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Being Human Stupidity and Compassion Being Human Stupidity and Compassion http sarahpalin2012forpresident


									      Being Human:
Stupidity and Compassion

                        the lecture that I am not giving

•   The distinguishing and most valuable characteristic of human being is the ability
    to reason

•   The Delphic imperative: Know thyself

•   The Socratic principle: The unexamined life is not worth living

                                    Being Human: A or B?
•   Option A: Reason

•   Option B: Fallibility

•   “Man can be viewed either as a poor or as a rich creature. . . . Man contains in himself the stored-up
    harvest of all of physical reality, or he is a creature of deficiencies, left in the lurch by nature, plagued
    by residues of instincts that he does not understand and that have lost their functions.
    . . . Man is a creature who has fallen back out of the ordered arrangements that nature has
    accomplished, and for whom actions have to take the place of the automatic controls that he lacks. . .
    From this point of view, language is a set of instruments not for communicating information or
    truths, but rather, primarily, for the production of mutual understanding, agreement, or toleration, on
    which the actor depends.” Hans Blumenberg, “An Anthropological Approach to Rhetoric”

•   “As rational metaphysics teaches that man becomes all things by understanding them (homo
    intelligendo fit omnia), this imaginative metaphysics shows that man becomes all things by not
    understanding them (homo non intelligendo fit omnia); and perhaps the later proposition is truer than
    the former, for when man understands he extends his mind and takes in the things, but when he does
    not understand he makes the things out of himself and becomes them by transforming himself into
    them.” Giambattista Vico, The New Science

               Political Speech, Humane Speech

•   How should people communicate if they are to form sound political

•   Two principles of communicative action:
     – Reason                       (+ fallibility = stupidity)
     – Relation                     (+ fallibility = compassion)

                         The Normative Problem

•   Can a scholar say that some person, act, or practice is stupid?
•   NO:
     – One-sided imposition of values from a position of privilege
     – An act of bad faith likely to damage discussion and other inquiry
     – Scholarship requires precision, not use of vernacular concepts
     – Scholarship should be objective, neutral, and dedicated to knowledge for its own
•   YES:
     – Scholarship in the humanities cannot be objective or neutral or avoid affecting
        human interests
     – Scholarship should recognize the attitude in other guises, attend to what lies outside
        its category system, be engaged with its intellectual history, and grounded in
        ordinary language.

                               The Ground Rules
•   Having taken care to avoid obvious errors, although not at the expense of avoiding
    worthwhile risks, a scholar may:
     – Argue that everyone is foolish

     – Analyze stupidity as it is a discourse active in specific periods, societies, cultures,
       institutions, or practices

     – Take a political standpoint, which must be identified, that impels confrontation on
       these terms

     – Engage in phenomenological investigation of one’s own stupidity

     – Stand within or beside practices or beliefs thought to be stupid to understand them,
       perhaps to address bad judgment or abuses of power

     – Articulate the term to identify dehumanization or destructiveness that might be not
       seen or rationalized otherwise

                   Stupidity, n.
• a lack of ability (especially mental ability) to do something
• a wrong action attributable to bad judgment or ignorance
  or inattention
• lack of intelligence
• rashness, thoughtlessness
• dullness of mind
• extreme folly

           STUPID, i.e.,
idiot, fool, numbskull, bonehead, dimwit,
nitwit, bimbo, airhead, dolt, boob, oaf, ass,
dumb ass, brain dead, hare brained,
blockhead, hooplehead, boob, chump, dodo,
dork, dumbbell, dummy, stooge, half-wit,
imbecile, moron, clod, ditz, dunce,
addlebrain, lamebrain, dunderhead,
lunkhead, meathead, pinhead, birdbrain,
blockhead, cretin, yo-yo, . . .

       Conventional Wisdom about Stupidity

•   A lack of reason (cognitive deficit)
•   Caused by collective association
•   Passive or self limiting
•   Localized

          Cognitive Deficit
• “He is a few bricks short of a load.”
• “She is not playing with a full deck.”
• “Not the sharpest tool in the shed.”

• “Most people, when let alone, are not dumb.
  They can make reasonable decisions if given
  the right information. However, when people
  are part of large groups, somehow it seems,
  the IQ of an average individual, and even the
  effective IQ of the group as a whole, appears
  to decrease. Members of the group can then
  do really dumb things.”

