Tag Archives: Ethics

Choosing a tribe

Choosing a tribe

I am exhausted from being torn between the polarities of the social strife in America. Everyday there are the racial battles. There are Blacks who resent Whites and want “reparations” and there are Whites who resent being resented and want Blacks to take responsibility for their poor choices. But I don’t want to take sides. Tribalism is almost as old as humanity, and racism is just another form of tribalism. Isn’t there another tribe I can join?

There are capitalists who see no problem with poverty in conflict with the socialists who want to bring them down. What a mess, is there no moderate voice here?

There are anti-immigration patriotic loyalists who feel that immigrants are not really pro-American in conflict with immigrants who are not so different from the parents of the anti-immigrant group. But the battle rages and I am caught as a moderate, trying to consider both sides.

The political insanity of this year’s presidential race could make a grown man cry. Sometimes it is embarrassing to be an American. I want to form a new political party; the Political Peace Party, or the Party of Moderates, or Party of Poets Crying in the Night!

There are religious tribes. Our constitution that separates church and state should be a safe guard against government intruding into religion, and religion placing itself over government. Yes, religions do have a right to influence government, but not to rule over government. Many religions specialize in social issues and engage in a power struggle for control of society. It is always about power. And it is very dark. Is there a way out?

I do have deep concerns for our society and all of the issues above, but striving in these conflicts seems to be insane, and I will not align with any of the tribes. If the Kingdom of Jesus is truly as he claims, a spiritual kingdom not of this world, then maybe that has been in front of me all along, and I need to fall back into it. Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, Jesus replied, “If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight. My kingdom is not of this world” This seems to be the only place I will find peace.

 

 

 

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Wages to Live By

Wages to Live By

If workers in other countries receive wages that are insufficient to elevate their life beyond poverty, and are producing goods consumed in our country by us, that is an issue of social injustice we are obligated to be concerned about. Addressing the issue of wages on the international level is vital for the sake of the future of our own country, and also because of ethical justice for the workers.

Some people will surely say that the capitalist based free market economy is successful in producing wealth and so we should let nature take its course, let the market set wages, and let the law of survival of the fittest rule in all the affairs of mankind. We should agree with this model that it is competition and struggle that have produced some of the greatest accomplishments of mankind-and some of the worst. If we compare unfettered capitalism to the law of the jungle, or survival of the fittest, then its guiding ethic to place one’s own interest ahead of others and maintain a place at the top of the food chain, at all costs. This ethic could lead to the conclusion that the underpaid workers of the world are a simple necessity for the benefit of others.

We may also consider other voices speaking into this situation. We may choose to view humans as having a higher responsibility than to live by the base rule of survival of the fittest. There may be many factors to consider before casting off our responsibility for the poor of the world. Recognizing that the desperation that stems from poverty will eventually affect us here in the comfort of our affluence, President Truman said in 1947, “The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of people for a better life has died. We must keep that hope alive.” Therefore it is foolish and short sighted to think only of the economic prosperity of our own country. If we consider the interrelated aspects of our global economy we must consider the economic well-being of other countries as a benefit to world stability.

Because I am a worker I feel especially passionate about this issue. I have been a hard working carpenter most of my adult life, but I have always had good work clothes. The first time I saw carpenters working in bare feet in India, my heart was deeply ashamed at my American affluence. When I traveled to the Philippines I personally met good, hardworking people, who would work 12 or more hours a day, in an electronics factory, just to stay hopelessly poor. I simply think a worker should get paid a decent wage for a day’s work.

Some people say that this economic situation is ok because everything is cheap in their economy. That is a half-truth. True the rent for their shack may only be $25- per month but a computer still costs $800-. That is the situation. It is also true that the industrialization of poor countries by western enterprise has already greatly benefited these countries. But it is also true that these benefits have not been great enough to elevate these people beyond dependence upon us. The benefits are just enough to keep them in financial slavery.

