Virtue By Decree

(Insight Series)

A Preliminary

Virtue may not seem an obvious topic to discuss in our post-American, post-Christian, post-Liberal, and post-Western state; virtue might even appear meaningless or useless to a people preparing for whatever wave of turmoil comes next or welcoming the awaited changes. But it is my hope to convince readers that virtue is of societal value (legally, politically, and economically) for those who desire goodness and faithfulness; honor and truth; respect and justice; law and peace. Virtue does not provide eternal salvation, only through Christ is that achieved (John 14:4; Romans 10:9; Matthew 28:16-20), but virtue is a valuable means and end for Christians and non-Christians, Conservatives and non-Conservatives alike.

Pastor and theologian Timothy Keller wrote an article promoting his recent book, How to Reach the West Again (2020), and in that article from The Gospel Coalition Keller wrote in his introduction:

We are entering a new era in which there is not only no social benefit to being Christian, but an actual social cost. In many places, culture is becoming increasingly hostile toward faith, and beliefs in God, truth, sin, and the afterlife are disappearing in more and more people. Now, culture is producing people for whom Christianity is not only offensive, but incomprehensible.

– Keller (2020), How to Reach the West (Again)

As the world turns from material hopes and dreams toward material promises to escape the harshness of the world, the material world increasingly becomes the only means of escape for even the so-called spiritual. Unless pre-modern traditions and institutions of faith from the Monotheistic to the Polytheistic are central to a society, the DNA of its people, overtime societies forgo their “old ways” or their “old gods” for a new set of ways and a new set of gods. The gods never disappear as Christians understand that we are what we worship:

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Luke 16:13).

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (Rom. 1: 21-23).

It is here where Christian’s receive the term, “Virtuous Pagan,” the claim of moral similarities found between cultures. Aquinas for example understood the distinction between charity for the sake of charity and the Christian distinction to be charitable as Christ was giving and kind and gracious. This is why even Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox can work with entirely different faiths on causes that are set on a common good. Our actions speak of our character, just as our words speak of our heart’s truest desires (Luke 6:45). What then does Modernity (1500-Present) have to say? How has late modernity (1945-Present) particularly spoken of human culture and society?

Judaeo-Christianity “never did defeat paganism,” said feminist scholar Camille Paglia to The Harvard Crimson. Strong words that are completely true. Paganism has never left and is likely the strongest and oldest human root of belief that pervades to this day after the departure from Eden. From God to gods whether pagan or secular, Islam or Hinduism; the faith and beliefs of humanity intertwine between myth and reality in the story of human life including in the moral quest of right and wrong; good and evil; virtuous and unvirtuous.

As I had written once before:

Christians nor Conservatives are strangers to cultural critique including of liberal society (e.g. Capitalism or Free Speech) and upholding standards beyond the relative values of the day. As the conservative thinker Russell Kirk explained, “The pure democrat is the practical atheist; ignoring the divine nature of law and the divine establishment of spiritual hierarchy” (The Conservative Mind, p. 137). A synergy exists between the two over their respect for God and a moral law.

– Get Woke or Get Broke: When Reason Fails to Stand

That “synergy” comes together in the form of an understanding that God created the heavens and the earth; establishing a universal natural law, a set of moral laws that all mankind are to follow regardless of belief.

Virtue by Decree means a set of obligations weighted upon and against all institutions that hold power and authority over a people. And it represents a set of values expected from those institutions. Whether a society upholds any values is dependent upon the willing responsibility of that people. Christians and Conservatives understand that humanity is wholly incapable of always doing good and remaining good. Human nature is corrupt and fallible. Even enforced “common good” principles can quickly turn to evil. Nothing lasts forever. Nevertheless we are called to be a people of virtue and must strive for it.

Why then Virtue? Why this topic now?

As the dividing lines between private and public increasingly ceases due to immense political shifts caused by economic, technological and ecological influences, the Christian faith and Conservative institutions are forced again to reconsider what is true, beautiful, and just beyond the present times. This is a good things for us, though it poses serious consequences and sincere fears.

Neo-liberalism, beyond classical liberal theory of private property and free-markets, is a merging of Corporate and Government, Private and Public powers that have blurred the lines of authority and extinguished the human capacity to live beyond what I call, the Economic Gaze. Now the world worships the god of the Global Economy, a system entirely Too Big To Fail. Make no mistake, companies and governments are turning toward illiberal policies for their own survival. Those beliefs are antithetical to not only Christianity but nearly every conservative thinking or premodern believing faith, ideology, or philosophy; while classical liberalism has morphed beyond its original intent into the present neoliberal order making classical liberal ideology obsolete.

All of the known world is presently in a paradigm shift. From the jungles of the Amazon to the mountains of Nepal. Late Modernity is transforming the world and imprisoning it under an authoritarian mindset. Conflicts rise between countries striving for hegemony as citizens across the seven continents are under the weight of upholding a global economy and the unending, vastly scaling advancement of technology. Planet earth faces ecological consequences of water and food shortages, climate change, disease, and an alarming number of endangered species. Cultures are disappearing at a rapid pace losing whatever identity left. Nation-states are turning into relics as super-national unions continue forward despite setbacks such as Brexit. Although not over, 2020 marks the clear decay on the walls of crony capitalism, broken systems of government, fear politics, fake news, mass conspiracies, dangerous ideologies, and identity politics.

Therefore, I propose that Christendom and Conservative Thinkers must now begin to prepare for a better and brighter future should that future come. To begin a process of structuring what mankind has learned over the centuries, successes and failures, so as to reform or rebuild the crumbling globe before us.

Virtue by Decree is that vision.

