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Sorting Out Good and Evil Again

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: September 5, 2005
Latest Update: September 5, 2005

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Index of Topics on Site No Group, No Profession Has a Corner on Either Good or Evil

Good and evil are social constructs. We can't see them, touch them, and how we see them depends on the context in which they occur, and the context in which we find ourselves, and how they touch on our own world. Sometimes we speak of natural law, a law that comes from some place higher than humans, be it God, or be it nature herself, or some cosmic principles somewhere. We tend to think that good is obvious and so is evil. But there's a whole continuum of some sort from worst of the worst to best of the best. It won't do us any good to insist that we're measuring it on a scale of, say, 1 to 10. These social constructs alter as they develop along with our selves that develop with our orientation to the world we create as ours as our perception of the reality out there that we don't get to socially construct. (Jonathan Lear.)

That kids in Compton are scared to walk home along unsafe streets that have seen 80 murders (this year?) is some kind of reality out there. We can't socially construct their safety on the streets. We can't even get the genuine attention of the whole of L.A.for their safety - they're not a national disaster to the media.

I had black kids, "good" black kids, who didn't know about what was happening in New Orleans last Thursday evening. I have lots of kids who don't know what it feels like to walk home along streets where 80 homicides have recently taken place. But one "bad" cop overstepping the bounds of reason does get the media attention. Why can't the media go on talking about the thousands of other kids who are prey to every "bad" cop and need desperately to reach out to the community as a whole and all the many "good" cops?

I don't have the answers, but I hope I can keep this dialog going, and I hope that I can translate Jonathan Lear's work well enough to help each of us create for ourselves a more lovable orientation to the world, that the world itself in reality out there may become more lovable.

Please follow the dialog below for starters:

The Jason/Beau/jeanne Sunday Night/Monday Morning Dialog:

Beau wrote on Sun Sep 4, 2005 1:40 pm in Message No. 5731:

On 9/4/05, Jeanne Curran wrote: "The police are not our enemy. Most of the good police want to get rid of the bad guys as much as we do." [Beau's nswer follows:]

"I know the danger of reasoning from a single datum, so don't think that's what I'm doing, but I will speak of personal experience that supports the trend. A dear friend is a deputy sheriff for L.A. County. He's a great guy, peace-loving convert to Hinduism, tries to practice ahimsa, a good guy. Until you get him talking about work. Then everyone is a piece of trash piece of shit no good fuck. It is passe to talk about capital-tee-aitch-ee-THE-System, but systemically it cannot be denied that we train our police to protect property and to view the world as comprised of bad people.

Conversely, I've worked with kids who were in gangs; right or wrong they see themselves with little-to-no choice. To that extent Jason's use of the word "terrorist" fits like a glove: The life-preserver responsible citizens folks like Jason would throw to these kids is simply not as convincingly capable of support as the pirate ship trying to haul these kids on board.

When the white police are paid to support a system designed to protect the property and privileges of their white masters and thereby perpetuate the inequities that make gang membership a reasonable and viable alternative to legit pursuits ($7.35/hr at the golden arches, a couple of benjamin's a night running whatever shit is moving this week?) then, yes, the cops are the bad guys. And so are the terrorists, as Jason puts it, who run the streets.

Ultimately the answer will probably come when the white masters, intentionally or inadvertently, loosen their grip and allow non-whites to wield true and effective social and political power. Or maybe I read too much Tocqueville last year.

Meanwhile I don't know any answer better than preaching truth and conscience to power and continuing to polish my own mirror. Peace.

Jeanne wrote on Sun Sep 4, 2005 9:29 pm in Message No. 5738:

"Beau, that is so true. It's like there are many parts of us, and we compartmentalize all those different identities. We need as much to listen to ourselves as to each other. love and peace, jeanne"

Jason wrote on Sun Sep 4, 2005 10:04 pm in Message No. 5739:

"Sorry Beau,

But the whole "I have no choice but to terrorize my community as a gang member thing" is no longer an excuse.

You see, I work with 100 Compton --high school age youth a - day. They are scared to walk home --not because of the cops. The number of homicides in Compton is over 80 -thats eight -zero.

The number of foreign terrorists killings in this country for this year is zero. We must protect our youth and stop coddling the terrorist running our street.

Jason wrote on Sun Sep 4, 2005 10:08 pm in Message No. 5740:

Jeanne, the problem is the politicians are confusing the issue for attention and fame. Police brutality is not even close to being at the top of the Black America real agenda but Maxine Waters and others will have you believe that the police in Compton are responsible for the over 80 homicides.

In this day, I believe police brutality may be fallacy of dramatic instance (I may write my Masters Thesis on this). Gang brutality is the real culprit.