I am not against capitalism, and I am not against rich people-that is their choice. Really, I am as materialistic as any other American. I have a nice computer, nice camera, and beautiful musical instruments. But my things are made mostly by people overseas and therefore I have a vested interest-even an obligation to be concerned about the people who make my stuff. If people are working at slave labor wages, living in want, producing products so that others may live in luxury, then this is an issue of ethical justice; before man and God. A Biblical passage challenges rich people saying, “You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who harvested your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty!” (James 5:3-4)

Major electronics leaders have already taken a huge step in forming the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, (EICC) (http://www.eicc.info/). Membership in this organization is voluntary and its members conduct self-audits of their suppliers down to the third tier. The EICC Code of Conduct monitors in the categories of: Labor, Health and Safety, Environment, Ethics, and Management Systems. Under the labor category it monitors: freely chosen employment, (including child labor avoidance), working hours, (including wages), humane treatment, and freedom of association (unions). Current standards set by the EICC Code of Conduct require workers to be paid wages equivalent to local standards including 50% more for overtime. This standard perpetuates a problem of people working excessively long hours for overtime pay. For example if a worker works at thirty cents per hour for the first eight hours and can get forty five cents per hour for the next four hours they will always want the full twelve hour shift. And if they can get sixty cents per hour for the last four hours of a sixteen hour shift, they will work until they drop. The standards currently established in the EICC Code of Conduct should be modified to mandate a living wage rather than merely conform to local minimum wage and should limit the rate of overtime pay so that workers will have less motivation for working excessively long hours.

The solution is not socialism. The solution is not in an extreme government that will enforce a worldwide minimum wage. The solution is a voluntary elevation of wages by the corporations. If we don’t want international government regulations then the corporations should take the lead voluntarily. This is good ethically and it is good for the worldwide economy. If factory workers can get great paying jobs it will boost the economy in the entire region. American corporations should take the lead in setting a high living wage as the standard for the EICC Code of Conduct.

This issue cannot continue to be ignored by Americans. If we are complacent about this because we are the beneficiaries of the current status quo, we may also be the big losers in the long run. Don’t think that the world will continue on forever without major revolutions. Don’t be so short sighted that we only think of our own immediate needs. We must relinquish our insistence to be at the top of the food chain. We must dream of a better world, beyond our own borders.

Please sign the petition on the Facebook page to let the electronics industry know that as consumers, we would pay more for our products if we could be assured that the increase would go to the workers rather than the profits of their companies.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BigWorldDreams

Copyright; Mark Anderson 2016


Terms that Burn; white privilege

Since returning to College it has been good for me to be challenged to think deeper about social issues. It was in my first class that I encountered the term “white privilege.” There were several terms tossed around that students could not really define, we could only discuss the symptoms. My philosophical nature compels me to analyze issues to find the core problems and establish a working premise that will be a consistent guide. For the issue of racism and privilege I first start with the premise that each race or ethnic heritage has a right to its own place of respect; that each person should be allowed to rejoice in and affirm their own race or ethnic group. So if each group is allowed a healthy sense of identity, then what is racism? Racism is when we distort that healthy sense of identity and exalt our group above another group, in a way that leads to oppression of any kind. And privilege is defined as any group holding a place of “advantage or special benefit” (Oxford).

I would like to propose alternatives to the term “white privilege.” The problem with this term is that it is inherently a racist term, criminalizing a race of people rather than addressing behaviors and policies, which are the root issues of our social problems. I propose use of the terms “majority privilege,” “elitist privilege,” “power privilege,” “financial privilege,” and “race privilege” which are more accurate in dealing with the true problems and remove any one race from being the primary perpetrator of injustice.

I am not raising this issue as a means to deny, ignore, or obscure the privilege that white people in America have held and continue desperately grasping. It would be devastating to our social progress, and deceitful to deny the association of race and privilege. But when the source of privilege is addressed rather than blaming a group then we will truly be working towards a society based upon justice for all.

Majority privilege is an asset enjoyed by a group that gives them a larger voice and establishes their cultural values over other groups. In many of our social science classes we have discussed Peggy McIntosh’s essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Most of the privileges listed in it can really be attributed to majority privilege. For example privilege #1 “I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time” (McIntosh). Globally this is true of anyone living a community where they are part of the majority. In China who holds majority privilege? In Japan who holds majority privilege? It is not whites. This is not denying that white people have partaken of and relished in their majority privilege. However, acknowledgment that there is a degree of privilege that all majorities receive is a key to analyzing our social injustices.

Related to majority privilege, is our democratic value; majority rule. The writers of our US Constitution were apprehensive about majority rule referring to it as “mob rule” and cautioned against the potential of the majority trampling the rights of the minority. If majority rule really is a cause of injustice for minorities then we need to amend our laws. If democracy is really an illusion, then get rid of it.

