Tag: moral questions


convert or die… or wait a few hundred years

June 30th, 2012 — 4:39pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

You probably missed the phenomenal article on China in the LA Times a while back, which came on the heels of more and more morose news of what’s looking less and less like a recovery of the American economy. Among other points, one of the more central themes the article focused on was that Chinese culture is not American culture:

The Chinese have a powerful sense of their identity and worth. They have never behaved toward the West in a supplicant manner, for reasons Westerners persistently fail to understand or grasp.

China is simply not like the West and never will be. There has been an underlying assumption that the process of modernization would inevitably lead to Westernization; yet modernization is not just shaped by markets, competition and technology but by history and culture. And Chinese history and culture are very different from that of any Western nation-state.

And so far as I can tell, no one protested this observation as bigoted or racist or even remotely controversial. It’s simply a cultural observation.

Chinese culture is not Western culture. It is, as they say, what it is.

Cultures instill different values, they have different norms, they lead to markedly different behaviors. As the article so aptly put it, our “failure to understand the Chinese has repeatedly undermined our ability to anticipate their behavior.” Western culture, it’s often said, is rooted in “Judeo-Christian” values. These values have become imbued in our legal systems and constitutional rights, over thousands of years religion has seeped into our sense of justice – of right and wrong.

This exact same argument of culture dissonance can be made when it comes to religion, between Christianity and Islam, although just about everyone seems terrified to bring up the obvious.

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Comment » | 9/11, al-Qaeda, Charlemagne, Christianity, Clovis, condoning violence, faith, islam, islamist, Muslim, news, Nicene Creed, organized religion, terrorism

what’s in a day?

June 8th, 2012 — 6:55pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

Recent tax data recently led to a select group of families being labeled as “The Fortunate 400.”  But before we look into where that name comes from, let’s consider something real quick.

There are hundreds of people who made more in one day of work than someone who pulls in just over six-figures a year.  Much more in one day.  Five times as much in fact, more in three-hours than he made in a year.  Trying to argue that this is simply what happens in a capitalist economy gets a little bit fuzzy when you consider that although between the 1930s and the 1970s CEO pay increased by a modest four-percent, since the 1970s it has increased eight-fold while employee pay has remained stagnant:

The AFL-CIO reckons that the ratio of chief executive pay to median worker pay rose from 42-1 in 1980 to 343-1 in 2010. The average S&P 500 CEO now makes over $10 million a year, according to a report from the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Comment » | current affairs, news, politics, racial inequality, war on drugs

because we destroyed ourselves

May 25th, 2012 — 11:52am

(read the book free onlineread the Reddit AMA)

As our financial crisis deepens and the schisms between the haves and the have-nots continue to open, American drug laws and the prison system they’ve perpetuated are beginning to gather an increasingly harsh spotlight. But so what. It’s not like the War on Drugs, which started over forty-years ago in 1973, has done anything to increase the growing level of economic disparity in America… right?

A lot happened in 1973.

It was a few years after Nixon slammed the gold window shut, the waning hours of a decapitated Civil Rights movement, and the year we began to disentangle ourselves from Vietnam. But it also marks the genesis of the War on Drugs: the year the Rockefeller Drug Laws were passed. And that same year something funny happened: the income gap between black and white began to widen back out, instead of closing – as it had been up until 1973.

Did the start of the War on Drugs play a significant role in creating our present economic and social realities – where the average black family has eight-cents of wealth for every dollar owned by whites, and a black child is nine-times more likely than a white child to have a parent in prison?

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14 comments » | books, current affairs, domestic terror, news, politics, publishing, racial inequality, terrorism, war on drugs

innocents and innocence alike

August 13th, 2011 — 12:52pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

In one of The Dark Knight‘s pivotal scenes, Alfred descends into a strictly ordered and starkly lit Batcave as Bruce Wayne is doggedly patching himself up. After helping his employer with some stitching, Alfred realizes that Master Bruce doesn’t fully comprehend the dystopian miasma of violence that the Joker has brought upon Gotham City:

Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?

Alfred: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

It’s a fantastic scene from a cinematic standpoint, but a problem occurs when you pull the Joker out of the movie as one crazy-ass allegory for chaos and death. And especially when you make the leap of trying to fit terrorism into the framework provided by the Joker, to use the the Joker as a rubric for terrorism.

No one better proves this than the Ft. Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan.

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Comment » | books, counterinsurgency, Current Events, domestic terror, islam, news, politics, terrorism

the water is wider

August 5th, 2011 — 9:31am

(learn more about the book at the “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit)

Along the banks of the Mississippi, simmering tensions that should’ve been judicially dissolved over fifty-years ago have recently roiled back to the surface.  Due to the growing likelihood of financial dissolution, the school district that governs inner-city Memphis schools recently voted forfeit its charter and force a merger with neighboring Shelby County, a much wealthier and much whiter district.

Families in Shelby County aren’t exactly thrilled, its Board of Education sued to block the merger and referred to the proposed melding as a “hostile surrender.” And Memphis is far from alone.

Since the economy began to tank in 2008, thirty-four states and Washington D.C. have been forced to make cuts in K-12 education, with many of those cuts affecting the poor and disadvantaged.  Examples of this include Arizona eliminating support for disadvantaged elementary school kids, California cutting help for high-need students, and Illinois ending a program aimed at reading and study skills of at-risk students.

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