Monday, January 25, 2016

History Needs Trump Political Correctness

History refers to what actually happened. True, that's not always been the case in history books. However when I say history, that's what I'm referring to. Not the winner writing history to support their views as has often been the case.

Political correctness is a valued concept. Up to a point. When political correctness comes up against history, history needs always to win over being political correct. Always. And it may not always be pretty.

Paying attention to accurate, transparent history keeps us on the path of moderating our future in the most benign and reasonable directions.

Sorry, nothing here about Donald J. Trump, per se. However, the needs of history, do trump the need for political correctness. To sum up, we need to face our true and actual history, rather than bow to the need for political correctness, even at the expense of hurting a few feelings here and there. But what should only be a few, very delicate personality types and not the majority of a nation.

I would like to make a short side step here about group intelligence and how the group intelligence decreases with increases in size (for some groups). This is discussed on Nova Spevack. Think GOP or in your country, conservatives (most likely), and not GOP groups (or non conservatives, or progressives or liberals if you like). This is true seemingly with these conservatives. Why? Denying reality, obviously for them but not with others. Again, why? Using reality as cleanly as possible to achieve progress. The GOP and conservatives by definition are not progressive and thus well, you get the idea. Or you're a conservative, possibly. Because it ain't rocket science.

Side note, here's John Cleese on negative effects of overly PC behavior on campus.

Okay, getting to the point....

Recently I was watching Real Time with Bill Maher (episode 374, January 22, 2016)​. Bill showed a video clip you might remember from last fall of a Yale college student yelling at Yale faculty member, Nicholas Christakis. The student was upset about a "politically incorrect" topic regarding Halloween costumes, in part because of a letter sent out by Nicholas' wife Erika, another faculty member.

Something the student screamed at Nicholas hit me. She screamed:

"It is not about building an intellectual space. It is not. Do you understand that?  It's about creating a home here."

I beg to differ, actually. Where exactly do you really think you are? Why do you think you are there?

I highly resent her screaming at any faculty member to, "Be quiet!" She is apparently not learning at least some of what she should be learning in being there, at a University, at Yale University.

That was the first indicator of her going off the tracks prior to her next statements.

As the NY Times article on this indicates, Yale does have problems. I'm not denying that. I'm not denying the student may (or may not) have reason to be as upset as she was. Let's step aside from that for a moment as that's not at all what I'm wanting to talk about here.

Maybe I shouldn't address this topic at all as I'm really only addressing something she said and it really has little to do with the actual controversy she was yelling about. I won't wimp out, my opinion can be shared, then I want to get to my point.

If you want to take me to task on any of this, please do so about what I'm about to get into and not the Halloween costume issue, because I'm really concerned more about an even bigger issue. Just as the girl in the video should be. So try not to get sidetracked.

Let me explain. I've read the letter the girl is upset about and I agree its author, Erika. She really hasn't said anything that remarkable. Except perhaps, to overly politicized young people in college reading it.

Halloween is essentially and by definition, "Politically Incorrect Day".

First and foremost, it was originally for dressing up to scare demons away. You don't do that looking perfect, you look offensive. People now are just offended that they may be the ones offended and not the demons. But that is what demons are, our fears, inside us. So wear whatever you want.

"Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as vampires, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Over time, in the United States the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, and generic archetypes such as ninjas and princesses." - Wikipedia


"Halloween costumes in the contemporary Western world sometimes depict people and things from present times and are sometimes read in terms of their political and cultural significance. Halloween costumes are sometimes denounced for cultural appropriation when they uncritically use stereotypical representations of other groups of people. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Secretary Julie Myers was involved in a scandal when she awarded "Best Costume" at the ICE Halloween party to an 'escaped Jamaican prisoner' dressed in dreadlocks and blackface."

The costumes are now of a blend that has evolved over the years out of Ireland and Scotland and have included various associations, both good and bad. The purpose of the Halloween costume is fundamentally to evoke a reaction. Be it of fear, humor, dismay or simply irritation, it is the one night a year where this has generally been culturally accepted. Sociologically speaking, it s a relief valve for a society such as America where racial and other tensions have sought a pressure release. You can "let your hair down", be not yourself, and make fun without too much fear of reprisals.

