Category Archives: Happiness

Conservative Values versus a myriad of extremists

A government professor of mine once stated that all governments were a balance between three different values: Equality, Order, and Liberty. No one value can be pursued without cost to the other two. The ideal society would actually be the one that keeps these three points in balance. However, as we look around modern parties and political movements, the logic of balance seems nowhere to be found.

Four Cardinal Virtues

Individual have the 4 cardinal virtues: Temperance, Moderation, Justice, Fortitude…but these are the basis for the three political virtues: liberty, equality, order. They all have to work together or not at all.

Liberals, socialists and progressives seek equality at the cost of order and liberty finally reaching their ideal society, a Communistic state where everyone is equal but in the end utterly worthless as equality requires none be higher than others, thus all talent, all incentives, and all goals have been destroyed leaving society to collapse before the equally unimpressive slaves that it has created. In a state where all are equal there can be no order because power cannot be vested (even through law) in another thus nothing can keep law and civil society together thus at best everything is merely slave to the whim of the herd (law by the same methods created reality TV)…and there can be no liberty, as liberty leads to exceptionalism, and no one can be better than anyone else

The growing fascist movements of Greece, the tyranny of Vladimir Putin, and the vile wretchedness of Islamofascism value order above all else. But for there to be complete order there can be no liberty because if people can choose for themselves, they will sometimes choose wrong and this inevitably leads to some level of chaos, some crime, some disorder. And in the ordered state there can be no equality, as equality requires that all are subject to rules, and for the ordered state to work no one can watch the watchers because they are the final authority, otherwise there is no way to control and maintain order.

Libertarians and anarchists view liberty as the end all be all of all politics. But where there is perfect freedom there can be no equality, even before the law, because there can be no law if there is nothing but license to do whatever you want. And there can be no order in the fully liberated state as the law who would hold back those who do not recognize the rights of others cannot exist.

And finally populists don’t particularly view any of these as all that important. Yes populists want equality when someone is doing better than them, which is why businesses and businessmen are evil and need to be reined in…but they strangely don’t care about equality when they’re doing better, which is why even Ron Paul brought back millions in pork to his district. They care about liberty, for themselves…but for anyone else, eh, it’s not that important. And order is important, so long as it’s in my general vicinity, enforced by me, and I don’t care if it’s not in my line of sight. (And please understand why I have been hitting the populists posing as conservatives a lot lately, your average Democratic voter has always been a populist. Their activists and politicians maybe progressives, but the voters are populists who just care about their entitlements and what will be given to them).

Meanwhile there is the real conservative viewpoint. That these three virtues of a society must be held in careful balance. That the extreme of any one of these because a dystopian nightmare (Liberty, Order, Equality…Lord of the Flies, 1984, Harrison Bergeron…or for the less well read, Mad Max, Hunger Games, Divergent…or if you prefer history, Somalia, Nazi Germany, Revolutionary France). That a society without these three to guide them is just as bad as one where only one is followed (I’d give an example but modern politics seems to be it and the last few years of Rome seem to be the only places dumb enough to try such an abhorrent idea in practice). Only the society that balances these forces is a prosperous one.

So what is the guiding star of conservatism that makes it so different from these other ideologies? Well, not to sound like a dozen other blogs on this site but the answer is once again, Aristotle.

Aristotle, for all his flawed understanding of politics (give the man a break, there wasn’t much reliable history to work with in the 4th century B.C. and you can’t expect him to have prescience of what was to come) understood that in politics, as with ethics, it is not a question of ends or means, but a question of ends and means. Those who value equality or order only value an end of making everyone equal or making everything peaceful. Those who value liberty only value the means of liberty not the result of what such anarchy brings. Only balancing both ends and means work.

And Aristotle saw the correct end to focus on. The end to all human life is Happiness. And society, family, education must all be structured to ensure Happiness for the greatest number of people. Now because Happiness requires freedom of choice and personal growth, not everyone will reach happiness no matter what a government/family/society does, but it requires liberty and the ability to exercise free will. But because Happiness requires some ability to plan and control your own life, it requires order to some degree. And because the point is to provide Happiness (or the opportunity to pursue Happiness) for the most people as all are equally human and equally deserving at birth of achieving Happiness. None of these on their own can lead to Happiness, and all must work together.

And this is why other belief systems don’t work; they’re not aimed at Happiness.

For instance look at misnamed “social conservatives” (Progressives for Jesus might be a better way to put it). They keep saying that the point of marriage is to have children. As if having children is an end in itself.   And they keep bringing this up as a reason why they opposed gay marriage. Now there are good reasons to get rid of marriage as a legal concept (and replace it with legal civil unions and let religion handle marriage without government interference) but it is not just the Progressive mentality here to have the government take control of everything. It is the missed sense of what the end of things are. They view the family as a means to creating another family. The family, society, everything in the view has no purpose but to serve itself. You have to have marriage to create children. You have to raise children so they lead lives where they get married. They get married to have children…over and over again. There is no point to the individual life (unless you want to get into some bizarre servitude to God, which views God as a master and the individual the slave…but no serious reading of any sane religion even comes close to that.) This is why social conservatives tend to be not only bad at politics but their own religion. Social conservatives should go back and read their Aquinas who makes it clear that “the principal end of matrimony, namely the good of the offspring” and that “the secondary end of matrimony, which is the mutual services which married persons render one another in household matters.” Notice how in the second point it is the betterment of each other (i.e. the individual’s happiness) that is the point of marriage. Just as every social institution is supposed to place the Happiness of the individual as a goal. Parents should be concerned with teaching their children the knowledge, ethics, and character that will allow them to be happy adults. Schools and other societal organizations should be focused on encouraging people to be the best they can be with the goal being individual Happiness. Social conservatives’ problem, like all progressives, is they think society is the end goal, it is not; the good of individual is the goal.

Then you have Libertarians who don’t even consider ends and just, like good Kantian idiots, look at means. And liberty is the only mean they care about. Oh they may say that freedom leads to individual Happiness, but they ignore that just because the exercise of free will is necessary it is not sufficient. (Just as Milton Friedman said that “History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.”) Let’s take a look at what sometimes appears to be the only thing that libertarians think about: The War on Drugs. Okay, I will concede that the War on Drugs has been handled idiotically. I will concede that if a person should be able to use drugs in the privacy of their own home if they’re not hurting anyone. I concede that the power to prosecute the War on Drugs has led to massive costs and an intolerable level of corruption in the name of the War on Drugs. But in all this the libertarians fail to admit some very simple things. They act like the people who take drugs are all just innocent little lambs who are the victims of an unjust police power. prison violent

nonviolent

Oh, look it would appear that as incarceration went up crime went down…shocker.

Let me set the record straight: They’re criminals (whether they get caught and convicted or not, they’re criminals). They have the mentality that the rules of society, their long term well-being, and how their actions may hurt others are of absolutely no concern to them so long as they get a moment of pleasure. At best that is vilely hedonistic, at worst it has a bit of a sociopath in it. Libertarians like to pretend that you have otherwise innocent drug users in one group, and in another you have real criminals. And that the fact that we have a massive prison population proves that this War on Drugs needs to end. The problem is that you don’t have two different groups; you have a Venn diagram where criminals and drug users are often one in the same. Libertarians like to point to the increasing prison population, but they always conveniently forget that as prison populations go up violent and non-violent crime go down. They ignore that often drugs are used to put dangerous criminals away when other more serious charges don’t have as much admissible evidence. So there are benefits to the War on Drugs. But not willing to admit that drops in the murder, rape, theft rates is a good thing, libertarians only care about the liberty to do drugs.   They don’t advocate that we should focus more on the cartels, the gang distributors, and legalize personal home use (all things which would still probably round up the worst real criminals while not hurt the people who can actually handle personal use)…no they have to argue that we should just legalize all drugs. No concern for order, just liberty…and no Happiness for anyone.

The other difference between libertarians, Progressive for Jesus**, and real conservatives. Unlike Libertarians, conservatives understand that laws do need to be structured not just to protect rights but to encourage habits that will typically lead to a healthy society and Happiness in individuals (for instance unless we switch to a flat tax having tax credit for charity; the fact that we can’t just get rid of civil union side of marriage, and that we do need a safety net of some kind***; providing minimum standards for education to make sure all students receive a basic minimum of education) but unlike the Progressive for Jesus we must do so in a way that limits (or at least poses as few limits as possible) to the good that liberty provides (deciding what counts as a marriage and what doesn’t, when gay marriage provides the same benefits; spending money and resources checking on what people do in private that hurts no one; dictating what to include content wise in education; etc.).

Being consistently conservative is difficult. It requires balancing numerous issues of the needs of individuals, the long term good of society, Liberty, Order, Equality. And it’s a constantly shifting point because what creates that balance in one era may be totally unbalanced in another. Proper government needs to be directed toward the Happiness of individuals. It needs to balance our needs for liberty, order, and equality. When it does not do these things it creates bad laws. And it is so easy to get lost in caring only about your own want (populists) or one of the political virtues at the expense of the others. Right now we need a lot more liberty, but we cannot forget that it is the balance and the good of society and the individual that is our true goal—not just liberty for the sake of liberty.

Of course none of this is really new…the people who real conservatives look toward as a guide post made it quite clear that liberty, or order (tranquility, defense), or equality (justice, general welfare) were all equal political virtues that had to be held in balance of each other…

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Did we forget we're conservatives and we want to limit the power of the federal government?

*Now I know that I have heard some people have claimed that the FBI is merely shading the numbers—that they’re not counting things the same way to make things look better than they are. I’ve heard that claim from LOTS of people. But you know what I find interesting, I can’t find that claim on any think tank. None. Liberal. Conservative. Libertarian. Nobody. You would think that conservatives would have hit Clinton or Obama for skewing the data, or liberals would have hit Bush. But nobody seems to questions the FBI’s stats…nor is there any jump that you would see if you changed the criteria, it’s a slow progression. So either everybody and I mean everybody, is on a massive conspiracy to slowly skew the crime numbers, or crime really has been dropping.

**You thought I wasn’t serious, but I am. I am using that from now on.

***Libertarians, before you yell at me that we need to get rid of welfare entirely, please remember that Friedman and Hayek both said we need a safety net because having people in real poverty (the kind you see in the third world) creates people who seriously have the choice of steal or die, at which point it becomes a need for them to steal and as we all know from the example of Jean Valjean, utterly unjust to punish them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aristotle, Capitalism, Conservative, Constitution, Happiness, Long Term Thinking, philosophy, politics

Rick Santorum’s Perverted View of America

“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”—Thomas Jefferson (Notice the use of the singular “mind” and “man”…if he had meant society he would have said “minds of men” but rather this is a statement against tyranny over even a single individual…yes he was a little lax on fulfilling that depending on the complexion of the individual in question…but I’m going for a philosophical concepts here, not the fact Jefferson had personal issues.)

So  uber-liberal and Christian Sharia supporter Rick “I will trample every freedom history has ever known to establish my theocracy” Santorum seem to be back in the press with a new book and vain desire to be the center of attention.  Now while I comb over some of his newer garbage and lies it might be helpful to remember why Rick Santorum is literally the walking embodiment of everything wrong with the Republican party, the reason we lose elections, the reason we have driven away libertarians and moderates, and the godsend of liberals and progressive everywhere.

Putting the “Fun” back into psychotic fundamentalism

So let’s take a look at Rick Santorum’s older book, It takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good:

“It wasn’t a freedom that celebrated the individual above society. It wasn’t a freedom that gave men and women blanket permission to check in and out of society whenever they wanted. It wasn’t the freedom to be as selfish as I want to be. It wasn’t even the freedom to be left alone, with no obligations to the people we know and to the people we don’t yet know. The Constitutional Convention’s freedom, American’s traditional freedom–or the better word, as I defined it earlier, liberty–was a selfless freedom, freedom for the sake of something greater or higher than the self. For our founders, this liberty was defined and defended in the context of our Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity. Often, in fact, American liberty meant the freedom to attend to one’s duties–duties to God, to family, and to neighbors. Our founders were in the business of constructing a nation, a political community. No-Fault Freedom, a freedom from every tie and duty, provides no basis for that project: it is a principle of division and social deconstruction.” (44)

Okay this is perhaps more frightening than anything I have seen Obama say.  Granted Obama’s actions are those of a petty banana republic dictator trying to create a fascist state…but he’s an idiot and doesn’t do it well.  Most notably he can’t come out and defend his statist collectivist views.  But here we have Rick Santorum doing that very articulately.

Let’s take this monstrous evil apart bit by bit.

It wasn’t a freedom that celebrated the individual above society.

 

Yes the Founding Fathers believed in none of that tripe that said individuals “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Oh wait.  Notice how liberty is joined with the pursuit of Happiness.  Happiness (capital H) is an Aristotelian concept that an individual has reached the completion and fulfillment of their life through the expression of personal virtue, not through the collectivist service to virtue that Santorum suggests here.  A society cannot pursue Happiness, only an individual can.  A society cannot have a right to life, only an individual can.  But, Santorum wants you to believe that Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin who worked on the first draft put a social right in between two individual ones.  And if you believe that one I have a lovely bridge to sell you.   Further, pursuit of Happiness is an expansion of John Locke’s right to property (his original rights were the right to life, liberty and property and no one in their right mind ever thought Locke was talking about social rights not individual one).  If, as Santorum dishonestly suggests, the Founders held society above the individual then that would mean the right to pursue Happiness as a more evolved idea of property, was only for society, which would mean that property should only be held by society and not the individual….and you wonder why I consider Santorum a filthy socialist?

And of course the Founders held the good of society above the good of the individual.  Which is none of them ever broke any of the laws that were for the good society for personal gain—so long as you ignore that John Hancock made a fortune as a smuggler.  And if you put the good of society ahead above the individual then you would see the need to pay off the debts incurred by a massive war fought partly to defend you from the French and not complain about the numerous taxes levied to pay off that debt…oh wait no they would rather risk “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” than pay those taxes.  By the way Rick, honor is also a personal virtue.

Notice also some of their complaints

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

All of those are actions by the British Government attempting to bring about the “public good” but at the expense of personal liberties.  Notice Rick, how the individual is not being sacrificed for the good of the whole by the Founding Fathers.

