Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ivy League Leftists and Neo-Cons-

I have been poking about a bit, trying to get a more solid grip on the lovely title "Ivy League Leftist." Mostly because I had heard the term used as a pejorative aimed at Obama. Because he was of the Democratic Party (left of center) and graduated from Ivy League schools (perceived as the home of left-leaning educators) the term was applied to get reactions from those hearing it who perceived themselves as conservatives.

Essentially, an inflammatory term intended to manipulate emotions, evoking generally negative feelings and applying them to an object (Obama, in this case) to make that object less attractive.

The term Neo-Con (new conservative) was intended for use like that. Somehow it was embraced, and some web sites use the title proudly.

Generally I have perceived the left-leaning of the Democrats and the right-leaning of the Republicans as only a few degrees from center. Of course, this requires some kind of political continuum in which to view the objects under consideration. I can't see this as a line, necessarily. Indeed, I can't ever seem to find a visual to use that really applies in any meaningful way.

These parties have to come together with common goals, but are not as homogeneous as portrayed. As a Libertarian I learned that there are Libertarian elements within each of these parties. They are "working from within." That's great, for those who are Libertarian and can live with the significant compromises necessary to live in those environments.

I am glad they are there.

I know there are some pretty radical leftists wandering around in the Democratic party. I am not so sure of the Republicans, though the degree to which some of them list to the left might make it seem so. Ultimately, they are bodies in which compromises are generated in the form of policies and political goals. They each comprise a spectrum, and they both face the same challenges that face the nation.

Often I see them as two flavors of vanilla ice cream. Not the same, yet not all that different.

Neither one seems bent on loading us all into a hand-basket and sending us on a journey. For the most part, they express good intentions. They will probably fail at most of what they do, and that failure might be the best thing for us all. They have been largely failing for over two hundred years, and from my perspective things are not that bad.

Here's to another four years of muddling on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Interesting Times-

I will forewarn you, readers. I am going to address partisan politics. I have seen some people get upset on other blogs when that happened. However, if you are reading something with the title Philosophy on Purpose you ought to expect politics to come up from time to time.

I visited Repicheep just a bit ago. I had not been there in weeks. I added his blog to my list of Following so I don't neglect a place I enjoy visiting. Repicheep expressed some strong support for McCain for President. Good arguments. Considering all that I have read and know, people who vote knowledgeably for McCain are not making a bad choice.

I am not voting for McCain. I shall vote for Obama, hoping that his victory shall put the brakes on and change the course of this country. I shall vote for him only once. I shall hope to see him out of office after four years.

I do not want "more of the same." Heinous and criminal things have taken place in the course of the Bush administration. He failed to take the nation in a viable direction, even when 9/11 gave him the potential to make great strides. No, he laid the foundation for a potential economic disaster through short-sightedness and bowing to the wealthy.

He did right going into Afghanistan. An open assault by a known enemy is an affront that must be answered by force. How it has been managed since then I do not support, but the initial response was right and good.

Manipulating that 9/11 event into justification for an entirely separate protracted war with no defined parameters for victory was criminal. Diminishing the freedoms of Americans in the name of "security" was criminal. Lying constantly and deceiving the American people was criminal. That he did so in a misguided belief that this was all good for America is tragic.

I do believe that Bush holds this course because he truly believes it to be the right course for America. I also believe he is fundamentally wrong.

McCain has sufficiently expressed his support for that course to convince me that his tenure as President would just get us in deeper. There is no victory in Iraq. No matter what we do that nation will fall into squabbling factions once we leave. Any unity they seemingly had in the past has been held by force. They will play along to get us out, then fall on one another to see who is strongest.

On to the Ivy League Left. Obama is the one left standing, but Hillary Clinton is also such a creature. I need to study these people, for I don't fully grasp what makes them tick. I understand Leftists. I have met screaming Communists, and evangelistic Communists. I have known many Socialists. They often have high ideals, and most are well-meaning people. They were all working-class people. How the Ivy League went Left I do not fully understand.

The problem I have is not with the ideals, but with the fundamental error of believing that the government is the best medium for bringing them into being. People should feed, clothe and care for themselves as much as possible, in an environment of freedom. They should not need nor desire to have the government do it. They should not be compelled to have the government do it.

Why vote for Obama, then? To begin dismantling the machine Bush and those he truly represents have been creating. Fascism may be to harsh for the direction they have been heading, but I have not seen an expansion of freedom and opportunity for the common American resulting from the present course.

