My marriage was a mistake

A quick glance at the website reminds us that it has been going for a long time – right back to 2008. So occasionally I look back to the old days. I have no way of knowing who actually reads an item, but we do have a large number of commentators ready to correct me, and to correct each other. This is excellent This week I am reproducing an item back from 2015. I like to think that it is still relevant. If not, no doubt you’ll tell me so.
o o o
There I was, repairing this fiddly little gadget when I lost my screwdriver. I knew that I had used it not a minute before, but it had disappeared. Frustrated, I asked my wife if she had seen it. Within a second she picked it up from the very spot where I had put it down. How annoying! Her eyesight is no better than mine so something in my brain must have rendered it invisible. If there is a neurological explanation for this I have yet to track it down. But some of our more common errors are easier to explain. Ironically, they often lie in faculties which are normally useful to us.

In order to understand the world we need to make assumptions based on our experience. If we had to start all our judgments from scratch we would never reach a conclusion. And that requires us to use stereotypes. Take hairy students, the Irish, tall people, or the bespectacled as examples. Each one of those may trigger assumptions in our mind which affect our judgment. Why, for example, are tall men over represented among senior executives, or those who wear glasses seen as intelligent? Our society is rightly sensitive about racial stereotyping, but we forget that everyday stereotyping can be equally undesirable. And this, in turn, reminds us of the potential errors when we allow our moral views to be formed by the company we keep.

I recall the “Windrush” influx of West Indians after World War II; at that time gross racial judgments were approved by the most respectable people. Early in the 20th century the desirability of eugenics was taken for granted. In more recent history attitudes towards homosexuality have altered the boundaries of acceptable comment. But, if we stop for a moment, we may remember that our immediate culture is a dangerous source for our own views and behaviour. Next year, we may all be thinking something else. Yet our instinct for conformity is born of evolution. It promotes the unity, and therefore the success, of a society. Today we don’t have to look far for examples of societies courting self-destruction through lack of unity.

Sometimes our judgments are based on single incidents. We may for example have been involved in an accident with a reckless BMW driver and forever afterwards hold on to a prejudice against such owners. I once knew an Evangelical pastor who borrowed a book from me and never returned it. My wariness of evangelicals, however unjustified, remains. Our judgments can even be inherited. When it came to light that the woman I was planning to marry was actually an actress, eyebrows were raised. An 18th century forebear had married an Italian actress, and was cut off without a franc. That awful warning is in our family genes.

The dangers of inherited judgments can apply to tradition. At a time of development in the Church it is essential, but often difficult, to distinguish core values and principles from those whose form or essence are merely the outcome of habit. And the considerations of natural law must remain open to our developing understanding of human nature itself.

It is often the most routine activities which lead to mistakes. This happens because our familiar procedures are programmed into our brains. We switch them on and leave them to their own devices. Watch me making breakfast: my eyes are glazed. Don’t try to help me – break the sequence and I am lost. The danger here is that our lack of conscious control prevents us from recognising changes in circumstances. We have many unconscious sequences through which we carry out quite complex procedures. Driving a car, for instance, provides several examples. While these little programs may be necessary, we may not notice a change in conditions which requires a change in our action.

How hot is a bowl of water? Take three bowls: one of cold water, one of hot water, one of lukewarm water. Soak your left and right hands in the hot and cold water respectively, then plunge them both into the lukewarm. To the left hand it feels cold; to the right hand it feels hot. This experience reminds us that, typically, our judgments involve comparisons. And that means that we can only validate our conclusions when we have validated our starting point. Until we have some degree of knowledge about our assumptions, our experiences and our prejudices, we can hardly hope to make good decisions. We may not eradicate the influences which can skew our judgment, but we can at least take them into account.

Accepting the vulnerability of our own judgments is not a comfortable experience. We may find ourselves obliged to change our minds. And, since we live in a world where error abounds, going against the grain will not make us popular. The thinking person walks alone.