Elitist Privilege is often gained through education. Colleges advertise that privilege can be gained through education and is a valid motivation for enrollment. At times white people in America have dominated this area and so have held privilege. But it is not really an issue of race; it is a systemic problem. For example, two highly educated professors may both experience privilege; one is white the other a person of color. If we say that one holds white privilege and the other has earned status through the hard work of education, is this justice? If there is something wrong in our society with granting privilege to the educated, then let’s fix the real problem.

Power Privilege may be seized through violence or military force. Whites have obviously committed this aggression. They violently seized lands from the original inhabitants of this continent and they violently bought and sold people. The principle of privilege by power is as old as mankind. That does not justify it. But it also should be noted that people of every color have committed this aggression. What color was Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, or Chairman Mao? By using a term such as “power privilege” rather than “white privilege” we objectively look at the issue of power and violence. By re-framing the conversation around actions rather than a particular race we will focus on the problem of power, violence and privilege.

Financial Privilege has allowed whites to hold inordinate amounts of privilege. Financial privilege is claimed in various parts of the world by people of various colors. Maybe Marx was right, our capitalist system is at fault. We cannot assault whites with racist terms for doing only what other groups are trying to do. This is only envy, not justice.

Every person in America, regardless of color, holds great financial privilege over the workers in other countries who manufacture our goods. But why is this called “white privilege?” We all want to retain this privilege! Can’t we all share the guilt? In reality this has become American privilege. The challenge for us is to see beyond our borders and realize that as a country our privilege may be an issue of injustice on a global level.

Race Privilege: When any race of people is able to use a combination of these sources to gain control over others then this should be acknowledged as race privilege. At the core of race privilege is racism, or tribalism; one group against another. By using the term “race privilege” we are able to identify behavior, which ever race is committing the injustice.

When one tribe of people is able to align several of the sources of power in their favor they become similar to a dirty card dealer, one that you can never win against. Imagine a poker game in which you and the dealer are both dealt hands that at first seem fair. You naively believe that you could play by the rules and win. You begin to be suspicious when his opening hand has three aces. You try harder and double your bet. But after the draw the dealer gets four aces and a wild card-the race card. This is why race privilege is resented so deeply, and is an obvious source of injustice.

Why be upset about a term? Clearly terminology is important in our society. Derogatory racial words that were acceptable in previous generations have now been banned, which has effectively sent a message to the public that racism is not acceptable. Proper terminology should:

Not stereotype groups but address behavior

Not deprive people of their constitutional right to innocence

Seek justice for all

Continued use of the racist term “white privilege” is an insult to our entire society because it reveals that our quest for justice is not impartial and not justice for all. A failure to recognize the demeaning nature of this term reveals our double standards and shows that racism against whites is acceptable in America. To truly seek justice for all, we cannot use racism to fight racism. We cannot forbid racist terminology for most groups and then use and even promote racist terminology for others. And most of all, it alienates whites from the conversation, to which they so desperately need to be involved in. In the cases that this term may be used in our textbooks or in public discourse, I ask that this racist term be removed and replaced with terminology that will truly help to address our social problems.

 

Works Cited

 McIntosh, Peggy. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1988. Paper 189. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.

Urdang, Laurence. The Oxford Desk Dictionary. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. Print.

 

Copyright; Mark Anderson 2014


Racism universal?

Racism in this world may have its roots in the most basic parts of our human nature. To some extent all species prefer their own kind. It is totally understandable that humans in primitive societies would naturally prefer their own tribe/group and their perception of the universe would be based upon the bias of their tribe. Observing nature we see that animals use a system of what we might call stereo typing to distinguish between safe or dangerous species, a lamb encountering a predatory lion will stereo type the lion as unsafe. This is a basic system of survival for groups to identify each other. So our aptitude to stereo type by race, tribe, clan or culture may be deeply imbedded within our DNA. This basic understanding of human nature is an important starting point, or premise for me if I want to understand the issues of real racism.

If we accept this premise about human nature then maybe we should look closer at what we call racism for a more clear definition. If it is natural to see the world and other people from the bias of my own group what is racism? Racism is distortion of the universal natural preference for one’s group, making one’s own group superior to other groups, to oppress or cause them harm by any means. This definition is broad enough to encompass all groups, majority or minority, who use their bias to harm or oppress others.

However, some people may use the premise above as a reason to justify racism, saying that survival of the fittest is the normal course of nature. This leads us to consider a serious difference between animals and human animals. Humans have a dilemma because we have to make choices that other animals may not be required to make. Regardless of your stance on evolution or creation humans are held to a higher standard of conduct. A social evolutionist may conclude that mankind has learned that for true survival our species needs to learn cooperation and the creationist may conclude that the creator of all humans expects cooperation between the human groups; anti-racism. Choice is another essential aspect of human nature as we consider the problem of racism.