It has long been my belief that the greatest strength of our system of government has been the ability to keep any one group from having power long enough to really mess things up. If nothing else, we have the option of throwing out the incumbents and altering course. Our system seems to allow this with the least fuss and bloodshed, relative to the many systems functioning today.

I long for less government and more freedom. I would love to vote Libertarian once again this year, but the need for change is too great for making statements or gestures with my vote.

This election I vote for Obama, in order to dethrone Bush. Even if his name is McCain, I would not have Bush for another four years.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Changing boxes-

We need categories in order to think about things. Things need names, and they need a "box" to show their association with other things. I say "things" even though ideas are also objects of thought. It is a simpler way to think about thinking, and ideas as objects is not an unreasonable concept.

So we put things (and ideas) into boxes. A particular thing might fit into quite a number of boxes, each box lending an element of understanding regarding that particular thing.

Political and economic ideas fit into boxes. Sometimes we confuse the box for the thing, and I think our understanding becomes muddled as a result.

As a Christian I adopted some ways of thinking that were different from my native thoughts. I adjusted my old ways based on the authority of the Christian teachings to which I had chosen to submit myself. Sometimes I adopted the American Christian cultural biases along with the more objective Christian truths. I rarely did so intentionally.

It was by virtue of this that I became a Republican for quite a number of years. Many conservative Christians with which I associated tied the Republican agenda closely to the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. I early on found flaws in this thinking, and never was fully able to embrace the Republican Party as a result.

Strangely enough, I was associated with the Christian Left at one time. I have always had sympathy for the idea of an ideal communism. It is efficient and fair, and I like that. However, any examples of Communism I have ever seen have been far from efficient or fair, and often were worse in their corrupt forms than other models being acted out throughout the world.

The association was never official, nor was it really mine. Others made the association based on my expression of the belief that the hungry should be fed, and that all people should be clothed and sheltered. I think that these are good things, and right. However, I am not Left enough to adopt the belief that government is the proper medium to provide them.

Indeed, I have never had a strong trust in government. I recognize the need of regulatory bodies to keep people from injuring each other and taking unfair advantage of those who are somehow weak. I do not necessarily believe that the government is the medium through which all people should receive all good things.

Governments tend to become corrupt, either from self-seeking people taking control of them or from age and ossification. They are not really the ideal medium for compassion. They serve well in regulating and enforcing, but generosity is not an inherent characteristic of such bureaucracies. It seems that those bodies that seek to be all to their people demand much in the way of reduced rights and freedoms in exchange.

Over time I have come to the conclusion that a minimal government is best. Let it be charged with whatever regulations and enforcements are necessary to keep people from injuring one another and some means to protect the weak from oppression. A nominal regulation in guiding people in settling conflicts seems necessary, but it should be quite carefully managed.

I believe that optimal freedom for individuals is best for all. It allows even the Christian freedom to live as they chose, and to share their beliefs freely. The Christian beliefs would have to compete in an unregulated marketplace of ideas, of course. I don't see that as problematic. In a truly open marketplace ideas that are strong would thrive.

The compassionate would be free to exercise compassion, unhindered by needless regulation or the compulsion to support some inefficient bureaucracy. Those who are less compassionate would not have their resources stolen by a system engineered to enforce compassion.

So I believe. Unfortunately, my former associates the Republicans (not without compromised assistance from the Democrats) have embroiled my country in a fruitless war. This election I will be supporting the Democrats in choice of leaders, though I do so with trepidation. I am convinced that the war must end and have a slightly greater hope in the Democrats doing so than the Republicans.

That being said, I am not jumping into their box for more than the act of voting. I see the Democrats as inclined toward creating that benevolent and intrusive government I despise. Republicans have proved intrusive without the benevolence, except for a soft heart for the wealthy. I would cast them all aside for greater freedom and less government.

Though I think in boxes, like everyone else, I recognize that life is not so neatly packaged. I am open to changing boxes, either to gain a new perspective or to bring about some desirable result.

The boxes are a tool for thinking, and should liberate thought. When they serve to confine and control, it is time to change boxes.

Government and trust-

I grew up in the 1960's. Turbulent years. Years of change.

My father has always been an American patriot. He instilled a respect for an idealized America that I adopted readily. He grew up in difficult times. Turbulent years. Years of change. My father loves his country, and has always had hope for the future.