In today's climate of over political correctness, especially on college campuses, thanks to the parents of the students raising their children with their paranoia about making a mistake either in childrearing or in social interactions, we find these children have attempted to continue on their parents path in a mistaken effort that more is better.

Initially what was fear of others, because a fear of offending others, which in an effort to be as polite as possible has degenerated into a fear campaign of far too many things becoming socially unacceptable with people expressing an inability to laugh at things that are validly funny out of a concern of being ethnically insensitive.

We should be able to take it on the chin and move on as adults. We will not all find all other's humor funny at times. But that doesn't mean we have to chastise and demand rulings to eliminate these things. That only attempts to systemically remove some of the social lubricant that is so needed in such a large and diversified nation.

I fully agree with what Erika says in closing her letter:

"Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.
"But – again, speaking as a child development specialist – I think there might be something missing in our discourse about the exercise of free speech (including how we dress ourselves) on campus, and it is this: What does this debate about Halloween costumes say about our view of young adults, of their strength and judgment?
"In other words: Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that."

Now, that being said I know for a fact how some young college students can take wearing any costume over the top and to the point of simply trying to be mean spirited. That kind of behavior is abhorrent and needs to be dealt with so students can wear any costume. Yet they need to have some sense of how their actions inflame and conflagrate feelings in others.

Where they may have been reasonably passable in the appearance, they may not be in how the individual acts while wearing the costume. That really is about manners though, even when inebriated at a Halloween party or going about where there are not those who have been involved with their evening's festivities.

Some sensitivity would be appreciated, but too much is still too  much. Grow a pair.

Bill Maher has said on his show regarding the perceived reason behind a lack of policy at Yale regarding Halloween costumes:

"Which is what these days they call a microaggression. Which begs the question, if it is a microagression, shouldn't it just make you microangry?"

A university IS 100% first and foremost about creating an intellectual space.

It IS after all, a University. It is NOT high school where teachers have to worry about hurting student's feelings because... they actually are children. At a university you expected to practice being an adult. You are learning and practicing to be educated as adults who will then have to one day go out into the big bad world and deal with real issues of racism, abuses of power and discrimination on so many levels that it can sometimes make your head spin.

A university is not your local community center. It IS a place of HIGHER learning.

That begs of its students to be involved, but also to be involved correctly and appropriately and in the way most conducive to learning. That requires that educators tear apart these young minds and rebuild them. They are paid, especially in the more intense and prestigious universities, to put massive amounts of knowledge into young pliant minds that have trouble accepting so much information. And it hurts.

Still, student after student, year after year, decade after decade and, century after century have pulled it all together and succeeded. Though some fail and some do drop out. Not everyone make it through a university or college even, to graduate. But you figure a way, you do the job, you heal every day and then go back, force in more and you learn to how and how to do it and use it. How to be effective to go on, hopefully to do great things after you graduate. If, you graduate.

The "home" thing is a byproduct of all that.

I don't really much care if you find a university home or not, you emotionally lazy child. You are there to build your mind, to open your mind, to find new avenues to explore and new ways to deal with them in productive manners. If you feel so comfortable that you have or, you have to have a "home" during that period, I'm not so sure you're doing your job. It sounds to me like by her own admission in her video rant that Yale is actually succeeding at building an intellectual space. That is their job.

Frankly, when I was in college I had what she is yelling about in finding a home at my university. But when I got there, it really, really challenged me. I was plenty uncomfortable a lot in the amount of knowledge being shoved down my intellectual throat. But I took it, I thrived on it. I kept going. I found things I didn't like, but I found ways to understand it, to talk to people about it, without screaming at them like a child.

It can be tough, growing up.

We were warned in my first college, one that was top in Washington state at the time (a two year community college which eventually got accreditation as a full college), that if and when we ever went on to a university, it would be very hard work. That it would make what we thought was hard work at the time look like a joke. And let me tell you, it did. My first week at my university was a nightmare, an eye opening experience. I wasn't sure at first if I could even do it.

