Indigenous Ways of Knowing?

Once again, the brilliant minds at University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, better known as OISE, has graced the world with another one of their hair-brained theories. It’s called Indigenous Ways of Knowing and it’s coming to schools near you.

OISE is rallying teachers to poison our children with these ludicrously pre– non-historical ways of thought.

CLICK HERE to be forwarded to the module on OISE’s website designed to educate teachers on what is and how to teach Indigenous Ways of Knowing.

What exactly is Indigenous Ways of Knowing? Well, buckle up because for anybody with half a brain it’s going to be a bumpy ride as we dive into the seven topics of this half-witted module.

 

TOPIC ONE “What is Indigenous Knowledge?”

So, what exactly is Indigenous Knowledge? Your guess seems to be as good as anybody else’s. Our mis-informed friends at OISE don’t even define what they’re talking about. Like many of the buzzwords taught at our universities, they’re about triggering certain emotions as opposed to thoughts.

To quote the module, “In this module, Indigenous knowledge is described rather than defined. There are sources and characteristics that are shared among diverse Indigenous peoples but a hesitance to define it in one limiting way.”

No worries, let’s just cut them some slack and carry on with the module. But wait! What is the reason they give for not being able to describe what they are talking about? Oh right…. it’s because of those rotten Westerners….

According to the module, “Indigenous knowledge definitions can be problematic because they often use the dominant knowledge system (Western knowledge) as a frame of reference.”

See what I mean about triggering emotions instead of thoughts? They even blame the West for not being able to articulate their own thoughts. Is Western guilt hitting rock bottom? Or is it as the Irish say, “if you think you’ve hit rock bottom, wait a while and you’ll hear a knock from bellow.”

Then, they quote Dr. Marie Battiste‘s description of  Indigenous knowledge. She claims that “Indigenous knowledge compromises the complex set of technologies developed and sustained by Indigenous civilizations. Often oral and symbolic, it is transmitted through the structure of Indigenous languages and passes on to the next generation through modeling, practice, and animation, rather than through written word.”

The module then states “Indigenous knowledge is embedded in community practices, rituals, and relationships. As a living knowledge, it is holistic, contextual, and relational.”

In other words, Indigenous knowledge is comprised of stone aged tools, pre-historic oral traditions, and rituals.

 

TOPIC TWO “Characteristics of Indigenous Knowing”

Finally, it’s time to dive into the descriptions given about the characteristics of Indigenous knowing. The characteristics of indigenous knowing are that it is “personal, orally transmitted, experiential, holistic, and narrative.”

What do these folks mean when they say that Indigenous knowledge is personal?

They mean “no one person has the truth… With multiple perceptions at the core, indigenous knowledge actualizes itself in context….thus indigenous knowledge is highly dynamic.”

Translation: more of that Post-modern garbage juice which claims that there is no real truth and that “everything’s, like, your, like, opinion man.”

If there’s no “real” truth, and everybody knows just as much as everybody else, then why are we paying you to teach us this garbage? If the students know as much as the teacher, why should they show up to class (or take the time to study this absurd module)?

What do these folks mean when they say that Indigenous Ways of Knowing is orally transmitted?

To quote the module, “Oral tradition is not a precursor to literate traditions. They are simply different ways of knowledge keeping.”

I think that they might have put the wrong herb in the peace pipe on this one. Oral tradition is not a precursor to literate tradition? What are they talking about?!

Do they even know what history, the study of written records, means? Or what pre-historic societies are? Do they not understand that people spoke to each other before they invented script and started to write things down?

I feel obliged to remind you that these people are the teachers of your children’s teachers!

What do these folks mean when they say that “Indigenous Ways of Knowing” are experiential?

Well, the module claims, “The land is alive, the only way to know that is to be on the land. The senses can know more deeply and concretely than knowledge gained though reading or being told.”

I’m not going to lie, there is some truth in that claim. One only has to read a bit of Walt Whitman to sympathize with this position. But that being said, I severely question how deeply one can understand a blade of grass just by holding it, as opposed to learning about it in a botany text book. Furthermore, it is very questionable that holding it, seeing, and tasting it provides a “deeper” understanding.

What do these folks mean when they say that “Indigenous Ways of Knowing” are holistic?

The module defines Indigenous knowledge as holistic because it “brings together internal and external worlds, the physical and the spiritual.”

Hold up….

Last time I checked, The Canadian Public School Board was a secular board. Then why are we telling teachers to introduce Native Spirituality into the classroom? Isn’t the entire idea of secularism the right to be free of religious rule and religious teaching?

Is telling teachers to teach Native Spirituality fair to other spiritual denominations?

For example, The Orthodox Church of America claims to be holistic. Orthodox also believe their teachings are universal and unite the external and internal parts of ourselves. As strict monists, they believe in the existence of only one world (that the natural and supernatural are united as one in the same world).

Ironically, the OCA also has a disproportionately high number of aboriginals, particularly the Alaskan Kodiak naitives, in the hierarchy of their church.

Should teachers be allowed, or rather encouraged, to bring in American Orthodox priests to teach their children about the “wonders of creation” and the “Orthodox Ways of Knowing?”

If Indigenous Ways of Knowing are spiritual, then like other spiritual teachings it doesn’t belong in a secular classroom.

If Buddhists and Orthodox Christians have to leave lessons about their incense usage at home,  Indigenous Ways of knowing should leave stories about the “sacred prayers” of the peace pipe at home as well.

What do these folks mean when they say Indigenous Ways of Knowing is narrative?

They claim that “Indigenous knowledge is conveyed using a narrative. Stories contain the knowledge that is needed to live in a good way. Transmitting vital teachings without preaching.”

That sounds like it’s OK, until you start to actually think about it. Hate to break to these guys, but telling moral stories is one of the oldest forms of preaching. It’s what that Jesus guy was doing when he spoke in parables.

All this shows is that they want to preach to children in everything but name.

 

TOPIC THREE “Sources of Indigenous Knowledge”

The module lists  “1. Traditional knowledge, 2. Empirical Knowledge, 3. Revealed knowledge” as the sources of Indigenous knowledge.

First off, how do we know that what the Indigenous think is “traditional knowledge” actually is what the Indigenous pre-European contact actually believed?

If everything is passed down from word of mouth, then how do we know that pre-European-contact-indigenous groups actually believed the stories that we currently claim are “traditional” native stories? Isn’t it possible that some of these stories are post-contact historical retro-projections?

Second, they’re misusing the word “Empirical.” Empiricism is an epistemological philosophy invented by Europeans invented in the 17th and 18th century.

If all they mean by “Empirical Knowledge” is that the Indigenous saw, felt, smelt, heard, and tasted things then whop-tie-do. There’s nothing special about that.

Welcome to the human condition. It certainly doesn’t make the indigenous way of knowing anymore distinct from anybody else’s way of knowing.

Third, how are we going to teach our children the Indigenous Way of Knowing if it comes to us in dreams and revelations?

The module defines “Revealed Knowledge” as “dreams, visions, and intuitions.” all of which are un-teachable.

What happened to citations? Verifiable and falsifiable hypotheses? The scientific method? Can teachers consider knowledge credible simply because it came to them in a dream?

 

TOPIC FOUR “Indigenous Axiology, Values, and Ethics “

In this part of the module, the focus is on the values and ethics within Indigenous Ways of Knowing.

There is nothing here that Ancient Greek Virtue philosophers didn’t already propose. Above all else, at least when the ancient Greeks spoke about ethics, they could write their thoughts down and have future generations check their notes.

This way each generation wasn’t working from scratch and from the time torn tatters of broken miscommunications found in all oral traditions.

After all, to quote the module, “the way one one comes to know is as important as what one comes to know.”

 

TOPIC FIVE “Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science Side by Side”

Here comes the fun part.

The module is actually putting this Indigenous Ways of Knowing nonsense on par with Western Science.

The module starts by denouncing science as nothing more than a Eurocentric and Imperialist tool to push aside the ideas of other cultures.

“The modern Western World developed in tandem with the expansion of European colonial empires. With colonial imperialism came an emphasis on the centrality and superiority of European theories and ideas also known as Eurocentrism. Eurocentrism has used Western science to discredit and delegitimize and marginalize Indigenous knowledges … This process has also been described as Cognitive imperialism (Battiste, 1986)”

Let us concede that Europeans turned to tribal peoples and spoke out against superstition, regional folk lore, and mislead mysticism. Is that really so bad?

Let us further concede that Europeans were even quick to push aside useful knowledge possessed by the natives because of pompous and ignorant racism. Does that mean that suddenly the epistemology of Western Science is on par with Indigenous Ways of Knowing?

Is all epistemology, all ways of knowing things, equal? Of course not.