The idealized America I learned to love was not just a fabrication of my father's experience. It was sculpted in the 1950's. Post World War II America, on top of the world as a consequence of changing events. Growth and prosperity. A time of reformulated identity.

I grew up in the 1960's. There was a war in those days. A protracted war in a distant land. I grew up with the growing belief that the country I loved intended to gather me up and send me to that distant land, to kill and probably be killed.

Needless to say, this challenged my love for my country. It did not destroy that love, but it did change the nature of that love.

I joined the Army in 1972. I had no other solid prospects, and it seemed wise to go into the inevitable with some degree of control. I had trouble in those days seeing past my probable death in Southeast Asia. It impacted my capacity to dream of any kind of future.

I did not go to Viet Nam, and I did not die there. I fought the Cold War in Germany, and on the whole it was a good experience. However, I had lost my trust in the government of the nation I still loved. I was proud to have served the people of America, but I was not sure I felt that way about the government I served.

The years between then and now have been filled with challenges to that love of country. I still believe our system of government is one of the best in history. It is not, however, the unsullied gift from Heaven that the glorious 1950's painted.

There were lies then, and there are lies now. People have died as a result of the lies. Sacrifices offered by the rich and powerful in the name of a Great Nation. Sacrifices they did not have the right to make, even though they were rich and powerful.

I am still idealistic enough to believe that a nation founded on lies is unworthy of the trust of its people. I am still naive enough to believe that a little gained by truth is better than a lot gained by lies. I am wise enough to know that we would not survive long as a nation if those who governed were so rigidly idealistic.

The realities of the world demand compromise, and compromise always diminishes ideals. Yet to abandon ideals is to yield to a pragmatism that will spirals down into a meaningless existence. It devolves into a mindless cannibalism devoid of purpose.

Perhaps that is the purpose that government ultimately serves. It is a system by which we act out the struggle to rise above the chaos that is the absence of ideals. It is constantly compromised, and always falls short. In falling short, however, we still rise above the chaos.

The ideal government can be trusted. A government compromised by lies cannot be trusted. However, even a compromised government can stand above the chaos of the absence of ideals.

I will never again trust my government. However, I need not abandon that government, for in the course of governing much good is done. It is imperfect, and bears constant watching. It requires constant attention, and over time it can be made better. The ideal of truth can still be the goal toward which I will move the government of this nation, to whatever degree I can as a simple citizen.

It would be nice to be able to trust our government, but we cannot. The history of lies denies that trust. We can strive to make it better. We can hope for a day when such trust is warranted.

It is hard for an idealist. We have so far to go.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Four Square and my World View-

I entered the American public school system in the late 1950's. Most of my education took place in the 1960's. One of my earliest life lessons came early in those years.

At recess from classes we went to the playground. Painted on the surface of the tarmac were squares. Probably twelve to fifteen feet to a side. Each square was divided into four equal lesser squares. The game was played with the ubiquitous red rubber ball.

A player stood in each of the squares. The lead player would establish the rules of the game, and then bounce the ball to another player. That player would return the ball or send it to another player, according to the lead player's rules. Children wanting to enter the game would line up along the side of the major square. When a player missed the ball they were out, the remaining players advanced one square, and the next player entered the game.

That is the idealized version. Unfortunately, it was played by humans. The lead player was, in those days in my schools, generally a dominant female. She would always assume the lead, and place her friends in the remaining squares. She would often adjust or interpret her impromptu rules to keep herself and her friends in control of the game.

This was my introduction to human social games. I did not like it. Generally, to become the friend of a lead player required a certain devotion that I never really comprehended. After trying this game, and some of the others, I eventually gravitated to the far side of the field. I just hung out there, watching the other kids play or looking out through the fence.

I apparently do not have a strong social need. More than one person has observed, "Mike, you don't need people, do you?" It is true. That need is small in me. So, I failed to learn a lot of the basic social games that were taught unofficially on the playgrounds of my schools.

Nature, or nurture? I can't really say. I always come to the conclusion that it has to be both, and the dominance of one over the other is not consistent from person to person. Anyway, I elected quite consciously to not learn a lot of the social games. The few I played were conducted with such a cynical twist that I was not really playing those games, either.

Antisocial? Not really. I have come to care for some people quite strongly. More like asocial. The inherent need was not strong, and I think that the need drives the games. My conscious decision to avoid or abandon most of the human games shaped my world view.

What is your Four Square influence? Have you identified it? How has it impacted your world view?

Philosophy. On purpose.