Is there a black elephant in the room?

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Chicago, 1957: a couple who moved into an all-white neighborhood looking at graffiti in front of their home. [Source: Historic Photographs]

Many people are discussing these days the racism topic.

A black man – George Floyd – was some days ago killed due to – as it seems – police brutality. This sparked a series of protests some of which were violent.

People started to talk against the protests and that violence. Others responded that the violence had started actually from the police. But no matter the details, the question of whether racism is a problem in the US was prevalent in all discussions.

For me, this is an elephant sitting in the room.

All we have to do is see it.

But as in the elephant example, what I see is not what you see…

For some, there is no solid ‘proof’ of racism in the US. And to be fair to the other countries as well, I will extend this to all other countries: For those people who deny the existence of racism altogether, there is no solid evidence for racism against blacks in the West in general (cannot really speak for other countries). There is no ‘proof’ that this group of people is treated unfairly.

The arguments the proponents of this ‘There-is-no-racism’ view have, vary from wrong to ridiculous – with a strong tendency to the latter.

RELATED ARTICLE: The source of ethics

So for example in the case of George Floyd, I have seen many people asking “How do I know that the police officer did what he did because of racism? Perhaps he is doing the same to white people as well”. That could be a good counter-argument. If we had actually data to support it. If not (which is currently the case), then this counter-argument is just a generalized counter-argument based on ‘doubt’ which we anyway have for everything in life – even for things we see in front of our eyes.

Hey, it is raining.

(But how can I be sure that it rains?)

This counter argument used by those denying the existing racism against blacks (and gays and women etc) is the cornerstone of hypocrisy. They see something (in that case we even have a video) but they choose not to see it because of something else that… might be true. They do not know whether the police officer could do something like that to whites as well. They just assume it. And then based on that assumption, they build their theory.

Convenient is it not?

Sure is.

But simple things are never simple.

The denial of so many in the face of something so evident is based on something very fundamental in human thought: Our inability to prove (or accept the proof) of anything, unless we experience it. This is something constantly mentioned by Harmonia Philosophica, but with regards to science philosophy mainly. Here it is – wrongly – used to justify injustice. Yes, it is true that there can be no positive proof not only of racism in this case but of any other logical proposition of any kind.

The truth is a philosophically elusive notion and cannot be attained, even for the most trivial and fundamental of scientific beliefs. For every scientific theorem or theory is based on unapproved axioms. Change these axioms and you will reach to a different theory (if that sounds weird, then read more Harmonia Philosophica). So if it is not possible to even prove that 1+1=2 (really, even this is based on axioms), how could one prove that the death of a black man under police brutality was because of racism?

And yet, we know it.

People denying the obvious are in this case doing nothing more than using a loophole in our inherent thinking mechanism to deny what in other circumstanced they would accept at ease. It would be right to say “I don’t know” or “I am not sure”, if you indeed said that every time you are not sure about something. But as said above, we are never 100% sure about anything, nor can we be in any way.

RELATED ARTICLE: Why you can’t be an agnostic

So what is this?

How can we be sure?

The answer is already answered.

By your everyday actions.

By your everyday choices.

By life itself.

Life which transcends the theory and makes us open our eyes beyond the limits of philosophy. Because no matter how you “do not know” whether there is racism, you do choose to be afraid of a black running in the street. No matter how much you are not “sure” of, automatic face detection algorithms you design keep on detecting more black people as ‘criminals’. No matter how much you are not ‘sure’ that there is racism, you still need to revert to nonexistent hypotheses to prove that what you see was not true. Regardless of your inability to pinpoint racism against black people, you do feel weird when standing next to a black person. No matter whether you are – philosophically – certain that black people do have the same rights as other people, it is still true that we have a disturbingly extremely low representation of black people in high-level positions.

Because you see, the greatest problem with science per se, is its inability to testify for the obvious. Even when it is raining, there will always be possible to claim that everything is an illusion and even build a theory based on that illustrious assumption. (Why not? Scientists today even talk about multiple universes which we will never anyway see – and they even get paid for that research) Even when Achilles is running to overcome the turtle, philosophy will still be able to ‘prove’ that Achilles will never overcome it. And even when black people are dying outside, science will still struggle with statistical models to ‘prove’ whether there is racism or not…

So beware of people expressing ‘doubt’.