If not, how does Indigenous Ways of Knowing compare with Western Science. Luckily for us, the module measures them both against one another in a Venn diagram.

CommonGroundCircles

^Cited from the geniuses at OISE^

The module explains how the Venn diagram presents “characteristics of both systems side by side to illustrate the different emphases, assumptions and outcomes of knowing within each system.”

Notice how they didn’t put “holistic” in the middle. Are they claiming that Western science, which studies the universal laws that permeate everything from to quarks and galaxies, is not holistic? Do they even know what Western Science is?

Apparently not, considering how they put “practical experimentation” as exclusively indigenous. It’s not like Western Science conducts any practical experimentation … Oh wait! It does! That’s what laboratories are for!

Who do they think comes up with the vaccines, generates new space aged materials, and increases agricultural yields?!

I’m just glad that they recognized that Western Science, and not Traditional Naive Knowledge, possess “global verification; hypothesis falsification; quantitative written records; communication of procedures, evidence, and theory; mathematical models;” and most importantly “skepticism” because God knows belief in Indigenous Knowledge requires blind faith.

The fact that they didn’t put “limited to evidence and explanation within the physical world” in middle just goes to show that “Traditional Native Knowledge” is just more religious neo-paganism.

Does this belong in a secular school system?

 

TOPIC 6 & 7 “Indigenous Knowledge and Learning, Re-imagining Education” & “Suggested Activities”

In these parts of the module, they argue that educators should “Re-imagine Education” and conduct activities with their students on  “Indigenous Ways of Knowing.”

This includes sharing “with your fellow learners this living representation of First Nations Holistic Life Long Learning model Created by the Canada Council on Learning and the Aboriginal Learning Centre.”

Remember that this module is designed for the teachers of your children.

Is anybody considering home school?

 

DISCLAIMER 

The module, like any faulty product, comes with a disclaimer.

It states, “Remember that the boundaries between the two are not so hard and fast and that both kinds of knowledge can exhibit different aspects. Most importantly, there are instances where indigenous knowledge and Western Science overlap.”

Personally, I completely agree. But insomuch as they define describe what Indigenous Ways of Knowledge is in contrast to Western Science, the more I feel like I need chemotherapy to get rid of this mental cancer.

 

The photo shows, “Le guerrier Iroquois,” by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, hand-tinted etching, done in 1797.

Jesus The Man

Have you ever noticed how certain people seem to fill a room with their presence? They simply walk in and everyone turns their way.

Sometimes this magnetism is due to an individual’s athletic prowess, stunning appearance, wealth or great intellect.

Yes some people can captivate others just with their presence.

If you have ever been invited to a reception where a member of the royal family for example is due to appear. People are quite happy waiting, making small talk and nibbling their canapés. Then when the royal member appears all attention is turned towards them. They command your attention; they become your complete focus.

When Jesus was going around Galilee speaking to different groups of people; he also commanded attention and became your complete focus. People said of him; ‘no one has ever taught like him before.

Nor had anyone ever divided a room more quickly than this prophet from Nazareth.

It was not his wealth or beauty that people noticed, he did not have those; nor had he much money.

And Isaiah said of him he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him.

So what was it that made him stand out above all others ever born in any generation past, present or future.

Well it was many things; it was his; grace, his power, his forgiveness, his teaching, his miracles, his compassion, his unceasing love and courage.

His presence was unmistakable. People either loved him or hated him, but they Never ignored him.

Many people then and since have tried to soften Jesus’ raspy cutting edge remarks concerning the human condition.

But it cannot be done without watering down his message and ruining the picture of his true character.

Much of the history concerning Christianity has centred around domesticating Jesus and reducing his message to one that suits all tastes and one that we are all comfortable with.

But that can’t work otherwise the gospel loses its potency and power. In North America and Europe Revisionist theology is causing the church many difficulties as some seek to revise what the bible actually teaches. In other words Christianity should be so watered down that it possesses no risk of offense to anyone. Something like A benign domesticated Jesus who is robbed of his ability to disturb others from their spiritual sleep walk.

Today we live in the age of Equality. Equality is king. It is the god many worship. And equality means no one gets offended.

But the fact is that Jesus is as disturbing now as he was then. Look how many times Jesus provoked outrage amongst his listeners and many of the other disciples for that matter.

Now I am not saying that we should all become firebrand preachers there’s enough of them already; or go about being offensive to people of different faiths or no faith.

But the fact is that we cannot portray Jesus without causing some people to feel uncomfortable about the way they live their lives and their attitude to him. Truth by its very nature is exclusive. Truth cannot mean all things to all people.

The Apostle John described Jesus as, ‘one full of grace and truth’. These two words encapsulate what it means to be a Christian. We act with grace and empathy, but we also stand for truth. That is biblical truth, which is not distorted or adapted to suit trends. Nor should we be afraid to speak in the public square giving the reason for our faith.

Sadly in recent years western Christianity has retreated from speaking out for what it believes, and instead allowed confusion and distortion to take the centre ground.

Jesus has this knack of shining his light into the darker recesses of our lives, which proves to be uncomfortable because there are things there that we know should not be there.

Jesus spoke powerfully yet skilfully. He spoke with authority yet with restraint. He spoke lovingly yet insightfully.

Jesus had always something productive and effective to say. Something that would make you wonder and look at him and say to yourself; well I never thought of that before.

He also had a knack of shattering our illusions. That’s the first point I want to make this morning. He shatters our illusions.

A leading Christian academic once said; ‘what we need is more disillusioned people’. It’s an interesting comment and one worth thinking about.

Disillusioned people by right should see themselves for what they are; disillusioned.

Disillusioned with the meaning and purpose of life and disillusioned with themselves. Disillusioned or heart broken people tend to be more open to God.

We live in a world filled with illusions; some are physical, some mental, and some spiritual.

Thanks to the advances in cosmetic surgery for example; if we don’t like what we see in the mirror; we can hide it; stretch it; tighten it; tuck it; remove it, enhance it; and replace it all in the same day. We gently massage the illusions we create with fantasies of unending health; wealth, eternal beauty; but always avoiding the inner poverty of our souls. The soul is the last place we tend to. We ignore it; and we do so at our peril.

Illusions are things or states of mind that we erect in order to prevent us from dealing and grappling with the truth.

We can maintain the hoax by borrowing money we don’t have, or buy stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t know and never see again. And so it goes on.

Our cosmetic and monetary enhancements are vain attempts to flee the real truth about life and death, about weakness and insecurity; and the advertising companies are making a fortune as they tap deeper and deeper into our insecurities.

The Pharisees in Jesus day got a lot of bad press. They were the religious zealots, the fundamentalists who viewed themselves as righteous, pure and basically perfect. They had created illusions about them selves; their role, and position in society.

But when they encountered Jesus; Jesus shook their self-righteous illusions to the core. Woe to you;

Woe to you; woe to you he said. He then went on to slate them for their hypocrisy.

You could hear people in the crowd saying but Jesus; That’s not how you address important religious leaders; but that’s what Jesus did. He had to use that particular approach. Jesus of course reached out to others in different ways. He spoke to the woman at the well in a very courteous yet penetrating way. But he shattered her illusion about happiness being found in relationships with different men.

He spoke to the rich young ruler lovingly. But he shattered his illusion that possessing wealth and being good was the key to life. He told him the truth. He did not compromise and run after him and say I’ll make it easier for you. Just give some of your wealth away.

He spoke tenderly to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery; but he shattered her illusion by reminding her that adultery was not acceptable and a sin against God. He told her the truth. He healed on the Sabbath Day shattering the Pharisees illusion about how the Sabbath Day was to be used.

Even his parables shattered illusions concerning money, faith, the kingdom of God and so on.

If the parable of the Good Samaritan didn’t shatter illusions about equality, discrimination, race, and creed I don’t know what did. A few months back I was listening to Radio 2. A man called John Lloyd was being interviewed.

His name is not particularly well known. But John Lloyd is a TV producer and the man who wrote the scripts for Spitting Image, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, QI, and Black Adder to name but a few. It was a very interesting interview.

Lloyd spoke about his fame and fortune as a scriptwriter for many Top Comedy TV programmes. He had a lovely wife, family, home, wealth and position. He had it all. And then he woke up one Christmas Eve morning, and suddenly thought for the first time in his life; what is this all about and he spiralled into years of depression; which he has now come through.

Lloyd possessed the dream of success in the eyes of the world; but when he achieved it; he said; it meant nothing to him. There was a sense of pointlessness to it all.

He built around him the successful trappings of comfort, fame and wealth but ignored the state of his soul. He constructed an illusion. His illusion about life had been broken. King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes said the same thing.

The second point I would make is this. Jesus often used three little words to get his message across.

