Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On the Role of Perspective

I'm amazed at the fine line between what we call indoctrination and what we call education.  If I were to go to... say, Texas, and teach a class that guns are dangerous and bad, a lot of people would be up in arms declaring that I am indoctrinating their children.  However, if I were to go up to someplace stereotypically liberal, we'll say New York City, and teach the same thing, a lot of people would applaud me for giving their children a good education.  Therefore, the difference between education and indoctrination is not whether or not the material is or is not doctrinal, but who's doctrine it is.

We teach our children all sorts of things that could be considered indoctrination.  In a world of 7 billion perspectives, there is virtually nothing that someone doesn't consider a good education and someone else consider brutish indoctrination.  History, as we reflect upon it, is not black and white, but painted in billions of shades.  We look at various events and paint them with our values and glance at them with lenses affected by our own lives.  We look at the American Revolution as a glorious fight for liberty and independence and we look at the Bolshevik Revolution as this bloody Communist overthrow.  Both were revolutions, both for the overthrow of oppression and tyranny, but the way we view them is (usually) vastly different.  Our perspectives affect the way we look back on history.
Commie Bastards!

Oh so noble!

In addition to understanding history the way we want to understand it, we often like to draw analogies between current events and historical events (provided the historical event is understood they way we want it to.)  Hence, some people suggested that the struggle for Civil Rights is analogous to the Abolitionist Movement, having interpreted both as a great and noble endeavor.  In reality, while there are similarities between the two occasions, they are not actually analogous.  This phenomenon of drawing analogies between completely different events in history only further goes to show that history is laced with perspective.  Like indoctrination/education and historical perspectives, the way we draw analogous comparisons between events in our past goes to show us that the way we look at the world is not objective; it is subjective.

So what am I getting at?  The red equal signs all over Facebook of course!  Its amazing to me that a simple mass change of profile pictures can change a website otherwise relegated to pictures of food and games of Words With Friends into a veritable cyber war zone.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I do not support the idea of homosexual marriage, however, that's not entirely what I'm getting at.  This is what I'm getting at:

This picture, to the extent that it is meant as an argument to convince you to support one side or another, is ridiculous.  Unfortunately, I am willing to reckon that this sentiment is precisely why most people support the cause for gay marriage; not necessarily because they have weighed the options, but because they have seen people draw analogies between the Civil Rights movement and the Gay Rights movement, and decide they want to be on the "right" side.

Let's make this painfully clear:  Just because you want the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement to be analogues of each other does not mean that they are analogues.  Just because the Civil Rights movement is considered just and noble by most modern folk (including myself, wholeheartedly) does not mean that any modern day movement that appears similar is also just and noble.  The Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement are entirely separate historical events, and any similarity between the two is far more complicated than simply asserting that they are the same.

Regardless of which side of the argument you support, avoid the fallacy of historical perspective.  If you have decided your side because you're afraid of how the history books will write the story, you're lacking good reasons for your positions.  History really is written by the victors, and the victors aren't necessarily right.

It could very well be the case that the Supreme Court decides to allow gay marriage.  I predict it will be so.  I am fully aware that I will probably look really bad in the history books 40 years from now.  But I also am completely convinced that I am right, regardless of how those who will come after me will see me.  The difference between indoctrination and education is not in what you teach, but how people view what you teach.  The difference between the reputation of George Washington and that of V.I. Lenin is not whether or not they were right in their revolutions, but who is the one perceiving their history.

History will be written in whatever light people choose.  What is important is to see beyond modern perceptions and unearth universal principles.  Rather than picking the "winning" side, people ought to pick the  right side, the true side.  Who cares what the books will read:  Do the *right* thing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On the Election of His Holiness Pope Francis

God bless the pundits and the policymakers.  God bless the talking heads of the world who speak their opinion through media outlets and offices the world over.  God bless them, because as influential as they may be in our world, there are forces more pervasive and things more real than the opinions of pundits and decisions of policymakers.  This was shown in great energy and exuberance all over the world through a puff of smoke and two simple words: Habemus Papam.

Our world is drowning in opinions of every sort.  Every moment of every day, we use our abundance of technology and sophistication to voice opinions of every sort, to the point where the world is saturated in the deafening roar of opinions.  Now, I cringingly notice that my blogging is contributing to this, but if you can't beat them, join them.  However, I am so extremely happy that the world is not just a pot pourri of opinion and policy.  While opinions are important and all, and certainly should be expressed, debated, and developed, there has to be something more real than opinion, something more sublime than the policy decisions of whichever person or entity is in power.

Many people have taken the opportunity to say what they think the new Pope should and shouldn't do.  Change this, reinforce that, deal with this, defend against that, etc. etc.  Everyone seems to have an opinion regarding the new successor of Peter and what sort of views he should hold and policies he should institute, and the terrible risk of this is that we can reduce the Pope to a mere ideological talking head, just like the rest of us.  We reduce the Chair of Peter to a really old and really loud megaphone through which we might scream and shout whatever sort of views or policies that the current iteration of old celibate churchman might hold.  The Pope is certainly called to be chief pastor and evangelist of the Church, but there is something so much more powerful to the Petrine ministry than merely proclaiming a view.

We see this clearly in the proclamation of the Cardinal Proto-deacon on the balcony of the Basilica of St. Peter: "Habemus Papam! (We have a Pope!)"  With two words, the Church of 1.2 billion people erupted in joyous celebration the world over.  This is not the joy of opinionated people celebrating the career advancement of another opinionated person.  This is not partisans celebrating the triumph of their particular candidate to office.  The joy of the Roman Catholic Church is the joy children have for a father, the joy that the beloved have for their lover, joy of love and not of success.

The Pope is more than a pundit or a policy maker. Before we consider anything the Pope does, we must consider who he is: He is a pastor, a shepherd with a flock, a father with 1.2 billion children.  Presidents exist because we the people decided a president ought to exist.  Pundits exist because we the people choose to tune in and log on to see what they have to say.  Pundits and policymakers exist to serve a purpose; they are jobs to be done.  The Pope is not so.  Shepherds don't exist because the flock got together and decided they ought to exist.  Fathers don't exist because the children decide to listen to what they say.  More important than what the Pope says or does is who the Pope is.

To Catholics throughout time and space, the Pope is.  He is vicar of Christ, carrying with him the authority that Jesus Christ gave to Peter two millenia ago.  We do not shout and whoop and holler because our preferred Cardinal got a job, because they papacy is more than a job.  Ask your father if being a father is a job.  He may say it requires a lot of work, but being a father is no 9 to 5 matter.  There is no off time to being a father, because a father is not what you do, its who you are.  So it is with the Pope, not a job, not a civil servant, but our Holy Father, Vicar of Christ and Prince of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.  We, the Holy Roman Catholic Church are celebrating because, in the face of Pope Francis, we see more than what the Pope does, we see who the Pope is: the loving action of God, working through a man once known as Bergoglio, blessing his children here on earth.  We, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, are joyful to know that God loves us so much that he uses something so simple as a man to be Father to us all through time and space.  And we, the Holy Roman Catholic Church are so very exuberant to have a Holy Father, Pope Francis.  Viva Il Papa!