Friday, September 11, 2009

lead unethical lives

Wallace Shawn is a playwright, actor, and essayist, as well as the son of William Shawn, a long-time editor of The New Yorker magazine. In a radio interview with Doug Henwood prompted by his latest book, Shawn said the following:

Henwood: You have an essay on morality in this collection. . . . You grew up with a sense that you’re supposed to be moral, but then you’re thrown into this world that is very immoral, and you’re supposed to somehow separate your morality from the immorality of the world that you’re living in. How do you do it? I mean, is there a way to lead a moral life in a world that is so corrupt and violent?

Shawn: Well, very strictly speaking, I mean if you’re gonna put it so bluntly, not really. Because simply by living a bourgeois life, you’re consuming more than your fair share of the world’s resources, and you’re benefiting from a status quo that oppresses people all over the world. And that’s not even getting into the fact that it’s very hard to make a bourgeois living in a corrupt society without being mired in corruption. That’s very hard to do. People, you know, most people are doing things that are reinforcing the ugly realities of the world.

I think there’s a lot of hypocrisy involved in, for instance, people like myself denouncing, let’s say, the crimes of people like Dick Cheney and the crimes of the Bush administration. Yes, we’re right to denounce them, but when they say, “Hey, we’re doing it for your benefit! Don’t you want the oil that makes your home, you know, warm in the winter and cool in the summer? You do want the oil. Well, we're getting it for you, so shut up!”

And they’re right in that demand that you should admit that you like it, and admit that they’re doing it for you. You know, this is where there’s hypocrisy involved in the life of somebody like myself. So the true answer, if we’re being bluntly honest, is that it’s not very likely that you can live a bourgeois life, and consider yourself someone who follows ethical principles.
. .

In a recent blog post entitled "God Shed His Grace Ennui," Dennis Perrin posted the following images and captions:

To demonstrate his determination to win the Afghan war,
President Obama began eating his hand --

Delighting his liberal supporters.

Despite suffering massive burns from a US air strike on her Afghan village,
nine-year-old Nadia Sahar urged American liberals
to not protest President Obama's war,
as it might hurt his re-election chances.

Heeding Nadia's plea, liberals immediately showed their solidarity.

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the author of several inspiring books. In Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity, Jensen writes of his encounters with two students several months after the events of 9/11:

One young woman came to my office the day after we had watched a documentary in class about the 1991 Gulf War and its devastatingly brutal effects -- immediate and lingering -- on the people of Iraq. The student is also active in the movement to support the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, and the day she came to see me was during a period in which Israeli attacks on Palestinians were intensifying.

We talked for some time about a number of political topics, but the conversation kept coming back to one main point: She hurt. As she was learning more about the suffering of others around the world, she felt pain. What does one do about such a feeling, knowing that one’s own government is either responsible for, or complicit in, so much of it? How does one stop feeling that pain, she asked.

I asked her whether she really wanted to wipe that feeling out of her life. Surely you know people, perhaps fellow students, who don’t seem to feel that pain, who ignore all that suffering, I told her. Do you want to become like them? No matter how much it hurts, would you rather not feel at all? Would you rather be willfully ignorant about what is happening?

I could see tears welling in her eyes and feel them in my own; it was an emotional moment for both of us. She left my office, not feeling better in any simplistic sense. But I hope that she left at least with a sense that she was not alone and did not have to feel like a freak for feeling so much, so deeply.

A couple of hours later another student came by. After dealing with the classroom issue she wanted to discuss, we talked more generally about her interests in scientific research and the politics of funding research. I made the obvious point that profit-potential had a lot to do with what kind of research gets done.

Certainly the comparative levels of research-and-development money that went, for example, to Viagra compared with money for drugs to combat new strains of TB tells us something about the values of our society, I suggested. The student agreed, but raised another issue. Given the overpopulation problem, she said, would it really be a good thing to spend lots of resources on developing those drugs?

About halfway through her sentence I knew where she was heading, though I didn’t want to believe it. This very bright student wanted to discuss whether it made sense to put resources into life-saving drugs for poor people in the Third World, given that there are arguably too many people on the planet already, or at least too many poor people in the Third World.

I contained my anger somewhat, and told the student that when she was ready to sacrifice members of her own family to help solve the global population problem, then I would listen to her argument. In fact, given the outrageous levels of consumption of the middle and upper classes in the United States, I said, one could argue that large-scale death in the American suburbs would be far more beneficial in solving the population problem; a single U.S. family is more of a burden ecologically on the planet than a hundred Indian peasants.

