I've had a few conversations with friends over equations to determine ethics and a friend who actually created an entire project around the idea once upon a time. I didn't exactly write it out but while attempting to answer a random inquiry from my mother I at least typed out some basics and felt like broadcasting it a bit more.
ALSO: It leads to quite the bashing of people who drive SUVs unnecessarily. So here it is:
I'm writing this note for my own reflections sake and to share. Understand that if it seems long winded and self serving, that's because that's the point.
Lately I've managed to get into a few nitty-gritty conversations about politics with people on facebook, and they often whittle down to a disagreement on a fundamental thought. It takes a whole hell of a lot of back and forth, time, thick skin, and question asking to get there -- but it's been nice to at least find the root disagreements rather than ideology vs ideology.
(A lot of liberal vs. conservative economic talk seems to come down to a disagreement over how responsible individuals are for their place in this world and likewise what to do about it. I know that may sound obvious but when you unpack that and you end up on thoughts about "free will" and "individual freedom being in contrast with world economic competition" it seems to actually be a debate. That's not really what this note will be about - that's just my quick take so I don't just leave that thought open ended)
Since I see a pretty big difference between arguing economic perspectives and social perspectives it seemed only fair for me to delve into why I would never be comfortable aligning myself with conservatives/the republican party (hint: It has to do with the social perspectives).
If everything could be whittled to an arguably debatable root like I recently had with people online I'd be more likely to define myself as a moderate but as I ventured into politics for the first time years ago I found a few stances and perspectives that came from the Republican side of the isle to be reprehensible. Coming to politics through the guise of philosophy (only coming to the topic of philosophy just by asking simple questions about religion and society) it was odd to poke my head in and see what the debate of gay rights was all about.
On one side I saw people fighting for gay rights (i.e. equal treatment in the eyes of the law and a general need for society to change it's prejudice against people of a particular group) and the other was arguing for...well that's what was so concerning. I didn't understand what their argument was (not to mention why it even affects their lives personally). When comparing gay rights to the other rights movements in our country I was simply asking "How is this any different?", "Are these prejudices any more "deserved"?" They were easy enough questions to ask. It was startling to see how the conservative side would answer those questions:
"This nation was built on Christian values", "Marriage is between a man and a women", "it's just not natural", "I don't want my children being around those people", "It's a sin to act on those urges", "If you let them get married then what's next? People getting married to dogs"
These arguments, if they were based on anything at all, can be whittled down to two things: Religion and "gross" factor. Sadly I need to state this now, but I hope it's obvious that any argument based on either of those concepts has no place in a debate over civil rights in a nation based on freedom of religion. Have your religion but keep it to yourself. You can feel that it's "gross" but if you can't see the subjectivity of that argument then you're someone that shouldn't be arguing in a public setting in the first place.
And the even more insulting thing about the religious argument is that it can't simply end at "they shouldn't marry" but that it comes from the religious judgments of "they are living in sin" and "There won't be any gays in my heaven" (NB Quote). So now you're not only holding back their freedoms because of your personal religion but you're labeling them as terrible and damned people in order to argue a point.
It's not controversial for me to say these arguments (being completely subjective, completely bias and many obviously rooted in personal religion) were all coming from the conservative/republican side of the isle.
Nestle these up with Bush's religious based hold on stem cell research and the conservatives basically packaging these biased arguments under the guises "family values"/"patriotism"/"real America" and I don't know how I was suppose to take the party seriously, let alone not be offended.
But apparently it doesn't matter if I don't take them seriously (or if I'm offended), they still have enough populous behind this thought that it's (apparently) not their job to worry about the rights of everyone in the nation. They can get elected by touting those shallow, irresponsible arguments. In many regions, this topic not only does them no harm, but actually garners votes when they package it up nice as "family values".
So great. Now I not only heartily, ferociously disagree with their unreasonable stance on gay rights but now I have to worry that they are only playing off the prejudice of the populous to get elected all while fueling the ignorant reasons people believe those arguments in the first place.
