Hermit's Weblog
everything your mother never taught you about how the world really works.

Sun, 31 Oct 2004

Self Knowledge and true Leadership

Well, the campaign is almost over. I'd like to take this time in the last moments (it is the Sunday before the election), to reflect a bit on what we have seen in the hopes that what is revealed there can help us understand better what directions we need to take in the future. Consider the campaign a lesson book, and this little essay a first effort to grasp some of these lessons.

Let's begin with the most obvious logical error - one that is made by just about everyone (so don't feel bad for making it yourself). There is no true polarity of left and right, liberal and conservative, or any of the dozen other ways people have been framing the situation for a long time now. These are illusions - concepts without a real connection to life.

Their only efficacy comes from our belief in them. That is we make the true, in effect, while they are not true in reality.

The first fact which ought to help us see this, is in the recognition that there is no coherence in either of the so-called points of view. There is no consistent conservative view, and no consistent liberal view. There terms - conservative and liberal - are in fact just labels we throw at matters whose reality is so much more complex and vital, that to use these labels is to kill the very thing we need to come to understand.

We abuse language, and our abuse of language then makes of us fools, for our abuse leads us to conclusions that are not based in fact. The root of this problem actually lies in our system of education, for what is happening is that we are not properly educated so as to be able to see what is the complex relationship between a word I use when writing or speaking, the concept I have in my mind, and the reality the word is meant to describe, and to which the concept belongs. The terms liberal and conservative are perfect examples of this problem.

The failure then in our education system is that it gives us no useful self knowledge from which we can examine the problem of the differences between words, concepts, reality and actions. In the absence of this self knowledge we face the war of words of a political campaign without any tools with which to penetrate through the illusions to the truth.

For a politician, for example, to be a conservative is a posture sometimes, a principle others, and something to ignore when inconvenient to ambition and appetite. A congressman running in a district that is assumed to be conservative, will wear the clothes of a conservative because that is the posture that the desire to win requires. Now these clothes will be different in Vermont, than in Georgia, and different again in Arizona. There is no reality to being a conservative in this sense, just the various postures that politicians adopt in order to appear to fit such a set of assumptions in the district in which they seek victory at the polls.

Now there are often what some try to claim to be conservative principles, but anyone who follows the history of this situation, easily finds significant variation from one time to the next, and certainly from one writer or politician to the next. George Will, in one of his books, pointed out that the conservative principles most espoused in the 1970's were actually just a restatement of principles, which in the late 19th century were called progressive.

Of course, when a politician proclaims a conservative principle (no new taxes, or being in favor of small government), their later actions often put the lie to the previous assertion. G.H.W. Bush said no new taxes, and later needed to tax us because of a war in which he got caught up. G.W. Bush said smaller government, and then expanded it all over the place where he needed it. Clinton seemed the great liberal and servant of the downtrodden, but in economics he sought those treaties most advantageous to large transnational corporations, and which hurt the third world poor the worst.

The real point here is that the terms conservative and liberal don't really mean anything, and certainly can't tell you much about how a politician is going to behave in office.

Now much has been said in this campaign about leadership and what it means to be the commander in chief. For the most part this is all just trivial junk - a kind of empty calorie mind candy for the electorate to use to vote its biases and prejudices anyway. There is no rational discussion of what leadership means, and when the talking heads on TV do come at this, they bring to it almost no rational rigor at all. Our education has simply not prepared us to think our way through the tangle of opinions, and vain and ambitious spin, to any sense of the truth or reality.

What is usually said is something on the order of so and so is a good leader because, and the other guy isn't because, all the while one can pretty much predict which guy the speaker or writer is going to support by what we already know of the writer or speaker's biases. The talking heads and columnists have staked out these territories, according to the almost meaningless assumptions as regard to liberal or conservative, and then when their guy's leadership is under question, you don't have to be told which way they are going to decide.

Basically what we see is not rational discourse at all, but what is well understood as reasoning to a foregone conclusion. The mind can rationalize anything, and so if one's own biases and assumptions make one think we are a conservative (however vague and thoughtlessly we consider what that actually might mean), then our mind is always capable of finding reasons to say our guy is a good leader, without ever asking the question: what it really means to be a good leader in the first place?.

This is mainly what passed for political discourse in this election: 1) the use of terms for which there is only the vaguest real meaning; connected to 2) endless reasoning to a foregone conclusion.

Now there are colleges and universities and teachers, who understand what real rational discourse is, but somehow, even having all manner of college educated politicians, writers and talking heads, this never penetrates into the discourse. When was the last time you read something which discussed the nature of leadership, and of statecraft, as examples of human striving and self knowledge, as a subject matter all of its own (that is outside the context of rah rah for my candidate)?

Most of the social problems we have in this world can be laid at the root of the failure of our systems of education to produce individuals of character and rational intelligence, who also then might be willing to take up the mantle of public service. Pundits will scream about character, but which of them actually takes the time to not only define it, but to describe how it is created. Where is it said, for example, that Skull and Bones, the basic connection between the two rich boys that just ran against each other for President, was about anything other than forming useful (as in profitable) connections for later in life? What did Yale, the so-called great Ivy-league University, bring to life in these young men, that helped them become really capable of highest public service?

We simple don't truly educate anymore at all. At least not in schools.

