Racism, homophobia and the like...

Mama Liberty's picture

In thinking about the recent discussions on hierarchy, some ideas from another discussion came to me and it seemed this might be a good place to explore them.

Disclaimer: I am not, in any way, suggesting that racism or the rest is good or healthy. Please remember that.

The question is, however, what is the moral response to expressions of these things? Many times the response is violent or hateful in return, creating the politically correct nightmare.

If we have any "right" or claim to life, liberty and property, how can we not have equal claim to our own thoughts and actions?

So, if someone acts, speaks and writes racist or other hateful things, what is the legitimate response by those who disagree and find those things harmful? As long as there is no physical aggression against another person, it seems to me that no response is actually required.

Far too many people, it seems to me, are willing to carve out an exception here and suggest more coercive responses than they would for most or all other things. But I find that terribly hypocritical.

Once again, it would seem to me that freedom of association and the free market would be the only legitimate paths to respond to such things. I suggest we must vote with our feet and our wallet even in dealing with such distasteful things or we lose legitimacy in suggesting it for anything else.

Ball to your court!

Choices

Mama,

I'm not quite sure the point you're attempting to make, but (actual knowledge and understanding never having gotten in my way before!) here are some thoughts in response.

First I don't agree that we have "rights," but rather believe that we make choices and those choices influence karma, or as the physicist would say, have results.

I don't feel any obligation to "correct" some other hateful person. Especially when it would be on the order of "teaching a pig to sing." On the other hand, I often DO choose to voice my opinion if I sense that I may be able to cause the offending person to perhaps rethink his position, OR if others in the audio proximity might find my thoughts possibly worth while.

I just minutes ago read an interesting post by Jim Davidson which is applicable to your post and I hereby recommend it to you: Why I am not a Conservative

- NonE

The point...

I was afraid I had not expressed the point clearly enough...

"Rights" are a whole different discussion, and we've talked about that quite a bit here. It depends a lot on how one defines a "right," of course. That's not what I want to do here.

I'm talking about a moral response to something we find abhorrent or believe is morally wrong ourselves. I'm struggling with a question like that in my personal life and have given it much thought lately.

I define myself as a sovereign individual who needs nobody else to rule me, make my choices or clean up my messes. I live by the non-aggression principle as totally as I think humanly possible and have no desire to run the lives of others in any way.

That said, I also believe that I have both the "right" and duty to defend the innocent and helpless when appropriate.

I like to think that I could and should only intervene if actual aggression is taking place and the victim is not able to defend themselves, but that often seems terribly inadequate.

Where would I get the "right," or authority or prerogative to intervene absent physical aggression? I don't think there is any, as uncomfortable as that often is.

I can't buy into the libertine idea that absolutely anything goes, so have grave problems with some things that are, obviously, personal choices for adults, but exploitation and damaging to children when they are included.

But who am I to intervene in another's life... and what is a moral response to such a situation? That's my dilemma.

I've read a lot of Davidson's material and know him personally. I find him to be a consistently irrational person, even though he talks a good game. :)

Talking a good game.

I've only briefly met and spoken with Jim Davidson, so all I really have is his words, which I enjoyed reading.

Your expansion of your thoughts were helpful to me and I better grasp the question you are grapling with.

On another forum (Liberating Minds, I hope you don't mind my mentioning other places here, Sunni...) I was involved in a moderately deep discussion of the concept of morality. I tend to think that morality a) exists, b) is crucial to human civilization, and c) may be something that many humans are incapable of grasping as they appear to have a genetic inability to empathize. This latter is a subject I'm mostly ignorant of, but am learning more about and it includes things that align with the words Asperger's Syndrome, psychopath, sociopath, anti-social behavior and so on. It appears to be a (as most things in life are) sliding scale kind of thing where there are vast differences in the condition, from the Ted Bundys to those who fart in elevators. I guess I'm pointing out here that it appears to be a natural part of nature for morality to be non-functional in some and highly active in others.

