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公共知识分子为什么常常会成为魔鬼代言人?

已有 7183 次阅读 2010-5-30 04:00 |个人分类:读书学艺|系统分类:人文社科

公共知识分子为什么常常会成为魔鬼代言人?


2010.05.30

真实的历史不会说谎。

只要稍微仔细研究一下历史,就会发现那些非常关心社会的公平正义的公共知识分子,常常只是魔鬼的代言人。一旦他们鼓吹的群众运动被发动起来,他们要么是被他们所推动的群众运动所吞噬,要么就自己成为破坏社会自由和个人权利的恶魔本身。

追求社会的公平正义本身并不是问题,因为任何社会都是需要有基本的公平正义才能维持法律与秩序,使人们能够安居乐业。但是因为公共知识分子很少例外地追求无边无际的基于集体主义的而不是基于个人主义的公平正义,所以,不仅他们所描绘的公平正义无法达到,而且因为无视为了追求这种乌托邦式的公平正义所付出的个人和社会代价,他们给个人与社会带来的常常是巨大的灾难。

在前不久博文《反思公共知识分子与社会》介绍的保守主义思想家Thomas Sowell那里,这种乌托邦式的公平正义被称为Cosmic Justice。

《反思公共知识分子与社会》博文链接:http://www.sciencenet.cn/m/user_content.aspx?id=326053

Sowell专门有一本书谈论这个问题,叫做THE QUEST FOR COSMIC JUSTICE(《对乌托邦正义的探求》)。

Amazon上THE QUEST FOR COSMIC JUSTICE一书信息的链接:http://www.amazon.com/Quest-Cosmic-Justice-Thomas-Sowell/dp/0684864630

在这本书中,Sowell对所谓的traditional justice(传统正义)或通常所说的social justice(社会正义)和所谓的cosmic justice(乌托邦正义)进行了区分。Sowell说:

Traditional concepts of justice or fairness, at least within the American tradition, boil down to applying the same rules and standards to everyone. (试译:传统的正义和公平概念,至少按照美国的传统,归结起来就是对任何人都采用同样的规则和标准。)


对于Cosmic Justice,Sowell说:

What they are seeking to correct are not merely the deficiencies of society, but of the cosmos. What they call social justice encompasses far more than any given society is causally responsible for.  Crusaders for social justice seek to correct not merely the sins of man but the oversights of God or the accidents of history.  What they are really seeking is a universe tailor-made to their vision of equality.  They are seeking cosmic justice.(试译;他们追求的不只是要修正社会的不足,而是要去修正整个宇宙的不足。他们所说的社会正义包含了远超过社会的因果关系所应负责的部分。这些社会正义的十字军骑士们追求的不仅仅是匡正人类的罪恶,而是要去矫正上帝的疏忽或者历史上未曾预料的结果。他们真正追求的是一个按照他们的平等幻想剪裁出来的宇宙。他们追求的是cosmic justice(乌托邦正义)。)


简单地说,那些追求乌托邦正义的公共知识分子为人们描述的常常是脱离历史和现实的无法达到的美好的平等社会,而且,他们还支持为了达到这种乌托邦正义的任何以以集体主义形式出现的破坏、革命与暴力,对它们给社会造成的狂热破坏视而不见甚至进行所谓的理性辩护。

这些所谓的有良心的追求公平正义的公共知识分子在我们周围事实上为数不少,他们所能做的事情基本上无外乎是成为魔鬼的代言人。

历史告诉我们,群众运动从来都是最大的魔鬼,无不以破坏法律和秩序的破坏与流血而结束。那些成为魔鬼的代言人的所谓的有良心的追求公平正义的公共知识分子,实际上基本上都是没有耐心参与和进行社会改良的机会主义分子。群众运动是很少能够让他们出人头地和宣泄对他们自己认为将自己排斥在外的社会精英集团的不满与仇恨的机会,所以他们一谈起群众运动眼睛里面就会放射出光芒。历史上的那些看起来很讲公平正义的公共知识分子,一开始自己往往错误地认为可以利用和控制群众运动这个非理性的魔鬼,但随着群众运动的深入,他们的结果无外乎两种:一种是如果他们还不够坏,他们将被群众运动这个魔鬼吞噬;一种是他们在群众运动中不断地发掘和锻炼出他们的嗜血本性,从魔鬼的代言人直接成为魔鬼。历史清楚地告诉我们,这些人一旦卷入到大规模的群众运动中,极少数人能够全身而退。

