Monday, July 19, 2010

Vote Fascist for a Third Glorious Decade of Total Law Enforcement

The children I teach are cruel to each other; they lack compassion for misfortune; they laugh at weakness; they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly. -John Taylor Gatto
When I was young, I once smashed a little oriental girl’s face into the carpet. I hurt her on purpose, because of a feeling that was inside me. She hadn’t done anything to me, but she was new and looked different and weak, and it made me feel uncomfortable. I sensed that there was some invisible line that divided us and which left her as an outsider in an alien world of wrongness. She crawled on her knees in all of the wrong places and she breathed the wrong air. She did not belong.

At the time of that event, I had been walking for less than a year. While nearly all other memories of those early days have forever faded from my mind, yet I am left with that one remembrance: I remember the feeling I felt when I did that terrible thing.

In kindergarten, my bully friends and I told another new girl that we would be her friends if she showed us her underwear. She did, and we pointed our fingers and laughed at her. That’s how friendly we were.

When the new boy with white hair came to school, I prayed in my mind, “Please don’t let him sit by me! Please don’t let him sit by me!” Of course, he came and sat right next to me. I found out that his name was Colin. I despised Colin because he had white hair and a strange name.

I don’t know why I felt that way. Certainly my parents have never taught me such things. I don’t even know how to describe it. All of the usual words--hatred, cruelty, bigotry--seem so incomplete. We don’t have language that can adequately convey the sickness of heart that I suffered from.

Then my family moved away. I lost all of my friends and anything that had been familiar to me outside of my immediate family. Having been something of a bully as a boy, I understood well enough what it could mean to be the newcomer. I couldn’t see why the boys and girls in my new neighborhood would possibly accept me. I had stupid, fat lips and I was ugly.

So, I coped with my anxiety by staying close to the familiar. At school, during recess, I would play four-square with my big sister and her friends. Then, one day--I was in the third grade--my sister turned me away from the four-square game and said that it was time for me to go and make some friends of my own.

I turned away and I began to cry. I ran and ran, hoping to find a safe place; hoping that no one would see me crying because I knew what happens to those who cry at school. Did new friends come to my aid to strengthen and comfort me? No. I was right. I was young, but I knew what could live in the human heart. They pointed and laughed as I ran. “Look at the crybaby!”

On another occasion I accidentally broke a school rule. I made a urinal in the boy’s bathroom suck the air into the pipes. I didn’t mean to do it, but it made a terrible, disruptive noise when it happened. One of the sixth grade teachers had authorized a team of official bullies of his own to seek and capture anyone who caused this noise during school hours. I was hunted down and brought before the sixth-grade class, forced to my knees--my shirt pulled up--and I was threatened and lectured in front of everybody in that class.

The teacher did this to me, with his ruler in hand, in order to teach me a lesson and to ensure future obedience to the rules. He didn’t understand or believe my pleas--that I hadn’t meant to harm anyone when I broke the law of the school. That teacher just needed me to be broken because I was a lawbreaker and I didn’t belong. Look at all of these sixth graders! They don’t do such things. You’re not one of us, little boy.

I’m still too embarrassed to publicly share other humiliations I suffered at the hands of my peers--and sometimes my teachers. Perhaps we all have such stories to withhold.

Suffice it to say that all of my former bullying was answered back upon my own head and with interest. At school I spent some of my time in worry and desperation, weeping quietly at my desk, until one of the kind boys finally made me his friend.

At the new school, my very first friend was Howie, a Korean boy; and who knows if perhaps I mistreated his little sister once upon a time. I believe there really are people who never had that inexplicable meanness in them that I once had. In fact, it isn’t that we have meanness in us at all. Only, that some of us lack kindness.

That kindness, and a great many of my own tears, healed me of the old sickness that had been in my heart. On the last report card that a young bully had brought home from kindergarten, the teacher had written to my parents the following words: “We have discussed problems this year... I wish all of Peter’s family the best in the move. I feel it will be beneficial to Peter socially.”

She was right. I still remember that old feeling of cruelty, but now I remember it also with sadness. It is too bad that I was once that kind of boy, but now I know how to be better. Luckily for me, it was only a short chapter in my life.
* * *
...and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. -Genesis 11:6
Some people study for the entire duration of their early lives, learning how to be cruel to each other. Those not born with a dearth of kindness, as I apparently was, may soon enough have the natural goodness erased from them. The culture of cruelty that does this violence to our souls, as far as I can tell, seems to consist in the following tenets which have in recent times acquired an aura of religious righteousness:
  1. Competition instead of cooperation.
  2. Liberal individualism with its complete dedication to negative liberty.
  3. A sense of being chosen or of having a particular and glorious destiny apart from all others.
  4. An acquisitive purpose that sees as its primary fulfillment the achievement of prosperity.
Let us consider these points one at a time.

