Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Anti-Asian Violence and the Evolving Algorithm of Wokeness

Though I quibble with its emphasis, this is an otherwise spot on response against the latest Woke fad of expressing concern for 'anti-Asian violence':
"...You use our victimhood, turning it into your political gains—whether to infringe on the 2A or keep portraying Trump as that boogeyman. You sided with the rich NBA players over the freedom fighters of Hong Kong. You sided with Disney and NIKE over the lives and the dignity of the Uighurs in western China. You praised Antifa while they harassed and doxxed a gay Asian journalist. You sided with the rioters and looters that stole, robbed, and burned down our shops and businesses all last summer.

Yesterday, we found out the killer in the Georgia shooting rampage is a disturbed young man who is an Asian fetishist. Not exactly the perp that my brother’s friend wished for. I find it twisted and sick that there are a lot of white folks who get a ‘hard on’ for minorities’ victimhood. It’s as reprehensible as someone who has an Asian sexual fetish. Which is confusing—because one moment we are categorized with the ‘Whites’ when we are applying for colleges and universities and we don’t get the same affirmative action benefits of other POC when applying for a job— yet we are marginalized victims again, to serve your political purpose.

So we are just pawns.

My brother told his ‘friend,’ or his ‘ally,’ to snap out of trying to be the white savior...."

And while understandable, and quite accurate from a numerical point of view, allowing the focus to be put on those 'trying to be the white savior', misses the more important mark: that every race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or sub-groupings of those by personal proclivity, are all well represented in the would-be savior game today - it is, after all, a numbers game. The best way to end that game, is to put the focus on what best identifies, unites and empowers it, and that is the Pro-Regressive 'progressive' ideology itself. Also, don't be misled into thinking of 'progressives' as being only on the Left - yes the Pro-Regressive Left has larger numbers, but never forget that the Pro-Regressive Right is still trying as hard to pump up their rookie numbers to compete as well.

And also of course, Pro-Regressives do care about Asians, as they once cared about preventing Asians from coming to America, and later cared about rounding Asians up and putting them in internment camps, just as they now care about protecting them from 'Asian hate'. Pro-Regressives also care about Blacks, as they once cared about keeping them enslaved, and when that became too problematic, they cared about keeping them separated at the bottom of society with Jim Crow, and just as they now care about protecting them from 'white supremacy'. Pro-Regressives do care about homosexuals as well, just as they once cared about sterilizing and imprisoning them, and now care about being their 'allies'. And of course Pro-Regressives care about White Christians just as they once cared about protecting their racial purity & social status by utilizing eugenics measures against all other races & creeds, and by employing economic means (such as minimum wage laws), in order to save them from competition from all minorities, just as they now care about denouncing White Christians as a central platform in the Pro-Regressive's efforts to show how much they care about every other race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or personal proclivity thereof.

Do not lose sight of the fact that Pro-Regressives - without regard for race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or personal proclivities - will be extremely pleased to put anyone up on a pedestal, and once having put them up there, they'll be equally delighted to praise them, or chain them, or whip them, or engage in any other action, that best serves their purposes in securing more political power by appealing to those other races, creeds, genders, ethnicities, or personal proclivities, whose numbers have the potential of making it worth their while to 'help' them in the very same way.

Who it is that the Pro-Regressives of the Left and Right do not care about, is the individual - no matter their race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or personal proclivities - they despise the individual, because the Pro-Regressive's power depends upon groups, upon collectives, and whatever collective of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or personal proclivities which they've identified as having the potential to secure them more power over individuals, they will curry favor from them as best as they are able to. What the Pro-Regressive hates most, is truth and justice, and it hates them because those serve the individual, and so serves to weaken the Pro-Regressive's power over them.

Pro-Regressives care about every possible grouping of humanity in exactly that degree to which they are useful in preserving and increasing their power. Wokeism is nothing more than the latest evolution of their algorithm for calculating which segments of race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or personal proclivities, are most useful to be curried to, or condemned, in order to secure more power for the Pro-Regressives to rule over individuals with.

Alert readers may have noticed that every race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or personal proclivity are so as individuals first, and if you let Pro-Regressives help you to forget that, then you will become just another useful number in their algorithms. And if you are foolish enough to want to play in their Woke games, you are exactly the fool that they are looking for. 

K. Lee is refusing to play a part in the algorithm's Woke power-play. Be like K. Lee.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Testing Knowledge & Wisdom to Promote Learned Helplessness

Here's a problem for you: We all recognize that we've got problems today, but we don't seem to recognize that a deeper problem which we have, is the problem that we don't recognize as being part of the problem that we do recognize we have. Clear? No...? Ok... well, try looking at it this way: Have you ever had one of those moments where you hear a comment that sounds good, you nod your head, maybe even high-five it... followed soon after by a 'wait... wut?' as a growing stew of doubts begin bubbling up in your mind? That gets at what I'm talking about, and it happened with me not too long ago, after a friend posted some common sense observations that began with,
  • "Knowledge is knowing tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."
, and continued along the lines of:
  • "Good judgement is the result of experience, and experience? Well that's the result of bad judgement"
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates (Plato)
Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality, while making it easier for them to part with them.
~Vaclav Havel
, together with some pointed comments on how far too many people who have had no experience in acting on their own judgement, behave as if what they've been certified as having learned in school, makes them knowledgeable and wise enough to not only make their own decisions, but to make our decisions, for us, as well.

You probably recognize that problem. But there was one line in his post about knowledge and wisdom as pertaining to youths, which was the line that doubled back and wut'd me:
"They can be smart and knowledgeable, but not wise."
My first reaction was the obvious 'yep, Book smart, Life dumb', but something in that line soon began nagging at me and sowing doubts, that began springing up like weeds throughout the rest of my day. It wasn't the obvious intent of the statement which seemed doubtful - that wisdom comes with age & experience - that's a valid point which was already old when Aristotle made it again 2,500 years ago. No, there's something else going on within that line that unsettled the ol' grey matter and began doubtfully bumping up against other things I knew to be true, such as that most 'ordinary' people of our Founder's time, which included the likes of Ben Franklin & George Washington, routinely entered into adult lives while in their early teens, demonstrating both knowledge and wisdom in ways that were not at all uncommon for youths of their time, to do. My friend's comment was by no means baseless, but as our brains haven't changed between their time and ours, something else clearly has - what is different?

Still more doubts raised still more questions which began rubbing up against still other thoughts that I've come across in seemingly unrelated posts and comments, to the point that I've now got to make my own post here, before I can get on with finishing the other series of posts that I really wanted to leave behind in 2020 [looks at calendar... 'the best laid plans'].

If you're still pleasantly doubt free on this, maybe I can start slipping some unease into your noggin by putting this question to you:
"Can you be knowledgeable about a subject without having wisdom regarding it?"
That's a very different thing from 'Book smart, Life dumb', and 'Book smart, Life dumb' is not what I'm not shaking my head 'no' to, or rather, it's that fact of life which I'm saying that the real issue, is hiding behind.

It's not the age of the youths we've credentialed to have knowledge and wisdom, that is at the root of the alarming lack of knowledge and wisdom we are being afflicted with in our world today, but the abundance of trivia & ideological positions ( 'Book smart, Life dumb') which we mistake for being knowledge and wisdom, because of what we've been taught to think that 'knowledge' and 'wisdom' are. That, and how it is that we go about attaining, and being credentialed as possessing 'knowledge' and 'wisdom', is what has plunged us into the swamp that we're striving with today. Poke about with that last question, and you too may begin exposing some serious flaws that are rooted in our popular assumptions about those terms - and what was not meant by them in Franklin & Washington's day - and more to the point: what we often don't bother to think of when we're busily building our thinking with those terms in our minds, every single day.

Learning a Learned Helplessness
More than just a metaphor, 'Building thoughts' is what we do with the words, terms & concepts that we form our thinking from - how sturdy can those thoughts and assumptions we build with them be, if those building materials we use are unsound, unsteady, and prone to leaking and collapsing under pressure? That question, in answering itself (self evident?), found still more fertile soil in the concerns that I'd heard a school teacher raise on a separate thread, where she worried that:
"Is it possible that we have taught our students over the years that if they don’t understand something in class (something in the text they read for example), that if they just wait long enough, or raise their hand, the teacher will give them the answers or reteach it a few more ways? Have we contributed to promoting learned helplessness in our students?"
If we focus a moment upon what might be involved in 'promoting learned helplessness', it puts an important focus upon the nature of what our students go to school to learn, and specifically to have learned, and in particular to how effectively those youths which my friend's post was referring to, are credentialed via multiple choice tests, True/False, and fill in the blank worksheets, as having the 'knowledge' and 'wisdom' which their grades & degrees certify them to possess.

