Tag Archives: injustice

“On Private Schools” by Umberto Eco

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

This is a very short essay included in Turning Back the Clock where Eco shares his thoughts on private schools, which he presents as being antithetical to democracy. I figured I would share a couple quotes.

And this is the situation in the United States: those with money can buy their children a good education; the children of those without money are condemned to semi-illiteracy. Hence the American state does not provide its citizens with equal opportunities.

(Turning Back the Clock: p. 98)

I admit that, if we leave things as they currently stand under the Constitution, we won’t be able to eliminate a certain amount of injustice: the rich will continue to send their children where they wish, while the poor are left in the hands of the state school system. But democracy also means accepting a tolerable quantity of injustice to avoid greater injustice.

(ibid: p. 101)

Personally, I have no problem with private schools. If someone can afford to send their kids to one, that’s fine. What I find offensive is the concept that people who elect to send their kids to private schools should be entitled to government funding in the form of vouchers, essentially taking educational funding away from those who need it. If you can afford tuition at a private school, you do not need state assistance. Demanding that you get this is the epitome of greed and selfishness. Just be grateful that you have the resources to provide an advantage for your kids. Lots of people would love to have that luxury.

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Filed under Non-fiction

“On Political Correctness” by Umberto Eco

TurningBackTheClock

This essay is included in Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism and explores how political correctness has influenced language. It’s an interesting topic and one I find pertinent, since language is always evolving and the words we use to identify groups or individuals affect our collective views on these groups or individuals.

As our culture strives to become more tolerant and accepting, society tries to avoid using labels that have negative connotations associated with them. This is a good thing and a step in the right direction, in my opinion. But Eco points out something that is worth considering. He claims that by changing the labels that we use to identify people, we are essentially creating a loophole that allows society to skirt the real social issues that need addressing.

The point here is that politically correct decisions can represent a way of avoiding unresolved social problems, disguising them with a more polite use of language. If we stop calling people in wheelchairs handicapped or even disabled (they are differently abled) but fail to build them access ramps to public areas, we have clearly—and hypocritically—got rid of the word but not the problem. The same may be said of the replacement of unemployed with involuntarily leisured.

(Turning Back the Clock: pp. 90 – 91)

Eco also points out another issue with political correctness, that some people see it as an infringement on free speech. This is a can of worms and I am going to stay out of this argument, but I felt it was worth including just as something to think about.

… from the start PC caused a violent reaction in conservative circles, who see it as a case of left-wing bigotry and a curtailment of free speech. Reference is often made to Orwell’s newspeak and (sometimes directly) to the official language of Stalinism. Many of these responses are equally bigoted, and in fact there is a right-wing form of PC, just as intolerant as the left-wing brand. Think of the abuse hurled against those who talk of the Iraqi “resistance.”

(ibid: p. 94)

Eco closes his essay by asserting that we should all strive to avoid using words that make others uncomfortable or cause others to suffer.

And let us stick to the fundamental principle that it is humane and civilized to eliminate from current usage all those words that make our fellow beings suffer.

(ibid: p. 96)

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Filed under Literature, Non-fiction

Magneto: Issue #3 – Segregation and the Liminal

Magneto_03

This is an excellent installment that deals with some deep social issues, particularly segregation and the hardships faced by people living on the edge of society.

Liminal people are individuals who are transitory or exist on the fringe. Most often, they are homeless or migrant workers, people who have not been able to occupy a space within the construct we call “normal society.” Often, seeing luminal people makes us uncomfortable. There could be several reasons for this: fear that we are just a few paychecks away from losing what we have; a sense of guilt or shame at seeing others that we cannot aid; and yes, self-righteous disdain and disregard for people we judge as lazy and hence inferior to ourselves.

Issue #3 opens with a scene in a tent city, where homeless people on the fringe of society have tried to build a community for themselves. Like all luminal groups, mainstream society does not want to see them or think about them, and the government officials are quick to find reasons to displace these individuals, pushing them farther away from society.

Female agent: The man you aided…Magneto…is a wanted terrorist.

Homeless man: I…I only gave him soup.

Male agent: Tell us where he went and this will go much better for you.

Homeless man: If I could help you, I would.

Female agent: I hope you understand we feel the same way. We may have additional questions for you. In the meantime, one of the officers will be along shortly to help you…in moving off-site.

Homeless man: But…this…is our home.

I lived in South Florida for many years. That area boasts an abundance of gated communities intended to provide a sense of safety and security to those who choose to live enclosed by gates and walls. It is, in essence, a self-inflicted segregation, separating themselves from others who they fear, who may be different, and who do not fit into the same social mold. I lived in one of these places and I can assure you, there is no sense of community there. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I actually felt more isolated in this manufactured “community” than I do in my current, organic and integrated neighborhood.

In this issue of Magneto, the humans who fear the mutants seek to create their own “gated community” which will provide them with their false sense of protection against those who are different and hence threatening.

“This is meant to be a peaceful refuge for humans…for those who fear what mutants might do…what they might become. Once the facility is complete…we’ll be protected. We’ll be protected because we’ll be segregated.”

This comic forces us to take a hard look at ourselves, at our beliefs and our actions. The media has a tendency to fuel the fires of fear and many respond in a manner that is not in the best interest of society. We extract ourselves, isolating from those that we do not understand and hence make us feel afraid. Fear is often the root of social injustice. I think it is a pretty safe assumption that a society based on fear is doomed to fail. I hope that we can replace some of our fear with trust and acceptance.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my post.

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Filed under Literature