. Somewhere in human history, there may be a thread of the fabric of racist language in which white skinned people for the first time met black skinned people and for the first time used the word ‘race’ as a differentiation between white-skinned and black-skinned bodies. Whenever that first thread stitching occurred, it is now lost among millions of other threads in modern language and perhaps was removed and replaced with another thread and is gone. This is evident even in the simplest uses of the words ‘race’ and ‘racism’.

 
For example, the Plaintiff Plessy in the post Civil War 19th Century Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson that established the separate but equal doctrine of Jim Crow laws was an octoroon, he was only 1/8 black by birth and could have easily passed and did pass as white — he could have and did ride in the front of the train in the segregated Old South any time he wanted. That is why he was chosen as the Plaintiff for that case. The Plaintiff Counsel were trying to show how irrational the concept of race was and that therefore how irrational and thus unconstitutional legally enforced segregation must be. For reasons discussed in my book The Law Illusion, the brilliant Injustices of the Supremes disagreed. Even before the 19th Century, the word ‘race’ for racists had uses way beyond just for reference to someone having ‘black’ skin. If Plessy was ‘black’ because one of his eight parents/grandparents was black, what about if he was 1/16 black? How far back does or should a racist go to define race? It is evident that for racists, words such as ‘race’, ‘racist’, and ‘black’ mean much more than skin color. They are used to create a word reality of social and cultural relations much of which has little if any relation to the actual reality of human social and cultural relations.

 
How this word reality becomes more powerful than reality and in fact contorts reality to fit the words is evident in the obsession by Nazi jurisprudence and legal culture to differentiate their Aryan Herrenvolk or master race of the Volksgemeinschaft or “people’s community” from their slave Non-Aryan races such as Jews, Romani, Slavs, Poles, Serbs, Blacks, and so forth. So, for example, some in the Nazi legal culture argued one was Jewish if one was only 1/16 Jewish blood. Eventually, the criterion for being Jewish was set at having at least three Jewish grandparents; two or one rendered a person a Mischling leaving open the possibility of your extermination to the discretion, mercy, and wisdom of the judiciary — you can read in history the results of this reliance. These arbitrary standards became law in the same way anything becomes law: through the arbitrary and random ethics or will for power decisions of a bunch of bureaucrats.

 
How about our modern supposedly non-racist politically correct opponents of racism, those that condemned Dolezal for using ‘white’ to mean only a “biological identity thrust upon her” that she can change as she wants thus resulting in the loss of her livelihood? How do they use words such as ‘race’, ‘racism’, and ‘black’? Are they a two-way street for them? It appears they are schizophrenic on this issue as I will contemplate next.

New School Racism: White History Month Week Two

In this second week and in honor of Labor Day, I give you White History Month’s first group honoree whose members I will use as standards by which to judge new school racists’ future acts, statements, and character to see if I should reject my new school racist opinion of them. The group consists of the Haymarket Eight: George Engel, Samuel Fielden, Adolf Fischer, Louis Lingg, Oscar Neebe, Albert Parsons, Michael Schwab, August Spies. They are essentially unknown in the United States but are celebrated throughout the rest of the world on May 1 of each year known as International Workers’ Day. On this day of 1 May, the United States celebrates Law Day intentionally set up on that same day to avoid publicizing the underlying reason for the rest of the world honoring the Haymarket Eight on 1 May: the Haymarket Square riots and trials in the United States.

 
As the esteemed members of the legal profession and the worshipers of the new god the law gather on 1 May to congratulate themselves on the majesty of the law and their profession, in these times in which even parochial celebrations are supposed to be cross-cultural, diverse, and whatever, the esteemed members of the Bar and the worshipers of secular law as the new religion should give some thought to the rest of the world’s celebration on our Law Day. The Haymarket Riot of 1886 in my great hometown of Chicago, Illinois occurred on 4 May but it was a continuation of labor rallies and strikes that had begun on May 1. During those four days, workers were demonstrating and striking for the absurd, at that time politically incorrect demand of a mandatory eight hour workday.

 
Having enough of this threat to Western Civilization, on 3 May the legal system sent in armed police to re-establish law and order resulting in the death of four workers. When armed police went to break up another rally on May 4, someone in the crowd had the audacity to fight back and threw a bomb at the police line resulting in the death of Police Officer Mathias J. Degan. Eight men were arrested and tried for conspiracy in his murder. (Though four workers and six other policemen were killed in the riot, these deaths were caused by police “friendly fire” shooting in the dark at anything moving — an embarrassing fact not warranting public inquiry).