Christmas festival in Kobe Japan

My theory for overcoming racism is not based on denying the differences between the human groups, but we overcome racism by a choice to respect. Denial of differences may actually be way of forcing assimilation into a dominant group. Acknowledging our differences does give us the difficult task of not considering one group superior, which in our human history has been a problem. Acknowledging our differences also means that we realize that stereo types in humans are never 100% true. Stereo types are built on partial truths and exaggerated. So as humans we have the choice to look beyond a stereo type and risk getting to know and trust the individuals. As humans we may prefer the friendship our group, seek the wellbeing of our group, see life from the perspective of our group, but never at the cost of oppressing or harming another group. This is the responsibility that our common Creator gives us. Or if you prefer to ignore our Creator, it is still the only viable path for the survival of our species.

 

CLARIFICATION; Some people are misunderstanding me.

I do not support racism. I am careful to define racism as a distortion or perversion of a natural tendency to prefer our own group; social or ethnic. This natural tendency could be universal. And the evil of racism is widespread but I do not support it.


Gender roles

In defense of gender roles let me first make a couple observations. In nature we see that animals and insects have gender roles and these beings likely do not consider one gender superior to the other. Superiority is probably not an issue when the survival of a species is at stake. I cannot use this observation to dictate what the gender roles for humans should be but only to establish a principle that gender roles are part of nature and these roles do not mean that one gender is superior to the other. Another observation is that ancient cultures, mostly Asian since those cultures have remained intact for longer than our western blends of cultures, have preserved traditional gender roles. In these ancient cultures it is apparent that gender roles serve the purpose of simplifying relationships. By contrast here in the west we currently need to re-invent each relationship from scratch. In traditional relationships it does not need to be resolved that men are responsible to take certain responsibilities and women also theirs. When I look at so many of our social problems today such as unwed mothers struggling to survive while the play boy father runs around impregnating other women, I see our desperate need for cultural reform. These kinds of issues motivated Confucius in China several centuries before Christ to lead reforms of what we today call family values.

The negative side of gender roles is how they are abused for oppression. It seems that the human tendency is to pervert all that God created as good. The love of power, the fear of losing control, and greed all contribute to abuse. We find parts of our scriptures to endorse what we want to see. But if our hearts are inclined to the heart of God we will seek those parts of scripture that provide justice and liberation for the oppressed,

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loosen the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;

Then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”(Isaiah 58:6-10 NIV)

If we are truly seeking liberation we will find that gender roles carried out voluntarily, with respect, can provide a very peaceful way to coexist. But any time we find ourselves using roles as an excuse to abuse or oppress then we should fear that we might be offending our Creator who seeks protection for the oppressed.


Ethics wholistic

ETHICS

The classic humanist statement is; “My rule is to love my neighbor and do good unto others. Why do I need god to be a good person?”  And I must agree that people can have relatively good characters without recognizing the creator. However, I propose that the first great ethic is to recognize the creator? To claim to be ethical and yet not recognize the Creator is just not really ethical, it is incomplete ethics.

Can we love the art and not recognize the artist? Jesus says that there are two parts to true ethics, “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the great dividing point in ethics. If this is true that God has really revealed himself in Christ, then the ultimate unethical act would be to ignore him. If we agree that recognizing the creator is the first principle of ethics then that becomes a premise out of which the rest of our values will flow.

Which part of this great twofold ethic we emphasize depends on our view of the Creator/ creation relationship? Often religious people are known for emphasizing the first part, loving God, while neglecting the second half, loving neighbor. Religious people can be all about doing a church thing for God. But ignore what God says about loving our neighbor. In contrast the non-religious folk love the creation and love people but ignore the Creator. Truly consistent ethics should be more holistic recognizing the connection between Creator and creation. If we do recognize the Creator first then we can potentially have a balanced ethic towards people. This balance will drastically affect our views of social justice. The ancient scripture says, “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20).

The Bible declares clearly that whether we live under a strict moral religious system or prefer just living by our own conscience, none are considered pure in the sight of the Creator. The amazing thing about God’s revelation in Jesus is that God is reaching out to us, to make that bridge between him and us. In this grace of God, ethics can be transformed from legal obligation into love, through faith.

For a longer discussion visit the pages under philosophy 101 >>>>>