“If you would be willing to let an epidemic sweep though your hometown and kill large numbers of people without trying to stop it, for the good of the planet, then I’ll listen to that argument,” I said.

The student left shortly after that. Based on her reaction, I suspect I made her feel bad. I am glad for that. I wanted her to see that the assumption behind her comment -- that the lives of people who look like her are more valuable than the lives of the poor and vulnerable in other parts of the world -- was ethnocentric, racist, and barbaric. That assumption is the product of an arrogant and inhumane society.

I wanted her to think about why she lived in a world in which the pain of others is so routinely ignored. I wanted her to feel what, for most of her life, she has been able to turn away from. I wanted her to begin to empathize with people who aren’t white like her and not comfortable like her, people whose suffering is far away from her.

I do not want to overestimate the power of empathy to change the world. But without empathy, without the ability to move outside our own experience, there is no hope of changing the world.

Andrea Dworkin, one of the most important feminist thinkers of our time, has written, “The victims of any systematized brutality are discounted because others cannot bear to see, identify, or articulate the pain.”

It is long past the time for all of us to start to see, to identify, to articulate the pain of systematized brutality. It is time to recognize that much of the pain is the result of a system designed to ensure our pleasures.


  1. This post totally blew my mind. Thank you so much.

  2. you had me at the barbara bush quote. i will never forget any of what she said after katrina, regarding those receiving "food" and "shelter" at the superdome: "these people were all poor and disadvantaged to begin with, so this is actually working out quite well for them." people died, barbara. i literally couldnt believe my ears. thanks for the read.

  3. I thought that student brought up legitimate concerns.

    Granted, she may have been saying something along the lines of "there are too many dark people - who cares if they die?" That seems to be the professor's and your opinion.

    She also may have been saying something completely different. After all, save thousands of impoverished people with TB drugs in a place like India, and you might still lose them to starvation due to a worsening of poverty caused by increased overpopulation due to cheap, available TB drugs.

    You could try to solve the starvation issue as well, but how? Destroy the environment with over-farming? Import corn from the US and run the risk of destroying local agriculture, which can't compete against free US products? And let's not forget, if you do too much of this, someone will accuse you of being racist neo-colonialists.

    None of this means you shouldn't try to figure out a way to help save lives, but I don't think it's wrong to question whether it's worth the cost to do one specific thing. In fact, actually helping people often requires just that sort of analysis, and if you don't do it, you may end up making things worse.

    Simply put, don't dispense with utilitarianism in pursuit of empathy. And overpopulation in the Third World is definitely a problem.

  4. bluey512, great job of avoiding the problems actually addressed by this post -- overconsumption in the "developed" world; exploitation to support it of other people and their resources; and the blinkered oblivion that developed-world people end up adopting. Actually, I think you may have just demonstrated the latter.

  5. They are problems, but they are very complex problems, and trying to distinguish between effective and ineffective solutions is hardly "blinkered oblivion."

    Trying to reduce problems like overpopulation, poverty, and disease in the Third World to a matter of "each single life is worth all the effort you can possibly expend, because you'd totally expend that much effort on your own life, right?" oversimplifies it considerably and can lead to ineffective or even counterproductive action.

    I just don't think anyone should be called unethical or made to feel bad for raising perfectly valid and necessary questions. In fact, I don't see any other way of fighting one's privilege or the exploitation that supports it.

    After all, there's a whole system out there that needs changing, and crying about it and feeling guilty won't help anyone. In fact, as the fellow in the first quote pointed out, it will make you look like a hypocrite unless everyone in the developed world gives up everything they own, refuses to have children, and takes up subsistence farming. Which they won't and should not be expected to do.

  6. So very true. Thank you for posting.

  7. I agree with you Bluey512, in the sense that we can't always allow emotion and empathy to rule our decisions, but I don't think we give enough weight to understanding how we as privileged world citizens contribute to the plight of others in the Third World.

    You say that trying to save millions of people from something like TB is futile because they're just as likely to die from starvation. Point taken. You also say we can't just go into these countries and 'destroy the environment with overfarming'. But what I think is being missed in this conversation is the fact that a lot of the resources that you and I use every day comes from these Third World Countries. The citizens of said countries are working for multinational corporations to mine minerals, grow tea leaves, and sew tshirts that take the potential for wealth (and goods) out of their hands and into the pockets of MNCs. These goods are shipped to the US and we buy them because the prices are much more affordable. What's more, Americans exert a lot of political power in shaping how countries can work their way out of debt; in brief, it's nearly impossible.