First, the ideal of competition trains us to seek and exploit weakness wherever it is found. We develop a keen eye for the unfit, the unworthy, and the incompetent which must be overcome or cast aside. There are only limited resources and there is limited space, therefore not everyone will be able to succeed. The competitive assert their dominance by the force of will. Power and even violence are the principle tools of those who worship competition.

Second, the ideal of Individualism turns our interest to the sovereignty of the self. Self-interest demands a new, less restrictive form of interpersonal relationships based primarily in money and in talking to machines. The individual is increasingly differentiated and the sense of others as outsiders grows more acute.

The word “Freedom”, an important and ubiquitous buzzword, now means the complete removal of all obstacles impeding the individual will. True choice--free will or free agency, as we call it--can only be exercised where there are no personal obligations that were determined somewhere outside of the self! Thus, the ‘community’ of inter-dependent personalities fades into the background to be supplanted with a ‘collective’ group of leveled individuals competing on an egalitarian battlefield.

Duty toward the common good is viewed as inherently incompatible with personal pursuits and is considered coercive in nature and against the ideal of freedom. The care of the group is left to the inhuman and invisible hand of the free market, with the promise that, by seeking only for oneself, one really benefits the whole.

Third, the sense of election--of being a chosen and preferred people--throws the outsider into even greater relief. Perhaps there are determinate “slots” available for those wishing to enter into the collective, but all on the outside appear base, jealous, greedy, and threatening. Our status as “the chosen” must be protected and never sullied by lesser men. There will be only one (intrinsically mistrustful) people, one language, and one name shared among them.

Finally, the chosen are ever striving for heaven. In modern times they reach even higher--no longer to lift themselves up, but to pull heaven down to earth. They seek to establish Utopia (or perhaps Zion). And there is nothing that affirms success in this endeavor more than the attainment of material wealth!

The prosperity gospel also reaffirms the suspicion that there is not enough good to go around--because the only relevant question has become “the greatest good” (or perhaps it is “the greatest goods”). This commitment to acquisition and to prosperity brings with it a renewed inkling that others might be claiming what is not their due. If they are a burden on us--if they drag us down--then they are not our fellowmen. And so, it is not wickedness that we hate, but weakness. We hate weakness until weakness becomes wickedness. Zion will have well-guarded borders and tall walls, and that is precisely how there will be no poor among us.

The natural outcome of any society that puts these four principles among its “First Things,” is human cruelty. That these ideas are useful, or that they have some truth in them, I do not argue. The problem, it would appear, is a problem of replacing First Principles with things of secondary importance and in so doing, demeaning those things that should rightfully occupy the position of primacy: that is, human goodness and fellowship.

Alas, cruelty looks just as righteous in the 21st century as it did when Jan Hus was burned at the stake.

* * *
However unjust and unreasonable the attitude we assume toward others, we seem to set in motion an automatic process which works blindly to corroborate and justify that attitude. It is an awesome thing that when we expose people, however undeservedly, to hatred, they tend to become hateful... It is as if the world, of its own accord, furnishes reasons for our unreasonable attitudes. -Eric Hoffer
Not long ago I watched some footage of a small group of people who crossed into America illegally. The video I was watching had evidently been captured by one of the cameras on the American border with Mexico, and the footage depicted weary and destitute people whose need for help showed all too plainly. I’m guessing those people didn’t have money for the usual entrance fees, nor could they afford the decade-long wait to gain admittance--so they broke the law. The truth is, America doesn’t need them and our laws are intended to filter them out.

The theme and punchline for this video--which was doctored up and published as a joke--was that of “wild animals.” See, these mendicant humans were the same kind of thing as the wandering animals whose movements were also captured by the camera in earlier frames.

The commentary accompanying this production was predictably mean-spirited and derisive. It was the grown-up equivalent of jeering at the crying third-grader who, having been rejected, ran to find a safe place. Weakness and poverty, and the actions of the desperate who want to share in the security and prosperity of others, were things to be scorned. In America, we earn our good fortune.

