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The Role of Words in the Campus Protests

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the relationship between ethics and politics, particularly in the context of recent student protests on college campuses in the United States. It explores the ethical principles underlying these protests, such as the duty to express solidarity with the weak and the use of non-violent civil disobedience to stop oppressive power. The article also reflects on the author's own hesitation to engage in such acts of civil disobedience and the challenges of practicing ethics in the real world. Additionally, the article delves into the complex dynamics of the Israel-Palestine conflict, highlighting the role of language and rhetoric in justifying violence and the importance of maintaining an ethical foundation even when faced with competing political imperatives.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] The Relationship Between Ethics and Politics

1. What are the two widely recognized ethical principles underlying the student protests on college campuses?

  • There is an ethical duty to express solidarity with the weak in any situation that involves oppressive power.
  • If the machinery of oppressive power is to be trained on the weak, then there is a duty to stop the gears by any means necessary.

2. How does the author reflect on their own hesitation to engage in acts of civil disobedience for the climate movement? The author admits to being "ashamed" that they declined the offer to commit an arrestable offense during an XR climate rally in London, as they could not give up their relationship with New York City for the future of the planet. The author acknowledges this as a "pitiful ethical creature" and a "humbling inquiry" for themselves and others who may have similar limits to their commitments.

3. What is the significance of student protests, according to the author? The author suggests that student protests give young people the opportunity to insist upon ethical principles while still being a more rational force than the "supposed adults in the room," against whose "crazed magical thinking" they have been forced to define themselves.

[02] The Israel-Palestine Conflict

1. How does the author characterize the use of language and rhetoric in the Israel-Palestine conflict? The author argues that in the case of Israel/Palestine, "language and rhetoric are and always have been weapons of mass destruction." The author suggests that the use of certain "shibboleths" or phrases serves to justify violence, flatten and erase complex histories, and deliver a "violent simplicity" to those who believe that merely saying something makes it so.

2. What is the author's view on the political settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict? The author states that their "personal views have no more weight than an ear of corn in this particular essay" and that the only thing that has any weight is "the dead." The author suggests that the focus should be on calling for a ceasefire, which the author sees as an ethical necessity, rather than debating the specific political settlement.

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