Thursday, December 31, 2015

Snapping snap judgments, lest auld acquaintance be forgot - The Rule of Law in Progress or Regress pt-6a

Give me three steps...
As the old year slips out and the New Year opens up, it's a particularly good time to ask questions that have to do with what is timeless... lest auld acquaintance with them should be forgot. And while it might not seem so, on the surface, these questions we've been asking most definitely involve issues that are timeless - see if you can see how. For instance: Where do you think you fit in, in today's world, are you Pro-Progress, or Pro-Regress? Are you for the Rule of Law, or the Rule of Rules? Are the 'Big Ideas' of Western Civilization something you think much about, or do you mostly shrug them off and just kinda make a snap judgment on various news stories that happen to flit into your view, now and then... and then forget about 'em? Or are you one of the many of us who don't see the point of considering such questions at all, especially not in the midst of the current events raging around us today - ''I'm not getting sucked into THAT mess!'? I hate to cast a pall upon the coming New Year, but I have a sad suspicion that what most people think doesn't matter, isn't going to matter much longer.

Can anyone really think that the precious snowflakes on our college campuses, or the SJW (Social Justice Warriors) brigades in our streets who are openly advocating to eliminate the Freedom of Speech, or 'unbiased' newscasters talking openly of how those they violently disagree with are 'enemies of the state', can anyone really think that these types are going to be tolerant towards those who say 'Oh, I don't pay attention to that stuff' for much longer? How much longer? And when that vocal 'majority' refuses to allow others the choice to either disagree or evade deciding, what do you suppose is going to be the reaction of those who do disagree with them, and what options will they have to do so?

Will the one side have any option left open to them, but to take the other side at their own words, as being their enemies?

No, the time is coming where all will have to decide, one way or the other, where they stand on these issues, because they are what is driving our current events, and your place within them, and brushing them off cannot remain an option much longer. Each person is going to have to choose what they support, and what they will reject. But for those who haven't been paying attention, those - Left, Right, Libertarian and the target rich Moderate center - who've been coasting along on the strength of their snap judgments on this and that - what are they going to base those decisions upon?

A snap judgment? Based upon popular memes? Or a headline? Written by who?

For those who haven't been paying attention, or have, but haven't given much thought to the ideas driving our current events, or even worse than that, those who have been paying attention but have simply assumed that they understood what was best because of what they've familiar with, or comfortable with, or someone dear to them had said was so and so they assumed it was so - however it is that you are coming at these questions, what I hope to do in this post is to prod you to make some of those snap judgments on one of three key positions that, from my own experience in studying and engaging in discussions, disagreements, debates and out and out freak outs with people, I've found to be solid indicators of where their inclinations and assumptions lie, and then I'll toss a little contrast into the mix to hopefully snap your snap judgments open to a perspective you'll find worth considering further.

Especially as the New Year we are entering into, is an election year that will set the course for so many years to come, whether you pursue Progress or Pro-Regress is no light or laughing matter, what you are deciding is whether you will lend moral and physical support to living under the Rule of Law, or to being Ruled by Rules - politically, yes, but intellectually, psychologically and spiritually as well - and your own Progress or Regress will follow as surely as one moment will tick you into the next.

Humming the right tune
Beginning at the beginning, what's your snap judgment on the idea of The West's Big Ideas being somehow important and involved in your everyday life? Far fetched? Pedantic? Outlandish? Duh?

Contrast that question with
the notion of daily life in our nation having no useful connection to the West's big ideas - but first recollect that this is the land that went to war in order to found itself as a nation upon the crowning idea of the West's political philosophy - Liberty; a nation that broke with the historical path of letting petty rivalries destroy great opportunities, by seeking to establish a Rule of Law under a single Constitution of laws so as to unify its parts within a federal nation of united states; a nation which insisted on proposing the amending of protections onto that same Constitution in order to bring its vast powers to kneel before a number of key Individual Rights as a precondition for accepting it; a nation that fought a bloody Civil War to prove whether or not a nation conceived in Liberty could long endure; - contrast those facts with the notion that that nation and every citizen within it would somehow NOT share a vital, deep, connection between the very Biggest Ideas of the West, and the reality of their everyday lives... that should strain the imagination of every person in that nation to its very limits.

Shouldn't it? Seriously - which scenario seems more likely to you?!