How was I suppose to keep listening to the people that shovel out this rhetoric? Whether they mean it sincerely or not, whether it's based off religion or completely subjective bias, it's all terrible. I will never align myself with anyone who argues from a point of complete ignorance (seemingly pridefully to make it worse). We're talking about peoples lives and their lack of "trying" made me sick. The continued lack of effort continues to make me sick. I'm up for debate on lots of topics but the fact that one of (basically) two parties I have to choose from even stands for this is scary. It's because of this that I am prone to skepticism with everything and everyone that defines themselves as conservative because it proves to me they don't feel they need to argue from a point of objectivity to defend something in a public setting. And without that, we'd all still be burning witches at the stake and drinking from different drinking fountains.
So yeah, that has to be the earliest and strongest reason I felt the Republican Party lacked integrity. And if in 20 years we're lucky enough to have a nation where gay rights is just as much a part of the past as black and women's rights, It's likely the skepticism I have today will still prod at me.
Original Post: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150131236919653
Video Version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtIBiveK52o
My friend Steve Cook asked me a question and honestly it was one I hadn't spoken out about yet since the actions taken in Libya are yet to fully play out and our commitment is not clear. But if someone wants to wink at me with a notion of hypocricy, I'll be damned if I don't respond. If you come across this note at a later date - please reference the date in which this was written. (LATER NOTE: Some factual discrepancies have been discussed in the comment section of the original note.)
It would seem hypocritical only if you painted it with a very large brush. Though people like to draw comparisons to the two dictators, the actual circumstances of the situation of the moment and the Iraq War are pretty different.
I'm sure I'll regret not taking my time and writing a million paragraphs the first time around based on what happens in the comment section but I'll try to get away with pointing out those large differences and leaving it at that.
The large differences of this moment:
-We have committed no ground troops
-There's a clear internal struggle of citizens being slaughtered vs a dictator and his army
-It was a combined effort after obvious disccussion by the international community/U.N.
Those basic facts paint a very different picture than 2002 when Bush often spoke of Iraq and 9/11 in the same breath only to have to change the narrative two years later arguing we went in to free the Iraqi people. Also, even if it was based off the "freedom for Iraqis" thought from the beginning, even that could be argued to be nieve and short-sighted based on the "U.S. vs Muslim World" narrative that has only played into the hands of radical islamists.
If Obama were to commit ground troops, then we'd have a very different discussion on our hands. We'll see what the end-game thought of this campaign is when he makes his speach on (probably) Monday night to the United States people.
Things I should address just so people can't throw them in my face as if I ignored them on purpose, while I at the same time only feed the narrative of people who want to disagree with me at all costs yet may not have known about these things:
-The criticisms that have been made by the Arab League that their backing of a U.N. sanctioned no fly zone did not include the concept of actually bombing front lines and compounds, are fair criticisms.
-The criticisms that were made about his lack of consultation with the Senate are also fair (though it's not historically unprecedented when it's compared to actions taken by other Presidents).
-The worries that you can't "dabble" in war and that this was short-sighted as Ghadafi has shown signs he plans on waiting out the "passers by" may also be fair criticisms but at least they are decisions that we are not too heavily commited to, nor made solely by the U.S. But rather they were also decisions that have already proven to be met with praise by many Libyans in the streets of Libya.
So short answer: I think it was a fair step to take for the time being given the ticking time-bomb nature of the rebel struggle, the cooperation and action of the international community as a whole and as long as any thought of long term involvement is sincerely off the table (i.e. No troops on the ground) I don't see any hypocricy in that.
Why do they want you to feel guilty for thinking free?
Why do they want you to feel guilty for discussing reality?
I grew up thinking we all lived in the pursuit of truth. I thought the world was this complicated place where you get ahead by figuring out reality. Learning to deal with the "here and now" by truly understanding the "here and now". Don't get me wrong, it doesn't seem to hurt but what surprised me is it doesn't appear to be that important, nor does it seem to be the road most traveled. But by recanting the questions at the top of this page...
"Why do they want you to feel guilty for thinking free?
Why do they want you to feel guilty for discussing reality?"
... I'd like to point out where this feeling is coming from.
Why am I instantly made a villain by asking the validity of a religious claim? Why would I be written off by many if I asked people about gun laws? Why would a vast number of people label me a likely "pot head" just by wanting to discuss the legality of pot? Why would me asking "what's so wrong about a man loving another man" still get a large portion of the population to cringe?
