Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Kanye: Slavery a Choice?

I don't have much to say about this. I just saw a link at Scott Adams, and then some of the latest video from TMZ. Adams says TMZ is doing a very ethical job on this.

Oprah got in trouble for pushing a book/life plan called "The Secret." Paraphrasing: you only get great or really different, new desirable outcomes in your life by focussing on them, thinking about them all the time, and making plans to achieve them. In this sense you get the outcome you want and deserve, or an approximation of it. This is standard fare for motivational speakers, of whom Oprah is the queen. Then, in an excess of enthusiasm, Oprah or her fans start to say: the reason you are in a bad place is that you keep thinking about the bad place, it dominates your thinking. You have to let more positive outcomes into your thinking. Well, there is such a thing as bad luck, bad upbringing, illness, etc. A ridiculous debate might start about whether cancer patients wanted to be sick, or deserved to be sick.

Of course, people who live with invalids might think invalids enjoy being catered to a little too much. Any of us who have been sick, and been catered to, might reflect that it's kind of hard to give up the attention.

So: it's unlikely Kanye meant that African-Americans chose to be slaves, or made the decisions that caused slavery to be preserved. If they ran for it, thinking to get their families later, they were hunted down and tortured. Only in border states was it realistic to get away, and even in the north the slave hunters were at work, often with the cooperation of local authorities. Lincoln seems to have thought until well into the civil war that Americans had a duty to support the slave hunters, not the slaves. What Kanye has said before, and what Candace Owens got Kanye's attention by saying, was something like: African Americans can make the choice as to whether to see themselves as victims or not--whether to allow slavery keep on defining them or not. Again, motivational speaker stuff, quite possibly exaggerating the control we have over our lives. Also at home in the black church? African Americans more inclined to certain kinds of motivational speaking than others? Partly because their circumstances don't seem very hopeful, and they are looking for hope?

Lucky people probably exaggerate the extent to which they succeed by virtue (luck including good parents). Vicious people probably exaggerate the extent to which their life has been determined by bad luck.

And another potentially offensive thought: Hannah Arendt was criticized for implying that the Jews should have fought back against the Nazis. There were many railway sidings where the victims out-numbered the SS. Again this is naive when it comes to the structure or process the Nazis used. Himmler as head of the SS had to promise Hitler that the Wehrmacht or military would not be deployed for the Holocaust, and in fact a minimum of people in uniform would be needed. Jewish leaders were singled out and tasked with identifying Jews, and bringing them to gathering places like train stations. If one Jewish leader refused, he would be shot and replaced by another. Being in this leadership role may sometimes have provided an opportunity to save children, or community leaders; often, of course, it provided no real freedom at all. A few people with guns can terrorize and control many people, as we see in the mass killings of our age. And then again: did Jews think if bad things happened, this has somehow been planned by God? Does their history teach them that? African Americans used to sing about going to the promised land. Would Jews and African Americans, when they are part of their traditions, prefer like Socrates to suffer injustice rather than inflict it?

I think what has Adams excited is that Trump gave off some hints during the 2016 campaign of seeking a re-alignment of the African American vote. Candace Owens and Kanye may be a sign of something.

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