Notice also phrases like “To secure the public good and private rights” from Federalist 10 by Madison, which seems to place the individual on equal, not subservient, value to the public good…you know kind of like how Christ put the individual on equal footing to everyone else when he quoted Leviticus and said “Love your neighbor as you would love yourself.”  Ignorant, and evil, collectivists like Santorum also seem to miss the second part.  But I shouldn’t expect someone as zealously passionate about his religion to actually read the book they claim to follow.

It wasn’t a freedom that gave men and women blanket permission to check in and out of society whenever they wanted.

As Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington did quite often.  And stop me if I’m wrong but wasn’t America founded by people who wanted to check out of society and start a new one, wasn’t this nation founded by people who wanted to check out of the society of Great Britain, wasn’t westward expansion driven by rugged individuals who wanted to check out of society and go west (which was, last time I checked part of the Founding Father’s vision).

 It wasn’t the freedom to be as selfish as I want to be.

Which I’m sure is why Jefferson said “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  It might be easy to assume Jefferson held the attitude to all private actions that didn’t hurt anyone.

Or try this one from their contemporaries Adam Smith

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”

Selfishness is what defines human progress.  But Santorum wants to think in the very plebian and uneducated way of sin and virtue.  Selfishness and Selflessness.  It shows that he had done little to any study of the philosophy of the Founding Fathers, nor does he know anything about his own Catholic doctrines…as study in either would lead him back to Aristotle who saw each virtue to have two vices not one (but you know when I looked up Santorum’s education, it came from the Dickenson School of Law, named after John Dickenson, a man so morally bankrupt that he is the only person who had the chance to sign both The Declaration of Independence AND The Constitution AND refused to sign both.  It’s good to see Santorum is keeping up with that legacy of opposing what is right and good and true).  But back to Aristotelian virtue.  It is not a choice between selfish and selfless it a choice between the virtue of rational self-interest and the vices of narcissism and selflessness.  Rational self-interest is where one puts ones needs, wants, and desires first but not at the expense of others, where one’s rights are on equal foot with the rights of others, and where we treat others with compassion, not just because we have the duty to them, but because it makes us feel good.  Santorum confuses selfishness, caring about your own concerns, with narcissism where you care ONLY about you and damn how others are affected by your actions (one might say this is the behavior of a sociopath, but even most high-functioning sociopaths take the needs of others into consideration as a means to their ends…so it’s hard to find a lot of examples of this particular evil.  Most evils in the world are caused more by short sightedness and ignorance, not by narcissism).  Strangely however, Santorum’s constant grabs for power at the expense of civilization itself if he ever got power is miraculously excluded.

 It wasn’t even the freedom to be left alone, with no obligations to the people we know and to the people we don’t yet know.

I think he is trying to pervert Edmund Burke’s definition of society (and by extension) as “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”  But a partnership is not an obligation.  The partnership Burke spoke of was to not view government as a joint stock company like short sighted East India Trading Company he had to deal with (the GM of it’s time) which was designed only to make a quick buck, what he was talking about was that society and law should be made with the long term good in mind.  That we should not solve our problems by heaping problems on future generations.  But if it is trying to pervert Burke he forgets that Burke was probably America’s chief proponent in Britain of our argument to King George III and Parliament that said we have a God-given right to be left alone when we choose so and our only obligation to you, our parent country and society, is to “hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”

There are however no “obligations” or “duties” in this, only the basic ethics to not intentionally harm others (i.e. future generations) but we have no obligations other than the ethical injunction to not maliciously and unjustly harm others.  Yes our Happiness depends on maintaining healthy friendships, but our Happiness is a duty only to ourselves. We are the ends of our own life, not the means for which society can use to achieve it’s ends.

It is the freedom to be left alone.  Who the hell does this man thinks made this nation?  A bunch of people who just sat in society and always worked in it or those who constantly moved west when they got tired of society.  Don’t like society, move to America.  Don’t like the first colonies’ society, move West.  Don’t like the colonies society, cross the Appalachians.  Not thrilled with the society of the new Union, cross the Mississippi. So on and so on.  Don’t like the state you live in, move to another. Don’t like the way things are done, create something new.

Oh and I hate to make this observation, but I have never in my life known a person with an IQ over 110 who doesn’t long for at least some point of each day where they have the freedom to be left alone, who doesn’t want time with their own thoughts…who wouldn’t yearn for days to be left alone if not longer…what does it say about a man who not only doesn’t want that freedom, doesn’t understand it, but actually wants to outlaw it?

The Founders would have agreed with their contemporary Adam Smith that our obligation is to ourselves and to reason because through these two things naturally develop empathy and compassion…and without a rational self-interest there can be no empathy, compassion or ethical behavior.  And I don’t think there was enough short sighted idiocy in all 13 colonies to make them agree with this disgrace of an American named Santorum.

The Constitutional Convention’s freedom, American’s traditional freedom–or the better word, as I defined it earlier, liberty–was a selfless freedom, freedom for the sake of something greater or higher than the self.

Yes, they were after something higher than one person: property and property rights.  And the Happiness of the individual.

I don’t know how selfless it was, as it was very much for the defense of personal property and the right to shoot anyone, be they an individual or a tyrannical government, who dared think they could take your hard earned property…but it was for something greater because they knew that if you could not control your own fate through work, property and achievement there could be no Happiness.

But this man clearly doesn’t believe in Happiness…no, like a good little Kantian he only believes in duty and obligation.  (Please, remember that Kant is the philosophical basis for Communism and Nazism).

 For our founders, this liberty was defined and defended in the context of our Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity.

Could someone please tell me what Judeo-Christian values are?

Would that be the Enlightenment/Thomist-Aristotlian view each person was personally responsible for themselves.  Perhaps the Puritan/Protestant view that salvation of self was a personal matter and that each person is saved or damned based only on their own merits as an individual.  Couldn’t be the Unitarian view that Franklin and both John and Abigail Adams had that took that Protestant view of individual relationship to God even further and saw it not only as personal but private as well.

Perhaps it might be the in line with the view of the Bill of the Rights of Englishmen that more or less implied that since we can’t possibly know the mind of God we’re not going to legislate in such a way that suggests one religion is more right over another….you know one of those British things that the Founding Fathers actually wanted to continue.  Shame you don’t want to continue that Rick.

Might it be that Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity that a Catholic like you should know, that of St. Thomas Aquinas, who in the Summa Theologica stated that “human law does not prohibit every vice from which virtuous men abstain, but only the more serious ones from which the majority can abstain, especially those that harm others and which must be prohibited for human society to survive such as homicide, theft and the life.”  Hmm…even Thomas Aquinas seems to recognize the importance of personal property rights (and this was still before the only ethical means of economic dealing, laissez-faire capitalism, had really been codified in both law and practice)…shame a man from 1200 is centuries ahead of Rick Santorum (but frankly people in 500 BCE were centuries ahead of Santorum).

Often, in fact, American liberty meant the freedom to attend to one’s duties–duties to God, to family, and to neighbors.

No you have a duty to yourself.  If we are made in God’s image then there is nothing higher we can serve than our self, our reason and intellect which makes us the equals of God if we choose to use them, our free will which according to the Christianity you claim to follow is something no other being in existence has been given.  Yes, if we are being true to ourselves, our reason and our will we will be compassionate and kind to others and wish them the best and help them when we can, but because “love [them] as we love [ourselves]” not because “we love them more than we love ourselves” (I seem to not remember that little distinction in the Bible).

 

Duty, a fascinating word.  As in duty based ethics.  The ethical system of fascists and communists everywhere.  Thank God the Founding Fathers were versed in logical people like Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke and Adam Smith who recognized that it was self interest that caused people to be good and the goal of society to provide the tools to become a good person if they choose to be (but never forcing a person who is not harming others to be something that they do not choose to be)—they thankfully never gave into the evils that the word duty has created other the course of history.

Sad they didn’t have the DSM-IV around yet…they could have also looked up Dependent personality disorder.  (Which is pretty much the opposite of a narcissistic personality disorder, which is apparently what Santorum thinks anyone has if they have even the smallest concern for their own well-being).

 Our founders were in the business of constructing a nation, a political community.

This is perhaps the only correct sentence in this quote.  Of course the Founders thought of it as one joined together by mutual consent rather than forced upon people.  A society of individuals joined in common cause, not a group of slaves with duties to carry out.

No-Fault Freedom, a freedom from every tie and duty, provides no basis for that project: it is a principle of division and social deconstruction.

I will not disagree that people are often at their best when they are involved in society and working to better it (there are of course numerous exceptions, which Santorum might have heard about if he ever actually read something)…but it only yields something good for everyone when it is done by choice with the goal of personal fulfillment being equal or higher than the wanting to do good for others.

The point of society is to produce the highest good and the highest good is personal individual Happiness.  Granted the best society is the one that allows (not brings, because Happiness can only be achieved, never given) for the most people to reach that Happiness…but that Happiness can only be achieved in a society free of preposterous concept of duty…individuals are good by nature and choose freely to help others, they do not need moral obligations to enslave them to do so.  Rick Santorum fails to realize this, and fails to realize everything that is good in this nation.

***

British historian Lord Acton observed, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought.”

What Santorum insanely proposes here is that “Liberty is not the right to do what our reason tells us we ought, but the obligation to be enslaved to invented obligations to one man’s narrow definition of God and to everyone else in society of others. “

Which sounds like one the Founding Father’s actually supported…and which one do you think Adams, Hamilton, Washington, and Jefferson would be drawing lots as to who got to shoot Ricky for treason?

This man and his vile beliefs is everything wrong with the Republican party.  It is not conservative, but it taints the banner of conservatism by claiming to be so.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Conservative, Happiness, Rick Santorum

Movies for Conservatives: Les Miserables

Les Miserables Posters

“Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men.  It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.”

Les Mis a movie for conservatives?

Yeah.

But let’s first talk about the qualities of the movie apart from political or philosophical points.

The High Points

This is the play in all its glory.  And the play is a truncated version of one of the most moving books ever written.  All the passion, all the empathy there.  You will cry for Fantine.  For Eponine.  For Gavrouche.  For the revolutionary Friends of the ABC.  For Javert. And of course for Valjean.  Bring tissues this is movie that you will cry at, a lot.

And this movie has a few truly wonderful scenes that supply motivation that was missing in the play.  For instance it has Javert arrive on the same day that Fantine is dismissed from her job, which gives a reason for Valjean not taking a more serious interest in her case.

The movie also supplies little moments from the book that were never in the play, like Grantaire standing by Enjolras at the moment of execution.

I think director Tom Hooper created something truly genius with the live singing way this movie was made…however it appears in the early scenes that there was certainly a learning curve involved in using this technique (I wish this wasn’t the first movie to do it so Hooper could have had something to reference).  But for any inconsistency it brings up at some moments, it adds deeply to the rest of the film and emotional impact of the songs.

Les Mis HathawayAnne Hathaway deserves an Oscar.

And Russell Crowe’s singing was a pleasant surprise.  He added more humanity to Javert than any actor I have previously seen.

The Low Points.

I feel there was a lot that got left on the editing room floor. At 2 hours and 37 minutes this was pushing it for most movies nowadays and I’m pretty sure if all the little things that were taken out were put back in it would be well over 3 hours.  And since Hollywood has no intention of returning to the idea of an intermission (to me this makes no sense as most of the money comes from concessions and if there is a break at an hour and a half we would be more willing to buy soda since we wouldn’t have to worry about running out to the rest room and we would buy food at the halfway mark as we would be hungrier by that point…but at least it seems that way, real data I’m not privy to might show otherwise) they were probably forced to make some heavy cuts to the movie.  This creates some odd pacing issues, where certain parts feel a little rushed.

Also, and it may be a personal issue that others may not have a problem with, I was not overly impressed by Jackman’s singing. It wasn’t bad, but I’m used to a deeper more sonorous voice for Valjean.

On the technical points, the movie is one of the best of the year, the acting and visual work was spectacular. The editing needs work (or at least a director’s cut DVD…please.) and the directing while exceptional still could have been just a little better (I think the high cost of production may have prevented doing reshoots that other films might have done)…Hooper gets an A not A+.

The Political/Philosophical Points

Did you know this was Ayn Rand’s favorite book?  It was.  Kind of puts any thoughts that Les Mis is liberal out of the “obviously” category doesn’t it.

Okay let’s look at some of the points. On their own merits.

“I am the master of hundreds of workers, they all look to me.  Can I abandon them, how will they live if I am not free. I speak I am condemned, if I stay silent, I am damned.”

Jean Valjean is a convict, yes. But while that’s all that Javert sees, we’re supposed to see more.  We’re supposed to see the successful businessman who not only created a whole industry in a town, bringing it out of poverty and into an economic renaissance, but who also out of Christian charity (not guilt, it should be noted that if you read the book Valjean is motivated by a desire to be a better person, not by guilt about his prior actions) creates hospitals and schools for the poor.  In a day and age when lesser writers like Dickens would just recycle the terrible image of the robber baron, Hugo gave us a noble businessman as an example of what others should be. It should also be noted that in a very Atlas Shrugged kind of way, Hugo has no illusions that once Valjean is forced to run the industry and the town is not able to survive in its thriving state without Valjean’s leadership. The book to a great degree, with touches still in the movie, shows that prosperity is driven by captains of industry.

“Take my hand I’ll lead you to salvation.  Take my love, for love is everlasting.  And remember the truth that once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God.”

Further it should be noted what a deeply religious story this story is.  It is God and the Bishop of Digne, not government that redeems Valjean.  God and faith permeate all levels of this story.  Faith ironically is what drives both Valjean and Javert.  And it never condemns any form of faith, showing that all those fallen (except sadly Javert, whom I’m sure Hugo would have placed there) together in heaven.

The novel, the play, and now the movie praise faith.  It’s a rarity these days in serious well produced films.  And given the desperate need for spirituality in our modern world, something like this must be embraced.

“Let us die facing our foe […] Let others rise to take our place until the Earth is FREE!”

And dare we forget that much of the second half of the story is taken up by an uprising by Republican revolutionaries, seeking a return to law and not the capricious whims of a king.

