of men and wokeness

we live in very strange times. or maybe it only happens on the internet. with all the wokeness doing the rounds, group identity, victimhood olympics and cancel culture one always finds themselves walking on glass shells when they are asked to mention who is their favourite anything. you start asking yourself whether you can still listen to R Kelly’s storm is over or do you cancel him; can you read Mencken on religion or will we cancel him because of his racism or cancel Nietzsche for his whip statement? It’s all tricky.

For some reason that I still yet don’t know, many of the works I admire greatly were written by people who are now dead. And for some reason they are mostly male. And with the woke brigade on their cancelling march, they too, might soon be cancelled.

Why am i writing all this? Well, I don’t know but i wanted to share this short essay i found yesterday written by Bertrand Russell before some woke person decides we must cancel him, especially now that people are being cancelled left right and centre.

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy — ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness — that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss.

I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem
too good for human life, this is what — at last — I have found.
With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart.
Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.
This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

What I have lived for by Bertrand Russell.

Have a cancel free Sunday.

Reflections on Education

Bertrand Russell argued that most education theorists have no children or if they had, are carefully screened from the turmoils of youth. They write their theories without any child in mind.

It is because we don’t respect children that we teach badly. If we respected their rights, we would educate them so as to give them the knowledge and the mental habits required for forming independent opinions.

To be a good teacher or educator, one must be filled with reverence for the other. It is because our educators lack in reverence that

we advocate for  machine-made cast-iron systems: militarism, capitalism, Fabian scientific organization, and all the other prisons into which reformers and reactionaries try to force the human spirit.

This post by Dr. Wandia is evidence we don’t have great regard for our children. If our educators had any, such wouldn’t happen.

Our education is designed for mediocrity through

its codes of rules emanating from a Government office, its large classes and fixed curriculum and overworked teachers

and this is coupled with the mistaken belief in some educators they have a duty to mould the child into some specific product.

A good educator, that is, one with reverence, in the presence of a child

feels an unaccountable humility—a humility not easily defensible on any rational ground, and yet somehow nearer to wisdom than the easy self-confidence of many parents and teachers

The state, the church and many institutions that offer education do not conduct it in a spirit of reverence, but are generally concerned with maintaining an existing order. And in any case, when the individual is considered, it is almost exclusively with a view to worldly success—making money or achieving a good position.

One area, he says, that instruction is harmful is religion and history. In most countries, history is taught as to magnify that country.

On religious education, he notes, and I quote at length

Elementary schools are practically always in the hands either of some religious body or of a State which has a certain attitude towards religion. A religious body exists through the fact that its members all have certain definite beliefs on subjects as to which the truth is not ascertainable. Schools conducted by religious bodies have to prevent the young, who are often inquiring by nature, from discovering that these definite beliefs are opposed by others which are no more unreasonable, and that many of the men best qualified to judge think that there is no good evidence in favor of any definite belief.

He observes, that as long as the aim of education is is to produce belief rather than thought, free inquiry will always be a dream, never attained. The end of education should, he writes, foster the wish for truth, not the conviction that some particular creed is the truth.

If this is the aim of education,

Instead of obedience and discipline, we ought to aim at preserving independence and impulse. Instead of ruthlessness, education should try to develop justice in thought. Instead of contempt, it ought to instill reverence, and the attempt at understanding; towards the opinions of others it ought to produce, not necessarily acquiescence, but only such opposition as is combined with imaginative apprehension and a clear realization of the grounds for opposition. Instead of credulity, the object should be to stimulate constructive doubt, the love of mental adventure, the sense of worlds to conquer by enterprise and boldness in thought. Contentment with the status quo, and subordination of the individual pupil to political aims, owing to the indifference to the things of the mind, are the immediate causes of these evils; but beneath these causes there is one more fundamental, the fact that education is treated as a means of acquiring power over the pupil, not as a means of nourishing his own growth.

our educators score between E and F.

If we took education seriously, we would treat as we treat victory in war. No expense would be spared in the instruction of children. We would employ as many teachers as would be required, we would provide the necessary facilities that would not only make learning enjoyable but also provide room for inquiry. We need more money to secure teachers with more leisure and with a natural love of teaching.

It cannot be said enough that discipline as it exists in our schools today is largely evil. There has been progress in banning corporal punishment in schools though we still have a majority of people who think, as is written in the bible, if you spare the rod, you spoil the child and would want to see a reintroduction of the same in schools.

Ruthlessness in the economic struggle will almost unavoidably be taught in schools so long as the economic structure of society remains unchanged. The examination system, and the fact that instruction is treated mainly as training for a livelihood, leads the young to regard knowledge, from a purely utilitarian point of view, as the road to money, not as the gateway to wisdom.

When he says

It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education. Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth—more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

I can’t help but nod my head.

