Archive for May 2006

The Radical Left

May 25, 2006

For all the moaning and wailing you hear from the right wing echo chamber, you would think that every person who has ever had a liberal thought was in league with the Marxists. Despite such obvious drivel, there really is a radical Left out there and fortunately nobody pays much attention to them. The problem is that the mainstream Right does pay attention to monstrous reactionaries like Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter, and Michelle Malkin. Compared to them, a centrist does look like a wild-eyed radical. That should not be an excuse for the actual radicals out there, though.

Not quite extinct, but unwilling to be quiet, you will think you are having a reasonable and rational discussion and then the radical nonsense starts to spew out. Today I got into an online duel with a Leftist who: 1) failed to read my comment. 2) started bloviating about hidden feelings and subconscious motivations. 3) based his reply on my “latent bigotry”.

Well hell. Apparently all those years he spent in therapy to get rid of his demons have left him empty of intelligent thought. Since only a deep personal self-reflection can assure me that my motives are in fact what I say they are, I cannot attain the state of enlightened purity of emotion that he has reached. Crazy utopian!

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Patriotism

May 23, 2006

There has been a lot of discussion recently over the concept of patriotism. Some take the rather Hegelian view that submission to the state is in the best long term interest of its subjects. The arguments for it are so badly written and so devoid of logic, I cannot go back over them with any charity. Suffice it to say that they depend on a completely naive view of history and human interests.

In the middle ground, where I like to think of myself as being, there is a love of country tempered by the knowledge that our nation has committed sins in the past and only wisdom, honesty, and humility can prevent us from continuing those mistakes into the future. Any time a policy is formed upon ignorance, equivocations, and arrogance, it is time to stop and turn back from that dangerous path.

Finally, there are those who want to achieve a radical type of anarchy. They so hate government that they would get rid of it altogether, or at least try to get it “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” The arguments for this are also severely flawed, and assume all taxes are theft and that the public good is always at odds with the individual good.

I think it is very important for the left to start publicly criticizing the patriotism of the right. They have created a situation such that to give a public anti-war speech is equivalent to an incitement to violence. In the height of hypocrisy, they also decry any protest of a pro-war speech. In other words, any criticism they receive is automatically unpatriotic while we have to sit quietly and listen to more jingoistic propaganda. That is not democratic, that is not American, and it certainly is not respectful of our traditions and principles.

Just War Theory

May 8, 2006

I have been reading and rereading a book, The Just War, by Peter Temes. He gives an overview of the history behind the traditions, evolutions, and teachings that define the current theory.

He proposes three major principles and a proper framework to view them in:
1) A Just War sanctifies human life and treats all life as equally precious. Casualties should be kept to a minimum on both sides when possible.
2) A Just War is about the future and not about historic grievances. This does allow the right to self-defense, since that is an immediate grievance.
3) A Just War preserves and strengthens the principle of individual rights, based on the notion that a legitimate government is derived from the consent of the governed. This permits revolutions to occur against a tyrant.

The framework he suggests is that innocence be recognized and valued, naming our enemies as human, and acknowledging that war is the business of death and destruction.

A very short book, barely over 200 pages, yet filled with great insights about war, individual rights, social stability, and justice.

Group Action and Moral Risk

May 7, 2006

At one of the religious blogs I occasionally visit, there was an intriguing discussion about individual salvation and formal cooperation with evil via group action. His point being that since we are all sinners, only individual penance and confrontation with evil can really be justified with Scripture and that collective actions are extremely prone to corruption and unintended consequences. In many ways I support this theory, because large groups can indeed become malevolent mobs. On the other hand, due in part to my political alignments, I believe in social problem solving. The tension between these two ideas hinges on the notion of common good.

So what is the common good? It is not easy to define, but I think it depends largely on the sentiment of placing community interests above individual interests. The name itself suggests an inclusive habit, while at the same time rejecting evil impulses.