• The Darwin Awards: “The Awards honor
  people who ensure the long-term survival of
  the human race by removing themselves from
  the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion.”


             The Arizona senator is holding on to the GOP base.
             McCain has a sizable advantage over Obama among
             evangelicals (76 to 20 percent), small town/rural voters (53 to
             40), and those living in the South (54 to 40).
    Unconventional Wisdom about Stupidity

•   Lack of social imagination (asymmetric with reason)
•   Distended individualism
•   Aggressive: a will to power
•   Universal: the dark matter of human relations
•   Cultural: distinctive forms representative of
    specific modes and histories of social

• “Stupidity can’t be the opposite of genius,
  because there are limits on genius.”
• “Only two things are infinite, the universe
  and human stupidity, and I’m not so sure
  about the universe” (Albert Einstein)
• “It’s so simple to be wise. Just think of
  something stupid to say, then say the
  opposite” (Sam Levenson)

                         Expert Stupidity
•   “Four or five frigates will do the business.” Lord North
•   “Pasteur’s theory of germs is a ridiculous fiction.” Pierre Pochet
•   The telephone has no commercial application.” J.P. Morgan
•   “X-Rays will prove to be a hoax.” Lord Kelvin
•   “Radio has no future.” Lord Kelvin
•   “Everything that can be invented, has been invented.” Charles H. Duell,
    Commissioner of the US Office of Patents, 1899
•   “A pretty mechanical toy.” Lord Kitchener (on the tank)
•   “Speaking movies are impossible.” D.W. Griffiths
•   “There will never be a bigger plane built.” Boeing engineer on the 247
•   “Nor are computers going to get much faster.” Arthur Samuel, New Scientist,
•   “Not only have individual financial institutions become less vulnerable to
    shocks from underlying risk factors, but also the financial system as a whole
    has become more resilient.” Alan Greenspan, 2004

             My definition of stupidity,                              in part, provisionally,
            with due respect for the necessary additions and qualifications yet to be acknowledged

•   NB: all reflect sliding scales: some S. is inevitable, more S. is worse:

•   1. Acting on the basis of mistaken judgment contrary to available resources and
    one’s best interests.

•   2. Willful denial of how speech, action, practices, or institutions are harmful.

•   3. Rigid adherence to delusions of knowledge, control, or importance that
    accompany speech and action in the face of evidence that they are mistaken
    and counterproductive.

•   4. Insisting on definitions of others that are categorically mistaken to avoid
    association or change.

         The Discourse of Stupidity in the US

                   Vernacular and Elite

Verbal                    and                Visual



                                    John Clease
                     interview with Keith Olbermann, MSNBC

•   “I want a president who is so damn smart . . . that I’d keep my mouth shut so he
    wouldn’t think I’m a fool.”

•   [By contrast, some Republicans want] “someone who is not going to be not terribly
    bright or very highly intelligent or awfully sharp or a very good judge of people.”

•   [On a McCain gaffe while speaking:] “I spent a week trying to think of something that
    was stupider to say than ‘my fellow prisoners’ and I absolutely couldn’t come up with

•   [Poem about Bill O’Reilly:]

           still has one skill, a skill of sorts
           he can amuse a true dumb ox
           the dumbest crayon in the box
           the kind of ox that watches Fox

                                Oops !
            he will not shirk from Rupert’s work
            he really is a perfect Burke.

•   “uh . . . .Burke at the end?” . . .
•   . . . “Cockney rhyming slang” . . .
•   “Well I’ve heard of that, that’s a substitution process, but what is Burke
    supposed to rhyme with?
•   “Well, it it it it it It rhymes with the Berkeley hunt”
•   “OK.. . . [forced laugh]

                         “Stupid” in US public discourse
•   From Ashley Todd to Levi Johnston: The five Stupidest things that happened this election, 32/6,
    November 4, 2008,
•   Here are a few more that I am sure you considered and didn't have the space: Bill Clinton's entire
    primary season performance, Dennis Kucinich admitting that he'd seen a UFO during one of the
    debates, Rudy 9-11's decision to bypass all the early primaries and focus on Florida, Hillary ignoring
    all the caucus states, McCain's economy strong/economy in crisis, suspending campaign/but not
    really, cancelling debate/debating anyway week of absurdity and really the STUPIDIST MOMENT
    EVER: Choosing Sarah Palin in the first place (and let's face it she get's a whole wall of stupid all to
•   You've no doubt seen the ad in which Liddy Dole accuses her opponent, a practicing Christian, of
    godlessness, which the media have been raising holy hell about. The ad is rank nonsense and is
    obviously malign. It's also a prime example of what I have been writing about on this blog. No matter
    what the pols say, they assume people are stupid enough to be moved by simplistic analyses, dopey
    slogans, and misleading ads.