Is it odd that the most differentiated and self-centered individuals are also the most leveled and predictable?

Last week, where I live, a group calling itself “Concerned Citizens of The United States” was reported in the news. They became noteworthy because they decided to publish the personal details of 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants. The need for “total law enforcement” that these people demonstrated (except, of course, for the laws they disagree with, such as privacy laws) required them to take vigilante action. Here is what The Concerned Citizens have to say:
Our group observes these people in our neighborhoods (In other words, they are our neighbors), driving on our streets, working in our stores, attending our schools and entering our public welfare buildings... We plan to provide your office with new lists on a continual basis and request — no insist — that your agency take immediate and forceful action to the individuals on this list and begin deportation now.
My wife brought this bit of news to my attention over lunch one day, and I was at once reminded of an episode of the old British television comedy, Red Dwarf.

In the particular episode recalled to my memory, the protagonists share a nightmare wherein they believe themselves to be living in a fascist society that offers “fabulous prizes to be won” for becoming a “Government Informant” and betraying “Family & Friends.” We used to laugh at that because it was hyperbole. People don’t behave that way anymore! Well, it turns out you can’t make this stuff up. It is not make-believe. It is reality, right here where I live.

Others who reacted to this same news saw the more obvious parallels to our own history and especially to Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. Still, there are quite a few who are greatly sympathetic to this home-grown terrorism that has been directed toward illegal immigrants. The director of our local “minutemen” group, which was formed apparently to invoke the immortal memory of our forefathers mostly by running rough-shod over it, went so far as to call the person involved with this despicable and criminal list a “true patriot.” This man is one who fears that the opposing political party will benefit in the elections if too many outsiders are allowed into the country. Indeed! “No one has done more to purge the ballot boxes than the Voter Colonel!”

It is too bad that we merely interpret this sorry incident as “people being uncivil.” I am happy to hear that those involved in this inhumanity will be punished according to the laws they surely broke. Desperate immigrants who enter America illegally have nothing on these guys. However, our public reaction to this cruelty against immigrants has been only to encourage more ‘civility’ in our discussions of illegal immigration. What we really need to see is that this hateful conspiracy is in fact the logical consequence of one side of the debate carried to its natural conclusion.

The faction that tends toward this unmistakable fascism begins to tell us new stories to justify its increasingly malevolent acts and speech: The illegal immigrant really is the source of our problems! The economy falters because of the illegal immigrant! Crime soars because of the illegal immigrant! Freedom wanes because of the illegal immigrant! War on drugs? We know where to point. Der ist schuld am Kriege! In telling these stories, we will also make them true, for it is often in calling our enemy hateful that he becomes hateful in truth.

In the end, a new Devil will be born and we shall be fully justified in our treatment of him. Any last glimmer of humanity is snuffed out in the ukase that the Rule of Law must abide. “The Rule of Law!” That is what we hear in these days when conspirators publish lists of illegal immigrants who must be dealt with ‘forcefully’ (especially the pregnant, we learn, whose children will become naturalized citizens!). Miep Gies and Oskar Schindler were criminals in their day. We may very well need more of their kind before all is said and done.

* * *
“The men of Sodom had no consideration for the honour of their Owner by not distributing food to the wayfarer and the stranger... They even fenced in all their trees on top above their fruit so that they should not be seized; not even by the bird of heaven.” The law of Moses forbade doing these mean things to the olives, the wheat, and other crops, but they did them... For Abraham, such meanness, as we have seen, was the last straw, and “he cursed them in the name of his God.” -Hugh Nibley
What makes us loathe the illegal immigrant is that he walks on the wrong dirt and he breathes the wrong air. We fear that he might be stealing our individuality, our identity, our language; he is robbing us of our means, coercing us to support his needs along with our own. We will no longer prosper, no longer be chosen. Perhaps the illegal immigrant takes too much and gives too little back.

The illegal immigrant is a lawbreaker, to be sure. He comes to us with open hands and the expectation of receiving something, but not with malice to offend us. We do not care anything for his intentions, however; only that we are offended and that our laws were broken. We will make an example of these wretches and they won’t cross us again.

It may very well be the case that we need a wall to protect our border, or a fence.

But the spirit in which that wall is presently being built is the same spirit that seeped into the dirt along with Hitler’s blood and sprung up again as a different wall in another time and another place. We could tear down that wall, but not its spirit. Today, some of its remains lie in a museum in Berlin where they are misplaced. Those remains belong on the American border with Mexico, and should stand in opposition to Emma Lazarus’ beautiful poetry that is now embarrassingly found on the outmoded Statue of Liberty.

