"We're All Cousins, After All"
Today's posting, drawn as ineluctably forth as a child by a piece of candy, emanates from the decision that I made in yesterday's article not to use the phrase "environmental racism," despite the popularity and apparent topicality, even arguably the allure, of those words. This essay explains the basis for that conscious aversion.
My title today alludes to a long-ago essay, one of the first that I ever published, the original of which lies at the bottom of some mile of files, or at the back of a stuffed file cabinet drawer. It's the answer to the "Jeopardy" question that is arguably the most important inquiry that we can ask in these days of troubled times. "What is the scientific relation between each person on earth and every other person who is not some stripe of parent, sibling, or offspring?"
As any who have taken the time and energy necessary to plow through what I've been writing can testify, much of what I convey revolves around more or less complicated skeins of relationship. One of my unsung mentors in developing this focus was Bertell Ollman, he of "the most interesting lawsuit of the decade award" during the 1980's, and inventor of the board game "Class Struggle."
As a political philosopher, he was nonpareil; his book, Alienation: Marx's Conception of Man in Capitalist Society, confirmed my launch along this pathway that I've followed ever since. The greatest teachers are the ones who make sense for the student out of what the pupil has already been formulating on his own. As a nascent, 'multi-disciplinary' public intellectual, I lapped up Ollman's work like mother's milk.
By contrast, while I still learn more about the specific inner workings of evolutionary theory whenever I turn to such efforts as Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea, or to one of the tools that I have utilized with my students, Darwin's Gift--to Science and Religion, by Francisco Ayala, the core logic of a 'selection-based' scheme became incontrovertible when I won my first spelling bee, or lost my first chess tournament.
This remains true to this day, though, along with thinkers like Dennett, with whom I am in agreement about very little that concerns political matters, and such insightful geniuses as Richard Hofstadter and Eric Foner, I excoriate the nonsensical reductionism of social-Darwinism and other expressions of 'survival-of-the-fittest' which seek domination instead of understanding.
As Francisco Ayala relates in regard to his own life, as a Dominican prelate on the path to priesthood, encountering Charles Darwin deeply is both exhilarating and discomfiting--the first because of the satisfying scope of penetrating insight that seems possible, the second because so many comfortable assumptions--for most people, religious notions, for me social and ideological paradigms--come under uncomfortable scrutiny in reading either of Darwin's two main works.
Darwin's gift and challenge integrated themselves into my thinking through the tutelage of Stephen J. Gould, Richard Lewontin, and Richard Levins, the latter pair the authors of The Dialectical Biologist, still a top ten science read for those who want a holistic and progressive capacity to examine their lives in a way that combines scientific rigor and ethical thinking.
This theoretical and scientific undergirding that informed my notions of color and class actually, since I was neither a philosopher nor a scientist, but a student of history, grew out of my focus, beginning as an undergraduate and continuing through forays in grad school and from then until now, on the meaning and development and possibilities of life in the Southern United States. Richard Wright's Black Boy and Native Son still provide clearer conceptual foundations for discerning Southern History, which revolves around the vortex of slavery and White Supremacy; and U.S. history, which revolves around the vortex of Dixie; and world history, which revolves around the vortex of the USA than do any number of 'standard' annals of the past.
And my own readings, both deep and broad, and my own research and observations, have inflected themselves on all other aspects of my own life and labor. Thus, closest to the bone here, a consideration of coal has the coloration of Alabama and the Drummond interests attached; anything nuclear runs a gauntlet through what I know about America's H-bomb breadbasket in Dixie; and on and on in every single case of all the different things that I do.
And through everything runs the thread that defines the fabric of Southern existence: the enslavement of tens of millions of cousins over a period of centuries, whose offspring are friends and neighbors and fellow citizens today, whose lives and prospects form a distinct, and often central, component of contemporary life--of my life. Without doubt, the primary analytical and conceptual methods for dealing with this complex of historical fact and current conflict swirl around the idea of race, the explanatory upshot of which almost always devolves to racism.
