Ethics Hero: Dave Cieslewicz. Sort Of…

Mayor Dave

Dave Cieslewicz is an ex-mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, one of the more super-woke college towns, though they are all super-woke these days. Avid reader and commenter Steve Witherspoon nominated him for the Ethics Hero honor because he wrote a recent post on his blog rejecting Critical Race Theory. I initially misread Steve’s email to say that the post was from the current Madison mayor. Now that would have been courageous: students with pitchforks and torches would have gathered outside her home the second such a post hit the web. No, Cieslewicz, a he not a her, was mayor a decade ago, long before the shadow of The Great Stupid fell across the land.

I have some trouble designating anyone an ethics hero for stating what should be obvious to anyone with two neurons to rub together. Dave Cieslewicz calls himself a moderate, which only shows what is regarded as a moderate in Madison: he’s a hard progressive in almost every respect. He’s just not a racist, anti-American progressive, the most visible species in 2021.

Does not being an anti-white racist and saying so out loud in a hotbed of Marxism like Madison qualify someone as an Ethics Hero now? I guess so.

That’s depressing. I thought Ethics Heroes were supposed to lift our spirits.

Cieslewicz writes in part,

The basic idea is that the world is divided into “oppressors” and victims and that none of us control which group we fall into — that’s determined only by our race and gender. So, if you are a Black woman who went to Harvard Law you are a victim. If you are a white guy with a high school education who cleans her office, you are an oppressor.

Individual actions (and with it personal responsibility) are devalued, if not eliminated. It doesn’t matter what you do, what you think, or what your intentions are. You are not an individual, but a member of a group.

Last summer, a Madison alder reposted a screed that read, “No Good Police. No Bad Protesters.” That was a fair extension of this point of view. Good and bad are determined by which group you belong to, not who you are as an individual.

And, in fact, to be a good “anti-racist” you have to deeply examine your every utterance and thought and also call out anyone who says something that’s not exactly right….

Continuing in this vain, the only way all of this oppressor and oppressed imbalance can be corrected is through some form of reparations. So, in fact, consistent with the theory, we should discriminate for a time, mostly against white males, so that we can correct these inequities.

We must also rewrite our history. So, as alluded to above, we must believe that America itself was founded on racism. In its “1619 Project” the New York Times has declared it so, and it is even providing a handy curriculum so that this idea can be taught to school children.

So, that’s critical race theory in a nutshell. There are the obvious problems with all this.

First, once we abandon the idea of individual responsibility, that undermines everything. If all success in life is due only to “privilege” and all failure only to “oppression”, then why even try? It’s a form of nihilism. Nothing matters. This undercuts the whole idea of personal initiative.

Second, once we get rid of the idea of basic fairness and actually endorse discrimination, when does it end? When do we decide that the balance has finally been struck, and who gets to decide?

Third, when we teach our kids that our country is actually founded on slavery, than why should they love it? Why should they work for it? Why should they fight for it? And why bother to even try to make it better? Why try to fix the house when the very foundation is rotten?

Fourth, America has been fundamentally about striving, it has been an aspirational place. Critical race theory is fatalistic. It turns America into a dead end.

Fifth, it’s hard to start a useful conversation with an insult. For example, up until about a year ago, “white supremacy” was a phrase reserved for neo-Nazis. Now, we’re told that we’re all white supremacists. Well, no, actually I’m not. And I’ll bet you’re not either, but I sure don’t like the sound of it and it doesn’t make me more receptive to the arguments of those who think this way.

Of course, the ex-mayor then feels it’s necessary to make nice with the Critical Race Theory mob by saying that he “gets it.” Well, maybe his house won’t be stoned, but what does he “get”? Critical Race Theory is destructive, antithetical to the nation’s core principles, and just a contrived rationalization to eliminate accountability while rejecting free will and self-determination. I don’t “get it.” Poisoning a culture and ensuring group enmity is a formula for disaster, and the justifications don’t change that.

He ends by saying, “That’s why I think it’s so important for liberals, like me, with nothing to lose, to speak up strongly and just say it in clear terms: you do not have to accept critical race theory. It’s okay. You can still call yourself a liberal. You are still a good person. And you are not a racist.”

Gee, thanks Dave! That’s about the most wishy-washy rejection of a terrible, intellectually and unethical indefensible idea I’ve ever read, so here is a wishy-washy endorsement from Ethics Alarms.

13 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Dave Cieslewicz. Sort Of…

  1. “Why try to fix the house when the very foundation is rotten?”

    Because the goal isn’t to fix the house. The goal is to destroy the house and rebuild it in their image.

  2. Even though Dave Cieslewicz is an X-mayor of Madison he is still relatively prominent on the political scene in Madison. For a prominent Liberal such as Dave Cieslewicz to stick his neck out against critical race theory like this in the Madison progressive bubble is quite significant. Another of Madison’s x-Mayor’s that’s still very prominent in the Madison political scene, Paul Soglin, just endorsed a Conservative for Madison’s Common Council election in April thus standing up against the extreme social justice progressive warriors in Madison.

    Do we or do we not want to encourage behaviors and attitudes that are inline with your ethics and morals? Yes or No.

    Do we or do we not want to discourage behaviors and attitudes that are not inline with your ethics and morals? Yes or No.

    I choose yes as my answer for both of those questions and I do it every day. I choose to encourage people to stand up for what’s ethically and morally correct regardless of what they have done in the past. I also choose to discourage behaviors that I think are devoid of ethics and morals. Why do I do these things; because I believe people can change their behaviors and I have no problem being a catalyst to these kinds of changes.

