Friday, 12 June 2015

Alexander: Today we’re going to talk about the rationality of ethical standards. Let me begin with a few assertions. Assertion one: the ethical standards that dominate our society are not rational. Assertion two: racism is rational.

Tristram: OK, what’s your definition of rational?

Alexander: My definition of a rational ethical standard for a society is one that causes more good things to happen or fewer bad things to happen in that society. Would anyone care to dispute that definition?

Tristram: I’m not sure. It’s a bit abstract. Let’s explore it some more before I commit myself. The definition sounds innocuous enough. I suspect there’s a hidden trap somewhere. Surely no one would really disagree with that definition as you present it?

Alexander: Whether they would dispute it when formally articulated, I don’t know. What matters is whether put it into practice. They don’t. Harriet: I think the nub of potential disagreement would be: what is a good or bad thing?

Tristram: Right. Harriet: I mean some people would consider it a good thing that money be taken from rich people and redistributed to poor people so they can enjoy a higher standard of living. Others would see it as an infringement of basic liberties that a free individual, having earned wealth through his own talents and efforts should then, in effect, be robbed of it by his own government.

Alexander: It’s true that much of politics could be construed as an essentially interminable discussion about exactly this question of what is a good or bad thing or, even if there could be a consensus on that, what relative weighting should be applied to them. Nonetheless, there could be broad agreement on some good or bad things.

Tristram: Such as? Alexander: Take murder. Most people would agree that murders are bad things; that a country with fewer murders happening in it is in a better state than the same country with more murders happening in it, right?

Tristram: Of course. Alexander: Judged by that criterion, I submit that the dominant ethical standard is irrational.

Harriet: How is it irrational?

Alexander: Well, if I said that we should introduce what used to be called a “colour bar” to our immigration policy, that is we should ban negroes from immigrating to Britain, what do you think the response of our ruling class would be?

Victor: They’d denounce you.

Harriet: So would I! (laughs) That’s completely crazy. Is this the conclusion that your “rational ethical standard” leads you to?

Alexander: One of them. But your reaction is typical. It would be standard reaction of the elite members of our society based on, what I claim, is their irrational sense of ethics.

Tristram: OK, so explain how your approach is more “rational”.

Alexander: Well, returning to murder. Murder has the virtue of being accurately measured in most societies. I’ve argued that our rational standard of ethics should be based on behaviour that causes more good things or fewer bad things to happen in a given society. Murder, we’ve agreed, is a bad thing. So we can measure the incidence of this bad thing.

Harriet: And how does this relate to immigration policy?

Alexander: Well, we have to consider the influence of this policy on the metric we’ve agreed on: the murder rate. If we look at crime figures broken down by ethnicity, we see that negroes are outstanding performers in virtually all categories of crime, particularly crimes of violence. It’s clear then just through the presence of negroes alone, the incidence of murder in Britain must be substantially higher than it would otherwise have been. Therefore, allowing more negroes to immigrate to Britain is not rational.

Tristram: Well, that might be true, assuming that murder was the only thing that mattered. Of course it isn’t.

Alexander: What else matters?

Tristram: Lots of things. Economic growth, having a vibrant culture, being tolerant. Victor: Sounds like airy-fairy nonsense to me.

Alexander: The point of a rational ethical standard is that it should be based on objective reality and not subjective impressions. We can decide on the things we value and then measure them using metrics.

Victor: So would you acknowledge that the negro presence has increased the murder rate?

Tristram: I don’t think that can really be disputed. But you need to take account of the poverty these people live in, the discrimination they face, their history of oppression and injustice.

Alexander: Actually, I don’t need to take account of any of that. Part of the beauty of the rational approach to ethics is that you simply set a metric and then measure it. You don’t need to worry about anything else. It filters out irrelevant considerations. If your claim is that negro immigration has led to some benefit that compensates for the loss of the life to negro murderers, then tell us what those benefits are and set a metric that will allow us to measure them.