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Philosophy, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to My marriage was a mistake

  1. Thought provoking post. I like your line ‘the thinking man walks alone’.

    • David Smith says:

      nikitashackleton writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/#comment-60865 ):

      // I like your line ‘the thinking man walks alone’. //

      Well, we all think. We can’t help it – the brain thinks as the lungs breathe. What I expect it’s meant to mean is that the man who thinks outside the box of social conformity is likely to lack for company. That’s true, to an extent, though from the little I’ve observed of life, it need not be. Some nonconformists seem quite sociable. Grumps like me could learn a lot from studying their lives :o)

  2. Hock says:

    I realise I am in a minority of one but I fail to see the point of this post. We are conditioned by many external factors. Nothing new here!

  3. ignatius says:

    Actually, a minority of at least two!

  4. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/ ) :

    // The danger here is that our lack of conscious control prevents us from recognising changes in circumstances. … Until we have some degree of knowledge about our assumptions, our experiences and our prejudices, we can hardly hope to make good decisions. We may not eradicate the influences which can skew our judgment, but we can at least take them into account. … Accepting the vulnerability of our own judgments is not a comfortable experience. //

    I suppose the extent to which we’re willing to make ourselves uncomfortable in this quest depends largely on the amount of importance we give to synchronizing our beliefs with those of others. Loners will perhaps not care much about this, but normally socialized individuals are likely to rate it fairly highly. I, for example, though aware that many of my inclinations are based on acquired likes, feel practically no need to re-form them to avoid being ostracized. In fact, I probably take a sort of perverse pleasure in knowing that I’m out of sync with this or that crowd. My wife, I think, on the other hand, depends greatly for maintaining her self-esteem on the approval of her crowd. And that’s surely normal, and probably healthy, at least if not taken too far towards extremes. We’re all different.

  5. galerimo says:

    This is a constant theme of yours. It goes to the essence of “A SHARED EXPLORATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SCIENCE AND FAITH”.

    And for the moment I am putting “our assumptions” into the category of faith. Yes, it does feel a bit lonely on the outermost of Orthodoxy, in such a stance.

    The scientific mind is nothing if it cannot maintain its allegiance to the observable and verifiable data. And thank God for that!

    It seeks to uncover all the sloppy thinking that goes under the guise of knowledge.

    As Catholics we must be eternally grateful for the Age of Enlightenment that ushered in the death of “God”. Freeing up our sentimental superstitious minds to move from the sloppy thinking of ignorant piousity to a liberating critical mind that honours our God-given intelligence.

    (Grateful too for the Reformation of Martin Luther, for the same reason.)

    Not that bigoted intransigence died at that same time! Wilful ignorance never dies.

    Our faith appears to be a wild “assumption” by contrast with science. A prejudicial influence with little to no firm rational foundation.

    But it should also require the same rigour of intellectual honesty as science does.

    However, our “assumptions” of faith, are founded on God’s authority and less on the provable data. Not that everything we believe is without the possibility of proof.

    The authority of God whether through the instruments of Revelation in scripture or tradition, or conscience or God’s Spirit moving in art, literature, music, silence – it its numberless ways -is our bottom line. Measurable data that yields to strict analytical methods if for science.

    It comes as no surprise, therefore, to find the declared theme of this blog constantly recurring in different shapes and sizes. It’s author being a man of Science and of God.

    How can we find the same certainty- without its undue influences from the humbug of religion or the shonkiness of science, to enable us to move forward with integrity as rational human beings? Ultimately, we can’t.

    But that is not an end to this exploration. Curiosity, like concupiscence, dies three hours after the body does!

    We need the virtue of humility for our scientific thinking and critical honesty for our religious living in order to come to the truth. And both science and religion seek truth.

    To be able to speak without prejudice or undue influence whether of faith or science I repeat from 2015 – Look up from the assumptions and inculturation. There is more truth in what we say than we can know

    Finally, one good thing – the mistake of my marriage seems to bring more gratitude than regret with time.

  6. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // Early in the 20th century the desirability of eugenics was taken for granted. //

    That’s coming back, you know. Behind all the COVID-19 hysteria there’s the unspoken assumption that humans have a natural right to a world free of trouble and strife, of disease and an unpleasant death. And, of course, only Science can provide all that.