They are usually the ones with the greatest beliefs.

And when they close their books.

And when they walk outside…

They will be astounded to see…

That Achilles did overcome the turtle.

That the policeman did step on Floyd’s neck…

And some of them, some of them who still have a soul, will come to realize what they knew but they have forgotten. That whatever they know, is because they really don’t know anything at all…

Hey!

Who put that black elephant in the room?!

Important Notes

  • Similar to the argument “How can we know it?” is the opposite argument “But I can prove to you that there is no racism”. In such arguments people tend to use examples of how for example the police was once also brutal to a white person. This is the opposite of what was described above: As it is impossible to prove anything beyond the shadow of a doubt, it is also very easy to claim that you have ‘proved’ something with the relevant assumptions. Again in that case, the very same fundamental limitation of science and our way of thinking is exploited: That whenever we think to prove something, we need to start from somewhere. And that somewhere is always a not-proved axiom/ assumption. With proper models and assumptions, one can even ‘prove’ that our universe does not exist.
  • No case is like the other. I have sure not covered all of the here. There are also cases which are similar to the case of black people suffering racism (e.g. women or gay people suffering discrimination) who are not also mentioned here. This is because the purpose of this post is not to generalize or prove anything. The are sites which do that in a much better way while providing all the necessary data for all these types and cases of racism and discrimination. The purpose of this article, since Harmonia Philosophica is a philosophy portal, is to show that philosophy and theory are good but up to a point. And from that point onward, life itself is much more important.
  • I have deliberately taken a stand not to refer to the violence in the protests during the previous days. Again, I believe there are many sites which cover these facts in an excellent and very professional manner. The goal of this article is to provide some philosophical insight. Nothing more. And, I hope, nothing less.

From democracy to totalitarianism. Gradually… Watch out USA! Don’t be Austria! [OR: Why we do not need child care centers]

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“I am a witness to history.

“I cannot tell you that Hitler took Austria by tanks and guns; it would distort history.

If you remember the plot of the Sound of Music, the Von Trapp family escaped over the Alps rather than submit to the Nazis. Kitty wasn’t so lucky. Her family chose to stay in her native Austria. She was 10 years old, but bright and aware. And she was watching.

“We elected him by a landslide – 98 percent of the vote”, she recalls.

She wasn’t old enough to vote in 1938 – approaching her 11th birthday. But she remembers.

“Everyone thinks that Hitler just rolled in with his tanks and took Austria by force”.

No so.

Hitler is welcomed to Austria

“In 1938, Austria was in deep Depression. Nearly one-third of our workforce was unemployed. We had 25 percent inflation and 25 percent bank loan interest rates.

Farmers and business people were declaring bankruptcy daily. Young people were going from house to house begging for food. Not that they didn’t want to work; there simply weren’t any jobs.

“My mother was a Christian woman and believed in helping people in need. Every day we cooked a big kettle of soup and baked bread to feed those poor, hungry people – about 30 daily.’

“We looked to our neighbor on the north, Germany, where Hitler had been in power since 1933”, she recalls. “We had been told that they didn’t have unemployment or crime, and they had a high standard of living.

“Nothing was ever said about persecution of any group – Jewish or otherwise. We were led to believe that everyone in Germany was happy. We wanted the same way of life in Austria. We were promised that a vote for Hitler would mean the end of unemployment and help for the family. Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted, and farmers would get their farms back.

“Ninety-eight percent of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler.

“We were overjoyed”, remembers Kitty, “and for three days we danced in the streets and had candlelight parades. The new government opened up big field kitchens and
everyone was fed.

“After the election, German officials were appointed, and, like a miracle, we suddenly had law and order. Three or four weeks later, everyone was employed. The government made sure that a lot of work was created through the Public Work Service.

“Hitler decided we should have equal rights for women. Before this, it was a custom that married Austrian women did not work outside the home. An able-bodied husband would be looked down on if he couldn’t support his family. Many women in the teaching profession were elated that they could retain the jobs they previously had been re- quired to give up for marriage.

