Smart people saying smart things

Richard Rohr: “Purity

I did a study recently of how Jesus understood the ideas of purity or cleanliness. He never applies it to the body or the physical world, but only to motivations (Matt. 23:26) and to the heart (Matt. 5:8). In fact, he declares “all foods clean” (Matt. 7:19) in strong disagreement with his own Jewish tradition. Purity seems to be singleness of heart for Jesus, when I am not split, when I am “all here.” Impurity is mixed motivation, denial of parts of the picture, and self delusion. How different from most religion which has been preoccupied with purity codes, based in physical touching, eating wrong foods, seeing bad things, sexuality, and avoiding of “UnChristian” people and places. Again, Christian tradition has not followed its own teacher, and he was indeed a master teacher here.

W.V. Quine, in Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary

At some point each of us has perhaps been misled, or has known some equally literate acquaintance to have been misled, by the preterite and participle misled. He encountered the word in reading, grasped its meaning by context, and even used it in his own writing. At length he even spoke it, as mizzled, never detecting that it was just the old familiar preterite and participle of mislead that he had been pronouncing correctly for half his life.

But the verb misle that is born of that misconception is too pat to pass up, descriptive as it is of the very circumstance that engendered it. Perhaps we can press it into service as a mild word for the restrained sort of deception, not quite actionable as fraud … that has a respected place in enlightened modern merchandizing.

Christian Piatt: “GOP Nostalgia Is a Symptom of Privilege

Those in the position of privilege to write history are the ones whose story is most prominently told. So when we talk about going back to some better time, it’s with the lens of that same privilege that we’re looking back.

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say “yeah, I was better off back then.”

One way this longing for the reclamation of privilege is expressed is in espousing what many of the GOP candidates call a restoration of “traditional family values.”

… What underlies this sort of nostalgic talk is privilege. The longing is to go back to a time or place when their particular way of viewing the world was considered “normal,’ and all others were not. There is some selective memory at work even in these cases, however, since most who call for the return to ways of the past would readily call for exceptions in the case of blatant racism and (for some at least) sexism.

To call for a return to the good old days is, in some ways, a marginalization of those for whom history has meant progress. For the majority of Americans today, turning back the clock means losing ground, acceding power or opportunity and returning to a time of greater imbalance and division.

Kay at Balloon Juice: “Only the elites insult the working adults who pick up after us

Newt Gingrich believes janitors and cafeteria workers and people who work in school libraries and offices can and should be replaced by children.

That’s how much respect Gingrich has for the work that these people do.

Third grader = adult working class person. The children are paid less per worker unit, hence it’s thirty kids to one adult, sure, but Gingrich believes children can do these job as well as the adults who currently do them, because that’s what he said.

Personally, I think any random janitor is worth more than Newt Gingrich in terms of adding value to society so I’d like to leave the nine year olds out of it and just do a straight comparison between adults: adult janitor compared with adult conservative blowhard/grifter.

Dick Pierard: “An Accurate Choice for Renamed Southern Baptists

It used to be said that the Episcopal Church was “the Republican Party at prayer,” but surely this distinction has passed on to the Southern Baptists.

Just think of the recent meeting of Republican activists held at Judge Paul Pressler’s Texas ranch to settle on a suitable “evangelical” candidate in the South Carolina primary, or the SBC’s public policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and its leader Richard Land, which is a mouthpiece for the Religious Right and Republican views on current social issues.

If Southern Baptists want to abandon their hallowed name, I can think of no more appropriate replacement than the “Republican Baptist Convention.”

It would apply nationally and be a good descriptor of its social and political outlook.

  • Robert Ruger

    For a great discussion of nostalgia and privilege, check out The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz

    http://www.amazon.com/Way-We-Never-Were-Nostalgia/dp/0465090974/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327517400&sr=8-1

  • Apocalypse Review

    That being said, there are viewpoints about wealth and the social acceptability of extreme levels of it we could take from times past. After all, even the Bible has a suspiciously socialist God at times.

  • Lori

     
    Could a nine year old replace Newt Gingrich? How hard could Newt Gingrich’s “job” be, after all? A lot of lavish meals, ass-kissing, and bloviating, right? We could employ a hell of a lot of nine year olds on the absurd amount of money Gingrich is paid. 

