Some of my earliest lessons in ethical behavior, as a child, came in the form of a question: “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” It was reasonably effective because it was simple. I could guess how I would feel, and I didn’t want to make anyone else feel that way. Although I couldn’t have spelled the word at the time, the theory underlying that lesson was reciprocity.There’s a lot going on in those two paragraphs. In that “How would you feel” is the basis for the first rule of interaction in the three Faiths of the Book. There’s an important corollary, as well: the precocious child might ask Mom or Dad “How would you like being put in time-out?” Kids don’t like being put in time-out, and the wise parent will note something to the effect that the grown-up version of time-out lasts for days, not minutes, in a place called “jail”. The concept of reciprocity, though, is a straightforward elaboration of the things that matter that are learned in kindergarten.
Reciprocity relies on an underlying sense of relevant equality. You and I may be different people in any number of ways, but we’re both fully human, and that entails some basic respect. There’s an implicit politics within the ethical norm of reciprocity, too. I’m no better than anyone else, but I’m no worse, either. Taken seriously, that ethical position tends to lead to a rough egalitarianism. There may be hierarchical roles for various reasons, but the people occupying those roles are just people. They have the same human flaws as everybody else. And the power they’re granted is both a grant—that is, removable—and for a limited purpose. It is not license. Nobody is entitled to abuse anyone else, and nobody deserves abuse.
Or perhaps, where people from different backgrounds find themselves in more frequent interactions with each other, to have concepts such as diplomacy (for the leadership classes) or simple good manners?
Kaufmann, a Canadian who teaches in Britain and is of Jewish, Chinese, and Latino ancestry. His most recent book is called Whiteshift, which he defines as “the mixture of many non-whites into the white group through voluntary assimilation.”
As he points out, something like this has happened before. A hundred years ago, Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish immigrants pouring into Ellis Island were considered to be of different “races” by white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elites.
Half a century ago, their descendants were regarded as still culturally and politically distinctive in Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s description of New York ethnics groups, Beyond the Melting Pot. A “balanced” ticket in those days had to include Irish, Italian, and Jewish candidates.
Today, all these groups are lumped together as “whites,” even though there are still perceptible, though muted, differences in political attitudes and perspectives between those with different ancestries.
I vaguely recall some of that writing about “unmeltable ethnics” during my adolescence in Milwaukee. Although Americans All was a rallying cry during Woodrow Wilson’s war, the existence of a Croatian soccer collective different from the Serbian soccer collective still meant someone not conversant with the past millennium of feudin’ and fussin’ in the Balkans ought be circumspect.
It has been my custom to post a video featuring vintage trains under the Christmas tree, and work on the permanent model railroad for the year appears.
Here is this year’s video.
Thanks for your interest and your comments. I’m taking a couple weeks away from the turmoil of social media.
Yes, dear reader, that is a deliberately outrageous title, although it invokes one of my favorite maxims, “Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.”
Union Pacific, the Port of Long Beach, and the Utah Inland Port Authority have announced the launch of direct rail service between the Long Beach and Utah facilities to help address ongoing port congestion.It’s a research project for another day to work out why those boxes weren’t already moving on stack trains to Salt Lake City rather than as one container at a time with a driver putting in more than a full day on the road between the coast and Salt Lake. Several commenters on that post are noting that the reluctance of the railroads to go after those 500 mile intermodal moves goes beyond Union Pacific. Perhaps, dear reader, you’ve heard of North Baltimore, Ohio.
The executive directors of the two facilities, Mario Cordero of Long Beach and Jack Hedge of the Utah authority, said in a joint statement that the direct, regularly scheduled service “will allow cargo destined for all of the Intermountain West to be rapidly evacuated from terminals in Long Beach to Salt Lake City for further distribution throughout the region. Much of this cargo traditionally moves to Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho by truck, and thus must be removed from the port terminals one container at a time. Reengaging this direct rail service will allow removal of blocks of containers at a time.”
Cordero also said the agreement immediately reduces pressure on terminal storage, gates, chassis, and the local drayage community on the coast. … It’s a major step forward for exporters from the region.”