Harriet: Look, I don’t accept that everything can be reduced to “metrics”. There are things that can’t be measured. Black people have enriched our culture in fields like sport and music and cuisine.

Victor: Fried chicken, Caribbean-style?

Alexander: Well, if you’re making that claim, you might, if you searched hard enough, be able to find metrics for those fields. The number of sports medals won by the country, for example. It would probably be harder to find metrics for the other two but it could possibly be done if enough effort was put into it.

Victor: Really, though. We’re talking about government policy here. Should it properly be the objective of government policy to improve sports, music and cuisine?

Tristram: Why not?

Alexander: Most people would consider that as properly belonging to the private sphere, something created by ordinary people of their own accord, where governments have no real right to intrude and where their presence would neither be welcome nor helpful.

Victor: And governments do not usually justify immigration policy by claiming it will lead to improvements in music, food and sport. They promise benefits in more tangible spheres.

Alexander: The fact is that by almost every metric other than sports medals, and perhaps musical achievement, if some way could be found to measure that, negro immigration could be shown to have been detrimental to the well-being of Britain. If we lived in a rational country, there would be a clamour in Parliament and the press for negro immigration to be brought to a halt. Instead, we live in a country were anyone making that demand would be vilified, hounded from his or her job and, very likely, sent to prison.

Victor: I actually think that this irrational sense of ethics that dominates our society could be construed as a form of barbaric evil. Harriet: So I am evil because I refuse to ban black people from immigrating to Britain?

Victor: I wouldn’t say you are personally evil. I’m sure you’re a kind, well-meaning person whose mind has simply become entranced by bad ideas.

Alexander: By irrational ethical standards.

Victor: Exactly. And when those ideas are applied, the result is, de facto, evil. Harriet: OK, how is it “de facto evil”?

Alexander: I would tend to agree. Given that the negro propensity to commit violent crime is known, you could gather the data systematically. You could do an actuarial calculation. Let’s say, hypothetically, that the negro murder rate is 500 per 100,000 over the course of a lifetime. Let’s say the non-negro murder rate is 100 per 100,000. If we assume that 100,000 negroes are immigrating to the country each year, then you can predict with a fair degree of accuracy that this year’s shipment of incoming negroes will kill an extra 400 people over the course of their lives. You know that and you’re OK with it. So, in effect, you’re condemning 400 people to death for your moral ideals. 

Victor: You are practising human sacrifice.

Harriet: Sorry, but that is utter nonsense! To say I’m practising human sacrifice by refusing to block the immigration of black people is just ridiculous beyond belief!

Victor: You could save the lives of those 400 people just by pressing a button!

Harriet: What button?

Victor: The button that says “No more negro immigration”!

Alexander: Yet you refuse to press that button because it conflicts with your religious dogma that “people are all the same”.

Victor: So your Religion of Equality, in effect, requires human sacrifice. To you the horror of publicly acknowledging that negroes commit more crime and should therefore be discriminated against as prospective immigrants is greater than the horror of thousands of people being needlessly killed!

Alexander: You are entranced by your moral obsessions, the drama of right and wrong, as you see it, in your irrational sense of ethics. The quality of a person’s thoughts, the purity of their soul, the subjective realm, counts for more than objective reality, where an innocent’s body is violated by the negro’s blade.

Victor: Or gun.

Alexander: Or machete.

Harriet: (laughs) “Violated by the negro’s blade”? I think you’re getting a bit carried away, both of you. You need to calm down a bit. What other interesting conclusions do your “rational” ethical standards lead you to? Since you're against "negro" immigration, what's your take on the Mediterranean refugees in the news recently?

Alexander: Based on rational ethical considerations, I would conclude that the optimal policy response to these invaders, or "migrants" as our ruling class would have it, is to simply shoot them. Machine-gun them.

Harriet: (bursts out laughing)

Tristram: “Reason” is bold!

Harriet: (recovering) Sorry, but that is just mad! OK. Please explain to me how this mad policy is actually rational. This should be good.

