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Friday, July 24, 2009

Culturist Take on Kant

Kant has been called the epitome of the Enlightenment. He wrote a famous work entitled, “What is the Enlightenment.” His ethics come at a time when religion is dying away. Socrates had faced this before Kant. He came up with the famous metaphysical forms of beauty to worship and not degrade for an ethical system. Kant rebelled against such metaphysics. He was a scientist. He created a rational ethical system to replace religion. His system is the basis of the concept of “universal human rights.” Since only the West believes in such systems, thinking they are universal corrodes our sovereignty. Understanding how we got committed to them can help free us from this Kantian trap.

Kant he created a very simple seeming set of ethics because it is logical. But those who study him recognize his nuance. In addition to ethics he wrote about academic freedom, aesthetics, politics, perception, astrophysics, and the philosophical literature in addition to ethics. He created the idea for the predecessor to the United Nations, the League of Nations. He coined the term “League of Nations.” He also invented the logic that underpins the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). I will argue that the UDHR is destructive because it does not recognize cultural diversity.

The ethical system of Kant’s, features the “Categorical Imperative.” (CI) This posits the ethical principle that we should figure out what the ethical assumption of your action is. Then you must make it a universal law of the precept and see if you still like it. If you are going to steal a car, the principle might be “would you like to live in a world where people steal other people’s cars?” Could you rationally, looking at your enlightened self-interest, will that to be a universal rule? The answer is no. “You should not steal cars” follows. Thus the CI makes ethical precepts.

Kant then gets into something he calls the kingdom of ends. For an action to be moral, it must be chosen. Things done out of compulsion or cannot be moral. For a choice to be morally decided upon you must have moral autonomy to make that choice. Kant says this gives you personhood, choice is what makes you a person. That means you cannot compel restrictions on a person’s activities and have a moral person. That means that you must treat people, not as means that you control, but of ends – autonomous free ends in and of themselves: respect their right to choose. Autonomous individuals forming society by using the categorical imperative to freely choose society’s rules sans compulsion is the ideal state.

Rationality is the lynch pin of this system. It assumes that everyone is rational. They make the rational choice. And, HERE IS THE FATAL MISSTEP, Kant holds that since all men are rational, as sure as logic is logical, his ethical system is universal. And since his system ultimately gives individual rights, he invents universal individual rights. This concept weakens the West as we are the only culture that believes in it. It undermines our sovereignty in the form of asylum rights. It undermines our borders in that enforcing them infringes upon universal individual rights. This is the flawed Kantian logic behind the U.N.’s vision of universals.

Culturists recognize that there is no universal autonomous rational person. Some people are irrational. And there are different standards of rationality. The Chinese look at the population and say, “WE hold this truth to be self-evident, all men are created UNEQUAL.” And what of Muslims who would still kill to implement theocratic systems Kant assumed dead? What of Islamic Jihad groups who would abuse our freedoms to undermine them? What of gangbangers that do not care about ethics and kills people for a living? Thought systems are divided upon national and cultural lines. For our “logical” rights-bearing system to survive, we must realize that it is rare, precious and fragile. It is not ubiquitous and common. Like other nations, we must be culturist. The West must protect, guide and domestically promote our specific language, culture and borders.

This does not violate our tradition; it is our tradition. From the Puritans to the Founding Fathers, from Abolitionists to progressives, to Prohibition to the 1924 Immigration Act, to the FCC, we have been a culturist nation. Crusades, such as the Civil War and the Great Awakenings fill our history. We must do this in accordance with our cultural traditions. Violating rights to save the system of rights makes no sense. HUAC’s censorship of the movies was wrong. But, America has traditionally regarded our vision as a fragile experiment. We need to recover the sense of individual and collective responsibility this requires. Herein lays the culturist system of ethics. It is grounded in our history. It provides ethics. It recognizes geo-politics and cultural diversity. It stops our destruction via buying into Kant’s universal rights principles.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bruno's Political Messages

Bruno is a triumph for free speech. In this film heterosexuals are portrayed as frozen, stupid, repressed homosexuals. Conservatives have to squirm as pastors are mocked. And yet, Bruno is quite the stereotypical pansy. Worse yet, his outrageous sexual antics reinforce the stereotype of gay men as vapid amoral sluts. In an age of enforced political correctness, Bruno serves as a hilarious icebreaker for necessary culturist discussions.