  7. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/ ) :

    // Accepting the vulnerability of our own judgments is not a comfortable experience. We may find ourselves obliged to change our minds. //

    Such an obligation exists, I think, only where the minds that need changing are in error in material facts. And even there, a fundamental objection remains that all perception is subjective. For example, if I believe that our sun orbits around Earth, the weight of consensus lies on the side that says I’m wrong. But if my survival and daily good health do not depend on my agreeing with consensus, what’s the harm in my continuing to believe that I’m right and consensus is wrong?

  8. FZM says:

    For example, if I believe that our sun orbits around Earth, the weight of consensus lies on the side that says I’m wrong. But if my survival and daily good health do not depend on my agreeing with consensus, what’s the harm in my continuing to believe that I’m right and consensus is wrong?

    The traditional Catholic idea was that goodness, truth and being are different terms for a single thing, God. There was also the idea that the natural end of the human intellect is to grasp truths about reality so the idea that someone could will themselves into believing that the earth goes around the sun, despite what their intellect or reason was telling them, might be considered a type of sin (probably pride).

    • George says:

      “The traditional Catholic idea was that goodness, truth and being are different terms for a single thing, God. ” Indeed, and it is almost a natural consequence of this that now large parts of modern society have abandoned belief in God, they have also largely abandoned the idea that there is any absolute notion of goodness or truth. Once God is assumed dead, there is nothing to stop someone saying that their idea of goodness or truth is as good as anyone else’s. Or on the other hand, as soon as an atheist admits that there is an objective notion of goodness or truth which is not dependent on human understanding, they are on the way to belief in God.

      • Alasdair says:

        I don’t believe in Atheists. It’s a label that some people adopt for themselves. Between two to five sentences are usually sufficient to show them that they are self contradictory, illogical and/or delusional. At that point they go impervious to any further discussion.

  9. ignatius says:

    ” Until we have some degree of knowledge about our assumptions, our experiences and our prejudices, we can hardly hope to make good decisions. We may not eradicate the influences which can skew our judgment, but we can at least take them into account…”

    This can work both ways. One of my pet beliefs about myself was that I had assumed an innate racism from my white working class roots and a father who was overtly racially prejudiced. Half a century ago in the midland towns racism was freely expressed and acted upon as if it were natural.
    However a couple of months ago I was walking in the Lake district with an old friend and we were chewing over the subject. My good friend of 30 years standing told me that in all the time he had known me I had never shown a hint of racism and was I really sure about it?

    So, driving home that evening, I did a mental audit of friends I had made over the past couple of decades along with individuals I had come to respect. I realised fairly quickly and with some relief that my ‘belief’ of my own prejudice was not remotely supported by my life..I was simply unconsciously adhering to an old idea I had, about a person I no longer was.

  10. David Smith says:

    FZM writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/#comment-60890 ) :

    // so the idea that someone could will themselves into believing that the earth goes around the sun, despite what their intellect or reason was telling them, might be considered a type of sin (probably pride). //

    Interesting. Thanks.

    That’s saying that the Church gives (or gave) to humans acting in consensus the power to determine what is and what is not “truth”. Curious, to say the least.

    • ignatius says:

      //That’s saying that the Church gives (or gave) to humans acting in consensus the power to determine what is and what is not “truth”. Curious, to say the least//
      No. The church is given the authority to EXPRESS that truth, truth itself is in God alone.

  11. FZM says:

    Interesting. Thanks.

    That’s saying that the Church gives (or gave) to humans acting in consensus the power to determine what is and what is not “truth”. Curious, to say the least

    Where did the Bible come from?

  12. David Smith says:

    FZM writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/#comment-60899 ) :

    // Where did the Bible come from? //

    Consensus among Christians is, I suppose, that it came from various writers, all of whom were inspired by God. But words are slippery. What exactly does “inspired by” mean? All the various churches and church members have interpreted all the bits and pieces of the Bible in different ways at different times. The Catholic Church seems to have decided that only it has the right and ability to interpret anything and everything correctly, but that decision was taken by consensus, as are the interpretations.