A truly amazing human being, and as is so often the case a curmudgeonly fellow in the bargain, Jerome Scott gave voice to my doubts about the acuity of race as a tool, in much the same way that Ollman convoked my growing doubts about dissection as the exclusive basis of knowledge. The creator of an organization with which all right-thinking proponents of 'business...better,' should be aware, the redoubtable popular education center Project South, Mr. Scott explicated for me the intersection of color and class and empire as it plays out on a daily basis in 'the Sahara of the Bozart.'
To this day, I recall what he told me thirty three years ago, when I was still a twenty-something organizing to stop the Klan and show the idiocy of an energy future based on an offshoot of H-bombs. "You see," his tones those of Detroit, where his grandparents had fled from Alabama, "the idea of race is just a cover for oppression and extraction, theft really, on the basis of class. But it wouldn't be worth a d*** as a cover if people didn't believe it; so it's really an ideology. But it has to content by itself; there is no 'race' except us humans. So its content is what's important, and that's White Supremacy."
This brings me to the brink of what I want to say today. In a sense, it revolves around a problem of language--hence, many of those to whom I would appeal would curse my' idealism,' in the sense that I give such weight to mere words, the mere misty fluff of ideas. On the other hand, looking objectively at the work of such geniuses as Pinker and Chomsky, and deconstructing what is politically noxious in the one and recognizing what is politically potent in the other, I would say, "Well, perhaps language is not altogether a tiny matter."
Frantz Fanon, in my way of thinking one of my only cousins who can hold a candle to the likes of Jerome Scott, started out his searing volume, Black Skins, White Masks, with the chapter, "Negroes and Language." He sees the 'civilizing' and conquering power of the master's tongue, at the same time that linguistic mastery will ever form the basis for resistance and transformation.
He quotes approvingly from Sartre's "Black Orpheus":
|"What then did you expect when you unbound the gag that had muted those black mouths? That they would chant your praises? Did you think that when those heads which our fathers had forcibly bowed down to the ground were raised again, that you would find adoration in their eyes?"|
Voila, the tangled web of 'race,' upon which--at least as much so as on carbon concentration--our survival as a species may depend.
In a 1959 interview for BBC, Carl Jung presented us with the fundamental rationale for today's narrative. "We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself . . . We know nothing of man, far too little. His psyche should be studied because we are the origin of all coming evil." Of 'all God's dangers' that now threaten our collection of cousins today, few, if any, strike with more lethal force than our all too frequent obsession with 'race.'
Joseph Graves might not be able to win a debate against either Cornell West or Manning Marable on style points, but the intellectual acuity of his critique surpasses all the finely turned phrases that these and other geniuses more rhetorically gifted have storehoused in their persuasive larders. His book, The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America, gave me the intellectual ammunition to further my case about this matter.
As today's article unfolds itself in a reader's mind, I ask that they repeat the accurate notation that the title advances: "We're all cousins after all." Graves gives us a sturdy simple tool with The Race Myth, which he follows up with the expanded and updated The Emperor's New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium. Matthew Hughey proffers an informative orientation to the path down which Graves wants to take us, and, quite plausibly, down which we had better move our fannies directly.
|"Graves’ work was written to dismantle the so-called scientific basis, for first, of the actual existence of race as a typology devoid of racist content and conjecture, and second, to expose the politically motivated ideological underpinnings of biological descents into the abyss of racism. Thus, Graves examines the history of biological diversity from a modern scientific perspective. He writes, '…what we call ‘race’ is the invention not of nature but of our social institutions and practices. The social nature of racial categories is significant because social practice can be altered far more readily than can genetic constitution."|
In this view, I must point out, those who insist that 'racism is the problem,' even if they want progressive change, are buying into the system that will bury any chance of social progress. Race does not exist, so an appeal to attack problems based on the idea of a nothing seems unlikely, at best, to accrue something tangibly positive.