See if this question brings the various threads closer together for you:
Does testing a person's ability to scan a page for obvious facts or to successfully recall what they've momentarily memorized, tell us anything meaningful about their knowledge of what is allegedly being tested in those 'Fill in the blank' worksheets, or True/False & Multiple Choice tests?
Are you starting to see the problem? What do such tests, test, and why?

What do you mean by 'Knowledge'? Have you thought about it? Is knowledge, the same thing as the ability to scan for and recall facts? Anyone who has ever slacked off in class, confident that they'll be able to skim a worksheet or textbook sections for the keywords they'd need to answer quiz & test questions with, both of which are soon after forgotten - answers & questions - should be experiencing some doubts of their own at that. Yet those students who ace such tests, appear in the eyes of themselves and others to be 'smart enough' to get good grades, right? Colleges use the likes of SAT scores as a sizable factor in deciding which students to admit - do they tell you who's 'smart enough' for college? Most will automatically nod their heads appreciatively at a high SAT score which shows that they are 'smart enough', yet many of those who initially score low on such tests, will take something like a SAT Test Prep, to get their scores up to 'acceptable' levels - did those test preps make an unsmart person, 'smart'? There are Test Prep's for every course in college - why bother with college? What relation does being 'smart enough' have to having 'knowledge' and 'wisdom'? If the ability to recall facts and data is not the same thing as having knowledge about what they are facts of, will the short-term memorizing of facts to get A's on tests, lead to building sound knowledge and the wisdom to apply it, or will it lead to something else? And what are we left with as those short term memories fade away? We tend to appreciatively nod our heads 'yes' that test scores tell us something worthwhile about who is, and isn't, 'smart enough', when maybe we should be more vigorously shaking our heads 'No!' to the entire notion.

Another consequence of our orienting our educations around tests, is that such tests expect specific 'answers', to the specified 'questions' that the test taker has been given, questions which are necessarily as meaningless to the student as the answers they are expected to retrieve for them, are. If you've learned that 'answers' are what are to be found to fit the questions you've been told to look for, then finding them is reduced to a trivial matter of either scanning for them 'out there' in the materials that someone else has told you to retrieve them from, or by recalling memorized materials from 'in here' which someone told you you'd need to know in the future ("This will be on the test") - those with some experience of life may be having doubts as to whether life's challenges tend to unfold in such a scripted manner. Such 'answers' to 'questions' are less learned, than stored, and they are that way because they were always less about developing the understanding of students, than with a *wink-wink* between Tests and Schools (with many students in on the gag) to make each other look good, neither of whom are too concerned that the student hasn't learned what the given answer means, or why the question was thought to be worth asking in the first place.

Students who are taught in such a way are put in a prime position for unwittingly living out the old truism of
'appearances can be deceiving'
, which should bring to mind Reagan's quip that
'their problem is that so much of what they know, just isn't so'
, and you should be thinking of that because that is the process by which they come to 'know' so much that just isn't so.

Sure, it is useful to be able to find answers that appear to be needed, but are the questions worth asking, and if so, Why? To that, they rarely have answers and even fewer questions. This entire process which students are misleadingly taught to think of as 'thinking', has reduced reasoning to little more than a mental CTRL+F to find an 'answer' located 'out there' on random pages of popular opinion, as directed by one group or another's handy-dandy flowchart of 'critical thinking' steps .

Especially in the world today where any information can be found in no more time than it takes to type a request for it into a browser, 'answers' are easy to find, but it's the questions that are hard to come by. When you've developed the sort of familiarity with the underlying matters that comes from a close consideration and reflection upon them, your own understanding will give rise to questions that you'll think worth pursuing, as well as an appreciation for the sometimes very different questions that others might raise. That appreciation for the questions themselves will bring a purposefulness to the effort of resolving them, and without that... you're left with the empty act of collecting answers to other people's questions, neither of which you can have any more interest in than the grade you're rewarded with for having fetched them.

No doubt you've seen an echo of this on a daily basis, in the many virtual friends you've seen become overnight 'experts' on the constitution, or viruses, or impeachment, after 'finding answers' on the internet - AKA: 'doing research' - while giving little or no consideration to the questions behind them. Not surprisingly, when these experts new found 'knowledge' is questioned, most will erupt into furious attacks on whoever it is that questions them, demonstrating neither knowledge nor wisdom in their responses, but only a pathetic helplessness in the face of what they 'thought' they knew. How much different do you imagine it to be when those who go to school - primary, secondary, college and post-graduate - and are 'educated' by means of textbooks, fill in the blank worksheets & multiple choice tests, are themselves being taught to find the answers to other people's questions - what do you suppose that such graduates will most likely experience when faced with a situation where they aren't told either what questions to ask, or what answers to find? The 'knowledge' that their grades will certify them to have acquired, will likely be of a brittle sort that rarely questions its own answers, and routinely lashes out defensively at being questioned by those who lack what they've been so expensively certified to know.

What can the experience of such 'knowledge' and 'wisdom' be, but a kind of learned helplessness? Of course not all students come through our educational system as brittle as that, but they do so because of something in themselves, not because of the educational system that we put them through. The nature of our entire educational system, and the default thinking for those who've graduated through it, is one of 'promoting learned helplessness', and it's with just such cracked & rotten mental building blocks, that the terms and structures of our 'woke' world today are predominantly built with.

Do we still know what Knowledge is?
At this point it'd be a good idea to go back to the first rule of logical reasoning (which comes after first having a reasonable understanding of what it is you intend to get all logical over), and that's to check that our premises are true: What do we mean by Knowledge, and then what do we mean by Wisdom, and are they what we've been thinking they are?

The first 'internet definition' that pops up for Knowledge, is this:
"facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject."[emphasis mine]
Which is a rather pragmatic idea of 'knowledge', where the fact gathered and stashed isn't concerned with it being true, but only that it 'works' - whether that be to get an 'A' on a test, or applause from the crowd, or whatever else might be served by it. And what about the chasm which that 'or' that I bolded, leaves unbridged? We'll come back to that in a moment, but be aware that this is not what is, or at least what once was, meant by Knowledge. The current Webster's online - somewhat surprisingly - gets closer with their definition, the first line of which is:
'(1): the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or...'
, the next three entries are restatements of that, and then wedged in at the fifth entry is one that harkens back to an earlier understanding
"the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning"
Returning to the 'or' above, it is a very modern assumption that there's no valid connection between the "...theoretical or practical ...", but the connection between them is that a theory which doesn't work in practice, is an invalid theory, and it is the faculty of reasoning that is concerned with identifying such connections. Those pretending that there's no connection between the theoretical and the practical, more than likely prefer to speak of 'critical thinking', than capital 'R' reasoning, and are more than likely deeply invested in giving elaborate lies the appearance of respectability (hello modern 'economics' and 'critical race theory'). That modern gap is expressed again two more entries below that in a fractured combination of old and new, with the very modern quantitative gathering of facts ('sum') with little or no regard to the 'quality' of what's been gathered:
"the sum of what is known: the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind"[emphasis on that reoccurring crack, is mine]
, while a less modern usage of 'knowledge' begins to come through from the 14th century, as
"capacity for knowing, understanding; familiarity"
Excuse me if I get too graphic here, but the sense of what Knowledge actually is, IMHO is better conveyed with the last entry's reference to the old euphemism of 'knowing someone in a biblical way'. The process of gathering knowledge isn't accomplished as one might go about picking up shiny pebbles and dropping them into the empty sack of a mind; the process is more akin to intimately knowing how one 'fact' integrates with another, then pressing forward to reveal the hidden aspects that aren't visible from the surface, pushing in deeper still to further integrate them into the depths of all that you know, and from that act of penetrating into what can be known, the 'depth' of your knowledge is more than implied, it's established. Without that intimate familiarity, you can have no deeper knowledge of a subject, but only the shallow 'Informational Text' that most students acquire about it in their promiscuous acquaintances with random facts & data, made more akin to classroom STD's, than to lasting knowledge - they may know many facts, but they do not have knowledge of them.

Put less provocatively and more geometrically, if you'll think of a fact as a geometric point, it will follow that any two points form a line of data, and that any additional point outside of that line will establish a shape between them - a third forms a triangle, a fourth expands to a rectangle or a square, with five a pentagon, and six a hexagon, etc., - each shape enclosing a wider space of information within a plane. With that in mind, and in much the same way that a triangle is to a tetrahedron, or as a square is to a pyramid or a cube, I propose that:
'Information is to knowledge, as flat geometric shapes are to three dimensional objects'
The question then is, as 3-Dimensional objects have depth through the vertical axis which 2-Dimensional shapes lack, what should we imagine would provide that vertical dimension to knowledge, which the flat plane of information is lacking?