How does it not surprise the bejeebers out of everyone of us to think that we, in this nation, don't need to bother with thinking about such issues? Understand, it isn't necessary to fully and deeply comprehend every nuance of these ideas in order to appreciate and adhere to them, any more than it's necessary for everyone to grasp the musical theory behind a favorite song, or to have the ability to skillfully play every instrument in that song, for it to be a song that you instantly recognize and enjoy - but to say that you do like a song, you do need to know the song well enough to recognize it when you hear it - right? And when you hear a favorite song, whether it's the original or a remake, don't you still recognize it? Isn't it immediately obvious when some tune which might have the same song title, but is an entirely different song - there's no mistaking the difference, right? Well it's much the same with philosophical and cultural ideals - even when the trappings and delivery changes, the core tune is identifiable - and just as easily it jarringly stands out when some set of ideas are being peddled with the same name, but an entirely different tune is being played - as is the case with Progress vs Regress, and the Rule of Law vs Rule of Rules.

What would you think of someone who said that keeping the same song title while replacing what makes that song, that song, meant that it was still the same song? Although knowing the song in depth would help in identifying the differences, you don't need to be able to cite the theory or be able play it on multiple instruments, to be able to tell that this one is not like the other. And to stretch that analogy just a touch further, what would you say to a music critic who claimed that having a deeper knowledge of the song in question, invalidated your ability to recognize the latest arrangement of it? Or that those who can only hum the song, and those who can play it, could not possibly be expected to be able to recognize the same song as being the same song, or that their differing depths of understanding somehow made even recognizing the same tune into a hopeless possibility?

And of course, should those who can't tell the difference between the two songs, those who do claim that those notes which make their favorite song, that song, can be replaced with entirely different rhythms and notes, should those people be trusted with telling anybody which song is which, let alone which one is the better song?

Needless to say, we're not talking about a Top 40 tune here, but determining the nature of a nation which can potentially enable, limit or forbid, every action you can take or can hope to take, that question, and its affect on your life, is more deserving of careful consideration, than a snap judgment, isn't it?
Also worth considering, how it is conceivable that the radically revolutionary ideas which marked the first real Progress in political thought in millenia, that turned the biggest and oldest ideas of Western Civilization to new purposes, and which formed our national self identity and the pride we took in it, how could such a nation as that, be made to appear to itself, as if those ideas have no connections to our everyday lives?
" ?  ? ?
...Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne....
? ? ?"
It's almost as if... the awareness of those connections were actively severed, or that those whose lives were thought to depend upon ensuring that we recognized and understood them, purposefully ensured that they were never given a complete hearing, ensuring that we would lose the ability to even recognize or care about them... which makes no more sense than a critic trying to put music lovers and musicians at odds with each other. But enough... that post is past.... out with the olde, in with the new.

It's simply a fact that there's no getting around dealing with the West's big ideas when discussing the Rule of Law (or even your desire to get on with your life), and while of course the more deeply you understand those ideas the better it is, being able to hum them is enough - to begin with; and as you become more familiar with them, those ideas will work themselves into your awareness like the refrain of a favorite tune, and as you become more familiar with it, you will begin to recognize their relevance to your life in even the most ordinary of events. Because what is True, can be known, you can know it too - as it was once common knowledge in this land to - and assuming you haven't been convinced otherwise, you should want to. Even if you are beginning to suspect the nature and source of the shadows projected on your virtual cave wall, to actually unplug from the Doppelganger's Pro-Regressive matrix, it takes more that swallowing a pill, it takes not swallowing a pill (or an unthought image - see the previous post), and it takes your listening long enough to be able to catch the tune.

And so, as I said, from my own long study of these ideas and engaging in discussions, disagreements, debates and out and out freak outs with people over them, I've found that if you can listen to the following three key steps without plugging your ears, you'll soon enough be able to hum the tune well enough for others to recognize it too. On the other hand, if you're already plugging your ears to it, at least ask yourself if you've ever really bothered to listen to the full tune yourself, or have you just heard a few bars, here and there, and repeated some favorite critic's opinions of it? If so, then you're going on even less than a snap judgment... aren't you? Is that really something you're comfortable with? OK, on with it, we're only going to focus on the first step in this post, but without further ado, IMHO, the three key conceptual steps are:
  • First, that Philosophy was, and should still be seen, as the love of wisdom; a pursuit which seeks to understand what is most valuable to be understood by anyone seeking to live a life worth living. Philosophy is not, and should not be accepted if presented as, a pointless barrage of word games, or as a means of deconstructing and eliminating values.
  • Second, that in a general sense the Law functions as applied Philosophy, meaning that those 'Big Ideas' of Justice and Right and Wrong are not something separate and distinct from The Law, but integral to the proper writing and application of it, clarifying what it should or shouldn't do, and what it should or should not be able to say about what we should or shouldn't do.
  • And Third, that the body of The Law has a direct connection to the very real interests and concerns of our daily lives through the revolutionary concept of Property; consequently how law and govt treat property, determines how well it respects our right to live our lives, and whether government will have a benign or cancerous effect upon all of our lives.
First Step
Ok, let's take on a few more of the snap judgments you're probably already in the habit of making, toss in a little contrast, and see how comfortable you are with how it sounds.