But if the above is to be true for all of us, then fear must be shown the door. It is fear that holds men back—fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be.

In conclusion, he writes and I agree

No institution inspired by fear can further life. Hope, not fear, is the creative principle in human affairs. All that has made man great has sprung from the attempt to secure what is good, not from the struggle to avert what was thought evil. It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves a great result. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at a passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our efforts are to create. It should be inspired, not by a regretful hankering after the extinct beauties of Greece and the Renaissance, but by a shining vision of the society that is to be, of the triumphs that thought will achieve in the time to come, and of the ever-widening horizon of man’s survey over the universe. Those who are taught in this spirit will be filled with life and hope and joy, able to bear their part in bringing to mankind a future less somber than the past, with faith in the glory that human effort can create.

Teachers, the ball is on your court.

On property

By Bertrand Russell.

Bertrand Russell is known for many things. He wrote many essays on different subjects from mathematics to politics to metaphysics. He also wrote in defense of laziness. A text I will throw at anyone who tells me I shouldn’t be lazy. HE attempted, I think and I think did a fairly good job in his critique of socialism and expanded the thinking around syndicalism. I think his work on these two topics need to be revisited, if for anything, to see what is good in socialism and syndicalism that can make our world a better place to live in for all of us.

This post does not address his writings on those two topics. We are here concerned with his essay on property.

HE writes, concerning worship of material goods in his age thus

And in the modern world generally, it is the decay of life which has promoted the religion of material
goods; and the religion of material goods, in its turn, has hastened the decay of life on which it thrives.

He says the

the worshipper of money can never achieve greatness as an artist or a lover.

While admitting that the love of money has been denounced by moralists since the beginning of time, their denunciation seem to have had no effect and so he says he is not interested into adding to the list of moral denunciations.

It seems the average American has not changed. He writes

America, the pioneer of Western progress, is thought by many to display the worship of money in its most perfect form. A well-to-do American, who already has more than enough money to satisfy all reasonable requirements, very often continues to work at his office with an assiduity which would only be pardonable if starvation were the alternative.

In England, he says the worship of money is tied to a desire to maintain a certain class. In France it takes the form of thrift, and in Germany, it is associated with the state.

He notes all our political thought,

whether Imperialist, Radical, or Socialist, continues to occupy itself almost exclusively with men’s  economic desires, as though they alone had real importance.

The capitalist’s belief that production should be increased in amount by any possible means, he argues, is both irrational and ruthless. Irrational because, it generally does not matter what is produced, as long as it is produced. Ruthless because, it keeps the average person working for fear of losing their employment.

He argues and I generally agree that

When we are fed and clothed and housed, further material goods are needed only for ostentation.

The socialists’ solution to this problem is through state ownership of land and capital with a more just system of redistribution.

He identifies these four basic sources for legal property rights

  1. a man’s right to what he has made himself;
  2. the right to interest on capital which has been lent;
  3. the ownership of land; and
  4. inheritance

I am persuaded to agree with his claim that

Private property in land has no justification except historically through power of the sword.

This illegality has been maintained by the sword. The feudal lords who first made men serfs who forced to work for them to be granted permission to stay eventually saw the establishment of law to safeguard that which had been acquired by the sword.

Looking at the Kenyan situation, this

There is no justification for private property in land, except the historical necessity to conciliate turbulent robbers who would not otherwise have obeyed the law.

makes so much sense. Those who own the most land stole it. Be they white people owning ranches in Laikipia or the Kenyattas and other families that own big chunks of land in this country who now hoard it and only release to the market at exorbitant prices. I am tempted to add here, that the solution to our housing problem, especially in urban areas would be to revoke all private titles. Land should be held by the state to be leased to developers. No speculation on land be permitted.

It is indeed true that

It is a singular example of human inertia that men should have continued until now to endure the tyranny and extortion which a small minority are able to inflict by their possession of the land

Inheritance should not be a natural right. While it is true that men will earn different wages, say for example an inventor, there can be no good reason for allowing this privilege to descend to his children and grandchildren and so
on for ever.

While socialism aims chiefly at justice, this alone is not sufficient principle to base an economic reconstruction. What must be aimed at must aspire to keep alive in individuals creativeness, vigour, vitality, and the joy of life. What is wanted is opportunity. The economic system should

  1. should not cramp men’s private affections, and
  2. give the greatest possible outlet to the impulse of creation.

His comments on education have a timeless ring to them. He notes

Education suffers at present, and may long continue to suffer, through the desire of parents that their children should earn money as soon as possible.

I am persuaded that this holds true

it is of the very highest importance that capitalism should become the exception rather than the rule, and that the bulk of the world’s industry should be conducted on a more democratic system.

He proposes that cooperative movement and syndicalism, as means of achieving democracy in the industry be pursued.