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

Wed, 30 Mar 2005

In the Absence of Rationality - Intellectual Chaos

What made the U. S. Constitution, become a work of political art and statecraft that has so endured and been admired, was the long effort at rational thought that stood behind its ideas and its writing. Long before the War of Independence, Europe gave birth to the Age of Enlightenment, which among other matters, produced long and thoughtful essays and books on the fundamental understandings and questions regarding the nature of government and human nature. Not all thinkers agreed, but the discussion was lively, intelligent and most important, often wise.

On the foundation of this enlightened consideration of basic realities, our Nation's Founders then constructed the Constitution, and the Republic, as the Law of the Land. We know today the details of much of what they discussed, and between the records of the constitutional convention, and the Federalist and Anti-federalist papers, we can enter a world where depth of thought and much wisdom sought to balance conflicting views of human nature, and deep and often profound moral principles.

If we compare our modern political dialogs, the op-ed essays in newspapers, and the verbal essays on such as Fox News, to the thinking of the Founders and the philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment, we are certain to end up feeling great pain for modern pundits know little of the nature of rational discourse, the rules of rhetoric or any of the other basic skills of logic and thought organization which is necessary to illuminate the real nature of modern social issues. Instead they give us opinion without facts, spin pretending to be truth, and reasoning that would not stand for a moment in the face of direct examination in a modern university class on logic or law.

The main reason this happens is because none of the forums in which these opinions, most often merely seeking to rationalize a foregone conclusion, are expressed, is a forum in which the thought content must be examined, and dissected in the way true rational discourse requires. Since there is not need to justify an opinion before other minds, anything can be and is said.

Let's just look at a couple of the obvious kinds of flaws that today masquerade as thoughtful opinion. Sentences frequently begin with a generalization, such as "liberals" do this, or "conservatives" do that. Since there is no real content to such a generalization, that is there is no true class of human beings that neatly fit such a loose and abstract term, the sentence can have no meaning. In fact, anyone paying attention to life will have already noticed that when you get to individuals who might fit such classes (such as members of the "Christian right"), the individuals seldom fit the class. They might agree with some part of an imagined "Christian right" ideology, but not other parts. The result is that the sentence is merely a fiction, and lets its speaker or writer spout off their favorite nonsense.

A second factor to be recognized is that a lot of this kind of opinion-giving arises in an environment in which the speaker/writer is being paid. Many of these so-called thinkers make their living giving opinions, and in modern life what we really have in these cases is only something meant to entertain or provoke. Ann Coulter is a good example of this lame profession - clever speech pretending to be thought. She makes her living being offensive, a kind of Don Rickles (a sometimes famous "insult" comedian) of the op-ed circuit. But lets not act as if this entertainment represents any kind of reasoned discourse to which any meaning or significance need be attached.

Then of course, there are the politicians, who have also become experts at giving voice to matters in environments where the rationality and meaning of the discourse is never challenged. George W. Bush, for example, packs his audiences with empty headed fans, and makes speeches designed to illicit cheers. The truth, or facts, or logic or even graceful language, have no place in such spectacle - witness the pointless word-tsunami that has accompanied the politicization of the tragic plight of the woman on the feeding tube in Florida.

The result of all this is that our public dialog is empty of meaning and significance. The gift of the word is thrown away, and speech and writing become nothing but vain noise - the mindless braying of animals, who have forgotten what it means to be human, and to posses thereby the power of rational thought.

[12:39] | [] | # | G

Wed, 09 Mar 2005

Freedom is not on the march, but without a doubt ignorance and lying still are the main political dance.

Everywhere today we can read people getting excited about the voting in Iraq, the struggles in Lebanon and Iran, and other apparent changes in the world were Islamic Fundamentalism, or similar tyrannical excesses, seems to be in retreat. I suppose some of these excited people get their ideas from the Media, which, sorry to repeat again, isn't interested in the truth and hasn't been for a long time. Let's look at some sobering facts.

Early reports on the vote in Iraq were that at least 58% voted to bring in a government (party) that intended to be free of Western (read USA) influence, and that would send American troops and bases out of country. Then there was an announcement, that this vote count may have had some problems, and so a delay came to be before an "official" count was released. Surprise, surprise - the "official" count was that this majority was now only 48%, that is a minority, and the government to be formed would have to be a coalition (more than one party).

Everybody, who really thinks American influence didn't fraudulently change the vote count, should hang their heads in shame.

We had the same thing here, just last fall, where the preliminary figures (exit polls), were later completely contradicted by the "official", computer adjusted vote count. I know some people want to hide their heads in the sand, and pretend our American government is moral and upright and nice and kind, but it isn't and it won't be, and it is basically out to screw everyone it can.

Freedom is not on the rise everywhere. Instead what is on the rise is the tyranny of 1984 with all the bells and whistles, all the lies, all the word games, and all the messing with our heads.