    I feel like I'm really overgeneralizing, but a big reason why so many areas of the world are experiencing these conditions is directly because of (or at least greatly exacerbated by) the global economy that we as members of the "First World" support with our own personal actions.

    Don't get me wrong, I think it's important to always question the things we read and to discuss them with others, but I feel like this issue cannot be fully understood in one simple blog comment. It's true that the everyday decisions we make are part of an extremely complex and opaque issue.

    So to get back to what you've said, I don't think we need to give up everything we own, but we need to become more conscious about how much we buy, and where it comes from. Just because we do not see the direct effects of our personal choices does not mean we can completely ignore them. And that's not just boohooing for the poor children in India, it's raising awareness as to how we shape the world in which we live.

  8. Wow, sounds like bluey512 needs to spend a little time with Robert Jensen.

    Seriously, it is pretty easy to dispense with your concerns, bluey512. The answer is this: There is plenty of money that could be spent on making the lives of people in poor countries better. That's right, plenty of money for medicine, food, economic development. And there is plenty of money to empower the poor citizens of those countries, to empower women especially, to practice sound family planning. If you're so concerned with overpopulation, you might not that birth rates tend to fall as economic and social development increases.

    There is no scarcity of money in this world, and we could solve poverty, overpopulation, hunger, and preventable illness. But here's the key: Rich countries won't do it. America spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year on "defense", meaning, mainly, bombs for Afghanistan and Iraq and for military bases around the world. In the meantime, the wealthiest individuals work hard to amass greater piles of wealth (while letting a few crumbs fall back down to the masses in the form of charity), and major distortions open up in the world economy that allow major inequality to persist at the expense of the poor.

    And, bluey512, utilitarianism is a discredited philosophy. As long as you allow that those of us with privilege are allowed to go ahead and sacrifice other people (not ourselves, of course!) for the greater good, then it is a morally bankrupt ideology.

    Part of Jensen's point was that it is indeed invalid to raise any point other than, as you phrase it, "each single life is worth all the effort you can possibly expend, because you'd totally expend that much effort on your own life, right?" The point is that it is a grotesque exercise in privilege to believe that your life (and the lives of people like you) is worth so much more than that of people in other countries that you've probably never visited, people that are out of your sight.

  9. It's not necessarily futile to treat TB in developing nations, I'm just saying that because there are so many factors to consider, there is no easy, obvious way to know for sure whether it is or not. Certainly no student is just going to know the answer off the top of her head, so it's perfectly valid to bring up issues and ask questions.

    I absolutely agree that we in the developed world are part of and benefit from a global economic system that exploits and oppresses those living in the Third World. This is not news to me. I studied international relations in college. As I recall, there's something called "dependency theory" which posits that our development depends on other people's lack thereof. I thought it made sense.

    So I'm not arguing against that. All I'm saying is that if you're trying to upset this oppressive global economic system, empathy is great, but you also need pragmatism, and things are a little more complex than this Professor Jensen seems to think.

  10. Left Coaster, you cannot simply buy development for other people - certainly not for the entire Third World. The goal of development is worthy and should be met, but for a vast array of reasons, that approach does not work.

    And bringing up pragmatic concerns as to why that kind of approach might not work is not the same as holding your own life to be more valuable than other people's.

    (By utilitarianism I actually meant pragmatism - please excuse my lack of precision.)

  11. "After all, save thousands of impoverished people with TB drugs in a place like India, and you might still lose them to starvation due to a worsening of poverty caused by increased overpopulation due to cheap, available TB drugs."


    India is poor but the people are NOT starving. (perhaps a minority are).

    Kids in India value education A LOT more than kids in USA. Part of this has to do with their family structure. They actually have one!

    If anyone has to go, I say let it be the plethora of divorced single moms and dads in the United States who still think they are fit to date and have sex, even while they have school age children to raise, support and provide an example for.

    The world would be a better place without them and their poor example.

    We need to ship more Indians and Asians in general to the US. We need professionals like doctors and engineers. You know, people who value education, family and all that.

  12. People aren't starving in India? Christ.

    Sorry, yes, people are starving in India. A lot of people. Hundreds of millions. And you can't tell me that has nothing to do with the fact that there are so many people sharing limited resources.

  13. Bluey, I've lived in India. Hundreds of millions are NOT starving. There are poor people but they eat well. Like I said SOME people may be starving, but a minority.