“But, but, but” some liberals will complain.  The book is about helping the poor, and how unjust the criminal justice system is.  Those are liberal issues. And what they fail to realize is that these are different times and different issues.  The poor in 19th century France were starving (a problem with accuracy is that even the slums of France look too pretty in this movie…honestly we wouldn’t have felt comfortable actually watching what the “The Miserable” of 19th century France looked like…it wasn’t quite Nazi Concentration Camp, but certainly not as pretty as this film depicts it), the poor in 21st century America are suffering an obesity epidemic.  Hugo critiqued those who were lazy and those who felt entitled.  Poverty of the kind Hugo witnessed in France was what he wanted us to feel empathy for, modern poverty would not likely bring as much empathy from Victor.  And he would be horrified by the lack of the churches and religion in the government welfare that modern liberals champion.  And don’t even get me started on the fact that you can’t compare the legal system that punished Valjean for 20 years and hounded him for life for stealing a loaf of bread to our modern system…yes we have problems, but we have the kind of problems Hugo would have only dreamed of.

“Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free.”

Of course for me one of the most revealing passages in Les Miserable is when Hugo takes a moment to critique communism.

(It should be noted the terms Socialism and Communism at the time do not have the same meaning now…what he calls Communism would be more in line with modern European Socialism…the term Capitalism was first used in 1854, 8 years before Hugo published Les Miserables—it took him nearly 20 years to write—and its usage as a economic system did not begin until Marx used it in 1867, 5 years after Les Miserables was published.  So he could never expect to hear him use the term capitalism even thought that seems to be what he’s calling for.   He certainly did not have the term cronyism which describes the economics of 19th century France better than anything.  So pay attention to the systems and practices he is referring to, not the titles, as he had no access to the title we currently use.)

“The reader will not be surprised if, for various reasons, we do not here treat in a thorough manner, from the theoretical point of view, the questions raised by socialism. We confine ourselves to indicating them.

All the problems that the socialists proposed to themselves, cosmogonic visions, reverie and mysticism being cast aside, can be reduced to two principal problems.

First problem: To produce wealth.

Second problem: To share it.

The first problem contains the question of work.

The second contains the question of salary.

In the first problem the employment of forces is in question.

In the second, the distribution of enjoyment.

From the proper employment of forces results public power.

From a good distribution of enjoyments results individual happiness.

By a good distribution, not an equal but an equitable distribution must be understood.  The highest equality is equity.

From these two things combined, the public power without, individual happiness within, results social prosperity.

Social prosperity means the manhappy, the citizen free, the nation great.

England solves the first of these two problems. She creates wealth admirably, she divides it badly. This solution which is complete on one side only leads her fatally to two extremes: monstrous opulence, monstrous wretchedness. All enjoyments for some, all privations for the rest, that is to say, for the people; privilege, exception, monopoly, feudalism, born from toil itself. A false and dangerous situation, which sates public power or private misery, which sets the roots of the State in the sufferings of the individual. A badly constituted grandeur in which are combined all the material elements and into which no moral element enters.

Communism and agrarian law think that they solve the second problem. They are mistaken. Their division kills production. Equal partition abolishes emulation; and consequently labor.

It is a partition made by the butcher, which kills that which it divides.

It is therefore impossible to pause over these pretended solutions. Slaying wealth is not the same thing as dividing it.

The two problems require to be solved together, to be well solved. The two problems must be combined and made but one.

[…]

Solve the two problems, encourage the wealthy, and protect the poor, suppress misery, put an end to the unjust farming out of the feeble by the strong, put a bridle on the iniquitous jealousy of the man who is making his way against the man who has reached the goal, adjust, mathematically and fraternally, salary to labor, mingle gratuitous and compulsory education with the growth of childhood, and make of science the base of manliness, develop minds while keeping arms busy, be at one and the same time a powerful people and a family of happy men, render property democratic, not by abolishing it, but by making it universal, so that every citizen, without exception, may be a proprietor, an easier matter than is generally supposed; in two words, learn how to produce wealth and how to distribute it, and you will have at once moral and material greatness; and you will be worthy to call yourself France.”

[Emphasis added]

You will notice he is proposing such things as universal education, due process of law, and property rights.  He condemns any attempt for everyone to have their fair and equal share and envying the wealthy.  He proposes that people be paid just wages for their work (which was an issue then, not so much now). He proposes to make every man his own master, that everyone may earn wealth.  I can’t speak with certainty what political path Hugo would take in the modern world, but I can be fairly certain that if a modern day liberal went back to see him, Hugo would try to slap the stupid out of the Occupy trash.  I can also be mildly sure that Hugo might encourage the building of a few barricades against some of the government overreaches of the modern world.

All in all, the story is one of the value of liberty, of the individual, of redemption through works and of God.  Those are conservative themes if I ever heard them.

“Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night

It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the Earth there is a flame that never dies,

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

We will live again in Freedom in the garden of the Lord.

We will walk behind the plowshares.  We will put away the sword.

The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?  Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the people sing, say do you hear the distant drums?

It is the future that we bring when tomorrow comes!”

8 Comments

Filed under Books for Conservatives, Capitalism, character, Charity, Conservative, Faith, God, Government is corrupt, Happiness, Literature, Love, Movies, Movies for Conservatives, Patriotism, politics, Religion, Spirituality, Tyranny, virtue

Movies that show rich people as being good #10: Holiday

“I don’t want her dough I want to earn it myself.”

Any long time reader of this blog will know that I love movies (and books, but book reviews are a little more difficult to do) but I’ve pretty much run out of holidays to tie to movies (yes, there seems to be a holiday for every day on the calendarbut that would be pushing it) so I’ve decided to start looking at particular themes and genres.

So I’ll first turn to a theme I’ve seen a lot of in the recent coverage of the presidential election and in movies: the rich.  Specifically this obscene fallacy that rich people are all evil.  Evil I tell you, EVIL!  Romney’s worth $250 million, thus he must be evil! (Let’s just ignore the rich Democrats who earned their money in ways extremely less ethical than Romney’s way of earning his money, Mitt is evil because he is rich.)  However those of us who deal in the real world know this is not the case: there are some very, very good rich people in the world and some very, very evil ones.  There are good ones who earned their money and good ones who inherited it.  But you don’t see this very much in the realm of film.  You see the liberal nonsense that all wealth is ill gotten, either stolen, swindled, cheated from the poor or the result of criminal or corrupt practices.

But then again this is Hollywood we’re talking about.  Take a look around most films and TV shows. The rich live in opulence that in reality most of the top 1% couldn’t hope to afford.  The middle class in film seems to live in houses or apartments five times the size of what most of those really in the middle class (even the upper middle class) could usually afford to get.  And the poor seems to constantly live in a state somewhere below the poverty of the third world.  In short Hollywood’s idea of classes is a little skewed (and by skewed I mean ignorant and psychotic).

So the problem was that I tried to find my usual 20-30 movies.  I couldn’t.  There are not 20 good films that show rich people in a positive light.  10 with a few honorable mentions.  So we’re stuck with 10.

So here are my criteria for these 10.

  • The character must be admirable and have made their money through ethical means (yes inheritance is ethical so long as the original money was inherited).
  • The character must be really rich.  By that I mean they have to have enough money to retire for the rest of their life, never work another day, and still live a comfortable life style.

You’d think with such limited requirements I’d have more than 10, but no 10 is all I could find.

So let’s start with #10

Holiday (1938)

 “If I’m going to get stuck with a rich girl, I’ll just grit my teeth make the best of it.”

We start with one of the greatest romantic-comedies of all time, Holiday, starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.  It is based on a play my Philip Barry, a playwright who loved to show that the rich were human (with their good and their bad) as much as every other class.  The film is directed by great director George Cukor (you should know that name, he’s only the director of Gone with the Wind, The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib, Born Yesterday, Pat and Mike, My Fair Lady)

The story centers around the Setons, a family of bankers of whose wealth places them in the highest levels of American society.  The father is set in his ways of a misguided reverence for money.  Oldest daughter Linda (Katherine Hepburn) is the black sheep and free spirit.  Youngest child and only son Ned, an artist at heart, is slowly being destroyed by his alcoholism because he doesn’t have the spine to tell his father he won’t be a banker.  And younger daughter Julia is very comfortable in her social strata and is looking for a man who can guarantee she will always be kept in wealth.

The problem is Julia settles on Johnny Case (Cary Grant) a successful up and coming businessman, and our first example in Hollywood of the admirable rich.  A regular genius he reengineers a failing company during the Great Depression for the firm he works for (hmm…buying failing companies and through reorganization of management making them successful…sounds very familiar) into a profitable business…in the process making himself a cool million in on its stock.  (in 1938 when this film was made a million would be about 15 million in 2010 dollars, so yeah he’s rich). But despite being a millionaire at 30, and all through his own work add brains, Johnny Case understands what money is actually for (something his fiancée does not).   Being happy.

Johnny:  But…I’m afraid I’m not as anxious as I might be for the things most people work toward. I don’t want too much money.

Edward:  Too much money? Johnny:  Well, more than I need to live by…You see, it’s always been my plan to make a few thousand early in the game, if I could, and then quit for as long as they last, and try to find out who I

There needed to be more movies with these two…

am and what I am and what goes on and what about it…I’m sure Julia understands…don’t you, Julia?

Julia:  [laughs, uncertainly]. I’m not sure I do, Johnny…

[…] Even if it turns out to be one of those fool ideas people dream about then go flat on.  Even if I find I’ve had enough of it in 3 months time, still I want it.  I’ve got a feeling if I let this chance go by there’ll never be another one for me.  So I don’t think anyone will mind if I just have a go at it.  Will they Julia?  Will they dear?

This classic shows the truth that it is not money that corrupts, more that it allows the corruptible to be even more vile.  Case wants to use his money to be happy because he knows that making money isn’t his primary goal in life and he won’t listen to those who say otherwise.  He is not only intelligent and competent, but he is happy and ethical and won’t violate his principles.

Even if you haven’t seen the film, I’m probably not spoiling anything by revealing Cary Grant actually gets Katherine Hepburn not the other sister.  Duh.  And here we see that someone born to money can be just as good as Cary Grant’s Case who started with nothing and earned it all himself.  She also embraces life at its fullest, cares about others, and does not compromise her values.

This film also subtly praises true capitalism in that it shows that through intelligence and work one can go from rags to riches even in the midst of the Great Depression.

Yes, Barry is fair in his depiction of the rich.  From the father of the Seton family who knows only his social class and doesn’t dare offend any of its traditions (competent at his job, not evil, but not necessarily living life to the fullest), to Julia who wants protection that wealth brings and nothing more, to the pro-fascist cousins of the family (remember this was 1938 and there were many stupid enough in all classes to think fascism held the answers for economic woes).   But even these are merely balance to show that the rich are not some terrible caricature or a group of white knights, they’re human and, as within any group, there is a wide variety of character.

Even the somewhat vapid Julia has an inkling of the proper nature of wealth…when trying to win Case to her side she states:

If you think that you can persuade me that a man of your energy and your ability possibly could quit at 30 […] But you haven’t any idea yet at how exciting business can be.  Oh Johnny see it through, you’ll love it I know you will.  There’s no such thrill in the world as making money.

This is true of some people.  Some businessmen enjoy creating things, businesses, systems, products because they can.  The great titans of industry from Vanderbilt to Jobs did it because they were driven to create, and they did thrill at creating wealth.  Case is not one of them and there is nothing wrong with that either as while he wants to find himself, he wants to do it on his dime, not someone else’s.  Julia’s problem is her narrow-minded belief that everyone has to fit into her model, and also the hypocrisy of why doesn’t she go out and build her own fortune (yeah it’s 1938 and women’s liberation hasn’t happened yet, but there were women in Congress at this point, no reason other barriers couldn’t be broken…especially in a movie starring Hepburn, a woman who broke barriers and traditions wherever she found them).  So her words are true, even if coming from her they ring hollow.

Honorable Mention

As I said there are a few honorable mentions that depict the rich well, but not so well they make it onto my top ten list.  The first of these is The Philadelphia Story.  Another joint venture of Barry, Cukor, Grant and of course Hepburn.  It’s a wonderful romantic comedy about high society.  And while Hepburn and Grant are admirable and rich, the issue of wealth is more setting than theme in this film.  The nature of money and why we seek it is central to Holiday, in The Philadelphia Story wealth is just a backdrop.  And so while it shows some wonderful (and some not so wonderful) people it ranks only as an honorable mention on this list…although one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time in its own right. 

1 Comment

Filed under Capitalism, character, Conservative, Economics, Evils of Liberalism, Free Will, Happiness, Individualism, Mitt Romney, Movies, Movies for Conservatives, politics

Obama did say, “You didn’t build that” and worse…Part III

 

“They might be giants, and we might be pygmies; but we stand on the shoulders of giants, so we can see farther.” Attributed to Sir Isaac Newton

So just to recap, Obama did actually say that government is responsible for all of your success and this is perhaps the dumbest idea in history.

Liberals will try and deflect from this by pointing out that Romney said the following at the Salt Lake Olympics:

Hand it to liberals to take a quote out of context…and still miss the point of what they’re taking out of context.

Well first off this, unlike the “You didn’t build that” comment is slightly out of context.  But before we get to context let’s just deal with the quote the liberals chose…as even that isn’t the same thing as Obama’s dipshit statement.

Let’s see what words does Romney use in that quotes.  Encouraged.  Guided.  None of which is equivalent to “You didn’t do that others did that.”   “All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them up.”  Which of course brings us back to the quote I have started each part of this series with: “but we stand on the shoulders of giants, so we can see farther.”  Those who stand on the shoulders, on the groundwork others have built have done something those people couldn’t.  They have done something that almost no one else could.

But is thanking someone equivalent to you didn’t do that?  No.  Look at the front or back of any book there is a long list of thanks and acknowledgements by the author to the people who helped them.  But just because people may have helped in deep and meaningful ways, it is the author’s name on the dust jacket because they’re the one who did the vast majority of the work, they’re the ones who created something out of nothing, they’re the ones who poured their soul out, worked long hours, fought the impulse to give up and created something.  And this is true of ANY entrepreneur, any Olympian, any person who accomplishes anything. They may have help and they should thank those individuals who helped them…but no sane person mistakes the kind of help individuals offer to one another for the actual accomplishment itself.

But ignoring that there is even a massive gulf between the two quotes out of context, let’s look actually at the full quote and see how while “You didn’t build that” wasn’t taken out of context, the Romney one kind of is.

