Posts Tagged ‘Melissa Harris-Perry’

Denial is a River

April 22, 2013

Denial is the major river in Liberal Land, at least in regards to Islam as a possible motive for terrorism. It is truly remarkable the mental gymnastics that some commentators will undergo to deny that the Religion of Peace is perhaps not so peaceful. If backed into a corner that will admit that some violence is committed by fanatic Muslims but will assert that other religions have their fanatics that are just as violent. Consider this exchange between Bill Maher and one Brian Levin. I don’t usually have much use for Bill Maher but he has his head screwed on right here.

There are hypocrites and fanatics in every religion, but the Christian or Buddhist fanatics are not blowing people up. I do disagree with one statement of Maher’s, that Christianity may have been more of a problem  in the Middle Ages. The truth is that throughout the Middle Ages Islam was an aggressive expansionist ideology. We must not forget that the Crusades were a belated Christian response to centuries of Muslim aggression against Christendom.

Melissa Harris-Perry does not think the Tsarnaev brothers’ religion is not relevant to their actions.

According to her guests, the only reason why anyone would want to blame Islam for the recent atrocity is the preserve a sense of “otherness”. Why is it so hard for them to connect the dots? Why can they not realize that noticing a pattern that almost every contemporary terrorist attack is committed by Muslims is not being prejudiced or islamophobic.

Marc Ambinder at The Week thinks that it is insane to blame Islam for terrorist attacks committed by Muslims.

We are still speculating about virtually everything right now, but I feel as though I need to explain why I find the quick and easy conversation about Muslims being radicalized in America to be so illogical and laced with bigotry.

Of course, there is a global violent jihadist movement, loosely organized, that wants to recruit young men to influence policies at home and abroad and perhaps usher in the global caliphate. That ideology motivates some Muslims to kill innocent people.

But you’re allowed to be a radical Muslim in America. You’re allowed to believe that the Qu’ran proscribes the most elegant set of laws. You’re allowed to believe that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. And you can say, in America, pretty much anything you want. Not everything, and after 9/11, a little less, but you can still make very unpopular arguments.

So just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the only factor that motivated these two brothers from Chechnya to set off bombs and kill police officers is their decision to accept some form of radical Islamic teachings as their foundational belief system. (I highly doubt this is the case, but let’s just throw it out there.)

We ask: “We have to look at the whole issue of radicalization. What prompts someone raised as an American to cause such carnage?”

I don’t think that he realizes that freedom is the problem for some people. Yes, you are allowed to be a radical Muslim in America, but you are also free to be a more moderate Muslim, or a Christian, or a Jew or even an atheist. To people who believe that sharia law should be imposed, this freedom is hateful and even against the will of God. To them, the only just and good society is one in which either everyone is a Muslim or one in which the Muslims dominate and non-Muslims are submissive.

Let’s move on.

It’s a horrible habit: A Korean-American shoots fellow students at Virginia Tech, and suddenly, we’re forced to pretend that it’s OK to blame Korean-American family structure and culture for putting him over the edge, ignoring the millions of Korean-Americans who have never considered taking up arms.

The murderer Andrew Cunanan was, in Tom Brokaw’s famous words, a “homicidal homosexual.”

See? The gay made him do it.

But when a white kid murders dozens of children, we don’t ask whether the predominant Christian religion in America somehow radicalized him, or whether his upbringing was somehow less American than anyone else’s. Stupid questions! Glad we don’t ask them.

I don’t recall anyone arguing that Korean family structures or homosexuality is a cause of mass murder. There are not large numbers of Korean-Americans or homosexuals flying planes into buildings, placing bombs to kill people, or trying to ignite their shoes. If there were, the question of whether Korean culture or homosexuality encourages violence would be a legitimate one. The predominant Christian religion in America does not preach hatred and violence against non believers. I doubt there is a single priest, minister or preacher, with the exception of Fred Phelps, at any church in America who has called for the extermination of any group. There are any number of Imams both here and abroad who do preach violence at their mosques.

It is far more plausible that American gun culture, the way that Americans are uncomfortable with people who are different, the gaps in the mental heath system, and a hundred other things, some of which cannot ever be controlled, pushed these two men over the edge. If it was Islam, or a hidden network of radical jihadists, then these types of events would not be rare in America. That they are is the answer to whether Islamic radicalization is a problem that Americans can and must contend with by stigmatizing Muslims.

What is it about America that so alienates young men?

What is it about their community — Cambridge, lower-middle class, American popular culture — that isolated them and encouraged their pursuit of a different way to add meaning to their lives?