When seeing Bruno we are forced to ask “to what extent are gender roles and sexuality socially constructed?” Is the fact that all the men who made it past editing showed great discomfort with Bruno a sign of repressed homosexual tensions? Bruno assumes that the minister who tries to convert him to heterosexuality is suffering from repressed homosexual urges. Are the hunters who do not want to be compared to Sex in the City characters repressed homosexuals? Are they ignoring vast portions of their potential?

If heterosexuality is a form of repression, as the film implies, must it then inevitably be paired with ignorance and the violence needed for suppression? The reactions to Bruno’s sex scene in the Ultimate Fighting cage make one fear for his safety. The military personnel respond brutally to Bruno’s suggestion that they should get promoted for good skin. Since the West adopted Freud, it has become a commonplace that gay bashing represents repressed homosexual desire. Paraphrasing Obama, when masculinity is threatened people turn to their religion and their guns.

Culturism argues that the Victorians were not ignorant of the power of sexuality and violence. Their drive to enforce propriety was as much a homage to the great power they wished to bottle as plain prudery. Bruno would provide them fodder. His visit to a terrorist’s home and silly effort to create peace in the Middle East mocked vacant consumerist thought. And, this mockery reinforced the need for the macho men of the military; certainly a society comprised of people as effete and frivolous as Bruno would not last long. This is especially true when, as we see in the film, our enemies take their constructs very seriously.

Virtually no women appear in the film. When Bruno meets a sensual female swinger with an overblown boob job he comments, “you must get a lot of milk out of those.” He interviews mothers who would starve their children and approve liposuction to get their children into commercials. From this culturist’s perspective, the acceptance of gays is a strong western selling point with which to confront our intolerant global competitors. Most gays have higher than average incomes and educations. But families need committed parents. Bruno’s involving his bought child in gay sex orgies hints at limits a society must be aware of if it is to remain viable. Having seen the dumb males within the context of their families would have pulled much of the punch from this film.

Go see Bruno. Few films, comedic or serious, raise so many important issues. Beyond that it is very funny. Paula Abdul talking about her love of humanity as she brunches seated on Mexicans is priceless. Bruno’s interaction with the typically socially conservative African – American audiences about their cultural touchstones deserves dissection and discussion. The hollowness of celebrity worship runs through the film. And the propriety of his puncturing the vanity of the fashion industry can be used to lead discussions concerning the need for restraint, decorum and assuming roles in society. Bruno is a culturist must see because it illustrates and questions so many political principles.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Empedocles, rights talk and culturism

The following are thoughts from an important debate I am having with Empedocles. He runs the "a pox on both your houses" blog. Please read and respond to our crucial discussion. And please visit his wonderful philosophical blog by clicking the title of this blog post!

Empedocles,

I very much agree with your anti-metaphysical stance on rights. I also agree with your statement "I do not think that right claims need to be acquiesced to if they are harmful to a people." And the switch from negative rights (what the government can't do) to positive rights (the constant government intrusion in the name of equality and fairness you mention) is very significant.

My favorite book on rights is Mary Glendon's short "Rights Talk". It would answer your question about limits to rights by saying that under current situations, where positive rights are asserted on metaphysical basis of justice, there are no limits to them and they are not negotiable. Group rights, economic rights etc. cannot be challenged. She would ask us to accept that rights are a construct gained by power and not eternal truths, so that we can have discussions like the ones we are having about the limits and use of rights.

If we accept the Neitzschiean premise, and take rights to be situational, does that weaken them in any sense? I say no. We can then adopt pure pragmatism. So I can say rights here in America are valid and we will verbally push for them as being international, but we will not legally recognize international rights such as the right to build mosques here. We use that language against others while protecting ourselves from others use of them against us. This would be a pragmatic approach to rights.

Accepting pragmatism, the only question left is then, pragmatically, which is the best strategy. Thanks to our discussions I am leaning towards the above strategy. And if people say it is hypocritical that you want to push rights as an idea internationally via sanctions etc, but do not recognize international rights that hurt your sovereignty, I would respond by explaining the pragmatic, real politik view of rights. This is the strongest position to come from.

The problem is that, in the current world debate, whenever you use the phrase "human rights" people hear "weak sovereignty" and use your own language against you. And yet, if we do not go with human rights language we cannot vocally back the Iranian dissenters. The sword of "human rights" language cuts both ways. The second best idea is to say we back "Western rights" as an international idea. But this will not make a satisfactory substitute for human rights language because explaining the distinction is too difficult. Furthermore, Iranians will likely not rally for anything designated as 'western rights.'

