Saturday, August 22, 2009

Diogenes Today

Recently some companies decided that they were not being properly represented in the marketplace by sponsoring a nationally syndicated talk show. The host managed to comment in a censorious manner upon the ultimate authorities in America, the President and Congress. He cast aspersions upon what he considered to be corrupt, suspect, or at least unworthy intentions as demonstrated by forthcoming legislation and contradictory utterances that seemed to make a mockery of truth and forthrightness.

His remarks bring to mind—at least to my mind—two questions: What is racist and in what possible contexts can the term be properly used? Race is defined—other than by genetic characteristics—as those united by common history, language, or cultural traits. Racial is defined as pertaining to or characteristic of one race or the races of humankind; or between races: the terms are racial harmony and racial relations. Racism is defined thus: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior; or a policy, system of government, etc., based on such a doctrine; hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. One assumes that the racist would be anyone who makes a remark or otherwise indicates that he or she holds the beliefs of racism.

Do any of our countrymen consider themselves superior to John Q. Public or Janice Q. Jones of Jonesville?

The television and the Internet provide a wonderful window on America. How realistic the view might be is another question. But the definition may have to be stretched across the screen or compared to the sites found on the Web: racism is a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement. The teachers who discovered that their students WOULD learn if the expectation was given to them have proven that individual achievement has nothing to do with race. So much for that idea!

Television has presented the entire world with the extreme contrasts between those who have much and those who have little to nothing. Whether it is the ‘star’ of some soap opera, an athlete, or someone who has inherited an insane amount of wealth, the lives of those who have something make a couple of things obvious: wealth can make a difference in the manner one eats and in the manner one goes to jail.

Does the wealthy person fit the definition of racist? Does wealth cause hatred or intolerance of others? It is more likely that the wealthy person never considers those who have no wealth. Of course, no overall judgment can be made about any people: wealthy, healthy, wise, talented, or fumbling. The importance of knowing those who consider themselves above anyone else is the effect on the rest of us. So who makes the laws we must follow? Who consider themselves above those same laws? Who are the racists?

Does Diogenes still speak?

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