Voting is a mechanism invented so people can distance themselves from responsibility. Voters never really DO anything they just vote for people who do things. Those people, in turn, say that they do everything FOR the voters. In the end when shit goes down, each sides points to each other until the next election when everything is “changed” by electing a “different type” of president. Another example of great and wonderful American Democracy.
Posts Tagged ‘America’
Isn’t funny how the mind makes things more real than they actually are. We worry about the future, about offensive words, about things we have absolutely no control over – yet the things we can control are ephemeral, passing without notice. We have come to a cross-road in our culture where we believe in the mind and its powers but refuse to accept its panacea because of its difficulty. Buddhist monks use their minds to break steel, smash stone, and light themselves on fire without pain – yet in America we need pills to get through the night, to wake up in the morning, and to enjoy our lives. What caused this to happen? Is it merely cultural? I can barely withstand a hangnail – never mind being on fire. If all these problems: pain, depression, ADD, and despair can be solved by the mind (which is a HUGE assumption that has some proof behind it) then why do we waste our time on pills? Shouldn’t we be training ourselves to raise above these trivial concerns of the body? Do we choose our attitude – or are we hard-wired? Can we control our own beings or not? Are we subject to ADD in the same way we suffer from cancer? Is it an outside physical entity intruding on our health? What of alcoholism? Do we have a choice to drink or not? It certainly seems that every sober person can choose NOT to drink – so what’s the difference? Have we imbued temptation with so much power that it is not insurmountable – an absolute physical necessity? Or are we demonizing our enemy in order to make ourselves stronger? Hell is murky.
“‘Wealth,’ I said (Socrates), ‘and poverty; the one is the parent of luxury and indolence, and the other of meanness and viciousness, and both of discontent.'” Plato’s Republic Book IV 422a
In the previous essay we embarked on an examination of poverty’s affect on virtue and found that in extreme cases it brings man to a forked road whose paths lead to either ascent or baseness. It became clear that either road was possible to take, though one more prevalent in the Gulag, but such a choice hinged on the will. Once man had nothing left to lose, it becomes a matter of his own choice whether or not to take either path – no punishment could persuade him either way.
With this in mind we examine poverty’s contrary – abundance. Shall we merely employ Aristotle’s law of opposites set forth in the Nichomachean Ethics? Hardly. Instead we shall employ Pascal’s understanding of diversion and Plato’s understanding of philosophy. I deign to those who will propose that neither of these encompass every thought, and I preemptively applaud all of those who are searching through obscure philosophy transcripts of nameless thinkers to discredit these two great thinkers. Yes, I realize that there are other philosophy’s who make abundance seem very virtuous, but none without changing the idea of virtue, or the definition of good in the process, making it a strange abortion to any familiar with human life.
Why do we think? More importantly why do we think about certain things which we label ‘philosophy’. Once, again, since this matter is highly contested, I do hear all those deconstrucionalists saying that there is no such thing as ‘philosophy’. However, for the rest of the human race, there is, and although their definitions vary greatly they all believe it exists and that it is separate from other arts.
Thinking, particularly about big things (metaphysical things), is, as eluded to in the previous entry, secondary to life functions. Cavemen do not philosophize, they do not have the time. Education, the foundation for philosophy, depends on a certain level of peace that cannot be interrupted by constant movement, hunting, or war. Matters of life and death overwhelm man’s thought process and do not allow philosophy to be planted – notice here ‘planted’, philosophy can grow under these conditions but its original seed cannot be planted when there are more pressing concerns. Likewise, in times of great scarcity philosophy cannot arise, it is hard to think about ‘that without which the cause couldn’t be the cause’ or ‘that thing of which no greater can be thought’ if you are hungry, naked, thirsty, and cold. In other words, scarcity breeds practical wisdom, not philosophy. This should not surpise us terribly, but shouldn’t we then applaud abundance for allowing such a phenomenon to occur?