    I’m sincerely looking for that hope for the future that others are clinging to in the midst of all this social and cultural upheaval.

    P.S. I do not agree with Dave Cieslewicz on all things political but sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my friend and where agreement exists encouragement should follow.

    • Being a highly social animal, with complex dependencies between us, our fellows have justification to mould and influence our behaviours, to the extent that they are affected. (Eg road traffic rules). Whether this includes what cakes I am prepared to bake for my customers is arguable. But our beliefs and underlying views should be for us to decide: this is our most important freedom. ‘We’ determine our ‘culture’ by our views and beliefs. These may change through persuasion and education, but should not be assaulted by law.

      Rational man in my view has an obligation to try to be conscious of his prejudices and where they come from. Sadly in our current climate it can be costly to be honest. Isn’t it obvious that the ‘lynch mobs’ for ‘correctness’ are impeding progress, even though their apparent aims may be laudible?

  3. “No, Cieslewicz, a he not a her, was mayor a decade ago, long before the shadow of The Great Stupid fell across the land.”

    One could make that argument, but despite this recent, modest approximation of relative sanity, the disastrous reign of former Mayor BikeShorts is only now bearing fruit.

    While he was busy slobbering about diversity and smothering Dane county with BIKIE infrastructure, the Portland of the Midwest twiddled its thumbs while gang activity exploded and public safety got kicked to the curb.

    His refusal to show any real leadership allowed the CommonSenseLess Council to drift further and further into LaLaLoopyLoonyLeftyLand territory, where they favored municipal choo-choos, BIKIES, Sister Cities, public markets, trolleys, mandatory sick leave, handcuffing existing local businesses, scaring prospective ones to locate elsewhere, and…edible landscapes (???) instead of civic responsibility and public safety.

    The result? City leaders danced around a bonfire like stoned wood nymphs, and when things got to the point where they could no longer be ignored or explained away (READ: blamed on White Supremacy/White Fragility), they throw their pudgy li’l hands up in the air and bemoan: Gosh; what do you expect US to do about it NOW?

    Two years ago next month, the City elected a Hard Left School Board (their agenda?
    Another rant for another time), all seven of which were X-Chromosomal Units. They breathlessly intoned, without a whit of shame or self-awareness, that we now had THE MOST diverse School Board EVAH!

    The result 2.0?

    Other Dane County cities and villages are thriving; folks are voting with their feet. Student net transfers out of district during former MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s (~ 6 year) term, 4400 students. In the 15 years previous, 3400 students!!! With those departures go property tax payments and school finding.

    Just outside of Madison, Sun Prairie ($171 M), DeForest ($125 M) Milton ($60 M) in approved school building referenda in that same spring election. Other municipalities within driving distance of Madison (Albany, Baraboo, Columbus, Cross Plains, Verona/12 school districts in South Central Wisconsin asked asked voters to approve nearly $486 million in school building referenda; the voters complied!) Think they’re preparing to be the recipient of the giant sucking sound fleeing the 77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality?


    Noah Cross (John Huston in the classic Chinatown): “Either you bring the water to L.A., or you bring L.A. to the water.”

    How’s this any different?

    • You know they will try their best to find some way to blame President Trump and Conservatives for their failures.

      You can tell just how far down the abyss of woke progressive extremism Madison has gone when there are Madison Conservatives openly saying that if they had the choice they would vote for Dave Cieslewicz for Mayor over the current Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. The absurdity of Madison politics is signature significant, I’m glad I live in one of the surrounding driving distance municipalities.

      • “You can tell just how far down the abyss of woke progressive extremism Madison has gone when there are Madison Conservatives openly saying that if they had the choice they would vote for Dave Cieslewicz for Mayor over the current Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.”

        **Bravo Indigo November Golf Oscar!!!

        “The absurdity of Madison politics is signature significant,”

        Please see the above**

  4. “…it’s so important for liberals, like me, with nothing to lose, to speak up…”

    Sure, but wouldn’t it be a lot more helpful if liberals who *do* have something to lose would speak up?

  5. … when we teach our kids that our country is actually founded on slavery, than why should they love it?

    By accepting and endorsing that as a desirable value. When the Malagasies cried out against the imminent French colonisation, well over a century ago, part of their plea was just such an endorsement of slavery in Madagascar.

    Why does this site consantly engage in cultural appropriation of the Romany (Gipsy) word for “dog”, “bingo” (or “bengo” or “beng”)?

      • I think you misunderstood my point, which is very much not moot. It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the U.S.A. really was founded on that. It is an attempt to bring out just how the following things can be reconciled, by those adopting a mind set to match:-

        – Sincerely believing (accurately or not) that slavery undergirds a state (not necessarily any particular state, such as the U.S.A.).

        – Venerating the state that rests on that.

        Clearly, examples like pre-colonial Madagascar show that it can be done, and how. Clearly, also, the values in question need not be merely those of slavery, so there is a wider lesson to be drawn than narrowly about the U.S.A. in connection with slavery. Slavery can be and actually has been valued. And other weird value systems actually have been embraced, even in the U.S.A. (just look at the comments on the Cuomo/CNN interplay remarking on that very thing, in which the commenters discern an antinomian take that Democrats have on all that).

        So there is nothing moot about it. It tells you how some values form in some people, even in your time and place if that is all you care about, though it is of wider relevance even so.

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