  • It took the West until the close of the 18th century to develop the political philosophy expressed in America's founding, which late modernity has for the most part successfully reversed - Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

  • Is your snap judgment on that, one that you understand inside and out... or is it just a reaction that you just happen to have... often... somehow? Does it stir anything uncomfortable within you - do you want to hum along or get the tune out of your head? Why? To the most common modern answer to it, let's add this little bit of contrast:

    - Should your definition of Progress align with what it took over three thousand years to achieve... or with the hasty efforts urged by a handful of modernity's louder voices, to undo it?

    The development of Ethics has taken a serious blow in modernity, and few examples contrast the Classical views with those of today's, as well as the spectacle of a sitting president (and husband to a candidate currently running for President) arguing before a Grand Jury ,

  • That it is a legitimate and credible position to claim, that whether or not you lied in your sworn testimony to the court, actually '... depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is'

  • Are you comfortable with the idea that you, your child, spouse, partner, business partner, or anyone having power over your life, would be able to go back and spin their solemn statements and promises, so as to better benefit from them, on such a basis as that?

    Contrast that quote from our first post-modernist president, Bill Clinton, to this quote from the favorite play of our first president, George Washington, from Addison's "Cato", as the character Portius prepares for battle,
    "'Tis not in mortals to command success, But we'll do more, Sempronius; we'll deserve it."
    What he means by that, is that wisdom is not found in seeking guarantees of success, or in a sly parsing of words, but in living and doing what is worthy of success - that to live a life worth living, you should live it as if it were worth living, and not as a series of escapades to be weaseled out of.

    What is your snap judgment of that? Does it hold up to your own questions of it? Do you question it at all?

    Sadly, what may be the most astoundingly common contrast from today, to that quote from 'Cato', is a dismissive and mocking snigger. That sad norm, particularly for anyone familiar with modernist and post-modernist 'thinkers', is driven by the concept that life is not worth living, and that Life is at best a delusion, and more likely fit only for misery, disappointment, which only suckers see as anything more than a series of unrelated constructs, related by nothing but whim and power, having no more value than what can be turned for one 'useful' purpose or another, at the moment.

    Is that a philosophy for living life? Or for hiding from it? Or for brutalizing yourself and others through it?

    A life worth living is only possible if you believe that man is not only capable of making choices, but that he is also worthy of making good ones.

    What is your judgment of that? Clinton's judgment, though made with a straight face, was on the side of the mocking sniggerer. What he was wheedling at was simply in agreement with those who've claimed that America is only a name that can be stuffed, gutted or filled with any meanings or tunes and still be America all the same; that no one can be certain of anything, that all is relative and compartmentalized and dis-integrated, and when it comes down to it, nothing has worth unless it pragmatically serves power and appetite.

  • Do you believe that man is capable of making choices, and if so, should you make good choices, or just rationalize bad ones?

  • If you choose to believe that man is not capable of making choices... well... sorry, but you're off to rather a bad start with that one, aren't you?

    Contrast that perspective with the views of a young Benjamin Franklin, intent on promoting 'his Junto' discussion groups,
    "... At age 21, with his printing business established in Philadelphia and his circle of friends expanding, Benjamin Franklin formed a weekly discussion group with twelve men who shared his drive for learning and conversation. Named the Junto (derived from the Spanish to join), the club met every Friday evening in a tavern or house to discuss "Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy [science]." Soon the group gathered books from the members' personal libraries into a lending library for the Junto - the beginnings of the first lending library in the colonies..."
    Each of the twelve members of Franklin's Junto, were encouraged to establish their own Junto Discussion Groups, each of whose members were encouraged to do the same, etc. Why? Why would twelve working class men choose to gather to discuss "Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy [science]."? To impress people? Anonymously? To parse words into fancy evasions of facts and foster an inability to know them? [***Wait, did I hear someone sneer that they were 'seeking profits!' Tell me, what sort of perspective is it that sees producing an honest profit in a Free Market (and theirs was far closer to a free one than ours), as being necessarily un-virtuous? That's opening a can of worms in your soul... you think about that and get back to me. Please.***] No, Franklin and his fellow Junto members engaged with those Big Ideas because in their experience, as it should be in ours, learning what is true and meaningful in life is inherently interesting, pleasurable to discuss and the greater understanding gained from doing so is beneficial to your life!