It might help to imagine (or recall) being told to memorize the dates of the Boston Tea Party, the battles of Lexington & Concord, Bunker Hill and Yorktown, dates which are important facts containing useful information about the American Revolutionary War, but it feels two dimensional, doesn't it? Even *advanced* classes which might have thrown in still more dates to memorize, and added in a host of names like Franklin & Washington, George III, and possibly even an entire timeline of names, dates & events involved in our revolution; those data points will still lack the depth of knowledge - not to mention interest - of which they are only information of. It's only when at least one higher level conceptual point is integrated into that informational space, that your understanding realizes a vertical axis to rise above the flat informational plane of mere facts & data, enabling you to enter into the object of what you know. With that, what had been a two dimensional data square of length and width, is transformed into a three dimensional object of knowledge having real depth, and with each additional concept the object of what you know is developing not just in appearance, but in weight and substance, from the inside out, into a pyramidal form, a cube, a dodecahedron, and eventually into a well rounded three dimensional sphere.

Having that conceptual component is what gives the thinker something to think about and room to think about it in, in a way that is not possible to do with a simple flat fact - a date is just a date, even multiple names & dates & labels, are but flat and deathly uninterestingly facts. It's only when you begin adding conceptual depth to the flat informational plane, that those revolutionary events begin to develop an understanding and interest in the nature and struggle for Liberty (which is... what?) which you'd previously had only information about. When each data point in what you know, itself anchors another 3-D point, it serves as a natural framework for further questions (...at what point does Liberty integrate into Law, and into community) seeking to fill in the inevitable gaps in a person's knowledge, extending both outwards (... is Law separable from Justice, community, and government), and inwards (... how does virtue extend from education and morality), further integrating any new set of facts & concepts into the spaces between what had been known, developing a more well rounded knowledge through a process that can and should continue ad infinitum, 'for as long as you both shall live'.

Importantly, in developing a knowledge that's worthy of the name, we begin perceiving patterns within the information and concepts running through what we have knowledge of, general rules of thumb - principles - palpably organize and strengthen our understanding of what we know, leading the mind into a deeper familiarity with them, and our ability to learn from and apply the knowledge we have. Such principles, whether they be in mathematics, or science, or the arts, help us in further recognizing a harmony in what we know, and what is discordant with it, helping to safeguard the integrity of our knowledge, i.e., the person who has a knowledge of thermodynamics, will, when presented with a plan for a perpetual motion machine that violates the familiar principles of thermodynamics, they're freed from wasting further time considering the scheme. Note: That's not the same thing as saying 'Perpetual Motion violates the Laws of Thermodynamics, therefore it's bunk', which, although it might 'work' in most cases, is more like an 'answer' to someone else's question. Instead, when we are able to see into what's been proposed, unsupported violations of principles which we're familiar with, then we're able & equipped to knowledgeably identify the proposal as a deceptively shallow scheme. Would that the editors of the New York Times 1619 Project, had been able to do the same, but alas, they have far too many degrees certifying the information that they know, while having little or no knowledge of it.

It is an important 'test' of knowledge, that when a person is presented with information and assertions which jostle or conflict with what their knowledge is comprised of (such as the 1619 Project's assertion that America was founded to preserve slavery), they will mentally sense that a link cannot reasonably be made between that which they're being told, and what they have knowledge of - something in the facts, data, information & principles (if any) that they're being asked to accept into their knowledge, won't integrate, and a mental jolt of doubt rises into awareness that something is 'just not right' and 'just doesn't fit. Such natural doubts let us know that we need to re-verify, or at least need to think more deeply about the matter, and begin questioning and reexamining what the relevant pieces are, and how to best fit them back together. But those who've never learned to intentionally seek & establish that depth wherein one part of what you know, is integrated into the rest of what you know, are unlikely to experience real doubts when fed a contradiction, a falsehood, or a lie (hello again to the anti-American 1619 Project and those witlessly teaching it).

There are most definitely consequences to individuals and to society, when their people who lack actual knowledge of a matter, are asked to accept or act upon that which a knowledgeable person would recognize as being absurdly unwise to do. The ignorant person who's been led to see their head full of unprincipled information & wishes as knowledge and wisdom, will very likely comply and go 'rushing in where angels fear to tread', even to the point of imagining that good intentions can transform lies into something suitable for teaching to children.

I've often brought up Voltaire's observation,
"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities"
, and this is exactly the sort of situation where it comes into play, where a person or people who have only a two dimensional grasp of facts, data and information, and no knowledge of what they mean, are unlikely to see the absurd in what they're told, and the door is opened that much wider to repeating the worst lessons that history has to offer.

So now let's continue on with checking our premises by going back to Webster's 1828 dictionary, which is situated at the border between the classical and modern worldviews, for its definition of knowledge. The 4th entry has that modern sense which we should be wary of, presenting knowledge as a shallow 'acquaintance with any fact' - especially useful for 'good grades!' to those that care for nothing more than a trivial grasp of the facts & data of 'Informational Text'. Left with being neither knowledgeable nor wise, though believing themselves to be, they're unable to identify or avoid the absurd or the atrocious, which fosters an attitude of cynicism and skepticism towards all knowledge and wisdom - that society which rests and relies upon them as their 'best and brightest' is led into accepting those absurdities, and eventually committing those atrocities, which Voltaire had warned against.

On the other hand, the first entry in that same definition from Webster's, offers us a clue to the way out:
1. . A clear and certain perception of that which exists, or of truth and fact; the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy of our ideas. We can have no knowledge of that which does not exist..."
, as does the second entry's reference to a tragic line from from Shakespeare:
2. Learning; illumination of mind. Ignorance is the curse of God, knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.
Those two classical references do point the way forward, while the 'modern' definitions lead down the shadowed path of pro-regress. There's a dangerous ambiguity in thinking about the terms of knowledge and wisdom as being flat and disconnected items 'acquired' along with other terms, less like even Lego blocks, than smoothly interchangeable slabs lacking in those three dimensionally connective qualities that enable your thoughts to align with, link up to, integrate into and permeate throughout all of the rest of what you know.

As our standardized tests make abundantly clear, it is easy to quantify our ability to recall facts, but as the degreed fools plaguing us make clearer still, whether or not those facts have progressed within your mind to the point of having the quality of knowledge, and how much wisdom can accompany them, is a very different and more difficult issue to determine than any multiple choice, fill in the blank, or True/False test will ever be capable of measuring.

With that in mind, it'd be wise to take a closer look at what it is that we mean by wisdom.

Is thinking of 'Wisdom' as a thing to be acquired, wise?
A person - young or old - can acquire facts and information and have no wisdom in regards to it, and that is what I think my friend had in mind with the comment that had 'wut?'d me, but I question whether they can gain the quality of Knowledge which is an 'illumination of mind', without also gaining wisdom relating to it, and that brings me back to my question:
Can you be knowledgeable about a subject without having wisdom regarding it?
Even with those 'book smart, life dumb' folks firmly in mind, I've been shaking my head 'no' to that, and it's time to start looking at why. If we look for 'Wisdom' on the internet (ahem), the first definition found is,
'the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.'
, which although not too bad, gives the impression that 'Wisdom' has all the depth of being awarded a merit badge for having successfully acquired some useful things. Even the 1828 Webster's only pokes around the edges,
"1. The right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them. This is wisdom in act, effect, or practice. If wisdom is to be considered as a faculty of the mind, it is the faculty of discerning or judging what is most just, proper and useful, and if it is to be considered as an acquirement, it is the knowledge and use of what is best, most just, most proper, most conducive to prosperity or happiness. wisdom in the first sense, or practical wisdom is nearly synonymous with discretion. It differs somewhat from prudence, in this respect; prudence is the exercise of sound judgment in avoiding evils; wisdom is the exercise of sound judgment either in avoiding evils or attempting good. Prudence then is a species, of which wisdom is the genus."
,but this more describes what those who are wise do, than it describes what Wisdom is, which is a typically modern reversion to the sophistry that Socrates found himself battling against, for just as knowledge is more than facts and data and information, Wisdom is more than knowing what one should and should not do. Prudence and Practical Wisdom are contained by Wisdom - species of its genus - but far from being stand-alone skills, they are the results of that wisdom which gives rise to them, and treating either one as the 'thing itself', reduces the whole into being less than the sum of its parts, and dangerously faulty structures will be built from that, both within, and without.