判断一个所谓公共知识分子是否魔鬼代言人,只要看他们对待群众运动的基本态度就行了。如果他们总是支持群众,而不能及时警告人们群众运动的可能危险和危害,十有八九就是。那些总说群众运动好得很的,常常就更可怕。

在下面的演讲中,Sowell指出:

However noble the vision of cosmic justice, arbitrary power and shameless lies are the only paths that even seem to lead in its direction.  As noted at the outset, the devastating costs and social dangers which go with these attempts to achieve the impossible should be taken into account.(试译:无论cosmic justice的未来景象如何高尚,专断的权力和无耻的谎言才似乎是通往这个方向的必由之路。正如在一开始所指出的,我们决不能忽视为了达到不可能(的目标)所随之而来的灾难性代价和社会危害。)


这,才是具有独立人格和负责任的知识分子应该告诉大家的信息。


*************************************************

Sowell的THE QUEST FOR COSMIC JUSTICE演讲辞链接:
http://www.tsowell.com/spquestc.html

THE QUEST FOR COSMIC JUSTICE
by Thomas Sowell

    When you try to condense a book representing years of thought and research into a half-hour talk, a certain amount of over-simplification is inevitable.  With that understood, let me try to summarize the message of The Quest for Cosmic Justice in three propositions which may seem to be axiomatic, but whose implications are in fact politically controversial:

1. The impossible is not going to be achieved.
2. It is a waste of precious resources to try to achieve it.
3. The devastating costs and social dangers which go with these attempts to achieve the impossible should be taken into account.

    Cosmic justice is one of the impossible dreams which has a very high cost and very dangerous potentialities.

    What is cosmic justice and how does it differ from more traditional conceptions of justice-- and from the more recent and more fervently sought "social justice"?

    Traditional concepts of justice or fairness, at least within the American tradition, boil down to applying the same rules and standards to everyone.  This is what is meant by a "level playing field"-- at least within that tradition, though the very same words mean something radically different within a framework that calls itself "social justice."  Words like "fairness," "advantage" and "disadvantage" likewise have radically different meanings within the very different frameworks of traditional justice and "social justice."

    John Rawls perhaps best summarized the differences when he distinguished "fair" equality of opportunity from merely "formal" equality of opportunity. Traditional justice, fairness, or equality of opportunity are merely formal in Professor Rawls' view and in the view of his many followers and comrades.  For those with this view, "genuine equality of opportunity" cannot be achieved by the application of the same rules and standards to all, but requires specific interventions to equalize either prospects or results.  As Rawls puts it, "undeserved inequalities call for redress."

    A fight in which both boxers observe the Marquis of Queensberry rules would be a fair fight, according to traditional standards of fairness, irrespective of whether the contestants were of equal skill, strength, experience or other factors likely to affect the outcome-- and irrespective of whether that outcome was a hard-fought draw or a completely one-sided beating.

    This would not, however, be a fair fight within the framework of those seeking "social justice," if the competing fighters came into the ring with very different prospects of success-- especially if these differences were due to factors beyond their control.

    Presumably, the vast ranges of undeserved inequalities found everywhere are the fault of "society" and so the redressing of those inequalities is called social justice, going beyond the traditional justice of presenting each individual with the same rules and standards.  However, even those who argue this way often recognize that some undeserved inequalities may arise from cultural differences, family genes, or from historical confluences of events not controlled by anybody or by any given society at any given time.  For example, there was no way that Pee Wee Reese was going to hit as many home runs as Mark McGwire, or Shirley Temple run as fast as Jesse Owens.  There was no way that Scandinavians or Polynesians were going to know as much about camels as the Bedouins of the Sahara-- and no way that these Bedouins were going to know as much about fishing as the Scandinavians or Polynesians.