The saving grace is that life can teach, and there are many that are willing to learn in that divinely organized school. While the progeny of the wealthy battle it out over who has the most ego (and therefore can claim the mantle of Washington and Lincoln), down in the lower levels something has been happening. Life has been busy producing new leaders - real leaders. Schooled by life in self knowledge, and educated in the down and dirty realities of actually inspiring others, and getting things done, if we just look in the right corners of our society we will find them.

First off, they aren't ambitious. They care, and they sacrifice, and they work hours and hours each day trying to solve a real problem. They organize shelters for the homeless, homes for the raped and beaten, jobs for the victims of our Alice in Wonderland penal system, farms in urban areas, knowledge of how to solve the energy crisis, workable policies for dealing with pollution caused by out of control agri-business companies, and on and on and on. Real problems, real solutions.

They are too busy solving problems to waste the time (and sell their souls) to become caught up in modern political insanity. Things are actually changing in the bottom of society, in spite of what goes on at the top. There is a revolution going on, and it has been going on for sometime now. Life itself is growing the generation of leaders we need for the days that are coming. Don't believe me? Then take a look at Bioneers, a real look, and you will see where the real School of self knowledge and leadership has been, and is, doing its work.

[14:53] | [] | # | G

Thu, 28 Oct 2004

Prediction for Election 2004

Want to know what is going to happen? Well here it is.

Kerry by pretty much a landslide. The pollsters are too afraid to risk being wrong to essay the real phenomena being expressed. You have to see past the numbers and be intuitive.

There are a lot of Republicans that can't admit publicly the truth about how they are going to vote. Bush even scares a lot of them, such that when they do answer polls they say they are going to vote for Bush, but when push comes to shove inside that private booth, they are going to go for sanity.

The pollsters also can't track very well what the newly registered are going to do, which is why the Republican powers are trying so hard to intimidate voters at the polling sites. They know the great majority of these new voters are coming out to vote against Bush, and their problem is this is a tidal wave they really can't stop.

We should also note that during the Primaries last winter and spring, the pollsters missed both the level of turnout, and the way the vote would go. This election is too powerful a representation of American's true heart, and the number crunchers can't get their quantitative science into this qualitative soul-space. You have to listen to the voices with your heart, not your head.

I also expect the Democrats to take back the Senate, but not the House. If they do the next two years right (form a coalition with the forgotten Left) instead of trying to hold only the Center, they'll be able to get the House back then. As well the Left has to move toward the Center, and force its way back into the Democratic Party. But that's all a story for another day.

[14:56] | [] | # | G

Wed, 27 Oct 2004

Wouldn't it be nice if Christians actually understood their Teachings

With reference to Charles J. Chaput's, Faith and Patriotism, published last Sunday in the New York Times, I must respectfully disagree. Even the Christian Gospels recognize (Matthew 22:21: Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are Gods) that there is a crucial distinction between what we owe as duties to the State (Caesar) and what we owe to God.

As a citizen, I must consider the whole, not just my private views. A society is a unity, and unless I offer what I render in service to that unity, and instead only serve myself - my private moral views, I actually violate my duties to the Divine Mystery. Again, in the Gospels, I am admonished to love my Neighbor as myself. In uniting the teachings from these two places, I can come to understand that Christ has made clear the distinction between the different realms and the different duties.

Now it may be, as Thoreau saw so clearly, that my higher duty will call upon me to sacrifice something of my own (such as my physical freedom), in how I render unto the State (Caesar), but nowhere is it suggested that I may compel another to sacrifice in order to force them to follow my own private moral views. The whole point of the bill of rights is to prevent a tyranny of the majority, whatever their morality or character.

I can then see how it is that my private moral duty requires of me, for example, to not commit abortion, and that it may require that I sacrifice my physical freedom, through civil disobedience, to oppose abortion, but nowhere does this allow me to impose my moral views and require a sacrifice of others, using the power of the State to compel them to share these views.

It is true historically that competing values have met and battled in the realm of Law making. But it is also true that we live in a version of the State in which the rights of the minority to freedom from the tyranny of the majority were clearly set forth in the Constitution. Freedom has no meaning at all, if the majority may at any time use the power of the State to impose its moral values. The only true function of the State is the creation of rules that apply to all, and are acceptable to all.

The compulsion of the Law (the power of the State) is not meant to be a substitute for the moral and religious freedom of the individual human spirit, in the following of its own conscience. Out of conscience I render unto God, but it is out of selfless compassion and love, that I render unto the State (Caesar). What I render unto the State is not about me, but about We - about the other - the Thou. The Preamble to the Constitution does not begin I, the Individual, but We the People.

There are those who might insist that they must do all they can to save the souls of others, a pernicious dogma that has historically destroyed more than it ever created. It assumes that the Divine Mystery has no purpose for the lives of the assumed unsaved, and that the imposition of my conscience on your conscience is a divine commandment. It is an enormous exercise of hubris and vanity to live out those assumptions.

It is this failure to realize these truths about the difference between the duties we owe Caesar (the State) and to the Divine Mystery, that has contributed far too much to the destruction of the Republic in our time. Even so, the wider realities about the forces assaulting our Republic is a whole other story.

[16:45] | [] | # | G

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Joel Wendt


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