“Tonight we cheer the Olympians, who only yesterday were children themselves,” Romney said. “As we watch them over the next 16 days, we affirm that our aspirations, and those of our children and grandchildren, can become reality. We salute you Olympians – both because you dreamed and because you paid the price to make your dreams real. You guys pushed yourself, drove yourself, sacrificed, trained and competed time and again at winning and losing.” …

“You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power,” said Romney, who on Friday will attend the Opening Ceremonies of this year’s Summer Olympics. “For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities. All right!.”

Remember how the full context of Obama’s statement was that it doesn’t matter if you’re smart or worked hard because lots of people are smart and lots of people worked hard…and I guess the implication is that they all fail if government isn’t there to decide who wins and who loses. Everything preceding Obama’s statement was “You are not good enough.  You cannot do it on your own.  Your intellect and drive are worthless unless government decides you should win.”  Well notice the context of Romney’s quote.  He starts off telling the Olympians they did do that.  “We salute you Olympians – both because you dreamed and because you paid the price to make your dreams real.”  (And don’t even get me started on how Obama wouldn’t understand the idea of paying the price for your dreams…he is a man who has had everything in his life handed to him without effort…which is why he believes you didn’t build that, he didn’t.)

“We salute you Olympians” Did Obama anywhere in his speech say we should salute the businessman who create products and services for us to buy or whose business creates jobs and wealth?  Does he say anywhere we should applaud them for taking a risk that could have lost them everything?  Does he say we should be in awe of them sometimes, like now when they’re keeping their businesses alive when they have a piece of shit President doing everything in his power (both through legal and illegal means) to try and destroy them?  Nope he doesn’t.  Romney starts his speech acknowledging that it is the individual who accomplished something that deserves credit first and foremost.  Obama doesn’t even understand that this should be anywhere on the list.

“You guys pushed yourself, drove yourself, sacrificed, trained and competed time and again at winning and losing.”  Romney recognizes that it is the individual who chooses to push themselves and the individual who works to achieve their goal. The greatest parents and coaches in the world in the best facilities in the world can’t do a thing if the person isn’t willing to drive themselves.  Compare that to “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.”  In Obama’s world you don’t push yourself to achieve, you’re “allowed” to achieve because government, all powerful government, deigns that you may achieve at their sufferance.

So in answer to question that some truly idiotic liberal put on that picture above “Why is it ok for Mitt to remind elite athletes that they didn’t do it alone, but when Obama says the same of business people, the Right throws a hissy fit?”  Because what Mitt and Barry are saying are not equivalent.  Because there is a difference between you had help in achieving your dream and you didn’t do it, the government did it for you.  Because one embraces what the individual is capable of and one denies the ability to shape your own life.  Because one glorifies what man is capable of and one denies he is capable of anything.  Because one is the basis of a system that provides freedom for the individual and one is the basis for the slavery of the collective.  Maybe that’s why we’re getting into a “hissy fit” as idiotic liberals put it (intelligent people might call it justified righteous indignation). Because we can tell the difference between ideas and recognize their consequences.

1 Comment

Filed under American Exceptionalism, Capitalism, character, Civil Liberties, Congress, Conservative, Constitution, Corporate Welfare, Debt, Economics, Education, Election 2012, Evils of Liberalism, Free Will, GOP, Government is corrupt, Government is useless, Happiness, Individualism, Long Term Thinking, Mitt Romney, Natural Rights, Obama, Patriotism, philosophy, politics, Taxes

Weekly Meditation: Calming the Mind

Okay this is not going to be a long meditation.

As you may have noticed there has been a slight lack of posting here at The Conservative New Ager for the last week or so…

I am juggling my regular work duties with a massive assignment, plus having to go to daily seminars to keep my teaching credential up to date (FYI: All classes you are required to take to keep a teaching credential are utterly worthless and will never make anyone a better teacher…but they will cost you hundreds of dollars and massive amounts of time.  I’m so glad we spend so much time putting such useless burdens on teachers).

In other words: I’m swamped.  My brain is tapioca and while I would love to go into great detail on the nature of the ego and how to kill it, don’t have the time nor mental coherence to do so.

But I have time to breathe.  Slow long breaths.  No thoughts.  No ideas.  No mantra. One or two long breaths that expand not just the chest but the diaphragm as well.  And sometimes that is all the meditation we need.  So, while I might suggest you go back and focus on one of the more detailed meditations this week…remember every time that you are stressed that before you dive into any assignment to take a long slow breath and clear you mind.

We sometimes forget how calming and effective this simple action can be.

Leave a comment

Filed under Chakra, Faith, God, Happiness, Meditation, New Age, Religion, Spirituality

Most Patriotic Movies #17 National Treasure

“To high treason.  That’s what these men were committing when they signed the Declaration. […] Here’s to the men who did what was considered wrong, in order to do what they knew was right…”

Okay it’s a silly and fun movie.  It’s lacking in depth and real history…oh who am I kidding it’s The DaVinci Code in America.  But that doesn’t change the fact that for all of historical inaccuracy (I’m being polite) it still places ideals of America first and foremost.

“Of all the ideas that became the United States, there’s a line here that’s at the heart of all of the others.  ‘When a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to render the under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and provide new guards for their future security. ‘  People don’t talk that way anymore. […] It means that if there is something wrong those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.”

Americans in the early days of the nation through the hay day of the Monroe Doctrine and off and on since WWII has understood this principle.  All men are created equal and their rights aren’t tied to a Declaration or border, they are inalienable to all…and you have if you wish to be ethical and have the power to do something, you do it or you are not ethical.  This is why our government was one that in the early days laid to waste three nations that engaged in piracy and extortion of all of Europe, not just for our own shipping rights, but because it was the right thing to do.  And this why this nation above all others believes in personal charity, because it is not the duty of some government bureaucrat to help people, it is the ethical responsibility of people to determine not just need but also worthiness so we do not throw away money on those who would waste it.

And it’s nice to see that this movie understands that ethics are not some bygone passé idea that along with chivalry we have move past, but rather the guiding light and loadstone of our lives.

I will be honest I cringed every time they touch the Declaration in the movie. I know it wasn’t the real thing, but even the thought of putting the Declaration in harm’s way was a horrifying idea to me.

The movie also makes clear the true value of the Declaration.  The sanctity of the idea of bringing it back to Independence Hall, the willingness to do anything to protect it, going so far as when Abigail agrees that dropping her (possibly killing her) was the correct move to save the Declaration.  Now maybe it’s just me who understands this reaction to the Declaration, but then again I choke when I read it aloud, but I cannot find any holy book on earth, even my beloved Course In Miracles or Bhagavad-Gita, that seems to divinely inspired as to recognize the value of individual human life and the power it has.  And this movie, through the character’s reverence for the document, at least shows that I’m not alone.

The movie also shows the American way of thought in the character’s dialogue:

Ben Gates: “No, but I hope it’s real. I mean I’ve dreamt it’s real since my grandfather told me about it. But I want to hold it.  I feel like I’m so close I can taste it. But I just…just want to know it’s not just something I my head or in my heart. “

Abigail Chase: “People don’t really talk that way you know”

Ben Gates: “I know.  But they think that way.”

Thinking in these grand idealistic ways is a distinctly American trait.

And finally, even the treasure itself becomes just another way to show the greatness of America in the film:

Agent Sandusky: The Templars and the Freemasons believed that the treasure was too great for any one man to have, not even a king. That’s why they went to such lengths to keep it hidden.

Ben Gates: That’s right. The founding fathers believed the same thing about government. I figure their solution will work for the treasure too.

Agent Sadusky: Give it to the people.

That we have entrusted the people of the republic with an awesome power and responsibility (maybe they should try living up to it once in a while).

Overall for all of simplicity and flaws, it is a deeply patriotic film.  I’ll be honest I was less impressed by the sequel…but I always have hopes for the third which they keep promising.

1 Comment

Filed under American Exceptionalism, Art, Civil Liberties, Declaration, Equality, Faith, Founding, God, Happiness, Individualism, Movies, Movies for Conservatives, Patriotism, politics

The Greatest Films of American Patriotism: Overview and Honorable Mentions

This was a much harder list to compile than a lot of the others. Halloween films is there are a monster or lots of blood? Yes? Okay it qualifies. Christmas films? Does it take place in December? Yes? Okay it qualifies. Romances? Did two people fall in love? Comedies? Did I laugh?

Patriotism…
…not as easy to define with film. Going through internet lists of patriotic films I find that most of them come in two categories. The first seems to be does it show that the U.S. military can really blow shit up? And there is no denying that we can, but is this American patriotism? Do we, should we, love our country because we have an efficient military? No. We love our country because of the ideals it represent of the greatness in humanity that it speaks to. Yes, the fact that time and again that our military has stood not to just defend the liberty of this nation but the liberty of other nations is cause for admiration, the fact that our soldiers have given their lives to see that those ideals are persevered is cause for veneration. But it is the ideals and the causes that are worthy, not the efficiency of the battles or amount of ordinance dropped.  So that threw out a lot of war movies that were more about the battle and the tactics and the people involved. Remember the line is “First to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean” not about death tolls.

The other category of films that seem to be made into patriotic films are historical films. There are a lot of people that seem to think that just because you show a historical event that was important in U.S. history it’s patriotic. Ummm…there is a difference between history and patriotism. And I’m sorry but just because Forrest was really involved in a lot of events or even because Sinise has become a hero to our troops from that movie, there is nothing explicitly patriotic about that film. If being about a major event in U.S. history and showing the might of the U.S. army were the only requirements for patriotism, then Gone with the Wind would be the most patriotic film of all time…but you know while I love Gone with the Wind, a movie that glorifies traitors to the U.S. I somehow don’t see it making my list of patriotic films.

So that took out 90% of all the films you will see on most lists of the most patriotic films.

So then I was left having to go through a lot of other options. Part of what makes America great is our belief in individualism, the free market and the ability to achieve the American Dream. But I felt that there are many films that show the American Dream being reached, and you know while there is a certain implicit tip of the hat to American liberty I couldn’t quite call these films patriotic because often they were giving justified credit to the individual more than the nation that made it possible. And I have no problem with this focus. So I decided, I’ll save the living the American Dream moments for a different list at a different time. Only films that give due credit to America, if only subtly should make this list.

Then I went through movies that did involve armed service members that showed them as distinctly heroic and while I could find great movies that show every branch of the service as heroic (even the Coast Guard in the very underappreciated The Guardian) it was again the individual and not the ideals of the nation that were in focus. Now I think that it is only in a country with ideals like ours that breeds individuals with character that can be called heroic, I don’t feel it’s artistically justified to put that argument on every movie.

So my standard for the 29 parts of this list (plus the honorable mentions) is did the writer and director set to show that there is something distinct about the American ideal that breeds justice, heroism, liberty and prosperity. Is there anything in the film that was meant to show the superiority of ideals in America?

And thus we begin the list with the honorable mentions, in no particular order…

Hidalgo. The story of an American and his horse who did what others could not. There are some very patriotic moments in this film and the character’s determination is very much attributed to his being American. However I think that is in great part due to the writer John Fusco. The movie’s numerous flaws I blame on hack director Joe Johnston (the same hack who managed to not show a drop of patriotism in a movie entitled “Captain America”…how the hell do you manage that? ) Entertaining but flawed.

Tears of the Sun.A movie about a Navy SEAL team realizing to hell with orders, morality requires

For all it’s flaws it’s hard to hate a film that ends with Burke’s quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” after showing good men not sitting quietly by.

them to fight against tyranny and genocide. Again it has some flaws but it certainly shows Americans as a people who believe more in what is right than what is convenient.

Trial at Nuremberg starring Spencer Tracy and Nuremberg starring Alec Baldwin. Why these two films, because it shows that America, for all of it faults, does to its enemies what no country would ever give us, a fair trial where the accused was allowed to defend themselves.

An American Carol. A film by David Zucker (the genius behind Airplane, The Naked Gun, and Hot Shots…you know back in the days when slapstick movies were funny) comes a slapstick making relentless fun of a Michael Moore style tub of lard and stupidity. As the ghosts of Washington, Patton, Kennedy, and Death (along with Bill O’Reilly) try and slap some patriotism into this liberal idiot you hear a poor man version of the ideals that make America great. It has its moments but it either tries to shoehorn patriotism too much into the humor of certain scenes or shoehorn comedy too much into certain patriotic scenes. It had potential, but I think Zucker wanted to make a point more than make a good movie. Also, unlike really great humor the jokes are very dependent on current events and what strengths it does have will not stand the test of time. The movie does have the distinction of having at least half of all conservatives in Hollywood in the film.

Plus it has one of the most enjoyable scenes of all time. Shooting ACLU zombies…god I want this turned into a video game.

The ideal of the American Hero

Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Indiana Jones series. Okay none of the movies themselves about patriotism per se. But the hero is the quintessential ideal of the American hero. Independent, smart, loyal, man of action opposed to Nazi’s, Communists and religious fanatics. Now do I have to list how flawed some of the movies were?

Burn Notice. Burned spy Michael Weston just bleeds patriotism. It was motivates him, to get back into the good graces of the nation that turned its back on him because it is the only nation worth fighting for. Any single episode may lack a particular theme of patriotism, but taken as a whole there are only a few things more important to Weston than his country (Fi, Sam, Mom, honor, what’s right…but those values are very American in themselves).

And finally three movies I’m going to lump together because they pretty much all have the same theme and the same flaws: The Tuskegee Airmen,(about the black airmen who flew combat planes in WWII), Windtalkers (about the Navajo code talkers used in the Pacific front of WWII), and Go for Broke! (About the 442nd division in the European theater of WWII, made up entirely of Japanese-Americans who been imprisoned in U.S. internment camps at the start of WWII but who went on to be the most highly decorated division in the history of the U.S. armed services). The basic theme of all of them is that for all flaws, the ideals of America are so great that even those to whom our treatment of them has been nothing short of evil, still see the greatness of America as something worth fighting and dying for. (Conversely I want you to think of what would happen if Germany had armed Jews who had been in concentration camps…do you think you’d have a highly decorated division of the German army…or do you think you’d have a lot of dead Germans and a lot of defections to the other side, followed by even more dead Germans.) What’s the problem with these films? They are all terribly made. Bad scripts, sub-par acting, questionable directing. You’d almost think Hollywood didn’t want the idea that America is better than her flaws being a popular movie.