Jesus rarely went into lengthy discourses. He tended to keep things short and to the point. Do you know what those three little words were? When he spoke to the crowds he would often say; ‘you have heard that it was said.

hen he turned things round by saying; ‘but I say’; ‘but I say’.

Three important words that gave a whole new dimension to what he said and to what others had said before him. The people wondered; who is this who speaks to us in this way; no one has ever spoken like this before.

I don’t know if you have ever heard powerful captivating speakers. They are a very rare commodity. But once you hear them speak you will remember them and their message for a very long time. Martin Luther King’s highly charged ‘I have a dream’ speech in Washington DC in 1963 Even when I hear it on Youtube the hairs on the back of my neck still rise.

Or Winston Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons during the 2nd WW in 1940; we will fight them on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets. But Jesus words blow all other speeches away by comparison. Jesus was a highly skilled orator even at the age of twelve he was able to debate with the leading rabbi’s of the day in the temple.

When he uttered These three words; ‘but I say’ basically he was saying; Pay attention; pay attention and listen to what I am about to say,

Because what I am about to say will turn your world upside down and give you a reality check. And you need to hear this.

Now some people were open and excited about this; others were offended. Nothing has changed. Reading chapters 5 to 7 of Matthew, which includes the Beatitudes, is a reality check for us all. It removes any man made illusions.

‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, do not murder; but I say anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

You have heard that it was said; do not commit adultery; BUT I say anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

You have heard that it was said; love your neighbour and hate your enemy; but I say love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’

Whenever we hear words like these they not only arouse our curiosity they make us think and look at things in a different way.

It should not surprise us that in Jesus’ day his words separated friends, split families and shocked his followers.

Every time he taught or preached he was sparring with the prevailing opinions of society, and was one of the reasons he got himself into trouble.

If a man takes your jacket from you, give him your shirt as well he says. ‘If someone strikes you on the check, turn the other towards him.’

‘Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you. Lend to those who cannot pay you back.’

These are words that shatter our illusions. This is the way God talks. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Whenever we read such words our automatic reaction is to justify ourselves. And we begin an analysis.

Can these attitudes and ways really work in this world; is Jesus really in touch with reality. Does Jesus not know that the world doesn’t operate like this?

Does Jesus not know, does he not realise that throwing money at people who can’t pay it back displays bad business judgement and may lead to financial ruin for both parties. And what kind of defence policy would our nation have if we took cheek turning seriously with the likes of North Korea and Russia breathing down our necks. There are no easy answers. But Jesus’ words remain.

What are the illusions Jesus shatters with you? Might some of your illusions be?

If I follow God he will always keep me healthy and strong.

God helps those who help themselves.

What goes around, comes around.

Because I go to church God will look after me.

I can manage my greed and lust on my own.

Look after number one.

I’m basically a good person.

As long as you have your health.

Don’t offend anyone.

The strange thing is Jesus never said any of those things. !!!

Do you see the difference between what Jesus says and how we think and interpret his words? The illusions we erect to safeguard ourselves which really cause us more harm than good.

Maybe you will allow Jesus to shatter or dismantle what you have erected over the years.

Alan Wilson is a Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland, where he serves a large congregation, supported by his wife. Before he took up the call to serve Christ, he was in the Royal Ulster Constabulary for 30-years. He has two children and two grandchildren and enjoys soccer, gardening, zoology, politics and reading. He voted for Brexit in the hope that the stranglehold of Brussels might finally be broken. He welcomes any that might wish to correspond with him through the Contact Page of The Postil.

 

The photo shows, “My Soul is Sorrowful unto Death,” by James Tissot, painted ca. 1896.

The Orthodox Church – Christianity’s Future?

As I and my family continue our inevitable pivot toward Orthodoxy, I have been reading more works on, you guessed it, Orthodoxy. This book, by the English theologian Timothy Ware, who as a bishop uses the baptismal name Kallistos, is a classic introduction to Orthodoxy.

It was first published in 1963 but has more recently been revised, so it is fully up to date on history—and doctrine has not changed in Orthodoxy since 1963, or 963, for that matter.  I’ve actually owned the book for several years, but have only now read it, having been told by several people that it is very much worth reading. And they were right—it is an excellent book.

People in the modern West, even Christians, are largely ignorant of Orthodoxy. The Orthodox, to some extent at least, return the favor—Ware notes that Robert Curzon, a well-traveled English baron, in the 1830s was “disconcerted to find that the Patriarch of Constantinople had never heard of the Archbishop of Canterbury.” (He was not the Curzon who was Viceroy of India at the turn of the twentieth century and regarded as England’s greatest expert of the time on the Orient, though I imagine they were related somehow).

In the twentieth century and today, with modern communications and emigration, the Orthodox have become somewhat more prominent in the West—especially in America, where large numbers of Orthodox immigrants have established their own churches. Ware’s book is an attempt bridge the knowledge gap for Westerners.

The first two-thirds of the book is a detailed and well-written history of Orthodoxy.  Ware begins, naturally enough, with a definition of Orthodoxy: “…the Christians who are in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.”  This excludes Roman Catholics and Protestants, of course, and also the Oriental Orthodox—the Church of the East, today rabidly persecuted by Muslims in places like Syria, and the Monophysite Churches, such as the Coptic Church in Egypt.

He also explains the organization of the modern Orthodox Church, which is complicated, but basically boils down to “a family of self-governing Churches,” all in communion and which, in theory, decide any disputed questions by convening in councils.  There is therefore no equivalent to the Pope, something that is turning out, after all, to be a feature, not a bug.

Ware discusses the seven general councils, the last one in 787, which determined the outlines of mainstream Christian beliefs. Naturally, since the Great Schism, the breach between Orthodoxy and Roman Christianity, is traditionally dated to 1054, these beliefs are shared by all Roman Catholics, and by many Protestants as well.

As remembered today, the most critical issues related to the nature of God in Christian doctrine, though many other matters were also decided at these councils.  For Orthodoxy, another critical matter was the treatment of icons, which are more central to worship than are images in the West.

Ware identifies iconoclasm with the ever-present Gnostic temptation in Christianity to denigrate the physical world as inferior and to be superseded in ages to come, whereas Orthodox (and all correct Christian) belief is that the material world is “very good” in God’s eyes and is itself ultimately to be “redeemed and glorified.”

All this was hammered out within the framework of the (Eastern) Roman empire, of which Ware and other Orthodox tend to have a highly favorable view. The traditional Western view is more negative, conditioned by Roman Catholic hostility and Edward Gibbon’s bigoted, dubious history, and tends, on a political level, to denigrate the Empire as Caesaropapist—that is, with the state dominating the church. Ware, at least, sees it as a symbiotic, cooperative, relationship, and he (along with many Orthodox, I suspect) sees Byzantium at its height as, if still far from an ideal society, the closest Christendom has gotten to one.

Next Ware narrates the complex events leading up to and following the Great Schism, covering everything from the theologian Saint Photius to the Normans in Italy to the Crusades. Interesting information, particularly showing contrasts to the West, frequently crops up, such as the continued prevalence and prominence of lay theologians in the East, where the secular education system had not collapsed as it had in the West.

Interspersed in this history is quite a bit of doctrinal discussion, such as details of the Hesychast Controversy, and the related distinctions made in Orthodoxy between God’s essence and energies, a topic that overlaps with the Scholastic innovation of univocity.

Later chapters cover, among other matters, the conversion of the Slavs, with a long and fascinating narrative about the Orthodox in Russia, and then detailed coverage of the twentieth century, a time of trials for the Orthodox (and renewed conflict between Orthodox and Roman Catholics in the Balkans, unfortunately).

Along the way, Ware also covers the precise current organizational structure of the Church (who knew that Finland was part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople?), and similar administrative matters, both in theory and practice.

The Orthodox, with justification, have a dim view of the Crusades, especially the Fourth, but Ware does tend to elide important details running counter to that narrative, such as that the First Crusade (in 1095) was largely a response to a specific request for aid by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, after a series of brutal defeats at the hands of the Turks, beginning at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.

In his complaints about the Crusaders, some of which are wholly legitimate, Ware even uses as fact the claim by Raymond of Argiles after the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 that “men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins.” You often hear this quote trotted out; I remember Bill Clinton doing so after September 11. Its modern use is to shift the focus from today’s Muslim atrocities to claimed thousand-year-old Christian ones, as if those were equivalent, or rather the latter far more important. Its earlier use, before the age of global Muslim terror, was to attack Roman Catholics and Christianity generally; it appears in atheist Enlightenment tracts.

No doubt, as in all medieval wars, lots of people were killed by the Crusaders.  But the quote itself is merely a metaphoric citation to Revelation 14:20, describing the end of the world and the slaughter by angels of the opponents of Christ, “And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.” That is, Raymond of Argiles wasn’t puffing himself for the number of people killed, but comparing the battle to the End Times.