    Don't believe everything you read (unless I write it, LOL)


  14. UnPCGrrl,

    Your xenophobia is disgusting. Actually, I've traveled throughout India also. It's not a minority that's starving (sorry to burst your bubble).

  15. Student #2's remark was shockingly callous, but it triggered a mini epiphany. I'm pro-choice, and I've considered anti-choicers' dedication to forcing people to have children they don't want in the context of an overpopulation crises one of their many oddities.

    Then I remembered a recent Jezebel post about the high demand for adoptable white babies. Of course! These people want white Westerners to be reproducing and non-white poor people to die of TB so the Earth is overpopulated with white people, instead of just overpopulated.

  16. Chelsea, see a recent issue of The Nation for an article by Kathryn Joyce on crisis pregnancy centers and their link to unethical adoption agencies. It has been reprinted and excerpted all over the net, for instance, Alternet, but go to to get the full article (free).

  17. This is a star post; SWPD keeps getting better.

    Just to reiterate the focus of the post: it's about the problems of the bourgeois, not the problems of the world's poor. It's the stuff white people do that exacerbates the problems of the world's poor, by overconsumption, trade imbalance, imperialism and just not wanting to know.

  18. Somewhere out there, there's a Chinese factory owner, a Mexican oligarch, an Arab petro aristocrat, an Argentinian auto parts manufacturer, a Finnish telcom CEO and a Swiss banker laughing at Jensen's quaint, naricissistic notion that somehow the global economic system is set up to benefit him and people like him.

    Globalization has shown us all sorts of things about capitalisim - some of them being that unfettered capital doesn't care a lick about any old school distinction between First World and Third World, and the pursuit of making money knows no national allegiances or ethnic bias. In the eyes of global capital, Jensen isn't special because he's white or because he lives in the U.S. - he's special because he's a member of the market where the plutocrats unload the junk they've had their wage slaves manufacture. He's the gluttonous pig they feed, skimming off the top in the process.

    Would I rather be the self-deluded professor picking on his students for not feeling guilty enough, rather than being, say, a diamond mine worker in the Congo? Sure. There's no doubt that there's a food chain, and those in the post-industrial parts of the world are living better than most, but unless you're at the top, you're really fooling yourself to think that this system is set up for you.

    On a lighter note, it's nice to see a post on this blog which argues that everyone reading it is equally unethical, hypocritical and corrupt. See, we do have something in common after all!

  19. @bluey512

    Not to pick on you, but the technique you are using absolutely drives me up the wall. You keep up dancing aroung the question asked, and keep trying to re-define the actual problem. As one of those from the developing world, let me try and redefine it and also deconstruct why your arguments embody the worst of that particluar brand of Western condescension (also called the 'white man's burden').

    AE defined the cause of the problem, and you just dance around it. The way you redefine it is very interesting. This passage

    She also may have been saying something completely different. After all, save thousands of impoverished people with TB drugs in a place like India, and you might still lose them to starvation due to a worsening of poverty caused by increased overpopulation due to cheap, available TB drugs.

    You could try to solve the starvation issue as well, but how? Destroy the environment with over-farming? Import corn from the US and run the risk of destroying local agriculture, which can't compete against free US products? And let's not forget, if you do too much of this, someone will accuse you of being racist neo-colonialists.

    What you are essentially saying is that no good actions by the West go unpunished. You create life saving medicines and 'those' people don't have the good sense to use birth control and therefore over-populate. You kindly provide them with corn and you destroy their farming systems. Repeat argument ad-nauseum. To misquote Rodney Dangerfield 'You (the West) can't get no gratitude'

    So, let me ask, why can't the developing world (i.e Africa) compete with the West against free U.S food products? Could it have anything to do with Farm subsidies, which the West provides but forbids the developing world (through the velvet lined iron fist of the the IMF and the World Bank) from doing so. Could it be due to the fact that what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. The West can do things (raise tarriffs, subsidies) etc to help its local industries that no government in a developing country could do if they wanted to stay in power (after all, developing countries that don't drink the neo-liberal Kool-Aid sometimes suffer a sudden change in leadership in events that have the fingerprints of Western Governments (i.e Chile, Bolivia etc).

    Part problem is past exploitation (you know, Colonialism, neo-colonialism), resource over consumption by the west (a country with 5% of the worlds population using 25% of the worlds resources etc). I could go on and on. You are practicing a sublte method of derailing. Now back to the actual topic at hand. ... (next post)

  20. ...
    Anyway, back to the point I was going to make.