And one last note there are some movies which could theoretically have a very strong patriotic theme but they haven’t come out yet so only time will tell (disturbingly a lot of them are comic book movies): Captain America 2, The Man of Steel, Dark Knight Rises and Argo could all theoretically make it onto to this list if done well…but we’ll have to see.

Up tomorrow #29 on the list…films that use other countries as metaphors for America….

1 Comment

Filed under American Exceptionalism, Art, Conservative, Faith, Free Will, Government is corrupt, Happiness, Individualism, Movies, Movies for Conservatives, Patriotism, politics, Tyranny

A Season of Patriotism

So what makes this worthy of our allegiance?

So it’s June.  A week after Memorial Day and a month before one of my two favorite holidays: Independence Day.  And as with the approach of every Independence Day I am struck by the difference between Independence Day and my other favorite holiday: Christmas…or more accurately the Christmas season.

Christmas gets a whole month to celebrate.  From Black Friday to New Year’s Day people are little happier, a little nicer, a little more willing to let the best in them come out because they want to celebrate.  It’s a whole month of festivity and joy, parties, decoration, music, food, friends, special films that are for that season and that season alone, and yes finally gifts.  A whole season.

The 4th of July gets a day.   Hell even Halloween gets treated better with a whole season.

There is something wrong here.  But, I know someone is about to say, “Christmas (and Chanukah, Solstice, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s) is a religious holiday, directly tied to our relationship to God.”   No really someone actually tried that on me once.  To which I can only respond, “And you don’t see anything of the divine in Independence Day?”

I know liberals, and probably libertarians as well, have a problem with this, but there is something truly special about this nation.

I was for Romney before I heard it him say, but when at an Arizona rally he said [and this is not word for word as I’m going off memory] “Some people believe that our Declaration and Constitution were written by very brilliant men, others believe that they were divinely inspired when they wrote it—I believe it was a bit of both” it was at that moment that all my worries about Romney faded.  This was a man who got it.  He saw that the documents were written by men, albeit brilliant men, but men nonetheless, who were capable of error and thus you could not claim absolute perfection in their

Go on name for me one other time there were as many great minds in one place?

documents…but he also saw that the beliefs and ideas in these documents represented an immeasurable leap forward in human society and that at some level the hand of God was present.  Name for me a time when you would have an Adams, a Jefferson, a Washington, a Franklin all in the same room together.  History provides few men of such insight, intelligence, and character (not that they were perfect, but they were certainly ahead of their time by massive steps); occasionally you get two of them together at the same time; at very special moments you get three together at once…at both the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention you had whole rooms of these men.  Please tell me of another time in history when you had such a grouping (and to see it happen twice in one generation).  To a group of men who believed in ideals of right and true being more important than their personal fortunes (a good portion of the signers of the Declaration went broke, many were tortured all of them suffered for signing that document…not one recanted their signature.)  How do you not see the hand of providence in that?

If more divinely inspired words have been written, I do not know about them.

How do you not see it in:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Please tell me which passage of the Tanakh, the New Testament, the teaching of Buddha, the Gita, the Tao or any other holy book surpasses that passage in it’s understanding of the relationship between God and man (that we are given free will and liberty by our creator with the expectation that we will use them), that understands the teleology, the purpose, the end of life (to achieve Happiness), and how men should treat one another (not violating the rights of others, but settling up a society to protect them from those that do seek to violate those rights).  The heart of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics answered correctly in one sentence.  And you don’t think God had anything to do with that?  Do you see the hand of God in anything?

And then you look at our history.  Time and time again, if Vegas odds makers had existed from the 1750’s to today, you would have bet against the survival of the U.S. over and over again.  Yet somehow we’re still here.  The history of America is often the history of convenient accidents.  Convenient in that reinforcements were mistakenly diverted from helping General Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga, letting the Americans win when they most needed a win.  Convenient that when Lee, a general of unquestionable skill, was a week’s march from capturing D.C. he has the 3 dumbest days of his life at a little town in Pennsylvania.  Convenient that all of our carriers were out of harbor on December 6.  To name a few, there are so many others.  You can believe in chance, I don’t.

We make mistakes, and dear God have we made some abhorrent ones.   Liberals love to point out all the evil things we have done, ignoring that at anytime in history, we didn’t even rank in anything but the top third of what the rest of the world was doing at that time.  Oh and I know pointing that out is wrong, because that’s their culture.  Oh that’s right anyone else does something worse than America and it’s racist to hold them to the same standard…but we have to hold America to the standard of perfection (which, ironically, shows that even liberals believe in American Exceptionalism, otherwise why hold it and it alone to such a standard).  We’re not perfect, no one is.  But we have always been the beacon that sings to the best in humanity, not the example that speaks to the worst.

We’re the nation that fought to create a republic where the haves and have nots gave equal measure.  We’re the nation that fought our own citizens to free slaves.  We’re the nation that pioneered capitalism and law that gave liberty and opportunity and progress to more people than any other country in history.  We’re the place where “tired, the poor, the huddled masses” come to be energetic, successful and stand on their own feet.  We’re the country that conquers whole nations so that others may be free then tries to rebuild them and then leaves without tribute or power.  If you don’t think we’re the “shinning city on the hill” you don’t know history, philosophy or human nature.  We’re not perfect, we’re not always right, but we are consistently the nation that calls for the best in humanity to put down the worst.

But to celebrate the greatest nation in history, we have a day.  Barbeque, fireworks.  Woo-hoo!  Seems a bit off doesn’t it.  Granted, patriotism should be a year long habit, not just a seasonal or single day event…but the same can be said of all the ideals of the December Holiday season, so that’s not an argument.

Too often I think people forget that this is a nation where people still regularly risk their life to get to.  America-or-die isn’t a slogan it’s of a fact of existence.  Whether you were born here or came here you should take more than just a day out of every year to remember what a blessing this country is.  Of course there are some ignorant jackasses out there, who don’t seem to understand this blessing who say “I didn’t sign up for a country that’s the rest of the world’s police, I just happened to be born into it.”  (We’ll get into the petty ignorance and evil of the world police thing later.)

I don’t know what we could do to make our celebration of our nation and what is good about it longer than a single day…it should be from Memorial Day to Independence Day, but it’s not.  Maybe it’s that there are so many holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year’s that make it a season.  That’s easily solved.  Let’s move tax day and Election Day to July 2nd (the day the Continental Congress actually voted on the Declaration).  I think we should always keep in mind what we’re voting for so by placing election day on the same day as the vote of the Declaration would work just fine by me and by moving tax day to the same day we can remember what control the people we’re voting for have control over (instead of almost 7 months after they’ve stolen from you and your hatred for the libertines with your money has faded).

For my part it’s going to be a couple months since I’ve done a series of movies, and so starting tomorrow we will count down the best patriotic films as well as a few blogs about what it is that makes America so special.

And perhaps, just perhaps I’ll start convincing you to start decorating the house from Memorial Day to the 4th with flags and symbols of patriotism like you would at Christmas with wreaths and trees.  Maybe just maybe I’ll be able to kindle a sense of heightened patriotism that isn’t just for a day but for a season, which may have residual effect through the year.  And with any luck this will spread to even more people.

1 Comment

Filed under American Exceptionalism, Conservative, Constitution, Declaration, Election 2012, Evils of Liberalism, Faith, Free Will, God, Happiness, Individualism, Mitt Romney, Patriotism, philosophy, politics, Purpose of Life, Selfishness, Tyranny

Books for Conservatives: Adler’s “Ten Philosophical Mistakes”

So someone I think is an idiot recommended that I read Robert Nozick’s book Anarchy, State, and Utopia.  Now my expectations weren’t high, as I said the person who recommended is in my informed opinion an idiot’s idiot, but I’m willing to look at other arguments…and the title alone really lowered my expectations.  Sadly my expectations were not low enough.  The preface to the book suggested that Nozick provided the intellectual basis for modern libertarianism…and I can now see why I think most modern libertarians are utterly impossible to deal with.  The short version is that Nozick takes Kant’s hideously flawed ethics and tries to shoehorn them into justifying limited government.  Now an intelligent person (i.e. someone who doesn’t spend their life in academia) might understand implicitly (even if they don’t always articulate it as such) that just looking at means is stupid…and they also tend to understand that just looking at ends is stupid.  Ends and means must be taken together and to focus on one to the exclusion of the others is preposterous at best.  I initially resisted the temptation to hurl the book into the trash even though the entire foundation of Nozick’s arguments were trash piled on trash…but by the halfway mark I couldn’t stand the terrible logic anymore, threw the book away as no one should be subjected to that claptrap and turned back to an old favorite of mine which I haven’t read since college: Mortimer Adler’s Ten Philosophical Mistakes.

 

The book sets out to describe where most of modern philosophy made its mistakes when breaking from classical realism (From Plato and Aristotle to Aquinas).  Adler, one of the most well spoken philosophers of the 20th century, although a bit dry, always does an excellent job in explaining why things are the way they are.  I will someday get around to most of his major books on philosophy, but let me give you a brief overview. Adler was known as the philosopher for the everyman. Not because his ideas were simple or plebian but because he recognized the massive importance of correct philosophical ideas in everyday life and tried to state the complex idea in terms that someone who is not a philosophy major can readily grasp.  Not to say that this makes the books he writes on par with the simplicity of Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter or Obama’s understanding of, well, anything…but he does put it in as simple but still precise terms as he can and he tries to give examples that are readily accessible.  As you can guess this makes him really unpopular with the intelligentsia who like to pretend that philosophy or an understanding of it isn’t something for the average person and thus spend an obscene amount of time trying to obfuscate any understanding of it under mountains of jargon

The under appreciated philosopher of the 20th Century

 

The problem, especially with this book is that the errors made by many of the philosophers in the modern age are very technical and more often in the metaphysical or epistemological area. Don’t yawn.  The reason why this is important is that those little technical errors compound into massive cracks in ethical thought and politics and in turn have a disastrous effect on our lives.  And because of this it is important to understand the mistake, what the correct opinion is and why.

 

Now I’m going to go over a brief summary of these ten categories of mistakes, but understand, yes my justification of why certain ideas are right and others wrong is going to be lacking…go read the book if you want the full justification.

First category:  “Consciousness and Its Objects” Adler deals with the mistakes of Locke, Descartes, Hume, and Kant, skepticism, solipsism, and subjectivism.  In dealing with our ability to use our minds, these philosophers made the gross mistake of driving too deep a wedge between our minds and the outside world.  Skeptics claim we can’t be sure if what we’re experiencing and the solipsists claim that we don’t actually experience in the outside world and really just experience in our minds with no connection to the outside world.  It may seem stupid to go over a category that seems so common sense…but the problem is that the attack on the correct idea–that your mind perceives a world that exists outside of your mind and that the things in our minds (ideas, sense, memories, imagined ideas and things, conceptions, other objects of thought) and the two are very related—is a more common problem than you think.  Ever have someone tell you “Well, you can’t know that” or “well that’s your opinion” after you state an article of fact.  It may seem like a rather esoteric issue, but in fact it is the root of many problems in ethics, politics, psychology, and human existence. *

 

David Hume comes out looking like the idiot he was in this book...

Second Category: “The Intellect and the Senses.”  If you thought the last one was esoteric, this one is even more so.  Common sense and reason tell us that there is a difference between our thoughts and our senses.  One is informed by the other, but they are not the same thing.  And you would think it would take a real moron to mistake the two.  Well, let me introduce you to Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, George Berkley, David Hume who basically thought they were one in the same…and Plato, Descartes, Kant and Hegel who thought that they had little to nothing to do with each other.  The reason this becomes a problem is that it begins to degrade the nature of language (I’ll spare you the steps on how this works, trust me this is what Adler points out)…and that this is also a basis for the arguments of crackpots who think that humans are not superior to animals. So if PETA has ever annoyed you, you can blame this logical error as being part of that problem.

 

Third Category: “Words and Meaning”.  Locke seemed to argue that words are useless in communicating ideas (one wonders why he wrote so much) and Hobbes and Russell seemed to think words can only be about real things and that reference to non-tangible things is to be just speaking gibberish (if you can’t touch or see it, it’s not real).  Common sense may immediately dismiss these preposterous ideas, but if you’ve ever gotten into an argument of semantics with a moron who thinks they know more than you do (when they don’t) you may begin to understand why this issue might become relevant.

 

Fourth Category: “Knowledge and Opinion.”  You know something when you believe something to be true, you have a reason to believe it is true, and it is true.  You could teach a child that 2+2=5…but they couldn’t know that 2+2=5 because it’s not true…similarly a child can repeat the phrase 2+2=4 but until they understand why that is, they don’t have knowledge.  Without reason and truth it is merely opinion.  And in common usage of the term knowledge we can know things we have evidence and reason for even if we don’t know it in the same way with the same absolute certainty of arithmetic.  For instance, I know that capitalism within a Classically Liberal society is better than any other system yet conceived, and I have mountain of evidence, logic and reason to back this up…although if you wanted to be really strict it is merely highly justified opinion…but for the common philosophic usage of the word, I know this for a fact. I’m guessing again this seems pretty obvious…but let me introduce you to David Hume who thinks you can’t know anything beyond math and since nothing can be known you can’t even really have justified opinions and thus all ideas are equally unfounded…oh there’s Immanuel Kant who tried to get around this by filling our mind with an out of the box operating system he calls a priori knowledge.  Adler takes several pages to really dig into the stupidity of Kant’s lacking understanding of how we know things, but let me share with you my favorite passage from the whole book:

Kant, justifiably, comes out even worse than Hume

“How anyone in the twentieth century can take Kant’s transcendental philosophy seriously is baffling, even though it may always remain admirable in certain respects as an extraordinarily elaborate and ingenious intellectual invention.”

Which has to be one of the best back handed compliments I’ve ever read.

Why do Hume and Kant lead to such problems with their inability to know anything about knowing?  Well because in one way or another it leads to destroying the value of scientific falsifiability and reasoned argument and reduces all knowledge to nothingness…which leads to a complete abdication of personal responsibility to know the truth of things.  Look at any organization that requires mindless following (Nazism, Communism, the Democratic National Committee, Islamofacism, numerous individual churches) and all the problems they create to see why this is an important issue to understand.

