Jeffery L Nicholas
Philosophy and social theory
to building a society of flourishing people
united in common goods.
to building a society of flourishing people
united in common goods.
Aristotle woke up, stretched, and rubbed his face. He wanted to go back to sleep, but his mind wondered, as it often did; and today it had more to wonder about. He stood up and made his ablations and dressed.
In the breakfast room, he sat next to Plato. They stared at each other a moment, both seeing red eyes staring back, both seeing exhaustion in the other. They shared a breakfast of oatmeal with fresh honey, blueberries, and flax. It was simple, but it was enough for the day.
"We better get to it," Plato said.
They cleaned out their bowls and set them aside to dry in the sun coming from the window. Aristotle smiled at the sunlight. It was strange, but it shored up the hope in his heart. Clearly, he was tired and frustrated and so sad... so very sad to have been right this one time.
Plato and Aristotle stepped out into the warmth of the new day and stared out at Athens. They could hear moaning coming from around them. Yesterday, Pericles had conceded to The Orange Haired Spartan. Her speech was conciliatory. But she also said that they had to give the Orange Haired Spartan a chance to lead. Pragmatic to the end, Aristotle thought. Pragmatism was what landed us here. "Paying the mortgage," he said to Plato. They both chuckled. It was their mantra for dealing with the last months. Everyone had to pay the mortgage; even they did.
"Living well," Plato said.
That was the only answer possible, Aristotle knew. You had to pay the mortgage, but you didn't have to sacrifice your life to it. That was the one thing that had defeated the Athenians... they sacrificed their life to paying the mortgage. Everyday. And then they made the final sacrifice that elected Pericles over Socrates.
They walked down the street and came to Aristophanes lying in his own vomit. They picked him up and carried him to his house. As Aristotle cleaned vomit from Aristophanes, he recalled some of the funny parts in The Clouds, even the ones that had made fun of Socrates. They play was funny, but it was sad that so many people had used it as a reason to reject Socrates. He was the only one that could have united the Athenians to defeat Sparta. Best not to dwell in the past.
They left Aristophanes to his own devices and continued down the way. As they went along they picked up trash in the street and put it in the correct bins. When they came to a homeless person, they invited him to join them. After an hour's walk, they came to Diotima's house. Aristotle could feel the nervousness of the men and women behind him. Diotima was a witch, and a midwife to boot. She knew the secrets of the world, secrets she had shared with Socrates. Since Socrates had drank the hemlock and passed his cloak over to Pericles, Plato and Aristotle had come to sit at her knee. Aristotle was not used to being around so many women, or around so much discussion of love. It put Plato's Symposium to shame.
Diotima invited them into the house. She did not hesitate when she saw the large number of people. instead, she smiled. They needed people now, now more than ever. She gave each homeless person some grapes, olives and cheese. When they were refreshed, she led them out into her garden where they met the other midwives and witches, witches and midwives, and midwife-witches.
"Let's ground ourselves," Diotima said. She struck a song bowl, it's clear note hanging in the air for an infinite moment. Then they learned to breathe, to feel the breath enter the body, fill it up with hope, and take away all the fear when it left the body. The ending note stayed with Aristotle the rest of the day.
Then they walked out into the fields around Athens and began to tend to the garden.
"We begin here," Diotima said, "where we are closest to nature, where we can feel the love pushing up from the ground and reaching for the sun." She took an old man's hands and pushed it into the cool dirt. "We begin where we remember that life comes round every year, that even in the coldest, darkest winter, the soil lives." She moved to the next one, and the next one, working her magic.
When she was finished, she walked over to Aristotle. he was bent down in the dirt, his dark hands covered with soil and a smile on his face. She placed her hands around his face and lifted it to her. Their eyes danced a dance with each other.
"It's time you began talking about love as well as friendship, is it not?" She had been working her magic on him for months now, and he was beginning to understand her secrets.
Aristotle was not sure he was up to the task, but then Diotima would remind him that it just takes a little every day. That was another reason they worked in the fields. Every day they could make a little change, and with their prayers, and their love, they might change the world. If nothing else, they would leave a little piece of it better than it was before.