Alexander: Well let’s follow the same approach. Remember our criterion of moral value is causing more good things to happen or fewer bad things to happen. So let’s set a metric. For the sake of simplicity, let’s take the humanitarian metric of number of lives saved and let’s assume that all lives, European and non-European, have equal value. Of course I don’t really believe that. In normal circumstances, I would not use this metric because to me their lives have no value. I consider them invaders and think the world would be better off without them.

Harriet: (laughs)

Alexander: But let’s pretend I’m a humanitarian. Even then the machine-gun option is still optimal.

Tristram: Machine-gunning people is the best way of saving their lives?

Alexander: Yes.

Victor: It’s like the American officer in Vietnam who said they had to destroy a Communist village to save it.

Tristram: OK, so can you explain how machine-gunning helpless refugees, when seen through the strange prism of these “rational ethical standards,” actually becomes a humanitarian act?

Victor: What would happen if we adopted the machine gun option? Massacred a couple of boat-loads of invaders, say two or three hundred people killed. Tristram: I would imagine there would be a universal outcry.

Alexander: Right. And this global outcry might give reason to doubt our resolve. So maybe more invaders would come to test it. And would meet with the same response. Another hundred or so lives lost. What then?

Victor: They’d stop coming.

Alexander: Yes. The problem would be solved. They would know that Europeans were no longer mugs, were no longer going to hand their countries over to any mud-covered savage who turned up with a sob story. We know that thousands of lives are being lost each year currently, let’s assume 3000 a year on average. So, for an upfront cost of 500 lives, you will save 2500 lives in the first year and 3000 lives every year thereafter.

Harriet: So shooting people is actually the most compassionate approach?

Alexander: Yes, it is the optimal way of maximising human well-being, rationally considered, in that it prevents the greatest amount of harm.

Tristram: Well, your rational ethical standards sound more like “crazy ethical standards” to me, obviously driven by racism.

Victor: Oooh, racism!

Alexander: Clearly I am a racist. The question is whether my racism is rational and moral. You claim my “rational ethical standards” are based on racism. I contend it is the other way around. It is reflecting on the consequences of anti-racism applied at the policy level that has made me a racist, in the sense that an immigration policy based on racism rather than anti-racism would have led to improved outcomes in measurable aspects of human welfare.

Harriet: I’m sorry, but I think racism is just fundamentally wrong, and that not everything that has value can be measured. I value the vibrancy and diversity that the BAME communities have brought to British life, even if I can’t put that into some metric and measure it.

Victor: When you say it’s just “fundamentally wrong”, you are Unreason personified. You are making his point for him. You don’t explain why it’s wrong. You say “It just is”. That is exactly what he means by an irrational ethical standard.

Alexander: If we try and follow the thought processes of those who condemn racism as some great evil, it’s clear that their ethical standard is based on evaluating the quality of a person’s emotions and thoughts, or presumed emotions and thoughts.

Tristram: Even if that were true, what’s wrong with it?

Alexander: What’s wrong with it is that it is divorced from the real world and therefore irrational. If you recall the definition of a rational ethical standard I proposed was one that causes more good things or fewer bad things to happen. “Happening” means occurring in the real world. So this rational ethical standard would be rooted in the experience of suffering or happiness of actual human beings - in objective reality. Whereas the irrational ethical standard is focused instead on the subjective realm, on what goes on inside people’s heads, emotions, thoughts, motivations. Or, since we can never truly know what goes on inside someone’s head, suppositions about what those emotions, thoughts and motivations are. You disregard tangible harm in pursuit of some intangible good because you are attuned to the subjective realm instead of the objective realm.

Tristram: What do you mean by that?

Alexander: You value your own personal psychological satisfaction - the aesthetic impressions that the presence of brown people occasions in your mind, the vibrancy as you call it, together with the pride and pleasure you derive from your sense of moral superiority - over the objective evidence of the harm the brown people have caused in your country.

Victor: Even when that harm means tens of thousands of people have been needlessly murdered, mugged, gang-raped, robbed and assaulted. How much is your appreciation of “vibrancy” really worth?

