February 20, 2008

Fear is a Renewable Resource

"America was founded by men who understood that the threat of domestic tyranny is as great as any threat from abroad. If we want to be worthy of their legacy, we must resist the rush toward ever-increasing state control of our society. Otherwise, our own government will become a greater threat to our freedoms than any foreign terrorist."

– Ron Paul, from Freedom vs. Security: A False Choice

"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."

– John "Q-Tip" Adams

Perhaps the application of the second quote is to do the right thing even (especially) when the wall of opposition seems insurmountable. Now, where did I put my "The Good and You" reference guide? Often it is speciously simple to ossify what the right thing is. In many situations it becomes a matter of perspective. An example is the spectrum of viewpoints on current military action by the United States.

I have encountered, and at times been a self-contained example of, an array of conflicting beliefs held by the highest conviction as being right. I find it epistemologically problematic when people hold contradictory, irreconcilable absolutes. If, as Lennon/McCartney placed in addled words, "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together," then I feel a shared culpability for others' absolutes, as they could easily have been my own. This affliction of empathy is uncommon amongst the highly polarized/politicized compartments of Democrats and Republicans. The team-mentality of election time in the U.S. is a playful outcropping of a deep need for "Us and Them," a deadly way of alleviating our personal fear and guilt by clinging to a group dependent on each other for survival.

I think we are each imbued with an innate sense or intuition for the good, although that intuition requires empirical honing. That honing should include drawing on the collective experience of history to augment our individual lens for the world. My personal intuition about implementing the good has been very haze-y in recent years, but some developments have emerged. "Revolution is dead." "Why bother?" "There is nothing new under the sun." Lazy pessimism. The battle of wills that has raged for the millennia is a race toward death, but there is, perhaps, another way. It involves withdrawal and self-sacrifice, not revivalist coercion or militant fascism. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"To preserve the freedom of the human mind and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement."

It's all about Freeeedom, man. Liberty. Not the vacuous hedonism of self-destruction and dogmatic nihilism. Nor the false construct of mystical superstition. I appreciate the inclusion of "freedom of the press" as a sibling to "freedom of the human mind." The communication of ideas, education by a variety of perspectives, is the best hope for the improvement of the condition of man.

I was looking for a clip from King of the Hill where Dale Gribble (a cartoon hero of mine) is using bookstore basement as a firing range.

"And so we say farewell to A Farewell to Arms."
[Blasts a giant hole through the dangling book.]

Copyright-infringement-free YouTube has failed me, but I did come across this, which seemed relevant (and priggishly obscure) enough:

The Minute Men perform "King of the Hill" – I checked out some more of their stuff. Don't really care for the sound, a kind of frantic, strained, ska-punk-pop. And thought the production value of this video was pretty childish (ok, I like the part where the big dude rolls down the hill). But their counterculture appeal against modern feudalism is cool.


lisa van dyk said...

Your comments on "us vs. them" are something that I have become increasingly aware of recently. According to Rene Girard, a French philosopher that I read out in Oregon, human socieity is based on "us vs. them," which is also what you seem to be saying. We can't get anywhere without scapegoating someone else or "othering" a group of people different from ourselves. Girard goes on to say that this is the root of all violence.

Anyways, I found it to be particularly interesting when he applied this to the biblical text. hmmm...Cain/Abel, Jacob/Esau, Isaac/Ishmael, Sarah/Hagar, etc. etc. etc.

Since I'm using Calvin College's internet service, I'm obliged to question -- how do we redeem this? what can be done?

Pete V said...

That's a big challenge - how do we redeem this destructive facet of human nature?

By doing no thing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in all things considering others better than ourselves. That would do the trick.

Hearts and minds must be released, but how? I have no definite answer, only the intuition that education and communication offer opportunity for self-understanding and change.

The stimulus of change may be the collective efforts of individuals providing an example of patient, humble, caring way of life. A long effort achieved not by troops and sanctions but by honest self-sacrifice and love for all (even those that seek to destroy us).

It's frightening to think how this SEEMS to be at odds with basic survival in the world. Perhaps it requires a measure of faith to let go of our fear and only live the way we are meant to, not the way we seemingly have to.

lisa van dyk said...

So, love DOES win?!?

pete v said...

let's hope so