This story began here.
Now is not the time for blame. Now is not the time to wallow in our misery. Now is not the time to become depressed. Now is not the time to throw in the towel or wash our hands of politics. Now is not the time to sit back.
Now is certainly not the time to listen to pundits: how did we go wrong on the polls? What mistakes did Hillary's campaign make? What about the third party vote? Was it because Hillary was a woman?
All of the questions that you will hear on television and in the news media over the next days and weeks will not be the right questions. The Fourth Estate is part of the disease it's trying to diagnose. Self-diagnose is usually not the best.
So, we, the people of the United States must wake up to what we have wrought, just as the people of the United Kingdom had to wake up to Brexit the day after, just as so many have had to wake up in the past to what they had wrought. Now is the time to begin asking the serious questions that we have avoided for so long. Questions about labor and employment, yes, and questions about misogyny and racism, yes. But also, and more importantly, questions about fear, questions about the future, questions about who we are?
The Left has a greater share of burden in these questions. For too long, the Left has ignored the proletariat. The Fourth Estate has already begun placing the blame there: white men without a college degree swung for Trump at 67%. This fact should not cause us to disparage those not educated in college. It should, instead, cause to ask, what are we doing in elementary and secondary educational systems?
Humanity faces a question every generation, and sometimes that questions becomes more dominant, more demanding of attention, than at other times. Each of us must face this question over and over in our lives.
Do we choose love or fear?
I predicted Trump would win, not because i believe in fear, but because I knew that the pundits and the political machines, especially the political machine of the democratic party, does not recognize how fear can make people vote. Maybe pundits and democrats cannot do so because it would require them to recognize their own fear--fear of the white, non-college educated, fear that to do so would question their own values and beliefs in free-trade, fear that maybe they cannot rationally control the fear, fear of their own misogyny buried deep beneath beliefs about what it means to be liberal.
Did Hillary lose because she's a woman. Yes.
But only because she is a woman with the name Clinton.
We know that when women run, they tend to win elections. Clinton couldn't do that because she's a Clinton. Yes, the Right and the Fourth Estate, which in the end is only a pawn of the Right, have vilified Hillary for 30 years because she's a woman. The real issue though, that cost the election, was not that she was a woman, but that she was a Clinton, and that came with two strikes. First, people simply do not want to see dynasties in the White House--they would require them to face the reality which they fear: we are not a democracy, but an oligarchy. If we keep changing persons in the White House, we can still pretend that we are a democracy. Second, because the Clinton name stands for center-right liberalism combined with a hate of the poor and unemployed and an abuse of blacks.
If the Left truly wants to know what to do now, then it has to begin by thinking about these issues more carefully and thinking about how to overcome that fear.
In short, it must turn away from fear and into love. Just because fear has won for the moment does not mean that all is lost.
Now is the time to breath in love, and let fear slide away.
Now is the time to ask, what does love require of me in this moment for my community.
Now is the time to look with love at those who disagree with us and ask, what have I failed to see, what do I fear seeing?
Now is the time to rid ourselves of the love of money, the love of self-indulgence, the love of fear.
For now is the time to build a community. For it is always the time to build community. For always, we ust answer the question of fear with the strength of love.
It is characteristic of work that it first and foremost unites people. In this consists its social power: the power to build a community. In the final analysis, both those who work and those who manage the means of production or who own them must in some way be united in this community. In the light of this fundamental structure of all work-in the light of the fact that, in the final analysis, labour and capital are indispensable components of the process of production in any social system-it is clear that, even if it is because of their work needs that people unite to secure their rights, their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.
Read that first line again: labor unites people; its social power consists in building a community.
Trump Wins Presidency; France Surrenders.
Sanders Found Dead; Clinton Sheds Single Tear
Trump Pays For Clinton's Victory Party; Grabs Bill
First Cubs, then Trump, Now Massive Asteroid
First Cubs, then Clinton, Now Massive Asteroid
Bill Clinton Caught With Melania At Hillary's Victory Party
Trump Resigns; Pence Prepares Cabinet
With Trump Victory, Price on Pink Stars Skyrockets
Obama Evacuates Standing Rock Protestors; Pipeline Ruptures
Obama Approves TPP Tradebill
Clinton Declares Victory; Files for Divorce
After Trump Victory, Largest Search on Google: Who Is Donald Trump?
