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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Epistemic Questions About Intersectionality, and Its Hierarchies

 I tread lightly, because this discussion takes place after the brutal murder of eight Asian-Americans by a white shooter near Atlanta, Georgia. I certainly join all of the condemnations, and I am not afraid to examine the insularity and privilege which allows these sorts of things to happen.

I simply have a question or two--perhaps more--for the progressive framework which has given us "intersectionality," "white privilege," and other terms. Does the framework intend to say that white males, for example, are always in the position of an oppressor? Does the framework intend to say that certain subgroups of people are always in the position of the oppressed? If the answer to either or both of these questions is "yes," then how might a white male have access to truth that he was not given? In other words, does privilege prevent the man's access to truth that is ascertained by reason? Does the framework allow for shared access to the truth known by reason, or must he be given "truth" by those he oppresses?

I would willingly concede that something like a racist structure could persist, despite the good intentions of all people involved in an interaction or conversation. I also willingly concede that people of color face disadvantages because of long-lasting racism, reflected in concrete policies to prevent equality, especially with respect to education, and wealth.

But I asked these questions because the framework seems at the extremes to mimic the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity, with the result that no one is able--if he falls in a certain privileged category--to attain peace and blessedness until he has access to something revealed beyond his natural capacity. Any framework--whether sociopolitical or theological--that posits a permanent subjugation of any individuals or groups, and further, that the putative oppressed and oppressor cannot share or dispute anything in common, is by definition epistemic skepticism.

It can be an act of love, in any sort of discussion or debate, to tell an interlocutor that he or she is not seeing something that they ought to see. This can be helpful. This is much different than asserting that someone is unable to see something, because of their privilege. The latter claim is rooted in emotivism, the idea that the claims of any speaker are rooted not in the desire for truth, but in the desire for power. It is for the advocates of certain frameworks of intersectionality and white privilege to decide whether the creation of the frameworks is rooted in the desire for power, or in the desire for the truth. Anything that terminates exclusively in the will to power should be seen for the aggression that it is.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Jesus, The Light Of The World (John 8:12-20)

 Light and darkness is a constant theme for St. John in this Gospel. If you want, you can go back to my thoughts on the prologue at the very beginning to see this. That's St. John talking directly to the readers, in a sense before he begins to tell us the story of Jesus. Even there, St. John wants us to know that he believes Jesus is the light of the world. In this section, Jesus tells us himself.

Jesus and the Pharisees get into an argument about the authority of Jesus's testimony, because everyone in the discussion is aware of what the law given to Moses says about the importance of witnesses. Jesus again reminds the listeners that he has been sent by the Father. For Jesus, this would be enough, but he had also previously said that his own works bear witness to his identity. In other words, according to Jesus as recorded by St. John, Jesus has provided enough evidence to be trusted and listened to. It is up to each of us to decide what we think about the most important question: is Jesus God, and the Son of God, sent by the Father?

The opponents of Jesus wanted to arrest him then, but "his hour had not yet come." Here again is the mystery of the Father's plan. We will see soon enough that Jesus will not walk free, and as unjust as that was and is, it has a purpose. The Father will use the injustice of the cross to save you, me, and everyone from our sins. Not only from the guilt of our sins, but from their power in our lives. And it is never too late, as long as we live, to begin again.

Empty Rhetoric, And The Precipice

I do not intend to say that there are no valid concerns about the influence of giant multinational corporations over the national and international interest. What I do intend to say is that as long as tech companies are governed by wealthy, mostly white, educated liberals and progressives, there will be plenty of resentment that can be repackaged as fears about corporate influence. The Republican Party is still driven by populism on the one hand, and resentment toward urban white liberals and progressives on the other. Unless and until some trust-busting instincts issue forth in policy prescriptions, I'm calling this out as dishonest.

And this populism does have a tinge of racism, if not more than a tinge. You can't absorb the old Democratic "solid South," change nothing, and not be held back by regressive racial attitudes. The fault comes in for the political organization when you lean into it intentionally.

That's what conservatives--whatever that means, anyway--are going to have to wrestle with: Do you want to be associated with something that primarily stands for the prevention of a multiracial participatory democracy? To put it more plainly, a political party that stands or falls at the present moment upon making it harder for people to vote--especially when making explicit efforts to restrict those who it knows are unlikely to support it--is an obscenity against any form of representative government.

Fear of the other, and an extreme negative partisanship, are the most likely explanations for what is going on. The state of Georgia right now is considering a bill to make it a crime to hand out food and water to those who stand in line on election day. It is unconscionable, and indefensible. They are also moving to restrict voting on Sundays in the early voting period, knowing that Black churches organize to vote on that day. Democratic turnout swung Georgia for Joe Biden in the presidential election. A political party that completely surrenders the notion of persuasion in elections, but resorts to cheating--and that is what it is--is no longer a political party, but a cadre. And I won't even notionally be a part of it. You can say whatever you want about policy at the high levels of the Democratic Party. We can talk about anything you want, from abortion and sexual politics, on down the line, and I would probably agree with you. But the GOP no longer functions as a political party in any meaningful sense.