Monday, October 20, 2008

Bogeymen and Socialism-

The term "socialist" has recently been cast as an aspersion on Obama during these later gyrations in the campaign process. It is said much like calling him a "bogeyman." I am not particularly surprised by the use of the term "socialist", but am somewhat fascinated that it can be a term that serves to strike fear in people.

I must assume that those who fear and loath the term "socialist" must somehow identify themselves with capitalists. In the United States these terms are generally used as antithetical to one another. That is a logical way to deal with the terms, but the emotional identification with capitalism I find surprising.

Most of the people at whom the term "socialist" is being cast for emotional impact don't actually practice capitalism to any real degree. Most are citizens who are working within the existing system to make a life for themselves. Many use resources (such as roads and electrical power) that are partially or wholly socialized without any real thought to the matter. Why, then, is the socialist a bogeyman in their eyes?

I am inclined to believe that capitalism and the prized liberties of Americans are closely linked in the American mythos. Since socialism is antithetical to capitalism it must also threaten liberty. It therefore is anti-American. Ergo, if Obama is a socialist he is anti-American. Hence, working class Americans who don't significantly practice capitalism still identify with capitalism as a root of the liberties they enjoy. They may thus be influenced away from supporting Obama because he is now perceived as a threat.

Obama has become a bogeyman.

While casting aspersions may be a viable campaign tool, it does nothing for clarifying for Americans the culture in which they live. Most social orders in our world practice varying degrees of socialism. It is practiced to some degree in this country. The degree will vary over time, as people and organizations respond to changes in the world.

The dynamics of a system that can adjust to changes in the environment are signs of health. The question is not whether Obama is a socialist. It is whether or not Obama's policies are the right dynamic for our system in the current changing environment.

I presently don't really care. I want change. I do not think the current dynamic is right for our continued survival in the changing environment. Obama represents change. For me he is a convenient force that can be applied to the system to change the system. Once the direction is changed we can adjust the course.

One term of Obama may be sufficient. Two may be too much.

To use a colorful expression often used by a wino I once knew, "I don't give a flying rat's ass" about the degree of capitalism or socialism applied to the system. I simply want a system in which I can live with reasonable freedom and security. For me that would be weighted toward optimal freedom. Security need only be the power to keep what is mine and do with it what I choose.

I don't need people trying to frighten me with bogeymen. I need real information for making real choices.

Obviously campaign rhetoric is not a valid resource.

Influence or Regulation?-

As a Christian and a Philosopher (to whatever degree I am much of either) I have considered my place in society. As either (or both) I impact my world with what I say and what I do. I hold that what we do rises from what we truly believe.

Some of my fellow Christians are activists. They intentionally act to influence our society to become more consistent with Christian principles. I cannot fault them for zeal and active endeavor to realize such ideals. Yet in my own life I chose not to strongly associate myself with these people.

The problem for me is in believing that the best Christian influence is through regulation. Ultimately I see such activism creating a Christian culture in which Christians are comfortable, but non-Christians are likely to be uncomfortable. This would drive unbelievers to move away from such environments, and the influence of Christians on non-Christians would become less by virtue of that distance.

I also often find that the culture of Christians tends to be narrow, shallow and lacking in interest. It need not be so, yet in areas where American Christian culture has deep roots there is often a distinct provincialism. There tends to be a failure to interact with ideas, since so many living together think much alike.

This kind of culture would offend the part of me that is the Philosopher.

For me an ideal culture would be diverse in thought and action. Regulation would be minimal, and ideas and beliefs would be free to interact in an organic and catalytic fashion. It is more of an environment of Influence rather than Regulation.

I cannot help but feel that ideas thrive in environments of freedom and diversity. While tight regulation may make some people feel secure, it seems repressive to me. Freedom on all levels of life allows for freedom of thought.

Such must necessarily be difficult for orthodoxy. To hold believers to beliefs that are consistent with Christian doctrine in an environment of free thinking must necessarily present a great challenge. Yet the opportunity for those believers to interact with unbelievers is much greater in an environment of free thinking.

Or so it seems to me. My love of freedom does not require the abandonment of order and discipline. Indeed, these are needed even more in a realm of great freedom. They are, however, freely chosen and adhered to, rather than simply regulated into being.

So I would say I value Influence over Regulation in the exchange of ideas. It must be what I truly believe, because it is how I live.

Same Sex Marriage-

I consider this in the specific a moot point. The real issue, in my mind, is having the government involved in marriage at all. I have not researched marriage, so I am largely expressing an uninformed opinion. My impression, however, is that marriage is a personal and religious issue.

It seems to me that a great many of the cultures of the world have marriage as a social institution. It may vary somewhat, but it essentially is a bond between two people within the context of a religion and a larger social order.

How such a social institution is the business of government evades me. Perhaps I will one day study the history, if it ever grabs that much of my attention.

It does make sense for government to be involved in marriage if the church and state share a lot of responsibilities and authority. It would be my guess that this is the manner in which the American government became involved in marriage in America.

If marriage were not entangled with government I don't believe that same sex marriages would be as large of an issue as it currently seems to be. Part of the contention (besides some valid moral arguments by the various parties) is the larger issue of fiscal impact on society as a whole.

Were marriage not entangled in government this would simply be a social issue between factions.

I really would prefer that government not be so involved in our personal lives that marriage and how we define our families would be a matter of policy. Government would oversee shared infrastructure and management of some shared resources. Marriage would not fall under those umbrellas.

Government makes sense in managing things like roads and sewers. Leave other matters to the individuals and the institutions they form when they join freely together.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Victory in Iraq-

Bush, and now McCain/Palin have constantly beat the drum of "victory in Iraq." I have not yet seen the Bush criteria for victory. They seem to think that exporting a Western style democracy to that state will be the victory.

I am no expert in international affairs, but I do have experience with human interactions and criminal gangs. I have observed things I attribute to a tribal psychology to these groups. I may be wrong, but I did find some support in this web site. It relates to Somalia, another place America got involved in tribal issues and military engagement.

Generally, as long as a tribe exists there is a shared identity. Only the benefit of the tribe is important. The individual is not important, and other tribes and individuals are not important. To bring the tribe in line with some presumed higher purpose will require either constant violent shepherding or the destruction of the tribe.

If you have not yet read the article, please do so. It is not long, and expresses what I have intuitively held since we began our war in Iraq.

Iraq is not, by the nature of its population, a single national entity. It is an area on the face of the earth in which several tribes exist. We have accomplished what little has been accomplished entirely by force. Our strength is greater than their strength, especially since they will not readily unite even to drive us out.

They do, however, have patience. Their conflicts have gone on for many generations. They can wait until we eventually go away, and then return to the conflicts that have been their tradition. They know that we will eventually go away.

There is no victory in Iraq, unless we are willing to join one faction in genocide against the others. We will not do that, because it is contrary to the nature of our way of thinking.

It wasn't always. We nearly decimated the Native American populations. Again, by superiority in numbers and better technology. I have to wonder how the matter of westward expansion would have been handled by modern American politicians.

So, since we won't kill off the people living in the place called Iraq and claim the land as our own, we should just leave.

It will not be a defeat. For a defeat to exist there had to be the prospect of victory.

Since victory can easily be a matter of definition in a situation like this, we can draw a line somewhere that we have already crossed. That line will define our "victory." Let the Iraqi people evolve their own democracy when they are ready. Or not.

Then we can get the Hell out of there, and begin cleaning up the crap we have at home.