Beyond the Cusp

May 5, 2016

Ancient Thoughts and the World Today

 

I read an e-mail article which listed what it claimed in its title to be “20 Quotes From Ancient Greek Philosophers That Liberals Still Don’t Understand” and four of these in particular got my brain reeling, drowning in swirling daydreams and thought perhaps it might be fun to share. I found myself gravitating to three philosophers where one was the most gifted student of the other and the other their sole peer. Below are the thoughts in decreasing order of relevance, or at least in ease of application and understanding. This dictates we tackle them in reverse order working from the sublime imperatives from which we then reach the inevitable brutal and undeniable truth.

 

“Republics decline into democracies and democracies

degenerate into despotisms.” – Aristotle

 

“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs;

when he first appears he is a protector.” – Plato

 

“A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion,

a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.” — Socrates

 

“The curse of me and my nation is that we always think things can be bettered

by immediate action of some sort, any sort rather than no sort.” – Plato

 

 

Plato Socrates Aristotle

Plato Socrates Aristotle

 

That places our starting point with Plato and the concept, “The curse of me and my nation is that we always think things can be bettered by immediate action of some sort, any sort rather than no sort.” This is true in every government which depends on the opinions of the people discerned through an elective process. Be the system parliamentary, republic, direct democracy or other form where the voting public consists of eligibility of the greater part of the adult electorate and where promises gains votes those promises will come fast and loose. This will inevitably lead to greater and greater promises which will become more and more immediate often inventing problems and difficulties which are designed for easy quick solutions which can be readily enacted and implemented despite there being no reality to both the invented problem and an easy answer. Everything becomes something which requires an immediate solution and this demand continues to grow and now the people soon demand that even the greatest difficulties of the world be solved with the same brilliance, alacrity and without difficulty or complications. The expectations have become unrealistic but then when the people are demanding miracles, those who desire to hold office will make promises which they know cannot be solved with promises which they know will never be solved and only lead to greater problems as the half measures designed as quick actions which are definitive, definitive failures causing more and deeper problems. The demand for immediacy by the public eventually leads to the need for a savior.

 

That brings us to the next quote from Socrates which states, “A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.” This is where taking the false promises of charlatans who are the sole makers of empty promises selling them as definitive solutions to the most knotty and complex of problems starts us down a slippery slope. These have the ability to sell a framing of the problem in such a way that their solution appears obvious but nobody seems to think why if the solution which now appears so simple, easy and immediate that it did not appear for the last body of officials. Nobody wants to question whether the defining of the problem has been molded and crafted simply to facilitate the elevation of the individual and not done to reach a viable solution. These charlatans always play emotional weaknesses and know the desires of the people more than they understand the problems but emotionalism plays well, think Donald Trump with one difference, imagine Trump with a solution to the Middle East which is easy, immediate and apparently just hidden from view in such a way that only Trump could see it. Of course Donald Trump has not put forth such a solution and instead has simply sold that things will be great, trust Trump, great. Well, it is so completely different than Yes We Can. Both “Make America Great Again” and “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth” are empty boasts on which all problems can be put aside as the personality is sufficient to repair every problem. These set up a system of morality which is made of empty platitudes that caught the people up in an emotional defining of the world and choosing a leader purely on emotion which eventually leads to disappointment making the situation primed for the next step.

 

We go back to Plato where we read, “This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.” When the solutions are minimized such that false solutions become the norm, we reach a mire so deep that only a savior is believed to be the only possible solution. A person who is charismatic and has a plan, a plan that sweeps the public up with the promises, causes them to fall head over heels for the man with the plan which will heal their nation and restore it to greatness and return every glory which was once true and real. The savior and restorer of the greatness are seen as one who will revamp the government and streamline the process and accomplish that which formerly was not possible. The protector comes with promises if only you can and will trust what he knows must be executed to bring about the future promised by this protector. The promise is that once they are loosed from the restriction built into government and being freed from the tethers designed to limit and constrain government, but the savior cannot be constrained by such petty inconveniences. The releasing of the tethers and streamlining the methodology leads only one place, tyranny, and tyranny inevitably leads to one thing, despotic ruin.