    In a sense, proponents of "social justice" are unduly modest.  What they are seeking to correct are not merely the deficiencies of society, but of the cosmos. What they call social justice encompasses far more than any given society is causally responsible for.  Crusaders for social justice seek to correct not merely the sins of man but the oversights of God or the accidents of history.  What they are really seeking is a universe tailor-made to their vision of equality.  They are seeking cosmic justice.

    This perspective on justice can be found in a wide range of activities and places, from the street-corner community activist to the august judicial chambers of the Supreme Court.  For example, a former dean of admissions at Stanford University said that she had never required applicants to submit Achievement Test scores because "requiring such tests could unfairly penalize disadvantaged students in the college admissions process," because such students, "through no fault of their own, often find themselves in high schools that provide inadequate preparation for the Achievement Tests."1  Through no fault of their own-- one of the recurrent phrases in this kind of argument--seems to imply that it is the fault of "society" but remedies are sought independently of any empirical evidence that it is.

    Let me try to illustrate some of the problems with this approach by a mundane personal example.  Whenever I hear discussions of fairness in education, my automatic response is: "Thank God my teachers were unfair to me when I was a kid growing up in Harlem."  One of these teachers was a lady named Miss Simon, who was from what might be called the General Patton school of education. Every word that we misspelled in class had to be written 50 times-- not in class, but in our homework that was due the next morning, on top of all the other homework that she and other teachers loaded onto us.  Misspell four or five words and you had quite an evening ahead of you.

    Was this fair?  Of course not.  Like many of the children in Harlem at that time, I came from a family where no one had been educated beyond elementary school.  We could not afford to buy books and magazines, like children in more affluent neighborhood schools, so we were far less likely to be familiar with these words that we were required to write 50 times.

    But fairness in this cosmic sense was never an option.  As noted at the outset, the impossible is not going to be achieved.  Nothing that the schools could do would make things fair in this sense.  It would have been an irresponsible self-indulgence for them to have pretended to make things fair.  Far worse than unfairness is make-believe fairness.  Instead, they forced us to meet standards that were harder for us to meet-- but far more necessary for us to meet, as these were the main avenues for our escape from poverty.

    Many years later, I happened to run into one of my Harlem schoolmates on the streets of San Francisco. He was now a psychiatrist and owned a home and property out in the Napa valley.  As we reminisced about the past and caught up on things that had happened to us in between, he mentioned that his various secretaries over the years had commented on the fact that he seldom misspelled a word.  My secretaries have made the same comment-- but, if they knew Miss Simon, it would be no mystery why we seldom misspelled words.

    It so happens that I was a high school dropout.  But what I was taught before I dropped out was enough for me to score higher on the verbal SAT than the average Harvard student.  That may well have had something to do with my being admitted to Harvard in an era before the concept of "affirmative action" was conceived.

    What if our teachers had been imbued with the present-day conception of "fairness"?  Clearly we would not have been tested with the same tests and held to standards as other kids in higher-income neighborhoods, whose parents had at least twice as many years of schooling as ours and probably much more than twice as much money.  And where would my schoolmate and I have ended up? Perhaps in some half-way house, if we were lucky.

    And would that not have been an injustice-- to take individuals capable of being independent, self-supporting, and self-directed men and women, with pride in their own achievements, and turn them into dependents, clients, supplicants, mascots?  Currently, the Educational Testing Service is adopting minority students as mascots by turning the SAT exams into race-normed instruments to circumvent the growing number of prohibitions against group preferences.  The primary purpose of mascots is to symbolize something that makes others feel good.  The well-being of the mascot himself is seldom a major consideration.

    The argument here is not against real justice or real equality.  Both of these things are desirable in themselves, just as immortality may be considered desirable in itself.  The only arguments against any of these things is that they are impossible-- and the cost of pursuing impossible dreams are not negligible.