What is it that gives rise to what wisdom is? Let's spiral in towards the target by going back to an earlier and once common understanding, with a line from Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics:
"wisdom is a combination of both the virtue of science and the virtue of understanding"
(Book 6)
[emphasis mine]
, note the synthesizing 'and' there, and not the disintegrating 'or' of the earlier quote on knowledge. And bringing us right up to the edge of the bullseye, is Thomas Aquinas's commentary on Aristotle's comment:
"Hence wisdom is a combination of understanding and science: Wisdom, in declaring the truth about principles, is understanding; but in knowing the things inferred from the principles, it is science..."
Thomas Aquinas [Commentary on Aristotle]
Now with that description of what Wisdom is formed from, we can begin to poke at the bullseye of what Wisdom is, and what it emanates from, through this passage from Aristotle's Metaphysics, noting that,
"...the point of our present discussion is this, that all men suppose what is called Wisdom to deal with the first causes and the principles of things; so that, as has been said before, the man of experience is thought to be wiser than the possessors of any sense-perception whatever, the artist wiser than the men of experience, the masterworker than the mechanic, and the theoretical kinds of knowledge to be more of the nature of Wisdom than the productive. Clearly then Wisdom is knowledge about certain principles and causes..."[emphasis mine]
There are a couple points in that to look closer at. First being that as "... Wisdom is knowledge about certain principles and causes...", then someone who has true Knowledge of a matter cannot be entirely lacking in what knowledge provides to Wisdom, right? For just as Knowledge takes lower level facts & data, raised and organized by concepts to reveal principles, Wisdom results from using those principles that are revealed by knowledge, as a rich and complex musical chord is able to resonate and reverberate out of the several individual musical notes that comprise it, wisdom sounds from those deeper first principles that it is the science of. 

As the person who has Knowledge, and the person who has Wisdom, use the same medium, principles, the person who is knowledgeable has through those principles some wisdom, while the person who is wise, having greater access to such principles, has deeper and greater wisdom which enables them to see deeper and farther with. Wisdom naturally anticipates effects from causes that are often not visibly apparent to those who are as yet conceptually unaware of them, and while the person we call Wise has more of it, the person who has Knowledge, rather than a sack full of facts, has some wisdom as well. The person who is Wise, differs from the person who is knowledgeable, by degree rather than by kind, having a greater familiarity with those principles which wisdom makes a deeper study of, and more intimately aware of the relations between the principles that they are familiar with, begins to reveal and integrate them into still deeper principles, and on down into First Principles, which govern all subsequent connections in our wider understanding.

And that brings us to the 2nd point from that passage of Aristotle's: Did it seem odd to you that Aristotle placed the artist above the man of experience in wisdom? Is your immediate reaction to that, that it seems backwards to you? I'll suggest that that is more a result of the modern corruptions and inversion of understanding, than in Aristotle having gotten it backwards. No doubt as well, that those parents and teachers today, will, with their students in mind, be baffled by the very first line of Aristotle's Metaphysics, which is:
'All men by nature desire to know'
, but they would serve their students better to question the nature and quality of what it is that they've been taught, and the materials it's being taught with, rather than the natural desire of students to develop knowledge and wisdom.

Because the Pro-Regressive nature of modernity has reversed matters, put 'Descartes before the Horse', as it were, it seemed reasonable for my friend to remark that youths may seem to have knowledge, but not wisdom, but the truth is because the two are inseparable, they have the appearance of the one, and none of the other. It's not that students today have lost an ability to have knowledge and wisdom, but that what we teach them as being knowledge, isn't, and so they don't have the wisdom that would've accompanied it, and as their educations aren't centered around either... well... here we are.

The smart youth whose head is full of little more than the facts & data that they've been trained to recall and regurgitate, do not have knowledge, and without knowledge there can be no wisdom, only at 'best' a certain cunning and craftiness that is taken as being 'smart enough'. The process involved in acquiring capital 'K' Knowledge requires employing mental effort in the reflection upon, and contemplation of a matter in such a way, that questions about it naturally arise in their own mind, as well as a desire to seek for answers which extend 'the facts' they know of deeper into the rest of what they know about that subject. Understanding what gives rise to such questions that are worth asking, and what is involved in the asking of them, realizing the implications of pursuing them, that not only takes, but leads to knowledge and an ever deepening grasp of what it is that you understand that you do know, and seek to know still, and Wisdom naturally results from that.

What wisdom does not result from, are lifeless textbooks and fill in the blank worksheets, because they do not lead a student to contemplate the material being learned, nor will they prompt worthwhile questions to arise within them and prod the learner to seek answers in principles, in a process that spirals and resonates through the mind of a person who is being or has been educated.

The natural habit of mind of one who desires to know, is abruptly put a halt to by the application of True/False, Multiple Choice tests and Fill in the blank worksheets which do little more than install 'the answer that kills the question', and sows the weeds of 'learned helplessness'.

The skilled regurgitators of facts, who've never learned to question, consider & reflect upon what they know, and who instead develop a pragmatically dismissive attitude towards principles in general, and their relation to the rest of what they know, are led into the illusion of thinking that the facts that they were required to acquire, were all that they needed to know (needed? Why? To make something 'work', no doubt, 'for the moment', not to understand why it did, or its implications). However, when not indoctrinated into viewing facts as flat and isolated trivia, the student who is habituated to the process of learning as a knitting together of facts and data and ideas and principles, into three dimensional structures of knowledge, enjoy a continual inner prompting towards further understanding, and in being introduced to contemplative and active reasoning, they are naturally brought into an awareness of the wider implications and considerations which pertain to what it is that they know. For them, when receiving a question about what they know, it is taken as less an attack, than an opportunity for further exploration.

To have knowledge in that form is to have an adequate acquaintance with both facts and their relations to other facts and ideas in their understanding, and some wisdom unavoidably accompanies the development of that, acquainting them with further principles which leads to their becoming a 'principled person' - not as a priggish performance, but as a result of what they understand to be true. Such a person is also far more likely to have the wisdom to recognize (know thyself) that their knowledge and wisdom is incomplete, and to realize that what they do possess, is a very different thing from the degree of wisdom that typically comes only from the experiences of having put their knowledge and wisdom to the test in the moment (prudence), and of consciously reflecting upon the successes and failures which follows from doing that (practical wisdom), which is something that those who've only acquired facts by answering other people's questions, will not and may never have.

In short, wisdom, with its thoughtfully penetrating grasp of first principles, is a principled means of seeing beyond the immediately obvious, to seeing causes that may not yet even be visible to the naked eye, leading them to anticipate results which those lacking their knowledge and wisdom have no obvious reason to expect. The wise person has naturally come, as Blake put it, to
"... see a world in a grain of sand And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand..."
, which can only come from having a principled understanding of how one thing relates to another in ways and manners that never occur to those who are lugging around a sack full of facts, data and information, and lack that wisdom which comes from first having knowledge of them that is more than certified as being 'knowledge' in name only.

To have facts alone, and not their relations, is to have very little knowledge, and worse, those who've been credentialed as knowing what they need to know, are unwise enough to think themselves not only wise, but wise enough. And never having heard of Practical Wisdom, Prudence, or those experiences which it (hopefully) results from, are typically unwise enough to rush in where angels fear to tread.

How Americans lost America
The question which my friends post raised, and led me to the worried teacher's comments, also connected up with another comment in another thread which highlights the motive power that brought us to where we are today, and that is a tragically common assumption which has ensured that we remain very far from knowing ourselves, and it is well expressed in this too common complaint that college should be about helping you to get a good job, and worse, that your tuition should not
"... force you to fund other departments (arts, english, etc) ..."
, or go towards requiring or supporting non-technical classes and curriculum. If you'd like to pinpoint that moment when Americans began to diverge from our Founder's generation, it came at that intersection of having willingly exchanged meaningful knowledge and wisdom, for trivia & ideology, and having accepted the notion that a student should go to college (or any school) to get a 'good job'. Rushing down that path is what ushered in the pragmatic innovation of primarily acquiring facts and data and of testing for the ability to retrieve them, the STEM darling of 'Informational Text', being preferable to outmoded notions of 'knowledge' and the left turn through which the world we deal with today became a tragically guaranteed fate.

There is of course nothing wrong with acquiring marketable skills, or in spending time and money in doing so, but that was once understood to be something that you gained experience and knowledge of through apprenticeships, and not by going to college. Going to College wasn't where you somehow 'got an education', it was where you deepened the education you already had, and a very sound education was had, and is still easily attainable by most anyone, by the time of their early teens, which is one which would naturally and continually deepen in and throughout their adulthood.