 

This last revelation finished the slide defined so accurately by Aristotle who stated, “Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.” The Republic was seen as the finest form of governance no matter the style, be it direct elections, parliamentary or anything between or alongside where the people hold the power and the government has to respect the people’s power. With time the republic governance reaches a point where their society actually needs minimal government and definitely does not need any interventions, new laws, programs or anything else but the government has to find relevance in order to form promises around which will grant them the support of the people and result in their next election. This leads to demagoguery and populism which tend to bring an end to the slow and deliberate governance and replace it with governance which has a tendency to divide the populace into groups based on positions on issues, some real and some manufactured by the politicians themselves. Such governance works by promising larger groups of citizens benefits which will be paid for by smaller groups treasure, usually unwarranted wealth made by abusing the workers and these political riders of white horses topped with a wide brimmed white Stetson hat riding off into the sunset after collecting the votes of the masses. This results in a government which will end in bloated inefficiency where the promises have far outstripped revenue collection and has built a deficit which only grows along with the government. The collection institutions are inefficient often using half the collected wealth simply to finance their department making it obvious an impediment to balancing the budget as that cost is rarely figured into the formulas promoted by the political charlatans.

 

As noted above the situation reaches some critical point where the population is primed for a savior, the one who can return sanity and prosperous times. This promise keeps growing and as this savior has made some progress they start to complain how the government itself is preventing them from rescuing the society from itself. Slowly but surely they strip down the government taking over one layer after another until they no longer stand for reelection, their continued leadership has been accepted as permanent. Soon the other governing bodies are replaced with sycophants and lackeys making them simply the echoes of the dictator allowing for them to hold ultimate power and makes for efficiency in all operations which saves revenue which further permits the dictator to show success after success.

 

But even an all-powerful dictator runs into problems eventually as they too continue promising more and more until it becomes necessary to find new sources of revenues. This has historically led to wars which eventually make for the end of the rule of dictators as once they start to attack neighbors, the neighbors are likely to form alliances and end the spread and conquest of the dictator and after conquest the people may eventually make their way back to representative governance. The one rule is that the generation which falls and allows the rise of a demigod will not return to free governance with it more often taking many years, even centuries, before the people will be permitted to rule themselves. This is evident today as Europe and the Western world is slowly lurching its way down that well-worn path to ruin while developing nations have shown a sign of seeking to develop representative republic governance, what Aristotle, Plato and Socrates all believed was the most favorable form of governance.

 

Where on this merry-go-round your nation is can be figured simply by measuring the freedom each has as an individual and the size and scope of the governance. In all situations where the people are more powerful than the government and are capable of changing the entirety of their legislature and their leaders with regular elections, that would point to a society with a great deal of freedom and is a republic. With the power shared or favoring the government agencies over the people, then one is likely no longer in a republic but in a mere democracy, a good place from which an engaged population can turn things around. But if the governance is under a single person or small cabal which is unelected and not dependent on the approval of the people and rule as they wish, that is the final stop of a democracy where it dies and will not be reborn during the lifetime of any of its citizens, even any infants born during the year of the final elections, a meaningless election at that.

 

That is both the end of freedom and the start of the path back to liberty, freedom and the rights of man. The unfortunate truth is that the vast majority of humankind has never known freedom or even truly elected governance and probably never will. For this majority of the planet will require great expenditures by the free world to instruct, educate, form and develop the basics, principles and understanding of the mechanisms required. After the entire world finds itself on the merry-go-round where we slide from freedom to despotism and finally revolution and a return to republic and the new optimism which will eventually end in disappointment until humankind learns to control their appetites and refuse to follow demigods who promise perfection and untold riches and joys, delivering none of them and few promises being realized. Perhaps that is our fate or maybe we will eventually learn to control our slide of our own personal weaknesses. Perhaps we will learn and our species finally break free of petty differences, greed and acting in a manner which eventually leads to our subjugation when our greed outpaces our good sense. Perhaps.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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March 24, 2012

Submission is the Demand of the Absolutist

Peel back the layers of any absolutist philosophy and at the core you will find the same requirement, submission of all followers. There will also be the inevitability of the superiority of the absolutist philosophy with the complete subjugation of the world as an inevitability. The path to this absolute control of all the Earth may differ from one absolutist philosophy to the next, but they all claim the inevitability of their superiority. The two most familiar of these philosophies from the present or recent past are Communism and Nazism. Both philosophies called for their inevitable conquering of the entire world yet the means were actually as opposite as you can find. The Nazis saw their superiority would allow them to conquer the world through military might while the Communists believed that all they need do was wait as all other systems would eventually fail and come to recognize that the only workable solution was Communism. The Communists also believed in aiding the furtherance of their cause through military conquest or through infiltration and subversion of non-Communist countries.

