Regression is Still Possible ... Enlightenment - Granite Grok

Regression is Still Possible … Enlightenment

Black and white

Black supremacy is the belief black people are inherently superior to others. From it flows the belief blacks should reign supreme. No decent person supports this idea. The same applies if we substitute white for the word black in the first two sentences of this paragraph.

Any attempt to sum up the characteristics of one race versus another leads to quicksand. Problem one: Deciding who fits the favorite racial or ethnic category and who doesn’t. It seems likely the preferred group will rationalize the exclusion of groups of people from their chosen race while forcing acceptance of allied groups.

Is Barack Obama black or white? He had one parent in each category. If half of a Mexican’s ancestors were European and half Mayan, is that person white? Even if we decide who’s white and who isn’t, what characteristics would make any particular person or group superior?

Characteristics

We can measure intelligence with some accuracy. What about compassion, empathy, perseverance, fortitude? Such things are nearly impossible to measure. If we could measure them we’d have to average them within the various races.

Black supremacy belongs in the trash heap of ideas. So does the idea of “blackness” espoused by many on the left. It is a concept akin to calling all whites crackers. We need to recommit to the ideals of the Enlightenment.

Do you know what they are? You can start looking for Black supremacy in Steven Pinker’s book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress”. More people really should give it a try.

What was the Enlightenment and why was it superior to other forms of social organization? Immanuel Kant calls it humanity’s emergence from submission to religious or political authority. He says it’s our turn toward the motto “Dare to Understand!”

The Enlightenment came in the early to mid-eighteenth century. Its roots are in the prior Age of Reason. Accompanying the intellectual blossoming was the ascendance in northern Europe of “bourgeois virtue.” That’s what Deirdre McCloskey calls it. Today it seems increasingly important to remember regression is still possible.

Benefits

This phrase refers to the respect that began to be granted to producers and traders. It coincides with a gradual decline of the dominance of aristocratic, religious, and military authority. People began to understand trade is based on mutual benefit. Trade comes with the side benefits of peace and prosperity. Command and control, regardless who exercise them are destructive of peace and prosperity.

Enlightenment ideas have spilled over to all parts of the world. Enlightenment ideals are universal, transcending race and ethnicity. What has the Enlightenment done for us? Well, if you want some milk you can walk into a convenience store and find a quart in the dairy case. The milk won’t be diluted or tainted. It will be for sale at a price you can afford. The store owner will let me walk out with it after a swipe of your card,

Now let’s go back in time two hundred and fifty years. Now explain that transaction to the average Joe. Where is our understanding, where is our gratitude? We owe the Enlightenment for the countless such blessings, large and small. That is what the Enlightenment and its consequences brought to us. Regression is still possible; do we have to test the statement?

In contemporary America we live our lives in comfort. We have opportunities unimaginable to our forebears. Heck our opportunities are unimaginable to our contemporaries in much of the world today. Our standard of living is at least thirty times what it was two hundred years ago. Not 30% better, thirty times better! And spread, unevenly to be sure, over a vastly larger population.

Ignorant and ungrateful

General Electric once proudly displayed as its slogan, “Progress is Our Most Important Product.” No more. The word is moribund. No group has done more to quash it than modern “progressives.” It is necessary to add; progress isn’t just about more stuff. It also includes better health, cleaner water, better schools, safer streets and so on?

All the latter have advanced dramatically since the Enlightenment. Such trends were documented numerically, at great length in Pinker’s previous book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature”. We take a lot for granted. History reminds us regression is still possible… unless we rewrite it.

We expect dependable electric power at the right voltage and frequency. Today we expect access to a responsive internet connection 24/7. Clean water out of the tap, safe and effective pills for my ailments, and so much more we take for granted. Regression is still possible. We seem to have lost sight of the fact that not all change has to be for the better.

These things weren’t given to us by politicians or clerics. They came from creative thinkers and doers. They’re part of our Enlightenment legacy. Progress isn’t automatic. Worse yet we can regress. We must understand and promote Enlightenment ideas and practices: Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress. These things require freedom, respect for life and property rights.