After Clinton Victory, Largest Search on Google: Who is Bernie Sanders?
Trump Victory Leads to Bernie Suicide: "I Can't Believe I Wasted My Vote"
Four Horsemen Looking for Work After Clinton Victory
I agree with you entirely, Rod. It is time to rebuild. There can be no more pretense of a culture around us that is Christian or that is even content with Christianity being in its midst. We must be for the world by being against the world: Athanasius contra mundum. The world is leveling every cultural institution in its path — we must save them or rebuild them from the dust, for the world’s own sake, and for God’s.
A week ago, I wrote on two blogs published in Crisis magazine by a fellow colleague, Dr. Tony Esolen, in the English Department at Providence College. Just yesterday, I became aware of an interview published in The American Conservative of Dr. Esolen regarding the persecution he feels he has suffered at PC because of his blog posts.
I could say much about the interview, but I want to focus on one particular issue in this blog post: love, or more specifically, its absence.
Professor Esolen claims that it is time that we rebuild the world, and that we must be like Athanasius against the world. Athanasius argued against the Arians in the early history of the Church. (Arianism is a heresy that Jesus is not one with the Father, but separate and subordinate to God the Father.) This rhetoric mirrors Professor Esolen's rhetoric in his blog: the world is against us, the truly faithful, and we must stand strong in our faith in God. This view leads to Professor Esolen's rejection of "diversity" because one cannot, on his account, be diverse and share the same faith in the same God.
Thus, much of Professor Esolen's rhetoric, as well as the rhetoric of the interviewer, pits us against them, and insists that diversity opposes the Gospel message.
Nowhere in Professor Esolen's writings on diversity, however, do we encounter the Gospel message of love.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
If we are going to call ourselves Christian or Catholic, then we must do our best to ground all words and actions in love.
Athanasius stands against the world. Like him, Professor Esolen identifies "THE GOOD GUYS" who will defend him against the "secularists," the faculty who "despise the Catholic Church," and the Persecutors." and "radical professors who have adopted politics as their god."
Yet, one wonders whether we can really side with Athanasius contra mundum.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
God did not stand against the world. Rather, He came to be part of the world, took on flesh, and dwelt among us. As He did, He identified God as Love. Love, of course, cannot be divisive. It cannot tolerate a divide between us and them. Rather, it calls us to an I-Thou relationship with each other, grounded in the diversity of the Trinity.
Not only is love absent overtly from Professor Esolen's interview, the underlying message is one of hurt and pain--a message which Professor Esolen cannot see. How else could he and the interviewer approve of words like the following, if they were aware of the obvious racial denigration involved in it.
Take a look at the specific "demands" the black faculty, students, and their allies are making of Providence College’s leadership. It is shockingly illiberal, and amounts to a thoroughgoing politicization and racialization of every aspect of campus life.
What does it matter that the faculty and students are black?
The answer is that it does not matter unless one has already grounded one's reaction in the race of the persons making "demands." Indeed, one wonders if Professor Esolen sees himself as making "demands," or whether he sees himself as defending something good.
My point here is that we cannot fall into the trap of speaking without love. To demonize Professor Esolen is to act as Professor Esolen. We must not re-act to Professor Esolen. Rather, we must act always from love and always with an eye to conversion--conversion of ourselves and of all others.
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend
On 9 November 2016--if we're lucky--we will wake up to a clear presidential winner. If a miracle occurred, we'd wake up to President Sanders through a massive voter write-in across 50 states. Most likely, we will wake up to a President Clinton or possibly a President Trump.
Whatever the result, we still have to face the greatest threat ever to human life: climate change. Yet, human driven climate change is merely a symptom to the greatest threat to humanity ever--the lack of political agency and the domination of fear in our lives. This fear and the lack of agency today leads to repeat the mantra over and over: "paying the mortgage."
