Punchinello’s Chronicles

April 3, 2009

Bernie Madoff and Ward Churchill

We’ve recently been witnessing two high-profile legal cases, the one being the $50-billion Ponzi scam developed by Bernard Madoff, the other being the profound anti-American teachings of a Colorado University professor, Ward Churchill. Which of them is the bigger criminal? Which has the greater responsibility for producing the worst consequences?

I would say it’s Ward Churchill.

Mr. Madoff scammed people out of lots of money. But those people initially thought they knew something about money. They believed they understood finances, investing, and due diligence. They were supposed to be wary of any kind of investment that offers returns that are “too good to be true.” And finally, they had a significant amount of money to invest.

Yes, they were taken in by Mr. Madoff, but a lot of that must be blamed on their greed and desire to make what were pretty unrealistic returns.

Professor Churchill, on the other hand, is an example of what I would call true evil.

I’m not all that concerned about evil in the theological sense. I don’t think we live in a universe split between good and bad personalities and entities, whose intent is to destroy the human soul. But on the physical level, here on this Earth, we do have people with such an intent. We do have people who fully intend to debase, demean, torture, and destroy all that’s good.

Among the many evil acts, perhaps the most heinous is the destruction of innocence. It’s true that all of us leave behind the “things of childhood.” Yes, we have to do that in order to grow up and adapt to the world at large. But we do so in what ought to be a timely fashion. There is, should be, and must be a time of childhood.

That childhood is supposed to be protected, offering each of us the opportunity to learn the world, learn our body, learn who we are, and learn how to form a coherent, healthy, creative individual. The job of parents and society ought to be to raise healthy children into interesting adults. That’s what ought to be happening.

Instead, with today’s total split between the two world-views of conservative and progressive-liberal values, children more often than not end up as casualties on the battlefield. In any extremist environment, children usually get demolished. And today’s universities are an excellent example of such willful destruction of entire generations.

Within modern-day universities, some of the so-called academics and scholars, philosophers and nihilists stand out as true evil forces. Ward Churchill is one such example.

The students who pass through the universities, and those in particular who came under the influence of Mr. Churchill, had no real defenses. They weren’t yet fully developed adults. They’d not yet learned real critical analysis, reason, debate, and conceptual argument.

In fact, the whole point of sending adolescents to universities is to give them those skills. It’s to teach our children the modern skills and capabilities necessary to adapt and function. We broaden their education, helping them to see more than their own childhood neighborhood. And we hope to give them a buffet of thought and opinion across the spectrum of human endeavors.

Theoretically, and in an idealistic and argumentative world, Mr. Churchill and his opinions ought to be a part of the broad scope of various and different thoughts about life. In that ideal world, students would be given the initial arguments, then helped by the same professor to come up with criticism, argument, and disagreement.

Instead, Mr. Churchill’s cancerous diatribes went unchallenged. Nobody; not a single other professor was prepared to stand against Churchill’s opinions. He was given free reign, and was able to shut down all disagreement, all questions, and all attempts to prove the truth or accuracy of his nonsense. And even today, despite the ongoing controversy, he’s held as an example of the “intent” of Free Speech.

Generations of students have been brainwashed by this kind of sickness. The result is generation after generation of crippled human beings. Mr. Madoff stole their money, but Ward Churchill destroyed their mind. Mr. Madoff wiped out a sum of money, which can be recovered over time. Churchill destroyed his students’ values, and that can’t be fixed.

Which of them has done the greater damage?

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