I’m listening to the Painfotainment episode of Hardcore History. The subject is torture. Specifically, the role and perception of torture in human societies.
Carlin discusses the psychological difference between torturing people and torturing bad people. He concedes that a modern audience would generally be horrified and outraged at the prospect of someone being tortured on live TV… but he wonders if that outrage would be as strong if the victim was a bad person. What if we’d captured Osama bin Laden and we were going to torture him on live TV? Would people still be outraged, or would people be accepting, since Bin Laden is a person who “deserves it”?
I think the answer is self-evident.
It seems to me that a similar phenomenon in manifest with regards to honesty. Everyone recognizes and hates slander when the person being attacked is “good.” A lie impugning the character of a “good” person is unacceptable: about “good” people we must always tell the truth, and always give the benefit of the doubt. But if the person is “bad,” then suddenly our standards of honesty slip to almost nothing.
It is wrong to lie about a good person, but a bad person deserves to be lied about, so lying about them is okay.
A concise way to describe Alicia Machado’s career and lifestyle is that she is a high-end prostitute. In America, she’s known for being “Miss Universe” 20 years ago, but in the Spanish-speaking world she’s known for being naked and/or performing sex acts in various media, and for being a “girlfriend” to various gangsters. That’s who she is.
Hillary Clinton is the serial enabler of the world’s most notorious womanizer. The Clinton name is more closely associated with the sexual exploitation of employees than with any government policy, and Hillary is thoroughly complicit in Bill’s abuses. She is also a notoriously and conspicuously corrupt politician, having been caught in innumerable lies and tied to all manner of shady dealings. That’s who she is.
Donald Trump is a notorious womanizer who’s made a habit of marrying nude models and then abandoning them for younger nude models. His businesses have included strip clubs and agencies that supply nude models. He’s also a shameless braggart and a liar who never gives a straight answer to anything and who (allegedly) makes a habit of cheating his business partners. That’s who he is.
In 2016, what’s in the public mind as a serious issue that should determine who will rule the United States? What’s in the candidates’ advertisements? What was talked about at the Presidential debate?
Donald called Alicia “fat,” and Hillary say that’s just too mean.
That’s what the contest for President of United States looks like: three of the world’s most shamelessly immoral people fighting over who’s a meanie. Reality TV has leaped off our screens and come to horrible life in our nation’s highest offices and institutions. It’s like that “Forbidden Planet” trope where the characters’ subconscious thoughts manifest and attack them. (Life imitates art?)
I don’t have any real point here. It’s just kind of blowing my mind.
The question was put to me: If cops do not, in fact, disproportionately abuse blacks, then why don’t black people trust police?
A corollary question occurred to me: If cops are not disproportionately helpful to whites, then why do white people trust police?
Police really aren’t particularly trustworthy. Various forms of corruption are rampant in many departments, and this has historically always been a problem. Many police practices are really just “Sheriff of Nottingham”-style revenue collection, especially the egregiously abusive practice of civil asset forfeiture. Many of the laws police enforce are unjust, and police generally are not punished when they abuse their power.
This is not to bash cops as uniquely evil, but rather to point out that are not uniquely good. They’re people doing a job, just like all other people doing jobs. Sometime they are bad, and sometimes the job itself is bad. We have at least as much reason to be suspicious of a cop and his motives as we do any other person in any other profession.
But we don’t think of them as people doing a job. We ascribe to them unique qualities that we would not ascribe to other people. In black culture, they are ascribed evil qualities, malicious bullies looking to cause pain and loss, and they are assumed to be in the wrong in any conflict. In white culture, they are ascribed good qualities, heroic figures looking to serve and protect, and they are always given the benefit of the doubt.
Why? Why do we ascribe such strong moral qualities to members of this profession but not others?
My answer is that neither group is assigning qualities to police based on their actual experience with police, or by the application of any philosophy. It’s just a matter of which memes people are exposed to. In white culture, police are almost always portrayed positively, as noble, caring and competent. In black culture they are almost always portrayed negatively, as corrupt, callous, and foolish. People see these portrayals (generally as children) and assimilate them into their worldviews, then perpetuate them, so the portrayals become memes and self-reinforcing.
The influence of what you expect to see on what you think you see cannot be overstated.
What is racism?
Racism is defined in many ways by many people. Some say racism is about power, when one racial group has more power than another. Some say it is about injustice, when one racial group receives special treatment as compared to another. Some say it is about attitude, when individuals in one group regard themselves as superior. Some say it is about perspective, when people from one group do not understand people from another.
These are all wrong (or at least incomplete).
Racism is simply this: using appearance to segregate people into blocs.
Whenever it is assumed that people have common interests, common experience, common goals, common attributes, common attitudes, common problems–common anything–based merely on their bodily appearance, that is racism. It is always harmful, no matter what is being assumed, and no matter who is doing it.