It is even difficult to philosophize when you’ve been farming all day while maintaining a family. Constant work doesn’t even offer fertile ground for philosophy – since philosophy demands a previous knowledge of writing, of elegance, and of deep contemplation. It is only when people have ‘free’ time, leisure, that they are able to pursue philosophy – and leisure is only possible if there is some sort of abundance.
So what argument could we then have against abundance? Plato responds: luxury and indolence. Or, as we will find out, in Solzhenitsyn’s terms anthropomorphism. Luxury and laziness – greed and sloth – are two sins also present in Dante’s hell and have been widely viewed as vices throughout ethical philosophy and theology. But it is not the point of this essay to merely state what tradition has handed down, but help elucidate it.
Luxury is problematic because man’s wants are endless. Man is the animal which can never be content for long periods of time – he will always return to discontent. Pascal, as well as previous philosophers, point to man’s ability to contemplate as the problem. Man can always understand a more happy condition for him to be in, because, unlike other animals (to our knowledge), man can understand theoretical existence – or things as they could be, rather than things as they are. Man’s mind also knows no bounds and can hyperbolize things to their greatest extent – leaving him constantly in desire.
Hence, Luxury breeds greed. Having luxury doesn’t make you greedy, but it does allow one to hyperbolize an already beneficial position to an even greater one. We know this to be true by example – the rich, though already saturated with material goods, continue to seek wealth. Bill Gates, who can’t even spend the money he makes, still gets more money without complaint. This is because luxury shows us the goods that money can get us, and who in their right mind would deny material comforts. In our modern times this is far more pervasive than it was to the ancients for our material objects can cause us far greater pleasures than they could even imagine.
Yet, there is always something to spoil the limitless material goods. The goods of the body, no matter how comforting, will always remind us of our downfalls. Though we gain pleasure through the body, we also gain pain, and more importantly death. Every pleasure of the body is linked to its death, because as pleasure subsides and disappears it eventually reminds man of a time when his body will not be able to feel such pleasures.
Hence why the natural state of man is unhappy. The more goods we obtain, the more we have to lose when we die (or the more we have to lose in general). This is why it is not good for man to experience too much luxury. Luxury not only weakens him by inducing laziness (by solving problems with money rather than skill, talent, or ability), but it also crushes the soul – for it must.
The soul wants acknowledgement, it wants betterment, it wants knowledge. The soul knows that the body is weak, the body will die, but the body does not want to hear it. The body will cling to life and all its pleasures. The more luxury we give it, the easier it becomes to feed the body and ignore the soul. And every time the meager voice arises from within we crush it with what Pascal calls diversion.
We live in a time where one does not even need luxury to get diversion. Even people living below the poverty line bask in the glow of the television. Thus we turn every person into the kind in Pascal ‘s Pensees 139:
“139. Diversion.- When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to go to sea or to besiege a town. A commission in the army would not be bought so dearly, but that it is found insufferable not to budge from the town; and men only seek conversation and entering games, because they cannot remain with pleasure at home. / But, on further consideration, when, after finding the cause of all our ills, I have sought to discover the reason of it, I have found that there is one very real reason, namely, the natural poverty of our feeble and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we think of it closely. Whatever condition we picture to ourselves, if we muster all the good things which it is possible to possess, royalty is the finest position in the world. Yet, when we imagine a king attended with every pleasure he can feel, if he be without diversion and be left to consider and reflect on what he is, this feeble happiness will not sustain him; he will necessarily fall into forebodings of dangers, of revolutions which may happen, and, finally, of death and inevitable disease; so that, if he be without what is called diversion, he is unhappy and more unhappy than the least of his subjects who plays and diverts himself.”
This is the truest definition of luxury – being able to buy oneself out of the natural misery of our condition. This is why luxury is even more pervasive in modernity than ever before – because it can be afforded by the poor. In the modern western state it is not impossible that 90% or more of the population owns a TV, subscribes to a magazine, has a money intensive hobby, or plays video games and even more likely that they spend over 4 hours a day doing it. Diversion from the ultimate wretchedness of bodily existence is the foremost luxury and in our age of ADD, ADHD, and Hyper Activity this problem has seemed to emerge in a very real and genetic way – a concern? or an explanation for our natural love of diversion?
