Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/1/18: Bias Makes You Stupid, But “The Big Stupid” REALLY Makes You Stupid..

Gooooooooood Morning!

1 The Big Stupid. There is a regular flow of ideas and theories from academia and politics that I categorize as “The Big Stupid”: irrational, ideologically-loaded, often dangerous assertions that are seductive to the weak-minded and easily-duped. The problem is that to keep these bad ideas from taking root, one has to actively engage in debunking them, which ironically gives their advocates staying power and credibility. One of the most popular of the current crop of Big Stupid positions is the attacks against “cultural appropriation,” which is a deceptive phrase designed to make something unequivocally good sound sinister. In this case, the completely positive and benign cultural process at the heart of the American experiment, the process of diverse people and cultures becoming one by sharing and adopting the best of what each has to offer, is being scorned as a tool of white supremacy, privilege, oppression and capitalism.

The latest screed in this particular Big Stupid is “Yoga and the Roots of Cultural Appropriation,” co-authored by Michigan State University professor Shreena Gandhi andantiracist white Jewish organizer, facilitator, and healer”  Lillie Wolff. Wolff got her degree from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the article is published in a Kalamazoo College publication.  The river, Michigan city and College take their name from a Potawatomi Indian Tribe word, but that kind of “cultural appropriatiion” doesn’t matter to the authors, or something.

Don’t expect consistency in the Big Stupid.That would be stupid.

The article is full of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, Academic Division, of the sort that used to send me screaming out of late night bull sessions in college, like,

“Yoga, like so many other colonized systems of practice and knowledge, did not appear in the American spiritual landscape by coincidence; rather, its popularity was a direct consequence of a larger system of cultural appropriation that capitalism engenders and reifies. While the (mis)appropriation of yoga may not be a life-threatening racism, it is a part of systemic racism nonetheless, and it is important to ask, what are the impetuses for this cultural “grabbing”?”

and Continue reading

Ethics And The New TV Season, Part 1: “The Good Place”

There are an unusual number of shows this season that should be full of fascinating ethical dilemmas. There is even sitcom, “The Good Place,” with a main character who is an ethicist. He’s a dead ethics, but that’s something. Let’s start with that show as I plan on reviewing the ethics-related TV shows in future posts.

The first episode of  the NBC comedy  began with selfish, habitually unethical  Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) waking up in the afterlife called “the Good Place, I assume to avoid religious controversy. Michael (Ted Danson) welcomes her, and explains that he designed this particular Good Place neighborhood that she will reside in for eternity. As many of us were taught, our lives on Earth are being monitored by higher beings, literally and figuratively. In this show’s cosmology, they calculate our ethical worth using a point system.  Those with the highest positive point totals make it to the Good Place.

The problem is that there has been a glitch: Eleanor was erroneously awarded the point score of a capital punishment-fighting lawyer (naturally the Good Place regards all progressive and liberal positions as “good;” I assume that all conservatives and Republicans are in the Bad Place) when she really was a salesperson for an evil drug company. The situation in this sitcom is whether Eleanor can shape up and justify her points before she is found out and ends up playing strip poker in Hell with Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley and Phyllis Schlafly.* Continue reading

Rest in Peace, Andy: Mayberry Wasn’t Racist

In the wake of Andy Griffith’s death today, a friend of mine wrote this on Facebook: “If you’re waxing nostalgic about Mayberry as an idyllic 1960s Southern town, remember that it had no Negroes living there. Is it any wonder that show was so popular in the midst of the turmoil of the civil rights movement?”

The sentiment was undoubtedly motivated by good intentions, but boy, it is unfair. America was a largely segregated society in 1960, when “The Andy Griffith Show” began its trek to television Valhalla, and it was not up to the producers or writers of a folksy sitcom set in small North Carolina town to remedy that, protest it, or comment on it. This wasn’t “Andy Kills a Mockingbird.” It was a comedy, and a comedy unique and precious for celebrating basic ethical values like kindness, loyalty, friendship, tolerance, community, cooperation, patience, respect and virtue. There were no racist sentiments or attitudes expressed in Mayberry, and no reason to doubt that if a black family moved into the town, they would have been embraced, appreciated, and treated like everyone else. The fact that this may not have been true of a real North Carolina town of that period is as irrelevant as pointing out that real Scottish villages don’t disappear and reappear centuries later like Brigadoon. Continue reading

Conservatives, Rotting Children’s Brains On Principle

Why can't today's TV pass on good taste like this to our children?

Perhaps I am over-reacting, but I was recently horrified. Sometimes conservatives allow their ideology to lead them into places that make it impossible to take them seriously, or  to view them as rational and responsible. This is especially true when it comes to the arts.

Yesterday, radio talk show host Laura Ingraham was bemoaning the coarsening of the culture, and the way she feels that television is poisoning the minds of children. She spoke nostalgically about how entertainment in the golden past was family-friendly, and reliably conveyed the values of humor and wit that enriched children’s minds, their taste, and their understanding of “good entertainment.” Those days are no more, Ingraham said. Television is vast slime-pool, and concerned parents can only look to past gems of the comic arts to teach their children “humor and wit.”

So what show did Laura Ingraham, accomplished writer, former Supreme Court law clerk, and author of political satire extol as epitomizing these lost values? What classic TV show’s complete set of DVDs did she reveal that she had given to a colleague so he could save the minds and souls of his children?

“Gilligan’s Island.”

“GILLIGAN’S ISLAND!” Continue reading