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happy

“Rob the average man of his life-illusion and you rob him also of his happiness.”
–Henrik Ibsen

“Happiness is just an illusion, filled with sadness and confusion.”
–Anonymous

“There are some people who always feel happy. They’re called psychopaths .”
–Tal Ben-Shahar

“Happiness is just an illusion caused by the temporary absence of reality.”
–Anonymous

“The way to happiness” . . .  Could it belong in the same category as: “The fountain of youth” . . . “The elixir of life” . . . “The philosopher’s stone”. . . “The stairway to heaven”?  A fantasy? An illusion? A chimera? An ignis fatuus or “a deceptive goal or hope”?

If there is really such a way to happiness, at least there should have already been one who has found it, trodden on it, arrived finally at the point of happiness and revealed to us her/his own exhilarating experience right at the vortex of such happiness. Happiness is the perennial goal of humanity expressed in poetic hopes and dreams as a condition of contentment and bliss where life is no longer haunted by problems and difficulties, pains and heartaches, troubles and misfortunes, losses and defeats.

In Platonic (and even neo-Platonic) metaphysics, happiness is an ideal housed in the realm of universals along with the others that are permanent, indestructible, eternal and perfect. In this sense, there is no way for us to locate it in the daily grind of earthly life which on the one hand is full of frustrations and failures while on the other hand is somehow greeted with some glimpses of pleasure every now and then. In the latter realm of particular human experiences, what we can certainly verify, validate and justify is the reality of temporal suffering and pleasure like the cycle of seasons and the constancy of  habits that constitute the drama of life from which we derive its meaningfulness expressed in sorrow and delight, in grief and celebration, in sadness and pleasure.

Happiness continues to remain a nebulous star and one’s search for the way that leads to it is an exercise in futility. We know a myriad of ways to a variety of destinations and these ways are not the same despite some similarities for the end-goals are not the same. Every human individual under normal circumstances is replete with objectives and plans aimed to hit specific targets from simple wishes to ambitious projects. Along the way, we are not strangers to defeat and victory, failure and success. Despite defeat and failure, we plod on unmindful of giving up for the spirit of hope in our system persists with an air of spontaneity and those who have succeeded are wont to savor the sweet aroma of victory in pleasurable celebration. These are down-to-earth empirical instances more understandable in terms of pleasure than in the sense of permanent happiness for such achievement doesn’t catapult the achiever up in the seventh heaven of eternal happiness.

If in a linguistic consideration we associate and thus understand happiness as pleasure, there is therefore nothing uniquely special and ethereal in the essence of happiness. Happiness as pleasure (and pleasure as happiness for that matter) doesn’t really have an equally uniquely special and ethereal way for the ways of pleasure are many and the same applies to happiness. In this sense, happiness is stripped off of its “magick” and the terrain of its location is levelled off to what is common and ordinary in the human condition. As a matter of common expression, “I am happy” doesn’t therefore evoke a special and celestial meaning that describes an individual in a state of perpetual bliss.

Or perhaps, the reality of “happiness” is actually experienced as we courageously tread on the ways of life which in general are characterized by challenges and struggles.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 20 November 2014

skeleton

“If your life is like a tragedy it is because you have been neglecting something — most likely yourself.”
                – Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life

“It is the neglect of timely repair that makes rebuilding necessary.”
– Richard Whately

 “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
– Aldous Huxley

 “Before the stroke, I was on a very spiritual plane. I ignored my body, took it for granted. When I look at my life, I see that I wanted to be free of the physical plane, the psychological plane, and when I got free of those, I didn’t want to go anywhere near them. But the stroke reminded me that I had a body and a brain, that I had to honor them.”
– Ram Dass (Richard Alpert)

 

We seem to be always busy doing and thinking–even dreaming–a lot within everyday of our lives. Things deemed important in life in general as well as concerns about job, school, family and relationships in particular preoccupy our thoughts. Many times we just do things at random and what comes up along the way gets the priority over the others. An amorphous collection of things to do and think–initiatives and relationships–generally dominate the order of the day. There is too much concern on certain things while less, even nil, on others.

