News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: What About those Looters?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What About those Looters?

Some have tried to use the pictures of looters in New Orleans to raise the spectre of the lack of education on virtue in American schools. This is a red herring. The reality is that the American economic system does not promte ethics but instead promotes an ethos where winner-takes-all and the rest eat cake.

I personally agree with those who think that virtue itself cannot be taught--otherwise, there'd be no need for God or religious proscriptions to treat each other right. On the other hand, I see much wisdom in Aristotle's idea that teaching virtue involves not just simple platitudes and cliches mouthed in rote memoriazation, but an environment--including family, society, and culture--thaT supports the maxims that one teaches.

I mean how good do you think a kid is gonna be if they hear someone telling them to be good and then they set foot outside the school and see numerous types of hypocrisy from parents, society and leaders? I personally do not see how someone who grows up poor makes it to be virtuous--that, is indeed a miracle.

Virtue cannot be taught--it must be inspired and influenced by socio-cultural paradigms. What happens in America is that you have a culture that says be "virtuous" but it rewards those who are not with golden parachutes and obscene salaries. The work environment itself rewards values that counter any decent definition of virtue, enabling the predators to win and the others to lose--big-time. we have a winner-take-all culture, which is obviously borne out by the fact that 1% of the population owns 90% of the total wealth in the country.

During the past four decades, the middle class has been squeezed, the poor have grown, and wealth has concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. I don't know where you work, but I have worked in places hwere it is impossible to teach anything to my kids because the time spent working--60-80 hours a week--both parents working has made it difficult to teach anything except what?

Growing up means slavery to the clock, not being home for the kids, that moving is a fact of life so long-term relationships and getting to know people is not even a possibility. You ask where the values are being taught--they're being taught in the workplace, where veryone is fungible, no one has any security, everyone is out for themselves. That's the reality of the culture of death.

Some may say my social critique sounds suspiciously Marxist--this sounds so hollow and obviously reflects an inability to think critically based on the facts but instead on empty slogans from an era where paranoia about commies under the bed was rampant.

What's so pitiful about this response is that it's a red herring--the fact is that the poor suffer more from the violence that appeared in New Orleans than anyone else. Indeed, one might even say that poverty itself gives rise to violence and criminality.

Be that as it may, the point we are seeing in NO is not the gangs running around firing on others. The point is that the social mechanisms set up to help everyone--no matter their social class or ethnicity--failed, and as usual it is the poor who are left to feel the brunt of gang violence and the neglect of the government.

1 comment:

Iain said...

A lot of this has to do with personal experience, huh? A lot of it also has to do with the condition of many in this country and people really are slaves to the clock. One could say that time is the real enemy. Many people don't have time, but they also don't have the means to get what they need or to be comfortable in their life.