    Socially counterproductive policies are just one of the many costs of the quest for cosmic justice.  The rule of law, on which a free society depends, is inherently incompatible with cosmic justice.  Laws exist in all kinds of societies, from the freest to the most totalitarian.  But the rule of law-- a government of laws and not of men, as it used to be called-- is rare and vulnerable.

 You cannot redress the myriad inequalities which pervade human life by applying the same rules to all or by applying any rules other than the arbitrary dispensations of those in power.  The final chapter of The Quest for Cosmic Justice is titled "The Quiet Repeal of the American Revolution"--because that is what is happening piecemeal by zealots devoted to their own particular applications of cosmic justice.

    They are not trying to destroy the rule of law.  They are not trying to undermine the American republic.  They are simply trying to produce "gender equity," institutions that "look like America" or a thousand other goals that are incompatible with the rule of law, but corollaries of cosmic justice.

    Because ordinary Americans have not yet abandoned traditional justice, those who seek cosmic justice must try to justify it politically as meeting traditional concepts of justice.  A failure to achieve the new vision of justice must be represented to the public and to the courts as "discrimination." Tests that register the results of innumerable inequalities must be represented as being the cause of those inequalities or as deliberate efforts to perpetuate those inequalities by erecting arbitrary barriers to the advancement of the less fortunate.

    In short, to promote cosmic justice, they must misrepresent what is happening as violations of traditional justice-- as understood by others who do not share their vision.  Nor do those who make such claims necessarily believe them themselves.  As Joseph Schumpeter once said: "The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie."

    The next thing the idealist will do is character assassination.  All those who disagree with the great vision must be shown to have malign intentions, if not deep-seated character flaws.  They must be "Borked," to use a verb coined in our times.  They must be depicted as "A Strange Justice" if somehow they survive the Borking process.  They must be depicted as having some personal "obsessions" if they carry out the duties they swore to carry out as a special prosecutor.  In short, demonization is one of the costs of the quest for cosmic justice.

    The victims of this process are not limited to those targeted.  The society as a whole loses when its decisions are made by character assassination, rather than by rational discussion, and when its pool of those eligible for leadership is drained by the exodus of those who are not prepared to sacrifice their good name or subject their family to humiliations for the sake of grasping the levers of power.  This loss is not merely quantitative, for those who are willing to endure any personal or family humiliations for the sake of power are the most dangerous people to trust with power.

    In a sense, those caught up in the vision of cosmic justice are also among its victims.  Having committed themselves to a vision and demonized all who oppose it, how are they to turn around and subject that vision to searching empirical scrutiny, much less repudiate it as evidence of its counterproductive results mount up?

    Ironically, the quest for greater economic and social equality is promoted through a far greater inequality of political power.  If rules cannot produce cosmic justice, only raw power is left as the way to produce the kinds of results being sought.  In a democracy, where power must gain public acquiescence, not only must the rule of law be violated or circumvented, so must the rule of truth.  However noble the vision of cosmic justice, arbitrary power and shameless lies are the only paths that even seem to lead in its direction.  As noted at the outset, the devastating costs and social dangers which go with these attempts to achieve the impossible should be taken into account.

NOTES:

1. Jean H. Fetter, Questions and Admissions: Reflections on 100,000 Admissions Decisions at Stanford (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 45. This way of looking at the fairness of the college admissions process is by no means peculiar to Ms. Fetter. See, for example, John Kronholz, "As States End Racial Preferences, Pressure Rises To Drop SAT to Maintain Minority Enrollment," Wall Street Journal, February 12, 1998, p. A24; Nancy S. Cole, Educational Testing Service, "Merit and Opportunity: Testing and Higher education at the Vortex," speech at the conference, New Direction in Assessment for Higher Education: Fairness, Access, Multiculturalism, and Equity (F.A.M.E.), New Orleans, Louisiana, March 6-7, 1997; Thomas Sowell, Inside American Education: The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas (New York: The Free Press, 1993), pp. 122-126.



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