This scenario is commonplace in the human condition until we get to a particularly “more relaxed” point that engages us to reflect on the deeper matters of life. Then some neglected aspects of our circumstances come up with the realization that we have been unfair with them as we have simply and generally ignored and even forgotten them. They are like the seemingly less important and thus negligible skeleton within us without which none of our physical performances may ever be actually effected.

We could in a way be likened to mixed martial arts fighter Anderson Silva who some months ago very seriously fractured his left leg in full view of a horrified live audience  during a UFC championship match with challenger Chris Wiedman. It was a terribly painful way to remind a highly rated gladiator of how important his skeleton was as he had always previously focused much more on his muscles and fighting techniques all the time until tragedy struck on that fateful night.

Thematizing the “skeleton” within us is symbolic of how we get to a stark realization of how we tend to neglect, ignore and even forget the ordinary presence of people, things, places and events in our daily lives until a point in time when we need them comes. Co-employees right in the workplace where we spend eight hours five days a week are just there and whose sporadic importance simply depends on the need of the hour. Friends and family who have always been supportive of every endeavor we get into but we only get mindful of them once in a blue moon. Things on the shelves we see day in and day out that we generally ignore until some very important need for them crops up and we just couldnt’ remember where we last saw them. These are all like the skeleton within us.

Of course, we reckon our limitations and because of these, we tend to neglect, ignore and forget. We are creatures of particular moments whose unilateral focus on very specific events gets an upperhand over and above other matters presumed to be of less significance. Then we get to a point of helplessness and failure and hence a realization that had we been mindful of some related and connected states of affairs, we could have successfully accomplished what we earlier started.

The point we have reached thus far is an acknowledgment not of these “skeletons´” non-existence because they are just there. In fact, in most if not all cases, we are actually using them as they assist us all along in the performance of certain tasks we need to do. They are not the proverbial “skeleton in the closet”  of which we are always mindful not to expose in public for doing so would mean some modicum of risk.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 13 November 2014

genius insanity

“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”
Oscar Levant

“Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence– whether much that is glorious– whether all that is profound– does not spring from disease of thought– from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”
Edgar Allan Poe, Complete Tales and Poems

“The difference between insanity and genius is success.”
 ― Bruce Feirstein, Tomorrow Never Dies

The line between genius and insanity is a very thin one. In fact, in certain cases, such boundary has already been erased and a genius is said to be insane and an insane is likewise considered a genius. There is however no necessary connection between them because there are geniuses who are not insane and there are insanes but they are not geniuses. But what makes one a genius or an insane?

Several types of intelligence quotient (IQ) tests have different ways to determine in quantifiable terms one’s level of intelligence. According to the Wechsler Intelligence Scales, an individual with an IQ range of 130 and above is “very superior”–i.e., a genius. Based on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, a genius–someone who is “very gifted or highly advanced”–has an IQ range of 145-160. According to the standard of Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities, one whose IQ is 131 and above is “very superior” and hence a genius. Besides these more often used testing scales, there are still more which have been developed and  copyrighted for human intelligence measurement and commonly administered in different institutional settings. In most cases, the intelligence quotient range of someone considered a genius is generally fixed from 130 upwards.

But when do we say that someone is insane? In most if not all cases, the term “insane” is arbitrarily used as a matter of subjective judgment. One is insane if s/he doesn’t conform to generally accepted beliefs held by the majority. Insanity is therefore a category of negative impression. Someone whose belief is contrary to a generally held conviction of a group is not only considered an adversary but is likewise viewed with contempt and hence derisively treated as insane. This is a very common majority attitude to insult and isolate the critical few. In certain historically prominent events though, humanity has witnessed the rise to megalomaniac power of some insane personalities to lead their respective social formations, even their nations. In this case, the opposite happens as the majority are swayed by and thus become subservient to their insane leaders.

