Thank you, Steve Earle! “Mississippi: It’s time”

Steve Earle & the Dukes, in collaboration with the Southern Poverty Law Center, have written & released a beautiful and moving song telling Mississippi “It’s Time.” Beyond writing a great tune, Earle has also done something he’d probably be too humble to admit. Through a work of art, he has contributed to moral leadership. He has creatively called Mississippi officials to change a policy. He leans heavily and justifiably on a number of Southern and Mississippi values. He’s right. Mr. Earle & the Dukes, thank you.

Photo of the splash screen for Steve Earle & the Dukes' music video for "Mississippi, It's Time."

I’m working on a book called A Culture of Justice. It’s about the cultural conditions necessary for justice. It’s also about the cultural forces that can lead to oppression and its maintenance or to justice and its preservation. When journalists started reporting to the world with photos of the injustices in the American South, southerners were shamed. The rest of the world was also appalled and demanded change and the observance of the law.

The Mississippi state flag. When it comes to Mississippi, some folks are right when they say that just changing a flag alone won’t change much. However, the things that need to change are impeded by attitudes and moral injuries that prevent progress. I wrote elsewhere about “What a Flag Has to Do with Justice.” In short, it can do harm, even if indirectly or in a roundabout way, in its contribution to the maintenance of an unjust culture.

The wonderful thing about culture and its artifacts, however, is that they also include solutions. Earle’s song is a great example of a way to show pride in one’s family and home, while recognizing the mistakes from society’s past. The song is complex. It weaves in norms and sounds that many Mississippians love, even if they were painful in their own ways too. To understand Earle, you have to recognize that he’s trying to reach people in Mississippi and wants reasonably to be proud of what we should be and not of what he shouldn’t be.

I find the video moving and brilliant. I hope you’ll share it widely and tell our public officials: “it’s time.”

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Philosophy Lies at the Heart of Mississippi Education Debate

Originally published in The Clarion Ledger, September 6, 2015, 2C

Click here for a full-sized Adobe PDF scan of the artile.

Click for a printable PDF scan.

Mississippians have been entangled in a deep philosophical debate about education funding for months, though attention has focused largely on technical details. Ballot initiative 42 that will be decided this November asks: “Should the state be required to provide for the support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?” If voters pass the initiative, they would be demanding an amendment to the state Constitution making that requirement explicit.

This is a photo of the top of the scan of my Clarion Ledger article, 'Philosophy at Heart of Mississippi Education Debate.' If you click on this image, it will open a full-size, printable Adobe PDF scan of the original piece in the paper.

People who want voters to choose “yes” explain that such a requirement should be enforceable in the courts. Without that, a parent would have no recourse when his or her child must attend a chronically underfunded and failing school.

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The Newspaper Test for Twitter and Gyges’s Ring

Cover page of an old version of Plato's Republic.This week, while my Philosophy of Leadership class has been covering Plato’s Republic & the story of Gyges’s ring, I was presented with a Twitter-style version of the story. In the Republic, Plato’s Socrates is talking with people about justice. People only act justly if they can’t get away with injustice, say Socrates’s friends. Well, in today’s world, it turns out that if you can get away with breaking the rules, you can get a lot of Twitter followers quickly. Some high profile people break those rules and get away with it. And, some don’t get away with it.

This is the full size of the image of the cover of Gyges' Ring, featuring a gold band with a red jewel.

I am convinced of the need for more public philosophy and feel compelled to contribute as best I can. I’d like to reach more people with the messages that I think need to be said and heard. Apparently you can reach more folks and more will follow you if you first pay a service to generate 10,000 fake followers for you over a few weeks’ time. Why? People with lots of followers are more likely to get followed in return. They’re also more likely to be proposed to other people as good candidates for following, speeding the cycle. What’s the catch? It goes against Twitter policy to pay for fake activity, including following or posting.

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“You know you’re doing things right when unreasonable people don’t want you around. #PublicPhilosophy”
@EricTWeber
September 1, 2015

“The Nonsense of Beating Sense into Kids: Corporal Punishment in Public Schools”

The Prindle Post
September 1, 2015

Photo of a hand holding a wooden paddle in a school classroom.I’ll post the full article here in a few weeks to archive it on my site. For now, go read it on The Prindle Post. I am impressed with what the folks at Depauw University are up to in Indiana, at their Prindle Institute for Ethics. Their periodical is the new way to publish, without a doubt. Newspapers are great, but those folks starting out on the Web don’t have to worry about how best to transition. They’re more than a blog and don’t have the cumbersome print concerns.