    Thanks for this post Macon D. These are the words of someone famous (sorry for the length)

    'Dirty' Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons:

    1) The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.

    2) The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low cost. I've always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.

    3) The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is is 200 per thousand. Also, much of the concern over industrial atmosphere discharge is about visibility impairing particulates. These discharges may have very little direct health impact. Clearly trade in goods that embody aesthetic pollution concerns could be welfare enhancing. While production is mobile the consumption of pretty air is a non-tradable.

    That would be the former Chief Economist of the World Bank. For expressing such opinions he was deservedly punished by being made president of Harvard. His name is Lawrence Summers. So the young girl in that post was expressing an opinion sometimes held by people who hold positions of high power.

  21. O.K I'm in a posting mood. This post ties into a discussion I was having about strategic ignorance. In this case, it kind of answers the question of why the West knows so little about the rest of the world. Growing up in Kenya, you know so much about the U.S and Europe, both from media and also education (a lot of the Kenyan school curriculum was devoted to the West, precious little about the rest of Africa, we learnt U.S states, US agricultural policy, European politic, WW1, WW2 ad nauseum etc).

    When I came to the U.S, I knew a hell of a lot about the U.S (well, the good parts and the fiction, not the reality)but I was always stunned by how ignorant some Americans were about where I came from (If I had a penny for every time I was asked whether we lived in trees I would be tying Bill Gates in wealth).

    Everything has a reason. The reason Kenyan history was not taught in depth was because we would realize how complicit those currently in power after independence were the ones who collaborated with the British. Those who fought against them died poor and alone as those who had collaborated moved into positions of power in the new republic and cut sweet-heart deals with the brits (i.e like getting a high interest multi-billion pound loan from Britain that was used to buy land back from white settlers, never-mind that this was land the Brits stole from Africans by kicking them off the land and segregating them in what were essentially reservations on infertile land. The collaborators then took that land, divied up the land among the cronies and the Kenyan govt started out with a huge debt to Britain. In this instance, teaching Kenyan history like it actually was would have reflected badly on those in power. That is strategic ignorance.

    Also, I grew up middle-class in a country that had massive poverty and never wondered why so many were poor. Everything I had been taught was that people have what they have because they worked hard and those who don't are lazy. We had a maid, workmen etc. I never wanted for materially. I always joke that I would have made a good Republican.
    Coming to the U.S and passing through a period of dire poverty, which I survived partly due to the advantages I'd been handed up to that point (strong family, excellent education, a belief in my abilities etc) which somewhat overcame the barriers thrown up by my skin color made me also realize that strategic ignorance in matters of class has a parallel with strategic ignorance in matters of race. They both serve to insulate us from the reality that we are not where we are because of our abilities, but because the societies that we live in is structured in such a way that we benefit, and others suffer.

    So it's not suprising that some white Americans would look at the rest of the world or the racism/institutional barriers experienced by minorities and absolve themselves of any responsibility or concern. It's the same reason I looked at the river of humanity working it's way from the Slums to work in the Industrial area and not feel a thing as I my parents drove me to school.
    Yes, my parents worked very hard for what they had, but that didn't mean that we weren't all somehow complicit in the plight of the desperately poor, from forming an ideological framework that converted societal problems (resource allocation, corruption etc) into personal failings (those people are just lazy, they need to lace up their boots and work their way out of the slums). Strategic ignorance is great for the status quo and politicians. As long as people are strategically ignorant and don't ask where all the goodies come from, politicians and those in power have a free hand in doing whatever they want. Whose going to complain? Those people?! Hah! Whose gonna listen to them?

  22. Hi Macon,

    I've never commented on the blog, but I enjoy reading it. I try to check for new posts on a somewhat regular basis and every time I do I read another great post that seems to articulate exactly how I feel, but often can't find the way to express. You seem like you are very well read on the subject, and I was wondering if you could do a post of some of the books you would recommend reading on the subjects covered on this blog. Thanks!

  23. Baiskeli, you have done an excellent job of both explaining and illustrating my point.

    1. "why can't the developing world (i.e Africa) compete with the West against free U.S food products? Could it have anything to do with Farm subsidies, which the West provides but forbids the developing world..."

    Yes, exactly. If the West simply gives free food to people in developing nations (or even just sells it), they tend to drive local farmers out of business by underselling them. Hence the difficulty inherent in trying to just shift resources around as a way to solve issues. Hence the stupidity of thinking, "Oh no, I feel so bad for the starving children, I should give them food!" even though it sounds really awful to say you shouldn't give food to starving children.