There is a big problem with illegal immigration, and if anything, it is a human problem before it is a technical one. As a purely technical problem, its solutions are all cruel. When I read the language of many of those who have aught to say about immigration, I read the language of primal cruelty that was never replaced by kindness. Or else it is the distant, learned and calculated cruelty of “isms” that have become an inseparable part of our discourse in politics and economics.

Is it ironic that I was once healed of my own cruelty in part by the cruelty of others? I wonder how America will be healed, or if she will survive the healing.

8 comments:

Dave said...

Firstly, I think cruelty in children is like an inborn drive to compete for adult attention or die (not unlike a eaglet harassing its later-born sibling and even chasing it from the nest).

As far as immigration, I think it's another tragedy of the commons. The more people there are, the less any one person can expect to have. I don't know that it's a matter of a sense of entitlement more than it is a matter of fear for competition of resources. Only very recently has the average individual been more likely than not to consistently have enough to survive.

Peter McCombs said...

Dave,

Anthropologists tell us that the oldest creation stories of all cultures tend to share the same themes, such as what you have mentioned and also what I addressed under the four aspects of cruelty in my essay. From these creation stories, we learn that the nature of humankind is predatory, self-absorbed, competitive, suspicious, sexist, racist, and desirous to subjugate and tame the earth and the elements.

What these Anthropologists seem to avoid are the elements of such stories that deal with man's noble qualities. If we say that the work of a kindly Creator is also reflected in us, then this is to be interpreted as curious and superstitious but not terribly meaningful because we can't see it. But it seems that the Hebrew creation story, at least, was interested in a man who was locked in a struggle between right and wrong. All of those generations and civilizations before Adam could not have been Man because they lacked his metaphysics. To be properly considered Mankind, we must be moral creatures. That has implications for our concept of freedom. If this creation story is truly our heritage, then there are certain liberties we must never take if we wish to remain Men. Here, of course, I am using "Men" in the general sense of mankind.

Creation stories are constantly being recast with these similar themes. During the intense secularization of the Nineteenth century, in which the modern money economy crystallized, these stories reemerged sans any moral dimension under the names of "Capitalism" and "Socialism." Our creation stories now describe economic phenomena. "God is a Capitalist," as Rick Koerber was fond of saying.

What I find fascinating is that it is precisely the religious people who have championed this new secular and ultimately atheistic worldview, while the self-described secular and agnostic are advocating for compassion and morality in many of these issues.

Dave said...

The creation story you recount in the first paragraph could easily be called a summary of Genesis as well.

Also, I don't believe anthropologists avoid the elements of man's noble qualities. It seems one of the first historically notable events anthropology notes is the burial of the dead, the caring for the sick and the lame.

As far as man not being Man without metaphysics, I must posit that it is impossible to know what it is like to be Homo neanderthalis, etc., likely the same with any other species. We do not know animals' minds, and we do not know whether they have metaphysics or not. Nevertheless, I tend to agree with you to a point: there is something essentially metaphysical about being human, or having "humanity." I don't agree it is dependent on a struggle against evil, but rather a spiritual self-awareness to consciously act and thereby create -- perhaps aware also of the inseparability of oneself with God and all that is, and that never-ending creative force.

In any case, I agree that compassion is a noble thing, and many other qualities as well. It is transcendent quality to those who are aware of its meaning for their particular realm of existence, and so aware, who also choose it. Yet, no man can define what a Man is and a Man is not for everyone else. You have defined your concept of man. (I like to think that "humanity" might be equally present, and indeed perhaps more keenly observant, in the brain of an advanced therapod -- or any other mundane encapsulation.)

There is a mundane tendency toward behavior adapted to environment. Being aware of this, and also of other more abstract possibilities, it is then that individual's choice to be compassionate (for instance) and to express it. But this is not a struggle against evil, as I see it, but rather simply the nature of God.

The best way to spread compassion is to show compassion. I believe humanity for the great majority inclined toward such, and the problem as far as immigration goes is mostly ignorance -- floating about in a media-gas cloud of non-received thought and reactionary rhetoric shouted by true-believer cheerleaders while we avoid really talking to each other.