Tristram: Sorry, but I don’t agree it’s all about thoughts and emotions. Those thoughts and emotions inevitably lead on to acts. People are attacked, people are even killed, because of racism. People are killed because of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Those things happen in the “real world,” as you put it. They are actions. The thoughts and emotions are precursors to the actions. So it’s not all about subjectivity. At some point, what is “subjective” inevitably touches down in the real world.

Alexander: And when it does we can observe it and measure it and count it. So what terrible things can you point out to me that have been caused in Britain in recent times by racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia?

Tristram: I’ve just told you. People have been killed.

Victor: Like who? How many people? It’s not enough to make some sweeping general statement. Show us some data.

Harriet: Stephen Lawrence.

Alexander: Ah, Stephen Lawrence, the black Christopher Wren, whose genius was tragically nipped in the bud before he even got the chance to design his first garden shed.

Harriet: You really show your quality by mocking the dead like that. That’s just so sad.

Alexander: It’s debatable whether Stephen Lawrence’s death was a “racist murder”, as you claim. But that’s a discussion for another time. For the sake of simplicity, let’s stipulate that it was. The first point to note is that such occurrences are extremely rare. The fact that the Lawrence case has been obsessively commemorated for almost 20 years now tells us that.

Victor: They’ve had to milk it because they’ve got nothing else.

Alexander: Exactly. And I can show you many cases in which British indigenes have been murdered by aliens who were unambiguously motivated by racial antipathy. The Kriss Donald case, for example. Yet these cases, far from provoking mass media coverage and political uproar, are covered up to the maximum extent possible. There are no Kriss Donald Trusts, no annual Kriss Donald Lectures. Hardly anyone would even recognise his name. Kriss Donald’s mother hasn’t become rich off the death of her son, she hasn’t been made a peer of the realm.

Victor: She hasn’t met Nigson Mandela.

Tristram: Of course all victims of racism should be remembered. No one is disputing that.

Alexander: But this is all a distraction. We can both agree that there have been murders of non-Europeans by Europeans, and vice versa, in which racial antipathy was the motive for the crime. We can both agree that such things are unpleasant and undesirable. The question at issue is whether government policy, and the sense of ethics that underpins it, increases or decreases the incidence of such unpleasant and undesirable things. Quite obviously, it increases it. These murders, on both sides, occur only because people of varied ancestral origin are forced to live together in the same physical space. That happens because an immigration policy has brought racial aliens to live amongst us. So, again, your immigration policy and your sense of ethics are not rational. They cause unpleasant things to happen that didn’t need to happen.

Tristram: So it’s our open immigration policy that’s responsible for racist murders, not racism? 

Alexander: Yes.

Harriet: Crazy.

Victor: Rational.

Alexander: It seems to me that this obsession with the subjective realm is a hang-over from Christianity.

Tristram: How so? Alexander: Well, the Christian faith holds that a supernatural being makes a judgement about us after we die and, depending on the verdict reached, we’re either admitted to eternal bliss or condemned to eternal suffering.

Harriet: But surely we are judged by our actions?

Tristram: It varies by Christian denomination. Some say we are “saved” by our thoughts and actions “faith and works”; some say only thoughts.

Victor: “By faith alone”. That was one of the core doctrines of Protestant Christianity.

Alexander: The being judges us based on our thoughts, the entire history of our thoughts throughout our lives, which it is somehow able to know. So here we have a moral canon whose distinguishing feature is its interiority. Everything that matters takes place inside a person’s head. The real world is irrelevant. It’s what you would expect of a religion that proclaims being nailed to a tree a great triumph. The avatar, the god on earth, of this creed enjoyed no worldly power or wealth or influence. He lived and died obscurely.

Victor: But that didn’t matter because, to them, the real world doesn’t matter.

Alexander: Whereas Mohammed, if we are to believe the standard biographical accounts - which, incidentally, I don’t, but that’s a another discussion for another time - became a successful bandit leader and enjoyed worldly power.

Victor: Europeans are allowing themselves to be nailed to a tree.