These gang members need to be dealt with --in love. Tough love. A trip to my grandpa's woodshed might do the trick.

Mon Sep 5, 2005 11:08 am On 9/4/05, Mr. Jason M. Miller wrote: "But the whole "I have no choice but to terrorize my community as a gang member thing" is no longer an excuse." [Beau's response follows:]


This medium can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. If we were sitting face to face over a cup of coffee or a couple of brewskis then I can imagine the above with a very friendly delivery. That's how I'm going to play it in my head, but it's an active choice, a decision of will, because initially the tone was not very friendly. And I think this meta-discussion is a sine qua non of any substantive discussion to follow. What roles are we playing, you and I, for each other? I didn't like the roles that seemed to spring to life in earlier rounds of communication with you, but I also don't believe that anyone as passionate about his work as you seem to be can fail to have large areas of thought that I will be in complete agreement with---such as the rest of your note from which the above was quoted. If you and I are not on the same team it is because you won't have me; your choice, and the ball is in your court.

[You wrote: "We must protect our youth and stop coddling the terrorist running our street."]

We agree completely on protecting our youth, and even that the common gang operates by terror tactics. We disagree on how to accomplish this task; at least we have not yet been able to get along well enough long enough to have a fruitful discussion on those matters. I'd like to change that.

But I have blue eyes. I have pale skin. When I had hair it was blond. If I were to show up at your work and say, "Hey, let's grab a bite somewhere and scheme schemes to save these kids from gangs," how would that go over?

For starters it would probably be viewed as patronizing. "You don't know the ghetto, you've never been to the ghetto, stay the fuck out of the ghetto." You know that's a powerful current of sentiment in the community. And there is an aspect of it that is spot on: anyone coming to an oppressed community from the privileged community had best not do so lightly or naively. It is much easier to give up membership in the privileged class than it is to use that privilege for the underclass.

But, and here's the hard part, there's no fucking reason for the oppressed to make it so much fucking harder for those of us who are trying. I'm white, I'm literate, I'm not wealthy nor even rich, but I'm lucky not to live under the third world conditions found in South Central, conditions that make affiliation for protection such a viable and nigh unto inescapable option.

I've probably talked too much here, especially since I'm still stinging a bit from when you called me a "cowardly crypto-racist" for labeling your statements about voting for Condi based on her race as racist, which, if it wasn't so sad and wrong would have been pretty funny since you were the one who started off with an unabashedly racist statement. Frankly, an apology is in order. I don't know, however, if you respond to any authority not backed up by brute physical force, and I certainly am in no position to "make you" apologize. I really got the feeling of a fist in my face and a linebacker ready to drill me. Some folks think that the threat of violence is an illegitimate debate tactic. But I long ago learned, in elementary school at PCH and Orange in Long Beach, that there are folks who, when no longer able to compete verbally, are quite willing to shift the venue from words to fists. I suppose the "cowardly" part fits, then, since I have made it a point to avoid getting beat up since then. But then I've always been confused by the "be a man," taunt; seems to me any animal can fight for territory. I thought what made us more was the ability to get results without tooth and claw.

Well, I've definitely gone on too long now. Believe it or not, if you're still reading down here, I'd like to bury the hatchet and be friends. Your passion and your position there on the firing line are noble, and it would be an honor to carve out a place where we can agree to disagree where we can not find a way to agree so as to move forward on the things we agree on and get about the business of doing what we can to keep as many kids as possible from going down a bad path.


Robert Thomas ("beau") Hayes Link

jeanne wrote Mon Sep 5, 2005 11:08 am in Message No.5742:

Jason and Beau, I am so pleased at finding this dialog here. Beau, I hope Jason takes you up on your offer to go more deeply into the issue of how to save our kids; Jason, you're right about the priorities. Those kids in Compton have to be given safe streets to walk home and play on. But the "bad" cops have to go, and the "good" cops have to know how much we appreciate them. It's maybe a lesser problem in reality; but it's the only time the general public sees any problem at all, so we're dealing with both presentation of social group and political issues and the suppression of chaos and destruction.

I hope that some of the students joining us now as the Fall semester starts here and in Wisconsin will join in this dialog. Share the stories, the narrative, that I can feel bursting out of Jason, and the stories I hear as Beau realizes that "being white" matters in ways that are probably insane, but enforced by the dominant discourse.

love and peace, jeanne

This is a good example of illocutionary discourse, our talking to one another in an attempt to understand each other with our varied experiences and contexts. It is the beginning of governance dialog which must precede intelligent voting and representation. I would offer A's to both these students, one of whom is no longer a student here, for their sorting out and struggling with the complexity of the social issues here. jeanne

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