     

    I think Kay makes an excellent point about Newt demeaning adult laborers, but I think she’s wrong about 9 year olds replacing him. The 9 year olds I know can bloviate, at least on some topics. The lavish meals could be tricky since a lot of them are picky eaters, but with some reminders about good manners they could probably muddle through. It’s the ass-kissing where I think it would break down. Most of the 9 year olds I know are not above blowing a bit of sunshine up your skirt to get something they want, but large scale ass-kissing is beyond them. They haven’t yet perfected that level of social/manipulative lying and tend to be honest, even when you wish they weren’t. Maybe especially when you wish they weren’t. All it would take is one “Senator Blowhard is kind of a jerk” or “why does Large Donor do that to his hair? We can all see that he’s bald” or a “What stinks?” to bow the whole deal.

    Newt’s job is safe because most 9 year olds aren’t willing or able to sink low enough to take it from him. 

  • http://theitinerantmind.wordpress.com/ A. W.

    “What underlies this sort of nostalgic talk is privilege. The longing is to go back to a time or place when their particular way of viewing the world was considered “normal,’ and all others were not.”

    That’s true, but no less true than if the same criticism were laid against people who argue for progress. The longing there is for a future in which their particular way of viewing the world becomes normal as opposed to those antiquated views we have progressed beyond. If we want to adopt this cynical way of criticizing people’s motives, we might as well at least be fair and admit that all people strive–consciously or unconsciously–to shape their societies in such a way that their paradigm will fall within the bounds of normalcy.

  • Julian Elson

    Jesus would have been a terrible chemist. “Why does it matter if the pyridinium chlorochromate is pure as a physical substance? What matters is the purity of our motives and our treatment of our fellows.”

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Go go gadget false equivalency!

    But seriously, if you can’t see a difference between “boy I’d like to go back to a time when there were no black kids in my child’s school” and “boy I’d like to move forward to a time when black people aren’t institutionally discriminated against” then I don’t know what to say. Your post is written as if by a thoughtful person, but you’re spouting the kind of Privilege Denial 101 shit that most people recognize the fallacy of in high school, if they’re ever going to at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Think of it this way –

    In order to look back on, say, the 1950s as some kind of halcyon time when everything was great, you would either have to disregard the fact that for over half of the population, it wasn’t like that all? Racial minorities didn’t have rights. Women were only very slightly better off (in that they were chattel instead of just being hanged straight off). That’s not to say that the 1950s were all bad or that we’ve achieved some kind of perfect state here, but come on — it takes a certain kind of privilege to genuinely not notice all of those major flaws.

  • Lori

    There is a significant philosophical and ethical difference between “I would like to go back to a time when the world was small enough to be all about ME” and “I would like to go forward to a time when the world is big enough to make room for me”. 

  • Anonymous

    “Personally, I think any random janitor is worth more than Newt Gingrich
    in terms of adding value to society so I’d like to leave the nine year
    olds out of it and just do a straight comparison between adults: adult
    janitor compared with adult conservative blowhard/grifter.”

    Think no longer: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8410489.stm

  • Anonymous

    And gay people went to prison!  Don’t forget that sodomy laws were still on the books in the 50′s.

  • Amaryllis

    Sodomy laws are still on the books in some states, and people were getting arrested as late as 1998. Although the laws are currently deemed unenforceable, apparently Kansas doesn’t want to repeal them, just in case the Supreme Court changes its mind. Kansas, or at least its Governor, wants to go back to those good old states’-rights days, when you could make any old law you wanted to keep some group in its place.

    Bah.

  • bad Jim

    Superficial as I am, I’d like to note that, like Quine, I’ve read “misled” as “mizled” (with a long i) and heartily endorse the idea of promoting “misle” into a verb.

    I was once puzzled by hearing “bonnified”, with a short o, only later realizing that it was actually “bona fide”, which I pronounce with a long o.

  • bad Jim

    Superficial as I am, I’d like to note that, like Quine, I’ve read “misled” as “mizled” (with a long i) and heartily endorse the idea of promoting “misle” into a verb.

    I was once puzzled by hearing “bonnified”, with a short o, only later realizing that it was actually “bona fide”, which I pronounce with a long o.