I suspect that Mike Rowe's idea of sending most students to technical schools to learn a trade, would not have bothered our Founder's generation at all, they probably would have quickly understood and enthusiastically supported the idea of establishing technical schools for learning the skills, habits and important information needed to excel in a job or profession.

Most of our Founders' generation (not all, there were a few of them who actually, though unwittingly, put us on this path - Noah Webster (yes, the Dictionary guy who pointed our dictionaries and textbooks towards becoming what they are today), Dr. Rush, and others) would have been stunned at even the possibility that Literature, Math, History, Arts COULD be referred to as somehow being 'other departments' of a college - those subjects were what the colleges were!

It would've been equally stunning to them (because it is a supremely stupid idea) that everyone should go to college, or that it would even be useful to most people, let alone to everyone. Our Founders' generation would also have been shocked at the notion that a people could live in liberty without having a liberal education, as is expressed in Thomas Jefferson's statement that:
“...if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be...”
and no, there is no contradiction between thinking that only a few should go to college, and thinking that everyone should be educated! Jefferson's statement was not meant as a call for higher SAT scores and diplomas! College was for deepening the already solid educations of those who showed an unusual interest in and knack for diving deeply into the details of a liberal education in order to get a deeper and more intense understanding of those subjects than they could've managed to get on their own. There was and is no need or point for those who aren't both inclined to and adept at, to go college, and sending those with only one or none of those requirements, is a foolishness which makes us all dumber and poorer for it. Knowledge and Wisdom are not synonymous with getting 'good grades', and becoming Educated is not simply a matter of attending school, and it never needed to become anything like the now twelve year slog that all are subjected to today, let alone the miserable fourteen, sixteen or even more years, that the 'educated' are made to suffer today.

The point of getting an education was to become capable of, and worthy of, living in liberty ('educare', to lead out of oppressive ignorance) which can only be secured by knowledge, understanding and wisdom, without which a person would too easily become a thrall of another, and that core purpose was easily accomplished for most people in just a few short years ("Reading, 'riting & 'rithmatic"), and most people - remember, the Federalist Papers were written for the average man-on-the-street, even the letters written by the soldiers in our Civil War, were far more literate than Jill Biden's 'doctoral thesis' - pursued a deeper education on their own and with friends, while some others sought out more specialized tutors, and a few applied to college (where most were rejected for not meeting the minimum requirements).

Replacing Knowledge and Wisdom with Facts and Data leaves only Ideology
What we today should rebel against, is confusing the attaining of such skills with getting an education. The notion of going to college to get trained in technical skills 'to get a good job', should appall us, and the notion of having a Liberal Education (in the sense that is almost non-existent today, even and especially in so-called 'Liberal Arts Colleges'), being made to play second fiddle to a student acquiring technical skills, would've been recognized by our Founders' generation as being the darkly counter-revolutionary ideal that it is. The leading edges of what was to come were already a huge controversy in the early 1800's, when Harvard, and then Yale, began offering 'Law school' as part of a college education, followed soon after by Harvard's dis-educational innovation of encouraging students to choose 'elective classes' - a student becomes a student so as to learn from those who know better what they lack understanding of, and not as a means of picking tasty treats from the end of a cafeteria dessert line of '*knowledge*'. The notion that getting an education could come second to that of getting trained in useful jobs skills, would've caused even more violent riots than what followed from the first attempts to convert colleges to something like that, prior to the Civil War.

The endarkened world we live in today is the realization of their well founded and worst fears of what such innovations would bring to pass. Where once we had knowledgeable youths who lived lives worth living, we now have credentialed fools who are afraid of and hostile to the thought of other people thinking differently than they do.

The truth is that the point of modern education has always been - no matter how well intentioned it may have been in its beginning (which is questionable) - to redirect students from developing a proper familiarity with knowledge and wisdom, and to focus them instead on utility, pleasures, and economic power, which is now cloaked in terms of what is 'politically correct', or 'woke' virtue signaling. The knee-jerk response that most have to such schools today, has been to pull students out of public education and send them instead to private, charter or home schools... but if they then use the same textbooks, worksheets and tests, are they really being taught anything fundamentally different than they would have been taught in a standard public school? I'd say no, and if you want to protest that private, charter or home schools, teach those materials more effectively than they do... is that really a good thing? Think about what you mean by knowledge and wisdom, and what will and will not lead a student to them!

Ideology doesn't lead you out, only in
One result of slighting an education that actually educates and 'leads out' from those easily ignorant habits and misconceptions which enslave, a consequence of trivializing knowledge and the wisdom to apply it, is the growth of what the quote from Vaclav Havel's 'The Power of the Powerless' at the top of this post came from, and that's ideology and its philosophical handmaiden, Pragmatism. The wider passage which that quote came from, is this:
"...Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe...."
The barbarous abomination that is our 'educational system' today, is an entirely modern concoction, which began to be fully realized upon us through the pro-regressive 'progressive' era (especially the 1890's+) and is guaranteed by its approach, content and style, to do exactly what it has done: To Pro-Regressively produce a nation of uneducated people who go into debt (thralldom) to others for the privilege of being credentialed with work papers ('Diploma') which permit them to 'participate' in 'our' system, ruled over by experts 'for' us.

If you want your kids, or yourself, to get an education today, don't go looking for it in our establishment schools - you won't find them teaching what they don't believe in and viscerally oppose. If you've got kids in establishment schools - public or private - getting them out would be the wise thing to do. Don't pursue regress, pursue knowledge and gain wisdom, and don't accept what leaves you lacking in both.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Andrew Breitbart - the long years past

When I heard Dana's comments today, it brought it all back again like it was yesterday, rather than nine years ago. What follows are a few posts of mine from the past, the first from eight years ago, reacting to what had happened just the year before, and before that post, my post on reading Andrew Breitbart's book before his passing had yet occurred, when I could still read him and expect to meet him... next time he was in town. 

Careful with those 'next time's folks, illusions like that will leave you dazed and confused. 

Back to eight years ago:

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When I saw Dana Loesch's post on the anniversary of Andrew Breitbart's death this morning, I was a little stunned - not that it was today, I couldn't forget that (it's my wife's birthday), but that it has been only one year. Not possible. So much has happened since, so much has changed... surely, if not five years, at least three.

Nope. One year. Amazing.

And whether one year or five, the shock of his absence would be no less - my heart goes out to his family and friends.

43. So young.

But what an impact he made. As I said privately to friends earlier, the price of experiencing life with someone who is great, is their absence. What a void is left... one you wouldn't have been aware of if you'd never known them. No one else can be like them, or replace them, a fact that is so truly and painfully obvious once they are forever gone.

But as those who actually knew him know better than anyone else, having had the good fortune of experiencing life with a Great one like Andrew Breitbart - that experience is priceless.

I'm going to repost my post from last year, which included my earlier review of his book (Buy the book!), but first two of my favorite quotes from Aeschylus:
"There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief"
, and,
"In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
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Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Warrior Poet goes unexpectedly to rest.
A picture swiped from a friend,
from the dinner I missed
Damn... the news today knocked the wind right out of my sails as I turned on the radio this morning and heard that Andrew Breitbart had died during the night at the too young age of 43. So young, but what an impact he made in that short time, truly amazing.

On one of his stops through St. Louis, Dana Loesch invited a number of us to dinner with them, and to my regret then, I couldn't make it, regrets that are all that much greater today.
It may be a bit odd, but the image that has always come to mind when I think of Andrew Breitbart, is Stephen, the crazy Irishmen in Braveheart, the one who says

"Ireland, it's my island!" and "The Lord tells me he thinks he can get me outta this, but he's pretty sure you're fooked."
, a slightly manic, happy warrior, who sees the battle clearly, knows what must be done, and does his best to do it, no matter the consequences. My heart goes out to his wife and children, and his many, many friends and fellow warriors, and among them especially to Dana & Chris Loesch.

Here's a repost of mine from  last year, from picking up his book, "Righteous Indignation", a book I heartily recommend: 

***********************************************************************************

Saturday, May 07, 2011

 Strolling through CostCo yesterday waiting for our pizza order, I idly picked up Andrew Breitbart's "'Righteous Indignation' Excuse me while I save the world!'" from the book table. It wasn't on my list of books I wanted to read next, but the rest of the stack was even less interesting, so I opened it up and began thumbing through it, and caught my eye on the introduction
"To my Dad Gerald Breitbart, and Clarence Thomas, two decent men who inspired me to act."
Hmmm. Thomas is my favorite Supreme of the last century +... and he wasn't what I expected to find in Breitbart's book.