Next Time: What Is Virtue?

Art References

Seven Virtues by Francesco Pesellino and Workshop

Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses by John William Waterhouse

Thy Week, Thus Far

Wednesday August 26, 2020

A Weekly Wednesday Dose of Truth

Zeno of Elea by Carducci or Tibaldi

Articles, Podcasts, and Videos

Rod Dreher (Writer & Author) wrote an excellent piece at The American Conservative concerning the dreadful revelation of Becki and Jerry Falwell Jr sex-capades with their former pool boy. Liberty University has not been in my opinion a shining light for the Christian faith but the University still represents a large portion of American Christianity that dims the light even more. See: Falwell Family Values

Rob Henderson (Ph.D. Student at the University of Cambridge) published an article over at Quillette. Henderson argues that the rise of a luxury mindset has a corrupting nature going from high class society to the bottom. An interesting piece for our decadent times, but I would suggest that this corrupted nature exists in all of humanity and simply manifests in different ways depending on power, influence, etc. Still a valuable read for us all. See: Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class—A Status Update

Faith Angle (Podcast) A podcast that seeks to bring together scholars and journalists to discuss relevant issues through cultivating deeper religious consideration. Last week, I know not this weeks news but we all benefit from learning, was an interview with Rod Dreher and Andrew Sullivan concerning the rise of illiberal groups particularly in relation to Woke ideology and what Dreher calls “soft totalitarianism.” Dreher has a new and upcoming book, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (2020), coming out in late September. I imagine Dreher is borrowing the term from Tocqueville’s “Soft Despotism” found in Democracy in America (1835). Both are proper terms for describing the Western move towards Socialism and Marxist ideologies. See: Rod Dreher and Andrew Sullivan: Live Not by Lies

Still Life by Jan Davidsz de Heem

TIME

(A Poem)

By Edward Kyle Richey

If time were a persona she would be that of Medusa 
A female renowned for her beauty
Turned to stone by man's wickedness
Punished for being raped by Poseidon in the Temple of Athena
No justice given for her
No voice to speak out against the real pain she suffered
No, her only crime was to taint so-called Holy Grounds
Where were her defenders? How could these gods hold such disdain? 
Clearly Pharisees of their own time, in their domain
No Christ to hold them accountable, "He without sin cast the first stone"
For surely these gods of stone were only good for casting judgement 
Yes, if time could speak
She would remind us all of the pain and hurt
Of the injustice and brokenness 
All the lost and confused who lack hope
A world torn from the garden
Time would rarely know good or righteousness 
Yes, she could speak of that as well
But far fewer stories in-between 
The civilized savages and savages without civilization remain savages
Yes, if time could speak, she would be the voice of all females 
Of women who can only sit in the shadows hoping for the light
She would say these things to remind all
That without truth and love there can be no virtue and there can be no praise 
Gallant men are still men at best but even they are capable of right
They must hold another responsible 
Be accountable for their word and action
Anchored in truth and not mere reaction
Purpose and duty do recall when more than one speaks against wrong
Men and women and children
They all have suffered
All under her gaze
Cursed to watch but unable to prevent 
Forever in stone with no voice by which to vent 
All stone inside and out
No flesh to flesh out
Punished for a crime committed against her

Art piece: Medusa (1893) by Jean Delville

Monday Announcements

(August 24, 2020)

Note: Moving the announcements to Monday’s. I think it will set the tone for the week. The next three weeks will be rather busy and full of travel for me. But I have plenty in store for you fellow readers as I take on the tasks of writing a book, blogging, and a vlog. So without further ado.

Upcoming

August 25 – A Poem

Type: Poetry/Arts/Humanities

Description: To encourage the arts and humanities, I will be posting poems by me and others from time to time. Feel free to send me a poem and I just may share it on Truth In Focus.

August 27 – Virtue By Decree

Type: Insight

Description: A blog series concerning the rule of law by virtue that governments, institutions, and families can choose to put into their own practices in relation to achieving “the good life” or Eudaimonia.

August 30 – A Word To The Wise

Type: Theological/Biblical

Description: A theological outlook on Christian Wisdom versus Worldly Wisdom in similarities and differences.

Join

Facebook : Truth In Focus

Instagram: MereBeautyInTruth

(Much more will be coming to the Instagram Page! So stay tuned.)

Youtube: AllThingsVeritas

(After much delay I am happy to announce the return of AllThingsVeritas on Youtube! Interviews and several different Vlog series will be starting in the next month. Please join and like and be ready to learn and grow.)

Highlights

Kari Lynn Kurz

Blog: Porch and Dove

  • See Article: Biblical Lenses for Racism
  • Excerpt: “The horrific murder of George Floyd on May 25 sent America reeling. Opinions on racism, prejudice and justice have flooded our social media feeds and news outlets. Many see this tragedy as yet another instance of racism and oppression, but others insist that the statistics on police brutality and crime debunk that this event is connected to a larger problem.”
  • About: Kari Kurz is a freelance writer, thinker, and Christian speaker including the 2020 conference, GirlDefined. Kari works with young women and girls in finding truth in a world of confusion. She is a skilled communicator, planner, and researcher.
  • Degree: B.A. English Language

PAYWALL’Ed: Academic Research & Open Knowledge

(Opinion)

As I was preparing Part 2 of Mob Rule, Mob Rules I was reminded of the enormous amount of paywalls preventing an average citizen from conducting research without having to pay either per article ($30-$170) or for the journal ($100 to ?).