  13. ignatius says:

    //Consensus among Christians is, I suppose, that it came from various writers, all of whom were inspired by God. But words are slippery. What exactly does “inspired by” mean?//

    ‘Inspired’ means that human beings were moved by the Spirit of God to write. They wrote as human beings living in specific cultures at specific times.They wrote while subject to the pressures of their own individual existence and yet, taken together their writings were inspired by the Holy spirit so that the bible, in its completeness, is the written Word of God.

  14. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/#comment-60905 ) :

    // The church is given the authority to EXPRESS that truth, truth itself is in God alone. //

    I was replying to FZM’s suggestion that my believing that Earth goes around the sun might be considered by the Church to be a sin of pride because I was setting my belief against the scientific consensus. I replied that if that was so – that the Church might declare that I was committing a sin by contradicting a consensus of “experts” – the Church would be allowing a group of human beings to determine the truth.

    There’s a parallel here, I think, with the Western cultural and political establishment’s position that all so-called “white” people are “racists”, whether or not they know and admit to it. (I put “racists” and “white” in quotes because race is an imaginary construct that the establishment seem determined to reify and because they have both muddied and warped the definition of racism by using it in this way.) If I say that I disagree with this declaration, that in fact I think it both offensive and absurd, I am going against the currently fashionable consensus of self-declared moral experts. If I do that, am I thereby guilty in the eyes if the Church of the sin of pride for setting myself up against this consensus? It seems to me that it’s pretty much come to that.

    • Peter Nyikos says:

      If I say that I disagree with this declaration, that in fact I think it both offensive and absurd, I am going against the currently fashionable consensus of self-declared moral experts. If I do that, am I thereby guilty in the eyes if the Church of the sin of pride for setting myself up against this consensus? It seems to me that it’s pretty much come to that.

      On the contrary, you are showing that you are not conformed to this world and its fleeting and illogical fashions.

      The charge of racism is especially insidious because there is nothing that can exonerate you of it in the eyes of those who make it. If, for example, you talk about all the Blacks that you have had close personal relationships with, admired, etc. you are just setting yourself up as a laughingstock for those who “know” that saying “Some of my best friends are black” is a dead giveaway that you are a racist.

      As for the (usually white) members of the establishment who say this, they will freely “admit” that they are ashamed of their racism; some even go in for what I call “mea culpaism” and “apologize” for atrocities that neither they nor any known ancestors of them committed.

      About all we can do is pray that this madness, too, shall pass, and to take comfort from an interesting historical precedent. Back when Jimmy Carter was President, his black appointee US Ambassador to the UN, Andrew Young, shocked people by saying that denying differences between races was a form of racism; and that whites in the Southern states of the USA (such as Carter himself) were less racist than those in the Northern states. While nobody dared to call him out on these two remarkable ideas, they were eventually forgotten.

      • David Smith says:

        Peter Nyikos writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/#comment-61227 ) :

        // The charge of racism is especially insidious because there is nothing that can exonerate you of it in the eyes of those who make it. //

        It’s a funny time we’re living in. But in some ways it’s *so* outré that it may be reasonable to hope that in a not terribly distant future, a chastened Western world will see it as just a silly season of the sort that the poor human race had gone through many times before.

      • milliganp says:

        If I say that I disagree with this declaration, that in fact I think it both offensive and absurd, I am going against the currently fashionable consensus of self-declared moral experts. If I do that, am I thereby guilty in the eyes if the Church of the sin of pride for setting myself up against this consensus? It seems to me that it’s pretty much come to that./
        I’m not sure how this idea of consensus = truth got it’s way into this discussion – even for heliocentrism. The teaching of of the Catholic Church is that Ecumenical Councils, making decisions by consensus, define authoritative statements of faith. However, once this definition is made, consensus no longer applies; thus (at least in theory) no council can change the authoritative statements of an earlier council.