These are all topics worth discussing if not topics people have wide-spread misconceptions about. Yet, just to bring them up, I become a bad guy, and that's what makes this world so hard to change: We shun people who are seeking truth. Ethical questions aren't simply "true" or "false". If you don't leave room for debate then how do you even know why you believe what you do? If you can grant me that, which you must, why aren't people open to discuss topics of which they seemingly feel very passionate about? Why levy shame on people asking questions and looking for better answers?
The problem seems to be it's very close relative "morals". That word seems to be used when discussing ethical concepts that pertain specifically to mass appeal. If you don't blindly assume the moral code of the day is the peak of ethical conclusions but rather ask questions about taboo topics, good luck not feeling scorned by many privately and almost all publicly.
To make it clear what I'm talking about, I'll describe one of the easiest examples to illustrate. I could argue that our laws against pot forces the black market of the product - because it does. The creation of a black market of a heavily sought after commodity naturally leads to increased violence since the reporting of theft is off the table. It also fills our prisons with a large number of non-violent criminals only to be submerged with a bunch of violent criminals at the expense of the tax payers and the personal families involved. Should we really not consider why we make this sought after item illegal? I'm not trying to say there is a clear cut answer, but damn it, it's a thought worth discussing. But you know why I will never discuss that with the average being of society? Guilt culture. They wouldn't even grant the scenario. The content of the concept itself is already off the table and I am guilty by association. "Why would he even care unless he's a pot head himself?" is how many would write me off. I'm not allowed to discuss things of that nature this openly because of the social stigma associated with the topic by a large portion of the population -- and my problem with that is I live in a world with this population.
You've always heard that you can't expect the world to change overnight and I think this guilt culture we have to conform to is why. Too many people feel shame and guilt for the wrong reasons and it crushes honest thought.
The real problem: Just pointing this out is not going to make anybody change their ways. All I'm doing by writing such bold statements is feeding the monster - people will see the buzz words and taboo topics I bring up and think I am off base with society and that I need to change my ways without challenging themselves to really listen to reason.
Damn it - mass shame should not control the culture or the individual!
So now, after years of trying, I have to accept the terrible, unfortunate truth that in these extreme circumstances, asking these questions only hurts me. Socially it appears I'm simply disparaging the majority of people around me for selfish reasons. I am forced to hold back deeper thoughts in order to appease people that don't know what to do with them. If only they understood I had the best of intentions.
So it goes.
Thanks for reading,
Universal truth is not measured in mass appeal -- Immortal Technique
Original Post: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150096535929653
Video Version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZbfRobMzXo
*Since my penning of this argument The Global Commission for Drug Policy has come out and essentially backed up my above concerns on drug policy: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/06/02/panel-drug-war-failed-regulate-marijuana/
After talking with Jenny about how we need to find books we enjoy reading I discovered she and many other school children read the book "Black Like Me". I had heard of it from time to time and it always sounded interesting so I finally picked a copy up from the library a week ago. I've been enjoying it thoroughly and it has been an easy read. Of course, it's always interesting to find pieces of literature that have been around for decades that still, at their core, hold hard truths even today.
Here is a passage that I must admit I am posting with my political slant in mind. My use of this passage in no way should take away from the amazing, much broader analysis he delivers on the human mind, spirit and history of race relations in this book. I am posting it to allude to something that feels all too familiar even today.
Quick Set-up: He is in the middle of racism central/Mississippi and has luckily found haven with a friend for the weekend -- His friend has compiled news clippings and propoganda for him to rifle through (1950's internet - ha)...
"I left them around eleven and meant to fall into bed. But the material P.D. had placed on the two bed tables fascinated me so that I studied it and made notes without sleeping until dawn. It is perhaps the most incredible collection of what East calls "assdom" in the South. It shows that the most obscene figures are not the ignorant ranting racists, but the legal minds who front for them, who "invent" for them the legislative proposals and the propoganda bulletins. They deliberately choose to foster distortions, always under the guise of patriotism, upon a people who have no means of checking the facts. Their appeals are to regional interest, showing complete contempt for privacy of conscience, and a willingness to destroy and subvert values that have traditionally been held supreme in this land."
Last paragraph of November 15 - "Black Like Me" by John Howard Griffin
Here is a blog version of articles I've written in various forums and for various reasons. These are probably way too opinionated to be placed on a website where I'm potentially advertising my services but whatever, get over it - ideas are for sharing and debating.