Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are racists today, in our society, worse than racists before?

We all know that Nazis and Apartheid supporters and slave owners are evil, etc. That's a general statement and many Nazis probably were genuinely good people but most were quite evil. They were racist, militaristic, did not follow moral scruples (sometimes brazenly violating them) even the ones that never killed anyone or invaded anyone or stole from anyone; just by being a member of the Nazi regime and supporting the killing, invasion etc of that regime makes one vicariously evil with one's despicable viewpoints and spiritual allegiance. I will call this kind of Nazi the "Bystander Nazi". However, someone living today and in our society or comparably rich and free information societies who hold similar deplorable racist views, holding everything else equal to the Bystander Nazi, can be argued to be far worse morally than the Nazi.

This is because our culture has far more epistemic resources available to defeat racist views than 1930s Germany. Not only is information dispelling racist views much more common and available but the skills necessary to dismantle those views (and other views such as aggressive militarism, etc) are available to almost anyone who desires to acquire them. All one of reasonable intelligence needs to do is pick up a study a critical thinking book to acquire such skills. Holding everything else equal, the Bystander Nazi and the everyman/woman racist today, are not equal in their moral worth. You would have to display far more vices, especially ignorance, hatred, prejudice, lack of empathy, etc to be a racist today than someone in 1930s Nazi Germany. Since such a person has more vices, it is reasonable to see this person as more contemptible and blameworthy as well.

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