    2. Because I have pondered ways people in my country, who have a lot, could somehow give aid to people in other countries who don't have a lot, I have been accused of racist neo-colonialist thinking. Even though I was arguing that Westerners can actually do more harm than good with our well-intentioned meddling, which is the opposite of the white man's burden argument.

    Seems to me we're in agreement.

    Also, I am not dancing around anything. I mainly addressed the second point of the OP (callousness in the way white people view developing-world problems) rather than the first point (that there is a global economic system that advantages people in the US). Maybe that second point is not what you wanted to discuss, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't.

  24. @ Chelsea.Then I remembered a recent Jezebel post about the high demand for adoptable white babies. Of course! These people want white Westerners to be reproducing and non-white poor people to die of TB so the Earth is overpopulated with white people, instead of just overpopulated.

    Sounds creepily Orwellian...

    To the poster about the capitialism comment, I agree to some extent. But let's face it, the truth is no one really cares unless it affects them. Did anyone do anything when Darfar and Rwanda was taking place? I remembered reading an article by a human rights activist from Africa who said that the situation in Rwanda had been occurring for years before "anything was done". Oh yeah, only when they started the (Red) campaign and had celebrities bringing attention to the situation, did people pay attention. But that lasted for what like a second and people have forgotten about it. It seems to be about how to make a profit from a tragedy. Isn't that the only way how to make people aware? But I'm sure the refugees don't forget.

    About two years ago, I watched a documentary made by this guy who traveled to Bangladesh to visit his relatives and he explored clothing factories. In his discoveries, he was shocked to find that children were working there and many of the people were working in horrible conditions and were paid not that well.

    Interestingly enough, when the finished products get to their final destinations, the prices are sky high, while the people who made these get paid in pennies. When I spoke with the filmmaker, it made me think about checking the labels of some clothes and other products. He told me that if people knew what goes on in these factories and if consumers boycotted these companies--including the high-end ones, then it's possible that the working conditions would change. After all, money does talk.

  25. This is why Robert Jensen is a little too much for me:

    "Based on her reaction, I suspect I made her feel bad. I am glad for that."

  26. Honeybrown1976, where is the xenophobia in ANYTHING I've written here?

    Fear of foreigners? I think not! I've moved to a "foreign" country (the USA) and even married one!


    So where have I shown "phobia" of foreigners (Americans in my case) in anything I've written?

    Ganja much?

  27. Yeah, we get the "between the lines" meaning of this 9/11 post (the meaning you'll never admit to.

    You support the motivation that led to the 9/11 attacks but not the outcome. Typical classist white liberal opinions. Try to concentrate on WHAT your writings say to others.

  28. UnPCGrrl,

    Americans (and those married to them) can be xenophobic, too. Your generalizations about American behavior (since you know all follow them /sarcasm) led me to say those things.

    So, no please is necessary. You said it; so, deal with what you said.

  29. "India is poor but the people are NOT starving."
    Not YET, maybe. But global warming is going to change that...

  30. Todhg, your effort to read my mind by reading between the lines has failed. I'm much less certain than you claim I am about motivations behind the attacks. And btw, what's classist about this post?and what's "liberal" about a post that satirizes liberal adoration for Obama?

  31. Sorry, I still don't see anything "zenophobic" in what I wrote.

    Anti-divorce and anti-single-moms-and-dads pimpin' and ho'in themselves all over the place - YES!

    But zenophobic???

    Honeybrown must be a single parent. LOL.

    Not my fault!

  32. The joke of your life is on you. Actually, I am married with two kids. As if there's something wrong with being a single parent, I know plenty of married couples that create a negative environment for their children. So, yeah, logic fail. It is as illogical as my possible assumption of your being a mail-order bride.

    UnPC, you are trying way too hard to be controversial and far too lazy to use generalizations (Really? UnPCGrrl, edgy!). But, then again, you stated that the poor in India are the minority. So, your lack of facts in this conversation is deafening.

    It never ceases to amaze me that those non-native born Americans strive to come over here and then decide to get "off pocket" with their comments of their new homeland. If it's so bad, why not return? You won't, though, of course.

  33. Troll, honeybrown1976? Maybe, maybe not. I don't think it helps your claim that you haven't really explained just what's "xenophobic" about that comment of hers.

  34. Reading comprehension skills much?

    I did not say the poor in India are a minority. I said the STARVING are.