Okayyy. Thumbing forward, I glanced over the first couple pages and then saw this on page 3,
"When the Soviet Union disintegrated, the battle simply took a different form. Instead of missiles the new weapon was language and education..."
Ok. Now I'm actually reading, not just glancing,
"... and the international left ahd successfully constructed a global infrastructure to get its message out.
Schools. Newspapers. Network news. Art. Music Film. Television.
For decades the left understood the importance of education, art, and messaging.
Oprah Winfrey gets it. David Geffen gets it. Bono gets it. President Barack Obama gets it. Even Corey Feldman gets it.
But the right doesn't. For decades the right felt the Pentagon and the political class and simple common sense could win the day. They were wrong."
Yeah... ok, this book is bought. Mine. In the cart it went.

I began reading it late last night, and through this morning, not finished yet, but so far it's a rollicking good read. His descriptions of his parents matches mine pretty darn well, down to the stern talk with his Mom at the depths of his college dissolution; substitute his college years at Tulane, Louisiana, with my decade at Travelling Rock Band U, West Coast Campus, and there's a lot of fun (and embarrassing) recollection points.

Those superficial points aside, so far it's a very entertaining and accurate summary of events from the last two decades, and very interesting to get the view from the interior of the early internet Drudge Report worlds entrance of the New Media, and the old media's horror at the noisy uninvited guest.

What sealed the deal and prompted me to post this recommendation of the book, was chapter six, 'Breakthrough', which begins with his wondering how it was that things came to be the way they are today. He (correctly) assumes that today's Marxist left didn't just spring fully formed out of the 1960's, so where did the flight from our American roots come from?

He makes a brief essentialized summary of our Founding Father's conception of things, and then nails it with something I very rarely see, and always am thrilled by when I see that someone else sees what I see. From page 107,
"The Founders' realistic view of human nature and call for limited government and individual liberty found its opponent in the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and, later, Karl Marx. Rousseau thought that people were naturally good and were corrupted only by the development of the surrounding society (he himself was not naturally good, fathering five children out of wedlock and abandoning them all to orphanages). He also thought that modern society, created as it was to protect property rights and life, had destroyed the natural communism that prevailed before the advent of society."
YES!!! Damn I love to see that in print. Hard to fight an enemy if you don't know who it is, and too often people pin the our problems to developments that came far too late in the game, and then unknowingly buy into aspects of the real problem, in an attempt to fix things [insert most of modern proRegressive republicans here]. As I noted in a recent post,
"Modern political philosophy began when Jean Jacque Rousseau declared that he’d traced the origins of injustice to the first man who fenced off property and called it his own, married a woman and started a family. Everything else in political modernity is rooted in that thought, and it is in absolute opposition to what this nation was founded upon, Property Rights and the family."
Back to the book, Breitbart continues,
"To people like Rousseau, the solution to the evils of the current society was the creation of a new "social contract," one based on the "general will." The "general will" didn't need any checks and balances, because it embodied the entire will of the people. And if individuals argued with the general will, they lost.
Karl Marx's ideas picked up where Rousseau's left off. Unlike the Founders or even Rousseau, he didn't care much about human nature - for him, human nature didn't really exist. In fact, he went further: human natue was produced by surrounding society. If human nature was to be changed, it could be changed only by destroying the surrounding society."
Aside from, IMHO, cutting just a little too much slack to Rousseau, and giving too much originality to Marx, I give that a hearty "Yeah Baby!", and a thumbs up recommendation of the rest of the book for anyone looking for a very readable, entertaining and also informative book on where we are today and where the battle needs to be taken in order to save the day.

It's not often that someone gets the essentials like he does, and can pin the start of the rot to Rousseau and Marx, without getting distracted by all the rest. I wonder if maybe because of his background in the entertainment industry, Breitbart wasn't overly impressed with where most libertarians and Ayn Rand Objectivists seem to stop and peg as the first cause of our modern troubles, with Immanuel Kant. As important as ideas are, the imaginative expression of them, trumps their sheer cataloging and explanations of most philosophers, Kant especially.

Kant, it's true, was a game changer in philosophy, after him, Nazi Germany and the killing fields of Communism from the USSR through Red China & Cambodia, were all but guaranteed, but Kant mostly just put tomes worth of intellectual justification under the ideas of Rousseau (not that any of Kant's misosophy is valid or worthwhile, but it's long, and B.S's enough to successfully tell the self impressed whim worshiper exactly what it is they want to hear in order to justify whatever it is that they want to do).

But Kant is about as exciting to read as a manual on how to kill yourself by reading dense, boring, twaddle, and he would have gone nowhere, would never have been recognized, without being able to ride upon the inspiration of Rousseau's siren song of naturalistic self indulgence, posing as intellectualism.

And, skimming ahead, that looks like that's probably more than Breitbart bothers the reader with, looks like he moves on to a very brief sentence or two on Hegel and Marx, the path to Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson and the ProRegressives, identifies a couple quick quotes that capture the essentials of them, from Teddy Roosevelt,
"To hell with the Constitution when the people want coal!"
. and Wilson,
"Justly revered as our great constitution is, it could be stripped off and thrown aside like a garment, and the nation would still stand forth clothed in the living vestment of flesh and sinew, warm with the heart-blood of one people, ready to recreate constitutions and laws."
and
"Men as communities are supreme over men as individuals".
, then jumps to Gramsci & the Frankfurt School, but just that one mention was a thrill for me to see in popular print.

Anyway, if you're looking for a good read, and a guide for how you can help take the battle to where it's going to be the most effective, pick up Breitbart's "Righteous Indignation", and enjoy joining in on saving the world.

Ok, going back to reading the book.

Note: Buy the book.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Political Crime & Punishment with Balking Heads

A friend & I who most often come to similar conclusions, differ on whether the Senate's trial against Donald Trump...is constitutional, or not. Though Morgan thinks that what the Leftists' are doing is "...stupid and dishonest...", he does think it is constitutional, and I most definitely do not think the Senate trial is constitutional - does he have a point? Well... let's have a look at the Impeachment Clauses themselves:
"Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5 The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Article 1, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7 The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside; And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgement in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment, according to Law."
So where does the disagreement come from? I think it has to do with where he and many others are beginning from - the Impeachment Clauses themselves. Why? Because, IMHO, they aren't the proper place to start such reasoning from, they're the last part of the process, and with a false start, you're as likely to make a false conclusion as a 'correct' one. Keep in mind here, that I'm looking only at how people can have an honest disagreement over the matter, as distinct from the dishonest and corrupt efforts of the Pro-Regressives (Left & Right) in the media and Democrat & Republican parties (if you can square their words & actions with law and justice... please, show me how), and they have no relation to those who, like Morgan, are honestly looking at the matter, and trying to determine what is, and is not, constitutional (and BTW, Morgan's got some questions that I'd love to see being taken up in the 'trial' this week).

So with that in mind, and attempting to use the impeachment clauses as our starting point, lets see if we can see what the veritable parser of clauses might see.

If you start with the impeachment clauses themselves, what do you have to go on? Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5, is pretty straight forward, and though historically every other congress has had the good sense of responsibility to at least pretend to intend to have honest hearings, and to bring reasonable charges, the Constitution doesn't say a word about their having to do that. Pelosi got the House of Representatives to impeach the then currently sitting president, again, and that's that. We can argue over whether it was wise to do so, but there's no real argument over whether it was constitutional of the House to do so. It was. It was also stupid and corrupt... but... that doesn't make it unconstitutional, it only shows what kind of thinking is representative of all too sizable a segment of the people living in America, today.

So then what? Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6, says that only the Senate has the power of trying impeachments, and that 'when the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside' - do you think that that presents a problem to the earnest clause parser? No, I think, not really, as that too could easily go either way. For instance, if Parser #1 thought that such a line did actually settle matters, then Parser #2 could easily point out that that which refers to the current President, is just as simple a matter of pointing out that since the former president is no longer the current president, then the Chief Justice needn't preside. Sure, Parser #2 would then call out 'next!' and move on, as his fellow Parser's head explodes on the spot. If Parser #1 balks at that, Parser #2 might point to the last portion of the clause which says, that: "...no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.", and point out that it says 'person', and not President, right?! Balk & balk, and on they go. We'll leave them there, for now, and move on.