 

Fifth Category: “Moral Value.”  Hedonists (Epicurus, Mill) ethical skeptics (Hume, Russell, Ayer) and wacky deontological Kant get beat up in this.  The hedonists fail to make the important distinction between wants and needs and mistake the former for the latter.  Skeptics, deriving from the earlier mistakes believe foolishly that you can’t make any meaningful statements about ethics and so whatever is popular at the time goes (see the lack of ethics is sociology departments, multiculturalism, and ignoring the barbarism and oppression of women in Islam…not to mention backing a lot of evil in the recent history of the world by governments). And what evil isn’t backed by the skeptics usually can look to Kant and his categorical imperative which Adler states “is an empty recommendation.”  From the detached and survey nature of the book Adler simply states proper ethics is “We ought to desire whatever is really good for us and nothing else” and work toward that true good…but he points you to Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics for more details.

 

Sixth Category: “Happiness and Contentment”  Tied heavy to the last chapter is the true good in life: Happiness.  And happiness is collection of virtues in action not just material contentment as utilitarians like Mill and Dewey might mistake it as (or you know the current government).  And while not a very common mistake Adler as tears apart the Stoics (and Kant) who didn’t understand that while doing the right thing is very important, you also have to succeed some of the time to actually be happy

 

Seventh Category:”Freedom of choice.”  You have free will and anyone who says otherwise (determinists and scientists, those who say that there is only the physical world) have no reasonable grounding for their beliefs.  Although while your will is free, it is informed by the outside world, nature and nurture.  This one is actually important to understand because you wouldn’t believe how often I am seeing arguments that people are mere victims of their computer like minds and its programming, with no will of their own…and it shouldn’t take long to figure out what kind of government that will lead to.

 
Eighth Category: “Human Nature.”  The fact that this book was written in the early 80’s didn’t allow Adler to be familiar with the term multiculturalism, but he was shooting down the stupidity of that dumb idea long before it took hold. Human beings are human beings and their nature does not change by race, culture, time, or upbringing and this means that rights are the same and inalienable for everyone, they do not change for any other group.  Also, he tears apart those ideas of PETA in raising animals to the value of humans.

Ninth Category: “Human Society”.  In this section, Adler takes aim at Rosseau, Hobbes and Locke for their arguments about the state of nature.  His argument is that these three treat the state of nature as if it was a historical reality and not a thought experiment.  To be honest I’ve never heard anyone take this extreme stance (but I will admit I’m more familiar with Locke than the other two…but I also admit that academia is an odd place and easily see this chapter coming out of an argument with some professor at the University of Chicago where Adler taught.  He argues, as would any historian or anthropologist that society and government have grown over time because humans are naturally social creatures.  He then attacks anarchists who believe that mankind can ever be molded into a being that doesn’t need society, like Marx’s communist utopia.

Tenth Category: “Human Existence.”  This chapter really required a full understanding of the previous chapters to go into any detail…and since I wanted to keep this blog “manageable” (at least by my long winded standards)…so let me just say Adler maintains life has a purpose and meaning.

 

Again I realize I’ve glossed over a lot, but I highly recommend this book to anyone who deals with any kind of discussion of ideas (politics and religion especially), understanding the underlying premises that Adler goes over is infinitely important.  Adler is not as simplistic as Rand who makes a good primer in philosophy, but lacks practicality and depth, but nor is he as dry as the works of his beloved Aristotle or Aquinas.  He’s dry but not so much that it’s almost unreadable for pleasure, he has meat on the bones of his philosophy, and while a few decades out of date it is still modern enough that the languages used doesn’t suffer from the kind of gap you get with a lot of the older philosophers.  Oh, and he’s right ninety-nine times out a hundred.  Really you should read this book.

 

Now let me counter some obvious and addle brain responses I expect to get because I’ve reminded people that there is an excellent attack on all the BS philosophers so beloved by the Ivory Tower…

(1)“Adler isn’t respected by philosophers!”  Well, the philosophers you read must never have mentioned in their worthless tomes that popularity doesn’t equal truth.  All that matters is if the argument is a reasoned one and conclusion is true or not.  If every philosophy professor in the world said Adler (and by extension Aristotle and Aquinas, since Adler is more about reiterating the correct philosophies of others and adapting them to modern issues than coming up with his own ideas) was an idiot, it still wouldn’t prove that he was wrong, only truth and reason would do that.  (Now please don’t think that I think everything Adler said is true, he’s human, he’s wrong sometimes, but when compared to Descartes, Hume, Berkley, Foucault, Satre, James, Kierkegaard, Leibniz, Marx…you get the idea, he’s on a far more solid grounding of reason.)

(2)“Well you didn’t disprove (such and such philosopher] and their statement of [such and such bullshit] in your blog.  Thus you’re wrong.”   It’s a book review, it’s 200 pages long, of course I can’t get into specifics.

(3)“Well Adler didn’t disprove…”  Yes he did, you didn’t read the book.

(4)“I did read the book and he didn’t…” actually he did, see page…

(5)“I did read the book and he didn’t…” You’re right he didin’t. He did tear out all of the idea that that specific point is based on though which kind of makes tearing that point apart silly and redundant.

(6) “You didn’t accurately describe [such and such BS philopher’s] ideas correctly”  Probably not.  Do you get the concept of a book review or a blog?  If I made this a 200 page discussion why not just post all of Alder’s book?

(7) “Adler’s biased”…you mean he has a reasoned opinion and while he admits that there is grey in the world will not back down from self-evident truths because there is also black and white in the universe. Yes, in that case he is biased…Although you might then like his 1,000 page tome “The Great Ideas” where he actually discusses all of these philosophers and their ideas quite dispassionately.

(8) “I did read it and I don’t agree with anything he had to say!”  Why are you telling me this?  Like I care.  Don’t listen to my book reviews if you dislike them so much.  Really I don’t understand people who keep coming back to be infuriated because they disagree with me and want to express their displeasure.  I can understand trying to keep up with people you disagree with so that you can consider new idea…but I just don’t get the childish need seek out and bully those you disagree with.

 

*There is some important hair splitting to be done here in relationship to my views as New Ager, and if I get any requests, I’ll go into that…but (1) I can see where you might see some contradictions between this point and New Age belief that I would agree would constitute a prima facie case against my spiritual beliefs (2) I have considered them and I believe that while there is a prima facie case to be made it does not hold up under scrutiny.

**On another side note you may want to watch Lost before reading Adler’s book…otherwise you may have a knee jerk reaction into hating half the cast from day one…and I really love Hume on Lost.

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Books, Books for Conservatives, Books for New Agers, Constitution, Declaration, Education, Evils of Liberalism, Free Will, God, Happiness, Individualism, Long Term Thinking, Natural Rights, People Are Stupid, philosophy, politics, Reading Suggestions, Tyranny

A Week of Obama Peddling Lies. Part II:He also peddles slavery

Okay so we have already dealt with the fact that this week, as with every other week of his existence, Obama has clearly shown he knows nothing (possibly less than nothing) about economics.  But that’s not the worst part.  If it was just his idiocy I might not feel my blood pressure jump to unhealthy levels every time I’ve heard him speak this last week.  No the reason I’m insulted by Obama’s words is not his economic ignorance, but because it is a perverted and near evil vision of human nature and government.

So let’s review what he said.

Deep breaths.  He’ll be gone in January.  Deep breaths.

“In the United States of America, we are greater together than we are on our own.  This country advances when we keep that basic American promise — if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, put a little away for retirement.  And it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like.  That’s what has created this extraordinary country of ours.  That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s the choice in this election.”

First off there is no promise of success in America.  There is no promise of success in life.  There is only a promise of the right to “pursue happiness.”  But he is right that it is the choice of this election: whether you will have the opportunity to live, work hard and live the American dream (Romney) or whether your liberty, opportunity, choice are all eliminated for a generation or longer (Obama).

And he is also right about us being greater together than when we are on our own.  When we join together out of friendship, out of love, out of mutual consent and benefit, human beings, not just Americans, although we have at times mastered the art, we can reach unprecedented heights of achievement and happiness.  But this is when it is by mutual consent.  Not when it is forced on them by dictatorial fiat.  When people are forced to work together because a higher authority says they have to then you will find in terms of personal happiness and societal prosperity it would have been better for everyone to be on their own.  We rise only when we work together by choice…and the key part is the choice not the working together.

“Their philosophy is simple:  You are on your own.  You’re on your own.  If you are out of work, can’t find a job, tough luck, you’re on your own.  You don’t have health care, — that’s your problem — you’re on your own.  If you’re born into poverty, lift yourself up with your own bootstraps even if you don’t have boots.  You’re on your own.  They believe that’s their — that’s how American has advanced.  That’s the cramped, narrow conception they have of liberty.  And they are wrong.  They are wrong.”

It’s not a philosophy; it’s a fact of life.  You are and always will be a victim or benefactor of your choices.  And your choices are your own.  If you can’t work, can’t find a job, did you get the education, experience and recommendation that would put you in a safe position or did you expect Obama to provide for you…because if you did the later, let me tell you you’re on your own because Obama and the government can and never will be a trustworthy fall back.  You don’t have health care?  Again did you do everything to get it or did you expect others to just subsidize your life…because if you just expected others to provide you with everything you want, you’re on your own.  We believe that America has advanced because of talent and skill and drive and friendship…and keep in mind friendship and companionship is a major portion of life…but in that too you’re on your own to make friends who will be there for you, they cannot just be provided by government fiat.  Ours is a philosophy of liberty.  Obama you claim that we have a “cramped, narrow conception [of] liberty.  And they are wrong.” No ours is philosophy of wide ranging liberty that comes with the downside of liberty, the possibility of failure.  But we have a strong belief that even in failure people can learn and grow and better themselves.  You would rather eliminate liberty, eliminate the possibility of failure and replace it with the at best the certainty of mediocrity (in reality the certainty of failure and misery for all in the long run) because you don’t believe people can better themselves, you don’t believe people can bring themselves up by their bootstraps, even if they don’t have any, then you don’t believe in human potential.  You don’t’ think that success or failure is, in the end a result of one’s choices and attitudes, which it is, you believe that we are victims of society, victims of the system, victims of those in power, your mantra is “I am not the master of my fate, the government is the captain of my soul.”  And you have the unmitigated gall to call us cramped and narrow.

“And we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got a tax system that is actually fair.  Part of that is something I call the Buffett Rule.  It’s very simple:  If you are making more than $1 million a year — I’m not saying you have $1 million, I’m saying you’re making $1 million every year — then you shouldn’t pay a lower rate than your secretary.  That’s a pretty simple proposition.”

I dealt with why this was a bad pragmatic plan last time. Let’s talk about the principled reasons why this is dumb.  “Fair.”  Let’s make the tax code fair.  Children, whiny, spoiled children whine about “fair”—adults talk about justice.  What is justice? Well the simplest definition would be that everyone gets what they deserve.  So is the tax code just?  Nope. There are far too many loopholes and deductions where the government quite unjustly tries to pick winners and losers, and the taxes are too high.  It’s a double injustice.  Now if you wanted to talk about justice instead of fairness you would get rid of the loopholes and lower the rates (although true justice would require that everyone pays at least something as everyone benefits from government protections of a military, police and court system).  Raising the rate on people because they’ve done well isn’t just, it’s punishing success (but liberals don’t believe money is made through skill and drive but because of corruption in despite of all knowledge of human nature and history).  But if you really wanted justice and not just a whine of fair you would support the Ryan Plan.  Hell, since, as Ryan has put out numerous times, it’s up the Ways and Means Committee to decide the future of loopholes…how about eliminating all deductions after $200,000…and reduce them for income after $100,000.  Republicans would support that. Because it’s just or at least more just than what we have now.  But raising rates isn’t just…it’s not even fair as you’re talking about raising rates on capital gains (money that derives from income which has already been taxed, and then invested in companies which also pay corporate taxes, so yes let’s tax it a third time…and if you buy anything with it we’ll slap some sales tax on that too…oh yeah that’s fair).  But please continue whining about fair.

Of course Obama then makes it seem that letting people keep their money is stealing from veterans, letting people freeze to death (“Or a family that’s struggling to get by maybe is getting less home heating oil assistance.”), old people’s healthcare…along with unconstitutional payments for student loans. As if taxing is the only option, rather than smart cuts, intelligent regulation, efficiency, reduction of waste, and turning programs over to the states.  No, Obama has only a vision of tax or no tax.  No other option is available because he isn’t even concerned with justice or fairness.

And then we get to the all important (read horrific) passage:

I hear politicians talking about values in an election year.  I hear a lot about that.  Let me tell you about values.  Hard work, personal responsibility — those are values.   But looking out for one another — that’s a value.  The idea that we’re all in this together — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that’s a value.  The idea that we think about the next generation and we’re taking care of our planet — that’s a value.

By value I can only assume he means the complete lack of sane human values.  Let’s ignore the bizarre choice of paraphrasing a Biblical murderer (we could spend days talking about the odd choice of quotes, but a Pagan like me commenting on Biblical quotes is a little odd).  First off looking out for one another might be personal value but compassion being a beautiful thing between individuals does not mean that it should or even can be transferred to the government.  But it’s not even that, Obama’s disgusting vision is that we help those who want to lie around and do nothing but get paid and work to destroy everything we believe in (like his unwavering support for the teacher’s unions or the billion and one-half dollars he wants to give to the Muslim Brotherhood, which by any sane administration would be declared a terrorist organization).  But then of course he uses the quote “I am my brother’s keeper.”  Do you know what needs keepers?  Inanimate property, animals, and slaves.  I, and every person on this planet are human beings—with the exception of small children and those with serious mental problems we don’t need keepers.  Keepers are for slaves, to tell you what you can and cannot buy (which I believe the Obama administration said it has the right to do), to tell you when and where you can go (which the Obama administration tried to do through it’s rewrite of NDAA) and what you can and cannot see (which the Obama administration tried to do with SOPA).

The fact of the matter is that this is only Obama getting lazy and showing his true colors.  I’m sorry but in the context of every power grab this man has made I can’t just think that this is a poor choice of words.  This is a man who believes that he and his fellow government bureaucrats need to be our keepers and keep us in line.  This speech makes clear that his idea of liberty is straight out 1984 that “slavery is liberty” and that we will only be happy and productive little kept people when we are under his control.  Nothing he has said or done give me any reason to believe that I should give him the benefit of the doubt here.  When he says keeper he means it.  He means that he thinks that we need to sacrifice our lives and our liberties to take care of each other.  He views what most of us would consider the sickest of dystopias as his utopia.