Paywall’s are nothing new and have been an issue that public and private researchers have been trying to address over the years. But it had me wondering, who controls the flow of information? And why? How can a free and open society continue to thrive if information is guarded by higher education, companies, and governments from the public? Of course, while I understand the desire to make money, it is also rare for the actual researchers involved to directly to pocket money from their publications.

In a discussion with a professor of mine years ago we discussed the history of Universities, especially top-tier Universities, having long been gate keepers of information and they continue to seek relevancy while competing with private companies and non-profits over research and development. Today it is cyber security along with the fields of mathematics, quantum computing, and evolutionary studies across multiple fields that are the profit-makers, the mainstream courses and, sought after research by institutions of higher education.

There is a great deal of information on this topic. From The Atlantic, Why Isn’t Academic Research Free to Everyone?, a short interview with Martin Paul Eve, a lecturer at the University of Lincoln’s School of English & Journalism and author of Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies And The Future (2014) is a simple place to start. Another small article from Scientific America, Scientific Research Shouldn’t Sit behind a Paywall. And if you are looking for an intelligent, history lesson on the subject of Journals and Paywalls I recommend reading Priceonomics article, Why is Science Behind a Paywall?. Finally, WIRED released, The Quest to Topple Science-Stymying Academic Paywalls.

Reported in 2019 and again in 2020, the Trump Administration has even considered opening up research for general access without cost.

One hesitation that I have concerning Open Source and Open Access is the mirage of “free services” that come with it. Yes, these are publicly funded research paper, but not all research is publicly funded. Even if publicly funded, not all research should be conducted under tax payer dollars; I imagine there is wasteful research though likely subjective from a scientific vs a political view. Also there is the question of who owns the research and do they have a right to decide its use?

As the material world becomes more present and away from enteral things, a spirit of socialism blows in the wind. Demands for free access flow out from the idea that we all can have free education, free information, free healthcare, etc. Well, no, either the taxpayers pay for it or a large sum is payed by corporations through their own means and provisions to their employees. As of now, taxpayers are footed the bill regardless.

Please do not misunderstand I do not object to open access. It is good. But I am weary of a society that demands for more without asking what is required of them.

Perhaps I am missing the point? Leave your comments below.

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Mob Rule, Mob Rules 2020: Part 2

(A Special Report Series)

(Link part 1)

Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul.

– John Adams

Mob Mentality & The Era of Trump

In 2014 researchers Alan Fiske and Tage Rai published their book, Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships. Their main argument: Throughout history average people have committed violent acts by means of moral justifications. They call it virtuous violence theory. Fiske and Rai defined violence as an:

[A]ction in which the perpetrator regards inflicting pain, suffering, fear, distress, injury, maiming, disfigurement, or death as the intrinsic, necessary, or desirable means by the intended ends (p. 2).1 

Furthermore the authors explain morality under two psychological relationships between the emotional and the evaluative state of mind:

When we posit that most violence is morally motivated, we mean that the person doing the violence subjectively feels that what she is doing is right: she believes that she should do the violence, and she is actually moved by moral emotions such as loyalty or outrage. As the same time, moral refers to the evaluation of action, attitudes, motives, and intentions with reference to an ideal model of how to relate (p. 5).2 

Morality has a powerful influence over the decision-making of an individual. What he or she believes to be true or right holds inwardly and deeply an assurance that “they” are doing what is “right” for themselves, their families, their nation, their science, their truth, their gods. From human sacrifices to world wars societies have made moral justifications for violence throughout all human history. Nevertheless what is moral or immoral remains debatable. Philosophers have long debated the subjectiveness/objectiveness of emotive responses and their ties associated to morality.

Moving from morality to violence mental health professionals identify two forms of violent action, 1) instrumental and 2) reactive:

Instrumental violence refers to violence that is employed as a means to attain a subsidiary goal, and can be contrasted with reactive violence, which involves a response to a perceived threat or provocation.3

Responding to perceived threats considered detrimental to a group or a society was the very foundation of the War on Terror after 9/11; a foundation that continues to define even the most recent movements of Black Lives Matter or groups like the Alt-Right. Both feel a sense of loss and a moral obligation to regain that which has eroded, or been taken away, or obtain that which is necessary for their survival even if that requires violence.

Fundamentally when enough people feel threatened via an act of injustice, a loss of liberty, or a perceived attack against personal dignity, individuals tend to form into groups and construct movements which can lead to altercation and violence. Not all movements are violent, just as not all groups are dangerous, and not only groups commit acts of violence, but regardless of violent or nonviolent intentions, moral or immoral justifications, when like-minded individuals form into groups and movements, polarization is bound to occur for good and for bad.4 And “when groups move, they do so in large part because of the impact of information” (p. 22).5 The more shared and agreed upon the information, regardless of skew, people are moved into action.

Hence the power of conspiracy theories in the last eight years from Flat Earthers and far-right Birther groups to #SaveTheChildren, Pizzagate, and Wayfair sex trafficking conspiracies. After September 11, 2001 left-wing conspiracies floated around for a decade that 9/11 was a hoax orchestrated by Vice-President Dick Cheney, “a new pearl harbor.” Never-mind the mass volume of books arguing that the Bush Administration’s War In Iraq was part of a neoconservative ploy to take control of resources and claim position in the Middle East for a “New American Empire.” Such predispositions concerning information have lead people to take extremist stances and potentially even violent action. This is the mentality of the herd. 

Herd Mentality

In a repetitional cascade, people think that they know what is right, or what is likely to be right, but they nonetheless go along with the crowd to maintain the good opinion of others (Pp, 95-96).6

On July 22, 2020 the CATO Institute published a national survey finding 62% of the American population believe they are being prevented from saying their real opinion due to a tumultuous political environment.7 That view was held by every ideological category except “staunch liberals” who by 58% believed that they could voice their opinion freely.8 As diverse public opinion grows more silent there is serious concern surrounding the harmful extent such silence will have on institutions to objectively uphold their responsibility to all citizens rather than being swayed by extremist tendencies.  