And so what about Clause 7? Here especially, from what I've seen of people honestly trying to parse this out, there seems to be an almost even-odds chance of them coming out one way, or the other. Clause Parser #1 will point out that "Judgement in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, AND disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States", and conclude that 'You can't remove someone who's not in office, amiright?' Right you are, Parser #1... but... then... Parser #2 will point out that 'disqualifications' from holding office, is still on the table. "No it's not!" Parser #1 will reply, 'didn't you see the 'AND'? They can only be disqualified after being removed from office!'. But, as Parser #2 will then point out, that 'and' is preceded by a comma, which makes it less a logically binding of 'This AND that', than an optional listing of 'You can choose from this, and this, and this, and this', indicating that those are options are all available, but optional.' and so forth, and so on the balking heads go.

See what I mean? Beginning from the Impeachment Clauses themselves, will lead honest people into balking heads, balking at this point, and that, and they can go no further - seriously, how could either hope to go any further than endlessly 'Yes!/No!'ing each another from there?

Now, as I said, I do not think that the senate can properly put former president Trump on trial before the senate, but I also do not think that that point can be made and understood, simply on the basis of a common sense reading and parsing of the clauses alone, because 'answers', one way or the other, are only too easy to find, and only too easy to feel satisfied with. And that's pretty much where my back & forth with Morgan was stuck at, as he was looking at the clauses themselves, and found no way to look beyond them when any of the above points were pointed out, such as the point that Trump was no longer in office, Morgan simply replied:
"... But, Trump *was* in office when he was impeached.
The question thereby becomes relevant: Is he so unsuitable for that office that he should never enter it again? I maintain this question is predicated on premises that are not only false, but laughable. But that doesn't make it unconstitutional. The Senate has a valid impeachment article. As I said in my blog post, if they vote to acquit and the House says "Hold up, we just thought of something else we're going to impeach him again"...that's a different conversation. That's a bill of attainder. Congress authorizes the House to act upon the office, not the person; and it authorizes the Senate to act upon the *article*. Both are expressly prohibited from acting upon the person.
And neither one is. The President Pro Tem is presiding over the trial, just as he would preside over the trial of any article impeaching someone other than the sitting President of the US..."
We went back & forth through several feet worth of comments, and not surprisingly, we got no further, as most of the honest arguments that I've seen over the matter, end up in irresolvable 'Yes!/No!'s, and no one can decisively say otherwise. Even Wapo (who I in no way consider to be an honest actor in this) admits: Can a former president be subject to an impeachment trial? The Constitution is murky. The experts (establishment) are split (Libertarianish), and not surprisingly, as more legal experts - the vast majority of whom have learned the law through only the modern positivist parsing of it - side with the Pro-Regressive (Left & Right)'s point of view.

IMHO, the honest differences involved stem from a different approach being taken to not just the law, but to thinking itself, which might be summed up as a tendency to go straight to analysis, in order to arrive at their interested ends, vs performing analysis only after having engaged in synthesis. Think... the modernist 'Critical Thinking' (which Morgan has a favorable view of) approach of looking at what's presented and immediately performing a logical analysis of it, vs the more traditionally reasoned approach, which I favor, of first seeking to understand what it is that's being discussed, checking and verifying the premises of the argument being presented, it's then and only then, if they check out, moving on to perform those logical comparisons needed to test the validity of the argument being presented.

So if we want to get beyond the endless 'Yes!/No!' of balking heads, we've got to begin by starting where we should have focused upon, at the beginning, rather than the end. And the first step of entering deeper into that argument, begins with the immediate surface level definition of the word, Impeachment, which is defined as:
'1.(especially in the US) a charge of misconduct made against the holder of a public office.'
, where the 'holder' is '2. a person who holds something'. That alone will get us no further and deeper in the matter than it did above... unless we begin looking beyond the text of the clauses themselves and into their meaning, do that, and, then we might begin to take notice of what's in the parenthesis at the start of #1:
"(especially in the US)..."
The alert reader will notice that that is an indication that a different approach to impeachment may exist elsewhere. Does that matter to us in the US? Well, No, and Yes, meaning that it doesn't matter what Canada, or Mexico may or may not define or use the word for today, but it does matter how it was elsewhere defined in what formed the basis of our Founder's understanding of Law, even and especially where they disagreed with that. To that end, I'd urge you to read through the links at the bottom of the page that I linked those clauses from, and especially to the last two, both of which came from early and distinguished commentators on our Constitution, the first from from William Rawls, which gives a fine overview of the thinking prevalent in our Founder's time, and the second and far more extensive and comprehensive link, is to former Supreme Court Justice, Joseph Story, whose commentaries on the Constitution formed the basis for Constitutional Law for nearly a century, until that point where our Law schools began to actively distance themselves from the thinking of our Founding Fathers, in the 1930's.

Why those apply especially to this part, 'especially in the US', is that they give more than a little history on how and why impeachment developed under the English Crown, and how they deliberately differed from that, and how, and more significantly, why, our Founders defined the process as differently from the English as they did, strictly confining charges of impeachment to 'civil officers' of the United States, including the president and vice-president, who could then be put on 'Political Trial' for, and have judgement rendered against them for 'Political Crimes'. And yes, there's an important reason for why I'm italicizing and underlining those terms, as they indicate an important and very clear distinction between private and civil life, and between both political and criminal charges.

First, there's the difference between Civil & Private life, that needs to be taken into account, as Justice Story puts it,
"... we speak of civil life, civil society, civil government, and civil liberty; in which it is nearly equivalent in meaning to political. It is sometimes used in contradistinction to criminal, to indicate the private rights and remedies of men, as members of the community, in contrast to those, which are public, and relate to the government...."
That distinction was an issue, under that English law which our Founders were deliberately seeking to improve upon. There, impeachment could be applied to a wide variety of person's, and our Founders had that very much in mind when writing the impeachment clauses as they did, as Joseph Story further notes,
"...In this respect, it differs materially from the law and practice of Great-Britain. In that kingdom, all the king's subjects, whether peers or commoners, are impeachable in parliament; though it is asserted, that commoners cannot now be impeached for capital offences, but for misdemeanours only. Such kind of misdeeds, however, as peculiarly injure the commonwealth by the abuse of high offices of trust, are the most proper, and have been the most usual grounds for this kind of prosecution in parliament. There seems a peculiar propriety, in a republican government at least, in confining the impeaching power to persons holding office. In such a government all the citizens are equal, and ought to have the same security of a trial by jury for all crimes and offences laid to their charge, when not holding any official character. To subject them to impeachment would not only be extremely oppressive and expensive, but would endanger their lives and liberties, by exposing them against their wills to persecution for their conduct in exercising their political rights and privileges. ..."[emphasis mine]
, and from that understanding of confining the impeaching power to persons holding office, goes to what the nature of Impeachment was understood by our Founders to mean, and to what they intended it to be used for, and to why it is that Impeachment is defined as: '1.(especially in the US) a charge of misconduct made against the holder of a public office'. Which is why I emphasize, that the impeachment clauses referred to some one person, who presently holds office.

Whatever we might say about the shoddy and rushed nature of the charges of impeachment that the House brought against President Trump, his term in office had not yet expired, and as the Constitution doesn't define the process any further, the charges of impeachment brought by the House are constitutional. But that's only the first step, and the second step comes as those charges are then taken up in a trial in the Senate (and what kind of trial is... and can... that be?), which is what we're going to be subjected to this week, which is occurring weeks after the expiration of the then president's term in office - which means that our Senate, in the name of We The People, will be subjecting a private person to a political trial, on charges of political crimes, and that, IMHO, is not at all acceptable, and is more in line with the practices of the British Crown, which is what our Founders were clearly seeking to distance us from, and for very good reasons, which we should respect and demand be upheld.

Some of the reasons for that,:
"...§ 783. As the offences, to which the remedy of impeachment has been, and will continue to be principally applied, are of a political nature, it is natural to suppose, that they will be often exaggerated by party spirit, and the prosecutions be sometimes dictated by party resentments, as well as by a sense of the public good. There is danger, therefore, that in cases of conviction the punishment may be wholly out of proportion to the offence, and pressed as much by popular odium, as by aggravated crime. ..."
, and,
"...§ 784. There is wisdom, and sound policy, and intrinsic justice in this separation of the offence, at least so far, as the jurisdiction and trial are concerned, into its proper elements, bringing the political part under the power of the political department of the government, and retaining the civil part for presentment and trial in the ordinary forum..."
The President of the United States - and not a private citizen who at one time may have held the office of the President of the United States, but the current office holder of that office - may be subjected to a political trial for political crimes, but a private citizen may not be subjected to political charges, over political crimes, in a political trial.