  15. FZM says:

    I was replying to FZM’s suggestion that my believing that Earth goes around the sun might be considered by the Church to be a sin of pride because I was setting my belief against the scientific consensus. I replied that if that was so – that the Church might declare that I was committing a sin by contradicting a consensus of “experts” – the Church would be allowing a group of human beings to determine the truth.

    My comment was about the idea of an individual who willed themselves to believe that the sun went around the earth regardless of what their reason and sense experience was telling them. It is related to believing that the only reason experts, say, in the natural sciences, will claim something is true is because of a collective will to power and domination on their part. As far as I know, the Church does warn against this kind of thinking.

    I also recognise a parallel to the rising new definition of racism; this new definition is rooted in a world view that is generally highly sceptical of the human capacity to know anything about an objective, external reality, and about the capacity of language to describe or communicate much about it. Broadly, the only things that are considered truly real and knowable are the will to power, oppression and domination. Currently, this seems to be group will to power and group domination; racism is conceived as the domination of the white group over the others and anything that white group members might say to contest this claim is seen to be only an expression and rationalisation of their will to domination.

  16. ignatius says:

    The issue is one of wilfulness. If a person insists upon their own private definition of A despite knowing clearly that their own definition flies in the face of all that is otherwise known about A, then that person is likely to be deemed foolish particularly if the person is aware of the fanciful nature of their thesis concerning A.
    If however this person genuinely believes that their view of A is correct then they might not be guilty of anything much apart from being wrong. Which,as far as I understand isn’t a sin at all!

  17. ignatius says:

    Thanks.
    So if we extend to the issue of ‘racism’ then. Catholic doctrine is very clear on the dignity of human beings and so will take issue with subjugation of any peoples by another. The current wave of interest in ‘racism’ is primarily focused on historic and what is perceived as contemporay subjugation of black by white. The extent to which this view is erroneous is much debated but pretty difficult to entirely dismiss!! But the interested parties do see the racist divide in black white terms though both would probably agree that ‘racism’ itself is a many hued beast.

    • FZM says:

      Yes, one of the complex things about discussing the issue is that there are now multiple definitions of racism, the one I brought up in the previous post could be called a ‘postmodern’ definition (another aspect of this one that I forgot is that white people are considered to assert dominance unconsciously, without being aware of doing it). There is at least one other current social justice definition based on more traditional Marxism, where racism in the past is considered to have had economic impacts which extend into and shape the present. Sometimes in the context of these definitions ‘racism’ also specifically refers to the kind of ‘scientific’ racial thinking that arose in Europe in the late 18th century. It’s usually in the context of these definitions that the claim that only white people can be racist comes up.

      Then there is the more familiar concept of racism, about conscious prejudice and discrimination based on someone’s skin colour or ethnicity. I think the Catholic understanding of racism is closer to this one, but it also goes back further and there is a different philosophical/religious background and moral framework behind it.

      I tend to believe ‘postmodern racism’ doesn’t exist at all, because the whole epistemology behind it is misguided, even if there is some truth behind parts of it. The Marxist version can have value in a discussion beside the traditional one. Perhaps unsurprisingly I think the Catholic approach is one of the better ones.

  18. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/#comment-60921 ) :

    // The current wave of interest in ‘racism’ is primarily focused on historic and what is perceived as contemporay subjugation of black by white. The extent to which this view is erroneous is much debated but pretty difficult to entirely dismiss!! //

    A lot of what’s reported by the media to be “waves of interest” is, I suspect, media fabrication, molehills made into mountains. The modern media are both aggressively woke and inveterate scandal mongers. Put those together and you see that it’s highly likely that anything that sets the chattering classes chattering is going to be front page news, whether or not it matters in the slightest to anyone else.

    “White Racism against Black people” has been fashionable with the new intelligentsia for a very long time. The rest of us are tired of the media hammering away on it, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, much of which is of interest to us but is ignored or looked down on by the “news” collective.

    Injustice happens. That’s life. Injustice you will always have with you. One’s aware of it, and one understands that it’s more or less egregious depending on whose ox is being gored at any particular time and place. Bad things happen to good people. They always will. Individually, we deal with it.