Although we need leisure to promote the best activities, we also need to use it properly. Diversion impedes our ability to practice, to educate, to read, to philosophize, or even to contemplate or write. Leisure means being comfortable confronting the issues of your human conditions as they arise by giving voice to them through art, music, philosophy, or any of man’s high functions ( they are considered higher because they help others going through similar problems without diverting them from the same meaning). Luxury works against this by providing more pleasurable options and more diversions from essential human problems that tax or even frighten the mind.
This brings us back to America (the pinnacle example of Western Ideals) and its spiritual deadness as seen by Solzhenitsyn and Milosz. The spiritual ascent seems to be noted as a hard one for Milosz, and a painful one for Solzhenitsyn, but both considered it an inward turn that very much involves confrontation with the most fundamental problems of human existence. It is their knowledge of these fundamental conditions that propels them, and others like them to this spiritual height, but in so doing gives them a vantage point from which the American system, despite its pleasures, looks low. The inhabitants of this basilica of freedom have no desire to look inward, or to turn to the most important questions, they have replaced such concern for their spiritual wellbeing with the concern for money – that from which they can obtain luxury. Such is the most insidious snare of our modern gulag: even the pursuit of luxury is a diversion from our fundamental problems because it gives us a goal that is outside, if not contrary, to our spiritual wellbeing.
Monarchy can easily be debunked, but watch the faces, mark well the debunkers. These are the men whose taproot in Eden has been cut: whom no rumour of the polyphony, the dance, can reach – men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.
C S Lewis.
Monarchy is the one system of government where power is exercised for the good of all.
Aristotle, 322-384 BC.
Disclaimer: The above statement does not imply that all monarchies exercise there power for the good of all, it does imply that monarchies are the only government where such is possible.
People often ask me: “What political party are you?”. That is a hard question to answer for a person who has no inherent interest in party politics, who doesn’t believe the authority given to a leader by voting, who could never feel loyalty to a leader simply because he garnered more votes, and worst of all who is doomed to leave in 8 years. There is no party for those who think a democracy, or even the will of the people, is not a proper or legitimate government. Who do I support in 2008? I throw my entire support behind the Queen Mother herself.
The problem with democrats is that they do not understand politics or history. The problem with republicans is that they do not understand philosophy or ethics. These are the two parties which form the majority of our country. Even those who claim independence from such categories often fall into the same problem. They are either overly idealistic, and as such refuse to recognize the inherent limitations of our political system, or they are overly realistic and fail to grasp the revolution of ideologies in the 20th century. Both of these limitations make an understanding of foreign politics and domestic issues completely impossible, and as such makes for a completely ignorant basis for a voting populace.
A great majority of modern citizens know nothing about democracy as a government. They know about American democracy and the founding fathers, but they know nothing of previous democracies or the inherent problems of a democracy. Our founding fathers picked democracy for a reason, and what little of it was not ideological, was rational and based on the inability of a democracy to progress. A democracy is inherently slow, cumbersome, burdened, argumentative, and completely contradictory. This was the government the founding fathers wanted… and they wrote a constitution to reflect this. Unfortunately for our founding fathers, they knew nothing of 20th century ideologies, international terror, nuclear and biochemical weapons, or most importantly a civilization with ADHD.
Our government no longer has the time to wait. This is the lesson of Pearl Harbor. Technology has outstripped the usefulness of democratic deliberation. Ideology has created the desire of entire countries to obliterate entire cultures and technology has given them the ability to achieve this desire. A government must be built on the ability to keep its citizens safe and that can no longer happen in a slow and deliberative pace.
