Showing posts with label ethics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ethics. Show all posts

July 10, 2023

There's an ethical lesson to be learned from the collapse of the Dutch government over immigration policy


By Hal Brown

Here's a basic summary of what inspried todays blog from CNN

Below are three points which address what I consder to be basic ethical concerns. They are from this New York Times (subscription) article from July 7th.

  1. “One of the values that are important with the proposals is that children grow up with their parents,” a statement by the Christian Union party said. “As a family party, that is what we stand for.” The party said it wanted to work with “heart and soul for a humane and effective migration policy.”
  2. The large numbers of arrivals have strained the Netherlands’ housing capacity, which was already suffering a shortage for the country’s more than 17 million people.
  3. “Everybody wants to find a good, effective solution that also does justice to the fact that this is about human lives,” the finance minister, Sigrid Kaag, a member of the D66 party, said before the talks began.
The belief that there is a moral imperative for being willing to sacrifice your own comfort, up to your own life in extraordinary circumstances, is a core tenet of all or most of the world's religions and a basis for the philosophy of ethics. 

As Wiki explains, "ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrongvirtue and vicejustice and crime."

Whether in the Netherlands or the United States the immigration of people fleeing persecution, sometimes risking their lives to do so, has been a major divisive poltical issue.

At the most simple level this boils down to actually giving up something tangible, for example in the Netherlands better housing capacity or something intangible like in the United States and other countries the sharing of your country with people of other ethnic and relgious backgrounds and life styles.

From immigration to human rights for everyone including groups not only demonized by Trump and more blatantly (if we ever thought this was possible by a right-winger) by DeSantis, but also like Marine Le Pen in France, it's all about ethics. More specifically it is about a lack of ethics.

When I was considering writing this I shared some of my ideas with a dear friend whose parents survived a NAZI concentration camp. She reminded me of this line from "The Diary of Anne Frank": 

“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
She wrote this about a month before she and her family were arrested.

Anne Frank was in her early to mid-teens when in hiding and we can speculate that despite the abject fear she lived with knowing what she and her family's fate could be, she depserately tried to maintain her optimistic view that deep down all people were good at heart.

To contemplate that this is not demonstrated in real life and that while there are people who try to live their lives adhering as best as they can to an ethical code, there are those who, to put it bluntly, are just plain evil

By conincidence in relationship to my writing this blog about Dutch politics, this was written when she and he family were in hiding in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

During World War II the NAZI's occupied the Netherlands and about 75% of the Jews living their were sent to concentration camps where most of them were killed.

Between 25,000  and 34,000 Jews fled from Germany in the 1930's. For more see The Holocaust in The Netherlands from Wikipedia.

Dutch citizens had engaged in a valient and fierce resistance againt the NAZI's which you can read about here.

Also by chance, as I did some research about the Netherlands and the Holocaust I came across tis article:

The article begins with a reference to Anne Frank:

The story of teenage diarist Anne Frank is known across the world. But a new survey suggests a “disturbing” lack of awareness about the Holocaust in the Netherlands, where she and her family hid for years before being discovered and deported to a Nazi concentration camp.

and goes on as follows:

A Dutch Holocaust survivor and Jewish cultural leaders have expressed dismay at the survey, which was released Wednesday and suggests that more than half of the residents were not aware of the deportation and murder of Jews from the country during World War II.

The survey, conducted and released by the New York-based nonprofit Claims Conference ahead of International Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday, found that 53% of the respondents couldn’t identify the Netherlands as a country where the events of the Holocaust happened — rising to 60% among millennial and Gen Z respondents, meaning those under 40.

Historians estimate more than 70% of the Netherlands’ prewar Jewish population was killed during the Holocaust, more than 100,000 in total. Frank hid in a secret room in Amsterdam with her family from 1942 to 1944 before she died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp weeks before its liberation.

I can do no better than to end this blog with a quote from Mark Lezer who was six when the NAZI's invaded the Netherlands and who lost family in the Holocaust. He said it is imperative that the story of the Holocaust should never be allowed to fade from memory.

“Because if you don’t know enough about the Holocaust and you do not know that so many people died because of the Nazi persecution, then you do not know enough to be realistic about the future.”

This should go not only for the Dutch, but for everyone whose country is facing a push by authoriatians who envision ruling over a country not too different than what Hitler wanted for Germany.

July 4, 2023

Is common sense on its deathbed in the United States?


Top: Poster in Mulder and Scully's
X-Files office, bottom, illustration
from Wikipedia entry for wishful thinking
showing a little boy imagining his cart
is being pulled by a real horse.

By Hal Brown

Forget about lamenting the lack of sophisticated critical thinking ability among a large part of the population. Expecting this for more than half the population is too much because it requires a combination of above average intelligence (half the people have below average IQ's) and both the desire and ability to make the effort to analyze all the elements required to differentiate fact from fiction.

To have common sense only requires that a person follows a few simple rules when reaching conclusions. An important one, perhaps the most important, is to want to know the truth. This involves having an open mind and being will to admit that there's a chance that what you believe may not be the whole truth. 

It also means that you understand that what you want to believe may not be true. Ideally the average person should be able to understand the power of wishful thinking even if they have no grasp of the concept of confirmation bias, i.e., searching for, interpreting, favoring and recalling information in a way that confirms or supports one's beliefs or values.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines wishful thinking in three ways: 

  1. Thinking in which what one wishes were the case is believed to be real or likely to become real.
  2. The illusion that what one would like is actually true.
  3. Decision-making based on self-delusion.

Note that the first is a way of thinking, the second is having an illusion, and the third is making decisions based on delusions. The latter is indicative of or at least suggestive of someone having a psychiatric disorder. 

It is frightening that what we are observing in the country today is that a large number of people, from GOP politicians to ordinary people, are making decisions based on things that they wish were true because they support their beliefs but are outright lies. Some are comparatively benign like that Biden stole the election from Trump. Others are can lead to violence, for example that members of the LGBTQ community are dangerous pedophiles.

We have members of Congress spouting QAnon conspiracy nonsense which can lead to mentally ill people committing violent acts.

It's one thing to vote for someone because you believe an exaggeration like this:

It is entirely different to vote for someone because you believe they will save you from someone who is out to destroy your country. 

There is a sobering irony in all of this. This is that the leading Republican candidates for president are all intent on turning the country in an authoritarian direction which disenfranchises minority groups or worse. You don't need to be a critical thinker to reach this conclusion. This is common sense.

The incontrovertible fact is that the two most likely Republican candidates not only spout lies but base their campaigns on them. We can only speculate whether they believe their lies or not. If they do they are delusional. If not they are counting on the lack of common sense among people they hope will vote for them.


In a subscriber only newsletter Paul Krugman in The NY Times writes (in the context of an article about the economy titled Biden and the bad news bros)

...that technology billionaires are especially susceptible to the belief that they’re uniquely brilliant, able to instantly master any subject, from Covid to the war in Ukraine. They could afford to hire experts to brief them on world affairs, but that would only work if they were willing to listen when the experts told them things they didn’t want to hear. So what happens instead, all too often, is that they go down the rabbit hole: Their belief in their own genius makes them highly gullible, easy marks for grifters claiming that the experts are all wrong.
To me this demonstrates that even highly intelligent people can lack common sense.

Nixon and Kennedy were evenly matched intellectually in their first debate. Nixon lost because of how he looked on TV. Trump may lose because he "loses it" on TV. By Hal Brown, MSW

  Read: Team Biden bets an unfiltered Trump at the debate can shake up the race GOP pollster Frank Luntz said the June 27 faceoff will be &q...