NeuroImage, a scientific journal focusing on the brain, published an article titled, Reduced self-referential neural response during intergroup competition predicts competitor harm (2014). Researchers for that study asked the question, “Why do interactions become more hostile when social relations shift from “me versus you” to “us versus them?9 Results from that study suggested “intergroup competition (above and beyond inter-personal competition) can reduce self-referential processing of moral information, enabling harmful behaviors towards members of a competitive group.”10 Essentially as peer-pressure increases, objective moral decision-making decreases. There is a mental tipping point where people give into a set of beliefs regardless of their original moral objections (e.g. burning down buildings or killing someone). Birds of a feather flock together takes a whole new meaning when subscribed to the effects of herd mentality

Herding is a form of convergent social behaviour that can be broadly defined as the alignment of the thoughts or behaviours of individuals in a group (herd) through local interaction and without centralized coordination. We suggest that herding has a broad application, from intellectual fashion to mob violence; and that understanding herding is particularly pertinent in an increasingly interconnected world.11

Unless capable of withstanding mob madness, movements, groups and institutions are susceptible to extremist views. Colleges and Universities, hospitals, government agencies, and corporations are all susceptible to varying pressures as much as BLM and the alt-right.

People tend to fall prey to extremism where there are unmarked boundaries, a lack of checks and balances, no transparency, and are closed off from oppositional opinions including “inside” and “outside” the group. Overtime those actions turn toward a mindset of dehumanization, a process now being reclassified by researchers.

Dehumanization & Infrahumanization

Dehumanization is a process whereby people fail to view others as human beings. Instead, the others are perceived as nonhuman animals or objects, unworthy of the same moral treatment.12

President Donald J. Trump, an enigma, who has potentially set a new low standard for future leadership in the American political landscape—an all gloves off approach. Radical times have been met with radical responses. Fighting fire with fire. President Trump’s outrageous behavior polarizes even the most moderate into unmarked territories. Famous for over 11,000 tweets13, the President of the United States behavior is often belittling, combative, and dehumanizing.14

Modernity is covered in dehumanizing events including the mass genocides of Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, and of most recently Syria. Coalesced with infrahumanization, when an “in-group” believes they are more human than an “out-group”, as occurred during Segregation in the United States and Apartheid in South Africa. American Slavery was both in nature. 

There are several studies important to highlight in relation to mob rule, mob rules. First, a study that included Tage S. Rai, co-author of Virtuous Violence (2014), that challenges past research concerning dehumanization by providing data that suggests instrumental violence is increased by dehumanization but not moral violence.15 Secondly, Tage Rai’s study aligns with multiple studies affirming that while dehumanization practices, such as propaganda used during Nazi Germany or Rwanda, may provide a means to violence such practices do not necessarily precede the road to violence: 

In sum, whether in Germany during the Holocaust or Rwanda during the genocide, we still lack clear evidence that dehumanizing propaganda convinced ordinary civilians to change their minds about their neighbors and kill them… in any conflict, multiple mechanisms may be at play, motivations can change over time, and the same individual can vary their behaviors from killing to not killing and even saving during a genocide. It is therefore impossible to attribute any one motivation to why people kill, let alone to why the same individual kills over time, during a genocide.16

But the author warns:

Extreme perspectives can become normalized when dehumanization becomes central to political discourse.17

Thirdly, tensions tend to magnify as groups confront one another over past or present atrocities. In an experiment where an in-group was made aware of atrocities committed against an out-group researchers found that infrahumanization increased while simultaneously, though unrelated, collective guilt also caused an increase of infrahumanization towards the effected out-group.18 

All groups are prone to violence, misinformation, and zealousness. Today’s toxic atmosphere is no different. Leaders, thinkers, and journalist are all culpable.

Twitterpated 

Americans need stable leadership at a time when tensions are peaking over Covid-19, identity politics, economic instability, and external threats from China and Russia. Leveling polarization and herd instincts is a priority the President can potentially help in. There are real fears felt by mass populations across the nation from black to white, middle class and poor, politically left and right. Inappropriate behavior by the President has only intensified rather than rectified polarized groups and movements. Addressing the hurt of American citizens may help pacify blistering wounds but it must be conducted in a fair manner.

The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bone but words will never hurt me” works as a theoretical principle by which to justify the protections of hate speech, but it completely fails in the day to day lives of people who are hurt and enraged by the words spoken against them. There is a clear difference between having the right to speech versus knowing when to speak. Prudence can go a long way for this White House. 

As one study called the President, Tweeter-in-Chief: A Content Analysis of President Trump’s Tweeting Habits (2017), Trump has in fact criticized more Republican than Democratic lawmakers.19 Though likely politically motivated according to another study that found four stylistic variations (conversational, campaigning, engaged, and advisory discourse) in the President’s tweeting patterns.20 Regrettably, President Trump has proven himself incapable of holding his tongue for long.

Not to focus entirely on Donald Trumps twitter habits as much as to demonstrate the mind of a controversial businessman turned President of a nation in the midst of a paradigm shift. Emperors, kings, queens, and lords have all been in similar shifts. While present history unfolds before us, the past speaks to us explaining possible outcomes. What awaits the U.S of A? Trump was elected out of fear and a spinning lack of control felt by middle class citizens whose jobs and way of life are changing for better or for worse in a globalized technocratic, scientific, and secular society.

