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September 28, 2006

Comments

Hi Brain;

Another fantastic discussion! Your discussion, made me think of a comment, I think, I heard from Ben Afflac, at the 2004 Presidential Democratic convention. Ben stated, " with Bush's tax cuts, I saved a million dollars on my tax return. Is that fair to the middle class?" Hopefully, I am quoting him correctly.

I wonder what Ben did with his million dollar tax savings?

Did he give it to a needed and highly effeciant charity? A charity that funnels 99% of it's funds to the truely needy.

If he spent it on a new Mercedes, etc., hmm....... I wonder what I should be thinking?

Brain=Brian Oh, my crude proof-reading.

Roger, I often mistakenly type my name the same way: "Brain." Freudian slip? Also, that was one of my nicknames in elementary school. Along with the equally uncreative "Four eyes" (I wore glasses at the time; eventually contact lenses saved me).

effeciant=efficient. Blessed are those who check their spellings, for they shall enter the, "Kingdom of Spelling Heaven."

Brian,

I happened to stop by your site to comment on the wonderful baby news and couldn’t resist commenting on this post.

I don’t have a brief for Measure 37, and I think government has a role in regulating the use of shared resources. I also think that zoning laws are appropriate. But I also think there ought to be limits to government interference with private property.

Part of “connection” is respecting the rights of individuals to exercise their autonomy. One can have a concept of interconnectedness and still resent external interference in one’s private affairs.

Furthermore, while everyone who benefits from the protections and services of the state has duties of citizenship, there’s a big qualitative difference between one’s relatedness to family and friends than there is to strangers. It’s not necessarily inhumane or ungrateful to dislike the idea of contributing the maximum to self-perpetuating and often wasteful bureaucracies. Reasonable people can also differ on what services are properly performed by individuals and private entities rather than by the state.

Frankly, your entire post is redolent not of realism but wishful thinking of the utopian sort. It also partakes in no small measure of simple prejudice against conservatives, who “seem” to you to be “by and large, unhappy people.” There are, no doubt, conservatives who genuine misanthropes of varying degrees or various species of miserable wretches. But these abound on the other side of the aisle as well. The problem with being conservative is that one tends to stand for the hard choices rather than the warm and fuzzy ones. As someone once jested, the GOP is the party of God and the Democratic Party is the party of Santa Claus.

Our view of your side is of people who have a wrong idea of human nature, which leads them into unrealistic (and often disastrous) policies. As someone once wisely said, “the facts of life are conservative.” A failure to recognize this has resulted in liberal policies that have made a dog’s breakfast of sexual morality, education, law enforcement, immigration and defense.

On a more strictly logical level, your thinking leads you into self-referential inconsistency: you draw a line to deplore those who draw lines.

In the real world, there are meaningful cultural and ethical differences that result in conflicts between competing allegiances, both domestically and internationally. In the wish world you proffer, these conflicts fade into invisibility, at least on the broad rhetorical level.

Interestingly, however, you make an exception for conservatives as “others” that you deem “worthy of disdain.”

Idler, you raise some interesting points. I don't disdain conservatives, in part because I used to be one. And my mother never ceased to be one. So any disdain I might have would be directed at people I love: me and Mom.

You say, "In the real world, there are meaningful cultural and ethical differences." Here, I think, is where our differences spring from.

Philosophically, I'm basically a Taoist. Also, a scientist. I see the world as consisting of much more, hugely much more, than human predilections. I don't believe that "man is the measure of all things."

Or rather, the "man" of intellectualized and artificial conceptions isn't what we really are. This is hard to explain, but this notion lies at the heart of both genuine spirituality and genuine science.

In brief, we're not in touch with the real world. Mostly humans live in a fantasy, an illusion, of our own making. Conservatives, more than progressives, are dedicated to preserving this illusion, strengthening it, making the fence between us and reality higher.

As I said in the post, where are the firm divisions in nature? Where are the firm divisions in science? Where are the firm moral boundaries in the cosmos? Nowhere. They don't exist. They are creations of man, not of God, not of the Tao, not of Buddha nature.

So I'll continue to cast my lot with reality. And with progressives. I'm interested in progressing toward truth, not looking backward on all the errors humankind already has committed.

Still, you correctly point out that my judging political viewpoints as I did (and do) is at odds with the attitude of oneness that I advocate. All I can say is that, like most people, my ideals don't match up with my reality a lot of the time. I talk a better game, philosophically, than I play it.

I certainly respect the conservative outlook on life. Again, I used to see the world that way myself. I still have my own blinders and am sure that I'll continue to change my own outlook. Well, I hope so. Otherwise life is going to be pretty boring.

Brian,

I’m not alleging any serious personal hostility on your part. That’s not your nature. You've never been anything but a gentleman to me. I’m taking issue not with your attitude but with your intellectual prejudices and the logic of your arguments.

To say that cultural and ethical differences don’t exist is not realism but rather escapism or some other kind of evasion. Whether “man is the measure of all things” in some sense or not, and whatever the ontological status of language and law, people have real differences that have a real impact in the world.

Your comment, like you post, leans on a kind of comfortable relativism that avoids dealing with these realities. As such it is the opposite of realism. It may be that conservatives indulge in their own characteristic illusions, but I find it ironic that you criticize “intellectual and artificial conceptions” when that is the modus operandi of rationalistic progressive philosophies, from the French Revolution on. Rationalists (in the strict philosophical sense) appeal to the authority of a universal standard of reason for the organization of human affairs and deplore the local and circumstantial—hence your own disapproval of “nationalism,” which you dismiss as parochial. Conservatives look to the actual circumstances as they exist, not as theory would bend them in the ideal; they affirm the particular, the local—the real. Thus, for conservatives, people exist not in the abstract, but as members of particular communities, with particular cultural attributes, affiliations and allegiances. As a result, they see the importance of such things while progressives dismiss or wish away that importance—which, to some extent, you're doing now. The crude reality is that some points of view are incompatible with others, and thus the respective proponents of those views are necessarily at odds.

You’re wrong to characterize your inconsistency as a breach between your ideals and your actions. The inconsistency resides in the ideals themselves. Thorough-going relativism always leads to incoherence of saying, “no distinctions matter, except the ones I’m making now.” It asks us to accept that no particular point of view is better or worse—which is itself a particular point of view!

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