The first class that first day at university gave us forty pages to read that NIGHT to be prepared for the lecture material that next day. I was in shock. I got to my next class and got just about the same amount of reading. I entered my third class like a zombie and got the same for that class. A friend living in the same house I lived in, who was also in her third year but had been at the university from the beginning, had some compassion and helped my gf and I through that first week.

We survived and as my previous college philosophy teacher had said, "when you get to university, you will rise to thee occasion and succeed." And we did.

My life there became a home to me. My apartment was home and eventually I felt at home in my classes. But, it was not "home" in the sense that I wasn't challenged on a daily basis with new ideas, with things even shocking or fear provoking, that I'd not known about. I was around people who saw things differently and not all I thought were correct.

We worked it out, and moved on. And many times I leaned I was the one who was wrong. Or at times we found out together we were both wrong. See, that's what the professors were for. To show us, and to help us, find our way. But it never occurred to me to scream at them for my own failings. Which many times I couldn't see for some time.

I had one professor at my university who was amazing. Mind big as a planet. He was gruff, harsh at times, and didn't suffer fools lightly. He said politically incorrect things, even some sexist things, and yet, women loved him, be they faculty, administration or students. Some ran away from him, fearful.

Mostly those were the ones with a delicate sensibility. I however, ran toward him, as did a few others I knew. I saw a bright light in him and felt it was worth his weight in gold just to be near enough to him to learn, even and especially outside of class.

A few years ago some students tried to get his tenure removed, to see him kicked out of  the university because he was hard, difficult and at times politically incorrect.

By the way, two of my short stories, both medieval tales of horror have him to thank for their pointed focus and clarity. They are, Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer, and The Mea Culpa Documen of London, I had shared them with him one day, just hanging out in his office in the theatre department and he offered to help after scanning one of them. Both stories have been rich enough that they have grown over the years and one, "Poor Lord Ritchie", was chosen by actor Rutger Hauer in his international short story contest back in 2004.

That professor was himself a student of medieval literature and his mental catalog of history is monumental. He had wanted to do the "Mea Culpa" story as a one man stage play, which would have been amazing. But sadly I graduated and moved away before that could come to fruition.

Myself and some of my old friends, ex students of his, rose up and wrote letters to the administration in his defense. We explained how much we learned from him, agreed that he can indeed be tough and rough, but if you can bear with him he really is a treasure. We need at last a few people like him at universities. I learned as much from him at times in a week as I did from others in a month or an entire quarter of the school year. He would beat on your mind and at times it hurt. I went home a few times, feeling slightly damaged.

But I pulled myself together in realizing what he was doing. When I realized how much I had learned in a mere hour of his time. So I went back and never gave up. He appreciated those students and never let up himself. He was there for you, if you were there for you. He was not unlike the coach who works your muscles to the bone and in the end, you win the superbowl. Or the military drill instructor who you truly hate and despise, until you are in actual battle and realize that what abuse he gave you, just saved your life.

That professor is still tenured and still teaching at my old beloved alma mater.

Look. Life is tough. It is at times a real bitch. We need to deal with it, get prepared for it, triumph over it. Because living our lives is not just about us, but also about everyone. We each play our role in the overall picture. We each make life a little harder, or a little easier on our fellow humans.

The "home" that student was screaming about in the video, wasn't in my mind what she was there at a university for. Impassioned? Yes, she was that. Quite so and all very well and good, I'll give her that. That is in part what you should be doing. Being passionate. But pick the right time and place. And use your skills to debate and interact. And that wasn't what she was doing. Not at all.

Calling for Christakis to step down because his wife Erika sent out an email saying to lighten up?When there are real issues to be dealing with, she chooses Halloween costumes to be irate about to the point of delusionally thinking university iife is supposed to be homey and comfortable to that degree?

Really? Grow up, child. And there are many adult children about our country nowadays, when there are real issues we need to be dealing with.