Oddly, I have never seen this basic fact noted anywhere, though I must have seen the quote itself a hundred times.  Ware also relies heavily on biased and outdated sources like Steven Runciman, which undermines what he has to say.

Still, the Orthodox aversion to the Crusades is understandable.  But what is less understandable is the relatively gentle touch Ware gives to Muslim conquest of the East and the subsequent destruction of most of Eastern Christianity, which seems like a much larger imposition on the Orthodox than were the Crusades.

On the other hand, at least Ware quotes an Englishman visiting Constantinople in 1677, “It doth go hugely against the grain to see the crescent exalted everywhere, where the Cross stood so long triumphant.”  (With any luck this exaltation can be reversed in the near future; as Europe careens into a ditch, aggressive renewal is as likely an outcome as permanent decline of the West, which might provide an opportunity such as, for example, Russia returning to the excellent goal of conquering Constantinople.)

Ware also notes the truism that although direct violent persecution of Christians was intermittent under Islam (though certainly frequent enough to keep the Christians in their place, and Christians were always required to be subordinate or face death), what ultimately caused most conversion to Islam was simply the financial and social benefits accruing to Muslims—martyrdom inspires, social debility does not.

Moreover, it is not really the Ottomans’ fault that their system of treating religious leaders of Christians as being simultaneously ethnic leaders has led to a long history of unfortunate intertwining of the two roles among the Orthodox, as well as corruption and ethnic chauvinism among the different Orthodox churches that were under Ottoman rule (i.e., all of them, except the Russians).

But the Armenian genocide rates not a word, probably because the Turks, on whose land (for now) the Ecumenical Patriarch must live, don’t want to hear about their recent slaughter of Christians.  On the whole, therefore, Ware lets the Muslims off far too easy, something that seems very common among the Orthodox.

In several places, Ware points out the tendency of the Orthodox toward slowness of action, of any type. This is partially organizational, the nature of conciliar decision making, and partially simply a trait that in this age of liquid modernity has so far been immeasurably beneficial (though I doubt if the Orthodox will be wholly immune to this corrosion in the wars to come—and, in fact, Ware himself was seen to be hedging his bets on homosexual “marriage” earlier this year).

The downside of this is that those not fond of action are also those less likely to accomplish things, which is, perhaps, why it is the Roman Catholics of the West who made the modern world, followed by the Protestants. The introspective nature of Orthodox practice and theology, focused on unchanging ritual, does not lend itself to crusade or, perhaps, to the drive that pushes humanity forward.

That begs the question, of course, whether pushing humanity forward is a good thing, or, instead, the monks of Mount Athos have the right of it. But for someone like me, who likes rockets to Mars, and beyond, the spirit of the Jesuits (the seventeenth-century ones, not today’s ones), or of Cortes, who “conquered Mexico for God, gold, and glory, and only a mundane imagination would distinguish these impulses, for they were one and the same,” is beneficial to humanity, and that is not really found among the Orthodox. Maybe there is a synthesis to be had, but I suspect that what makes the Orthodox who they are would not survive an attempt to make them more active and outward-looking.

The latter third of the book is doctrine, which, like the first part, is excellent. Here various Orthodox practices that contrast with their Western analogues are noticeable, especially the emphasis on mysticism over strict rationality, and that the Orthodox are more comfortable with some degree of ambiguity, with not delineating every matter of doctrine specifically.

Most differences between Orthodox and Roman Catholics are really matters of emphasis, such as Christ as victim versus Christ as victor, but Ware does an excellent job explaining the importance of certain differences that seem, at first glance, utterly obscure and unimportant, but are really not, such as the “Filoque,” the question (in the Nicene Creed) whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (the Orthodox position) or the Father and the Son (the Roman position, a medieval innovation).

Among other subtleties, Ware notes that the Orthodox belief is that the Roman position depreciates the personal characteristics of each individual member of the Trinity (an effect similar to, though arising differently from, the abominable use of “gender-neutral” language for God).

Around that explanation Ware also offers a fantastic discussion of the Trinity itself. He further discusses the importance of prayer and ritual, the rejection of Quietism, the specifics of ritual, and much more. And he notes the crucial Orthodox emphasis on theosis, the goal of divinization, of ultimate unity with God’s energies (though not His essence).

He ends with a plea for reunion of Christians, something devoutly to be wished, but which looks even less likely nowadays, given the corruption of most Western Christians—though maybe the focus should not be on the West, but on the rest of the world, and what can be done there. We will see soon enough, but either way, my bet is that Orthodoxy will have a much more prominent role in the immediate future of the world than it has played in the past thousand years.

 

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

 

The photo shows, “Holy Russia,” by Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov, painted 1901-1906.

Do We Still Have Enemies? Part II

If one accepts that the culture industry which Theodore Adorno describes is for everyone, then it cannot be neutral. This goes back to an earlier argument made by Carl Schmitt when he wrote “Technology is always only an instrument or a weapon; precisely because it serves all, it is not neutral”.

The mass media, in which one might have seen the hopes of creating a “neutral domain” ultimately, as Schmitt originally predicted, descends back into being an arena of controversy and a weapon to be used against one’s enemies.

This is because, even if the advent of media has subsumed the existence of art, the makers of media craft with a particular end in mind, even if that end is not moral. Increasingly, the creation of media content is something which is opened up to the public and which different groups can utilize to different ends.

It is open to everyone and not only is its production open to everyone but also its distribution with the naissance of the internet. It is true, that perfectible beauty is not the end of this media content, but there are other ends to be pursued. Then, precisely because those ends can be different “we” are still not universal.

In understanding this argument, one can go back to Schmitt who wrote “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friends and enemies … The political enemy need not appear as morally evil or aesthetically ugly … he is nevertheless, the other, the stranger”.

Thus, one can strip away from human creation all notion of beauty or values, yet still be left with a tool to be used by the exclusive “we” and a weapon to be used against the exclusive them. But it is important to understand how such a weapon is used.

The media is not such a clear cut form of technology as Schmitt dealt with originally, it cannot be turned on someone to kill them as can a gun. Media is by definition a cultural weapon aimed at cultural enemies and not against individuals.

It does not kill you physically but kills your cultural identity and brings you into the still exclusive “we”. It is this media as a cultural weapon which makes a student from Iran listen to rap and protest for democracy, but which equally inspires children in the west to go to Syria to fight for Daesh. The export of media makes you a stranger to your own culture and a friend to another.

Under this comprehension, the enemy is not as Schmitt would have identified it, because Schmitt was very explicit that under his understanding the only enemies that existed were the ones that a political community had agreed were enemies and that it is this ability to agree on who is an enemy which defines whether or not a group of people are a political group.

For Schmitt, that had to include a willingness to turn even to violence and within his own context he situates his comments in the framework of the state.

The idea of cultural enemies is something quite distinct, because one cannot sit down and agree or disagree on certain groups being cultural enemies, as one could have done under Schmitt’s conception. They simply are enemies. Although different cultures may not be constantly fighting, they are always seeking to defend and expand their own way of life.

What’s unique about the liberal regime is that no longer is there any requirement to give a theoretical, moral or economic reason for conflict, one merely uses media as a weapon against one’s enemies because the neutral state require that everyone be neutral, because if a universal tolerance for everyone isn’t tolerated by everyone else, then neutrality cannot function at all.

Therefore, there is an imperative drive within the liberal regime to fight its cultural enemies to convert them to their own neutral status. The way to then get over the obvious paradox, that one cannot be truly neutral if one is willing to use unprovoked acts of aggression to enforce one’s own neutrality, is that media doesn’t require the political community to declare another group an enemy, it is merely the unconscious creation, production and execution of a cultural attack against others.

But one might question if these unconscious enemies are really enemies if all “we” are willing to do is to unconsciously attack them with weapons of the media. In a sense one can still regard them as enemies, one can still regard them as very much real and not illusary.

However, as long as one’s conception of who “we” are is defined by our cultural enmity with another group, then that other group does not correspond to be being the kind of enemy that was spoken of in the introduction of this essay because “we” need them to exist. The whole idea of having cultural enemies falls down in that “we” can’t destroy them without destroying ourselves because then “we” wouldn’t be a group anymore with meaningful cultural distinctions.

 

The photo shows, “Love and the Pilgrim,” by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, painted 1896-1897.

The Humanities And Language

It is often assumed that the discipline of the Humanities involves anything and everything that cannot be properly be classified as a proper science. It is also commonly assumed that language is simply a method of communication – so that flapping one’s arms is the same as speaking; or, one may draw a picture, since a picture is worth a thousand words, as he adage tells us.