But that doesn't even begin to deal with the question of just what the hell IS morality anyway? As I mentioned elsewhere, I am leaning towards the idea that "voluntary" and "morality" might be close to synonymous, and I think that you, too, Mama, may be inclined along that thinking path.

I do want to point out that the fact that I do not believe that "rights" exist (absent a specific agreement between two people in which the rights of each relative to the other are laid out and agreed upon) does NOT mean that I think that it is acceptible for anyone to do anything to anyone else anytime. As per your problem with what to do when you see a child in harm's way, I don't think I need a "right" to do what's "right." If I believe it is for the best, I will do it. That's all. And I will suffer the consequences of that choice, if any. I think that is how we all operate. I don't think that we sit down and say, "Hmm, do I have a right to do this?" I think we just assess the situation and take the actions that we believe are appropriate, rights be damned.

Actually (this just popped into my head), perhaps the only problem here, Mama, is that you are trying to fit the enormously complex issue of living within the artificially confined space of the idea of "rights" and that is where you are having trouble. Just a thought, you understand, I'm not trying to think for you or tell you what's right, but you can see if it fits. I don't see, from my experience, where very many things are as clear cut black and white as we would like for them to be to assuage our inner doubts about our choices. I have made and continue to make lots of choices that may not be optimal. That's life. I regret some of them, but still I feel pretty good about the person I am and I hope that I continue to learn and improve and I don't see that it can get any better than that.

Another point I want to make before I wrap this up is that the idea that children are children and adults are adult is, to my mind, hugely damaging to those small individuals we sometimes feel we have the "right" to control. As with most other things, I think that "voluntary" is the key word. Except in rare instances, I do believe that children should be allowed to make their own choices and find out the results of them and make their own learning. (Disclaimer: I have no children of my own, and I know that may totally discount everything I'm saying on this subject, but I HAVE been a child, in fact may STILL be one!) If a child is frustrated with his or her parents and wants to run away, for instance, it would seem to me that it would be much better to allow the child to do just that. It would be nice to keep a watchful eye and to notify the neighbors and such, but I think that it would be far more beneficial for the child to learn that it gets cold at night and food isn't magically available and so on, and then to understand and learn that life is filled with compromise than for the child to be grabbed up and forcefully returned to a place he doesn't think he wants to be, than to allow him to come to that decision on his own. And really, if we as a culture granted more respect for the autonomy of ALL individuals, then you know darned well that the neighbors and friends would be keeping a protective watch out for that runaway and helping to see that no serious harm came to him in his explorations of the limits of his autonomy.

Anyway, dems' some of my thoughts. Take 'em for what they're worth.

- NonE

Thanks!

I'll have to ponder all that for a bit - my mental digestion gets slower as I get older. :) Much of what you say resonates with me. I do, however, strongly think that there are "rights," by any term one wishes to use. The inalienable right, claim (whatever word you want) to life, liberty and property is the basis of our non-aggression principle. If we have no legitimate claim to self ownership, then all bets are off as far as I'm concerned.

Thinking of all this further overnight, I realize that the conflict is with my overwhelming conviction of the wrongness of any aggression, and the equally total wrongness of what I believe is happening to this little girl. And I only have some fairly specific hints (from her) and observations to go on - nothing that would stand up as hard evidence.

I'm just a neighbor, and not involved in the family beyond friendship with the child (who is 12, if that matters).

So, how do I obtain better evidence without aggression? By what criteria do I decide how, when and even if to intervene? And how do I intervene? Call the police? I don't think so, as that would do as much damage in the long run to this child as anything else going on.

What a mess.

Mental Digestion

Boy do I relate to THAT! :-)

I will simply suggest to you that the situation is no different whether or not you believe that the girl has "rights." Whatever "rights" she supposedly might have are still going to be up to someone else to decide (even if they decide them wrongly in your opinion, and maybe your opinion would be right.) So the bottom line is that it is all upon your shoulders to decide what you want to do, what you are able to do, and what you are willing to do. This is tough, I'm not pretending that it isn't. Actually, it seems to me that recognizing that there are no "rights," no hard and fast and simple rules just makes it all the harder, and I think that is as it should be.