Looking at it from a more balanced vantage point, we could in fact get to a more intersubjective (if not absolutely objective) assessment of the condition of insanity after all. Someone who has a distorted view of “objective reality” is automatically considered insane not as a matter of opinion but as a matter of empirical observation. Someone whose understanding of certain circumstances runs counter to and violates the simple course of common sense and blatantly assaults the trenches of sound and valid logical arguments is indubitably insane. In this particular circumstance, insanity is not genius.

But what really is the fuss over the issue of insanity and genius? I don’t quite see any serious problem at all if one is both genius and insane but her/his insanity is by no means destructive while her/his genius is  creative, productive and beneficial to society. This leads us to a more focused evaluation of genius which could be creative, productive and beneficial on the one hand but destructive, unproductive and useless on the other. Having the latter aspect of genius could be construed as something which is at the same level as a type of insanity that does not actually contribute anything for the flourishing of the human condtion.

But is it possible for us to do a similar evaluation of insanity so that in the final analysis, we could say there is a type of insanity that is creative, productive and beneficial while there is also a type that is destructive, unproductive and useless? Once ascertained, it could somehow lead us to a point where the line between genius and insanity becomes prominently distinct and finally get us to the conclusion that affirms the fact that genius could have an aspect of insanity and an aspect of sanity as well. This I think is the more important issue where instead of drawing a line between genius and insanity, we rather do it to distinguish between sane genius and insane genius.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 6 November 2014

war

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
– Plato

“War does not determine who is right – only who is left.”
– Bertrand Russell

“History is written by the victors.”
– Winston Churchill

“We are advocates of the abolition of war. We do not want war. But war can only be abolished by means of war and in order to get rid of arms, we must take up arms.”
– Mao Zedong

 

Let me first distinguish between “history” per se and “History”. The former could be anything like my own life history a.k.a. autobiography or somebody else’s life history. It could also be the history of bicycle or airplane. The latter–”History”–is something else for it specifically refers to the history of a country or a nation, if you will, which consists of the recorded accounts of past events in the development of such nation signified within the particular framework of the historiographer(s) or history writer(s). Historiographical framework is basic in the initial consideration of the matter because there is not only one viewpoint in writing a nation’s history.

We know that there are interest groups behind the writing of every History and in certain cases, one historiographer’s account of a historical event may run distinct and even contrary to another historiographer’s account of the same event. More than this, there could even be several dissimilar accounts issued out by different historiographers. At a certain point, a focused study of these multi-lateral accounts gets exciting as a “meta-historical” concern of Philosophy which zeroes into an examination of a historiographer’s intents and motives as well as the “power-base” which sustains such intents and motives and from which the historiographer draws the “energy” to write history from that perspective.

This entry point to the present issue is fundamental in stressing the fact that not all past events are material to History. In the process of historical signification, a specifically defined trajectory has to be advanced on the basis of an equally well defined aim and set of objectives. This notion further magnifies the fact that a multiplicity of historiographical perspectives is a reality. Generally, the only intersecting points in several accounts of a historical event are the “cold facts” of dates, locations and personalities involved in the event but each of the historiographers’ signification is her/his own interpretation of such event. In other words, historiography is by and large a matter of interpretation. History is not only a recording of past events but specifically a recorded interpretation of past events deemed to be significant to an interest group.

In this connection, we could also say that History is a celebration, for where and how would an interest group and its historiographer draw the excitement and inspiration to hail and hence record the importance of an event if such event is not really exciting and inspiring at all? History as celebration is therefore a victor’s account in the continuing experience of a people’s life as a nation. This point sustains and strengthens the notion that History is always written by the victors and never the losers in a struggle for emancipation, freedom, independence, sovereignty, national dignity and progress. In most if not all instances of national struggle, it is likewise a factual matter that History is replete with hostilities in the form of wars.