Before proceeding further, perhaps its best to define our terms so that we do not bogged down with assumptions.

Turning to language, we need to understand it as thinking more than communication. The founder of linguistic philosophy (Wilhelm von Humboldt) tells us that language is the expression of thinking peculiar to a people, even the most primitive of people, those closest to nature, as he puts it. Communication is only the simplest, basic level of linguistic use.

The most intensive use is the generation of ideas. The philologist Max Mueller continues Humboldt’s description when he describes language as “the outward form and manifestation of thought.”

And Humboldt further defines language as the medium through which humanity encounters reality – “Man lives with his objects chiefly as language presents them to him.”

The philosopher, Ernst Cassirer, succinctly described language as first the symbolic rendering of expressions and second the engendering of discursive thought; or, in other words, reason.

Thus language is the principle which serves to link together complexity in order to produce meaning, or what may be called abstract thought. In brief, for Cassirer, language is the entelechy of knowledge.

This obviously means that language has more than a denotative function – it is more than simply communication.

To quote the Danish linguist Louis Hjelmslev: “A language is that into which all other languages, and even all other conceivable language structures may be translated. In language, indeed only in such, can the inexpressible  be dealt with until such time as it is expressed.” Language, first and foremost is ideas.

Given the intimate association of language with thinking and knowledge – why do we hear the teachers of language referring to it as a “form of communication?” What purpose does this extreme simplification fulfill?

Having briefly defined language, we may do the same for the humanities. Again, we encounter confusion. The tendency nowadays is to view the Humanities as anything that is not science; and this confusion continues into areas which veer into science (like anthropology, psychology and sociology).

So, what are the Humanities? In a very straightforward way the Humanities have always meant the study of Greek and Latin – that is, the discipline of the Humanities has always been tied with the learning of language – because it was (and one hopes still is) believed that by learning a language, in a disciplined and structured fashion, a person became educated and refined.

Thus the Humanities are based upon the understanding that education is only possible through language. Therefore, the Humanities are not anything not science – but very specifically education in language – and those disciplines that promote language – namely literature, philosophy, biography and history. And it is here also that we have the very history of education.

But we now speak of skill, rather than education, and language is simply another tool to further the demands of the labor marker, rather than the promotion of being a good human being – the traditional goal of education. Skill is not about education – it is about labor and production.

Education is about building the good human being – or about the esthetic, moral and intellectual nature of humanity. Skill is about the material environment and its conquest. Skill is about bondage (the demands of labor). Education is about understanding the exercise of freedom.

And then there are countless falsehoods that permeate teaching institutions. The worst among them is the notion of “learning styles,” and the absurd notion of “right-brain” and “left-brain” learners. Study after study has amply demonstrated that there is no such thing as “visual learning” or “auditory learning,” or kinesthetic.

Nor does the brain function in left and right compartments. And yet, these false notions are so popular in educational institutions – and worst of all, entire pedagogies are built around these falsehoods. Why? As researchers recently observed in an extensive in the Journal of Psychological Science, “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing.”

Disturbing because students are being taught based upon false assumptions. Is an educational institution a place where pop-psychology should be followed?

And yet the popularity of these views in pedagogy is enormous. And the literature is enormous. But it is literature produced by the non-specialist – by the amateur. Why do teachers follow these falsehoods?

And recent studies also tell us that the only way possible for the brain to learn anything is through language. Thus, the physical brain is Humanistic. It is built primarily for language, for thought, for ideas. And the world that we live, the labor that do, is a function of thought, of ideas. The world that we inhabit is the product of Humanism.

Thus to neglect confuse Humanism with anything other than language is to deny the importance of thought.

 

The photo shows, “Le quai aux fleurs,” by Marie-François Firmin-Girard, painted in 1875.

Nahum The Carpenter, The Sixth Epistle

It is now over two years since Ezekiel left for Corinth. Ruth and Nahum have had several reports that he is healthy and doing very well in Greece. Ruth is hoping he would be home soon.

Ezra and Elizabeth have become a very popular couple in their community. They are invited to many social events and are often seen either walking hand in hand or riding on their horses. They make a very interesting couple as Ezra is quiet, and a little bit shy, however when he does speak people listen.

Elizabeth is out going and a confident conversationalist, they truly compliment each other.

Elizabeth has completed her medical training and even though she is very young she has quickly created a reputation of a caring, tender, compassionate and clever medical person. More than just a nurse!

People say that she has a special ability to diagnose your problem before she even examines you. People are coming from around the country to the hospital where she works and actually asking for her. Fortunately, the medical men in the clinic respect her abilities and often ask for her opinion as well. Ezra likes to tell her she has God-given abilities!!! She laughs him off.

Later that summer Ezra confided to his mother that he wanted to ask Elizabeth to marry him and how should he go about it??

This made Ruth smile, almost giggle! Ezra asked what is it? Oh Ezra she replied it brings back such fond memories of your dear sweet father and me!

He said, please tell me.

She began by saying that when they were children they went to the same school, although boys were in one room and girls in another. Your dad had to leave school when he was thirteen as his father needed him in his shop, after he quit school Nahum was almost never seen, he worked all day in the shop and then went home helped his mother and went to bed. His father was not a well man.

One day I asked a friend of Nahum’s to come to his shop with me. We were now about 15 or 16, Ezra was shocked to see us, but so proud to show us his father’s shop and the work they did. We were impressed. We invited Ezra to join a group of friends who met on Friday nights, we usually had a fire, some food and maybe, if we could get it a wee bit of wine. We always had a good time. He agreed to come.

One cold, rainy Friday night some months later he showed up with a parcel in his hands. He chatted with his friends and then when he saw me alone he came over and in his shy manner he said, I made you a gift, if you don’t like it, it is ok. He surely lacked confidence!

He gave me the package and when I opened it he had made me a leather broach, four different coloured leaves with a black dot in the middle! It was beautiful and I still have it!!! With tears in my eyes, I said Nahum this is beautiful I would never ever give it back; I leaned over and gave him a kiss on his cheek. It was the beginning.

After this we started seeing each other whenever we could and we had become good friends. About two years later I said to him did you ever think about getting married. He jumped up and said for sure! When would you like to do it?? I said hold on, I did not say I wanted to get married, I was just asking.

We talked some more and I explained what I knew about getting married. In the new Christian Church you had to have a priest, minister or disciples marry you, it was law. Also it was proper for the man to ask the girl’s parents for permission to marry their daughter.

This information set him back a bit, but I could sense from his manner and actions that there was a determination behind that shyness.

One evening when he knew I was out, he came over to my house.  I had told my parents he might be coming over one of these days so please welcome him, so they were prepared.

The poor guy came in and my parents greeted him warmly, suspecting what he wanted. They gave him a mug of wine. When they realized he was struggling they tried to help him and asked if there was something he wanted to say? He stuttered and stammered and said no, no,  I better be going.

My mother went over to him and said, come sit down beside me and have another mug of wine. She comforted him and after a while he blurted out that he loved their daughter, he thought she was the loveliest, smartest and most special girl in the whole world and he wanted her to be his wife. My mother and father hugged him and amid tears they said they would love to welcome Nahum into our family.

We were married a few months later and we have been so happy for over 23 years.

My mom said, oh Ezra, I am so sorry, I got carried away there!  I said mom, that is a beautiful story and it makes so much sense,   dad is still the same person today, Thank you for sharing.

My mom then told me to go see Mr. Goldman, the jeweler, and ask him to make a gold ring. She suggested that I try and put my little finger near Elizabeth’s ring finger (without her noticing) so I could tell Mr. Goldman the approximate size. She said I should speak with Elizabeth’s parents and ask them if I could marry their daughter. Then propose to Elizabeth.

Although shy like his father, he had no problem speaking to Elizabeth’s parents seeking their permission. They, like Ruth’s parents over 23 years ago said they would love to have Ezra as a son in law.

A few days later Elizabeth accepted his proposal but said she would like to wait until their wedding to wear his ring, but she did love it. Ezra understood.

They decided to wait to get married until Ezekiel returned. Fortunately the wait was not long, as a few months later he returned with six fellow disciples so the marriage took place with Ezekiel assisting and Isaac performing the wedding ceremony.

Hananiah and Juthine agreed to have the ceremony and reception at their farm. It was a beautiful day and the charming young couple was pleased that so many of their friends and relatives attended.After a short trip to a country home for a few days the young couple returned home and set up their new apartment in a friends large home about two miles outside of town.

It was a very pleasant cozy home, but the distance meant they usually rode their horses to work and into the city.They were both establishing their positions in life. Ezra was gradually taking over Nahum’s shop and making favourable changes and improvements resulting in more business and more income.