This reminds me of a wonderful essay I read a few years back about how shooting taught ethics: Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun which is a marvelous bit of thinking, in my opinion. I suggest that you may find it helpful, if not in deciding what to do in your particular current quandary, at least in your sense of how you should approach the decision making process.

I wish you well in figuring out what to do.

- NonE

Thank you so much.

That article is incredible and I'm sorry I never saw it before. I TEACH armed self defense, and many of those points are made in my classes over and over again, but this is the best I've ever seen it expressed. I'll print this one out for students, to be sure.

And as for my dilemma, it isn't just about "rights." It's about responsibility and doing what is RIGHT. We too easily forget that true rights can't exist without responsibility.

So, forget the word "rights" for now. I need to concentrate on discovering what my responsibility is, to whom, and what I can ethically, morally and legally do to help this child - if anything. I may, and then again I may not reach a truly satisfactory answer or conclusion, but the very exercise in trying to do so can't help but make me grow and learn.

Maybe I'll get the courage to simply ask her what she thinks about it, and what she wants. She's a very bright girl, and I'll bet she knows the answer already.

You're quite welcome

Maybe I'll get the courage to simply ask her what she thinks about it, and what she wants. She's a very bright girl, and I'll bet she knows the answer already.

We are such funny beings aren't we? Odd how the point quoted above is perhaps one of your last ideas on the subject rather than the first? It's gotta be some deeply ingrained thing in the human genome wherein we believe that we have the ability, wisdom and right to figure out what other people should do with their lives.

And, just because I love to cause trouble and mess with peoples' minds, here is an interesting piece by David D. Friedman that I just came across a few hours ago. David always stimulates my brain in the most delightfully challenging ways. Enjoy!

- NonE

Enabling

Mama,

Rereading some of your post, I came across this and it spurred a thought. Please do not take this as criticism or anything other than a thought that your thought spurred in my fuzzy brain:

I live by the non-aggression principle as totally as I think humanly possible and have no desire to run the lives of others in any way.

That said, I also believe that I have both the "right" and duty to defend the innocent and helpless when appropriate.

I think that the bleeding heart liberals (and probably the rabid dog conservatives) each feel the same way every time they step in to interfere in some "poor helpless" person's life.

There is a word that is used in the alcholic recovery community: enabling. That is what it is called when you help a drunk avoid the results of his choices. When you lift him out of the gutter, or call in to his boss and say he's sick or lend him the money he needs to pay the rent, money he spent on his last binge.

Basically it is understood by many that enabling is not a good thing. It is not something which helps the person, but rather allows them to avoid learning a life lesson and getting on with growing up.

Naturally, there ARE times when compassion is warranted. But maybe not as many as we believe there are. I don't know. I'm just throwing these ideas up for contemplation.

- NonE

Very much agree

Having been raised going to AA meetings, via a recovered alcoholic mother, I've long understood the difference between compassion and enabling... and strive never to be an enabler. I probably lean too far the other way just to avoid it.

Seeing an innocent child in a situation where she is quite possibly going to be harmed for life, or worst case physically injured or killed, does not seem to fit that pattern.

If I see a person on the street being beaten by someone far stronger, I would have no hesitation to intervene and use whatever tools or effectiveness I have to stop that attack - up to and including the use of deadly force. I've spent a great deal of time, money and thought on this subject and though I will always have more thinking to do about specific situations, the overall position is pretty clear to me.

This great essay sums up my position in many ways. Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun: What Bearing Weapons Teaches About the Good Life.

Anyway, the problem in the situation with the child we've been talking about is that she does not have the advantage of much moral and ethical teaching to base an opinion or choice of action on. She has no way to defend herself. She is caught in a terribly dysfunctional family - however loving and good some of the members appear to be. ONE OF THEM is a very potent potential threat to her very life.

I do not know how to simply stand by, having decided it's none of my business, while the mortuary takes her little body away. sigh....