Finally, my first impulse is to just say screw the international scene and assume rights only apply in the West. However, if we could weaken Iran and make them more amenable to rationality, it would greatly enhance our security. I have never believed in that possibility before, but now I have some hope. The potential of a moderate Iran is a hard carrot to give up. If that is an impossible carrot, then I would adopt my original stance of saying screw the international scene, rights are purely western. So again, unknown variables determine what is the best strategy.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Multiculturalism, Human Rights, and Britain's 85 sharia courts

The think tank Civitas profiled and condemned 85 British sharia courts. Since it is ‘extremely difficult” to gain access to these courts, the report references fatwa’s, or religious rulings, “run out of or accessed through mosques in the UK. These give a “good indication of the rulings of sharia courts in Britain. Examples are, “a Muslim woman may not under any circumstances marry a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam; such a woman's children will be separated from her until she marries a Muslim man; polygamous marriage (i.e. two to four wives) is considered legal... a husband has conjugal rights over his wife, and she should normally answer his summons to have sex (but she cannot summon him for the same reason); . . . [and] a wife has no property rights in the event of divorce” These rulings undermine Britain in several ways. But they, most obviously, do not violate the laws of every nation.

First of all, by denying the right of legal protection to its female citizens, it alienates them from the British community. The rulings, a Muslim representative noted, are only valid if both sides agree. But Susan Okin, who writes on the incompatibility of multiculturalism and feminism has noted that most female oppression takes place in private. If her family pressures her to drop out of school to marry she may be so isolated from the opportunities and protection of western law accepting the ways of her subculture may seem like the only opportunity. As Civitas argued, the Islamic tribunal “may be the only tribunal the man will accept.” In Canada Muslim women stopped the imposition of legally binding Islamic arbitration. But notice that this effort stopped sharia in the west, not in an international space.

Worse yet, a spokesperson for the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal said that the courts were an opportunity to “self-determine disputes.” The “self-determination” language comes from the League of Nations. It refers to separate nations determined by a distinct people. That is it refers to international matters. Under multiculturalism, however, this language is used to mean that nations within western nations have a right to self-determination. And, herein, we see a distinct legal system within a western nation. We have to ask, “What is next?” In Canada there is already a Canadian Islamic Congress. Will we see an Islamic Parliament? Will there be a Muslim Prime Minister in Britain? In asking these questions we see how having a parallel legal system threatens the sovereignty of the West. But notice that this move does not threaten the sovereignty of an imagined international space, it threatens western nations.

Civitas’ director, David Green said, “Our system is based on moral and legal equality or it is based on nothing.” This culturist truism only grazes the issue of sovereignty. Britain must only recognize British law. “The IK’s highest court has ruled that sharia law was “wholly incompatible” with human rights law. The House of Lords granted asylum to a Lebanese woman on this basis. Though culturism agrees in general, the language used herein also reduces western sovereignty. Britain is a nation with a distinct evolved tradition, heritage and culture. Islamic law is distinct from British law. Human rights law, though based on western thought, is also a foreign legal construct held together by those allied with the UN. Britain needs to stand up for British laws or it will disappear. Rather than adopting international or multicultural tenets, Britain must be culturist.

All opposed to sharia law in the West will condemn the existence of Islamic courts in Britain. Yet most cling to the language of ‘human rights.’ Readers please ask yourself these questions, “Is human rights language more often used in favor of the West or against the West?” If you are not in favor of the United Nations, why do you support international rights language? Is there a way to support the concept of international rights without supporting the United Nations and undermining our sovereignty?” As ‘human rights’ language is western, we are the only nations that take it seriously. As with ‘multiculturalism’ other nations ignore ‘human rights’ and turn them on us as a weapon. There is not question that the West would be better off replacing the use of multiculturalism with culturism. Would it better protect the West to replace ‘human rights’ language with culturist language?

Human rights language has recently come close to toppling Iran. Were they called, western rights, it might not have caught on as well. Yet, I am troubled by the use of international language in western disputes. The international space of the UN is also very much against us. We are told to side with the Palestinians with indifference because their 'human rights' are being violated. We are not to take sides as all else do. Herein human rights language means we must be neutral. We must be aware of language. When should we use culturist talk of western rights? Should we ever use 'human rights' language? I know we definitely should not use such language when it comes to asylum claims. Multicultural rights to self-determination back Sharia courts in western nations. What other examples come to mind?