Elizabeth was continuing to grow her reputation as a healer of the sick. She now had started using new methods, new herbs and new remedies to treat the ill. People appreciated her compassionate manner too.

Nahum the Carpenter should now be called Nahum and Son, but they never got around to changing the name. Ezra was continuing to grow the business.One day he was working outside when two boys, Samuel and Ethan, who he had seen at some of the Christian services were walking by bare foot. He called to them and asked where are your sandals?  They smiled and said we don’t have any! He asked where are you going. They replied they were just out for a walk, nothing else to do.

Ezra called them over to his shop and asked if they would like to help him. They jumped at the opportunity. He told them to sweep the shop, smooth the sand at the entrance way and put the garbage in the cart and to sort the pile of leather, stacking it by size. It took them a few hours and when they finished he gave them each a pair of sandals.

They were so excited to receive such a gift for so little work. He asked them where they lived and they explained they lived with their mom in a small apartment nearby. Their mom worked as a servant for a wealthy family. They had no money, but mom was able to bring home food every day so they were well fed. They were both still going to school. His father had died when they were young.

Ezra asked them if they would like to come by every other day and help him, they happily agreed. This was the beginning of a lasting relationship.

As Ezra and Elizabeth were beginning their lives, another couple was at the other end of the spectrum. They were elderly, lived on a small farm on the outskirts of town. They were now unable to work their farm and had hired a young neighbour boy to look after their small herd of sheep and flock of chickens.

Their names were Yohanan and Mariamme. The farm had been in Mariamme’s family for generations and it was expected it would be handed down to her heirs too. Unfortunately Mariamme had two miscarriages, the second one resulting in her being unable to bear children.

The couple was very bitter about this situation and was angry with God for his lack of love shown to them.

Several months ago they reluctantly came to a Christian service where they met Isaac and listened to his teachings of this man Jesus and became members of his church.

Having seen them a few times at the services, Isaac and Nahum asked if they could visit them. The old couple welcomed them warmly into their home a few days later.

Nahum and Isaac told them they understood their anger. They also explained that this man Jesus told them to believe in him and to put their trust in him and they would find peace and love. They also told them that they believed God had a plan for everyone and maybe someday they would understand why they were childless.

Following a very enjoyable evening both Nahum and Isaac complimented the couple on the size and majesty of their home and expressed their admiration for it. Mairiamme told them her grandfather had built it for his own family and also added a small apartment on the rear of the home so his eldest son and his wife could remain at home and help run the farm.

Since they had no children, Yohanan and Miriamme lived only in the main part of the house, the apartment was used for storage.

When they left, Isaac and Nahum were pleased that their visit was able to add some comfort and hope for this very nice couple.

Time would prove them correct.

 

John Thomas Percival continues working with wood and pondering about the early history of Christianity.

 

The photo shows, “Jesus Ministered to by Angels,” by James Tissot, painted 1866-1894.

Ways Of Persuasion

Aristotle conceived of three major types of rhetorical appeal. These modes of rhetoric, otherwise known as “proofs,” were the pillars of persuasive dialogue back in ancient Greece, and their foundation still holds to this day.

All rhetorical arguments can more or less be categorized under (or prescribed as a blend of) either: Pathos, Ethos, or Logos. Regardless of whether or not an argument is conveyed through speech or writing, these three proofs are undoubtedly the most useful means a speaker has in convincing their target audience of their desired point or belief.

In other words, if rhetoric is a battle of persuasion, these are the most powerful tools in the rhetor’s arsenal. However—there is a fourth proof that is oftentimes overlooked. While it can be assumed that the majority of readers are more than likely familiar with Aristotle’s three rhetorical proofs, very few people in my experience (besides rhetorical scholars like myself) have come across the elusive fourth proof: Kairos.

My intention in the remainder of this article is to refresh readers of what the three original rhetorical proofs are, and to enlighten many of you to the fourth (and my personal favorite) rhetorical proof.

 

Rhetoric

The art of persuasion, and how to effectively impact people through communication. Seeing as Rhetoric is the cornerstone of this whole piece, I figured I would provide my short definition that has helped guide me in my studies.

 

Pathos

Aristotle categorized Pathos as an appeal to emotion. Essentially, Pathos refers to anytime a rhetor attempts to tug at their audience’s heart-strings, so to speak. When a speaker brings up a tragic story from their past, references morality or the distinction between “right and wrong”, or even if they were to cry at the podium: this is all Pathos.

However, there are other forms of emotional appeal besides sadness or guilt. A speaker who invigorates their audience to join a cause is engaging in pathos. A comedian who makes their audience laugh is engaging in pathos. The politician that tries to make their community angry or scared enough that they’ll follow them is engaging in pathos. Pathos holds dominion over any and all emotion.

 

Ethos

This appeal is the easiest to break down in my opinion. Ethos simply refers to a speaker’s credibility. An argument that is founded upon one’s own trustworthiness or experience is grounded in ethos.

For instance, a doctor that tries to convince me my eating habits are unhealthy is engaging in ethos, as her word is rooted in knowledge and practicality. When you were learning to drive, and your father told you “listen… I’ve been driving for 40 years, I know what I’m doing so let me teach you…”—that was ethos.

 

Logos

Logos is the Greek word for form, meaning, and structure. Logic, in other words. Logos refers to the strength of a rhetor’s argument simply based upon its logical resiliency. If a claim is so air tight on a logical standpoint that it cannot be truthfully rebuked, it is an impervious argument in regards to logos.

When you’re going through a breakup, and your significant other breaks down all of the reasons why your partnership will no longer work—that’s logos. Any logical strong of thoughts with the intention to persuade others falls under this category.

 

Kairos

Finally, we reach the least talked about of all persuasive proofs, Kairos. The term refers to the art of timeliness, and the actual timing of an argument.

he technique of this proof is to actually choose when your line of communication will be delivered, as a means of strengthening your argument. A man about to propose to his girlfriend waits until the sun has set and the mood is completely right before popping the question—this is an act of kairos.

Waiting until the opportune moment can secure that your point will be well received, and is thus a hugely effective move by any rhetor. While this proof is often overlooked, its rhetorical potency shouldn’t be understated.

 

The photo shows, “The Irritating Gentleman,” by Berthold Wolyze, painted in the 1874.

Multiculturalism Is Not Progressive

Can one believe in Progress and still believe in Multiculturalism? Today, many Liberals identify themselves as both “”Progressives” and “Multiculturalists,” but what exactly do these ideas mean and are they truly compatible? It is the purpose of this article to outline how both ideas, Multiculturalism and Progress, are mutually exclusive.

What makes the belief in Progress and Multiculturalism mutually exclusive? The progressive believes that a culture can improve, necessitating the idea that not all cultures are equally good; i.e. that the culture of tomorrow can be better than the culture of today.

On the other hand, multiculturalism believes that the government should sustain the existence of several cultures as opposed to assimilating them. This necessitates the idea that all cultures are equal, otherwise why not just assimilate the inferior cultures to those that are better?

 

Progress: A Brief History

What does it mean to believe in “Progress”? And why do people call themselves “Progressives” anyway?

Before the Enlightenment, philosophers tended to have a cyclical view of history. Many thinkers saw history through the lens of “Harmonia,” the idea that things went through cycles of destructive disharmony and rectifying harmony. For example, Aristotle understood the world in terms of periodic floods, in his work, The Metaphysics.

But, the modern conception of Progress emerged much later during the Enlightenment in the late 1700’s, and reached its maturity of development during the mid 1800’s.

The idea of Progress in the modern world originated from the French Enlightenment philosophes Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot and Marie Jean Caritat, the Marquis de Condorcet. These thinkers were the first to systematically assemble and defend the idea of Progress in the modern world.

Inspired by the Scientific Revolution, Turgot and Caritat believed that the development of technology and science was not cyclical, but rather followed a generally linear path. In other words, science and technology progressed.

In addition, they theorized that the deepest root of scientific advancement was philosophical progress; and that the two co-evolved. I.e. better science discoveries would lead to new theories of the world, and new theories would lead to new scientific discoveries.

Furthermore, these thinkers believed that Liberal states were better able to unleash progress in science and philosophy. Because tyrannical states were dependent on constraining new ideas, progress was a threat to all non-liberal states. Therefore, scientific and philosophic progress was linked to the development of Liberal states.

The idea of progress was that human history was advancing scientifically, technologically, philosophically, culturally, and politically in a generally linear direction. These advancements were tied together in co-dependence and ultimately positive and beneficial for all of humanity.

In summary, the idea of progress was that humanities’ cultures could improve and were improving.

It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that the idea of progress reached its zenith with the philosopher William Fredrick George Hegel and his follower Karl Marx.