Yes, I need to learn more about it somehow and THEN make a decision. I can't just pass it off as nothing to concern myself with.

[Edited by Sunni to embed link]

So hard, so hard.

You might want to let her know that if she ever needs a safe place to escape to, to feel free to call on you. I wonder if there are any non-governmental organizations to which you could refer her. It is frightening that probably most of the options one might be able to offer her would enmesh her in a living hell of governmental abuse. I wonder if there are others who are as concerned as you. If so, it might be worthwhile to "pay a visit" on the potential abuser just to let him know that he is not invisible, and that if anything happens to this small and innocent person in his care (I assume it's a "his" as "we" tend to keep all that good stuff to our gender for the most part), he will find himself in some circumstances that he doesn't even want to contemplate.

Hard stuff. The typical answer would be to "call the authorities," but... well, fortunately you're not typical.

I don't envy your position.

- NonE

addendum:

I keep coming back to the idea that children are people, and while you may think you know what is right for her (and you may be right), it is still only proper in my mind for her to make a decision unless force beyond her means to repel is being applied. That being the case, I'm wondering if it might be possible, and if you might wish to, find a means of engaging her in an environment where she can experience different ideas and learn to model different behaviors. Perhaps offer her a job of some sort, or see if she might be interested in some activity in which you also may participate and in so doing be in a position to let her see another view of the world. ... ? Just some more thoughts.

Of children and links

Mama, you probably know from your own time as a parent that children are very often more capable than they realize. All but the most broken in spirit seem to be very determined, too; and your friend is not unaware of her home situation. Not being tested yet, she may be unaware of the latent power within her—and thus could well surprise everyone if something happened to arouse it.

She also has the wonderful example that you’ve provided over the past few years, which is not insignificant and is possibly also untested thus far. Can you trust her with a key to your house, so she has a safe place to escape?

Regarding links and other formatting in both blog entries and comments, scroll down below the dialog box into which content is entered, and there lies the very helpful “Input format” selector, with a very brief description of the code allowed for each one. “Full HTML” is the default, and creating a hotlink is simply the very familiar <a href="yoururl.here">your link text here</a>. If anyone has any questions about formatting or coding here, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Doing what I can...

Thanks, Non-E. I've been doing most of that the best I could for the last 2 1/2 years... and just see the danger growing lately.

The "he" is her brother. The mother simply cannot seem to see the danger. He has been able to physically dominate her (he has hit her a number of times per his sister) for the whole time I've lived here, and she seems incapable of imposing any sort of discipline - rather giving him anything he wants without question. The step father is powerless to do anything since that is the case.

This 16 year old is already on psychotropic medications at high dosage, has gone through several "treatment" plans for anger management, and his behavior becomes more and more unpredictable all the time. He's had two major traffic "accidents" and one serious motorcycle "accident" in the last three months. He's a walking time bomb.

His sister is now forbidden to be home alone with him! Yet it still happens as both parents work. She IS afraid of him, but still loves him as her brother and often denies the problem at all, insisting that he's "better" and everything is ok. This is perfectly understandable, but so very dangerous!

Yet the next time she comes with new bruises and fears. Last time it was a greenstick fracture of her wrist... supposedly done playing volley ball. Hmmmm I was not convinced, though I tried hard to be objective.

She has a key, and she knows that she can come to stay with me at any time of the day or night. I am just terrified that she will deny her danger one time too many...

I've talked to her and I've talked to her mother - more in general terms and making sure they know I'm here for them - but I strongly believe something else is called for soon.

My "guts" are telling me he is a freight train headed straight for this child and I have to do something. :(

And no, I'm not going to involve any "government" entity unless it is impossible to avoid.

I know...

Maybe there just isn't anything else I CAN do... but it bothers me so much on so many levels. Guess I'll just keep watching, loving her, and praying for now.

As for the html - I see all the codes, just don't know what some of them mean. They are different than what I use on my web site. I'll figure it out, but don't hold me to remembering any of it. :)