•   Somehow, in Sarah Palin's brain, it's a threat to the First Amendment when newspapers criticize her
    negative attacks on Barack Obama. This is actually so dumb that it hurts. Glenn Greenwald,
    FRIDAY OCT. 31, 2008 13:38 EDT
•   re: sarah palin...the mind reels at how stupid this woman [Victoria Jackson] is. just a few quotes will
    suffice: "I don't want a political label," she wrote on her website, "but Obama bears traits that
    resemble the anti- Christ and I'm scared to death that un- educated people will ignorantly vote him
    into office.” Later in the posting she wrote: "We must in all seriousness ask if Barack Hussein
    Obama could be a Muslim terrorist sympathizer or a Marxist mole.” And unfortunately, there are
    tons of people who are more stupid than this, who will eat this crap up with a ladel. This country is
    drowning in stupidity!
•   Sarah Palin Sounds Stupid (And Talks Funny)

•   Victor // Sep 14, 2008 at 9:43 pm Sara Palin answered all questions by 'Charlie' just the way most
    sensible Americans would.
Charlie was trying to ridicule Sarah with his questions. Another media
    flake who seems to thnk he is superior in intelligence than those he interviews. As for Bush and his
    doctrine, he's been a stumblebum since he was sworn in. Attacking Iraq instead of Iran, Pakistan and
    Saudi Arabia has been his biggest blunder! One BIG BOMB on Bagdad instead of sending in troops,
    would have ended war in the mideast for many years!

•   steve // Sep 18, 2008 at 3:49 pm Wow, are stupid. Sorry, that was the first thing that
    popped into my head when I read your comment. Are you serious? Drop a nuke on Baghdad and gas
    prices would be $1,000 a gallon. Besides, perhaps one day Cheney will explain it to you in a letter
    from his prison cell...IRAQ HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11. Jeez...

•   Taylor // Sep 29, 2008 at 6:30 am 
Gee Victor, you must have a lower IQ then Palin. What's your
    take on the Couric interview? Underestimated brilliance on Palin's part or was Couric ridiculing her
She's a moron. Anyone who could not see that simply saying "I don't have much foreign
    policy experience, that's not what John wanted me for" would be better then Putin flies over Alaska
    (which by the way, he doesn't...they fly over the Atlantic when he comes here) is just moronic. God
    help us all.

•   Republicans blow off the smart cities with the counterargument that they win the exurbs
    — the frontier of new homes, young families and the fresh middle class. . . . That will
    not happen this year. Polls show McCain is losing 20 percent of self-described moderate
    Republicans. . . . But in the kind of pattern that has held true since McCain went over
    to the stupid side, his brother recently referred to suburban northern Virginia as
    “communist country” and a top adviser, Nancy Pfotenhauer, said it was not “real
    Virginia.” Timothy Egan, “The Party of Yesterday,” New York Times, Oct. 26, 2008

•   The McCain campaign is so dumb that it bought into the press’s confirmation of its own
    prejudices. Frank Rich, “In Defense of White Americans,” New York Times, October
    26, 2008

•   Opening for a McCain rally in North Carolina last weekend, Representative Robin
    Hayes said he wanted “to keep the crowd as respectful as possible.” In order to pursue
    that goal as efficiently as possible, Hayes then announced that “liberals hate real
    Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.” This was an
    especially unfortunate turn of phrase given the fact that he had begun his remarks by
    saying he wanted to “make sure we don’t say something stupid.” Gail Collins,
    “Confessions of a Phone Solicitor,” New York Times, October 22, 2008

•   “Obama and the War on Brains,” By Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, November
    9, 2008