[11:40] | [] | # | G

Fri, 04 Mar 2005

Why do so many self-proclaimed Christians seem so stupid?

I wish there was any easy answer. Let's deal with individual issues and see if a pattern falls out.

The Ten Commandments in public places, school prayer and other Church-State issues: Well, here we have a confusion between sizzle and steak or form and substance. Somehow, those who believe that these icons of seemingly public Christian practice should not be disturbed, don't understand that part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew: Chapters 5-7) where Christ advises not to pray in public, but in private, and explains why.

Those, who go for form, think that if we have the form of things Christian, we are okay. So they get "saved" and baptized, and by this form accept Jesus as their Savior. That's it. Do that and your troubles are over, and sorry but the rest of the Gospels not too relevant.

Forget living the example, of following In His Steps in the way Charles Sheldon describes in the late 19th Century book of the same name, which was, during the spiritual revivals of the 1970's, to lead to the very interesting What Would Jesus Do? movement. No point in being a Christian in action. The only thing required is belief.

Of course, we also have to blame the Media, which seems to want to only publish stories about the form of Christian practice and never the substance. I suppose that's why all the public posturing of the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons. Like the hypocrites described by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount who pray in public, they are more desperate to be seen as Christian, than they are willing to suffer as Christians of substance in private.

These folks need to rediscover that the only true monuments to Christianity are in lived lives that effect others. That's why so many Saints are also martyrs. Its dangerous to be a real Christian - you can't do behind the safety of a desk, or a pulpit or on TV.

Then of course there's the political stuff. These pseudo-Christians want to remake the world in accord with their moral vision. Just like those who forgot the Sermon on the Mount, these folks never seem to think about Matthew 22:21: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are Gods."

Some of these pseudo-Christians want to trivialize this statement, since it seems to be about money. The problem with that is its theological inconsistency. If you think Jesus Christ was the Son of God, how can you imagine He ever spoke lightly about anything? Unfortunately for a lot of Christians, understanding this statement requires that you think, something hard for true believers to do. Once you idolize and worship a belief system, there's not much room left inside the soul for thinking about what the truth is.

Actually its very simple. There's heaven and earth. There's the realm of the Father and the realm of Caesar. Two different places, two different sets of rules. Understand the rules of both, and give to both what each legitimately needs.

Our relationship to the realm of the Father is private. We pray in private. So we are told that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and all our spirit and all our mind. Do that, and prayer becomes something rather marvelous.

Our relationship to the realm of Caesar is public. So we are taught to be moral in public, to treat our fellows in such a way that we live the meaning of: "whatsoever ye do to the least of these my brethren, ye do so also unto me". Here we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Makes for a very peaceful world, and if you find yourself on the end of someone else's anger and hate, then turn the other cheek, and walk the extra mile.

Not really that difficult.

Unless you are a serious hypocrite, the type which would get Jesus Christ the most angry. In which case you hate gays and gay marriage, and hate abortion and make an icon of life, but then forget to hate war and the death penalty, while voting as part of a group which also hates freedom for anyone's ideology and beliefs but their own. A lot of hate out there for what is different.

I like the recent effort on Sam Smith's Progressive News to stop calling these folks Christian fundamentalists or extremists, and instead call them Christian heretics, because the last thing they believe in is what Jesus Christ taught.

[13:44] | [] | # | G

Thu, 03 Mar 2005

Noam Chomsky knows a lot, but not everything.

We need to remember that behind the scenes of Bush is the very very clever intelligence of Karl Rove. Without doubt he managed a disinformation campaign that led to Dan Rather's downfall, and the use of that story's noise to hide the true facts of Bush's National Guard failures from coming out.

Rove knows, as everyone is Washington knows, that Social Security is the third-rail of American Politics. You don't go after it and not run into serious problems with the electorate, as House Speaker Bill Frist just admitted in saying that the House was unlikely to achieve the Presidents goals in this Congress (maybe next year was the phrase).

Once we realize that we are facing a master of deception (Rove) behind the scenes, then we can realize that all the noise about Social Security was to hide something else. The first rule of magic is to distract the audience with one hand's actions, while the other hand does the dirty deed.

So, while everyone was faked out and running around doing elaborate bits about Social Security, which genius Rove didn't expect to pass anyway because of Congress's needs for secure votes in the next bi-election, nobody paid attention to the slight of hand going on with the budget. Well a few did, but those stories got lost in the noise of Social Security.

The Budget - 65 programs to be cut, and 63 reduced. Red ink (deficit) still at about 500 Billion. The 80 Billion in additional funds for the War in Iraq this year, still not included in Defense Spending, which itself is now the biggest ever.

Cuts in the Federal Budget means City and State budgets take a big hit in increased expenditures if they want these previously funded federal programs to survive. A tax decrease in the Federal Budget means either a loss of programs or local tax increases.

You've got to remember in watching this administration that it is all about smoke and mirrors.

[15:49] | [] | # | G

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Joel Wendt


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