February 27, 2005

 

General interest: The Right's value fallacy and the Left's existential value system

The basis of Margaret Thatcher's belief that "There is no such thing as society" was the Right's interpretation of society's general interest (cf Rousseau). To the Right, the general interest is a mere aggregate of individual interests (cf Plato’s discussion of the character of the citizens and the character of the state). [These days, I find that going back to the old philosophers helps me connect to the roots of social issues] Conversely, the Right assumes that whenever someone defends a political position, it must be due to a personal interest. The latter is an instance of the failure to differentiate between the personal and the social, an issue that Rousseau (unsuccessfully) and Marx (successfully) dealt with. Another instance of this failure, which may have touched many of us personally, is that conservatives take liberal criticism personally, while liberals generally don't take conservative criticism personally. The Right cannot understand the fact that the opinions a person expresses reflect the reality that the person is faced with, rather than his/her personality. For the Left, there are people, and then there are values afterwards. For the Right, values subsist in a substratum, independently of people and their lived experience.

The above fallacy is the root of the Right's whole "philosophy" of values, which is founded on a confusion between what is right and what is good. Real values are deduced from a process of reasoning on what is good. In other words, values are something that each of us comes to have due to having gone through a series of reasoning processes. They are our personal ethics. They are not, and cannot be, dictated to us by others or by society. The concept of what is "right," on the other hand, is based on conscience or emotions, that is, it is ultimately dictated to us by society as morality. An example should help to clarify this. A bill is to be reintroduced in the US Congress "that would require doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy to tell their patients that the fetus feels pain. Doctors must then offer anesthesia for the fetus." This is the Right's idea of "values." In fact, this has nothing to do with values. As much as it may disturb us to think of the pain that a 20-week fetus may suffer, the issue cannot be settled by an appeal to our emotions. Rather, the debate must revolve around the idea of what is the good thing to do in this situation. That can only be decided by including all the factors that bear on the situation, including the mother's health, her rights, her situation, and the social aspects of the question. Pain, by itself, is not an argument. If pain were an argument, it could be argued that anyone who suffers incurable pain should be euthanized.

February 21, 2005

 

About the Current Comment Attack on this Blog: An Issue of Fundamental Rights

I think I owe an explanation to the regular readers of this blog about the recent comment spam attack. This blog has been subjected to a spam attack by an individual who calls himself Grey, as well as by a number of his blogging associates. His blog is at www.sixty-six.org (see his post of Feb. 16). This individual is part of a group of four or five persons (with BJ, Mort, Zealott, and Zeke, and another one or two minor players) who, on the basis of my experience with them in the past two months, have made it their mission to attack blogs critical of the current US Administration. In other words, they try to chill critical activity by bullying the critics. These individuals have repeatedly attacked my blog with irrelevant and offensive comments, many of which I have duly deleted. They would then add the original comments again, sometimes adding the same comment to several different posts. In the Feb. 16 post on his blog, Grey says he will keep posting his comment until I reply to him. I have no idea what makes him feel he has a right to do this. I will, of course, not respond to what amounts to blackmail and coercion. I have stated on my blog's heading that I would delete "rude" comments. When I delete the comments of these individuals, they flood me with objections, to the effect that their comments were not "rude," meaning they did not contain obscene words. I am sure every literate person knows what is meant by the word "rude" in this context. It does not just refer to writing that contains gutter language. It also includes writing whose purpose is only to offend, without adding anything to the conversation. I have never deleted any comments that had been offered with a sincere wish to debate a point. You will find such critical comments under the latest post, signed by "Flemish American" and "cantseefade." They both expressed views opposite to my own, but in a constructive manner, and received a reply. You will find many similar cases throughout this blog. Notwithstanding all this, I have, in any case, the right to state my beliefs, whatever they may be, and to talk to and listen to whoever I wish, and also NOT to talk to and listen to whoever I wish. This fundamental freedom, regrettably, seems to have been one of the victims of the current mentality and the erosion of civil and human rights in the US. It appears that many Americans now believe they have a right to force people to listen to them. In the end, I have decided not to delete this gang's comments anymore. The reason is not just that they have forced this course of action, but also because I am sure that, in the minds of the readers, they will be hoist by their own petard. I had been saving them some embarrassment by deleting their comments. All of their comments, with the possible exception of the ones signed by the gang member who calls himself Zealott (with two T's), are free of any intellectual content, hence failing the first test set by this blog.