  • Lori

     
    For a great discussion of nostalgia and privilege, check out The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz  

      

    I thought of this just now when I was reading a blog about, of all things, fashion. The blogger was bemoaning the fact that 20s inspired looks are likely to be everywhere this year because of Baz Luhrman’s remake of The Great Gatsby. Her comment about the 20s is classic:

    I guess I’m just the type of person who tends to rain on your parade
    when you say things like “I wish I lived in the 1920s so I could be a flapper!” — because you don’t. The 1920s sucked. It’s like someone in a hundred years saying, “I really wish I lived during the economic meltdown of the 2010s!” and then dressing up as Kim Kardashian. Except the 1920s were worse because women didn’t have autonomy and everyone had syphilis. 

    She then goes on to point out that the flapper style really only suits one type of figure and the things women did to pretend they had that figure.

  • Lori

     
    For a great discussion of nostalgia and privilege, check out The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz  

      

    I thought of this just now when I was reading a blog about, of all things, fashion. The blogger was bemoaning the fact that 20s inspired looks are likely to be everywhere this year because of Baz Luhrman’s remake of The Great Gatsby. Her comment about the 20s is classic:

    I guess I’m just the type of person who tends to rain on your parade
    when you say things like “I wish I lived in the 1920s so I could be a flapper!” — because you don’t. The 1920s sucked. It’s like someone in a hundred years saying, “I really wish I lived during the economic meltdown of the 2010s!” and then dressing up as Kim Kardashian. Except the 1920s were worse because women didn’t have autonomy and everyone had syphilis. 

    She then goes on to point out that the flapper style really only suits one type of figure and the things women did to pretend they had that figure.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve been watching Boardwalk Empire and the one thing that really leaps out is how it may have looked jazzy on the outside, but there was some seriously ugly-ass crap under the surface – the way black people were treated as nonentiies who could be counted on to take low wages and not say a word; the encroachment of corruption in politics as people tried to get around Prohibition laws and politicians gladly obliged; the way life was considered extremely cheap in some circles because there’d always be another worker or another gangster willing to step up to replace the one who’d fallen.

    The way people would casually talk about getting rich in that show without a thought to the consequences for others reminded me a lot of the late 1990s and the Bush II era when the motto was “grab what you can for yourself and the other person be buggered”.

    I think it’s fine to like retro fashions (and TBH I like seeing the slow return of 1940s – 1970s type fashions repurposed for today) but unless the problems and issues of the era are kept uppermost in one’s mind when wishing to BE in that era, it can be a bit unthinking to do so.

    I want to put a caveat though that while we in the West probably don’t have that much call to wish we were in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, Russians certainly do. They may have their freedom now, but even that’s more impressive on paper than it is in reality. An American general is once reported to have said back in 1945 or 1946, “You can be a free person on 1000 calories a day or a Communist on 1500.” The obvious implication being that if the Communists would live up to that promise, of course people would vote that way.

    Well, the Russians learned pretty quickly that the kind of shock capitalism favored by Jeffrey Sachs ended up being designed to favor a lucky few beyond anything they could have hoped to grab for in the Soviet Union while impoverishng millions more who had worked hard all their lives for a government that had at least paid lip service to the idea that everyone should have a job and a place to live.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve been watching Boardwalk Empire and the one thing that really leaps out is how it may have looked jazzy on the outside, but there was some seriously ugly-ass crap under the surface – the way black people were treated as nonentiies who could be counted on to take low wages and not say a word; the encroachment of corruption in politics as people tried to get around Prohibition laws and politicians gladly obliged; the way life was considered extremely cheap in some circles because there’d always be another worker or another gangster willing to step up to replace the one who’d fallen.

    The way people would casually talk about getting rich in that show without a thought to the consequences for others reminded me a lot of the late 1990s and the Bush II era when the motto was “grab what you can for yourself and the other person be buggered”.

    I think it’s fine to like retro fashions (and TBH I like seeing the slow return of 1940s – 1970s type fashions repurposed for today) but unless the problems and issues of the era are kept uppermost in one’s mind when wishing to BE in that era, it can be a bit unthinking to do so.