I’m not going to call for anything here.  There’s no need.  If he and his team keep acting like they have done this past week, they will be powerless as of November and gone by January.  However, just because I don’t fear anything this man can do doesn’t change the fact that evil needs to be called what it is.  I know my blog won’t exactly convince anyone on the left, but for my readers, who probably don’t take as hard-line a view in their rhetoric, when you’re talking to people keep this evil in mind.  Keep in mind he is opposed to the basic concept of liberty at all levels, and while maybe with a little more finesse than I am demonstrating, point it out to the people you talk to.  The problem isn’t Obama, the problem is this belief that life is made better only through government and control.

2 Comments

Filed under Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Conservative, Constitution, Economics, Election 2012, Equality, Evils of Liberalism, Free Will, Government is corrupt, Government is useless, Happiness, Individualism, liberal arrogance, Long Term Thinking, Natural Rights, Obama, Patriotism, People Are Stupid, politics, Stupid liberal quote of the day, Taxes, Tyranny, Unions, Unjust legislation, Welfare

A Week of Obama Peddling Lies. Part I

“I am my brother’s keeper.”

It’s kind of hard to attribute that quote.  I could either attribute it to a dozen or so Ayn Rand villains who at the time I first read her books appeared to be farcically overblown caricatures of a philosophy she was fighting against—an embodiment of collectivism, slavery, oppression, evil, an echo of the rhetoric of Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, that our lives belong to others and the individual is nothing.  Or, you know, I could accurately attribute it to President, and asshole-in-chief, Barack Obama.

I want to deal with the quote above…but before I do I need to deal with all the other lies and rank idiocy in his speech before I drive the dagger home in to the heart of the darkness that is Obama’s vision of America.

Okay, but before we dig into the details of this heart of darkness and lies, let’s take a simple look at the stupidity he’s been hyping for the last few weeks.  The Buffett Rule.  If you’re reading this blog you probably already know that the Buffett Rule is a joke.  Appropriately it is named after a man whose company has evaded paying its taxes for years and done so with impunity because of its connections to Washington.  The rule, a fancy name for an increase in capital gains taxes on the richest Americans, would according to conservatives raise only about $40 Billion a year…but liberals say it will raise a whopping $50 Billion a year. And when you’re running a Trillion Dollar plus deficit every year that will make up for maybe 5% of the deficit (less really because you’ll see it bring in less and less with every year as investment dries up).  And it will further encourage people to not bother investing.  So in other words it doesn’t even begin to solve the problem, it only appeases the Occupy schmucks by making it look like you’re sticking it to rich people.  Further it stops businesses from investing as much (they will probably hoard more now as they become afraid of even more being taken) and allows government to throw away more on useless causes!

In the speech where he states he’s his brother’s keeper…you begin to see exactly why outside of playing to his base, who seem to believe what he says, he will not be able to actually run on his record.  His listing off his accomplishments is a list of lies and denials of reality peppered with stupidity and idiocy.  I’m only going to go over it in general…if you want to waste your time the full text is here.

(By the way, is it standard to always include applause in White House speech transcript?  Because if it is, then every president is just pathetic, if it’s just Obama, pathetic doesn’t even begin to cover it.) it would be standard in any transcript to not the pause for applause – what we do not know is if it is like television where they put up signs and let you know when to applaud and also add laugh/applause tracks??

He goes on forever about “change” in a string of lies and perversions.  He brags about “fair pay act” for women that will help only trial lawyers and hurt everyone else (regardless of gender) He talks about the auto bailout as a good thing and not an attempt to have the government assert control over industry, and set precedent for breaking contract law…not to mention preventing the whole industry from actually recovering by allowing the creative destruction all economic growth is dependant on.  He actually said that he signed legislation that “saves the typical family more than $8,000 at the pump.  That’s what change is.”  Which will do wonders for the 50K in debt they’re going to have to go in just to get through this summer’s outrageous gas prices caused by Obama’s bad domestic policy, bad corporate policy, bad energy policy, and bad foreign policy.    He brags about nationalizing the student loan industry as if further causing the insane inflation of college tuition is a good thingHe touted the Obamacare as change for the better…because Obama is clearly either mentally insane or mentally challenged.  He gives himself credit for ending don’t ask don’t tell…when he did nothing, when Democrats did nothing when it could hurt them, and only passed it in a lame duck session…showing that they didn’t believe in it so much as believed in pissing off social conservatives…if they really believed in it they would have done it sooner rather than later.  “Change is the fact that for the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.”  A bold face lie as we still have people in Iraq….and again he patted himself on the back for taking that brave stand that I’m sure all 43 other president (and most of their opponents) would have taken in the same position and ordered Bin Laden’s hit.  Then, my favorite lie about his accomplishments  “Our economy is getting stronger.  The recovery is accelerating.”  Exactly what figures is he using to justify this statement?  The fact that real unemployment is unspeakably high?   The fact that Bernake clearly has never read anything by the Chicago or Austrian school and is inflating our money to near worthlessness?  This inflation being worsened by the stifling rules of regulation?  Barry I know the a man who’s power you clearly envy and want said “The bigger the lie the more people will believe it” but even if you fool your idiot voters into believing it, it still doesn’t even come close to making it true…and I have my doubts that the majority of the American public is going to believe your pathologic lying more than their own wallet.

“We’ve got to make sure that the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in Asia, not in Europe, but in factories of Detroit and Pittsburgh and Cleveland. […]I want us to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas  — reward companies that are investing right here in the United States of America.” First, I’m glad that Obama and Rick Santorum are on the same page of “we need to focus on manufacturing” because clearly it’s 1870 and this is the future of America…you know let’s just ignore Gates and Jobs and every other expert in economics and industry that says the future of America is in high-end technical and information jobs…no clearly low education, low skill jobs of manufacturing are our future.  And yes we want to prevent jobs from going overseas…because if they did it might actually improve the economies of third world nations, bring stability, prosperity, and markets that are buying the high-tech stuff that only we can produce…no, no we can’t have that.  And I love how we’re “rewarding” companies for leaving, not, you know, punishing them with high taxes, high regulation,  complete devotion to unions  and corruption on our part…no it’s that they’re rewarded for leaving…because the laws of capitalism don’t stop no matter how hard you want them to.

Near the end of his speech he goes into some other stupid statements.  “I want to make our schools the envy of the world.”  You just don’t want to do what is necessary, like not only stop giving into the teacher’s union but actually working to gut them of their anti-education pro-corruption pro-incompetence stances.  I don’t see you stopping the obscene amount of waste that is passed off as professional development.  The useless bureaucracy. The lack of school choice.  The lack of nation wide standards.  The massive drain in money, time, and energy caused by educating the children of illegal immigrants.  You don’t seem to want to deal with any of the real problems.  You just want to raise union salaries, yes I’m sure throwing money at it will solve the problem.

“An economy built to last is one that supports scientists and researchers and science.”  But again I don’t see you doing anything to protect intellectual property rights and royalties.  I don’t see you doing anything to encourage discovery by lowering useless regulations.  I don’t see you doing anything but funneling money to your supporters into  scams like Solyndra.  I wonder what we’re going to find your kickback on that was in 10 years?

“I want our businesses and our people to have access to the best roads and the best airports, faster high-speed rail and Internet access.”  Okay, take away the regulations and let them build it themselves.  If they need it they’ll build it.

And then there is this utter lack of economic knowledge.

“The American story is not just about what we do on our own.  Yes, we’re rugged individualists and we expect personal responsibility, and everybody out there has got to work hard and carry their weight.  But we also have always understood that we wouldn’t win the race for new jobs and businesses and middle-class security if we were just applying some you’re-on-your-own economics.  It’s been tried in our history and it hasn’t worked.  It didn’t work when we tried it in the decade before the Great Depression.  It didn’t work when we tried it in the last decade.  We just tried this.  What they’re peddling has been tried.  It did not work.”

First, moron, the phrase is carry “their OWN weight”  emphasis on the own.  You seem to suggest we need to carry the weight of others, and I’ll get to how unspeakably evil that is in the next blog, but for now let’s just say that in addition to being morally reprehensible it shows no knowledge of how people act.  And actually it is competition, survival of the fittest, and you win or you lose on your own economics that has worked throughout all of human history.  When there is no competition there is no need to keep prices low and quality high (just look at the POS’s Government Motors puts out).  And jackass it did work in the 20’s.  What didn’t work is government interference at the first sign of a problem (see the collective work of Milton Friedman, especially A Monetary History of the United States  or The Forgotten Man by Shlaes…but I get the feeling Obama’s understanding doesn’t go beyond the childish Keynes and Krugman)…and, uh, I don’t think we can call the first decade of the this century a decade of capitalism.  When the president raises entitlements and Congress continues to try and rig whole markets, inflating prices to beyond unsafe levels (not to mention a buildup of decades of corporate welfare, Democrats and Republicans are to blame).  No what caused our problems from this last decade was, oh, gee, guess what, over spending! Over regulation in the wrong sectors.  Under regulations in the wrong sectors! You know Obamanomics-lite!  In your weekend address you like to point out that the 90’s was a time of economic prosperity…and stupidly you said it was because taxes were high?  Which not only begs the questions did he miss the GOP reigning in a little spending or welfare reforms (two things that will only happen if Obama is removed from office come January) … no it was only taxes.  conversely let’s look at the last time Obama’s economics were tried…the Carter years.  When unemployment and inflation were high…wait that sounds familiar.

Okay I could keep going but it should be obvious that A. I’m angry at Obama’s incompetence B. Obama is incompetence defined when it comes to economics (and regulation, and taxation, and foreign policy, and ….you get the idea), C. 4 more years of this dipshit will leave us a third world nation…I don’t need some grand conspiracy theory that he’s a socialist trying to destroy this country to believe that, I just need his absolute idiocy tempered by his raging ego.

Up next, why he’s not only an idiot, but possibly evil incarnate.

1 Comment

Filed under Budget, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Corporate Welfare, Economics, Election 2012, Evils of Liberalism, Free Will, Government is corrupt, Government is useless, Happiness, Individualism, liberal arrogance, Long Term Thinking, Mitt Romney, Obama, People Are Stupid, politics, Taxes, Tyranny, Unions, Welfare

Weekly Meditation: Words of Wisdom

I still really like this as an all encompassing New Age symbol

As a New Ager I find truth in most of the religions in the world.  And while I love to quote from A Course In Miracles(and could probably do so for years going at the pace of one passage a week) it has occurred to me that I should, in true New Age fashion, pull a selection of quotes from other holy books.  Before anyone gets offended it is meant as a compliment, I’m not trying to insult your religion.

This week I thought I would pull a quote from the Tao Te Ching, the central text of Taoism.  Written by Lao-Tzu before departing China to escape it’s superficial and corrupt life, he left a short book of his wisdom for the people of China (yes I realize that there is a lot of myth tied to that story, I still like it). The book is probably the shortest holy text in the world (unless you want to count individual books of the Old, New, and Gnostic Testaments of the Bible).  Written as a series of 81 short poems, the Tao Te Ching (The Book of Virtues of the Way), the book is often a series of double and triple meanings crammed into short, cryptic phrases.  (Given that Chinese is also a language that poorly translates into English, poetry especially, it is always best to read three or four translations if you’re going to try to read the book.)

For this week I’m going to go with a quote from the 19th poem in the Tao.  (I’m just going to go with my favorite translation).

“Give up kindness, renounce morality.

And men will rediscover piety and love.”–Lao Tzu

So what does this mean?  That you should give up being kind and moral?  No, silly.  It means that you should stop doing things because you are supposed to them because they’re rules or codes or values you’re supposed to hold.  Things you’ve been taught to follow.  Ideals society wants you to do.  Why? Because when you force people to do things you breed resentment, hostility, rebellion.  You should do things because you want to, because your personal reason dictates it, because it makes you feel good…not because someone says you should.

 

Why is this the weekly meditation?  This week I want you to ask yourself if you’re doing something because you want to and it makes sense…or because you’re expected to.  Reason and your heart are fine things to follow, and they will often agree with society’s rules, but make sure they are before you act.  I promise you you will be more in tune with yourself and the universe if you do what you want and think is right more than what is only expected of you…even if it’s the same thing, the intent and the reason make a huge difference.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under A Course in Miracles, Books, Books for New Agers, Charity, Faith, Free Will, God, Happiness, Long Term Thinking, Love, Meditation, New Age, philosophy, Prayer, Religion, Spirituality, Tao Te Ching

Books for Conservatives–Faith of the Fallen

Possibly the best book in the series

Once again I come back to my favorite series of books Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series.  Partly because I’ve gotten away from this when I shouldn’t have…and partly because we have a lull in election season so I can concentrate on something else for a little while.  So, as I’ve done the first five books, here is book six, Faith of the Fallen.

This is probably my favorite book in the entire series.  As I have said I love this series for not only providing a well paced and character driven fantasy series, but because each book is thematically tied to what the author has the Wizard’s Rules…a series of 11 short simple ethical statements. These 11 wizard’s rules that are actually possibly the best set of rules I have ever seen for living one’s life, because they don’t discuss specific acts, which are always dependant on situations and variables, so myriad that no hard rule on behavior can ever fully cover them.  But Faith of the Fallen is probably my favorite, not just because the plot is even more character centered than most of the other books in the series, but because I love the wizard’s rule more than any of the others.

Wizard’s Sixth Rule:

The only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.

Explained as:

The first law of reason is this: what exists, exists, what is, is and from this irreducible bedrock principle, all knowledge is built. It is the foundation from which life is embraced.

Thinking is a choice. Wishes and whims are not facts nor are they a means to discover them. Reason is our only way of grasping reality; it is our basic tool of survival. We are free to evade the effort of thinking, to reject reason, but we are not free to avoid the penalty of the abyss that we refuse to see. Faith and feelings are the darkness to reason’s light. In rejecting reason, refusing to think, one embraces death.”

–Faith of the Fallen pg 319

Again, I’ll be vague in the plot summary so as not to spoil anything if you haven’t read the books to this point (but really this is, hands down, the best book in the series).