Paying the mortgage, as I have emphasized before, stands in for all those decisions that we take out of some self-imposed necessity: to drive the cheapest car we can buy rather than living closer to work, to refuse to pay taxes that build a mass transport people will use or to build schools that actually help people, to major in business or some other major we think will make us money rather than pursuing our passion, to refuse to hold accountable a congress that guts regulation because we believe freedom lies in making a profit selling things that aren't healthy for us: coffee and honey that aren't coffee and honey; etc.
And of course, the reason we are voting between Hillary and Trump is because of paying the mortgage: we believed Bernie had no real path to winning the White House; we believe that only two parties ever can win the White House; we believe that if it isn't us, then it's the end of the world.
So, the real miracle that has to take place, the real path forward, is for us to take a deep breath and remember that paying the mortgage has led us to the situation we now face. The path forward begins by looking our neighbors and co-workers in the eyes and saying we have to change.
We can change.
If we work together.
I have been wanting to say something about hope. Well, more specifically, I've been wanting to talk about Supergirl (and Superman) and hope.
The symbol of the House of El is a symbol of hope. I think that is the wonderful thing about Superman and Supergirl. But the recent Superman movies, directed by Snyder, have been about anything other than hope--they've been about fear. Jonathan Kent fears that someone will discover that Clark is an alien and that the government will take him away. And he convinces Clark to buy into that hope so much that Clark watches his father die from a tornado. Batman versus Superman was grounded in fear: Batman feared that Superman would destroy them all; Superman feared that Batman was a vigilante that didn't believe in justice. They feared each other so much that they took their eye off the real villain, Lex Luthor, who, of course, is only a villain because he fears the red capes--and someone should say something about how Luthor and Batman share that same fear.
Then recently, I watched the new Supergirl series. What a refreshing new wind--a wind of hope. Yes, Supergirl is a little campy because it is a television show. Yet, it is so grounded in the meaning of the House of El--hope--that it says something about our everyday world. The fears in the first season of Supergirl are fears surrounding the alien--the other. And as others have noted, sometimes what is being hinted at is the fear of sexuality and queerness. Cara "comes out" as Supergirl.
Yet, unlike Snyder's Superman, Supergirl never let's that fear drive her. Instead, she purposefully sees herself as a symbol of hope. So much so that the end of the first season--which could have been the end of the series--see Supergirl literally spreading hope to the people of National City to combat the robotic--should we say zombie-like--control they've fallen to.
In this election season, we are continuously told that we should fear the election of the other person. Many people are willing to buy into this fear, just as Snyder's Clark Kent buys into the fear that Jonathan Kent has.
Our challenge is not to fear. Whether it is fear of women, fear of Muslims, fear of Mexicans, or fear of angry white men, it will drive us to be zombies who follow a ruler without any thought to the hope that really lies ahead. We have to instead dig into ourselves to find that hope, and then spread it to others.
Just like Supergirl.
Some students at Providence College today occupied the Provost's Office protesting the blog writings of one of the professors at PC. The professor, Anthony Esolen, has written some blog posts for Crisis magazine in which he laments cultural diversity and defends "the Truth of the Catholic Church."
I am addressing this issue in this blog for two reasons: first, because tolerance is the foundation of discovering the truth and, second, because one needs to show how intolerable views that are simply wrong, as Tony Esolen's are, ought to be treated--that is, logically and passionately.
In 1965, Herbert Marcuse contributed an essay to the volume "A Critique of Pure Tolerance," in which he argues that the Left ought not tolerate various views, especially fascist views. His argument is that the administered society represses the reasoning powers of citizens. Further, as Alex Callinicos notes, Marcuse does not trust in the ability of everyday citizens to think for themselves.
Alasdair MacIntyre's response is critical: either we trust in people's thinking ability or we end up being totalitarian like Stalin, who imposed a particular regime upon people. Grounded in Marxian theory, MacIntyre emphasizes Marx's point that the revolution must be brought about by the proletariat.
Our good friend, Paulo Freire, stresses the same point. A revolution that is imposed by leaders on the people does not liberate. Rather, it recreates the forms of oppression.