Hughey continues in a similar vein:
|"In light of the importance bestowed upon race within cultural logic of the West, Graves' work fits nicely with other texts like Montagu’s Man’s Most Dangerous Myth (1997), Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man (1981), Smedley’s Race in North America (1999), and stands as a dialectical counter to works like Levin’s Why Race Matters (1997), Rushton’s Race, Evolution and Behavior (1995), and most notably Herrnstein’s and Murray’s The Bell Curve (1994)."|
As scaffolds of doom itself could easily be under construction in a variety of guises, all too often these days, I hear people say, 'Oh, that doesn't matter now; we need to focus on global warming, economic problems, environmental catastrophe, the depredations of war, and so on and so forth.' And certainly, those topics have put in an appearance in these pages. Who could deny their importance?
But outside of a context of addressing such issues with powerful communities, capable of unified action that calls on all the force of citizenship in a democracy, the noose of one or another, or all together, or our d***ing difficulties will certainly strangle us. And more than any other single aspect of this tangled web of history and society and science, the dialectical dance between color and class leads us on a merry chase toward fruitless apparitions and away from solid prospects for transformation.
Richard Wright, dour and nearing death, gave the world an understudied work of great magnificence in his 12,000,000 Black Voices. This author, whose blood so often seems almost to drip from the page, he speaks with such honesty and passion, is calling for a recognition of common humanity, and a construction of a politics on the basis of that community of humankind.
Noel Ignatiev, in his Foreword, chillingly lays out the likely alternative.
|"Until WWII, three quarters of all black Americans lived in the South, 'a nation within a nation.' There a system of color-caste resting ultimately on legal and extra-legal terror maintained millions of Negroes(as the persons of mixed African European and Amerindian descent were then politely referred to) in semi-serfdom directly subject to the Lords of the Land, kept millions more working for low wages in domestic service and extractive industries, and distorted the growth of a professional entrepreneur class among them. The shadow of the plantation fell even over the North, where a color line largely operating apart from(though not usually against)the law restricted Black people to the worst jobs, schools, and neighborhoods, beneath even the millions of poor Whites ground under the heels of the Bosses of the Buildings...
Could that day(Nazism) return? Probably not--history never runs backwards. But as Faulkner said, 'The past is never dead; it's not even past.' Much of the global population today consists of people who are useless for the production of wealth and an absolute drain on accumulation. ...The capitalist system organizes the production of death as it does the production of coal, computer chips, and cocaine. Nazism was not just death, but planned, organized, systematic death... .it is not difficult to imagine a U.S. equivalent.
For the first time since they came to America, people of African descent are no longer as a group central to the production of wealth. ...It is certain that a major economic depression or comparable crisis would produce a movement to rid the country once and for all of the burden of race.
Genocide is as American as cherry pie, and cries of genocide can no longer be dismissed as hyperbole. ...Could a racially motivated genocidal movement gain power, or even exist as a contender(like Europe, without affecting all and sundry)? In that case, the following work would be of prophetic as well as historical value: De te fabula narratur!"
WHAT WE CAN SAY AS A MATTER OF FACT
Slavery remains the central most dispositive truth of American history. The words of our first corporation-lawyer President will still bring goose-flesh to anyone with a consciousness more advanced than a tsetse fly's. The Second Inaugural Address, nearly 150 years after its delivery, contains a way of assessing what is not working in all of the 'good intentions' of contemporary America--lovely ideas about 'social responsibility,' such liberal generosity about 'doing business better,' so many profound promises about realizing the potential of renewable energy, and so on, right down to new versions of the shopping channel with an offset for charitable giving.
We can heed the simple words of the Library of Congress and the clear fiery fury of a leader weary unto death. The L.o.C. offers this. "The unspeakable savagery that had already lasted 4 years, he believed, was nothing short of God’s own punishment for the sins of human slavery. And with the war not quite over, he offered this terrible pronouncement:"
And thus spake Abraham.
"Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-men’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”
And we could rub the readers nose in the fact--these are as close to 'facts,' in any event, as we'll ever get in relation to the past--that the recompense, the remuneration, the payback, for the two and a half centuries under the law of the lash has yet to clear the bank of history. 'Jim Crow,' as we saw yesterday, and viciousness to make the blood flowing from the screen in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" seem like a mere sprinkling of mist, have predominated in relation to the 'Black Man's Burden' of carrying the profitability of capital on his sturdy shoulders.