The hero of the story Richard Rahl is forced to leave his wife Kahlan to save her life.  He is blackmailed by the sorceress Nicci subject of his enemy the Emperor Jagang, that he must travel with her into the heart of Jagang’s Imperial Order and do exactly as she says or the lives of his beloved will be extinguished.  And while you might expect torture or mind games you find something much worse in the Imperial Order: communism.  Complete, total and utterly inefficient communism.  Government control of everything. Government corruption rampant.  Starvation.  Misery.  Masses living lives under a crushing totalitarian regime that makes life not worth living.  Nicci’s plan to crush Richard’s will and let him see the evil nature of mankind and turn him to her side…I will put in one spoiler: this plan fails (but that was kind of obvious).

I’m not sure but I suspect that Goodkind did an extensive amount of research on life in the USSR, Soviet Blocs and Maoist China as the world depicted in the Imperial Order could have easily come out of any textbook or autobiography on life in those nations.  The inefficiency, the corruption, the lack of basic needs due to stupidity of a system that is at every step controlled by an overarching authority.  Every aspect of life, from care of the environment to daily quality of life to even being able to enjoy sex is polluted and destroyed under totalitarianism.

What does this have to do with the idea that reason is the only thing that guides your actions?

It has to do with the fact that there is this thing called human nature.  Human nature is always trying to find the best in life.  We are naturally selfish from the most rational of us to the least rational of us; human nature has this odd behavior of caring about our needs first.  Now granted the more rational and educated a person is the more they think toward long term and spiritual and emotional benefits to themselves than the immediate but we are all motivated by self interest, it is simple basic fact.  And everyone agrees that it cannot be changed, from the radical atheist that sees us as nothing but being motivated by a biological imperative to survive to the wises of spiritual masters who tell you to love yourself as much as you love any other person, who tell you to reach enlightenment as your primary goal, who even tell you that you are connected to everyone and that the good you do for others is good done to you, every person with even the smallest fraction of intelligence acknowledges that human beings are motivated by self interest. Now you can accept that fact and accept that it cannot be changed, or you can choose to deny it.  Now if you accept the fact that mankind is motivated by self interest then you would try to make sure that your nation had laws that would try to move that self interest in the most useful ways, encouraging policies and practices that benefited not only the individual pursuing self interest, but also everyone they associate with.  Or as Adam Smith observed, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”  Capitalism is that system.  Or you could try to deny facts, deny reason, and suggest that both the biological and spiritual imperative toward self-interest can somehow be destroyed by government fiat and try fascism or socialism or communism or some odd mixture of all three (I think it’s called Obamaism).  You can accept something about human nature to be true and work with it or you can deny facts and try to change what cannot be changed. Which plan is guided by Reason and which is guided by only irrational faith and feelings.

And at every level of the economy from the individual level to the nation wide Faith of the Fallen shows how this rejection of reason is a rejection of humanity.  At first it merely leads to inefficiencies but will soon corrupt and destroy whole systems and lives—killing hope, drive, happiness and in the end, life.  And in opposition to this an embrace of self-interest is an embrace of life in all it’s glory (the book makes this point very clearly near the end with artistic point).  Now I know that any liberal that has stumbled upon this review is probably having seizures by my praising self-interest trying to list all the terrible things that self-interest can lead to.  Yeah?  Duh.  Self-interest is a fact.  The question is whether you are using reason to guide your self-interest or if you let your feeling guide it.  Reason by nature thinks long term and by nature looks for win-win scenarios. Even without compassion or empathy guiding it, reason is a benevolent force. It is only when you let compassion or empathy rule instead of informed reason that you do things because it feels right, ignoring whether or not it will actually work.  And the book makes this very clear. Self-interest in itself is neither good or bad, it is merely a fact. You can either choose to let it be ruled by reason, which seeks a win-win, or you can try to deny it which builds nothing but misery, resentment and a viciousness to lash out at others. But then again to judge between the two requires reason to guide you.

And the other greatness of the philosophy of this book is that it shows how this principle permeates not just economics, politics, and military strategy.  It extends to even issues of art.  Inevitably art that embraces the denial of reality, the idea that self-interest must be condemned, must at all time deny the existence of heroes or greatness in the individual for to have such examples would be to give something for people to aspire to which in itself is another example of self-interest driving us, we want to be like the people whom we admire.  Thus intelligence, strength, character of both the hero and the common man must be denied and only suffering and inadequacy highlighted.  Charity is also perverted from an act of personal humanity and an acknowledgement of the potential in others, to nothing more than a duty from which no one should take pleasure in.

As always the relationship between the characters is even more enjoyable than the philosophy in Terry Gookind books…but as I said I don’t like giving away too much…although I would add that watching the character of Nicci go from being only motivated by the illogical desire to destroy self-interest to embracing life and reason is a hopeful one.

My one caveat on the sixth rule as Goodkind writes it is a small one.  He suggests that faith is opposed to reason. I would say that there are two kinds of faith, rational faith and irrational faith.  Faith about things that are not contradicted by reason (a belief in God for instance or what drives most people that they can do something that others say they can’t) is not a flaw in human reasoning but one of its greatest abilities.  It is only faith about something that reason directly contradicts (like the belief you can change human nature into something better than it is through laws and government power) that should be opposed and resisted.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Books, Books for Conservatives, Capitalism, Charity, Conservative, Economics, Evils of Liberalism, Free Will, Government is corrupt, Happiness, Individualism, Long Term Thinking, People Are Stupid, Purpose of Life, Sword of Truth, Tyranny

Marriage, Religion and Society… (And in a roundabout way, another reason why Santorum’s a jackass)

Ugh…I hate social issues.  I would love it if everyone could just keep their personal lives personal and not worry about what other people are doing so long as they’re not hurting anyone.  And while I am quite the civil libertarian in caring about other people’s lives it might have something to do that my personal life could not be more bland and conservative…which may be why I couldn’t care about other people’s lives.

But because of Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber (otherwise known as Obama and Santorum, I’m not sure which is which) and their ilk there will be no end to the discussion of these otherwise stupid topics for weeks if not months….no, no let’s not talk about saving the economy or dealing with absolute evil abroad, birth control and gay marriage is far more important than whether or not there will actually be a first world society in a generation. Far more important.

I’ve dealt with Obama’s overstep of executive authority in the guise of an attack on religious freedom so I guess it is now time to once again take on Santorum.  Of course that’s a whole mess of issues right there.  Well…let’s go to a few quotes:

“Marriage is not about affirming somebody’s love for somebody else. It’s about uniting together to be open to children, to further civilization in our society.”

“Two people who may like each other or may love each other who are same-sex, is that a special relationship? Yes it is, but it is not the same relationship that benefits society like a marriage between a man and a woman[.]”

“The basic building block of a society is not an individual. It’s the family. That’s the basic unit of society.”

“Do they have a right? Should society do their best to make sure that that child has the best opportunity to be raised by that mother and father? The answer is yes.”

…and if you think those quotes have a distinct communist/collectivist call for 1984, Brave New World, or Anthem I wouldn’t blame you.  Really I’m fascinated to hear that marriage has nothing to do with love (makes you wonder what his home life is like…I’ve got an idea let’s see if his wife or daughters ever smile while on camera in a way that isn’t obviously forced to see how happy that home life is.)  So in Rick Santorum’s mind you are here only to have children to propagate society and we give special privileges to these breeders…(It makes you really frightened of his call to TRIPLE the tax credit for children…because in a time when any right thinking conservative wants to lower taxes and CLOSE all loopholes, he wants to open loopholes with a crowbar so as to encourage massive overpopulation because it’s working so well for the third world).   Okay we can agree that Rick Santorum doesn’t have a single neuron firing in that head of his.  But that still doesn’t put the general issue of marriage off the table even if I’m Santorum is lord high king of the idiots.  So let’s talk marriage…

Yes marriage is an important function of society.  Rick is wrong about it being the basis of society, that has always been and always will be the individual…but individuals need human companionship (usually in the form of friendship and marriage, and if they’re one in the same, then you’re blessed).  Now is marriage only for the “uniting together to be open to children, to further civilization in our society”?  Not really.  People were having children and caring for them long before marriage, although marriage does help raising them, certainly, no one would argue that.  But it is not having a mother and father that helps, it’s having two parents that helps (increased income, increased ability for child care, increased experience) and anyone who thinks that gay people make bad parents isn’t just crazy, they’re flying in the face of a boat load of research (Just one example here).  But raising children isn’t the only thing marriage is for.  If Santorum wanted to ever crack a history book (which I don’t think he has ever done given his perverted views on the Founding Fathers view of liberty ) he might learn that property rights have traditionally had far more to do with marriage than children do…but that would require Santorum to care about property rights, which are an individual right and as he has much respect for individual rights as any communist or Asharite.  And while history is filled with moments where society progressed just fine without any strict government rules on marriage I would be foolish to say that marriage isn’t a great support for society.  However if Santorum and his followers think that gay marriage is a danger to marriage, or even if it’s that  relevant in the face of other government hits at marriage, then they’re idiots.

Granted, as I’ve said before, I would like the federal government and all the states to say that marriage is a religious institution and thus strike the term marriage from every law on the books…civil unions for everyone!  It’s up to your church whether to call what you have a marriage or not, not the government.  This has the advantage of A.) not letting government dictate what a religion can do (we’ll come back to this) (social conservatives get what they want) B.) Everyone will be equal (social liberals get what they want) C.)Nobody gets to win (because I hate people who think social issues are a function of government) and D.) Jackasses like Santorum will have to shut up (everybody on the planet wins).  All the legal privileges of the marriage could be easily transferred to these civil unions, but as it lacks the name it lacks the attack on a religious institution that expanding it encompasses.

But I will still admit that marriage, and a two parent family is important to a functioning society. You’d be a damn fool to deny that…but then again both social conservatives and social liberals are damn fools given how they act. Social liberals are idiots for what they’ve already done to weaken those social structures (and I’ll get to that in just a minute) and social conservatives are idiots for fighting a defensive war against gay marriage (which has nothing to do with the strength of the social institution, but it is very visible which suggest that their cause is more cynical demagoguery than heartfelt concern) rather than an offensive war against the liberal policies that actually have done harm to marriage and society.

But back to my statement about liberals actually having done some stuff have actually done to undermine the social institution of marriage (hint gay marriage isn’t going to be anywhere on this list).

Welfare and the Great Society.  Let’s pay unwed mothers money for having children.  That makes sense.  Because every economist from any school, be it Keynesian, Chicago or Austrian, will tell you that when you subsidize a behavior or product you get more of it.  Subsidize unwed children, guess what, you de-incentivize actually getting married or waiting until marriage to have children.  (This would also be tied to my opinion that Rick Santorum’s idea to triple the child tax credit when we have an over population problem is, well, brainless).  Really brain dead is that we pay for anything more than the first pregnancy.  I can see an argument for a safety net to help women who have had an accident, been dumped by the loser who got them pregnant, and need some help…one time is an accident (although I would prefer these to be run by counties and cities…not a distant bureaucracy in states and at the federal level).  But not two times.  And definitely not more than two.

Now if social conservatives really wanted to care about the well being of children and the defense of marriage as a social institution they would once again push for welfare reforms.  One that cut people off after the first pregnancy, ones that vigorously track down deadbeat dads (I wouldn’t mind upping what the minimum monthly payment is and bringing back debtors prison for those who won’t pay).  Or requiring the welfare recipients attend GED or job training to help ensure they get off welfare if they want to continue getting their check.  Or how about this one—we’ll keep track of every dollar you get in welfare payments you get from the government and the minute you start making over let’s say $25,000 a year the government will deduct 1% of your check until you’ve paid back what you took out, interest free because we’re not monsters (and the percentage of your check would go up slightly say 3% at $30,000 so forth and so on) this way no would ever view welfare as a free ride, thus removing many of the incentives for taking it.  But right now I’m hearing more about those evil, evil gays (who seem to be decent parents and no worse as couples than their straight counterparts) as what is ruining marriage.  Yeah couldn’t be the financial incentives against being married when having children.

Oh and speaking of financial incentives, why is that the call to end the marriage penalty at all levels has kind of disappeared?  As I recall the law passed under Bush to end the marriage penalty had a sunset date…isn’t that coming up?  How about this, offer a tax discount for those who get married.  Watch people get married and stay married when there are real financial incentives to do so.  Will some people get married for reasons other than love?  Probably, but how is that different from right now?  If you want to promote something don’t punish it.  But you haven’t heard that from social conservatives, now have you.  Hell, given the fact that children of single parent households have a higher likelihood of committing a crime, then financially incentivizing marriage would probably pay for the reduction in revenue via a drop in paying for imprisonment (among a whole mountain of secondary benefits, that was just the first one that came to me, trust me it would pay for itself ten times over).

I could go on, how Social Security and Medicare encourage people to dump bonds with their parents when they got old rather than bringing them into the household in a more stable extended family, how the government support for the liberal Teacher’s unions worked to destroy parental responsibility in raising their children, and a few other programs…but I think you get the point.  If social conservatives really cared about the state of marriage and the social benefits that the family brings there are things they could be doing that would be incredibly effective in strengthening the social institution.  But they would rather focus on something that has NOTHING to do with the strength of marriage.  (And liberals don’t go feeling self-satisfied about that last sentence, you actually have done some damage to the social institution of marriage, just because the conservatives are idiots and not calling you on it doesn’t make you less guilty.

Now social conservatives will probably come back with some stupid “gay marriage is the straw that will break the camel’s back” kind of argument.  But as we know in this case I think social conservatives are idiots.  If they really cared about the state of marriage and the need of married couple to properly raise children they would be attacking the liberal entitlement culture and not worrying about what gay people do.

Up next, why the Court decisions on Prop. 8 is actually the last thing the gay community should want because it’s going to hurt them…because the social liberal also need to be hit (with a peppering of insults against the right)

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil Liberties, Congress, Conservative, Constitution, Economics, Election 2012, Equality, Evils of Liberalism, Faith, Fear, Free Will, Gay Marriage, Gay Rights, God, GOP, Government is corrupt, Government is useless, Happiness, Laws the GOP should pass, liberal arrogance, Long Term Thinking, Obama, People Are Stupid, politics, Problems with the GOP, Rick Santorum, Taxes, Welfare