High Comedy

As abrasive, ugly and, I guess, pretty comical  public debate has become these days maybe it’s time to extol the virtues of the high energy levels our contentious philosophical exchanges generate. However distasteful, things are certainly better than the political structures in other parts of the world that are inclined to censor oppositional views of any sort (that couldn’t happen here, could it?).

Still, I have to question motivations sometimes. I’m afraid rather than championing fairness and what’s best for all, it appears, often, folks’ primary concerns center on me and mine, my own situation and how it measures up to what I see around me; seems like arrested development sometimes; a perpetual adolescence.

The 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill reminds us that in any debate, both positions will contain a certain degree of truth; issues are never simply black and white. So, it’s up to us all, I guess, to try to make reasonable sense of the oppositional view rather than mindlessly rely on logical fallacies, strawman simplifications and ad hominem put-downs to bind us with our allies and reinforce what we wish to be the right and only view.

As I contemplate these ideas I’m fully aware of my own complicity, my own inclination to jump on my preferred band wagon, you know, thumb my nose at the opposition. But, at least it gets my blood pumping, raises the old energy level; better than wasting away in lethargy ville I suppose.

ship of fools

 

Totalitarianism

I’ve been thinking about totalitarianism lately. This, in part I guess, because I’ve been reading about the philosopher Hannah Arendt who escaped Nazi Germany in the 1940’s and, as a Jew, gave considerable thought to the subject.

Ms. Arendt determined that a successful totalitarian regime is able to establish a commitment to certain idealisms, such as racial purity or nationalistic solidarity, at the expense of basic human rights. By creating and enforcing with a heavy hand certain rules and laws focused on idealisms, plurality and individuality are undermined and an undifferentiated populace is championed. Faced with being ‘for us or against us’ the individual trying to go about his business taking care of family, putting food on the table and such will understandably become fearful. The fear of being perceived as an outsider tends to push ordinary citizens to embrace and participate in the extreme right wing political agenda. And, before long, most everyone is on board except, of course, those chosen as scapegoats to represent all that is evil and in opposition to the selected ideal truths.

As I think about it, it seems to me most all political structures, even those that declare democratic rule, have a bit of an inclination to push idealisms and demonize an opposition. Hopefully, individual strength and perseverance will hold such totalitarian impulses at bay. One must be careful, thought, not to take individual freedoms for granted, I think.

shriners3

High Comedy

As abrasive, ugly and, I guess, pretty comical  public debate has become these days (although it’s probably always been such, visibility being exacerbated by our competitive media outlets) maybe it’s time to extol the virtues of the high energy levels our contentious philosophical exchanges generate. However distasteful, things are certainly better than the situations censorious political structures in other parts of the world impose on their populations.

Still, I have to question motivations sometimes. I’m afraid rather than championing fairness and what’s best for all, it appears, often, the primary concerns center on me and mine, my own situation and how it measures up to what I see around me; seems like arrested development sometimes; a perpetual adolescence.

The 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill reminds us that in any debate, both positions will contain a certain degree of truth; issues are never simply black and white. So, it’s up to us all, I guess, to try to make reasonable sense of the oppositional view rather than mindlessly rely on logical fallacies, strawman simplifications and ad hominem put-downs to bind us with our allies and reinforce what we wish to be the right and only view.

As I contemplate these ideas I’m fully aware of my own complicity, my own inclination to jump on my preferred band wagon, you know, thumb my nose at the opposition. But, at least it gets my blood pumping, raises the old energy level; better than wasting away in lethargy ville I suppose.

ship of fools

 

My Demons

I’m finding myself falling into disquieting thoughts on occasion these days. I usually attribute such unpleasantness to physical discomfort; a sore back, being overly tired or whatever. But, when a reasonable physical explanation doesn’t present itself I think demons.

When I think demons I’m not really conjuring monsters such as one sees in medieval paintings; I’m using the term in a more abstract sense, you know, something in the air unsettling my being. Although, if I did think of demons in medieval terms, my demons would probably reflect aspects related to some of the disheartening news that crops up nearly every day. My demons would probably have attributes of some of the mean-spirited politicos who seem to me so bent on imposing their economic and pseudo-religious interests on those most in need of compassionate consideration.
Perhaps, if I envision my demons literally enough I can think of them as scapegoats into which I can stick pins as in the practice of Voodoo and if not diminish what I see as their destructive behaviors at least provide a focus for my wrath, to ease my general discomfort.

And then, when the cloud passes from over my head I can hide my demons away and hopefully not have to bring them back out any time soon. Of course, if I need them they’ll be there.

my demons

Equal Opportunity for All?

Mini-Max came by the other day. He was in quite a good mood, elated really. He was happy in the realization the country had come to its senses and mandated the conservative agenda, which he said was quite apparent judging by the results of the last round of elections.

Now, he said, perhaps the government would relinquish its excessive regulation on private enterprise so that ambitious Americans would be free to reap the rewards of their hard work, increasing capital and jobs to the benefit of all. Reduced taxation would encourage business expansion creating even more jobs which would remove the need for social well-fare which, in turn, would result in a significant reduction in the national debt.

I thought about this for a while before I asked Max how he accounted for the increasing discrepancy in wealth distribution. It seemed to me, I told him, that the ‘job creators’ were fighting a livable wage requiring their employees to rely more and more on the safety net to get by and their increased profit taking was creating a stagnant income, that perhaps there was a greed factor inherent in human nature that might require a bit of government oversight.

Well, Max pretty much ignored my criticisms. He said the public saw the light to the right and we were without doubt headed in the right direction- equality of opportunity for all.

Max was riding pretty high and it would have been a shame to burst his bubble. I really should have suggested, though, that we’re a long way from equality in this country and there are quite a few things standing in the way of equal opportunity like unequal educational opportunities, racial prejudices, gender bias, not to mention a disinclination to assign credibility of any sort to inanimates such as myself.

I guess we’ll all continue to nurture our innate philosophical leanings and, as with religious beliefs, be fairly unresponsive to opposing views. I think though we all need to start seeing the grays.

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