One of the hardest things for those a progressive disposition to understand is that morality is not a feature of their reason. They also do not understand at all that cultural dislocation — the sense of being incredibly at odds with the entire culture you are in once you’ve moved out of your old one — is primarily a cultural issue, and not a moral one.
To accept such seems to be the hardest thing for many progressives, on so many levels. Because what it means is that just by having moral insight into a matter, one does not have the power — even potentially, or if the whole world adopts a progressive’s disposition — to alleviate the distress of millions.
One desperately wants to believe that by working hard to correct one’s personal flaws, and by drawing up a blueprint for a genuine incorporation of peoples of all races into society’s fray on an equal footing, one can thereby ameliorate the inequalities that the new refugees or migrants to which they had previously been accustomed.
Really hot to trot progressives will go so far as to determine depths and degrees of suffering by doing some research into the historical circumstances of any country, in order to develop a clear idea of who has suffered how much, and therefore how much amelioration they require in terms of acceptance and respect for having suffered.
Viewing things in these terms is entirely appropriate.
Yet the Western progressive ought to understand a little better than he or she perhaps does that her standards for the measurement of suffering are, in fact, Western standards, and not the standards of the cultures from which the bedraggled refugees in fact originate. Also, that the colour of the skin, or indeed, the fact of being implicated on one side or another of a war that happened overseas, does not and cannot in any way determine the depth and degree of anybody’s subjective suffering. In particular one should realise that you cannot how much somebody has suffered. Historical and social skills give you, at best, the basis for making a strong hypothesis — no more.
For instance, upon my reading of Marechera I discovered that one does not suffer “because one is black”. One suffers because one is culturally dislocated and probably has attendant localised racism to deal with, to make that worse. Rare is the person who only has sexism or racism to deal with, to make their lives a misery. It is usually (speaking from personal experience) the cultural aspects of identity that cut one deepest — making one feel worse.
Consider, now, that even whites can suffer. Victor de Waal states in THE POLITICS OF RECONCILIATION:
The losers’ graves remain places of private grief. No further
memorials have been erected in the cathedral. Is it surprising that some should be clinging still to the beliefs that urged them to their deaths? (p 86)
Do you want to know why whites do not forget “The old Rhodesia”? Can you guess the answer? It is because they LOST the war and thereby lost the meanings of their lives, their hopes, their destination, their dreams and the familiarity of a world that could make sense for them all at once! They cannot adapt to the present because their present worlds do not make for them a lot of sense.
AND THERE IS LITTLE THAT IS MORAL ABOUT THIS FACT.
–It is not the result of some kind of system of natural justice at work in the nature of things. It is not an outcome of some divine providence. If they had had more military power, or more combined resources, they could have won their war of oppression. Their winning or losing of the war was in itself a practical issue — not, specifically, a moral one.
Morality does not — let us be sure about this fact — assure that the good always come out on top and the bad sink to the bottom of society. If that were truly the case, there would be no need for progressive justice. Think about it.
And if, for some reason, the ‘bad guys’ that you want to lose do in fact lose — and the ‘good guys’ that you want to win actually come out on top for a change — then that has everything to do with how resources of power have been deployed in order to force an issue. Every time.
IT IS STILL NOT A MORAL OUTCOME BUT A PRACTICAL ONE!
So, where does morality even fit in? — It fits in with the intellectual and ideological rigour that you can develop to enhance your personal understanding.
Do you see a black person and think, “goodness, let me see how I can help them!”
Do you see a white person and think, “well, history dealt you out a nice comeuppance, and righteously
If so, you have not even learned a beginner’s moral lessons about how to treat people:
Morality isn’t the attitude you adopt in order to shine socially or academically — social climbing on the basis of your professed powers of discernment.
Morality, for all that it is not, is actually the insight that you start to have when you discover that injustice is inherent to life, and start to know that nobody deserves to be treated on the basis of their origins and/or skin colour. I would like to hold you responsible for not getting to know others through their culture, however. I’m unpleasant in that way.