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/ ) :

    // At a time of development in the Church it is essential, but often difficult, to distinguish core values and principles from those whose form or essence are merely the outcome of habit. //

    “Core values” as defined by whom? I have the sense that more Church intellectuals are more divided now than at many times in the past – at least, more openly. But I’m ignorant of Church history. And the age of instant and incessant information exchange we live in is like nothing else in the past, so comparisons can’t be direct. But in the chaos of warring ideologies, I don’t think normal individuals should be guided by people who live mostly in the rarified atmosphere of the abstractions of academia.

  19. David Smith says:

    FZM writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/08/19/my-marriage-was-a-mistake-2/#comment-60936 ) :

    // Then there is the more familiar concept of racism, about conscious prejudice and discrimination based on someone’s skin colour or ethnicity. I think the Catholic understanding of racism is closer to this one, but it also goes back further and there is a different philosophical/religious background and moral framework behind it. … I think the Catholic approach is one of the better ones. //

    I think the “color and ethnicity” catchphrase that’s taken hold among the purveyors of discontent is dishonestly named. Nor is the issue “racism”, in *any* sense. What’s really at issue, I think, is culture. Skin color and the practically meaningless word “ethnicity” don’t matter at all. What does deeply offend a great many good people is, instead, I think, an intense and in-your-face non-culture of sadistic and masochistic anti-civility.

  20. David Smith says:

    I wrote:

    // What does deeply offend a great many good people is, instead, I think, an intense and in-your-face non-culture of sadistic and masochistic anti-civility. //

    Sorry – that’s clumsy phrasing. I tried to stuff too much into too small a space. But I stand by my main point, that “racism” and “skin color” and “ethnicity” are straw men. What is clear once one decides to stop pussyfooting and be honest about it is that what’s being objected to by so many is a culture of aggressive anti-civility.

  21. FZM says:

    David,

    Sorry – that’s clumsy phrasing. I tried to stuff too much into too small a space. But I stand by my main point, that “racism” and “skin color” and “ethnicity” are straw men. What is clear once one decides to stop pussyfooting and be honest about it is that what’s being objected to by so many is a culture of aggressive anti-civility.

    Is this in general, or say, in the US at the moment? I can see how it could be the case there and a breakdown in civility is the kind of thing activists on the far left may try to generate to radicalise politics.

    Ethnicity can be significant in other circumstances though, I am in the countryside at the moment because since the suspicious election result here on the 9th August there is serious civil strife and my wife wants to protect me from the government/police and from the opposition side. This is because I am English and so a potential spy or provocateur in the government’s eyes, or can be urged to volunteer by opposition people for translation, media work and so on. I’m not racially much different from the people here and if I was a native with a British passport this issue wouldn’t likely arise in the same way.

    • FZM says:

      I realised ‘Civil strife’ is the wrong word as it makes it sound violent when, apart from during the big demonstrations that happened early on, most of the conflict is abusive online debate and mainly verbal confrontations between people in real life.

  22. David Smith says:

    FZM writes:

    // What is clear once one decides to stop pussyfooting and be honest about it is that what’s being objected to by so many is a culture of aggressive anti-civility.

    Is this in general, or say, in the US at the moment? I can see how it could be the case there and a breakdown in civility is the kind of thing activists on the far left may try to generate to radicalise politics. //

    That’s certainly been the case, and the media have played into it enthusiastically.

    But I had in mind specifically an anti-culture of an entire underclass that just happens to contain a large number of what it’s become common to refer to as “Black” people. The left have delighted in pretending that the widespread revulsion at this behavior is due solely to skin color, whereas it’s almost entirely, I think, due to an adopted way of feeling, thinking, and behaving. By claiming that it’s simply skin color, the left have created the image of an entire cohort they call “people of color”, which they claim is being victimized by an entire cohort they call “White people”. In other words, they have greatly enlarged the offending underclass of misbehavers, pretending that “White racists” have it in for *all* “people of color”. Again, the media have given credence to this. And when the media relentlessly push a message, a lot of people believe it.

    My apologies, again. I think I see what I’m trying to describe, but my attempt to articulate it falls far short of adequate.