February 14, 2005

 

Iraq's US-style Elections

It is a difficult confession, but we used to have some doubts about the valour of the Iraqi people. Not any longer. We doubted them because of the apparent ease with which US forces occupied Iraq. What we were forgetting was that it was not the Iraqi people who crumbled in front of the invaders. It was the forces around Saddam that crumbled away to nothing, as there was nothing to hold them up. The people of Iraq have left no doubt about their own valiance in the minds of knowledgeable and impartial observers. They have shown indomitable and exemplary courage in the face of the adversities imposed on them by the invaders. They have taken advantage of every possible opportunity, peacefully or otherwise, to show the invaders that the masquerade of liberation has not fooled them. The Iraqi people's incredible courage in risking their lives to come out in large numbers to vote has left no doubt that the invaders have no lessons in democracy to teach the Iraqi people.

We, who are on the side of the Iraqi people, must not forget that the ultimate aim of these elections, from the point of view of the invaders, was to legitimize the puppet government of Iraq, and to strengthen and perpetuate the divisions among the Iraqi people. As the old saying from the time of the British Empire goes: "Divide and conquer." The Iraqi people, by turning away from the party of the butcher Allawi, have seen to it that the evil design does not reach full fruition. The reason the opposition won was not that it represented a better platform, as there was no platform and no named candidates. The primary reason the opposition won was that it represented forces hostile to the invaders.

The elections themselves are invalidated by the atmosphere and background that surrounded them, and do not represent the will of the Iraqi people as it would have been expressed in truly free and openly contested elections. The breakdown of any sense of security, and the overwhelming fear of being attacked by the invaders or the forces of the Resistance are topics of daily newscasts. The great majority of the people did not know anything about the individuals they voted for, as the list of candidates was kept secret up to the time the ballots were distributed. This fact in itself leaves no doubt that these elections are invalid. As with the recent US Presidential elections, people's religious beliefs were exploited to sway their votes. Hence Sistani issued a fatwa that mandated voting for the Shia party coalition. Voting was a condition for receiving food rations, a fact that accounts for a part of the turnout. Election "monitors" turned into voters, by filling out the ballots of many illiterate and elderly people who had come out to vote.

The Condi Rice Travelling Roadshow is trying to take full advantage of these sham elections to further Bush's agenda. It is a time of real danger, when the voice of real democracy and freedom is being drowned out by the blare of propaganda. However much we may sympathize with the plight of the Iraqi people, and however much we may admire their monumental courage, it is imperative that the illegitimacy of these elections becomes as widely known as that of the US Presidential Elections in 2000. This may be one of the very few means left available with which to impede the progress of the Bush bandwagon.


February 09, 2005

 

Special Bulletin: Voltaire's "prayer" answered!

Voltaire prayed, to a God in whose existence he did not believe, that his own enemies should become ridiculous. Today it was reported that God, in reaction to the US extreme Right's project of getting rid of Darwin's theory of evolution, has finally granted Voltaire's wish. Currently, the US Right, despite facing universal ridicule and, now, the wrath of God, plans to turn its attention to Einstein's theory of relativity. They claim this theory breeds moral relativism. One usually reliable source informs us that the next target on their hit list is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. They plan to argue in front of the Supreme Court that this Law is unconstitutional. This reporter adds: Perhaps Voltaire was wrong. Perhaps there is a God, after all!


Can there be any reasonable doubt that the above individuals are close cousins?

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