Anyway, that was a bit rambling, but I figured it was easier to put all the recent thoughts in my head into a blog comment rather than try to put together a formal argument/essay. :)

Peter McCombs said...

Dave,

Your solipsism is another development along the lines of Medieval nominalist philosophy. You reject universals and say things like "no man can define what Man is," or that it is "impossible to know what it is like" to be this or that.

And yet, that is exactly the aim of all creation stories that become the basis of real human unity. What I wrote was not at all "my personal concept of man," but a shared tradition and heritage that lasted for many years among many people. We once agreed on exactly what Man is.

It hardly matters to our story what the prehistoric ancestors of Man thought, or if they had kindness and other virtues. Nor does it matter to our story that we now find empathy--a reflection of God's goodness--in crows. When the curtains opened on our own creation story, man was not viewed as "essentially metaphysical," but specifically metaphysical. His nature was described in an unmistakable dualism, which you find hard to swallow--and so you have a revised story of your own to tell.

The point is that there was a shared story that said something specific about human transcendence. That story is part of what our civilization and self-knowledge was once built upon. We were not discrete and objective individuals stuck in the fabric of society, telling each other our own stories and our own truths; but members of a living unity and partakers of a common heritage. Since you have cast that common heritage off, you are now free to pick and choose whatever bits you like, even to mostly agree with me! There is your modern liberalism.

Today's hateful and cruel, who also adhere to a similarly self-centered vision, will all agree that compassion is a noble quality! They will give beautiful sermons on the very subject over the pulpit at church. They will reflect kindly on the parable of the Good Samaritan and on their own Christian doctrine that tells how they should love their neighbors as themselves. And they fully believe themselves to be in possession of all those noble qualities.

Oh, and they also turn in lists of illegal immigrants, and claim in all seriousness that this mean-spirited public conversation about immigration has no meanness in it at all. All of these spectacular contradictions are perfectly reasonable if you accept that all that can really be known is the self, which is a perfect unity with God; and there is no striving for good--no true choice (since choice requires a kind of dualism)--there is only the nature of being. We can say anything we want and make it true.

Solipsism, nominalism, etc., etc., were all progressions toward the secular individualism--the differentiation of the individual and rejection of shared stories--that marks today's culture of cruelty and negative liberty.

Dave said...

Your right, there was a shared story. Basically, the pharaoh was God on earth, as well as the son of God (Horus son of Osiris). Or maybe you're referring to the collective memories of the ancient ancestors regarding the universal and omniscient Great Spirit? Actually there's a lot of shares stories to pick from. There's a lot of different concepts of man to be derived from that as well.

I also find your interpretation of solipsism and monism and nominalism rather slanted. Monism seems obvious for a panentheist, but where exactly that commonly devolves into a self-centered vision of the hateful and cruel baffles me.

You seem to believe morality requires dualism to exist. You cannot be moral unless there is an exterior Ultimate Moral Authority to enforce and endorse it.

I doubt there's such a thing as absolute objectivity, of which perhaps Heisenburg's uncertainty principle lends credence in a very oblique way. As such, I proffered my subjectivity on your post, but I feel your response rather reactionary: as if your conclusions are only valid if and only if humanity can be defined in very narrow terms, and all subjectivity itself must bow to Supreme Will in order for there to be any moral attributes applicable. It requires the absolute-objective, very narrowly defined. Here again, I see fear of what's different.

Peter McCombs said...

Yes, I am referring to all of those shared stories, but mostly the story that once resonated strongly with the audience to whom "Vote Fascist" was primarily directed: Religious people who once believed in it, but who have since adopted the doctrine of individualism. It is rather beside the point what those other specific stories you brought up dealt with, only that people's definition of self used to be found there. There was no "self" without "others.

My point was that those shared stories, and particularly the story we claim as our heritage, are not the stories of individuals, but of communities. As you point out (and I do not argue), there used to be a plurality of communities. I'm not griping about that. However, it has increasingly become a plurality of individuals. In the paradigm of community, violence and power were once intruders. Oh, yes! There was always plenty of violence! But violence was not viewed as the default state of man until we started listening to the stories that Darwin and others began to tell us. Violence was once considered to be the fallen state, the part of our shared humanity that we did not choose. We believed that violence and power were taken up voluntarily and that they required a certain awareness.