    • FZM says:

      But I had in mind specifically an anti-culture of an entire underclass that just happens to contain a large number of what it’s become common to refer to as “Black” people. The left have delighted in pretending that the widespread revulsion at this behavior is due solely to skin color, whereas it’s almost entirely, I think, due to an adopted way of feeling, thinking, and behaving. By claiming that it’s simply skin color, the left have created the image of an entire cohort they call “people of color”, which they claim is being victimized by an entire cohort they call “White people”. In other words, they have greatly enlarged the offending underclass of misbehavers, pretending that “White racists” have it in for *all* “people of color”. Again, the media have given credence to this. And when the media relentlessly push a message, a lot of people believe it.

      I think I see some of what you mean. This tendency on the left may partly be rooted in the idea that norms of behaviour and value judgements about behaviour are arbitrary social constructs, mainly used by a dominant group to oppress or exploit some weaker minority group. This seems to have originated in post-modern and deconstructivist philosophy and partly in certain aspects of Marxism and anarchism. So for a person to be ‘authentically black’ or to have an authentic POC identity they have to manifest certain behaviours and attitudes which are contrary to those of the white, bourgeois ‘oppressors’. An important feature of this kind of thinking is that the identity group people belong to is much more important and relevant than individual characteristics or choices and politics (understood in a very broad sense) is all about struggle between identity groups for power. .

      I find a lot of this can seem fairly bizarre without bearing in mind Marxist ways of thinking. I also think it is a long time since ideas that originate on the Marxist far-left have had this much mainstream exposure in the US or the UK.

  23. David Smith says:

    FZM writes:

    // I realised ‘Civil strife’ is the wrong word as it makes it sound violent when, apart from during the big demonstrations that happened early on, most of the conflict is abusive online debate and mainly verbal confrontations between people in real life. //

    Noted. I suppose physical combat has much more power to effect physical change than verbal combat, but does the physical ever take place without first being preceded by the verbal? Perhaps an assumption that that’s the case lies behind the evidenced desire of governments to censor online conversation.

    Side thought. As what’s vaguely referred to as AI – artificial intelligence – becomes more powerful, online conversations may become intentionally polluted by something less obvious than blatant censorship but far more insidious. In our time, reality seems increasingly up for grabs.

    • FZM says:

      That’s true, this is why at the moment my wife and Belarusian friends are concerned about any small groups of provocateurs who may turn the big demonstrations into something more violent, they are still very peaceful but all of the abuse that is going on is creating a bad atmosphere.

      I can see how online censorship may be considered more necessary because of the way virtual conversations and ‘echo chambers’ can become more extreme than real life ones would. I’d say that one noticeable difference between Western countries and the countries of the former USSR is that in the West the media and political bodies ideally included some open debate, discussion and scrutiny of what decisions were being taken and policies implemented. In the USSR, in the Czarist Empire before it, and until quite recently in the successor states, the media and political bodies were more straightforwardly tools of control and power so all kinds of overt and covert manipulation could be used (there was even a collective name for all of the techniques in the 1990s and 2000s, ‘political technologies’.)

  24. ignatius says:

    “I find a lot of this can seem fairly bizarre without bearing in mind Marxist ways of thinking. I also think it is a long time since ideas that originate on the Marxist far-left have had this much mainstream exposure in the US or the UK…”

    Yes, this is correct. More than that it is probably true to say that for a good portion of the populace in the UK that much of this kind of thinking is frankly risible. I have some clue about ideological thinking having studied PPE (not the medical kind!)at the University of Leeds in the late 1970’s when the abstract nature of political thought was seen as rather cool and altogether clever. Fourty year later, though resurgent, this line of thinking is no longer as attractive except to pale youth seeking gravitas.. “Pale youth” by the way refers to that period when young people search around seeking significance having not yet understood that they have already achieved it merely by being.