                                   Real Americans
•   “We are a movement of the plain people, . . . We are demanding, and we expect to win, a
    return to power into the hands of the everyday, not highly cultured, not overly
    intellectualized, but entirely unspoiled and not de-Americanized, average citizen . . . The
    opposition of the intellectuals and liberals who hold the leadership, betrayed
    Americanism, and from whom we expect to wrest control is almost automatic.
      This is undoubtedly a weakness. It lays us open to the charge of being ‘hicks’ and
    ‘rubes’ . . . We admit it. Far worse, it makes it hard for us to state our case and advocate
    our crusade in the most effective way, for most of us lack skill in language. . . .
      Every popular movement has suffered from just this handicap.” Hiram W. Evans,
    Imperial Wizard, Ku Klux Klan, 1926, quoted in Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism

•   “The worst menace to sound government is not the avowed socialists, but a lot of
    cowards who work under cover--the long-haired gentry who call themselves ‘liberals’ and
    ‘radicals’ and ‘non-partisan’ and ‘intelligentsia” and God only knows how many other
    trick names!” Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis

•   We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. ... We believe that the
    best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little
    pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very
    patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. Sarah Palin, quoted at
    Palinisms: Dumb Sarah Palin Quotes, Gaffes and Lies

                      Why is stupidity appealing?

•   Answer I: Stupidity is the result of anti-intellectualism, which is produced in
    the US by the intersection of egalitarianism and Evangelical Christianity.

     – In the United States the more opulent citizens take great care not to stand
       aloof from the people; on the contrary, they constantly keep on easy terms
       with the lower classes; . . in democratic times you attach a poor man to
       you more by your manner than by benefits conferred. Alexis de
       Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. 2, chapter 4.

     – “I thank God I ain’t got no education!” Holy Roller, 1928

• I’m just a common man, drive a common van
  My dog ain’t got no pedigree
  And if I have my say, it gonna stay that way
  ‘Cause high-brow people lose their sanity
  And a common man is what I’ll be
  John Conlee, “Common Man,”

• Matthew Tully has covered government and politics since 1992. He
  started his career at the Gary Post-Tribune, later covered the U.S.
  Senate for Congressional Quarterly, and has worked for The
  Indianapolis Star since 2002. . . . Tully graduated (barely) from Indiana
  University in 1992. A lifelong fan of Elvis Presley and the Chicago
  Cubs, he lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Valerie. Indianapolis Star,

•   “What the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.” Sarah
            Presidential speech

• Flesch Readability Scores: comics 92; Reader’s Digest 65;
  New York Times 39; Internal Revenue Code -6
• Annual Message 1790 30 (college), 2006 60+ (8th grade)
• Inaugurals: 1979 20, 2005 60+
• Public papers: from 50.3 to 69.9
• Queen’s speeches to Parliament 1988 ff.: 40
• Sentence length: from 40 words to 20; from 60 to 20
• 2003 Census: 43% read at 4th grade level or below
• NB: appeals to “common sense” in public papers/year: TR 1,
  GB 50
• Soundbite in TV ads: 1968 42.3 seconds, 2000 7.8 seconds

              Populism: the rhetorical techniques

•   Leveling expertise
•   Denigrating eloquence and the media
•   Monologic debate
•   Insisting on absolute standards
•   Selective use of skepticism
•   Foregrounding truth in conviction
•   Making provincialism a virtue contrary to sophistication
•   A mission from God

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
Just How Stupid Are We? Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid
Dumbing Down
Dumbing Down or Smartening Up
The Dumbest Generation
The Age of Unreason
The Assault on Reason
The Anti-Intellectual Presidency
The Myth of the Rational Voter
Foolish Words: The Most Stupid Words Ever Spoken

• 80% don’t know that the Senate has 100 members
• 60% can’t name the three branches of government
• 65% don’t know that Congress can override a veto
• average score on a poll of college students on basic
  civics: 55/F
• 25% believe that the Constitution makes Christianity the
  official religion
• 48% reject belief in any form of evolution
• 42% say that human beings have existed since the
  beginning of time