“Then we lost religious education for kids

“Our education was nationalized. I attended a very good public school.. The population was predominantly Catholic, so we had religion in our schools. The day we elected Hitler (March 13, 1938), I walked into my schoolroom to find the crucifix replaced by Hitler’s picture hanging next to a Nazi flag. Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and told the class we wouldn’t pray or have religion anymore. Instead, we sang ‘Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles’, and had physical education.

“Sunday became National Youth Day with compulsory attendance. Parents were not pleased about the sudden change in curriculum. They were told that if they did not send us, they would receive a stiff letter of warning the first time. The second time they would be fined the equivalent of $300, and the third time they would be subject to jail”.

And then things got worse.

“The first two hours consisted of political indoctrination. The rest of the day we had sports. As time went along, we loved it. Oh, we had so much fun and got our sports equipment free.

“We would go home and gleefully tell our parents about the wonderful time we had.

“My mother was very unhappy”, remembers Kitty. “When the next term started, she took me out of public school and put me in a convent. I told her she couldn’t do that and she told me that someday when I grew up, I would be grateful. There was a very good curriculum, but hardly any fun – no sports, and no political indoctrination.

“I hated it at first but felt I could tolerate it. Every once in a while, on holidays, I went home. I would go back to my old friends and ask what was going on and what they were doing.

“Their loose lifestyle was very alarming to me. They lived without religion. By that time, unwed mothers were glorified for having a baby for Hitler.

“It seemed strange to me that our society changed so suddenly. As time went along, I realized what a great deed my mother did so that I wasn’t exposed to that kind of humanistic philosophy.

“In 1939, the war started, and a food bank was established. All food was rationed and could only be purchased using food stamps. At the same time, a full-employment law was passed which meant if you didn’t work, you didn’t get a ration card, and, if you didn’t have a card, you starved to death.

“Women who stayed home to raise their families didn’t have any marketable skills and often had to take jobs more suited for men.

“Soon after this, the draft was implemented.

“It was compulsory for young people, male and female, to give one year to the labor corps”, remembers Kitty. “During the day, the girls worked on the farms, and at night they returned to their barracks for military training just like the boys.

“They were trained to be anti-aircraft gunners and participated in the signal corps. After the labor corps, they were not discharged but were used in the front lines.

“When I go back to Austria to visit my family and friends, most of these women are emotional cripples because they just were not equipped to handle the horrors of combat.

“Three months before I turned 18, I was severely injured in an air raid attack. I nearly had a leg amputated, so I was spared having to go into the labor corps and into military service.

“When the mothers had to go out into the work force, the government immediately established child care centers.

“You could take your children ages four weeks old to school age and leave them there around-the-clock, seven days a week, under the total care of the government.

“The state raised a whole generation of children. There were no motherly women to take care of the children, just people highly trained in child psychology. By this time, no one talked about equal rights. We knew we had been had.

“Before Hitler, we had very good medical care. Many American doctors trained at the University of Vienna..

“After Hitler, health care was socialized, free for everyone. Doctors were salaried by the government. The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything.

“When the good doctor arrived at his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already waiting and, at the same time, the hospitals were full.

“If you needed elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn. There was no money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine. Research at the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and emigrated to other countries.

“As for healthcare, our tax rates went up to 80 percent of our income. Newlyweds immediately received a $1,000 loan from the government to establish a household. We had big programs for families.

“All day care and education were free. High schools were taken over by the government and college tuition was subsidized. Everyone was entitled to free handouts, such as food stamps, clothing, and housing.

“We had another agency designed to monitor business. My brother-in-law owned a restaurant that had square tables.

“Government officials told him he had to replace them with round tables because people might bump themselves on the corners. Then they said he had to have additional bathroom facilities. It was just a small dairy business with a snack bar. He couldn’t meet all the demands.

“Soon, he went out of business. If the government owned the large businesses and not many small ones existed, it could be in control.

“We had consumer protection, too

“We were told how to shop and what to buy. Free enterprise was essentially abolished. We had a planning agency specially designed for farmers. The agents would go to the farms, count the livestock, and then tell the farmers what to produce, and how to produce it.