Closing our eyes to this tale, even if we don't want to hear it, may contravene an easy path to a decent future. The long knives of systematic gore and carnage are capable of popping up quite quickly. We have little time, very possibly, to 'straighten up and fly right,' as my momma always liked to say.
The Librarian of Congress continues, "Finally, in the speech’s closing, with the immortal words of reconciliation and healing that are carved in the walls of the Lincoln Memorial in the nation’s capital, he set the tone for his plan for the nation’s Reconstruction. 'With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.'"
If, with me, folks have a certain awareness, i.e., that the 'just and lasting peace' appears at best a chimerical mirage, perhaps we might reflect. Maybe the 'binding up of the wounds,' and 'the caring for widows and orphans' has not transpired according to any decent and honorable schedule.
A part of this failure, if one examines things in a richly relational light, is the continued flogging of racialist thinking. Somehow or other, putting things in terms at once more real and more proactive must be the responsibility of those who would do 'business better,' who contend that finding sustainable business models is of the utmost priority.
HOW WE LABEL THOSE FACTS MAY BE IMPORTANT
The proposition underlying this section is quite simple. If we have a problem, which all and sundry acknowledge troubles us profoundly, that we label "X," or racism, and then we proceed to articulate that problem, address that problem, and dissect that problem in terms of "X," or "racism," then we had d***ed well better be certain that "X," or "racism" is something more than a a convenient fantasy, or a sophist's trick.
Today's pages provide the basis for developing that idea more completely. However, that will be the task for another posting, six weeks or so hence, Lord willing and the creak don't rise. For now, one might, were one to want to reflect more fully on the propositions propounded here, take a look at a series of timelines that the Public Broadcasting Service makes available for those who take the trek to their website.
At the very least, such a sojourn will demonstrate how no such ideation as race existed before about 400 years ago. Moreover, one will bear witness to the legal, administrative, and institutional accompaniment of building this idea into its current formulation, in which racial categorization seems so much a part of life as to be second nature. That it is not in fact any bit a natural phenomenon, and that we continue to insist on its utility, could make for trouble.
A fairly bizarre website, affiliated with a Harvard alumnus--'Go Crimson!'--calls itself "Race Traitor," and pronounces boldly that "Treason to Whiteness is Loyalty to Humanity." The creators of this material seem entirely serious and credible, and in any event, their analysis is, to say the least, parallel with what I proffer here today.
|"The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to a system that degrades them.
The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in US society. ... RACE TRAITOR aims to serve as an intellectual center for those seeking to abolish the white race. It will encourage dissent from the conformity that maintains it and popularize examples ... that promise to tear it apart. Part of its task will be to promote debate among abolitionists."
It is a lie to say that I am a member of any other than the human race, of which every other member, save for my three siblings, two children and parents, fifteen nieces and nephews, and scattered aunts and uncles and grand nieces and nephews and so on--all the remaining seven billion hairless upright apes, in other words--are Jimbo's cousins. To say that my race exists is a lie, moreover, that serves nefarious social purposes. To h*ll with that idea!
HOW TO DECONSTRUCT A POPULAR ERROR
As with the previous sections, more muscular manifestation is forthcoming. However, the analysis present here has followed a definite course. The reader has seen the development of a scribe's mind about a topic arguably important. We've met a scientist, and a few of his many 'heavy-hitting' allies, who say that this concept, of different 'races of man,' is no more than a made up way of talking about difficult issues, sort of like a negative Easter Bunny at best. We have an overview of the reality--a history of slavery and oppression--that make appeal to race appealing to some. We have at least a cursory look at harms that might thereby result. Now we ask, 'What to do?'
The easy answer to this little problem may be that the likelihood of a rapid and thoroughgoing deconstruction approaches zero. 'Racism,' and ideation about the word 'race' that people accept, unquestioningly, as tantamount to belief, have so deeply ingrained themselves in the psychic dynamic of Americans, along with a bevy of former colonists, former colonials, and academic hangers-on, that their extrication would probably require more draconian surgery than that necessitated by a tumor wrapped around the brain stem and intertwined with the spinal column. Thus, race may remain, even though it ought to go.