Hegel thought History was set on a great ideological track of progressing ideas. In his mind, the state was the “march of God [Spirit] in the world” as it shook off old ideas for the new. Every conflict was headed to a reconciliation of masters and slaves in an ultimate, liberal, and egalitarian future, which he called the Absolute.

Hegel believed that the Progression of human history was inevitable, and that individuals were incapable of stopping it. For example, one could go back in time and destroy Newton, but could you ever stop Calculus? Could ideas, or their progression through history, ever be destroyed? Hegel didn’t think so.

Karl Marx, Hegel’s student, borrows the idea that progress is inevitable. To Marx, progress wasn’t dependent on ideas, but material. It was not the idea of capitalism that would generate the great Communist revolution, it was the physical manifestation of factories, mass produced materials, and abused workers that would ignite the revolution.

Both Hegel and Marx had very linear notions of human Progress. For example, in The Communist Manifesto, Marx articulated that the stages of history were humanity’s progression from tribalism, to feudalism, to capitalism, and finally (so Marx believed), to Communism.

Marx and Hegel are significant because they set forth the idea that progress was an inevitable aspect of human culture, and they emphasized that some cultures were better than others.

The Hegelian understanding of Progress gained unprecedented popularity in the 1800’s with the expansion of Europe’s “progressive” colonial empires over the “backwards” peoples of the rest of the world.

The Marxist idea of Progress would reach its peak with the rise of the Soviet Union and its mission to ignite a world revolution. The USSR sought to sweep all backward bourgeoisie ways of the thinking back into “the dust bin of history.”

But why would anybody want to be considered a “progressive?”

Part of the reason people want to be known as progressives is because they believe that humanity is progressing to a good place and a better future. If people thought that humanity was getting progressively worst, they wouldn’t seek to be known as progressives. On the contrary, it’s because the belief that humanity is progressing to the worse, many become conservatives – quite possibly the greatest opponents of “progressives” throughout history.

As shown above, one of the most dominant themes of Progress has the belief that the culture of tomorrow can get better and will be better than the culture of yesterday.  This view necessitates that idea that the culture of yesterday is worse than the culture of tomorrow; meaning not all cultures are equal and that some are better than others!

Can we really get anywhere, if we don’t leave something behind?

 

Multiculturalism: A Brief History

Multiculturalism has been popularized and developed much more recently than the idea of Progress.  Because of its fresh state of development, this present-day philosophy is a bit harder to pin down.

One universal idea among multiculturalists is the recognition of the existence of many cultures within a given area. In addition, believers in multiculturalism reject the idea of a “melting pot;” i.e. the assimilation of cultures into a single dominant culture.

Instead of having cultures assimilate into a singular dominant culture, multiculturalists favor allowing minority groups to keep their collective practices.  But, multiculturalists vary on how active or passive the government should be in helping minority groups maintain these practices.

Some multiculturalists believe that the government should simply take a laissez-faire policy towards the cultural practices of minorities within their culture. For example, if a minority within the country were practicing arranged marriages, then the passive multiculturalist would desire the government to neither aid the practice nor hinder it.

But many multiculturalists want the government to take a far more active approach in aiding a minorities struggle to keep their cultural practices. The father of contemporary multiculturalism, Will Kymlicka, falls into this camp.

Kymlicka states that the government should have “group-differentiated rights,” arguing that universal human rights are insufficient to protect the cultural practices of minorities. He believes that if universal human rights are supplemented with “group rights,” then the cultures of minorities within a given state will be better retained.

Group rights could include special residential rights within a city, payments made to a cultural group, and affirmative action in universities, the adoption of language, etc.

Multiculturalism is not as fringe as one might believe; but has already been put into practice on grand scale. For example, Canada guarantees the protection and advancement of multiculturalism in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988. The German state also adopted multiculturalist policies in their push to develop “multikulti” within the German state.

Multiculturalists, like Kymlicka, argue against the assimilation of indigenous groups and minority nations. Instead they favor the extension of “group rights” to help these cultures attain self-determination. Because of this reasoning, multiculturalism is in many ways nationalistic, rallying nationalities to celebrate their cultures.

But why do people argue for multiculturalism?

Very simply, because they don’t believe a culture is particularly better or worse than any other culture. If multiculturalists believed that one culture was superior to another culture, then why wouldn’t they just argue for inferior culture to be assimilated by the superior culture?

For example, if you thought Western culture was superior to Middle Eastern culture, then why wouldn’t you just advocate for adoption of Western culture? Or the assimilation of Middle Easterners to Western ways of life (especially if you thought that those ways of life were superior)?  Why would you advocate for the existence of both if you thought one was a better way of life.

The culture you might advocate for might not even be in existence yet. Let’s say you imagine a Utopian culture that you’d like the world to head towards. If you thought this world’s contemporary culture was worse, why would advocate for the multicultural existence of both your Utopian culture and the world’s current culture?

To justify being a multiculturalist, you must believe that all cultures are equal. If you believed a culture was superior for humanity, then wouldn’t you advocate the adoption of that culture? Likewise, if you believed that a culture was inferior than the others around it, wouldn’t you desire its elimination (and the absorption of its followers into the neighboring superior cultures)?

This presupposition of the multiculturalist (that all cultures are equally good) is incompatible with progressive thought (that the culture of tomorrow can be better than the culture of yesterday).

Can one be a multiculturalist and a progressive? Not a chance.

Because the progressives believe in the improvement of culture, they believe that not all cultures are equally good (otherwise there would be no room for improvement). On the other hand, because multiculturalists believe in the preservation of multiple cultures, they believe that cultures are equally good (otherwise why not just have the inferior cultures assimilate into the best culture).

Because the two camps disagree with the idea that all cultures are equal, we find them clashing on the political battlefield in the following areas: civil rights, governance, and material culture

 

Civil Rights

Can you be a progressive champion for civil-rights and be a multiculturalist?  As an example, lets dive into Feminism. Don’t some cultures treat women better than others?

For instance, does a culture that supports clitoridectomy, has arranged marriages, performs honor killings, supports sexism, practices Sharia law, supports rape-culture, gives lower wages to women, nurtures the cult of domesticity, doesn’t allow women to drive, objectifies women, sets up child marriages, or bars girls from going to school just as good as a culture that doesn’t?

The progressive Feminist answers with a resounding “NO!” To them, these backwards acts of barbarism deserve to be swept into the past because there’s no room for this nonsense in the future (at least if tomorrow has any hope of being better than today).

The multiculturalist might play the role of an apologist, taking the stance that these practices and ways of life are just as valid and equal as any other way of life.

Or more likely, the multiculturalist will point out that none of the contemporary cultures on earth have eliminated all these atrocities. In fact, all the cultures have a different, but equal, combination of backwards and progressive policies.

In other words, the multiculturalist might say that culture is a like a zero-sum game. Maybe you forsake Sharia law and let women dress liberally, but then they become sexually objectified anxiety-driven anorexics. Is one really better than the other? Can cultures really progress more than others?

And that’s really the crux of the issue, isn’t it? Furthermore, you can apply it to other civil rights issues beyond anti-Feminist cultures like homophobic cultures, racist cultures, etc.

Can cultures really progress beyond those around them? Are we really capable of progressing for the better? In the end, are some ways of life better than others? Are all cultures truly equal?

 

Governance

Another issue that divides the progressive from the multiculturalist is the question of governance. Is one culture’s method of governance better than another culture’s method of governance or are they all more or less equal in worth?

The progressives would claim that some forms of government are better than others because some cultures are more progressive. On the other hand, multiculturalists claim the ways different cultures across the world govern themselves are all equally valid.

This is because if one culture’s way of governance were truly better, then it would call into question why other nations should stick with their relatively inferior forms of governance.

For instance, are the democratic cultures of the world better than dictatorial culture of North Korea? Is a culture immersed with liberal conceptions of Rights Theory just as good a culture with statist undercurrents that revere their central leadership in the likeness of a god? Are cultures that are imbibed with slavery and drunk with tyrannical horror just as sober-minded as a culture of peaceful freedom? Are societies that engage in tribalist blood feuds, and archaic understandings of citizenship as nothing more than an extension of genetics, just as good as cultures that have transcendent understandings of civic nationalism?

The progressive once again screams, “NO!”

Traditionally speaking, philosophers of progress have a history of crying out against what they saw as inferior forms of governance brought about by different cultures around the world.

For example, it is in the name of progress Marxists spoke up against tribalism. In his work, Karl Marx places tribal as ground-zero, the bottom base line from which all people progress from; I.e. the most backwards form of governance.

Contemporary Marxists, like Frances Widdowson, still speak out in the name of progress, against tribalism and its lingering effects within the indigenous cultures of Canada.

