Search Results for political
The term “politically correct” describes an idea that the majority – or a highly visible group – in a given historical time period see as true or acceptable.
When a politically correct idea takes hold, many follow suit and boldly proclaim with an almost religious certainty some ‘right’ idea or course of action that could just be an ephemeral, ideological trend.
The classical French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) argued that democracy’s emphasis on equality could possibly squelch individuality, leading to a suffocating majority rule characterized by total conformity.
In Biblical lore, Pontius Pilate voices the philosophical essence of political correctness when he says to Jesus Christ:
What is Truth! (John, 18:38 NASB).
Likewise, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, Pilate sarcastically says:
But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours?
And the following from the New Testament offers a rather scathing view of worldly wisdom, which could be seen as a kind of political correctness:
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS” (I Corinthians 3:18-20 NASB).
Having said this much, we shouldn’t become so jaded, cynical or perhaps self-righteous to say that all politically correct ideas are bogus. Many may have virtue. The key, however, is to not blindly submit the intellect (and heart) to majority opinion while assessing politically correct ideas.
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Aside from being an adjective denoting a relation to politics, social theorists such as Michael Parenti¹ say the word ‘political’ has become a euphemism obscuring real human choices that influence or determine outcomes in a competitive struggle for control, command or jurisdiction.
The term can be used to hide the various human indecencies that may accompany organizational behavior.
Sociological power theorists often say that political choices may be legitimized as unavoidable due to “policy” and ”the greater good.”
Policies, however, are sometimes created to maintain systems of exploitation, fear and totalitarian control. Adolf Hitler used this strategy when writing laws to justify the actions of the Nazis. And while politicians may believe they’re acting in accord with the greater good, sometimes they’re perceived as flat wrong and removed from office.
In our competitive world, with much to gain and lose, to use the word ‘political’ in everyday speech arguably is a political act in itself.
Some are pessimistic about and simply “hate” politics. But critics of this negative take on politics would argue that politicians are just people, for the most part doing their best to make positive changes in an imperfect world. In other words, one must be political if one wants any change at all.
The term politically correct is arguably a subcategory of the political. This describes an idea believed to be true, legitimate or acceptable because the majority – or a highly visible social group – in a given culture and historical time period see it that way.
Quite likely some merely pretend to believe in politically correct ideas for fear of repercussions if they were to voice dissenting, politically incorrect opinions.
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In the American TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg are a disturbing species of cybernetic organisms whose sole purpose is to increase their alleged perfection by assimilating the intelligence and technology of weaker life forms throughout the galaxy.
Their technology enables them to psychically connect to a collective like a termite colony. Individuality is unknown and the Borg exist in a dark synchrony of de-individualizing amalgamation.
Among other things, they arguably represent the Orwellian extreme of unreflective political, corporate and religious yesmen and yeswomen who do whatever they’re told by authoritarian figures without heeding their own conscience.
The Borg image is particularly effective as it recasts previous Frankenstein and zombie myths within a futuristic scenario of techno-gloom. An interesting and optimistic twist, however, appears with the character Seven of Nine (played by actor Jerry Ryan and introduced in Star Trek: Voyager) who was once abducted by the Borg but is gradually re-humanized among the supportive crew of the Federation starship Voyager.
In the feature film Star Trek: First Contact (1996) we’re introduced to the hideously compelling Borg Queen—again, not unlike the Queen of a termite colony. She’s a frightening but, for some, darkly attractive creature who in the TV series Voyager is jealous of Captain Katherine Janeway, arguably a symbol of American drive and determination. Indeed, heroic Federation starship captains like James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard and Katherine Janeway represent the very opposite of the Borg’s chilling refrain: “Resistance is Futile.”
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Book of Isaiah – Isaiah, son of Amoz, was a statesman, counselor to Kings and a prophet in the Old Testament around the 8th-century BCE. He apparently lived in Jerusalem, having a profound influence in the Kingdom of Judah.
Like many other books in the Bible, scholars question the authorship of the Book of Isaiah. While some fundamentalists still believe that all of the books of the Bible were written by the authors ascribed to them, contemporary biblical scholars generally agree that the prophetic book written in Isaiah’s name contains material from at least two other unnamed prophets, known as Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah.