All I could think of while she was berating Nicholas was that he was merely doing his job and simply not doing the job she was demanding of him. Demanding of him like a spoiled little rich kid or something. I kept thinking, that poor son of a...well, that poor guy. And it was after all Yale and I'm not saying she is rich. Just that that was how she was coming off, acting privileged, immature, spoiled. I don't know if he wanted to smack her even a little bit at the time, but know I did.

You don't tell your betters to shut up like that. Not a faculty member, not by a student. Not when you're trying to get your point across. THAT is abuse, my dear. You were the abuser in that situation. Think about that for a moment and how you hadn't yet earned the right to scream at a professor like that, if ever you will.

And yes, there are indeed people who are better than you and me and you and I are most likely better than some others. That is reality. Not everyone who competes gets a trophy. Deal with it. It sucks. But if you don't learn it as soon as possible, the world will eat you alive.

The concept of someone better than you, is yet another thing that has died a dastardly death for good and poor reasons, but fundamentally for purposes of political correctness.

It is a concept that does not mean racism, does not mean economical difference, but as in this case, as she came to the university, as she selected to put herself in that masochistic role that all students must put themselves into in order to be allowed to study, to learn under the tutelage of those who are better skilled and better educated, who are in fact expected to be better then the students, or they shouldn't be teaching. Nor should these "betters" be teachers in that position over students if they are not better than the students in the reason they are the teaching them.

We seem to have lost the ability to be reasonably humble in the appropriate circumstances and for all the right reasons. As a student you do not know it all, otherwise you would not be at a university.

In the beginning and in the end it is NOT about creating a homelike university environment. That can be a by product however and hopefully so. But that is up to the students. One of my professors found that his university, Brown University back in the 1960s was wrong about some policy. They talked to the administration.

They got nowhere. So they took over and shut down the administration building until they got the attention they needed. There was no yelling or disrespect on either side and an amicable resolution was reached. The administration wasn't happy, but they came to realize they were wrong. No guns, no ridicule. Things were handled professionally and appropriately. That isn't always the answer, things don't always go that smoothly, but then they issues they were dealing with were much more important than Halloween costumes too. Yes, racism is important. I don't believe as I've pointed out however, that this is the issue in this case.

Universities already have enough to contend with. It is for the student to work that out. It IS however the purview and the charter of the university to build an intellectual environment. I suspect and submit that Yale has done just that.

This issue also ties loosely or tightly depending on how you view it, with the controversy of late about the American Confederate soldiers carved into Stone Mountain in Georgia. And the controversy over the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford where students groups want it removed. The Chancellor has said it should remain and that people should face history and should address and talk about such things. I agree.

It is good this is being discussed in both, or all instances. However, as I've alluded to above over the Yale incident, these are mature institutions, referring to the universities. They are places where students and faculty wrestle with higher learning, and reality, with what actually happened in history and the facts of the world as it is.

Therefore I would submit we do not turn away from history or reality. We should not hide from it. Should the confederate flag have been brought down, in relation to that recent controversy? Yes, in that case that was the right thing to do, to put it into a museum where it can be properly displayed and the proper description and history given about it. But that was a different situation.

The reality is that many have done well in the Rhodes Scholar program and it was something good a bigot once did, an alum of the university. As with Stone Mountain, while many will visit the monument to praise the racist actions of those men carved into the mountain, it is also a part of history.

To whitewash history is to one day possibly repeat it again.

Rather than destroy Stone Mountain, rather than remove the Rhodes statue both should remain for posterity with a new, accurate, appropriate and full account of the legacy of these individuals posted for all people to read as they view either of these, or view any other like images.

People in the future need to see these things, to be able to appreciate them, either in disgust or perhaps even in loving admiration. I believe however that over time as we mature as a people, we will see these things for what they are. As indicators of where we came from and how things can go awry. As a warning of where not to go in the future, because we have been there before and it led to misery for many. It will lead to a disappearing of those types once venerated who will be seen in the appropriate light of dismay.

To turn away from who we have been, even in part, is childish and dangerous.

We need to be reminded of what is bad in life and in history so we avoid it in the present and the future. Children, strive to avoid the ugly because it frightens or offends them.

Adults view the ugly with open eyes and ears.