If our century has not outgrown the usefulness of a slow and deliberate government, our citizens certainly have. If progress is not made immediately then the process is deemed a quagmire and any error or flaw in the plan is immediately uncovered and deemed unethical. A democracy was not designed to operate in these conditions. Freedom of speech itself is designed to be responsible and informed, but we no longer have the time. Media makes more mistake than governments, but has no one to answer too. The end result is a government that cannot make plans or advance because it is too afraid to make mistakes, but at the same time cannot maintain a slow and deliberate pace do to outside control. A democracy in the 20th century is incapable of acting for the good of all, lest it be destroyed by its own people.
In a democracy the government is responsible to the people. In order for it to act for the benefit of all people, then every person needs to know what is good for them. If there is anything more obvious to any studier of ethics, philosophy, or history, it is the FACT that people almost never know what is best for them, especially when they are in large groups. It may be slim that a monarch could ever do this, but it is downright impossible for a democracy to do it. Not only is it impossible but it often leads to crimes of good intention. Wars, depressions, and even downright racism have been enacted out of intentions of safety and progress. This is what a democracy does.
I guess it comes down to who you support. Are you a bush-guy or a kerry-guy. For me Bush is the perfect democratic president. He acted swiftly and got re-elected. He is the reflection of the government that he was elected to serve. Democracies are inherently secretive, judgmental, sporadic, and inefficient. Of course Iraq is a mess. Of course Vietnam was a mess. Democracies cannot wage war because its entire government is doomed to switch after 8 years (max). No war can be won completely in 8 years. Every president knows he will only be responsible for his 8 years (even though the consequences are often much longer lasting) and that their only job is to get re-elected. This is the inherent product of voting and term limits. The people who imposed these constitutional limitations knew this, we do not. So instead of understanding we get angry at a regime who is only doing what a democracy demands they must do.
Technology has destroyed the idea of isolationism. Like gunpowder removing the protective nature of the Great Wall, the ability of mass obliteration has demanded that a democracy be internationally active. Unfortunately, a democracy, being slow and inefficient, cannot compete with fascism and terrorism (or any other ideological movement). The only thing that has kept us safe thus far is a giant pond and monarchal support. The advent of nuclear missiles, biological warfare, and terrorism have created an atmosphere where initiative means life or death of the entire system. Democracy will always choose safety over freedom, and equality over prudence. Modernity, on the other hand, demands speed over justice. If you are going to keep your people safe then you must do it fast, and quickness lends itself to error and atrocity. It is either make grievous errors or risk destruction. That is a heavy coin to flip. One that a democratic leader is never prepared to do, and almost always chooses incorrectly. It is the job of the voter to call him out on these errors, I agree, but it isn’t going to help anything.
It is time that we face history and inevitability. The democracy has outgrown its usefulness.
This war would never have come unless, under American and modernizing pressure, we had driven the Habsburgs out of Austria and the Hohenzollerns out of Germany. By making these vacuums we gave the opening for the Hitlerite monster to crawl out of its sewer on to the vacant thrones. No doubt these views are very unfashionable….
Winston Churchill, 8th April 1945.
If the Allies at the peace table at Versailles had allowed a Hohenzollern, a Wittelsbach and a Habsburg to return to their thrones, there would have been no Hitler. A democratic basis of society might have been preserved by a crowned Weimar in contact with the victorious Allies.
Winston Churchill, 26th April 1946.
The Queen’s appearances abroad do more in a day to gain goodwill for Britain than all the politicians and diplomats lumped together could achieve in years.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Prime Minister 1963-64).
The Tarquins, meanwhile, had taken refuge at the court of Lars Porsena, the King of Clusium. By every means in their power they tried to win his support, now begging him not to allow fellow Etruscans, men of the same blood as himself, to continue living in penniless exile, now warning him of the dangerous consequences of letting republicanism go unavenged. The expulsion of kings they urged, once it had begun, might well become common practice; liberty was an attractive idea, and unless reigning monarchs defended their thrones as vigorously as states now seemed to be trying to destroy them, all order and subordination would collapse; nothing would be left in any country but flat equality; greatness and eminence would be gone for ever. Monarchy, the noblest thing in heaven or on earth, was nearing its end.
Livy, The History of Rome from its Foundation, Book II.