    I want to put a caveat though that while we in the West probably don’t have that much call to wish we were in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, Russians certainly do. They may have their freedom now, but even that’s more impressive on paper than it is in reality. An American general is once reported to have said back in 1945 or 1946, “You can be a free person on 1000 calories a day or a Communist on 1500.” The obvious implication being that if the Communists would live up to that promise, of course people would vote that way.

    Well, the Russians learned pretty quickly that the kind of shock capitalism favored by Jeffrey Sachs ended up being designed to favor a lucky few beyond anything they could have hoped to grab for in the Soviet Union while impoverishng millions more who had worked hard all their lives for a government that had at least paid lip service to the idea that everyone should have a job and a place to live.

  • Matt Dick

    Look, I’m as turned off by Newt Gingrich as the next guy, but to say that his comment about janitorial work being done by school children was an intended attack on janitors is wrong.  In fact I think it’s a willful misreading of the intent of the comment. 

    The comment was odious because it was uttered in the context of inter-city or urban schools and thus conjured up the stereotypes of lazy black youths being unwilling to do productive, difficult, honest work.

    But that’s what it was.  It would have made no sense if Gingrich had said, “These poor kids should go to work pushing rocks across yards at random.”  He deliberately chose a job that they could do (from a skills perspective) but that also would be productive, important and worthy of being paid to do.  He was being racist and pandering, but he wasn’t being randomly nonsensical.  The *point* was that the work was useful.

    The Slacktivist has talked a *lot* about attacking what was said for what it said, not willfully misunderstanding something just to attack the person on a different front. 

  • Lori

     
    He deliberately chose a job that they could do (from a skills perspective)  

     

    How is this not disrespectful to the adults who now do the job? The point of Kay’s complaint is that the logical conclusion to draw from Newt’s statement is that he believes janitorial work does not require skills beyond that of an elementary school child. (Apparently you also believe this?) The idea that children can do what janitors do is A) insulting to janitors and B) untrue. 

     The *point* was that the work was useful.  

    The point was that the work is necessary and easy enough to be done by children. It’s not like Newt suggested that kids do the teaching or run the school office or replace the principle. In Newt’s mind those are skilled jobs that require adult workers, but janitorial work is not. 

    The fact that Newt only meant to make a racist statement about lazy black people and did not think through the implications of his statement doesn’t exactly let him off the hook. Believing that janitorial work can be done as well by children as it is done by adults is bull and Newt deserves to be called on it. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Hell, if we wanna go for the double-down it could be pointed out that Newt not only apparently decided child labor is OK, he’s apparently decided that replacing janitors with black young people is the ideal goal.

    In that kind of racist thinking is the idea that blacks were once hewers of wood and drawers of water, and that’s all they’ll ever amount to.

    Ugh, *feels like taking a shower now*.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Yes, the racism in Newt’s comment is also worth pointing out, but so is the classism (implicit in his claim that a working-class job could be done just as well by a child).

    Invisible Neutrino’s point is really central here: when Newt pictures inner-city schoolchildren, his first thought is that they should go ahead and prepare for their lives of menial labor in service of richer, whiter people. That’s the kind of racism that conservatives keep claiming doesn’t exist anymore in Obama’s America.

  • Matt Dick

    Yes, Newt’s comments were indeed racist. 

    But I’m still not buying that they are denigrating to janitors.

    “How is this not disrespectful to the adults who now do the job?”

    I think some percentage of janitorial duties *could* be done by school children of a certain age.  I don’t think that denigrates the work or the workers.  *That* children can do a certain job does not demean it.  I have a highly skilled job.  However, I spend some portion of my day updating excel spreadsheets with numbers from another source.  My 12 year-old daughter could do this… easily.  And that’s okay, the work is still important to my organization, and my daughter is still intelligent and important.

    And whether or not the work is important is not the point.  The point is that Newt Gingrich was making a very explicit point with his comments, and those comments were racist.  To take this off on a tangent that is not his point (and I think demonstrably wrong) is not useful in criticizing him.

    ” In Newt’s mind those are skilled jobs that require adult workers, but janitorial work is not. ”

    You can’t know that, but what you can reasonably deduce from his comments is that this was certainly not his point.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The BBC says cleaners and janitors add more value than bankers.

    Given that, the fact that Gingrich seems to tap into the culturally ingrained notion that janitors don’t amount to a hill of beans is particularly asinine.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    I suppose what’s more important, from a class angle, in Newt’s whole child labor fantasy is that his primary point was that the janitors we have now don’t deserve to be making a living wage.