    India's standard of living is way below the United States. By that account alone, many people, even the "middle class" in small towns and villages are living "poorly".

    They are not starving.

    Even by India's standards, the many poor people are not starving. There is a minority who do starve.

    For God's sake.... I grew up in India, my family would be considered "poor" by my standards now, I should know.

    Thanks to Mother Theresa for making the world think the entire India is a ghetto of starving people!


    Poor, yes. Starving, no.

    Learn to think subtly.

    Nothing wrong with single parents?

    Sure, as long as they are not dating or surfing the internet looking for "the one".

  35. Un PC Grrrrl, I don't get it -- what do you think is wrong with single parents dating? And what's wrong with using the Internet to do that?

    And hey everyone, let's stop with the personal comments -- please write in response to what people write, not about who or what you think they are, or even might be.

  36. "There is a minority who do starve."

    Yes. Hundreds of millions is a minority in India. It is still, however, quite high as a percentage of the total population, even if it is still technically a "minority."

    In other words, it's a fucking huge problem.

    I can't believe I even feel compelled to reply to such stupidity. Or do you think it's perfectly normal and acceptable for 20% or more of a population to be not just poor, but actually starving?

  37. AE, you are right. Maybe I used the wrong word.

    But, the attitude does speak greatly of many people new to the United States. Maybe classist? Single parenting isn't an American issue. So, I'm confused by the notion that it is. There are also single parents that are divorced and quite well-off; so, once again, I'm confused by the quite snotty and misinformed tone.

    Bluey12, I do agree with you. Minority or not, starving people is a problem. Instead of forgetting about them, wherever you roam, it's everyone's responsibility to help them.

  38. Single parenting is NOT the issue.

    Unfortune such as the death of a spouse or a spouse during abusive or addicted to a substance can happen to the best of us.

    Those are solid reasons to be a single parent.

    Nevertheless, for a child to grow up seeing their mom/dad dating, surfing the net like a teenager and trying to "hook up", instead of spending ALL of their precious time with the child is devastating to the child.

    Single parents who have so-called "relationships" who think otherwise are simply in denial.

    What is so hard about working to maintain a marriage with a spouse who doesn't abuse you or snort coke? I mean, if not for your sake, at least the sake of the kids, you know, those burdens you brought into the world (but probably wish you hadn't).


    It's for life!


    They are for raising, properly.

  39. If single parenting isn't the issue, why did you bring it up in the first place here? Why are YOU going on about it, and why are you doing so in such a retrograde manner? A lot of single parents are quite capable of juggling work, child-care, and an adult relationship. And I disagree that marriage is always best when maintained "for life"; miserable parents who stay together only for the sake of the kids are worse for the kids than single-and-happy parents.

  40. Macon D, miserable parents? Why are they miserable? If your spouse is not abusive or an addict, there is such a thing as marriage counseling, anger management, any number of self-help modalities one can take advantage of to improve things.

    The problem with the United States and with SWPL (stuff white people like crowd) is that divorce is often the first resort, rather than the last.

    Who says marriage is supposed to make us happy in the first place? Marriage was never in history meant to fulfill our inner longings for love, romance and "belonging". Marriage was always a contract between families for the benefit of both.

    Of course, as long as both parties were decent looking and had no major psyhcological issues, sexual attraction and romance did ensue at some point, that's basic evolutionary biology.

    Where the West is mistaken is in this ideal of "the one" or "soulmate". Or the silly idea, "he/she 'completes' me".

    No. Just no!

    If Americans would view marriage more of a duty to their children and society and less of a means of personal happiness, I bet you anything that the stability and the happiness that everyone here seeks, including children, would actually blossom.

    This "soulmate" myth is doing nothing but setting up grown adults for teenage-like disappointment and heartache.

    Your soulmate does not exist. But your "partner in duty" probably does.

    As long as he or she is decent looking and not crazy, don't worry, the romance and vagina/penis tingles will follow.

    Stay married. It does a body good!

  41. Stuff White People Do:

    Get divorced. A LOT!


    Look, I applaud white people lookin' at ways in which they fall below the standard, and lookin' for ways to improve.

    But if you really wanna make a change for the better, some self-examination of your "family values" needs to take place.

    And this "dating and sex culture" that has replaced traditional marriage and family.

    That's all I'm sayin'.

    All cultures got their postives, all cultures got their negatives.

    We need to take a good hard look at the negatives and come up with solutions.