In colleges and universities they discuss, debate and conclude what is best. Not shy away from the ugliness in the world only then to one day, either by accident or intent, head once again down those paths only to repeat what was once viewed as ugly. Then because it was hidden and not always in the forefront of our minds, with reminders sprinkled about the world so that we should never forget, to find too late we are repeating once again that which we once and finally had judged an illness and a blight upon humanity.

Religions tend to shy away from the ugly in life too. Those that do are weak. In Islam covering women, avoiding under pain of death many of the things life has to offer, is not a strength, but a weakness. It takes personal human responsibility, institutionalizes it, and allows religion and not the person to take on the weight of following what can be good in the world. And it has led to horrors. Yes, yes, Islam has done good, but when it does good we do not have to worry or act. But when it goes awry, horrors happen.

Which is more "Godlike"? A man who walks down a street and sees women in Hijab and Burka and sees nothing unholy? Or one who walks though a nudist colony and sees naked women and maintains his Godlike attitude and demeanor?

Religion in some sense makes us weaker, not stronger.

Evangelical Christianity has done much of the same in different ways. Many religions take on the role of having their believers avoid rather than deal with what they consider ugly, unholy, or anti spiritual. It is a con. It is all an ancient attempt to distance humans from animals. It was perhaps originally an attempt in a good way, but one that almost instantly goes wrong.

Religion is so deeply ingrained in so many human cultures as to have become secularized to the point we don't even realize when we are doing it, even when one claims to be an atheist. So some of us, especially the religious among us, even in their perceived good intents, at times take us in the wrong direction. One of ignoring or avoiding what is bad, rather than dealing with it head on. To make us stronger, to remind us, to not allow us to one day again go a direction down which we never wished to go again.

So no, we should not remove these tributes to the ugliness in people.

ESPECIALLY, when great beauty has been done by those on the side of great ugliness. For even in those evil ones there can be beauty. For we are all in the end, human. Delusional at times, adherents to the darker nature of human beings and others, but we are all still just human.

So why in God's name, or better still, in the name of Humanity, would we want to remove reminders that some people who have done, believed in or supported some very dark things in our history, have actually done some very good things in the vein of Cecil Rhodes? Why would we want to forget, as in the case of Stone Mountain, what damage was once done in the times of the American Civil War?

In a much smaller sense, in that of Halloween costumes, would we want to restrict the wearing of politically incorrect costumes for a single night each year, when it will quite obviously lead to discussion and debate in the days following that annual release of tensions and hopefully, some amount of hilarity?

It shows our intellectual maturity and our ability to deal with the disagreeable in being able to look at things such as these in a logical and productively argumentative fashion. Whereas to only satiate ourselves in overly impassioned and knee jerk reactions to what we find offensive, does not. This is not all just about you, as you pass through a university. It is also about those who come after. Possibly your children one day who will also find the disagreeable you discovered, and would also debate it among themselves.

These are debates we need not to lay forever to rest, especially in a university environment. Some of these are arguments that have been going on since the time of Aristotle and before and will continue to be debated into the future.

Unless, we hide from them.

Rather than hide these things we should put them out in in the light, shine light upon them, leave them out front all of us to see. Label them for what they are and deal with them appropriately, openly, communally. For only then can we stand tall and have something to point to where we can say:

"See? We have come a long way. Through great pain and suffering we have become more than we once were."

To never again return to what was base and horrible in humankind, in what those things were that we once did. What, if we are not aware and vigilant we could return to again, at any time, as we have seen over and over in having forgotten yet again. As we see now in terrorist groups, political bigots, and religious political extremists.

We need to face up to the world. We need to face up to reality. We need to face up to who we are, who we can be, and who we don't want ever to be again.

Because we constantly do face up to it. Because we strive always to be more than we are and never to backslide.

Because we are better than that.

And now, this....

ELECTION 2016 -18 Reasons Why Donald Trump Is a Vulgar, Two-Bit Caesar, According to America's Conservatives.

And this....

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - Why Are Americans Ignoring Trevor Noah?

Finally this (since I ripped off their "And now, this..." segment):

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

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