The Isaiah recorded in the Bible shows some hostility towards his political enemies, but this is tempered by his hope for a better future that he never sees… not in this world, anyhow. Wikipedia nicely sums up the bulk of Isaiah:
The first 39 chapters prophesy doom for a sinful Judah and for all the nations of the world that oppose God, while the last 27 prophesy the restoration of the nation of Israel and a new creation in God’s glorious future kingdom; this section includes the Songs of the Suffering Servant, four separate passages referring to the nation of Israel, interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Jesus Christ.¹
In Trito-Isaiah God reveals his total sovereignty over human life and thought:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are my ways your ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.²
After the Assyrian invasion of 701 BCE, it is generally believed that Isaiah was martyred.
² Isaiah 55 : 8-9 . This is one of my favorite Biblical passages and it was instrumental in my conversion to Catholicism. During a transitional stage in my life a non-Catholic Christian, quite out of the blue, suggested I read Isaiah 55 : 6-9. When I did, the power of the words hit me hard and I eventually converted to Catholicism. Interestingly, the numbers 55 and 69 had already been personally significant for several years prior, in a sort of ongoing synchronistic way. So hearing the Christian suggest I read that particular passage, and the effect it had on me, contained special significance. It seems that God usually works that way (MC).
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Roland Barthes (1915-1980) was a French semiologist, best known for his book Mythologies (1957). Barthes argued that most of what we assume to be natural could be products of history and culture. More specifically, linguistic and artistic representations play a crucial role in the naturalization of arbitrary and morally ambiguous historical events.
By way of example, politically active gay persons usually challenge the following argument:
Homosexuality is ethically bad because it is unnatural, and heterosexuality is ethically good because it is natural.
Critics will say that, according to this line of reasoning, a deadly rattlesnake could be good for children because it is natural. And this seems a valid critique of this kind of argument. Regardless of one’s beliefs about the joys or horrors of homosexuality, to challenge it with this type of reasoning is philosophically weak.
Barthes also makes a distinction between readerly and writerly text, outlined well at Wikipedia:
A text that makes no requirement of the reader to “write” or “produce” their own meanings. The reader may passively locate “ready-made” meaning. Barthes writes that these sorts of texts are “controlled by the principle of non-contradiction” (156), that is, they do not disturb the “common sense,” or “Doxa,” of the surrounding culture. The “readerly texts,” moreover, “are products [that] make up the enormous mass of our literature” (5). Within this category, there is a spectrum of “replete literature,” which comprises “any classic (readerly) texts” that work “like a cupboard where meanings are shelved, stacked, [and] safeguarded” (200).
A text that aspires to the proper goal of literature and criticism: “… to make the reader no longer a consumer but a producer of the text” (4). Writerly texts and ways of reading constitute, in short, an active rather than passive way of interacting with a culture and its texts. A culture and its texts, Barthes writes, should never be accepted in their given forms and traditions. As opposed to the “readerly texts” as “product,” the “writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages” (5). Thus reading becomes for Barthes “not a parasitical act, the reactive complement of a writing,” but rather a “form of work”¹
However, this distinction seems spurious, for readers are always interpreting and creating as they take in a text, regardless of if being a so-called “classic” text or an “avante-garde” text. In fact, avant garde texts usually emerge within some new kind of clique or arts group that can be just as “bourgeois” as traditional groups. This was made abundantly clear whenever I attended a Cultural Studies class in university, which usually reeked with the snobbery of style exuded by some students living on their wealthy parents’ credit cards.
¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes#Key_terms. See more on this distinction here: http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/~raha/700_701_web/BarthesLO/readerly.html
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Not until fairly recently has corruption been recognized as a valid topic within the social sciences, perhaps partly because it’s not easily verified. Also, shrewd researchers wishing to avoid repercussions in an imperfect world may know when it’s best to keep quiet.
Corruption most often involves bribery and abuses of legitimate authority.¹ In business and government corruption may take place between as few as two people or among a relatively small number or insiders. Some examples in government would be employing a less qualified person than others or closing a business deal as a result of clandestine social and/or economic connections. In business, examples would be market collusion and all types of fraud involving more than one person.
Extreme conspiracy theorists contend that a so-called ‘culture of fear’ is purposefully orchestrated by inherently deceptive governments in order to legitimize wars and bolster certain markets. Along these lines, some believe that corruption has permeated Western culture to a degree formerly associated with so-called third and second world countries. But again, proof is usually hard to find and, most likely, always will be.