So, its our fault. We have immigrants from all over the world in this country. Why is it that only people from predominantly Muslim countries feel so alienated that they turn to jihad. There are not large numbers of Mexican-Americans or Chinese-Americans engaging in violence. Surely, someone just arrived from India or Africa would feel a certain culture shock and perhaps some alienation. Young men native to the United States who commit crimes and atrocities are rarely of any religion, McVeigh was an agnostic. Yet, somehow when a young man does turn to religion and commits an act of terrorism, the religion he turns to is Islam, never Hinduism or Rastafarianism.

He concludes.

Bias against Muslims is real and it hurts. And the easiest way to radicalize un-radicalized people is to treat them like enemies.

Bias by Muslims hurts a whole lot more. I do not think it is right to blame every Muslim for terrorism, but there is a connection there that we ignore at our peril. How many more people must be killed before Brian Levin, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Marc Ambinder will admit there is a problem?

 

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Children of the Commons

April 18, 2013

MSNBC commentator Melissa Harris-Perry‘s recent comment that we need to move away from the idea that our children are ours to the idea that children belong to the community has  proved to be more controversial than she, or anyone else at MSNBC, have anticipated, which shows that there is something terribly wrong at MSNBC.

Most conservative commentators have focused on the rather fascistic overtones of her remarks or have noted that public education is not, in fact, underfunded. I would like to tackle this subject from a different angle. I wonder if Melissa Harris-Perry is familiar with the concept of the tragedy of the commons.

The tragedy of the commons is a concept developed by Garrett Hardin in 1968. Put simply, it works something like this. Suppose there is a village in which every farmer has one cow which he grazes in the village commons. The number of cows that graze on the field is limited and the field is able to feed the cows. Now, suppose that one farmer decides to get another cow and let it graze on the common ground. He gets two cows to milk so he benefits more than his neighbors but two cows cost him no more than one. The presence of one more cow doesn’t hurt the green all that much. Then, other farmers decide to get another cow and put it on the green to graze. They get the benefits of having more cows to milk but their cost is no greater. However, as more cows are left to graze on the common field, at some point the field starts to become overgrazed and eventually what was once a fertile field becomes a barren, dusty wasteland.

The reason this happens is that while all of the farmers in the village benefit from the common field, it is no one person’s responsibility to maintain it. Each farmer gains the benefit of feeding his cows, whether he limits his number of cows or works to maintain the pasture and no one gains any extra benefit from doing the work of maintaining the field. Thus what is beneficial to each farmer individually, eventually ruins all the farmers in the village.

Garrett Hardin was an ecologist who was concerned about the problems associated with overpopulation and over use of natural resources. It is not easy to place him on any political or economic spectrum although he did favor government regulation as a means to resolve the tragedy and coercion to limit population. Environmentalists have used his analysis to justify restricting property rights for the common good. On the other hand, advocates of private property and the free market have pointed out that property and responsibility that belongs to everyone, really belongs to no one, and the best way to resolve the tragedy is through privatization of the commons. Human nature, being what it is, people are far more responsible for things that they feel personal ownership for, while common ownership property or a thing  means that no one person really feels they own it and so no one person feels really responsible for it, especially if they benefit from the use of it without the trouble of being responsible for it.

This is one of the reasons Communism didn’t work out so well. Consider Ivan, the worker at the collective farm. He didn’t own the farm, the fields or anything else at the farm. He did not benefit from the harvest and it made no difference to him if the crops rotted in the fields while he got drunk on vodka every afternoon. They weren’t his crops. They belonged to the people of the Soviet Union, so they really didn’t belong to anyone. Extend this sort of thinking over an entire national economy and you can see why there would be trouble.

With all of this in mind, we can revisit Melissa Harris-Parry’s statement that we need to get away from the idea that we personally own our children and are responsible for them and move toward an idea of community ownership of and responsibility for our children. If we make our children the responsibility of the village or the community rather than the responsibility of their parents, then the children will really be no one’s responsibility. Consider, as an extreme example to clarify matters, that there were a dystopian state that took children from their mothers at birth and raised them in institutions with trained caregivers attending to them. Does anyone truly believe that the children would be better off than if they were raised by their own parents? Melissa Harris-Perry has it backward. Children are more likely to be properly raised by parents who feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for them than by a village in which no one feels responsible for any one child. Indeed, it may be that part of the problem with public schools is precisely because they are public. No one really owns the public schools so no one is really responsible for the results of a public school education and no one feels any responsibility for spending the funding for public schools wisely.

The answer to the failure of the commons is not to create more commons but to privatize the commons as far as it is possible. If people have a stake in maintaining a continuing supply of a resource, they will see to it that the use of that resource is sustainable. It may be that the answer to the commons in education is greater privatization as a means of having the parents feel more that they are directly responsible for the state of their children’s education. In other words, we need to have more of a feeling of ownership of our children not less.

 


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