Monday, January 12, 2015

Enough Part 4: The Uncomfortable Truths Behind Everything

The pseudo-debate over Islam and the proper attitude of civilized societies toward it could be ended in a trice, were all the parties to the discussion to accept certain postulates – dicta that apply to all Mankind – as beyond question:

  1. Declarations against oneself are more trustworthy than protestations of virtue and innocence.
  2. One cannot instantaneously and reliably evaluate the character or reliability of a new acquaintance.
  3. Individuals will seek what they desire most, unless the price for doing so is high and impossible to evade.

Postulate #1 is an important tenet of judicial procedure. He who, in the course of testifying about a related event, makes a statement that indicts himself of a crime for which he could be prosecuted is presumed to have testified truthfully, on that subject at least. The underlying concept is that of compelling self-defense: the near to absolute refusal to place oneself in jeopardy unless something far more important is at stake. It’s proved a reliable guide in our courtrooms. Why do we not steer by it outside them?

Postulate #2 is a matter of common sense. A man is an iceberg: the greater part of his identity, including his moral code, is concealed at all times. Unless you make that new acquaintance under crisis conditions – e.g., you’re his paramedic, busily splinting the broken legs he got from diving in front of a bus to save an inattentive old woman – your basis for judging his character will be severely limited.

Postulate #3 is simply the nature of Man: what the great Ludwig von Mises called the axiom of action. We act upon our priorities in descending order, unless deflected from that order by unavoidable prices or penalties we deem unacceptable. Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs is founded on that postulate.

Let us add to the above three axioms an observation that, while not as indisputable as the others, is nevertheless sound in the great majority of cases:

Life is pretty damned difficult.
It’s harder if you don’t make certain decisions beforehand.

This is the basis of the behavior derided as stereotyping. It’s also one of Man’s principal survival mechanisms.

Some years ago, in a fit of candor he surely regretted immediately afterward, Jesse Jackson admitted that, when he’s walking down a street at night and hears footsteps behind him, it relieves him greatly to discover that they’re the footsteps of a white man. He was making a point about the disproportionate degree of criminality among American Negroes, especially young black men. It was an important point, too: one which is surely on the minds of many urbanites whose cities have recently hosted the knockout game.

Were the speaker a prominent Caucasian rather than one of the best known Negro racialists in America, he would have been crucified by the bien-pensants of the media. Instead, Jackson received mainly grudging assent...leavened with a few grumbles of “but did you have to say so?” Yet Jackson’s statement was undeniably a stereotype of commonplace conditions in urban environments.

Nearly all of us make a large fraction of our decisions on the basis of such stereotypes. Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “The Stranger:”

The Stranger within my gate,
He may be true or kind,
But he does not talk my talk--
I cannot feel his mind.
I see the face and the eyes and the mouth,
But not the soul behind.

The men of my own stock,
They may do ill or well,
But they tell the lies I am wonted to,
They are used to the lies I tell;
And we do not need interpreters
When we go to buy or sell.

The Stranger within my gates,
He may be evil or good,
But I cannot tell what powers control--
What reasons sway his mood;
Nor when the Gods of his far-off land
Shall repossess his blood.

The men of my own stock,
Bitter bad they may be,
But, at least, they hear the things I hear,
And see the things I see;
And whatever I think of them and their likes
They think of the likes of me.

This was my father's belief
And this is also mine:
Let the corn be all one sheaf--
And the grapes be all one vine,
Ere our children's teeth are set on edge
By bitter bread and wine.

...expresses one of the imperative implications: We can only proportion our trust to an individual about whom we know little or nothing on the basis of stereotypes. Indeed, there are no alternatives.

The bien-pensants are unanimous in declaring this “unfair.” Yet they have nothing to offer in its place.

An individual must always be judged on his individual merits and demerits; no other course is just. However, that dictum has a precondition that can be exceedingly difficult to meet: learning enough about the individual in question to have confidence in your sense of his merits and demerits. Take it from one who’s done a sickening amount of interviewing of candidates for employment.

Law and public policy must ignore individual identities. Indeed, the phrase “justice is blind,” often misinterpreted by the thoughtless, means exactly that. When the policy under discussion is immigration law – i.e., what categories of persons shall be admitted to our shores – the importance of the matter is maximized.

Granted that our immigration policy is haphazard at best. Granted also that no matter how we might revise it, we would always want there to be some provision for special cases: persons whom the law would normally deny admission, but whose experiences and circumstances mandate an exception. Yet just about any statutory immigration policy will discriminate among categories of potential immigrants. The alternative is to open the borders to all who desire to come here, at most setting a limit for the number who may enter in a given calendar year.

The immigration statutes of the early Twentieth Century tried to proportion access to the United States to the ethnic balance of its current population. Though there was quibbling over the specific numbers, no one argued that the fundamental premise was unjust. It was conceded that no other approach would give America as good a chance of preserving the norms and culture it had developed. That was, of course, before the nonsense of multiculturalism had taken hold among us.

Contemporary immigration law is a joke: completely undiscriminating, as willing to admit the allegiants of hostile ideologies as persons of professed Christian faith and enthusiasm about American conceptions of freedom and justice. It awards the nation’s trust without reference to anything we know about the ideologies of those that request admission, the nations in which those ideologies hold sway, or the preponderant sources of social and political discord in other lands.

By now the picture should be clear.

We have already admitted millions of Muslims to the United States as if there were nothing to fear from their blood-drenched, wholly intolerant creed. About these, all we can do is be vigilant, and insist that they receive none of the special privileges and dispensations Muslims habitually demand from their host countries. But that’s no justification for leaving the nation’s gates open to still more Muslims. Are we unable to learn from the experiences of the states of Europe? From the upheavals in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines? From the utter savagery of North Africa and the Islamic Middle East?

On a personal level, it’s about how you should decide, as a matter of predetermined policy, whom to trust on the basis of scant knowledge. That nice Muslim family down the block might be an exception to the preponderant pattern of Islamic intolerance and hostility...but how wise is it to assume that? Let’s go further: How wise would it be to relocate your family, complete with preteen daughters, to a preponderantly Muslim locale? Would that nice Muslim family down the block feel the same fears and reservations about it?

Do these questions make you uncomfortable? Is it the questions themselves, or the truths that they press upon you?

Think it over.


Reg T said...

Fran, it may seem like a minor quibble, but postulate #1 is not always valid. I'm sure that there have been many instances where someone has indicted himself in order to protect someone else, a spouse, sibling, friend ("It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done"). Also, times when someone will indict himself because he mistakenly believes he is at fault, thinking he was responsible for something when he actually wasn't the proximate cause.

Yes, you did say "more trustworthy", and that is certainly true, especially in this age of absent morality. I just think it is important to remember that there are exceptions, and we need to be cognizant of them.

Anonymous said...

Reg, although there may well be exceptions, and we need to be cognizant of them... our awareness has led in many instances to near complacency. And in this war - for indeed it is a war - that complacency means death. Our culture, customs, country, and very lives are at stake here. Understanding that, you may not consider yourself at war with islam, but be assured islam is at war with you. We must therefore err on the side of caution here. No, more of "them" cannot come in. And those who are here already must begin to assimilate if possible into our society, or leave. Trust Grandpa in this one. It is not time for hand wringing over coexistence. You cannot coexist with people who want to kill you. stormfriend