Alexander: They are living out the Christ fantasy.

Victor: And the nails are being driven in by Muslims, negroes and Jews.

Alexander: No, the Muslims and negroes are the nails. And the Jews are the ones driving them in.

Victor: Just like the first time.

Alexander: Yes. I’m haunted by the cyclical nature of what is happening to us.

Harriet: What do you mean?

Alexander: For example, the cycle of tyrants being overthrown by eager-eyed revolutionaries, determined to do good, who then become tyrants in turn. The determination to do good proves unavailing. People with power develop ideologies that justify their exercise of that power. These ideologies stigmatise those who challenge them as not just mistaken, but Evil. And once they have conceptualised their opponents as Evil, the powerful feel justified in oppressing and crushing them.

Tristram: And how does all of this spring from your discussion of “rational ethical standards”?

Alexander: Because the same substantive point was already made at the time of the Enlightenment. Voltaire, in the entry on Virtue in his Philosophical Dictionary, challenged the Catholic constellation of Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Courage, Faith, Hope and Charity. In essence, he said that the only real virtue was charity.

What is virtue? Beneficence towards the fellow-creature. Can I call virtue things other than those which do me good? I am needy, you are generous. I am in danger, you help me. I am deceived, you tell me the truth. I am neglected, you console me. I am ignorant, you teach me. Without difficulty I shall call you virtuous. But what will become of the cardinal and divine virtues? Some of them will remain in the schools. 
What does it matter to me that you are temperate? You observe a precept of health; you will have better health, and I am happy to hear it. You have faith and hope, and I am happy still; they will procure you eternal life. Your divine virtues are celestial gifts; your cardinal virtues are excellent qualities which serve to guide you: but they are not virtues as regards your fellow-creature. The prudent man does good to himself, the virtuous man does good to mankind. St. Paul was right to tell you that charity prevails over faith and hope. 
But shall only those that are useful to one's fellow-creature be admitted as virtues? How can I admit any others? We live in society; really, therefore, the only things that are good for us are those that are good for society. A recluse will be sober, pious; he will be clad in hair-cloth; he will be a saint: but I shall not call him virtuous until he has done some act of virtue by which other men have profited. So long as he is alone, he is doing neither good nor evil; for us he is nothing. If St. Bruno brought peace to families, if he succoured want, he was virtuous; if he fasted, prayed in solitude, he was a saint. Virtue among men is an interchange of kindness; he who has no part in this interchange should not be counted. If this saint were in the world, he would doubtless do good; but so long as he is not in the world, the world will be right in refusing him the title of virtuous; he will be good for himself and not for us.

Tristram: But isn’t the kindness he’s talking about an emotion? Something in the “subjective realm” as you put it?

Alexander: No, because he’s talking about acts of kindness not the emotion that inspires them. Later on, for example, when he talks about the Roman emperor Antonine, he makes it clear that it is the act and not the state of mind that matters.
A few theologians say that the divine emperor Antonine was not virtuous; that he was a stubborn Stoic who, not content with commanding men, wished further to be esteemed by them; that he attributed to himself the good he did to the human race; that all his life he was just, laborious, beneficent through vanity, and that he only deceived men through his virtues. "My God!" I exclaim. "Give us often rogues like him!" 

Tristram: So he performed acts of kindness not because he was a genuinely generous person, but because he wanted others to think well of him?

Alexander: Yes. Virtue is in the deed and not the thought, in the objective realm, and not the subjective realm. And the same issue now confronts us again: the elevation of the subjective realm over the objective realm. It’s ironic.

Tristram: Why is it ironic?

Alexander: Well, the Enlightenment was essentially the first real flourish of the Equality Cult. The philosophes saw themselves as overthrowing a tyranny of Unreason. But the irony is that all they did was establish a new tyranny based on a different kind of Unreason.

Victor: They thought they were overthrowing Religion but all they did was create a new one.

Alexander: The Religion of Equality.

Victor: And now it tyrannises us.

Alexander: And we must overthrow it.


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