Submission has actually been the rule of governance through the annals of history. The most common absolutist government is a monarchy with a king sitting as the infallible leader who demanded complete and total submission to their rules and edicts. The monarch might decorate their demands of submission by having a court consisting of landowners and select intellectuals but these people only held the power of agreement. Had any of the members of court opposed the absolute power and correctness of the King they would soon find out that non-submission was not only disallowed, but punished by forfeiture of one’s life. This form of absolute rule had varying names for the king which include Czar, Emperor, Pharaoh, Khan, or Caliph among others. The names may change but the intolerance of individualism remained as an absolute. All of these absolutist systems not only demand submission to their authority but also submission of the individual to forfeit their individuality and fit a defined mold for whatever position in the society or community one is assigned. In each instance there are those who having gained complete trust of the hierarchy and rulers who get assigned to the positions of enforcers of compliance, of submission by all the subjects. These were the Gestapo under the Nazis and the KGB in Soviet Russia.

Most of the people in the West do not understand the dehumanizing and irresistible force which is able to force the complete submission of entire populations. This is due to the revolutionary change which came with the Enlightenment which posited the idea that the individual was to be self-aware and thus had rights which even a sovereign had to recognize. When the revolutionary philosophies of the Enlightenment were reinforced with the ideals from Judeo-Christian ethics, the individual became the equivalent of a sovereign over the self. This concept slowly but steadily altered and changed the governance by placing limits upon the sovereigns while empowering even the most common of the citizenry to have a voice in their government. The most crucial of the events during this period of transformation was the founding of the United States of America with its unique Constitution and its defining document, the Declaration of Independence. These two documents went further than their influencing documents and political philosophies such as the Magna Carta and the writings of John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Thomas Hobbes in defining the nobility of the individual who was to be served by government which was to be designed to protect the individual from government oppression and from criminal intent. These documents plainly stated the only entity which was above the individual was to be the Creator and never the government. That was the theory.

Despite this lack of familiarity and seeming inability of many in the West to recognize absolutist influences and their requirement of submission of the individual, these situations remain the rule for the vast majority of the people living on Earth today. Even in the Western nations the governments have been steadily absorbing more and more powers and control over the individual which will inevitably lead to the demanded submission once they have stolen sufficient control that they feel they have attained irreversible and absolute power. This might be part of the explanation behind why numerous of those in politics who support an all-powerful central government ally themselves with other groups who have a history of absolutism and appear to call for submission of the people to the dictates from the government. This is an alliance that will be the bane of those who believe in the freedoms and rights of individualism. When the inevitable conflict ignites between those who follow the beliefs of freedom, individuality, and limited governance and the powers of absolutist power of governance, no matter what the basis for the rule, those who will be fighting for individual rights and freedoms will likely be at distinct disadvantage as they are likely to resist the conflict until it is overbearingly obvious that there exist no other alternative to prevent forced submission. It very well may be the love of peace and the seeming natural abhorrence to violence which may doom the powers of freedom, liberty and individualism to fall before the powers of absolutism and the consequential force into submission. This is the possibilities which fills too many of my nights of dreaming with nightmares.

Beyond the Cusp

September 7, 2011

Right vs. Left, Liberal vs. Conservative, America vs. Europe

It is very likely that most Europeans rely on the European definitions of right and left, labor and capitalist, and liberal and conservative when they read about the politics in the United States; and Americans rely on their definitions when trying to understand European politics. The problem is that these terms, for the most part, have completely different meanings on the opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. So, I thought I might take a stab at defining these terms to the best of my understandings. I would gladly welcome anybody willing to make comments to either give alternatives or further define and clarify sections where my efforts need some assistance. So, here goes nothing.

Let’s get started with definitions of Liberal and Conservative. Liberal is one of the terms where most Europeans and Americans use a similar definition which is based in socialism and heavy Government regulations with extensive safety nets and equalizing programs to bring the top and bottom levels of earnings toward the median level of earnings. The European forms of socialism are more pervasive through their political parties and systems than those in the United States. Currently, the Europeans appear to be at the first stages of moving away from the liberal end of the spectrum while the United States is still moving further into socialist governance under the present administration. Where Europe will likely continue in their implementation, though at varying speeds as they face fluctuating circumstances weighed against populist resistance; the United States will presumably decide in the next national elections whether to continue towards more government and more socialism or join with Europe and begin to initiate austerity measures working for lowering national deficit spending and, in the best of circumstances, actual reduction in levels of national debt.