  25. ignatius says:

    FMZ,
    //This tendency on the left may partly be rooted in the idea that norms of behaviour and value judgements about behaviour are arbitrary social constructs, mainly used by a dominant group to oppress or exploit some weaker minority group//

    An interesting thing is to compare ‘Marxist’ thinking with Catholic doctrinal belief. I’m sure there are some Catholic Christians who blindly accept doctrine as ‘ truth- to -act upon ‘ …but I’m equally certain that for most the doctrine comes as a second note with some kind of conviction rooting their doctrinal instinct. I find it almost impossible to comprehend why anyone would want to continue being a Catholic if it were not for some deeper resonance in the soul. I wonder to what extent you would understand Catholicism as an ideological concept?

    • FZM says:

      It’s an interesting question. Ideology as I understand it refers to bodies of ideas and beliefs that are directly political in nature or otherwise closely connected to politics, but the central beliefs and practices in Catholicism I would see as spiritual and so above politics. And it does seem likely that the basis of religious commitment to Catholicism is spiritual in nature, I would guess few people are converted or practice the faith purely on the basis of formal doctrine. This is maybe something that is clearer in countries where Church and state are more separate and religious participation is no longer a conventional social expectation, the people who remain committed to it have a more obvious spiritual orientation.

      The exception to this, where Catholicism is more like an ideological concept, would exist in very conservative political theorists like Charles Maurras (who was an atheist for all of his life, he may have converted as he was dying) but who supported Catholicism and various Catholic ideas for purely secular political reasons. Something similar happened in Spanish Francoism in the Civil War and the 1940s, where Spanish Catholicism was thought of as an expression of the ‘national soul’ and used as part of the basis for a national political ideology, there are probably numerous other examples from the time when Church and state were tied together more closely and weekly mass attendance was huge (say 80-90% of the population).

  26. ignatius says:

    //The exception to this, where Catholicism is more like an ideological concept, would exist in very conservative political theorists like Charles Maurras (who was an atheist for all of his life, he may have converted as he was dying) but who supported Catholicism and various Catholic ideas for purely secular political reasons. //

    Ah yes,
    It happens here too in a more diluted way which is why the Church of England used to get called the Tory party at prayer. In fact the tendency to ‘politicise’ the gospels is probably quite natural and there are parties calling themselves Christian Democrats etc. You have thrown light on something for me there so thank you. In Catholic life too one perceives something of this tendency. As long as the spark of divine life subsists in the soul then ‘political’ action is fine but if political life replaces the spark then I think we are reduced to Pharisaism

  27. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // In order to understand the world we need to make assumptions based on our experience. If we had to start all our judgments from scratch we would never reach a conclusion. //

    That reminds me of a science fiction novel by Fred Hoyle, in which contact is made with an advanced life form that understands the universe far better than the smartest scientists of the twentieth century. When it tries to teach them, they go mad and die. Their package of working assumptions, based on a lifetime of lessons learned, was so wrong that they could not handle the cognitive conflicts. Their minds were destroyed by a mental immune reaction, so to speak.

    So it seems to be with people who succumb to any sufficiently prolonged program of mental conditioning. If, as part of the conditioning, the conditioners provided logical responses to any possible rebuttals, the conditioned are captives for life.

    We all need either to find on our own a coherent collection of assumptions with which we’re comfortable or we need to have one provided for us. Sadly, either alternative will do.

    • G.D says:

      Yes, and the latter of the two is encouraged by them who govern the press. Basically indoctrination to divide and conquer. Race class and religion being the easiest to incite those divisions needed.

    • milliganp says:

      I suspect Einstein’s aphorism “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” is at the heart of this.

  28. Alasdair says:

    Regarding the “which goes round the other” discussion (earth and sun that is), any serious senior secondary school science student (oops – alliteration) should be able to tell you that they both rotate about their common centre of mass. A functionally trivial correction perhaps since the sun is so much more massive than the earth. So for the non-scientific chattering-class hordes, the-earth-goes-round the-sun will probably suffice for most purposes.

    • milliganp says:

      This is a question disguised as pedantry, since it is now over 50 years since I studies physics at university! Does the Solar System have a center of mass or does that move as the planets revolve?

  29. ignatius says:

    Yes, I was curious about that too. You’d think it moved wouldn’t you……?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s