Dec 1, 2020Liked by Resident Contrarian

I think a more likely fourth option for Kendi is something like "deluded", or, more charitably, "committed to an ideology I disagree with". It's not the same as "dumb", because sometimes intelligent people can be more deluded than less intelligent people. It's not consciously "lying", although it debatably involves self-deception. I think he genuinely believes the things he's saying, and that they are "true" from the point of view of his ideology, and for him to consider them false would require him to reject a whole, interconnected, self-reinforcing memeplex. (I suppose failing to do this could be called "lazy", but only by using a fairly contorted definition of "lazy" that demands higher standards of effort than we usually apply to ourselves or those we agree with.)

I also think this (deludedness, for want of a better word) is quite common - the same could be said of many people whose religious, economic or political ideology you strongly disagree with and who make claims that sound absurd but that follow sensibly from that ideology.

--Rachael (from DSL)

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To be honest (and acknowledging tha the Lewis' bit is just a hook for the argument on Kendi), I don't think Lewis ever proved Christ himself, as the Gospels present him or even as Paul presents His doctrine, ever claimed to be God. I don't even see any point on the Gospels where his enemies charged him with having claiming that, which for standard Jewish mores would be a scandal and reason enought to be put to death, as opposed to (somewhat) more mundane things such as being a false prophet, having a pact with Satan, threatening the Temple, wanting to be a king or claiming to be the Messiah.

As far as I can see, the Gospels present him claiming go be The Messiah, Son of man, anointed one, above the disciples and the rest of mankind, an unavoidable brinde between man and God, but systematically, Jesus put himself below the Father and claimed not knowing all the Father knows. The Trinitarian worldview does not make any sense -- and hasn't ever been sensibly explained -- but seems to deny the plain facts on the ground.

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Length Warning -- Sorry -- I think I will enjoy your Substack

I largely skipped Kendi / McWhorter b/c I don't know much about them nor that interested. I am unqualified to weigh in on Kendi/McWhorter. I believe, instead, their argument allows what is the complete history of the greater nation to be swept aside and ignored so that some point of order can be argued instead. They both seem, from the synopsis you provide as folks who "protesteth too much" as Shakespeare advised -- usually worth ignoring IMO.

As a lover of history and taking no position on the pernicious and special nature of racism, I'll have a go nevertheless. (1) Slavery was undoubtedly the original sin of this 'more perfect Union' IMO (2) Just finished a great book about the Fremonts and their role in the establishment of Texas and California and contribution to and inevitable Civil War after 75 years of incredible inhumanity driven and justified by the useful idiots providing coverage in Scripture (3) After about ten years and the worst conflict ever for Americans including the World Wars, we rolled up the tent and let abject inhumanity rein again for another ninety years with Jim Crow, the Klan, etal. These were far from Southern Institutions, they were American White men institutions. They were everywhere while it is comfortable for Americans to pretend otherwise. (4) Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 we had a new and profound chance to finally do the right thing. We enlisted black and white alike for WW2 and created the GREATEST TRANSFER of wealth opportunity in our history with the GI Bill. We had a chance to do the right thing. What happened? Guys like my Dad went to school and got a subsidized mortgage. African Americans who served were assigned dishonorable discharges at rates of about 90% conveniently excluding them from the American Dream, now with NEARLY 200 years in the rear view mirror. At every turn, since arrival, the consensus of the elite has always stomped on the head of a more perfect Union whether black, female, gay -- it never matters because what will always be true is the 70 year old people in charge will be PROFOUNDLY out of touch with the reality and will roll things back the first chance they get. (5) Finally the Civil Rights Act arrives in 1965 (+5 after my birth and +190 since the Founding). By 1980 good and honorable white men are sure the 15 years WAS WAY EXCESSIVE and its time for the end of Affirmative Action and decisions like Bakke. Our memories are short and our instinct consistently intolerant. This is best personified by a SCOTUS of inconceivable focus now nearly 250 years since the founding. I conclude Americans are profoundly uncomfortable with the mirror. (6) Against this backdrop it is perfectly reasonable for two men of sound mind to have settled about their worldview (Kendi & McWhorter) even though they seem wildly different in outlook. Both are true for people shaped by the very same world with very different entrance ramps.

I've read a lot of history books from a lot of different settings and points of view. It is VERY DIFFICULT to find an era of even 20 years wherein our better angels don't get pushed into the backseat and we reset to the calming good old days for the current 70 year olds in charge. It is the nature of our society for old men to remain at the apex and IMO that is the FUNDAMENTAL CHALLENGE to stability and progress. They have settled minds and they have settled in a past that no longer exists. Their ideas and worldview in the current age are SO ARCHAIC as to do profound damage to progress on matters of justice. For the same reasons they are unlikely challenged by their email, seeking their guidance is stupid IMO.

I am sure you might return to C.S. Lewis -- I look forward to it as his use of language and logic reminds me of some of the very slip-shod ways that Kendi/McWhorter seem to barge in and attribute motive to the person they are speaking of. The pattern repeats when anyone of arrogance tells someone else what they think.

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I'd add a fourth category: mistaken.

It happens, we're humans.

Bright people who have the mental capacity to understand something correctly, read it and understand it wrong.

Others have written arrogant, deluded, dogmatic, and referenced different world views, priors and data points.

I think "mistaken" adequately encompasses these, and is distinct from your trilemma.

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Perhaps looking at it from Kendi's point of view might be enlightening. If he applies the trilemma to McWhorter's review, it appears that he views McWhorter as dumb and unable to appreciate his argument. As with many smart people who are convinced of their arguments, he might have decided to not bother writing a clear rebuttal.

I think it's similar to someone who vociferously argues that calculus isn't logically coherent to a mathematician--The mathematician doesn't bother to mount a coherent argument to someone who just doesn't understand calculus.

The unfortunate thing is that being so dismissive to people with other viewpoints rarely works to advance your own.

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How about “dogmatic” as a category? Kendi is so convinced of the correctness of his ideas, that he believes that he simply does not have to address the challenger. I find this particularly ironic since that sort of dogmatism is usually at the core of racist ideologies.

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