Nonetheless, my inclination, evidenced by my choice to post my initial 'off-topic' essay on this subject, and not on either sex, or drugs, or rock and roll, which are also very much a part of what fascinates me about this oh-so-interesting world, is to follow Shakespeare's battler, Henry, in shouting, "Once more, dear friends, into the breech."
To give up on this issue countenances a social carnage of unimaginable proportions. Therefore, some sort of programmatic effort to wean folks, not so much from their bigotry as from their willful ignorance of how to think, seems apropos. As I aver above, however, only the most preliminary take on this occurs here and now.
For one thing, we might finish the job of considering outreach such as this essay, down to the last drop as it were. For example, here, readers may find a powerfully promulgated argument by that masterful democrat and proponent of popular scientific knowledge, Steven Gould. He provides in this excerpt a semblance of his overall point against consigning our thinking about intelligence to a single number then assigned as differentially manifest from the 'genes' of particular 'races.'
|"I closed my chapter in The Mismeasure of Man on the unreality of 'g' (such an overarching numerical summation) and the fallacy of regarding intelligence as a single–scaled, innate thing in the head with a marvelous quotation from John Stuart Mill, well worth repeating: 'The tendency has always been strong to believe that whatever received a name must be an entity or being, having an independent existence of its own, and if no real entity answering to the name could be found, men did not for that reason suppose that none existed, but imagined that it was something particularly abstruse and mysterious.' How strange that we would let a single and false number divide us, when evolution has united all people in the recency of our common ancestry—thus undergirding with a shared humanity that infinite variety which custom can never stale. E pluribus unum."|
And we can revivify our connection to the healing sting of great literature, such as that which inheres in perhaps the most masterfully written evisceration of the idea of different 'races' ever created, Richard Wright's Native Son. We can also listen to what Wright says in regard to this work of blood and death at the hands of a state obsessed with 'race' instead of humanity.
"Men can starve from a lack of self realization as much as they can from a lack of bread." He continues, speaking of the outpouring of gutsy recollection in Black Boy, "I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all." And the drum beat of these aphorisms, the bass line as it were, booms that we are cousins, not races, one human beast, not Black and White and Yellow and Red and Nation unto death.
Finally, taking into account the fellow from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University who ought to be the first human to win both the Nobel Peace Prize and that august agency's award in biology, we might notice that Joseph Graves is available to guide us. Not only his books can form the basis for our learning, but we can also see to it that his busy schedule includes a stop in the neighborhood to lecture on these issues.
We can find instances online, in which the indefatigable professor answers with jolly equanimity the same queries, with the same false assumptions, and the same breathless combination of neediness and hope, that show how folks still cling to the inculcation that they have received about race. Such 'Dialog Sessions' are widely available in the virtual realm.
Whatever else that we do, we can take action of this sort. We can meditate, in quiet moments. "Jimbo's right. We are all cousins, after all."
Ah, paradox! Our capacity to think transparently might depend on ridding ourselves of a notion that is not only annoying, but also deadly distracting from the real cankers and evils that afflict us. Unfortunately, that silly idea has the addictive qualities of nicotine-laced crack, and the patient doesn't want anything approximating a cure.
Of course, I am not alone in my recognition of this. In fact, the American Association of Anthropology--all hail Marvin Harris, another mentor-- has been skirmishing against founding our debates on the shifting inanity of 'racial categories' since at least the 1960's, and in some way since the 1940's or before.
One such statement from the last years of the twentieth century express one way of capsulizing today's article.
|"This is the dilemma and opportunity of the moment. It is important to recognize the categories to which individuals have been assigned historically in order to be vigilant about the elimination of discrimination. Yet ultimately, the effective elimination of discrimination will require an end to such categorization, and a transition toward social and cultural categories that will prove more scientifically useful and personally resonant for the public than are categories of "race."|
Redress of the past and transition for the future can be simultaneously effected.