•   Interviewer: While Sean is wrestling with his decision, his wife Tracy firmly support the McCain/Palin
    ticket. So we wanted to hear from her as well. What’s the most important issue for you in this election?
•   Tracy: The one who has the most faith in the Lord
•   I: That’s—make or break for you?
•   T: That should be make or break for everybody.
•   I: And when you hear people saying, “Well, we understand your faith, but what if you are going to vote
    against your husband’s interests to the American worker?” (sic?)
•   T: The Lord will take care of us. That’s the way I look at things.
•   I: For Tracy Curry, this election is not so much about politics as it is about values. She says she doesn’t
    feel Barack Obama shares her conservative, religious worldview.
•   T: I can’t imagine having a president of the United States being named President Obama! I really have a
    problem with that. And I am not the only one.
•   I: Because, that means what to you?
•   T: His background. huh A mother what was an atheist huh that really gets to me. um A father that was a
    Muslim. That should get to everyone.
•   I: And when Barack Obama and his wife Michelle say, :But, we’re faith-based, we’re Christians?”
•   T: The church they were members of—that’s not the Christianity I know. That’s not the Christianity that’s
    in the Bible.
•   I: And so for you, your are firmly decided?
•   T: Definitely.
•   I: And what do you say to your husband, who is still on the fence?
•   T: I will pray for him. He knows what the right religion is.

Ok, I have to respond to this video because I didnÕ think that this was going to be
an issue in this election. I thought that, ya know, most Americans had grown a
fucking brain by now. And most of them have, and theyÕ not just using their
brains as bookmarks in their bibles um but apparently not everyone has grown a
brain, so um I have to respond to this video. This woman is ignorant.
.. .
The problem with these people is that they shoot their mouths off before they stop
and take a look at what theyÕ talking about, you know, they do no research
whatsoever . . . All she knows is what sheÕ heard on American media. . . .
everybody with half a brain cell knows that . . .
IÕ sick of living in a country full of ignorant fucking cows un like her. . . .
                                          s                       s
All I heard was moo moo moo and itÕ ridiculous because sheÕ the type of person
who is ruining this country. . .
IÕ not prepared to allow these types of morons to vote and decide who our next
         s                                      t
countryÕ leaders should be. They shouldnÕ be allowed to vote. TheyÕ too re
fucking retarded to vote. . . .idiots. . . stupid fuckers. . .
If [they win] IÕ move to Canada.

The Brights

The primary impetus for the Brights’ endeavor is the

need to constructively address the marginalized situation

of persons who have a naturalistic worldview. If we are

successful over the long term, then politicians, media,

do-gooders, friends and family, acquaintances and employers

will acknowledge and justly attend to the voices of the many

and diverse brights.

The movement's three major aims are:

--Promote the civic understanding and acknowledgment of the
naturalistic worldview, which is free of supernatural and mystical

--Gain public recognition that persons who hold such a worldview
can bring principled actions to bear on matters of civic

--Educate society toward accepting the full and equitable civic
participation of all such individuals.
Why is Stupidity Appealing?

Answer II: Democratic polity creates both
populism and rationalism.

Each becomes stupid by definition against the

Both involve breakdowns in social

                      Why the verdict was stupid

•   The charge: “Socrates is guilty of corrupting the young and of not believing in
    the gods in whom the city believes, but in other new spiritual things” (24b).
•   The charge was contrived, the motives political, the defendant innocent: he had
    corrupted no one, was quite pious, and promoted no religious or political
•   In his speech of defense, Socrates demonstrates that:
      – He does not discredit the gods or turn common beliefs upside down
      – The prosecutor does not care about the youth of Athens
      – No reasonable person would corrupt close associates, as that would bring
         harm on oneself, and none of his associates have spoken against him
      – Although he has offended people by exposing their ignorance, that is no
      – He has been a model citizen in war and peace
      – His questioning is a service to the city
     – Rather than being impious, he is following a divine command.

    Why a reasonable juror could vote against Socrates
•   Socrates begins his speech by distinguishing between clever speakers and
    those who speak the truth, and then proves to be a clever speaker
•   He devotes a good portion of the speech to addressing gossip that is irrelevant
    to the charges
•   His argument against the prosecutor begs the question of whether the jury cares
    about the youth
•   His arguments about harm are counter-intuitive or indeterminate
•   He demonstrates only that he believes in a god, not the gods of the city
•   He ridiculed their judicial procedures and their need for emotional and ethical
•   He told a jury of politicians, artists, and craftsmen that politicians, artists, and
    craftsmen were ignorant
•   He told a jury of citizens engaged in public service that he had avoided public
    life because he was too honest to be engaged in “what occupies most people:
    wealth, household affairs, the position of general or orator or the other offices,
    the political clubs and factions that exist in the city” (36b)
•   He claimed exemption from political accountability because he was on a mission
    from God.