Conservative is defined differently due to widely varied histories. In the United States, the term Conservative is placed on those who favor limiting government especially when it pertains to regulations upon industry and businesses in general while attempting to limit the levels of taxation even at the expense of limiting the extent of coverage of providing social safety nets. Meanwhile, in Europe, the definition of a conservative is likely to refer to, in the most extreme sense, those wishing to return to a monarchy. Europe actually has monarchists; if any do exist in the United States, they would make an extremely minute minority, a virtual zero on most any polling. This may be due to Europe being a slightly older society which had their period under numerous monarchies mostly in times before the United States even existed. In Europe, the more centrist conservatives would mirror the average conservative in the United States, though the Europeans would still tend to be more favorable towards a strong central government. The real differences in respect to governance in Europe are revealed when one mentions the Euro and the European Union, especially with the current monetary crisis. In response to a stronger European Union power base, the split between liberals and conservatives in Europe would reflect very much the differences between liberals and conservatives in the United States when discussing State’s rights versus a strong central government in Washington DC. Liberals on both sides of the Ocean favor the centralization of power in an all-inclusive governance of Brussels and Washington DC respectively while the conservatives in the United States call for greater respect for States’ rights while the Europeans back nationalism and more power being left with the individual countries. This idea becomes even more pronounced, as we will see, when discussing left and right policies.

Positions between Europe and the United States are quite different in defining Right and somewhat similar defining the Left. In Europe, the Left is defined as international socialists of which Communism is one example. The left in Europe favors the European Union and the United Nations being the centers of power while the individual countries should be submissive yielding control to the international organizations. The leftists in Europe also place a large amount of faith in NGOs and similar international organizations. There is a similarity to the left and the right in that both favor socialism, big governance, and all inclusive government programs and safety nets. Where the left favors international and multi-governmental organizations, the right is nationalistic. The European Right is based on national socialism, but it is still socialism. They still have faith in international organizations, NGO’s and multi-governmental institutions such as the United Nations but only as far as a venue for countries to meet and work together while retaining their own sovereignty. The current monetary difficulties in the European Union is going to set Right and Left in a very energetic struggle for which has the best solutions with the countries in the greatest financial trouble favoring leftist international organizations while those countries with healthy economies will begin to resent being tapped to carry the burden in bailing out the faltering economies and favor the nationalist socialist right. But, no matter which side gains prominence, Europe will remain socialist at heart. Only the kind of socialism is up for debate.

The United States combines both the international socialists and the national socialist by simply defining the left as being those from all forms of socialism. This is easy in the United States as the European right nationalists in the United States would be statists, which are nonexistent. So, since the United States federal government is the equivalence of the European Union in Europe, an internationalist socialist leftist in Europe would favor a socialists system with power invested in Washington DC while the rightist national socialists of Europe would also favor the nation thus the power being in Washington DC. Because the United States is similar in size, power et al to Europe, the American socialists of both stripes end up merging to favor a strong central socialist government in Washington DC. In the United States, that allows for a different definition of those on the right, which become the Capitalists. The right support State and individual rights over the centralized power in Washington DC. In supporting States over the Federal power, the American rightists do pose some similarity to the European nationalists in they want to keep power local. People on the right in the United States support strict interpretation of the Constitution, particularly the limits of Federal powers and the instituting of individual rights and freedoms. The right does not support national style solutions even including any forms of general safety nets run out of Washington DC and prefer either state or local government designing whatever social networks are acceptable independently from the oversight and being overruled by the Federal Government. They will also prefer religious and other non-governmental groups such as Goodwill and AMVETS being the main providers of the social safety net and relying on the goodness of individuals to give charity rather than forced taxation being used to provide for the needy.

Where there is a considerable number of Americans who believe in capitalism, the numbers of the same in Europe are represented as a much smaller percentage of the populace. Where Europeans are cast as being almost universally socialist and their politics divided between national and internationalist, in the United States both the nationalist and internationalist had been very similar in their belief until the last fifty years or so. In the most recent times we have begun to see the left turn into internationalists while the right still retains their nationalist fervor with many who believe in a strong state making for a strong country which will keep its sovereignty and not surrender power to the international organizations. With this new elitists of internationalists, similar to the leftist in Europe, has spawned a new denomination in the United States who believe in the superiority of the international organizations, mostly the United Nations, and are calling for global governance, and we call them post-modernists.

Beyond the Cusp

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