Friday, March 08, 2019

A Thought Experiment

Perusing through my facebook feed a few weeks ago, I came across this comment affixed to something posted by a friend who posts interesting stuff:

The MAGA hat is a symbol for xenophobia and these boys were othering this man. ... But as the tenure of mainstream debate descends into open racism in the US and elsewhere, the galvanising of those who support the MAGA message must be resisted.
which, because I don't want to pick apart a person, particularly a stranger, and of all the people and movements that need defending Nationalism, Nativism, Trumpism isn't one of them, I've pruned the comment back to what I need for the setup.

To leave it behind, allow me to boil it down to an assertion: 'Racism must be resisted.'

Which hopefully, everyone will be in agreement with, with even slippery racists unable to disagree so much as redefining their own behavior as 'patriotic' or whatever.

Now I'm currently residing in a nation where the official language be Espanol, or for those that don't habla Espanol 'Spanish'. And it has this curious property in it's grammar that I am still coming to grips with. 'I'm' translates to 'Soy' and 'hungry' translates to 'hambre' (the 'h' is silent) but the Espanol speakers don't say 'I'm hungry' or 'you're hungry' but 'I have hunger' and 'you have hunger' but they don't say things like 'Yo tengo hambre' it's just 'tengo hambre' (have hunger) and they don't say 'tu tengo hambre' (you have hunger) it's 'tienes hambre' the 'have' transforms grammatically to imply who is being spoken about yo = tengo and tu = tienes.

Now don't worry there won't be a test, largely because I am still likely to fail Spanish grammar. The point is that Spanish partially obfuscates the subject of a sentence. It's kind of naturally passive tense and according to this TED talk where English speakers are more likely to recall who caused an accident, Spanish speakers are more likely to recall that it was an accident.

So, am I trying to justify racism against irresponsible Spanish speakers? No. It's to point out 'Racism must be resisted' is in the passive voice, righteous and radical though it may seem in sentiment. Such that we can all agree that Racism must be resisted, but by whom?

Which brings on the thought experiment. With all the talk of institutional racism, I at least, am vague on the proposed solution. Must racism be resisted by you?

I don't know, what are you're qualifications? What constitutes racism? Who is competent to resist it in such a way that promotes greater social justice and not less? What quality controls are in place to provide me, and more importantly millions of people oppressed by racism protection against unintended consequences?

Thus enters the thought experiment. You are looking at the disproportionate incarceration rates of members of ethnic or racial minorities, under-representation on company boards, all levels of government, judicial bodies and the asset owning classes. Look at OECD well-being outcomes, representation among victims of crime, access to health care services, deaths in custody, teen pregnancies, OECD freedom indexes, credit ratings, small business ownership, high-school completion rates etc. It's easily found and compelling evidence that there is a problem with racism. The institutions are not delivering equity in outcomes and from this it can be fairly safely inducted that there is not equal opportunity achieved.

So you go to resist racism, gotta get the racist institutions out of the way. Here I must plead ignorance, I cannot imagine how this would be achieved. But for the sake of persisting with the argument - let's say a popular radical resistance leads a peaceful uprising to dismantle the racist institutions leaving us with a blank slate.

I sincerely hope, what is pictured here, isn't some genocide or holocaust of racists, rounding up all the bad people and getting rid of them. Although if we remove lethal means, perhaps this just translates as a blanket ban on racists holding office.

What's the purity test? Because it is one thing to establish in hindsight that somebody was a racist, how do you keep them out of office?

Here I imagine most people are thinking 'well I'm not a racist.' and so by your lived experience, you're subjective reality you have a starting point - you aren't a racist, you know this for sure.

From there, it might expand that because you aren't a racist, you would never associate with racists, therefore your friends aren't racist.

So in terms of let's call it 'policing' racism, and all forms of discrimination, it's the simple matter of you can police it on a personal level for this is the very act of resisting racism, and racism must be resisted. Going more broadly, you and your non-racist friends can police it.

Great! we call this 'Cronyism' You and anyone you associate with isn't racist because you a non-racist can vouch for them and therefore the chief qualification one needs to resist racism is to be a friend of yours.

However, we've gotten rid of the institutions, so this is no longer a think global act local situation, this is now a think global act global situation. You are going to need thousands of friends.

No problemo, since you aren't racist, and your friends therefore aren't racist, then your friends' friends by deduction cannot be racist. And this network can potentially spread endlessly because of the 6 degrees of seperation...

Oh, the very network theory that has substantiated the connectivity of all humans on earth would lead to a somewhat implausible deductive conclusion - nobody on Earth is racist, therefore there's nothing to resist or police. Instead it might seem that one of our premises is wrong - and the most likely suspect is that if you aren't a racist you cannot associate with, befriend, and thus recruit a racist to your cause.

Here then, our own subjective lived experience of being a non-racist might prove inadequate. What we may want to do is move beyond our knowledge of non-racism to perhaps codifying it or it's antithesis into a more scrutable public document. Perhaps codify it into say, law? And similarly private institutions can codify it into their own policies and codes of conduct.

An objective document against which the non-racists performance can be measured, and enforced.

I can actually wholeheartedly get behind the definition of Racism for example that says 'Racism = Prejudice + Power' provided of course, power is defined as 'the ability to act or do.' in which case rather speciestly the only conscious creatures that are absolved of racism then become what we hairless apes refer to as 'the Animal Kingdom' where the Lion is pretty much a total figurehead not even a constitutional Monarch.

And sadly we can't be governed and adjudicated by a panel of Labradors for the very power they lack in civic affairs renders them incapable of acting out these roles.