          Why they voted to kill, and how he framed it

•   After Meletus proposed death, Socrates proposed free meals for life in the town
    hall where Olympic victors were entertained. . . . And, so

     –   The first sentence was closer to the original verdict
     –   His proposal smacked of hubris
     –   ???

•   Socrates’ explanation:
     –   Socrates refused to weep, bring in character witnesses, or ask for mercy

                       The Great Divide

• Rationality, truth, the individual, liberty, private virtue,
  critical reason, withholding of the self from others
• Rhetoric, emotion, the people, solidarity, public virtue,
  democracy, the exclusion of difference from the
• Both reject resources for deliberation and community
  contained in the other; both distort the relationship
  between self and society; both generate from a
  common predicament
• “Two excesses: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason”

             Rationalism: the rhetorical techniques

•   Leveling expertise
•   Denigrating eloquence and the media
•   Monologic debate
•   Insisting on absolute standards
•   Selective use of skepticism
•   Foregrounding truth in conviction
•   Making provincialism a virtue contrary to sophistication
•   A mission from God

                         Euthyphro’s argument

• I say that the pious is to do what I am doing now, to prosecute the
  wrongdoer, be it about murder or temple robbery or anything else,
  whether the wrongdoer is your father or your mother or anyone else;
  not to prosecute is impious. And observe, Socrates, that I can cite
  powerful evidence that the law is so. I have already said to others that
  such actions are right, not to favor the ungodly, whoever they are.
  These people themselves believe that Zeus is the best and most just of
  the gods, yet they agree that he bound his father because he unjustly
  swallowed his sons, and that he in turn castrated his father for similar
  reasons. But they are angry with me because I am prosecuting my
  father for his wrongdoing. They contradict themselves in what they
  say about the gods and about me. (5e-6a)

                            Socrates’ command

•   And while he was saying this, he was holding the cup, and then drained it
    calmly and easily. Most of us had been able to hold back our tears reasonably
    well up until then, but when we saw him drinking it and after he drank it, we
    could hold them back no longer; my own tears came in floods against my will.
    So I covered my face. I was weeping for myself, not for him--for my
    misfortune in being deprived of such a comrade. Even before me, Crito was
    unable to restrain his tears and got up. Apollodorus had not ceased from
    weeping before, and at this moment he noisy tears and anger made everybody
    present break down, except Socrates. “What is this,” he said, “you strange
    fellows. It is mainly for this reason that I sent the women away, to avoid such
    unseemliness, for I am told one should die in good-omened silence. So keep
    quiet and control yourselves.”
    His words made us ashamed, and we checked our tears. (117c-e)

                             Reason in a Corner

•   Ehthyphro: Socrates expresses no interest in prudential reasoning about a
    particular case, opting instead for a standard of universal reason

•   Apology: Despite being charged unjustly, Socrates refuses to use available
    resources for persuasion to save his life, and contrasts the use of reason to the
    social knowledge and rhetorical practices of the democratic community

•   Phaedo: Socrates lives consistently to the end by forbidding his friends from any
    show of emotion while they are grieving.

•   In all three dialogues, he shows little real interest in the particular standpoint of
    his interlocutor. It appears as though he loves justice, Athens, and his friends--
    but only in the abstract.

•   The “frigidity” of Socrates. Plato’s PTSD: harsh suppression of anger and grief
    due to institutional betrayal. To avoid forgiving Athens, compassion has to be
    banned. Hence, reason and democracy are joined in a traumatic history. Even
    if that history is not influential, it reveals a paradigmatic condition.
                     The Democratic Predicament

• Democracy replaces the distributions of a social structure (e.g., kinship) with the
    communicative practices of a community of strangers.