War is thus a given and common fixture highlighted in practically all histories of all nations in the world. Even the national heroes celebrated, revered and regularly commemorated as centerpieces in these histories were generally warriors of their glorious times regardless of whether they were martyred or not so long as in the overall historical context, their legacy and greatness are of major importance contributory to final victory.  George Washington of the US was a warrior as Jose Márti of Cuba likewise was. The warrior Simon Bolivár is a esteemed hero not only in Bolivia but in other South American countries. Vietnam has Ho Chi-Minh as China has Mao Zedong. (As a side comment, I think only the Philippines has a non-warrior national hero in the person of Dr Jose Rizal whose being a national hero has been a long-contested controversy besides the fact that it was the American colonizers who actually declared him a national hero with the hidden agenda that a non-warrior personality model to be programmed and instilled in the cultural apparatus of the Filipinos will ultimately create a docile and easily manipulated people.)  With this in mind, it is commonplace to think that war is a perennial and hence an inevitable aspect of History. But can there be History without war?

Looking at how things develop in the world today, it seems that Histories about to be written yet will still highlight wars.  As we witness current events obtaining in various parts of the world, war is likely to remain a major centerpiece of History. As long as major imperialist powers continue to manipulate geopolitical events in places like Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and some parts of Asia, History will always be a dramatic rehearsal of violent conflicts with the presence of some aggressive politico-economic forces arrogating over and overpowering less-powerful but resource-rich countries many of which are located in the southern hemisphere of the globe. As long as there are aggressively powerful war-making countries, History–and World History for that matter–will always be replete with war accounts. In fact, a new post-modern war dominating world events now is known as “drone war” where there is practically no human presence involved in the actual drone attacks being perpetrated by the aggressive power against its enemies and in the process causing severe and large-scale damages along the way.

Though not a necessary component of History but rather its constant prominent aspect, there is no History that doesn’t have a war content in it. With this in mind, it is not far-fetched to think that war is really inevitable in History. History without war remains yet to be written. But perhaps when there is no longer war, that could already be the end of History.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 29 October 2014

On Compassion

compassion

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
Gautama Buddha

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein

“And when I came in with tears in my eyes, you always knew whether I needed you to hold me or just let me be. I don’t know how you knew, but you did, and you made it easier for me.”
Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

“Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion, and empathy.”
Dean Koontz

 

Getting into a philosophical discussion of compassion is one herculean exercise. Like in dealing with the concept of suffering, silent reflection–or reflective silence, if you will–is perhaps the most meaningful and effective path to better understand compassion in its fullest sense. I know how it feels to be compassionate in the presence of a triggering event and I’m sure others likewise do if caught in a similar situation. But “exposing” the concept of compassion under the sunlight of objective scrutiny is, I believe, a distortion of and thus injurious to the true meaning of compassion. In this sense, I’d rather not dissect the concept of compassion on the “operating table”of epistemological inquiry but instead embrace it in the silence of my heart as the most fitting way to understand its dynamicity.

Appropriating the Wilberian quadrants paradigm, the essence of compassion is exclusively located in the upper left quadrant which is “interior-individual” and can only be precisely known by the entity who at a certain point in time experiences it while in the very process of doing a “compassionate” act. Some manifestations are observable to call an act “compassionate” but such manifestations are not absolute proofs that such an act is truly triggered by compassion. Nevertheless, in an instance of this nature, the main concern is not on the issue of whether an act is one of true compassion or not but rather on the resultant positive and hence beneficial effect(s).

We have seen a lot of so-called “compassionate” acts performed by human individuals and groups in cases of calamity, distress, disaster and emergency among others, both big and small, personal and collective. We express in unison words and paeans of praise and appreciation for a “compassionate angel” who “selflessly” go out of her/his way and even beyond her/his means to help someone in need and in the process soothe the latter’s pain and ease her/his suffering. But true compassion is hitched on motives. Whatever one’s motive is in doing a “compassionate” act towards another is basically unknowable. It is the performer of the act her/himself alone who understands her/his true motive. I do not however imply that compassion is unreal; it is just externally unverifiable in its fullness. In other words, the most we can do is to simply approximate the judgment we conceive and utter in relation to an act deemed as “compassionate”.