 
Since the prosecution could not offer evidence as to who threw the bomb nor connecting any defendant with the bomber (most were not even at the rally and the rest had eyewitness testimony verifying their presence in public, plain view when the explosion occurred), the theory of prosecution was that the defendants had published anarchist views advocating the start of the strikes and rallies that created the opportunity for the unknown bomber’s acts and thus they were equally liable for the murder as co-conspirators. The trial judge using his common law powers used this theory of prosecution as a guide for his evidentiary rulings. My favorite part is Defense Counsel William Foster’s closing argument. Having abandoned all hope as he entered the inferno of closing argument (a feeling with which I am too familiar), he said to the jury:

If these men are to be tried . . . for advocating doctrines opposed to ideas of propriety, there is no use for me to argue the case. Let the sheriff go and erect a scaffold; let him bring eight ropes with dangling nooses at the end; let him pass them around the necks of these eight men; and let us stop this farce now.

That is what happened. All were convicted. Four of the men were hung, one committed suicide in prison, three had their sentences commuted to life or pardoned and were eventually released from prison. All this occurred after of course the Court of Appeals did its job of ignoring substantive error to bend over backwards to distort the law and the facts to find a way to affirm the judgment. Unfortunately for the legal system of the 19th Century, the death penalty has one unfortunate consequence that executive tyrants long ago learned to try to avoid, it creates martyrs. And thus we have the worldwide celebration of May Day.

 
As modern worshipers of the law congratulate themselves on seeing the light and accepting the law as their god and savior of humanity, I ask that we give some thought to what the rest of the world is celebrating and ask if the modern American legal system is really any different from what it was 150 years ago and of other systems of the past two thousand years or have just the nature of the injustices it protects changed? Thanks to the protections of the law, in 2008 just as in 1886: 1% of this country’s population still owns >40% of its wealth and power;  at any given time 10%-20% owns at least 80% thus leaving the remaining 80% to share and fight over the remaining 10% of wealth and power. Unfortunately or fortunately, thanks to technological progress there are no obvious martyrs to such injustice because the income disparity of our present Technological Society serves more to destroy the human spirit than its body. As the law’s worshipers celebrate its diversity of people of color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, and whatever, do we really have any diversity of ideas or is it still governed by “ideas of propriety” instead of ideas of substance? Now as then, would it be just as willing to kill in cold blood four workers for daring to challenge its authority?

 
It would and does every day. The present law as to “conspiracy” and “attempt” is even looser than it was in 1886. If interested in contemplating this issue, I suggest reading the books “Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent” by Harvey Silverglate or the linked “The Law Illusion” of this blog.

 
In honor of our group honoree especially of the honored dead, I leave you with their words by which to judge new school racists:

“It is not generally considered a crime among intellectual people to be a revolutionist, but it may be made a crime if the revolutionist happens to be poor.” — Samuel Fielden (teamster; death sentence commuted to life, eventually released)

“The forces by which the workers are kept in subjugation must be retaliated by force.” — Louis Lingg (carpenter; suicide in prison)

“No power on Earth can rob the working man of his knowledge of
how to make bombs – and that knowledge he possesses.”
— George Engel (toymaker; hanged)

“I was tried here in this room for murder, and I was convicted of anarchy. In rendering such an unjust and barbarous verdict, the twelve ‘honorable men’ in the jury-box have done more for the furtherance of anarchism than the convicted have accomplished in a generation. This verdict is a death-blow to free speech, free press and free thought in this country, and the people will be conscious of it, too. This is all I care to say.”
— Adolf Fischer (printer; hanged)

“You use your power to perpetuate a system by which you make money for yourselves and keep the wage workers poor. You rich men don’t want the poor educated. You don’t want anybody to be educated. You want to keep them down in the mud so you can squeeze the last drop out of their bones.”— Oscar Neebe (yeastmaker; eventually pardoned)

“It is entirely wrong to use the word anarchy as synonymous with violence. Violence is one thing and anarchy another. In the present state of society violence is used on all sides, and therefore we advocated the use of violence against violence, but against violence only, as a necessary means of defense. I know that our ideal will not be accomplished this or next year, but I know that it will be accomplished as near as possible, some day, in the future. — Michael Schwab (bookbinder; eventually pardoned)

 
“Once traditional slavery was abolished, capitalism created a new kind of slavery, where the working masses were slaves to their capitalist masters.”
— Albert Parsons (printer; hanged)

“The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” — August Spies (upholsterer; hanged)