This is not and should not be, about Donald J. Trump - who is no longer our president and so cannot be removed from office - but about the dangerous notion of using the Constitution's Impeachment Clauses, to subject a private citizen to political crimes and punishments - not only do those charges no longer apply to him, but more importantly they do not under any circumstances, apply to any private citizens, and so the senate should not, must not, and cannot, constitutionally, try a private citizen on charges of impeachment. Those charges were constitutionally brought by the House, upon the public official who was then serving in office at that time, but who no longer is the President of the United States of America. Those are not charges that are suitable for being brought against American citizens, on charges which 'shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor'.

This does not mean that if a former president were suspected of having committed criminal acts while in office, that he would somehow be free from the long arm of the law. Take note of the last line of Clause 7, that "... the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment, according to Law.", IOW if the person in question is believed to have committed criminal acts, they most definitely can still be charged with them after leaving public office, just as any private citizen might be, and if those charges are found to have merit, then that person can be tried, and if found guilty, they can be convicted, and can be sentenced for those crimes - but that can happen only because they are criminal crimes, in criminal court, and not political crimes, being tried in a political court.

As Justice Story pointed out, there is a clear distinction between private affairs and civil duties, and there is also a distinction between what the private citizen can count on when charged in a court of law, and what they might be made to face up to in a political process. A private citizen in a criminal trial enjoys the 'due process of law' and conviction by 'unanimous agreement' of a jury of their peers who believe them to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt - that's not the case in an impeachment trial before the Senate, where it requires only that a 2/3 majority of sitting senators, who can hardly be seen as 'the peers', of that private citizen. The United States Senate, although constrained by laws, is not a court of law, and an impeachment trial is a political process applied only to members (present tense) of our government. The Senate has no power to try private individuals, and what they are now pursuing has far more in common with a British form of impeachment, or bill of attainder, or with a legislature singling out individuals for 'trial' and conviction... than it does our Founders political form of impeachment, and which would be a major constitutional no-no.

For those reasons, what the nature of Impeachment is (as applies to an office holder), for 'political' and not criminal charges, there is a distinction between an Office Holder, and what all office holders immediately revert to on leaving office, the resuming of their fully private status as private citizens, who are due the “privileges” and “immunities” as were later re-asserted in the 14th Amendment. The former 45th president is now a private citizen, and we should not, for any reason, be seeking to bring that private citizen, or any other, up on political charges. Period. If you have reason to believe that he's guilty of a crime, then charge him, try him, and even convict him, but that must be done as with a private citizen being brought up on criminal charges. In no way, shape or form, should a private citizen, be brought up on political charges, and tried in a political court. Ever.

NO.

A thought might have occurred to you here, as it did to Rawls, and to Story, and most others, which are longstanding questions which have not been resolved, such as:
'What happens if the president resigns as the trial begins, what happens? Can the impeachment trial continue?'
Would that be an escape? My answer to that, is no; if the person that is serving the political office of president, is in office when a trial is begun, then his resignation would amount to an evasion of lawful charges, and should be brushed aside - if President Ford hadn't pardoned Nixon after he resigned, he could have been tried in the senate on the charges that the House was presumably about to bring against him, as the prerequisites for the trial were met in that he was in office, and his term would've been active at the time of a Senate trial, and his resignation would have amounted to an attempt to evade trial, and so would have been in that context, invalid. But if the person proposed to be tried for 'political crimes', is not in political office at the start of the trial, because his elected term of office had concluded, then the conditions for a political trial are not met, and that trial is not appropriate.

Yes, the points that Morgan and others are making, do have a point - but only if you go on nothing more than the text of the Constitution alone. Yes, anyone who is capable of reading and using logic, can make the point that the constitution doesn't explicitly say that the President has to be in office, but such a 'logical' and legalistic parsing as that is, IMHO, an extraordinarily dangerous road to stroll down. In issues of power, if the rules defining it are unclear, then the ability to wield that power should default to the usage that is more restrictive towards governmental powers, than to those of private citizens. If you're not sure why, maybe you should think about the differing interpretations of the Commerce Clause, and of all of the enumerated powers of our Constitution's Article 1, Section 8, where similar Clause Parsers of the past and still in the painfully ever present moment, have enabled our government to insert itself into every aspect of our lives. Think of that same murkiness of interpretation being applied when it comes to the action of trying private citizens for political crimes, and by political rules.

For these 'clausal parsing's' and for many other reasons, I am most definitely not a 'Textualist', or of a 'Original Intent' school of thought, because by their similar natures, they also soon stray into equally stunted views of the law, leaving and exposing easy loopholes, which soon lead to evading the deeper meaning that the Constitution was written to express, and to secure; and while it is true that logic is a necessary component of constitutional thought, it is not a sufficient one. Logical comparisons are not a valid starting point, IMHO, as was widely understood up until the last century; instead, the proper starting point had been understood to begin with first asking whether the premises which those logical comparisons are to be performed upon, are true, or not. If not, there are no parsings to apply or logical comparisons to perform, and so no logical conclusion to be pretended to be arrived at, as the journey was cancelled when its premises were found to be untrue. Only after a successful step is completed, should we proceed on to the next step, and properly analyzing the issue requires beginning by looking at what the matter itself is, and then at what the processes, plural, involved are, and only after the matter is found to apply, and each successive step is properly completed, should we come to the part where judgements might be rendered, if found guilty.

Our Constitution was developed not out of ideological schools of 'law', but as the concept and purpose of Law naturally developed into (pre-American) constitutional structures through the concepts of natural law that it was later derived from, and major decisions cannot be made upon the basis of particular clauses without reference to the whole, but only with the full meaning of the law in mind which that clause expresses a portion of. In this particular case of impeachment, that process begins with the concept and history of impeachment itself, whose purpose is to remove an unfit person from political office, and as it was developed in America, to apply to political actors in political office. To accept that it is ok to impeach a private citizen, to try them, and to assign judgement upon them, for the purpose of preventing them from seeking political office in the future, is not only a case of the ends justifying the means, but is a matter of our government using our political processes to limit the available political actions and thoughts of American citizens. Such an action is not, and must not, be tolerated to be, in any sense, justified. 

If the term of the person serving in the political office of president, has not expired when a trial is begun, then the prerequisites for the trial are met, and any political penalties are appropriate to be applied to them, if they are found guilty. But if the political term of a person proposed to be tried for 'political crimes', has expired, and they are not in political office at the time of the start of the trial, then the conditions for holding a political trial are not met, and that trial is not, in any way, appropriate, allowable, justifiable, or constitutional.

The 45th president was impeached twice, and was tried in the senate for it once, and as his term in office has expired, he can no longer be constitutionally be tried for impeachment as an office holder. If someone wants to bring criminal charges, and can produce just cause for them, they may do so, but in no way do any aspects of impeachment apply to the former President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump.

I'll leave you with Joseph Story's summary, his opinion, and his realization that the Constitution itself doesn't settle the matter conclusively, that, sadly, is up to us... and judging from our current state of affairs, I think that We The People are the very last ones who should be trusted with the matter.
§ 801. As it is declared in one clause of the constitution, that "judgment, in cases of impeachment, shall not extend further, than a removal from office, and disqualification to hold any office of honour, trust, or profit, under the United States;" and in another clause, that "the president, vice president, and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours;" it would seem to follow, that the senate, on the conviction, were bound, in all cases, to enter a judgment of removal from office, though it has a discretion, as to inflicting the punishment of disqualification. If, then, there must be a judgment of removal from office, it would seem to follow, that the constitution contemplated, that the party was still in office at the time of the impeachment. If he was not, his offence was still liable to be tried and punished in the ordinary tribunals of justice. And it might be argued with some force, that it would be a vain exercise of authority to try a delinquent for an impeachable offence, when the most important object, for which the remedy was given, was no longer necessary, or attainable. And although a judgment of disqualification might still be pronounced, the language of the constitution may create some doubt, whether it can be pronounced without being coupled with a removal from office. There is also much force in the remark, that an impeachment is a proceeding purely of a political nature. It is not so much designed to punish an offender, as to secure the state against gross official misdemeanors. It touches neither his person, nor his property; but simply divests him of his political capacity.

...§ 803. It is not intended to express any opinion in these commentaries, as to which is the true exposition of the constitution on the points above stated. They are brought before the learned reader, as matters still sub judice, the final decision of which may be reasonably left to the high tribunal, constituting the court of impeachment, when the occasion shall arise....
The situation of 'when the occasion shall arise', has indeed arisen, and I'm very skeptical about whether We The People are going to rise to the occasion of it. We'll see.