If you’re interested in the issue of corporal punishment in our public schools, check out my 2013 interview with SVT Nyheter, Sweden’s national TV news service. Soon, I’ll post my Clarion Ledger article from earlier that year on the topic. That article was part of what caught the attention of the Swedish TV folks. When I post that article, I’ll update this post with a link.

“‘Acceptance & Happiness with Stoicism,’ Ep1 of Philosophy Bakes Bread”
by Eric Thomas Weber

Sorry, listening to the audio on this website requires Flash support in your browser. You can try playing the MP3 file directly by clicking here.

Philosophy Bakes Bread
March 14, 2015

PBB-Logo-1-itunesHere’s episode 1 of Philosophy Bakes Bread, titled “Acceptance & Happiness with Stoicism.” You can listen to it here above or you can visit the podcast’s page for this episode here. You can subscribe to the podcast’s RSS feed here. If you prefer, you can download the MP3 file here and listen to it later.

iTunes has it too, though for some reason as I post this the episodes are out of order.

“Acceptance & Happiness with Stoicism”

This first episode of Philosophy Bakes Bread presents a very personal story about how stoic philosophy can make a profound difference for the better in our lives when we encounter difficulties beyond our control.

The transcript for this episode is available here.

Check out the other episodes of Philosophy Bakes Bread here.

Finally, if you’d prefer to “watch” the podcast on YouTube, here it is:

If you prefer that format, here’s a playlist of the podcast episodes on my YouTube channel.

The logo for WDAM Hattiesburg, MS, channel 7.Looking forward to giving an interview about Uniting Mississippi on WDAM’s television news, channel 7.

 

Date: January 29, 2016
Time: 11:45 a.m. -12:20 p.m.
Appearance: Interview on Uniting Mississippi with WDAM of Hattiesburg, MS
Outlet: WDAM, Channel 7, Hattiesburg, MS
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Format: Television

If you're interested in inviting me to speak with your group, visit my speaking page.

Cartoon by Kevin Frank on gluttony and religious reasons to refuse people services, 2015. Visit http://kevinfrank.net/.

If people treated gluttony like they treat some other sins, they’d tell me “No, you may not have fries with that!”

The economy in the U.S. would really take a hit too, I’d wager.

Cartoon by Kevin Frank, from May 28, 2015. Visit KevinFrank.net to check out his work. This particular cartoon is on his site here. I’m grateful to Kevin for permission to post his artwork. He’s a nice fellow.

While on Kevin’s site, I ordered a copy of his book, True North, which I’m looking forward to enjoying. Check it out.

Delusions of Genocide & the Real Thing

On returning home from Germany, I was startled to hear a voicemail from a white supremacist campaigning for President. It repeated the old trope that there is a genocide being perpetrated on the white race. In the United States, we often throw around words like “Nazi” and “genocide.” Seinfeld’s funny “Soup Nazi” story is one thing, but ridiculous demonizing of political opposition is another. The Iowa Tea Party offered one blatant example, but so do national commentators warning of “liberal fascism” or labeling conservatives “Nazis.” We should sober up and remember what real genocide looks like.

This is a photo of some of the ovens made to dispose of bodies at the Dachau concentration camp.

Some of the ovens made to dispose of bodies at the Dachau concentration camp.

In Democracy and Leadership, one of the key virtues of democratic leadership I wrote about is moderation. Today people so often dismiss moderation, seeing it as a weakness of will, as a lack of principled character. I find that view tragic, as it inspires such polarization that even the Federal government was shut down in 2013, despite the fact that the world is watching and the credit rating for U.S. debt was downgraded in 2011. Unstable societies are risky investments, as are unjust societies.

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Marveling at Human Potential, Part 2

One of the remarkable things rarely considered among average museum-goers is the somewhat unbelievable fact that nations in the Western world have gone to places like Egypt and taken out of sacred and historical landmarks beautiful cultural treasures. It is true that archaeologists get permits. It is true that the explorer who found Tutankhamun’s tomb spent the better part of a decade looking. It is true that he secured and invested somewhat incredible financial resources to have upwards of 100 people helping him to dig and to search for years. There was enormous work that went into finding Tut’s tomb. Nevertheless, I can’t help but appreciate the point of view which says that relevant artifacts belong to the people and region from which they came.

Reproduction statue from an exhibit on the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Of course, I also appreciate the view which says that the labor one puts into a work makes it partly yours. Tut’s tomb may have remained lost to this day without the investment of time and money that helped find it. The issue would be less troubling for me if Egypt were not a quite poor country, compared with the U.K., and had the U.K. not had troubling colonialist practices of domination and exploitation.

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