Liberation requires tolerance, tolerance based in trust. Further, to eliminate someone from debate, to prevent them from engaging in conversation, is to, not only silence them, but to silence ourselves. J. S. Mill has the best insight on this point: none of us have the whole truth, and even those who believe mostly false things have some element of the truth. Esolen should appreciate this point because it comes from St. Augustine.
Of course, in denouncing cultural diversity, Tony Esolen is merely trying to silence others. He does so by pretending that others have nothing valuable to share with us that the "West" does not already have, by contending that TRUTH comes from the Roman Catholic Church and cannot be doubted, and by various slights of hand, shadows, and mirrors. And might I add, very, very bad theology.
Let's take one example of Esolen's reasoning:
That is, supposing that the people of a tribe in the interior of Brazil are compelled to accept cultural diversity for its own sake, rather than merely adopting and adapting this or that beneficent feature of another culture (something that people have always done), will that not mean that their own culture must eventually vanish, or be reduced to the superficialities of food and dress?
Any one who has studied indigenous people know that the problem they face is exactly the opposite of what Esolen presents. Esolen believes the problem for them is cultural diversity. In fact, the fear is that someone will ask them to "adapt this or that beneficent feature from another culture": oil, for instance, or agriculture, which would destroy their way of life. Cultural diversity means trying to understand the values of the other culture and learn from them what truth they have.
Is not that same call for diversity, when Catholics are doing the calling, a surrender of the Church to a political movement which is, for all its talk, a push for homogeneity, so that all the world will look not like the many-cultured Church, but rather like the monotone non-culture of western cities that have lost their faith in the transcendent and unifying God?
Here, we see once more a confusion, really a twisting of words. For Esolen, diversity means surrender to homogeneity.
One should be mindful of this mind trick: it's exactly the same kind of mind trick that politicians pull--or try to pull--over people all the time. "We are pro-life," but we won't fund health care for pregnant women or provide food for babies. "We are pro-choice," but we won't address the fundamental inequality that makes women think they have to get an abortion.
I worked at a Roman Catholic seminary for seven years, and one of the marvelous things about it was its celebration of cultural diversity. We all joined with the Hispanic community to celebrate our Lady of Guadalupe, not white-washed "universally," but as Hispanic people celebrate it. Diversity leads exactly to that.
See, the reason Esolen is able to use mind-tricks is because he fails to define his terms. He wants to use them this way and that way so as to confuse the reader to his real purposes.
Thus, when Esolen writes the following, he is merely trying to "white-wash" China.
Granted that God redeems not only individuals but peoples, so that, for example, China in the arms of the Church will be more truly China than she was before, does not this diversity presuppose the distinction of cultures one from another?
The Church can only make China more truly China if it first accepts China. Esolen's argument is the reverse: only by accepting the Church does China become truly a distinct culture.
But to be more logical, I expect the students--as well as the editors and readers of Crisis--to be able to pick out such oxymoronic sentences as the following:
It remains to be seen how far they will go towards dismantling the most culturally diverse program at Providence College, our program in the Development of Western Civilization.
How can something be culturally diverse if in fact what it is teaching is one culture viz., Western Culture?
Socrates did not tell the Athenians not to listen to other people. Rather, he said, question them. And then he went around and he showed them how to question the cultural guardians of the day.
An education from Providence College should--and does, from the evidence I've seen, including student occupations of administrative offices--prepare students to question just as Socrates did. For that, we must have tolerance, because without it, it is much too easy for one to become totalitarian in the name of "truth" and "diversity."
The clock has turned--is it for the last time? Will we see the big D make a comeback from his last gaff?
I don't know. My suspicion is not, which means my prediction of over a year ago--that Trump would win the nomination, and that if it is Trump versus Clinton, Trump will win--is wrong.
But what did it take to get my prediction wrong? Oh, I know, Hillary has been ahead in the polls for a month now, blah, blah, effing blah. Polls don't mean squat--or are you going to finally tell me that all those polls showing Bernie ahead in states that Clinton won were true, and that, oh boy, yes we do need to go back and look at what happened there?
I thought not.