My interpretation of solipsism and so forth is, again, not "mine." It is a conclusion based on historiographical studies in systematic and philosophical theology, which I am interested in. You could try reading Oliver, Milbank, Pickstock, Ward, Cavanaugh, and Shortt if you want to see where I am coming from. I've been reading them. This is all very much a part of our cultural history and development. Individualism didn't just pop out of nowhere. In any case, it seems rather obvious to me that the first step away from unity is one that begins to say that the "self" is the only knowable thing. How is that a slanted interpretation? And I in no way equated all individualists with the hateful and the cruel. In fact, I clearly stated that such "free" people are able to agree if they choose to do so.

(continued in next comment, because now you made me get all wordy)...

Peter McCombs said...

...(continued from previous comment)

Your comment on morality is a non-sequitur. Dualism and authority are not particularly syllogistic. Certainly the possibility of 'choice' would seem to point to things that are exclusive of, and at times opposed to, each other. There are things we choose which preclude us from choosing other things. That suggests to me that there can be dualism in places. Or else, what is it to be called when something opposes the will? And again, here we are arguing quite as if someone were right and someone were wrong! And finally, there can be no "transcendental" unless there is something recognized outside of and beyond the self. In a community, where there exists a common story and a common heritage, then naturally morality too exists in that outside world of abstract forms. That was how morality was shared before we investigated solipsistic ideas of the self along with Descartes. I am no adherent to the church of dualism, but it is clear to me that dualism is a useful heuristic for explaining at least some of these phenomena.

Now, that last paragraph of yours really shows where the angst lies! Finally, the argument is really cooking. If anything, you come out as absolutely individualistic: How dare anyone claim that there is some external and objective truth that we must all abide!!! You are quite offended at that notion, as are the many people stomping around shouting about how they are wrongfully being forced to care for illegal immigrants. This is exactly the same attitude of the religious folk, among whom I count myself. Do you think our purported belief in some absolute truth makes one bit of difference? Are you kidding me? We must shape our own selves! We are in the business of self-making, and no one shall interfere! You can't make me do stuff. That's Satan's plan!

No, no. Don't get me wrong again. I'm not putting you in the same cruelty bucket with those guys. We seem to agree about the need for compassion, only our ways of arriving there are totally different. In fact, your method is gratingly similar to those who I am trying to argue against. Hence this argument. I rather enjoy argument and am not one to avoid it just because we agree on the punchline. That doesn't serve my thinking at all. Paradoxically, it is precisely this low-level conflict that produces real progress and refinement. You "proffered your subjectivity," and I didn't like it because it didn't support my thesis, even though it agreed with it. How often do you get that in politics?

And lastly, this: I am saying nothing about absolute truth! You quite misunderstand me. We need not be absolutely certain of our principles (I'm not!), but we must agree on what they are and live them if we are to be any sort of community. We need shared stories and shared truths. Even individuals must eventually settle on some foundation or other. This is the whole point of "Vote Fascist": The idea that we have a shared humanity and some basic responsibilities to each other that once upon a time we all agreed upon--because we once had a notion of Mankind instead of just "Me".

Dave said...

Well, see, and I agree with you, but not how you get there.

Obviously, monism has to address the nature of other-ness and things outside the self. To do that, I would need to better define my concept of the "self" -- I agree with the idea of a self quite simplistic and -seemingly- isolated compared with the other more transcendent aspects of the self. Well, I think you know where that description is going anyway. Just because I prefer monism doesn't mean no one as equally valid as myself exists -- quite the opposite. Everyone and everything else is as equally important and included. As far as things outside the self opposing the will, you could consider dual-aspect monism instead of dualism.

Lastly, I think it's true that we need shared stories and a communal sense of ethics, but at the same time, this common story and ethic needs adaptability to diversity.

Most of this discussion I haven't been certain what point I've been trying to make. I think cruelty in children is natural and instinctive, and unfortunate, but not symptomatic of society's moral decline (except in situations in which such behavior is ignored or improperly or unethically addressed). It obviously can be a contrast on which future compassion can be fostered. Secondly, I think immigration ruckus centers around issues that are inherent with population density, and again, on instinctual reactivity. It's that these natural fears are covered up with political ballyhooing from two sides who are just estranging each other, defending their flag like a trooper, and then ignoring the actuality as much as possible.

I have no solutions myself. I'm not informed enough about it to make an educated guess, either. I'm suggesting the root cause is not ideology so much as human nature being suppressed and covered up by ideological rationalizations. Much like our discussion -- where we discuss monism versus dualism as if it were crucial to a proper conclusion.