“In 1944, I was a student teacher in a small village in the Alps. The villagers were surrounded by mountain passes which, in the winter, were closed off with snow, causing people to be isolated.

“So people intermarried and offspring were sometimes retarded. When I arrived, I was told there were 15 mentally retarded adults, but they were all useful and did good manual work.

“I knew one, named Vincent, very well. He was a janitor of the school. One day I looked out the window and saw Vincent and others getting into a van.

“I asked my superior where they were going. She said to an institution where the State Health Department would teach them a trade, and to read and write. The families were required to sign papers with a little clause that they could not visit for 6 months.

“They were told visits would interfere with the program and might cause homesickness.

“As time passed, letters started to dribble back saying these people died a natural, merciful death. The villagers were not fooled. We suspected what was happening. Those people left in excellent physical health and all died within 6 months. We called this euthanasia.

“Next came gun registration. People were getting injured by guns. Hitler said that the real way to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by matching serial numbers on guns. Most citizens were law-abiding and dutifully marched to the police station to register their firearms. Not long afterwards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns. The authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not to comply voluntarily.

[Reality check/ Clarification: Hitler’s gun laws were actually less strict than the previous gun laws in Germany at the time – see here and here. So the argument is not an argument against gun control because Hitler was a supporter of gun control. The argument is that more control of any kind is more of a weapon in the hands of a totalitarian government than a shield against government’s abuses]

“No more freedom of speech. Anyone who said something against the government was taken away. We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but also priests and ministers who spoke up.

“Totalitarianism didn’t come quickly, it took 5 years from 1938 until 1943, to realize full dictatorship in Austria. Had it happened overnight, my countrymen would have fought to the last breath. Instead, we had creeping gradualism. Now, our only weapons were broom handles. The whole idea sounds almost unbelievable that the state, little by little eroded our freedom.”

“This is my eyewitness account.

“It’s true. Those of us who sailed past the Statue of Liberty came to a country of unbelievable freedom and opportunity.

“America is truly is the greatest country in the world. “Don’t let freedom slip away.

“After America, there is no place to go”.

Kitty Werthmann [source 1=”<a” href=”https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151608032998452&set=a.101452563451.111568.534303451&type=1&fref=nf&#8221; 2=”target="_blank">Greg” 3=”Kellogg</a>” language=”:”][/source]

Harmonia Philosophica comment:

Sure we need the state if you ask me. But the minimum possible. We must always be careful: Too much state means less freedom. Take care of the poor, take care of the sick, help your fellow humans. Not the government. YOU. (and that is where true Christian religion proves useful) Let the state handle the organization of things and not the actual everyday life of you or your fellow humans. Every time you give up some of your freedom for more “state organization” you actually give up some of your rights to people with enough power to hold those rights and never give them back to you…

Modern education. Nothing to do with EDUCATION!

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Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are raising objections to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to lift a 1983 ban on Libyan nationals receiving pilot training or studying nuclear science in the United States. (1)

What is wrong with today’s educational system is that we believe education has everything to do with physical positive science and nothing else.

Why not grant access to social sciences for these Libyan national?
Why not grant them access to philosophy classes?

What is wrong with our civilization so as to think that LHC is superior than the pure thought of Democritus?

Stop CERN.
Start schools again!

US movies, Justice and the Cowboys [SPOILER ALERT… for everything!]

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I recently watched “The Vanishing” with Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland. … The movie promotes the idea of personal vengeance as so many other american movies. It shows a hero who is just in so great danger that he must kill the bad guy on the spot. [Valia]

Think about it. How many times have you seen the bad guy go to court? How many have you seen him dead by someone who is NOT a law officer?

What we actually think is hard to hide. And the Americans do not even try to hide their cowboy roots. Our duty is at least to achknowledge it. To know it. To consciously pay attention to it. Justice is NOT killing someone. Justice is a institution which has grown to full maturity for thousands of years in Europe. And it is time for the US to learn that simple fact.

Think hard every day. Try to understand what you actually see. You are an active citizen. Not a passive reciever!