• Stranger relationality requires restructuring speech as public address

• Public address creates public media that delocalize meaning and diffuse

• Public judgment and action depend on both disembodied reason and relational

•In these conditions, there are strong incentives for strategies of both relocalization
     and universality
     Biblical literalism; Socratic dialectic
     Christian evangelicalism; Socratic rationalism

                            The Repair

• To review: Democracy generates characteristic forms of
  stupidity: populism and rationalism
• Both reflect a breakdown in social imagination.
• Thus, repair of cognitive errors or deficiencies will not be
• What is needed is a shift in attitude toward others in the
   community of strangers.

                   Definitions of Compassion

•   “A painful emotion occasioned by the awareness of another person’s
    undeserved misfortune” (Nussbaum)
•   Deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to
    relieve it
•   The humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting
    to do something about it
•   Understanding without judgment
•   Recognition of another’s suffering independently of judgment but not of
•   Seeing and listening with humanity, speaking with care not to harm
    unnecessarily, judging with integrity and humility

•   Synonyms: sympathy, empathy, pity, mercy, kindness, charity, humanity,
    quarter, righteousness, clemency, quarter, sorrow, commiseration, fellow
    feeling, understanding, condolence, heart, altruism, . . .

•   Antonym: Indifference

           Caveats: Compassion should not be

•   sentimental
•   condescending
•   merely emotional
•   tyrannical
•   Impractical
•   sovereign

Therefore it must be: discerning, egalitarian, intelligent, deliberative, specific, and

Thus, the Big Idea about compassion is that it neither needs nor articulates Big
   Ideas. It does not lend itself to abstraction and it is realized fully only as a way
   of being in the world, with all the limitations therein. Indeed, it is so deeply
   human that it needs stupidity:

• The element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has
  not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps
  our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and
  feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass
  grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which
  lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about
  well wadded with stupidity. (George Eliot, Middlemarch)

                            US Altruism Data
                  (Robert Wuthnow, Acts of Compassion)

• 45% of adults (18 yrs+) engage in voluntary caring activity
• Each volunteer gives 5 hours per week
• 1/4 devoted to informal volunteering (friends, neighbors); 3/4 formal volunteering
• 60% have stopped to help someone with car trouble
• 50% have given money to a beggar; 23% in the last year
• Only 2% said that “helping people in need” was not important to them
• 37% said they could not count on immediate neighbors for help
• 36% said they could not count on church or synagogue members for help
• 33% said they could not count on relatives outside the immediate family
• 50% said they could not count on volunteers
• 67% said they could not count on social welfare agencies

       The problem of language

•   Language, democratic citizenship, and the public use of reason all
    depend on abstraction, vs. compassion’s focus on particular individuals
    and embodied relations

•   Discourse reproduces social hierarchies that both sustain and damage
    relationships, vs. compassion’s emphasis on seeing through social
    ascription to repair relationships

•   Integrity in language use vs. the slippage necessary for doing practical
    moral work

        Speaking, listening, and seeing with

• The big picture: working toward a language shift in the
  vocabulary of Western political thought: from reason to relation;
  from knowledge production to wisdom; from justice to humane
  community; from the “social morons” of neoclassical economics
  to visions of human flourishing. . . . .

 Speaking, listening, and seeing with
• The hermeneutical principle: To become
  compassionate, one should learn to discern how
  speech reflects suffering, and how images call us into
• The rhetorical principle: To speak compassionately,
  one should learn to address suffering on behalf of the
  common welfare.
• The ethical principle: one should avoid emotional
  manipulation but not at the cost of surrendering all
  political agency, unless that act empowers others on
  behalf of a humane world.

       deathtoiraq |

fuck iraqis they all need to die like seriously they fucking took planes and crashed them
into the WTC buildings the fucking pentagon and tried to crash it somewhere else and
you mother fucking peace lovers want to pull our soldiers out of the war fuck you guys
seriously if we pull out that gives them a bigger chance to do something like that again to
us and if you dont like what i am saying then fuck you because you arent american if you
dont want to defend this country we already had so many other terrorist attempts on us
and you still want us to pull out no fuck that i hate peace lovers and plus i am going to be
a marine next september and i will kill as many iraqis as they kill ed americans you people
think we are over there for the fucking oil no we are not over there just for that we are
taking action against them and were still looking for Binladen every action has an equal
and opposite reaction and thats what we are fucking doing reacting to what happened

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye

      W.H. Auden, In Memory of W. B. Yeats” (1939)

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