So how when it comes to appointing people society wide to these bodies that systemically resist racism do you ensure in our thought experiment that the new order is free of systemic racism where the old order was not?

A pledge of allegiance to the cause of resisting racism? A profession of belief or ideology? Perhaps magical hats or attire? Some claim that anyone affiliated with the New-order is thus rendered incapable of being they themselves racist?

Great! This is called 'Theocracy'

Historically, because God is an omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent being that presided in ultimate judgement over the fate of our immortal soul, it was well understood that to take the cloth and enter His various priesthoods was an infallible way to know a man to be above and beyond reproach. A Theocracy is where the priesthood presides over the state in the name of God, and these holy men are even granted the ability to absolve the lay folk of their sins.

Thus, because of their supernatural claims it became problematic when Theocratic leaders started receiving complaints that one of the representatives of God had stuck their dick down their child's throat. You knew the child was lying because it's not only theoretically impossible, but practically impossible because if such sinful behavior could infiltrate the Church, that would mean that the studying of scripture, the teachings of the prophets, the example of Christ, the blessings of Holy Water, the direct communication with God, experience of revelation, miracle of transubstantiation, the process of prayer, the confirmation, wearing of crosses, of holy vestments et al. combined, was all ineffective at warding off sin and the devil's influence.

However, this wouldn't happen on an enlightened and secular basis, with academic underpinnings. You could establish a Theocracy that wouldn't be infiltrated by hypocrites , corrupted in practice or just plain incompetent. You could have extensive training protocols, codes of conduct, oversight panels and committees, internal auditing and adjudication, internal review, anonymous complaint channels, collaboration with community interest groups, elected officials, accounting practices.

A proper, institutional organization with checks and balances recruiting from the general public and scrutinized by the media, by representative government and held to a standard that resists racism.

Great! This is known as 'What we currently have.'

But... it can't be. It cannot be! Because what we currently have is institutional racism right? I don't know. I have never heard an intelligible argument to substantiate institutional racism that wasn't a form of affirming the consequent, or perhaps to a lesser extent a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument. Which is not me denying the existence of racism, or even cultures of racism. It is me expressing skepticism of the evidence for institutional racism by the standards of formal philosophical argumentation. Which is to say this headline and this headline can plausibly coexist.

And if you think about a case like Ted Haggard, you have a man representing a body that opposes with religious conviction same-sex marriage in America and was outed himself as practicing homosexual acts. I feel, most people would not sight this as evidence of institutional homosexuality within the church, nor Donald Trump's hiring of Omerosa as evidence of institutional post-racism within the Trump Administration.

Of course there's notable historical examples of institutional racism, like the White Australia Policy, the Stolen Generation, Jim Crow Laws and Segregation, Redlining, South African Apartheid, the Japanese constitution... Japan. So yes, there's a lot of institutional racism extant and that has existed throughout history and where improvements have been made sometimes it has been through things like a Civil Rights Movement as per US and South Africa, sometimes with international economic sanctions and condemnation. Elsewhere it has occured through the ordinary institutional process such as Australia with the Whitlam Government reforms of the 1970s and the High Court rulings on Native Title.

I'd generally have to plead ignorance that when a lot of people talk about institutional racism, I'm not sure what they are talking about. To improve myself I looked for a formal definition and found this on Wikipedia:

"The collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people."

Which is to say, I am totally on board with this definition, but again I have my suspicions that this wouldn't be the generally accepted definition, because it requires the institutional racism to be visible via processes, attitudes and behavior and attributed to unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping.

My felt experience is that institutional racism is substantiated by anything that has failed to achieve equity between ethnic groups.

And that is what needs must be achieved, and my thought experiment for me leads me towards you or anybody else through your best efforts and purist intentions designing a solution to institutional and individual racism, racism in all it's forms very close if not identical to what we've already achieved or failed to achieve... or worse.

I guess my position is that revolution via popular uprising of the righteous and radical masses is not a solution I would get behind. My intention to fight and resist not just racism and all prejudice is through careful examination and policing of myself, to entertain and suspect that I myself may be prejudice in both ways and means that I am conscious and unconscious of, and hold myself to account, compassionately and mercifully. I do not feel competent or up to the task in all but the most overt and immediate cases of racism, of policing others and would rather delegate a monopoly on policing to institutions flawed as they are.

Revolutions have an abysmal history of achieving progress except indirectly by paving the way for more progressive tyrannies. Which isn't to say Tyrannies are superior or justified, just that popular revolutions have historically been a costly and time consuming way to reestablish a status quo, or at the very least wash out that the revolutionaries are no less prone to corruption than the old system. There is less social mobility, less effective representation and greater income inequality in the United States than England. England that has a taxpayer funded Monarch who is the largest private landowning individual in the world and an actual class system.

So when I ask, racism must be resisted, but must it be resisted by you? I'm asking for assurances of competence. What my general experience is socially, is that what people have to assure me with is their deep conviction that they would never, could never, be racist or corrupt.

The problem is, I'm an idiot. I don't really know how racist and corrupt I am, I am therefore not in the position to intuitively sense your competence. As such, I'm inclined to defer that the ones best delegated the task of resisting racism are not private indivual citizens, but institutions that have got in trouble again and again and again for being racist and thus have grown an ever expanding administrative body and channels for oversight. Because as imperfect and innefficient as they are, they have places I can go look shit up, numbers I can call, experts such as lawyers I could potentially consult who understand their procedures and channels. I have none of this when it comes to a group of private individuals who charge themselves with resisting racism in ways they see as fit.

I'm sorry I'm a moron what can I say.

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