Monday, January 18, 2010

Government and racism

It occurred to me today that most if not all forms of racism are driven and sponsored by activist government -- and in fact, the dynamics of the private sector are largely anti-racist.

Slavery seems to be the clearest example. In order for slavery to exist, the government must establish and enforce the "right" of one person to own another. If the government does not pursue runaway slaves, they are no longer slaves. If the government charges masters with battery when they beat their slaves, false imprisonment when they hold them against their will, and rape when they sexually abuse them (as they would with citizens outside the legally protected "master-slave" relationship), there would be no slavery. Without government sanction, slavery is impossible.

Another example is "nationalism" -- the sense that the "French" need to protect and advance their rights against the "Germans" by going to war and taking their lands. But who really benefits when a state gains land? Not the people -- the STATE. Say France takes 1000 hectares from Germany. Who now owns that land? The State. And they can distribute it as they wish -- most likely, to those who are in good with the political elite. Without governments to fight over land, the notion of the "French" taking land from the "Germans" would be meaningless.

Then of course we have "Jim Crowe" laws -- again, the GOVERNMENT placing one group into a subserviant legal status.

Then of course you have the use of race by politicians to galvanize support for themselves. In Africa, this is particularly vivid as many many politicians run on a tribal, rather than an ideological, platform.

It's less obvious, but no less effective in Western politics. The Far Right often advances policies that unfairly benefit the Majority (e.g. immigration caps and English only legislation), while the Far Left often advances policies that unfairly benefit Minoroties and those in the Majority who can be manipulated into feeling guilty about being in the Majority (e.g. affirmative action, "national apologies," and "hate crime" legislation). Ultimately, they are advancing policies that pit the majority against minorities, when in fact those policies either harm everyone concerned or do nothing substantive at all.

In the private sector, of course, none of this works. Money is money, no matter who gives it to you. A business that only buys or sells to one race will be at a distinct competitive disadvantage with respect to companies willing to buy and sell based purely on price and merit. Racism is not profitable. Wars of nationalism are expensive, and disrupt profitable trade and tourism. Simply, ordinary people live better and richer without racism to limit their opportunities for commerce and social intercourse.

I wonder. Without political interests to manipulate us into racism, would there be any?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Argument and lecture.

I always learn so much more from an argument than from a lecture. It's kind of like vision, I think. You see better with two eyes than with one. Why? Because each eye sees a different picture. With info from both, your mind can interpolate a single picture that couldn't have been seen by either eye alone. Voila. Depth perception.

This has particularly applied in my recent study of economics and the climate controversy. I learn an enormous amount about how the issues work and play together by hearing disagreements ... because my mind is forced to build a deeper, more nuanced picture than either side alone could have provided in a lecture.

If I were going to run a university, I think I would structure classes with 2, rather than 1 professor. And the class would be structured around controversial (and ostensibly interesting) issues in the subject. And each prof would argue his own perspective. In the process, they would have to explain the basic elements of the subject. To make it comprehensible. As a result, students would gain a much deeper, profound understanding of the topic, as well as the modes and ways of analyzing and criticizing ideas.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Academic questions

I chuckled at the non-academic and uneducated attempt to distinguish 'academics' from 'truly educated people.' Who determines this?

It's a statement of opinion. I determine it.

What skills are needed?

Experience working with both people who have interacted in the world of business and government, and those who have spent their entire lives on one side of a classroom or another.

What tests are used?

Why would there be tests? It's an opinion.

Who teaches the 'academics' and 'truly educated people'?

Academics are taught by academics alone. Truly educated people are taught by academics, people with real world experience, and their own real world experience.

Is 'real world' a term of art?

See definition number two here:

Where is this 'real world'?

See above.

What constitutes 'more time in the lab'? Does this lab time test apply to all 'academics' or a subset of the group? What about the others?

This is poorly written. Clarify.

Is 'spit back' a technical term?

Out in the real world (see above), it means "repeat without questioning."

How do you test for 'dogma'?


How do you test for 'spitting back'?

%Spittingback = GPA/%CriticalThought

What is the relationship between 'a decade ago' and dogma?

The longer a person holds on to stupid ideas, the more dogmatic they are.

How would times of one year ago or two decades ago change the test?

It would not.

If something is not dogma, what is it?

Either error or reasonable belief.

Do academics "fancy themselves much better than the rest of mankind," or do particular geologists on this page happen to know more about geology than the EE proponent here?

Are those mutually exclusive?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Crescent + Star

Just learned how the crescent moon and star came to be widespread symbols of Islam. The crescent moon was the symbol of the pagan goddess Diana, goddess of the hunt. The city of Byzantium adopted Diana as its patron goddess, and with it her symbol, the crescent moon, and put the moon on their flags. When Byzantium was renamed Constantinople and became the Capitol of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, they added the star, symbol of Mary. For 1000 years, the star and crescent were the symbol of Constantinople -- a symbolic fusion of ancient paganism with Christianity.

In 1453, when the Ottomon's conquered Constantinople, they adopted the crescent + star symbol for the empire. Since the empire was over so much of the Muslim world, it became associated with Islam itself.

And now, it's widely used as the symbol of Islam itself -- on dozens of flags, and the Red Crescent (Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross), etc.

Evidently, there are a number of Muslims, aware of the pagan and Christian origins of the symbol, who disapprove of it. But obviously they're in the minority.

Fascinating how much history, religion, and metaphor is wrapped up in a symbol.