Sunday, August 29, 2010

"You wouldn't oppose illegal immigration if it were Swedes instead of Mexicans"

Although a majority of Americans oppose illegal immigration regardless of who's involved--it is true that many of us oppose even legal immigration by Mexicans. That makes us racist, right?

That's the accusation leftists use to stop debate by changing the subject from the principles to character assassination.

Here's the trick, though: we do feel differently about Mexican illegal immigrants, but it's not racism. It's the fact that uniquely among illegal immigrants, Mexicans have been taught from birth to believe that the American Southwest is actually part of Mexico and we Americans have no right to it (something many American leftists heartily agree with). Moreover, Mexicans generally dislike America, and Americans, and American culture (as substantiated by opinion polls). That isn't unique among immigrants (I personally know some Russian immigrants who don't seem to think much of American either). But it's a lot more common among Mexicans.

Why should I welcome immigrants--illegal or not--who don't like me or my country? My immigrant friends from other countries (such as Belarus, India, South Africa and the former East Germany) still appreciate their home countries, but they also love America. And they don't believe they deserve a place here--they believe they have to work to earn that place.

That's the kind of immigrant I want here. Of course there are Mexicans who don't feel entitled and who do love America, but I get the impression they're a minority. And we already have so many more Mexicans than any other kind of immigrant, I'd be happy to put a halt to even legal immigration from Mexico of unskilled laborers for the foreseeable future--including "family reunification." Families are welcome to reunify in their country of origin.

"We're a nation of immigrants" is a baldfaced lie.

True, every single American can trace his descent to people who didn't live here. So in that sense, sure, we're a "nation of immigrants." But by that token, every nation on Earth is a "nation of immigrants," except for Kenya and thereabouts, where our species originated.

It's also true that America permits more immigration than all other nations on Earth combined. Yet even with that stunning influx, 90% of Americans were born here.

How can a nation of 90% native-born people be a "nation of immigrants?"

It can't. So that trope is not only a lie--it represents a shameful attempt to win arguments about amnesty with bumper sticker slogans instead of actual reasons.

Never let anyone get away with saying it in your presence--even if you support amnesty for illegal immigrants. Because whatever our politics are, we should unite in opposing dirty politics--in assuming that the ends justify the means. As Emma Goldman said (look her up), the means reveal the ends.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Principles aren't always principled

A Brazilian friend sent me this quote from Goebbels on the Laws of Propaganda:

* A media system wants ostensible diversity that conceals an actual uniformity.

* We strive not for truth, but effect.

* The worst enemy of any propaganda is intellectualism.

* For the lie to be believable, it should be terrifying.

* A lie repeated thousands of times becomes a truth.

I thought about this as I read a comment on a New York Times op-ed piece about how the ongoing Republican campaign to deligitimize President Obama's election isn't based on policy issues or disagreement about governing philosophy--it's based on a thick stack o' lies, shaped and executed in strict accordance with Goebbels' Laws of Propaganda.

Here's the comment:

...As a history professor at a community college [in Oklahoma], I face this everyday. Students barely tune into the news but they believe these gems you have attacked. Trying to get them to understand that there is no basis in fact for these fallacies doesn't sway them a bit. They just know it's true.

And note Goebbels point about intellectualism being the worst enemy of a propaganda campaign. That's why the Republican Propaganda Machine devotes so much effort on encouraging anti-intellectualism, as epitomized by the Quitter From Alaska.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who are the hardnosed realists?

Conservatives see themselves as solid, rational, feet-on-the-ground folks. In contrast, they view liberals as just the opposite.

Yet when it comes to the environment, many or most conservatives come across as flaming Polyannas. Everything's fine! We don't have to give up anything--and if a problem does come up, well them science fellas will fix it right up fer us.

I will agree with them in one regard: most American liberals are nearly as much in denial about the environment as conservatives are.

If people really understood how much we're cantilevered over the abyss, they'd realize that at the very least every single nation on Earth needs to adopt Communist China's One Child policy. All our resource consumption issues stem from there simply being too many of us--like, about five billion too many, plus our total head count is growing at 140 a minute, 24x7.

But American liberals went into denial about this when people started accusing them of racism when they spoke about overpopulation. Conservatives chimed in with those who feel all the problems in the third world are the fault of the West.

Well, liberals would just about rather die than be seen as racist, so they fell into lockstep with the most reactionary fundamentalist Bible-thumpers about overpopulation, producing mass denial of the crisis.

And so we busy ourselves rearranging the deck chairs as our little boat called Earth as it sweeps closer and closer to the brink.

There is a plot to kill granny!

Only it's a right wing plot, not a left wing one. The federal judge's ruling to put the kibosh on federal funding for stem cell research--plot to kill granny. The frenzied opposition to any kind of healthcare reform--plot to kill granny. The endless, relentless effort to gut Social Security--plot to kill granny.

The same granny who voted for the very ones who are trying to kill her. Now that's world-class bamboozlement.

But it's bamboozlement within limits. Like hypnosis, you can't spend enough to make people do something they really don't want to do or believe what they really don't want to believe.

Money works when it's used to amplify stuff that's already lurking there, using the Power of Narrative, Endless Repetition, and Tribal Appeal--along with reliance on most people being completely untrained in spotting bamboozlement and, reciprocally, completely untrained in empirical thinking.
A crippled public education system is the friend of demagogues.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Whaddaya know?

A lot of political dialog keeps bumping up against the limits of what we can know. For example, people talk confidently about President Obama's innermost thoughts and motivations, as if they're telepaths (the same happened with President Bush of course).

We can--and should--make inferences from politicians' actual behavior. But only the incompetent are so delusional about the reach of their minds that they think they can divine others' actual thoughts.

Likewise, few of us are experts on economics, military science, climate science etc. Still, we can--and should--have our reservations about anything the experts tell us. But to casually dismiss the experts' consensus about something would be laughable if it weren't true for so many voters.

This is also true in the workplace. Inferior workers consistently overestimate their skills and contributions, while the best workers tend to be hard on themselves. Talking about this gets us into epistemology--theory of knowledge.

Obviously we can never know anything for sure. Some people use this as an excuse to deny the possibility of knowledge, thus giving them license to do whatever they feel like.

But to me this is romanticism at its worst. The airliner you fly in was built from millions of parts, designed and assembled by experts who stood on the shoulders of human civilization’s efforts in the past, all the way back to the person who, tens of thousands of years ago, invented the wheel. That airplane wasn’t created by people who thought we can’t know anything. And modern airliners have a safety record so good we should be astonished at humans' ability to make such complex machinery reliable.

At the same time the Titanic was designed and built by people who thought we can know everything, so to speak. Their hubris and greed (sending it on a dangerous route because it was the most profitable) killed hundreds of people.

So human knowledge must carve a middle path between the silliness of claiming that we can’t know anything and the hubris of claiming that we can achieve absolute knowledge.

That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time studying the forces and structures that stand in the way of us actually perceiving reality as clearly as it’s possible for us to do so. It requires a mixture of confidence and humility that’s extremely hard to attain, much less maintain. But for anyone serious about their existence, it’s a vital goal.

Here's an example of something that defied what I thought I knew. I'm a parent and once taught elementary school. I think I know what a 10 year old child is and isn't capable of. Then I saw this.

And no, the kid isn't lip-synching. That's the real thing. (My review of her first album is here.)

So I always leave open the possibility of being amazed...of having to rethink something I'd been sure of.