Within psychology and especially theology, the term corruption refers to specific individuals or groups whenever an action is deemed morally degrading by another group claiming moral authority. In some circles of Eastern and Western mystical theology corrupt acts are said to “pollute” the individual soul (or in Buddhism, to attract negative skandhas).
These two ideas of corruption – the social vs. the psychological and theological – may at first seem separate. But on closer inspection, they’re arguably connected. As Jesus puts it in Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a rotten tree cannot produce good fruit.” True, Christ is talking about true and false religious prophets in this passage, but it seems fair to generalize this idea to all aspects of life.
So what does this mean for the average person in our imperfect world? Even the upright schoolteacher or respected academic has probably photocopied material that is under copyright. And many decent folks made cassette tapes of their favorite albums back in the day.
The answer to this question has spawned a lot of debate in philosophy and theology about ethics, and clever thinkers have come up with a range of ideas from “situational ethics” to “necessary evil” to try to grapple with the realities of imperfect beings living in an imperfect world.
Moreover, in sociology and economics were hear arguments about the alleged positive aspects of crime–for instance, crime is said to be good for anti-crime businesses and services (e.g. anti-virus software), as well as for neutral market areas (e.g. the old cassette tape). And even the classical sociologist Emile Durkheim believed that a limited amount of crime was good for society because it helped to define boundaries for acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior, this awareness strengthening society as a whole.² But ultimately, it seems only God can know what’s right and wrong, this also being one of Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 7:1).
¹ For a good list of these potential abuses, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption.
² For a good discussion on Durkheim’s view, see http://misssrobinson.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/how-do-functionalists-explain-crime
Corruption - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (plato.stanford.edu/entries/corruption)
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Consubstantiation is the teaching about the Lord’s Supper that says Christ is “in, with, and under” the bread and wine, which themselves are not altered in substance.¹ It’s often associated with Martin Luther, even though he spoke in terms of “sacramental union.”
The teaching, however, resonates with Luther’s view that Christ’s divine and human aspects are so closely united that he is omnipresent within all of creation.
Wikipedia outlines the, perhaps, first visibly historical incidence of consubstantiation:
In England in the late 14th century, there was a political and religious movement known as Lollardy. Among much broader goals, the Lollards affirmed a form of consubstantiation—that the Eucharist remained physically bread and wine, while becoming spiritually the body and blood of Christ. Lollardy survived up until the time of the English Reformation.²
¹ An alteration of substance but not of form is key to the Catholic belief in transubstantiation.
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Confucius (551-479 BCE, Latinized from K’ung-Fu-Tzu = Great Master K’ung) was a Chinese philosopher and statesman.
Born in the state of Lu (modern Shantung), Confucius was orphaned as a child and grew up in poverty. Despite this, he devoted himself to education at age 15 and married at 19. He became a teacher in 531 BCE, and in 501 BCE Governor of Chung-tu. He was then Minister of Works, and later Minister of Justice. His quest for societal reform was popular among the common folk but political enemies forced him to leave Lu. As a result, he traveled a great deal.
Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.
Do to others as you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, prefigured in Leviticus 19:18).
In vain I have looked for a single person capable of seeing his own faults and bringing the charge home against himself.
You hypocrites, remove the plank from your own eye first, then you will see clearly to take the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5).
A man with clever words and an ingratiating appearance is seldom a man of humanity.
Beware of false prophets who appear in sheep’s clothing but underneath are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15).
Concerning this latter comparison, Confucius believed that humanity is, at heart, good (jen). If taught and guided by rules (li) that are in accord with the mandate of heaven (Tao), a young child naturally grows into a decent human being and attains nobility (chun tzu).
Apparently Confucius said that at age 50 he learned to control his speech, at 70 his actions were naturally aligned with the “Mandate of Heaven” and at 80 he gained mastery over his thoughts.
But some of Confucius’ ideas are rooted in ancient cultural biases that don’t fly today. For instance
Women and servants are most difficult to deal with. If you are familiar with them, they cease to be humble. If you keep a distance from them, they resent it.
This is interesting historical material but hardly a universal, timeless teaching. Following Confucius’ death in 479 BCE, various schools of Confucianism arose.
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† Confucius quotations from Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1963.
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