On the other hand, the father of contemporary multiculturalism, Will Kymlicka, opposes Widdowson. He argues that not only should the indigenous not be assimilated, but rather that the Canadian government should strengthen Indigenous cultures.

The multiculturalist might play the role of an apologist, taking the stance that these practices and ways of life are just as valid and equal as any other way of life.

Or more likely, the multiculturalist will point out that none of the contemporary cultures on earth have truly eliminated coercementtyrannical legislation, or fully adopted liberty. In fact, all cultures have a different, but equal, combination of backwards and progressive policies.

In other words, the multiculturalist might say that culture is a like a zero-sum game. Maybe you forsake dictatorship, but then your nation is paralyzed by political squabbles, half-heartedly elected goons, and an impotent leadership. Is one better than the other? Is there really such a thing as progress in political culture?

And that’s really the crux of the issue, isn’t it?

Can cultures really progress beyond those around them? Are we really capable of progressing for the better? In the end, are some ways of life better than others? Are all cultures truly equal?

 

Material Culture

Another issue that divides progressives and progressives and multiculturalists in the question of material culture. Material culture is the physical aspect of culture. Can the material culture of society be better than the material culture of another society?

Is a culture that uses primitive agricultural methods better than one that uses the latest form of mechanized farming?  Is a culture with a sharp difference between the material wealth of the rich and the poor better than a culture where there are no rich and poor? Is a culture that uses AR-15 machine guns just as good as one that still uses bows and arrows?

Historically, progressives have claimed that the societies that used more advanced technology are the more developed and progressive. The first philosophers to systematically defend the idea of progress, Turgot and Caritat, claimed that philosophic progress and technological progress worked together.

In other words, technology like computers increase the speed information travels leading to better ideas about the world, better ideas about the world leads to better science and technology.

Overall, this cyclical process creates a progressively better world. Furthermore, one of the cornerstones of progressive thought has been the belief that the distribution of wealth in some material cultures was better than others.

For example, Marxists believe that the material culture in capitalist societies horrifyingly abusive to the poor. They reasoned that a communist culture would be superior because of its much more even distribution wealth.

But the multiculturalist calls all of this into question. They deny the idea that the material culture of one society is truly better or worse than the material culture of another society.

Does better technology really make a better culture? The multiculturalist is not convinced that atom bombs and artificial preservatives is better than bows and arrows accompanied by fresh food.

As for the distribution of wealth, capitalism can be pain, but it better than Stalinist kicking in your doors, Kulak witch hunts, and the forced redistribution of capital? Is there really such a thing as progress in material culture?

And that’s really the crux of the issue, isn’t it?

Can cultures really progress beyond those around them? Are we really capable of progressing for the better? In the end, are some ways of life better than others? Are all cultures truly equal? These questions modernity has yet to settle.

 

The photo shows, “The Kidnapping,” by Franz Roubaud, painted ca. 1880s-1900.

What Is Thinking?

Over the years, higher education has become thoroughly vocationalized, and people come to university and college expecting to be trained for the job market.

More and more, society sees the academy as nothing more than a training facility where specific and transferable skills are acquired by individuals which can then be translated into careers and jobs in the marketplace.

Inherently there is nothing wrong about such a view of education; jobs and careers are fundamental to a happy life. But there is an essential problem here, because a primary component is being consistently ignored, which we can get to by asking a simple question.

What guarantees a career or a job or a paycheck in the first place? It is not proficiency in skill – rather, it is the context in which this skill is to be practiced. And this context, of course, is society. It is only within the context of a good society that jobs, careers – in short, the good life – can be guaranteed.

But if education is nothing other than training efficient workers who only know how to apply their skills in job situations – who will manage the needs of society so that it continues to be good, continues to be that context in which jobs and careers, and the good life, are to be guaranteed? If no one is educated in taking care of the good society, will society continue to be good? There is a strong and direct co-relationship between prosperity and the good society.

In our own political and cultural context, the good society is the liberal democracy, which depends upon the idea that all of us must work together to maintain the goodness of our society.

In order to do so, we must be educated in the wisdom of the liberal democratic tradition. But if we only worry about training for jobs, who will have the knowledge to ensure that our society remains both liberal and democratic – that it retains its goodness?

And what are the characteristics of such a society? They are ideals that we all aspire to and expect our society to provide – namely, freedom, personal worth, individual rights, and a government entirely answerable to the people.

Notice none of these expectations depend upon skill, upon being a good worker. And none of these expectations have come about as a result of industry’s efforts.

Industry can function in any type of society. It has loyalty only to profit. These expectations are, of course, ideals – and ideals require two things: education – not skill – and humane thinking.

 

How We Are Expected to Think

The enduring emphasis of skill in the educational system is also an emphasis on two kinds of thinking, and the neglect of a third kind. Skill is closely related to know-how, or technical knowledge, and to analytical, or scientific, knowledge.

The former is repetitive and performative, in that a skill is repeated in order to produce the same result. Scientific knowledge seeks to explain or predict; it can do no more.

For example, many children are prodigies with mathematics or music, in that they have acquired the skill to repeat notes or numerical patterns. Their expertise, or skill, is marvelous to witness – but no one turns to them for guidance on issues of freedom, individuality, or responsible government. Why?

Because we know that skills are not higher-level thinking. In the same way, a physicist understands fully how to establish models that can test natural laws and predict what nature may or may not do – but we do not consult this person about matters pertaining to the good society, or love. Why?

Because physics is analytical and cannot be used to understand goodness or love. Despite these obvious handicaps in scientific and technical knowledge, we still demand that higher education worry only about training workers. While everyone is functioning smoothly in industry – who is looking after the functioning of society?

Perhaps the reason for voter apathy, for example, and low voter turn-out may directly be related to this question.

There is a third kind of knowledge, which may be labeled practical wisdom. It is not technical, explanatory, or predictive. It is concerned with ideals, with formulating judgments and making decisions, and it directly relates to the way we encounter the world around us and the way we participate in society.

In other words, there is a specific kind of thinking which directly relates to the good society. Practical wisdom is about ideals. Life is always greater than tangible, material things.

Indeed, what is more important to human beings – happiness or skill?

To worry about skills is to desire to become a robot. To worry about happiness is to understand our humanity – because to be happy each of us must reflect upon what truth is and what goodness is, and each of us must create meaning in our lives. Skills can do neither of these things.

To be happy, to have meaning and value, we need to think critically, in the true sense of the term.

 

The photo shows, “Man at his Desk,” by Georg Friedrich Kersting, painted in 1811.

Failed Cultures

Culture, firstly, is human community that ensures that life is pursued well. A successful culture readily seeks to enact social policies that guarantee to some degree that people are happy and satisfied. And an individual who inhabits a successful culture carries out actions that benefit him or her, and his or her society at large.

It would be simple to wax philosophical and begin an analysis of the organic nature of culture, with the tools readily available, such as Social Darwinism.

But such analyses are contentious and misleading, because they concern themselves simply with an examination of how cultures come into being and sustain themselves – they do not make value judgments. We need to make value judgments.

Therefore, our approach must be different, and we need newer tools. If we stay within the confines of traditional arguments, such as materialism, we are bound to lose our focus and end up justifying or critiquing one mode of production over another.

Such a methodology would yield little of value. And we do indeed need to speak again of values and virtues – because the chief goal of all cultures is to produce a virtuous person, that is, a person who holds the ideal of human worth (and all its implications – truthfulness, generosity and self-control) to be uppermost in all activity and endeavor.

But how do we recognize a failed culture? Here are the characteristics of all failed cultures that exist in the world today.

First, power does not reside with the middle class, but with the privileged elite.

Second, the system of government is not constitutional – in other words, we are dealing with dictatorships, with strong men, backed up by the loyalty of the army.

Third, civilians have no control over the military – rather, they are terrorized by it.

Fourth, religion and political ideology control all modes of thought, with the resulting denial of intellectual and individual freedoms.

Fifth, criticism of the government or rulers does not exist, and if such criticism does raise its head – it is immediately met with immense violence (often far greater in proportion to the criticism), until there is once again the silence of enforced consent.

Sixth, civilians live not in contentment and ease, but in a state of perpetual anxiety – not knowing what will happen next, since they have no control over the mechanisms of power (elections, for example).

Seventh, the poor classes are little better than slaves, who have no recourse to bettering their lot.

Eighth, the education system is merely an instrument of state or religious propaganda.

Ninth, private property is in the hands of the few, while the many are dispossessed.

Tenth, there is no trust and hence there is systemic corruption.

In this way, failed cultures consistently produce failed states, which can yield nothing but misery for those unfortunate enough to live in such spheres of cultural, social, and political devastation.

 

The photo shows, “”Duel on the Kulikovo Field,” by Avilov Mikhail, painted in 1943.