The news media wrongfully portrays the President either as a bad character or the man of the people, a dictator set on doing evil in the world or an outsider fighting evil. Media bias only bolsters fake-news narratives regardless of political leanings. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and other major news networks are all active participates in disinformation and hate.21 

Donald Trump is not Russia’s (Forever) President Vladimir Putin nor is he North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, however, the current President fits well within the rule and rules of mob tactics. Portrayed as a hero set on “draining the swamp” it became clear that the Washington outsider brought in his own muck. Now the world watches and waits for what will happen next. 

God Help Us. 

Coming Up: Part 3 — Trumphantism: Donald J. Trump and the Trump Administration

References

1Fiske, Alan. P., & Rai, Tage. S. Tage. (2014). Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships. Cambridge, UK. Cambridge University Press. 

2 Ibid., 5.

3 Sears R.R., Maccoby E.E., & Levin H. Patterns of child rearing. Oxford: Row & Peterson; 1957. 

4 Sunstein, Cass. (2009). Going to Extreme: How Like Minds Unite and Divide. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.

5 Ibid., 22.

6 Ibid., 95-96

7 Ekins, Emily. (2020, July 22). Poll: 62% of Americans Say They Have Political Views They’re Afraid to Share. Cato Institution. https://www.cato.org/publications/survey-reports/poll-62-americans-say-they-have-political-views-theyre-afraid-share

8 Ibid.

9 M. Cikara, A.C. Jenkins, N. Dufour, R. Saxe. Reduced self-referential neural response during intergroup competition predicts competitor harm, NeuroImage, Volume 96, 2014, Pages 36-43, ISSN 1053-8119, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.03.080. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811914002420)

10 Ibid.

11 Raafat, Ramsey M. et al. Herding in Humans.Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 13, Issue 10, 420 – 428. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2009.08.002. (https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(09)00170-3?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1364661309001703%3Fshowall%3Dtrue)

12 Thyberg, J. (2019). Dehumanization in the brain. (Dissertation). Digitala Vetenskapliga Arkivet.  http://his.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A1355126&dswid=-8480

13 Shear, Michael. D., Haberman, Maggie. Confessore, Nicholas., Karen Yourish., Larry Buchanan., & Keith Collins. (2019, 2 November). How Trump Reshaped the Presidency in Over 11,000 Tweets. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/02/us/politics/trump-twitter-presidency.html

14 Lang, Java. (2019, October 26). The 65 worst Trump tweets of the 2010s. The Week. https://theweek.com/articles/870368/65-worst-trump-tweets-2010s

15 Rai, T. S., Valdesolo, P., & Graham, J. (2017). Dehumanization increases instrumental violence, but not moral violence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America114(32), 8511–8516. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1705238114 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5559031/)

16 Luft, Aliza. (2019, May 21). Dehumanization and the Normalization of Violence: It’s Not What You Think. Social Science Research Council. https://items.ssrc.org/insights/dehumanization-and-the-normalization-of-violence-its-not-what-you-think/ 

17 Ibid.

18 Castano, E., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2006). Not quite human: Infrahumanization in response to collective responsibility for intergroup killing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(5), 804–818. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.90.5.804 (https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-3514.90.5.804)

19 Anderson, Bryan. Tweeter-in-Chief: A Content Analysis of President Trump’s Tweeting Habits, Vol. 8, 2017, No. 2, Pages 36-47. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications. https://www.elon.edu/u/academics/communications/journal/wp-content/uploads/sites/153/2017/12/04_TwitterInChief_Anderson.pdf

20 Clarke I, Grieve J (2019) Stylistic variation on the Donald Trump Twitter account: A linguistic analysis of tweets posted between 2009 and 2018. PLoS ONE 14(9): e0222062. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222062 (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222062)

21 Hedges, Chris. (2019, Mat 27). The Mass Media Is Poisoning Us With Hate. Truthdig. https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-mass-media-is-poisoning-us-with-hate/

Announcements

Wednesday August 19, 2020

Upcoming

August 20 – Mob Rule, Mob Rules (Part 2): Mob Mentality and Donald Trump (A Special Report Series)

August 21 – Paywall’Ed: Academia and Open Knowledge (Opinion)

TBA – Democratic and Republican Parties: An Ideological Analysis (A Special Election Series)

TBA – Forgiveness Of Sins Never Committed? A Theological Response to Max Lucado

Visual Philosophy

(Month of August, Series 2020)

Mere Beauty In Truth

Mere Beauty In Truth (click link for Instagram) is my theory of the Aesthetic. Influenced by the late Sir Roger Scruton I aim to use art, nature, architecture, and other mediums to witness a higher form, reality and truth about life through perception. 

Beauty requires us to recognize the ugly, the profane, and the false through a keen sense of what is true beauty i.e. that which strikes a profoundness inside us all putting us at its mercy. We do so by training our heart on the full range of emotions experienced in our lives. Fear, anger, happiness, and anxiety all mean something deeper within us. A friend once explained that to recognize a forgery one must study the real thing in complete and absolute detail. Mere Beauty In Truth is the study of the real thing we call beauty.

My ultimate hope it to show the Transcendence and the Immense of God through beauty and design, the ugly and the broken, so as to help us grasp truth and ultimate reality to the best of our limited ability. 

Aesthetic value is not merely art. Art is simply one principled medium of interpretation. We would not necessarily call a person or nature art but each can serve as an expression through a medium. Aesthetics targets the full range of expression through taste, smell, sound, sight, and intuition. 

Please enjoy.

L’Apparition by Gustave Moreau  

Overview:  Classic biblical story of Salome demanding the head of John the Baptist from King Herod after her mother, Herodias, out of her own fear of John enraged her daughter.