  42. I can't see how the romantic lives of single parents has any bearing whatsoever on this topic.

  43. Un PC Grrrrl,

    This post has absolutely nothing to do with single parents. You seem to have a significant bone to pick with single parents; perhaps you should start your own blog specifically on this issue. I don't understand why you think this issue has anything to do with this post or this blog in general???

    I'm a single parent, by the way. I'm not going to respond to your views, no matter how illogical and immature I think they are, since they are totally off topic.

  44. Illogical and immature or just different than your's?

    By and large, most of the world feels the way I do about this.

    (We Asians, from Turkey onward to Japan, comprise most of the world)

    Really it's only white Western European culture and it's derivitives (which now includes African Americans), that devalue the intact family system to such a degree never before seen or heard of in history.

  45. Well, for your information, Un PC Grrrl, my father is from Taiwan and I have many, many relatives and friends from China, India and Taiwan. I'm pretty sure that most of them would cringe to know that you are including them in a monolithic group you call Asians. They would likely cringe further at your assertion that they, en mass, hold a simplistic, unthoughtful, black and white view of a rather complicated world full of nuance and wonder.

    I guess I better inform them that they think the way you do because they are Asian. From what I can tell, none of the Asians in my life are as of yet aware of this fact.

  46. Sure. I'm willing to bet your family has seen less divorce than the average white American family as well.

  47. Wrong. Of my father's six Taiwanese siblings, three have been divorced. I don't want to monopolize this post with this unrelated dialog, though, so this is my last input on this issue:

    I will only speak from my experience. Unlike you, I don't think my experience generalizes to humanity as a whole mostly because our modern, technological,global human world is multifaceted and complicated.

    That being said, EVERY divorce I have witnessed has been for the best. I celebrate the fact that divorce is not stigmatized in our culture and that women are able to educate themselves and earn a living so that they do not have to stay with abusive men.

    What constitutes abuse is culturally relative.

    However, I am privy to several marriages that involve abuse in the legal sense of the word here in the U.S. Two of such marriages are between Asians. The women won't leave their cheating, mentally abusive, and in one case, physically abusive, husbands because it is culturally stigmatized in their respective cultures. One of these women is not from this country and has no clue about her legal rights here. She barely speaks English and cannot drive. She came to my house last month with a black eye and bruises all along her arm.

    She won't leave her husband because divorce is frowned upon in the rural area of India she is from. There is a flip side to this issue, and I do hope you will ponder it more deeply before making cute, flippant comments about the evils of a culture that does not stigmatize divorce.

  48. This is horrible. The behaviour of Robert Jensen is inexcusable.

    No wonder there's a reaction against the Left, with people detracting (moving to the Right). Guilt and self-righteousness only create the illusion of morality, but in fact participate in the same general problem that leads to supposedly 'immoral' things.

    Guilt is the other side of narcissism. Robert Jensen should have told them: follow your dreams and be happy. Don't beat yourself up over anything, as you are not carrying the world on your shoulders.

    I bet Robert Jensen is an atheist too.

  49. Hi Macon! I'm back! And this post was excellent. Loved it. See you around,

    ~ Kit

  50. Oh look everyone, Butters the Clown is back! Hi Butters! Nice buffoonery there, trying to derail things with a complaint about what jensen said to that woman, instead of saying anything constructive about WHY he said that to her. Nice joke about his being an atheist too (as if that were something automatically discrediting). Fallacious ad hominems away!

    People are moving to the Right, you say? Har har har! Phew! that's a good one.

    Thanks for playing Butters, you're a riot!!!

  51. Un PC Grrl, your comments are absolutely unacceptable. If this were my blog, I would've banned you by now.

    "Who says marriage is supposed to make us happy in the first place? Marriage was never in history meant to fulfill our inner longings for love, romance and "belonging". Marriage was always a contract between families for the benefit of both."

    THAT is xenophobic. You have no respect for different lifestyles or cultures. Not EVERY culture has the traditional marriage structure you promote, and not every culture believes in lifetime monogamy.

    Take your judgement elsewhere.

  52. MTHGK

    I said I support divorce in cases of abuse like the one you are talking about.

    I do not stigmatize Indian women or men who walk away from abusive spouses. They have my full support.

    It's unfortunate in India that even today such men and women are stigmatized.

  53. Many people have said something like:

    "[ethical] Principles are not principles unless you are willing to die for them."

    This is untrue.

    "Principles are not principles unless you are willing to let you children get killed from them, without them knowing why they died."


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