Sorry for my tone. But really, what do you expect when I still have people telling me that I have to vote for one neo-liberal, pro-war candidate so that the other neo-liberal, pro-fasicist candidate doesn't win? It shouldn't be happiness and cherry-pie. We're not at the Derby.
The tide seems to have turned against Trump just at the moment that Clinton desperately needed it too. Oh, you haven't read about the contents of her speech to Wall Street? You haven't heard how she said she has a private self and a public self? You know, the thing I've been warning about for the last four months, ever since it was clear she was trying to show a sunny side to the Bernie supporters?
Yes, I'm quite peeved that we have to choose between two different kinds of fascists, and my left-leaning friends refuse to recognize that, in fact, Hillary is two-faced and will go back on her word to Bernie.
But that isn't the real problem. The real problem is this: when she does, when she keeps fracking and giving out to the big banks, what happens in the next election? The Republicans will do their darndest to undermine her at every point and will have a nice pie-in-the-face for millennial voters with all of her back turning. Where will the country go then?
Oh, yes, I'm being quite pessimistic about the whole thing. Or is it realistic? This blog, my life, my philosophy, is all based on pointing out the corruption in the US--and Western "democracy" in general--and saying that we have to find a better way. And that means abandoning the two parties that dominate the system right now.
In the mean time, go back and laugh with Hillary as Trump continues to bury himself and the Republican party. The best thing that can happen right now is a unified, democratic controlled government... under Bernie. The worst, well, aside from a Donald victory, might be a unified, democratic controlled government under Clinton.
Neoliberalism for the win.
And, my dear readers, I hope you understand that I really, deeply, truly wish that I am wrong.
"The Cheyennes do not break their word," One-Eye replied. "If they should do so, I would not care to live longer."
What would it be like to live with this faith in one's people?
What would it be like if the two people running as Republican and Democratic nominees spoke like this?
What would this world be like if the US honored the treaties they made with the Cheyenne? The Lakota? Any group of American Indians?
I want no peace till the Indians suffer more"
Chief Black Kettle honored the treaties he made with the white man, with the representatives of the Great Father, the POTUS. For his faith in the Great Father, he had to live under the rule of Chivington who, not only attacked Indians he had said he was at peace with and said he would never attack, but oversaw the mutilation of those people killed--the cutting off of men's and women's genitals which his soldiers used to carry gun powder or war as trophies.
Black Kettle wanted nothing but to live a peaceful life. He was gunned down by Chivington's men as he tried to save his people from slaughter.
The Plains Indians knew they could not win a war with the US. They simply wanted to live in peace and to protect their way of life. When Red Cloud visited Washington, he said he knew some day the Lakota would have to turn to being farmers, but not yet. Give them time. They still had plenty of buffalo yet.
To the Indians, it seemed that these Europeans hated everything in nature--the living forests and their birds and beasts, the grassy glades, the water, the soil, and the air itself."
We like to think that it was the gold that drove the US government to break these treaties. But it was more than gold. It was land, the best form of property. We cannot separate the treatment of the American Indians from the treatment of the land by European-Americans.
Maybe it isn't hate--though it seems like it. Maybe it's just that they loved gold so much they could not see the land, or the Indian.
Pray with me to the Great Spirit today.
Jeffery L. Nicholas (Ph.D philosophy, University of Kentucky) is an associate professor at Providence College and an international scholar on ethics and politics. He serves as research associate for the Center for Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics at London Metropolitan University and a foreign research associate at Universidad Sergio Arboleda in Bogotá Colombia. Dr. Nicholas is co-founder of and executive secretary for the International Society for MacIntyrean Enquiry. He is the author of Reason, Tradition, and the Good: MacIntyre's Tradition Constituted Reason and Frankfurt School Critical Theory (UNDP 2012), as well as numerous articles. Dr. Nicholas writes on midwifery and birth, the common good, friendship and community, practical reason, and Native American philosophy. He aims to develop a philosophy of integral humanism that synthesizes the philosophical traditions of Alasdair MacIntyre, Frankfurt School Critical Theory, and Feminist Care Ethics.