Beginning with Salome (Top Half)

At First Glance: Looking first at Salome’s upper body one notices quickly she is clothed in jewels which are an expression of her vanity, but she is partially nude before her own mother and step-father; a signal of her youthful delirium and all of their sickness, the madness that binds them. Salome stares out in a trance at the apparition of John the Baptist head floating in midair, reaching for the severed head, as if slowly as seen with the distant reach of her left arm as her right hand slightly grasps the jeweled neckless, almost afraid of what has occurred but more so lusting over the severed head. Salome is naked yes, but emotionally covered in dread and hatred as her facial expression layers her body language saying, “I distain you,” “I fear you.” Ultimately Salome has become intoxicated by her own passions that were fed by her own mother to kill a man of God. 

Key Point: Salome represents human frailty when ruled by passion and the gullibility of the youthful. 

King Herod Antipas & his wife Herodias:

At First Glance:  Herodias is the real mastermind. Hands folded, expressionless but clearly tense by the moment. Herodias wanted John the Baptist dead, it was Herodias who feared the holy man, and it was Herodias that whispered deceit into her daughters ear. Fully clothed almost as though seeking to disguise herself from him. With her head veil it can be said that Herodias took the place of Mary, an anti-Mary figure similar to an anti-christ in a worldly attempt to coverer the sins that lay bare on her daughter.  

Key Point: Herodias is the power behind the curtain, deception itself, yet inwardly a coward. She represents our desire for power which arises from our weakness. 

At First Glance: Herod Antipas, decrepit and frail, a ghostly figure ruled by nothing godly, just fleshly desire to appease and be pleased. He is adorn in robe and riches upon a throne but life seeps out of him. Herod has become nothing but a tomb, a sepulcher whose hour draws near. Beyond salvation, nothing will raise him from the dead due to his own binding guilt and falsity. 

Key Point: Herod’s state of mind and body represents the decay of the human soul when away from God and truth. 

The Guard

At First Glance: Stoic with his broad sword pointed down; face covered with eyes that lack coloration; the deed has been completed. Blood covers the serving plate at his feet. This solider though has committed a grave crime against an innocent man whom God loved. It is possible that his eyes represent blindness, he is as they all are, blinded by their desires including the soldier who wished only to do what he was told rather than consider the reality of the situation that he murdered an innocent man. 

Key Point: The guard represents the harmful cost of willful ignorance. 

Returning to Salome

At this point it is important to recognize the direction of Salome’s foot. She is not yet moving toward but around the severed head. Circling like a shark. Her long robe touching the ground as she dances and no one is watching her as everyone in the room looks away into their own guarded trance except Herodias. Herodias though coy, cannot look away at the head of John the Baptist. Her fascial expression appears sad yet that cannot hide the blood on her hands, the guilty verdict over her head. Salome and Herodias fates are eternally intwined.

The Lutanist

At First Glance: Probably the only person in the room whom is a victim of circumstance; a servant girl now a woman playing for the king and his court. She holds distain over their decadence, perhaps giving the viewer a degree of credence to their own views about the events taking place. 

Key Point: Represents the credence table of a eucharist i.e. a testimony of bare reality before us all. 

John the Baptist

At First Glance: Even in death God shows his pleasure over the man who was the final prophet before Christ the Savior took position to reveal himself as the Messiah. Rising above with halos circling around him, Salome and Herodias have his head but they can never have his soul which belongs to God. Brutal yet victorious. 

Key Point: John represents the good and faithful servant. 

Get Woke or Get Broke: When Reason Fails to Stand

(Opinion)

(Note to my readers: Originally I intended this piece to be of the category, Special Report, meaning a stricter standard in how information is analyzed and cited. Essentially that standard requires greater in-depth study. While I personally believe what I wrote here today to be true and factual, it did not meet my standard of a Special Report. Therefore, I qualify this as an opinion piece.)

Classical Liberalism On Edge

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust.

— John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, p. 3

Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do.

— Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, p. xix 

In the course of human history there have been principles worth abiding by when considering a deep, problematic societal concern that has and can continue to have great ramifications if it either remains unresolved or attempted to mitigate. Oftentimes issues of such magnitude fall within realms that provoke or placate the values and emotions of a populace. Justice, an essential value concerning human nature, is one of those realms. To better grasp such a realm, an acquisition of human institutions are required; those social institutions specifically include Faith, Tradition, Reason, and Imagination all of which can help an individual and society uncover values above and beyond themselves. Yet, what arises when these institutions dissolve, for whatever reason that may be, is a culture that moves away from interaction towards disengagement and then usurpation. Of all the institutions, reason is the most fragile and in a liberal democratic society, the failure to reason is the sign of a metaphysical collapse.

Classical liberal theory is a term to describe the belief in the rights of the individual, the freedom of markets, and private property. Within the context of the United States, the U.S. Constitution is a document representative of classical liberal thought though not entirely. Presently in the United States of America a climax has occurred on several ideological fronts. One such shift is the rise of woke culture from the far-left through its permeation into governments, corporations, universities, and other private-public institutions. No western post-industrial society is free from its wake.  

Wokeness Monster

Extensive analysis fills the web concerning critical theory, postmodernism, and cultural marxism. While additional analysis is necessary that is not the focus of this article. Therefore, a simple explanation will suffice concerning the meaning of Woke, Wokeness, or Woke Culture.

