Anyone who is interested in speaking to current events can do so in either one of two ways. The dominant mode is to comment from within the framework of the conventional wisdom. Let’s call this approach “Internalism.”
Thus far, every bit of commentary to which the public has been exposed is a function of Internalism. From Black Lives Matter and Antifa terrorists and their apologists who insist that America remains an incorrigibly, systemically “racist” society to conservative scribblers, talking heads, and Republican politicians who argue that it is not—all, to a man and woman, are Internalists.
There, is though, an alternative vantage point: “Externalism.”
The Externalist speaks to present circumstances, but does so indirectly, by way of transcending the whole framework. The Externalist refuses to play the Big Game.
And he refuses to play the Game precisely because he knows that it is a game.
Despite the differences in emphasis and party affiliation, all Internalists, like actors partaking of any theatrical production, accept the same script: “Anti-racists” dogmatically declare, through heated rhetoric and violent action alike, that America is a homicidally “racist” place against blacks, while measured, calm, sympathetic moderates, conservatives, and Republicans try to persuade them (as if rational persuasion could possibly succeed) that, “while racism still exists,” it is not remotely as dreadful and ubiquitous as the “anti-racists” say it is.
Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
The Externalist, in glaring contrast, would view the whole show of the present “national dialogue” with amusement if he hadn’t already seen it play out so many times in the past. Yet whether all of the actors know that the reality to which they refer is only as real as any other fiction is beside the point.
The Externalist knows that the Internalists are all peddling in fictions.
The most fundamental of all philosophical problems, that which initiated the rise of philosophy in the West some 2600 years ago, is the problem of Realty and Appearance. The problem lay in the fact that while knowledge of reality depends upon what appears to be real, we also accept that appearances don’t always coincide with facts.
So, this being the case, how can we genuinely know when appearances correlate with reality and when they do not?
The ancients, whether Westerner or Easterner, all recognized this as a question that demanded an answer, and every philosophical tradition was devised to meet that demand.
The wisdom traditions of the world, originating, as they did, prior to the advent of modern (Western) philosophy, converged on the idea that, as Socrates famously maintained, to know the good is to do the good. It’s not much of a stretch to say that the so-called “fact-value” distinction that has prevailed in the modern imagination is about as peculiar to modernity as is the automobile, the television, and the internet.
For the ancients, the descriptive and the normative, the “is” and the “ought,” are one and the same. Knowledge and virtue are indeed the unity that Socrates was convinced they are: It requires the moral excellence of courage to reckon with the world as it is.
Modern Western philosophers are delusional insofar as they have thought it possible to deny this. As even such prominent atheist-leaning thinkers ranging from Friedrich Nietzsche to Sean Paul Sartre to John Dewey realized, the very concept of truth, being inherently objective, is intrinsically inseparable from belief in God, i.e. belief in a Person.
Jesus, more than anyone ever, reinforced this universal intuition when He made it official, so to speak, and revealed this for all with eyes to see. To the extent that Truth is a value that human beings assign to or, more accurately, discern within the phenomena of the world, and values are always, necessarily, the function of intelligence, of mind (a universe of brute matter, assuming that it is even conceivable, would have to be devoid of value), truth, we all implicitly know, must be inherently of a personal character.
Christ also crystallized the innate human sense that Truth, being personal, is not, ultimately, a set of abstract propositions, principles, or ideals that elicits no more than mere intellectual assent. Those who seek Truth must aspire to embody it, to saturate every fiber of their being with it. Since Truth, including, paradoxically, the pursuit of Truth, inescapably brings about the fundamental transformation of one’s worldview, it just as inescapably produces a fundamental transformation in one’s character. This is what Jesus was getting at when He informed Nicodemus that embrace of Truth requires of the Truth-seeker that he be born again. Saul of Tarsus, from his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and his subsequent transformation into Paul, knew that of which his Lord spoke, and would express this discovery to the Corinthians in terms of their becoming a “new creation” in Christ—in Truth.
The decision to affirm Truth is the commitment to know reality as it is. This is one and the same as the commitment to make transform oneself into a virtuous human being.
Conversely, the decision, whether conscious or otherwise, to reject Truth in favor of the Lie, reality in favor of Unreality, is the decision to make oneself into a vicious person.
There is a third point upon which there existed a universal, trans-cultural consensus among the planet’s wisest men:
Most human beings will prefer the flaccidity of their fantasies to the hardiness of reality.
The contemporary Western world, and America specifically, is all of the proof that was ever needed that the human condition has not changed.
The idea that American police officers are proxy for the majority white population in the latter’s mission to exterminate as many unassuming, innocent blacks as possible is the biggest of the Big Lies.
And most people, black, white, and other, know, if not consciously, then at least at some level within themselves, that it is a lie.
Yet they’d prefer, like most people have preferred historically, to not just neglect the Truth, but to crucify it. The question, though, is why?
I submit that the same set of reasons that accounts for why people have always opted for mere appearance over reality, the Lie over Truth, accounts for why contemporary Americans (and their counterparts in Europe) choose to embrace the Racism-Industrial-Complex’s lies now. As has always been the case, and as remains the case currently, the vices of ignorance (which is always, in some respect, willful), arrogance, moral posturing, and intemperance accompany dishonesty.
However, uniting these hideous character flaws is one that, ultimately, is even more fundamental.
That vice is nothing more or less than the vice of fear.
It is fear—primal, raw fear—that explains why the lies of Black Lives Matter, the latest face of the Racism-Industrial-Complex, has succeeded in drawing as much support as they have.
In the next essay, I will address this role of fear.