    Jobs exist for two reasons: 1) to perform a function needed by the employer; 2) so that people can provide for themselves and their families

    Now, obviously your classist, anti-labor shits like Newt don’t care one bit about point 2), and in their mind point 1) is all that matters. Which is why it’s acceptable in his mind to replace an adult, who probably has kids to feed and almost definitely has rent or a mortgage to pay, with an army of sub-minimum-wage children.

    But as someone who cares far more about point 2), it’s actually not my first priority that a job be “important” or “fulfilling.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a fulfilling job, and if I could make sure everyone had one, I would. But it’s more important to just have a job. No matter how unimportant or demeaning your job is, it’s probably less demeaning than being unemployed and unable to take care of yourself and/or your family.

    That said, I *do* think janitors are important, and if I needed one I’d certainly rather have an adult, with the attention span to work for 8 hours, the strength and size to actually perform all the necessary tasks, and the experience and ability to assess the quality of their own work, than a child. Who should be in class anyway.

  • Lori

      *That* children can do a certain job does not demean it.  I have a highly skilled job.  However, I spend some portion of my day updating excel spreadsheets with numbers from another source.  My 12 year-old daughter could do this… easily.  And that’s okay, the work is still important to my organization, and my daughter is still intelligent and important. 

     

    You are confusing a child being able to do a particular task, with a child being able to do a particular job. Newt’s comments was about having 30 kids and one adult keep a school clean. He clearly thinks that nearly all the tasks done by a janitor could be done by the children. The day someone says that about your job please come back and let us know if you find that demeaning. 

     
    And whether or not the work is important is not the point.  The point is that Newt Gingrich was making a very explicit point with his comments, and those comments were racist.  To take this off on a tangent that is not his point (and I think demonstrably wrong) is not useful in criticizing him.  

      
    Neither the original article nor anyone here has suggested that Newt was being classist instead of racist. We’re pointing that he was being classist and racist, and that’s not a tangent. 

    A person can be more than one kind of asshole at a time and the fact that one of the kinds is dominant at a given moment doesn’t make that others unimportant. Beyond that, racism and classim are closely linked. One reinforces the other, so calling him put on both is a good thing.  

      You can’t know that, but what you can reasonably deduce from his comments is that this was certainly not his point.  

     

    How do you figure that you can know that Newt was being racist and you can know what his entire point was, but I can’t know that he was also being classist? Unless you’re a mind reader we’re both doing the exact same thing—parsing Newt’s statement to sort out what lies behind it. I think both Newt’s racism and classism are pretty clearly on display. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    You are confusing a child being able to do a particular task, with a
    child being able to do a particular job. Newt’s comments was about
    having 30 kids and one adult keep a school clean. He clearly thinks that
    nearly all the tasks done by a janitor could be done by the children.
    The day someone says that about your job please come back and let us
    know if you find that demeaning.

    Well surely It’s More Complicated Than That if the claim is that *30* children could do the work of (I have no idea how many janitors a school would have. I think the one I went to had two, but they tended to understaff wherever they could get away with it).

    At any rate, it seems like focusing on how his statement is demeaning to janitors seems like it’s playing right into Gingrich’s “What? Me? How could you POSSIBLY think I was being racist?” hand.

  • Lori

     
    Well surely It’s More Complicated Than That if the claim is that *30* children could do the work of (I have no idea how many janitors a school would have. I think the one I went to had two, but they tended to understaff wherever they could get away with it).  

     
    I don’t think so. I think the number of kids was just it make a point that there are a lot of lazy black children who need to be kept busy and taught the value of work or they’ll become drop outs and blah, blah, bah. That doesn’t fundamentally change the fact that Newt apparently thinks that most of the task done by adult janitors can be adequately done by children. 

      At any rate, it seems like focusing on how his statement is demeaning to janitors seems like it’s playing right into Gingrich’s “What? Me? How could you POSSIBLY think I was being racist?” hand. 

     

    I don’t really see how being classist lets anyone off the hook for being racist and this is certainly not the only discussion that his proposal has generated. I hardly think Newt is going to get away with anything just because a handful of people note that he’s being classist in addition to being racist. 


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X