To be woke means a form of “awakening” to injustice particularly linked to racial injustices yet intersectional toward other oppressed minority/identity based groups e.g. trans/cisgender. Woke cultural markings have evolved into a dangerous ideology of critical, liberation, and social justice movements that developed ties to Marxism, Postmodernism, and other leftist identity based theories and organizations who oppose so-called Eurocentric or Westernized systems (e.g. Capitalism, Free Speech, Merit Base, Scientific Method, etc). To be presently woke means joining a collective that is centered on destroying entire westernized structures, not reforming them. And therein lies the problem.    

End of Discussion

Oversimplifying for the sake of a greater argument, it can be said that Christians and Conservatives, though fundamentally different, share a unique appreciation and understanding of the needs for the layout of faith, tradition, reason, and imagination. One based entirely on the faith in Jesus Christ and the other a philosophical movement in response to the French Revolution both seeking to challenge the hearts and minds of men in a sacred responsibility. Christians nor Conservatives are strangers to cultural critique including of liberal society (e.g. Capitalism or Free Speech) and upholding standards beyond the relative values of the day. As the conservative thinker Russell Kirk explained, “The pure democrat is the practical atheist; ignoring the divine nature of law and the divine establishment of spiritual hierarchy” (The Conservative Mind, p. 137). A synergy exists between the two over their respect for God and a moral law. However, neither fail to recognize liberalism’s overarching value to the world through their shared principles concerning human liberty, freedom, and rights. Both critique liberalism but never demanding the obliteration of classical liberal thought. In no fashion is that an attempt to whitewash history. Every side has its rabble that claim to uphold righteous values only to commit atrocities, however, as long as homo sapiens exist so shall their brutal behaviors. Historically Christianity, Liberalism, and Conservatism have peacefully coexisted despite their differences. 

Far from the spectrum of coexistence, woke ideals hold a Socialist-Marxist predisposition in uprooting systems by devaluing people who oppose them and belittling constructive debate that could possibly cultivate ideas across ideological lines. Almost a hundred years ago (98 to be exact) the economist and social theorist Ludwig von Mises published, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (1922), warning against socialism: 

According to the Marxist conception, one’s social condition determines one’s way of thought. His membership of a social class decides what views a writer will express. He is not able to grow out of his class or to free his thoughts from the prescriptions of his class interests. Thus the possibility of a general science which is valid for all men, whatever their class, is contested… Thus Marxism protects itself against all unwelcome criticism… Marx and Engels never tried to refute their opponents with argument. They insulted, ridiculed, derided, slandered, and traduced them, and in the use of these methods their followers are not less expert. Their polemic is directed never against the argument of the opponent, but always against his person. Few have been able to withstand such tactics (pp. 18-19).

Those words ring equally true today. As I mentioned in Part 1 of my series Mob Rule, Mob Rules: 

Mob rule means a collective identity group must win. Mob rules serve the interests of that collective. Liberty and her institutions are being tested by this eruptive behavior, serving as a reminder that when pure rage is the predicate for judgement, tyranny is never far behind. What comes next will be decided by the public will for civility or lack thereof. Humanity itself may not only end up alone but alone with no way out. 

Without question the radical left are not alone in their threat against a liberal order but they are defining the times as R.R. Reno wrote in his book, Return of the Strong Gods (2019):

Today’s technocratic ethos defines political legitimacy in terms of the weak gods of policy expertise, therapeutic delicacy when speaking of sensitive topics, and the rhetoric of diversity and other motifs of inclusion (p. 141). 

Catholics like Reno represent a necessary deflection against the left vs right attitudes of our time. Believers in the good, the beautiful, and the true recognize that there can be shared critiques without shared beliefs in radical, revolutionary uprisings found within Communism or Fascism. Catholicism has long promotedsocial justice” issues including its claim that the idea itself comes from the book of Matt: 25:31-46. That claim, true or untrue, points to a long line of thinkers from the Apostle Matthew to Thomas Aquinas and onward, a line of pre-modern thinkers rather than modern thinkers like Karl Marx whom heretical christian groups have adopted; a movement rooted in gnosticism rather than Christian teaching. 

If those on the fringe would only listen and grasp that there are means to redemption, a shared bond in both the craving for justice and the rights of the individual—the Rawls-Nozick dichotomy—can be reached without destroying the very foundations that granted them their rights and privileges in the first place. Unfortunately, extremists have broken through in a trojan horse disguised as inclusiveness, diversity, equity, and universals (e.g. healthcare, housing, etc) on the back of a neoliberal order that momentarily makes even Socialism look promising by the untrained eye. They are not interested in listening, they are here to destroy.

Dr. James Lindsay, a physicist and mathematician from New Discourses, is one of the leading thinkers on critical theories and social justice practices including on why woke culture is anti-debate wrote:

The deeper, more significant aspect of this problem is that by participating in something like conversation or debate about scholarly, ethical, or other disagreements, not only do the radical Critical Social Justice scholars have to tacitly endorse the existing system, they also have to be willing to agree to participate in a system in which they truly believe they cannot win. This isn’t the same as saying they know they’d lose the debate because they know their methods are weak. It’s saying that they believe their tools are extremely good but not welcome in the currently dominant system, which is a different belief based on different assumptions. Again, their game is not our game, and they don’t want to play our game at all; they want to disrupt and dismantle it.

Fundamentally the critical ideological framework cannot coexist with our present rights, freedoms, and liberties; our culture is an anthemia to their ideals.  

What Happens Now?