I for one believe that compassion as a matter of feeling is real because I myself feel compassion towards people in distress or in extreme need of help. In certain cases though, the possibility of translating my feeling of compassion into a compassionate action is almost (if not totally) nil because of space and time factors as well as financial constraints. I genuinely feel the need to help and ease the pains of a friend but due to some limitations, there is actually no way for me to possibilize my feeling of compassion through personal presence. If compassion is all a matter of feeling, no more, no less, then it is nothing but a futile operation of consciousness whose effect(s) could even be seriously detrimental at its extremest point to the mental and emotional condition of the individual who has been disturbed and troubled by her/his feeling of compassion towards a person or a circumstance.

My feeling of compassion is understandable only within and by myself unless it is translated into action. But even when it finds a way of being expressed in action, it is only the performer of the act who has the absolute understanding that her/his act is one of compassion on the basis of her/his real motive. It should not therefore be the performer’s intent to convince both the spectators to and the recepients of a beneficial act that such is a “compassionate” act. It is enough that the performer of a “compassionate” act understands that her/his act emanates from a genuinely compassionate motive; it is not something that needs an explanation. What is therefore objectively necessary in such an event is the fact that someone in distress has benefitted from a good deed and in the process has been freed from her/his difficulty and suffering. If someone other than the performer of the deed wants to call it “compassion,” then so be it.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 22 October 2014

The Will to Convince

convincing

“I lie more convincingly than I tell the truth.”
― Simona Panova, Nightmarish Sacrifice

“I make little account of victory. Nothing is so stupid as to vanquish; the real glory is to convince.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
Desmond Tutu, [Address at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa, 23 November 2004]

“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”
― Blaise Pascal, De l’art de persuader

“If you need to invoke your academic pedigree or job title for people to believe what you say, then you need a better argument.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson

 

Aristotle proposed three tools of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos. Ethos is hitched on a person’s credibility and authority being a recognized professional and expert in a particular discipline or field of specialization. In this case, one’s convincing power is not a matter of exercising her/his will but something that is simply grounded on how others acknowledge her/his track records tested in time and proven to be successful and consistently reliable in a number of instances. In other words, s/he doesn’t have to exert a willful effort to prove a point and in the process convince or persuade others on the validity and/or strength of what s/he claims to be true and dependable. For a person of ethos, the power to convince is a “no-sweat” issue where it is not necessary for that person to exert her/his will to do so. What s/he says is convincing enough simply on the basis of his proven skill or expertise in a certain area of concern. In most if not all instances, it is generally a take-it-or-leave-it situation where one could confidently say, “I am an expert here and even if you get down to the nitty-gritty of my professional career, records definitely point to how my stellar performances establish once and for all who I am and what I can do.” With this, we say that one’s convincing power is embedded in her/his credibility and no will needs to be exercised to effect such power.

The same line of thought works in considering logos as a tool of persuasion fundamentally independent of the will, being absolutely reliant on facts, mathematical proofs and sound reasoning which in its most technical form is effected by way of logical arguments. Presenting statements grounded on facts and solving abstract problems through mathematical treatment as well as proving the meaningfulness, validity and soundness of certain claims by means of formal logical arguments are all matters outside the operational realm of the will. The convincing power of the logos is therefore inherent in the factual statements presented, the mathematical equations laid out and the logical inferences established to prove the soundness of a claim. As in ethos, the will to convince is as irrelevant and immaterial in logos.

In a lot of circumstances, the mutual connection of ethos and logos is even spontaneously displayed as the most convincing points in dealing with certain specific issues are best handled and presented by the experts themselves in the particular fields where such issues emanate. In this sense, we could say that logos builds and strengthens ethos without resorting to the operationalization of the will to convince people. There is the expert talking with the confidence of a genuine professional in her/his own specialized discipline sans the sugar-coated jargons of a glib-tongued salesman whose will to convince is expressed in every tactical intent to play up the emotions of the audience.