Joseph Graves, in a statement that he prepared for a PBS series"Race, the Power of an Illusion," spoke of his very personal stake in this issue of how the human cousins of the earth view each other. At his home in East-Central North Carolina, a pollster for the census came to inquire of the occupants of his household.
He looked askance at the categories provided for self-description but allowed that 'I'd be African American, I suppose,' given the choices. The tabulator checked Black, as she did again when he acknowledged a wife. "I didn't say anything about my wife being Black." The attendant backed away. 'She's Korean,' Graves explained. When, undaunted, the clerk 'clicked' again on the 'Black-tab' when Graves told of his two sons, he again growled at her. "Their not Black," insisting as she backed away further that they be registered as "Other."
His recounting of this tale recalls my own epiphany in this matter, the one that led me to the essay that I've lost in the detritus of my own personal textual morass, about which more will appear the next time I scribble about this question. As things stand, we might just note that Graves ends his seminal volume, The Race Myth, with a section entitled, "Why We Should Mend Our Fences and Join Hands."
I hope that I do not have to spell out here, beyond a short notation, that any such clasping of hands is impossible if Blacks and Whites are different sub-species, on their way to a final biological separation. The mules that result from the union of donkey and horse cannot breed; such offspring are a dead end. Our lively coalescence can only develop by discarding the false categories and pernicious concepts of 'race.'
"Fortunately," Graves makes clear, "half our species is not saddled with the problem of needing to socially dominate others, and males do respond to what women want. ...I wrote this book to convince you that race is not a biological fact. ...I have also outlined what disasters await us if this myth goes unchallenged. This book is also a call to action. The choice of what sort of world you want to live in is yours. There are numerous ways to challenge the myth in your everyday life."
This gentle call to reach out, to thrive, to choose the ever-present possibility of alliance over the arrogant falsity of preeminence, also characterized the final turn in the life of another, all too often unsung, American Hero. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, along with Frederick Douglass' revelations about the roots of Americana, should sit at the top of every citizen's reading list.
In his Forward to the life story, M.S. Handler gives us fodder to ponder about this issue. He describes a visit by Malcolm just a few days prior to his assassination. "No man in our time aroused fear and hatred in the White man as did Malcolm, because in him the White man sensed an implacable foe who could not be had for any price--a man unreservedly committed to the cause of liberating the Black man in American society rather than integrating the Black man into that society."
Those inclined to remove racial thinking altogether from the common discourse might muse upon the timing of this anecdote. Malcolm had just begun to make overtures to White working people; he foretold of a movement of common people of all colors. At just this juncture, an intersection of deracinating politics, he was obliterated. And no tiny trove of evidence implicates, through omission if not directly through commission, law enforcement agencies of the U.S. in this murder.
The aphorism may be apt. No such thing as coincidence exists in such matters.
W. E. B. DuBois said so many things better than anyone else; why should I stand amazed that he has the most clear-hearted and clever-headed words to consider here. "The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become." A substantial number of us have a stake now, one way or another, in 'racial categories,' analytics of race, and accusations of racism, that either do not exist or are empty of social and political content.
Clearly, under those circumstances, we might contemplate leaving such thinking behind. And what will we embrace in its stead? I would hope that some notion of interrelational conceptualization would beckon, in spite of the difficulty that I, in any case, have in getting my mouth around the sounds. The core meaning is solid--nothing is separate, and understanding can only occur integratively, even if knowledge sometimes does flow from analysis or breaking things down.
And, just as we have seen in the past two postings, wrestling with the South and the reality of how slavery continues to echo its painful cries of the lashes of death across the centuries, may have a huge payoff in terms of being able better to assess a way forward toward a progressively transformed America. DuBois also said, about the 1900's, words still redolent with power in this new span of time. "The great problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line."
And he also said, echoing Carl Jung,
"Herein lies the tragedy of the age:
Not that men are poor, - all men know something of poverty.
Not that men are wicked, - who is good?
Not that men are ignorant, - what is truth?
Nay, but that men know so little of men."
We would do well to honor these words of another centurion, like Mother Jones' admonitions and like Scott Nearing's tough counsel, replete with wisdom and kindness, combined with honesty.