Pessimism can easily set in when surveying the political landscape. There are no guarantees of success if that success means a complete and total reversal. Instead the pressures of life require those who oppose all forms of radicalization to be truthful and loving at a moment when anger and rage can easily persevere but only at great unnecessary costs. Reason will not work. Only the actions of a people who can rely on truth beyond reason, a movement beyond mere modern beliefs, and uphold eternal principles regardless of threat can withstand the revolutionary spirit filling the air. “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10, ESV), that is the required spirit. Believers (and unbelievers) in God must testify truth and goodness through the acknowledgement of present hurts which no doubt exist within the black community and the latin community and the LGBTQ community. Again, there is a shared bond, a means to redemption beyond the ruin of an already broken world. Demands for justice need to be heard but never at the abandonment of truth, reality, and morality or it only becomes another form of injustice. 

Christians can lead in this through their understanding that while they may be alone, they are never truly alone and our calling is above ourselves. Conservatives can resonate in that understanding. And those beholden too Liberalism, especially classical liberal thinking, know what it means to sacrifice and stand against tyranny when it rises; prize an ideal beyond their present estate. All three prize liberty though in different forms but rooted in the greatest of ideals: Human Freedom. 

We must not become radicalized in response. Let their injustice show by speaking up for justice and speaking out against injustice; truth over untruth; reality above irreality; goodness over hate. Death by virtue versus radicalized ideals that seek to breakdown and destroy. Fight but with real love, not the fake dignity espoused by those who insult, deride, and traduce people no matter their origin. 

Announcements

Wednesday August 12, 2020

Upcoming

Aug 13 – Get Woke or Get Broke: When Reason Fails to Stand (A Special Report)

Aug 14 – A Visual Philosophy Series (Aesthetics) A Mere Beauty In Truth

Aug 17 – Mob Rule, Mob Rules (Part 2) Mob Mentality & The Trump Administration

Highlights

Grant Mitchell (MOT/ OTR/L) (Licensed Specialist in Occupational Therapy)

Prof. Kaleb ‘Kal’ Demerew (Adjunct at Concordia University School of Business and Communication; Specialist in International and Comparative Politics; Ph.D student at USF School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies)

Reading List @ Present

Books were at all times his chosen companions, said Ellen Wayles Randolph speaking of her grandfather Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson and Book

Research, not Leisure

I have read many of these books before but a due over is required for the sake of clarity. This is not a full list but a few to share.

  • The Soul of the World by Sir Roger Scruton
  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
  • Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman
  • Politics by Aristotle
  • Existentialism and Human Emotions by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires
  • On Democracy by Robert A. Dahl
  • The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama
  • After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre
  • Theology and the Religions: a Dialogue edited by Viggo Mortensen
  • The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
  • Eighteenth Century Europe: Tradition and Progress (1715-1789) by Isser Woloch
  • Ideas Have Consequences by Richard M. Weaver
  • A Secular Age by Charles Taylor

Unsettling Statistics: Children & Consent

(Opinion)

Adulthood has been a topic of interest since 2018 during my master’s program where I was asked, along with other fellows, to write on a topic revolving around higher education and law for the blog HigherEducationLaw.org. My topic was titled, The Apparatus of Responsibility: Post-In Loco Parentis American University World, concerning the loss of In Loco Parentis in relation to the new laws institutions of higher education gained overtime particularly FERPA and HIPPA:

In loco parentis, a common law doctrine whose origins can be a bit murky, is generally attributed to the English judge Sir William Blackstone who in 1769 wrote, in what is known as Blackstone’s commentaries, “[The father] may also delegate part of his parental authority, during his life, to the tutor or schoolmaster of his child; who is then in loco parentis, and has such a portion of the power of the parent committed to his charge…” In loco parentis would be adapted to the then more autonomous, early American universities as the new nation adopted its English Common Law principles along with its new found liberties via rebellion against the British Empire and the creation of the nation’s newly formulated constitution. It was clearly understood by the courts that colleges by right had the authority to discipline, tutor, and dictate the lives of their students pre-1960. Several cases illuminate the views of the nation’s courts concerning students and their respective colleges.

After the 1960’s the ability of colleges and universities to act as parents ended to the detriment of students and the concerned parents who could no longer rely on the help of these institutions for information including student drug and alcohol abuse.

This topic forced me to reconsider what it even means to be an adult and the role of responsibility that come with such a title. Granted these are mostly students between the ages of 18-24, yet has science not shown us that the development of the brain continues for females to 21 and males 25 years of age respectfully? Let alone the fact that with maturity comes wisdom (we hope). Time tells much about a person because it allows them to develop including learning from their mistakes. And having the support of family and friends to bolster better decision-making can greatly boost odds. Yes people are accountable for their actions, but preventing the ability of family to help left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

However, these are not the disturbing statistics that have recently caught my eye.

Just Children

An article from 2018 came to my attention last week, France to set legal age of sexual consent at 15. Looking into this issue further I was sadden and frighten to find that the Age of Consent (i.e. the age by which an individual is consider, by the law, to be old enough to say yes or no to sex) are rather low. Of interest was Europe, as quoted from the website AgeofConsent.net:

The lowest age of consent in Europe is 14, and the highest age of consent in Europe is 18.

During the age of Epstein’s global sex trade and the #MeTooMovement how can any society stand by and allow the molestation of children? No one in their right mind ought to accept such injustice. As Christ told the saints:

[B]ut whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matt: 18:6, ESV

That verse is not a provocation to do harm against those who afflict harm over children; Christ denies the rule, “an eye for an eye” (Matt: 5:38-48), but rather Jesus states a clear rule in terms of the depth of consequence: Harm X, Result Y. Do this action and you might as well go do this… that is the meaning of the verse for Christians. I share that because even non-Christians concur that harms committed against the innocent are wrong.

Taking advantage of a child by the meager and bogus measure of consent is morally in-apprehensible and that is something we should all agree on.