At this point, I would venture to put forth the notion that the will to convince applies so well in pathos whose core of persuasive intent is no more beyond an exclusive appeal to emotion. In this particular context, the will is appropriated to convince someone about an issue that can neither be handled in consultation with seasoned specialists (a matter ethos) nor be approached factually, mathematically and logically as well (a matter of logos). Most cases of this category are witnessed in the speeches of political candidates prior to elections and in the fire-and-brimstone homilies/sermons of fundamentalist Christian preachers. In the case of political candidates on a campaign trail, intelligent electorates don’t rely on the former’s will to convince but more critically on their impeccable and impressive track records as transparent, honest and pragmatically performing public servants in the true sense of the term, as well as on the logical reasonability of their platforms that jibes so realistically well with concrete facts.

I think one of the most arduous situations where the will to convince is exercised to its extremest limits is in a fundamentalist Christian evangelistic gathering. In such a meeting, the preacher tries so hard to get his “message of salvation” across with the ultimate goal of converting people to become members of his so-called “flock”. This is an event where ethos and logos are generally paralyzed to effect their convincing powers because religion being basically founded on faith doesn’t have a room to accomodate “real” facts. Furthermore, even if logical reasoning may be superficially appropriated for religious purposes to yield seemingly sound conclusions supportive of established religious dogmas and principles, they nonetheless issue out of faulty premises with no reliable factual bases. In the same context, ethos is likewise difficult to establish among its “luminaries” because in most if not all cases, their credibilities are suspect being of the spurious kind, for their performances as “prophetic messengers,” “miracle workers,” “divine healers,” and “charismatic speakers” among others are short of what genuine ethos requires from an honest-to-goodness skilled and expert practitioner of a specialized profession in an established discipline of scientific, technological or humanistic importance.

A very popular context where the will to convince has long established its niche is in the field of commercial advertising. This is a particular sphere where the will to convince doesn’t only extensively use pathos to stir consumers to rabidly desire advertised products but also to blatantly distort ethos and logos in the naive consumers’ disempowered critical threshold. This method of brainwashing pushes the power of pathos to its extremest point aimed to paralyze ethos and logos and exploits the condition that most human beings are generally vulnerable in their emotional constitution.

There are however instances other than the non-political, non-religious and non-commercial types where the will to convince is utilized for specific purposes. A case in point is someone’s sinister plan to distort facts by weaving a series of filthy lies and in the process conceal the truth from those who are desperately looking for it to solve a very serious problem of widespread magnitude. The will to convince in this case is therefore a ploy to dupe people who have been rendered exhausted by all forms of obstacles and difficulties they have encountered and experienced in their search for truth which up until a certain point in time is not only elusive but seemingly unachievable. Such is a perfect moment when the will to convince finds its way to spew its deceptive toxin.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 14 October 2014

racism

“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”
― Kofi Annan

“While we maintain the unity of the human species, we at the same time repel the depressing assumption of superior and inferior races of men. There are nations more susceptible of cultivation, more highly civilized, more ennobled by mental cultivation than others—but none in themselves nobler than others.”
― Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos: A Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe: Part One, 1858

“All nationalistic distinctions – all claims to be better than somebody else because you have a different-shaped skull or speak a different dialect – are entirely spurious, but they are important so long as people believe in them.”
George Orwell

Postulating racial discrimination as natural in the human condition is tantamount to granting it a universal biological rootage. In this sense, it is normal to assume that human beings are racist in varied degrees as they relate with others of different racial origins. The issue of racism taken in this light is therefore not basically one of ethical concern since it is ordinarily assumed and expected that in normal circumstances all human beings are more or less racist. Superficially, it doesn’t look harmful at all and hence negligible per se for racism as being “race-centered” could simply be taken as a natural attitude of giving more importance and concern for the well-being of the people of a particular race where one belongs. Analogically, we generally have the same attitude of showing more concern and love towards our own families–i.e., being family-centered–without necessarily being antagonistic and adversarial towards other families.

Being professionally non-scientific and much less a trained biologist or geneticist for that matter, it is not however within the scope and limits of my present concern to investigate in the general sphere of biology and the specialized discipline of genetic science the possibility of racial discrimination as inherent and therefore natural to the biological constitution of the human organism. Besides, the assumptions on the issue at hand that perhaps racism is natural is all theoretical and do not meaningfully connect with what has actually taken place so far in the course of human history. Racial discrimination as we have witnessed it is fraught with animosity, violence and even death of genocidal magnitude. Considering all these conditions, the issue of racism as natural is not really under attack (at least, not yet) but a concern that needs to be viewed ethically.

It is an unquestionable human reality that there are in us certain natural and thus inherently biological tendencies (even propensities) to act in some ways that could be offensive and injurious in varied degrees to others. It doesn’t however necessarily follow that something of such natural character should at all times be given an expression and therefore performed based on the single assumption that such is an inherently biological (or biologically inherent, if you will) matter. In this connection, the more serious issue is not whether racism is natural or otherwise but on the fact that through generations in human history, racism has wrought havoc and destruction of lives and properties in practically all parts of the world. Uncritically assuming that racism is natural, it is nevertheless an extremely grievous specter of dehumanization that needs to be constantly overcome in the course of human history.

Yet, contrary to the above position is the belief that racism/racial discrimination is never natural or inherently biological but rather a matter of cultural programming.  It is generally considered that the human species as a child is fundamentally “color-blind,” i.e., devoid in her/his consciousness of whatever pertains to racial discrimination. This position, in my opinion, is both empirical and reasonable as what we have witnessed and observed has given us convincing instances that in societies where racism is an alarming situation, cultural orientation is the culprit. Its toxic substance is passed from one generation to the next and the programming process starts at home. Children at an early age are henceforth conditioned to believe that since they belong to a race more “superior” than those of the others, the issue of not mixing with the latter is the basic norm. Over and beyond it is the more serious attitude that should be developed and sustained along the way of growth and maturation which is one of animosity and hatred.

Reinforcement is an important aspect of such cultural programming so that in the context of a society where racial discrimination is so pronounced, racists have actually gotten beyond the conditioned acts and have even advanced towards the level of intellectually thematizing their racism by coming up with seemingly objective studies on the issue of one particular race’s superiority over another by invoking principles grabbed from the pseudo-science of eugenics. At its most blatant and heinous operationalization, racism gets a strong political color and in certain known and recorded instances is termed as “ethnic cleansing”.

Racism in its cultural form is sustained by reified principles that constitute the dynamics of how the next generations should likewise be programmed as their predecessors. A new set of conditioning mechanics may be assembled to adapt to new exigencies but the dynamics remain the same. There is in fact a preponderance of empirical evidence in history and current events to support the notion that racism is prime and foremost a matter of culture and not of nature. Races are natural but racism is fundamentally cultural. We saw it in South Africa during the apartheid era which Palestine has likewise been going through for generations while being oppressed by Zionist Israel.

However, racism as a serious problematique is not a monolithic one but in most, if not all, instances is coincidental with the political or the economic or the social or even a combination of any or all of these factors. This consideration sustains more the notion that racism is more cultural than natural. In the case of Nazi Germany, racism was coincidental to an adversarial positioning against what was then perceived as Jewish dominance in the economic affairs of Germany. In the US, racial discrimination of the European-American populace towards the African-Americans was more of a social-status issue which had grown from an economic condition that spawned the mentality that the raison d’etre of African-Americans in the US was for the sole purpose of being “used as tools of economic production”.

Pockets of racism, big and small, are all over the world. Yet, there is nothing to blame about this hideous problem except the fact that cultural unilateralism initially spawns it to its negative extremes and drives it onwards to its most despicable form.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 8 October 2014

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