    That hasn't changed. Only what passes for 'big ideas', and our knee-jerk reactions to them, have.

  • Has our having lost the 18th Century's horses and powdered wigs, and gained our 21st century's cars and tech, really changed what the meaning of living a life worth living is, in any appreciable way?

  • What is your snap judgment about this?

    Consider contrasting that with the realization that those who first advanced that regressive notion at the close of the 19th Century, of technology making the fundamental choices inherent in living life different from those without such technologies, were being advanced by those whose idea of 'Tech!' was telegraph lines, production lines, moving pictures, radio and electric light bulbs. Those 'Progressives' were actually closer in time and technology to the Founder's era they were ridiculing, than to ours today - so what of their ideas of replacing our Constitutional Principles with an Administrative State ruled by 'expert' bureaucracies? Why do you not see those ideas, by their very own 'logic', as being hopelessly old, outmoded, and unfit for our hi-tech lives of today?

    Have you given any consideration to that? Will you?

    Which road to take?
    Now take a look at this painting, no doubt you've already made a few snap judgments about its appearance, or the style of it, but have another look at the painting anyway, as it enjoyed the 18th century equivalent of having 'gone viral'.

    Entitled "The Choice of Hercules (or 'Hercules at the Crossroads)", it popularized the image of Hercules choosing between the more difficult high road of Virtue, and the more pleasing and flattering low road of Vice (or as Professor Dumbledore would later warn young Harry Potter, that he'd soon have to "choose between what is right, and what is easy") - John Adams was so taken with it, that in 1776 he sought to make it the national emblem of the United States - something far more significant was going on there than simply racking up 'likes' on Facebook. This painting, or rather the contemplation of it, which is what folks once used entertainment for, brought home to the viewer that:

  • Understanding how to make the choice between easy Vice and harder Virtue, and to make that choice, is something that all of us face every day, and it is the very heart of the 'love of wisdom', and that avoiding or rationalizing away that choice and the need to make it, is the mark of the sophist, the ne'er-do-well and the wretch.

  • What is your snap judgment about that?

    This is the first key issue noted above, and whether you use it to step up to or away from life, is one of seeking to understand what is most valuable for a life worth living, and which, if grasped, or simply hummed, leads naturally up to the second step, that of seeing The Law in general as applied philosophy, rather than as a tool of social engineering. We'll look closer into the details of this tomorrow, but the meaning of this next quotation not only applies towards the 2nd key step, but it also spirals back around to shed some light upon the 1st step as well, clarifying and reinforcing both.

    See if you can see how, in this quote from Cicero, who helped to bring the Greek's 'Big Ideas' down to a level grounding for the practical Roman mind; it's from Cicero's Commonwealth.: Book III (54 B.C.):
    "True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst penalties, even if he escapes what is commonly called punishment."[emphasis mine]
    Thomas Jefferson's "Nature and Nature's God" in the Declaration of Independence, was strongly influenced by this understanding of Cicero's 'Right Reason', and it's a key to understanding what binds our Greco-Roman and Judeo Christian traditions together into one culture, as those who deliberately oppose these propositions know all too well.

    That same concept is also at the root of, and is the first step in, rising above the mere making of rules, to the level of the Rule of Law, as opposed to remaining at the level of being just another one of the Doppelganger's Rule of Rules to manipulate a society with. The nature of Cicero's ideas extended deep and far reaching roots into the wider culture of Europe, moreso in England and especially in America, extending into our understanding of personal dignity and virtue, as well as the concept of individual liberty and its dependence upon society. That view, which we'll see more clearly in the 3rd Step, is one that could only follow from the first two steps having already been grasped, respected and applied across society, by elites and tradesmen alike, together. Pull one down, and they, and what they strove towards, would all come down as well. Without a single one of these propositions, I contend, that America would not have, could not have, and cannot long remain, in existence.

    Now I know you - Left or Right or Libertarian or Moderate - have a snap judgment about that; what is it? Can you explain why? Would you understand and believe your own reasoning, if someone else made that argument to you with them? If so, why? How deeply have you questioned your reasons? Have you ever? If any seem vague or shaky, are you willing to wonder why?

    One last snap judgment I'll ask you to take, is living a life worth living, worth your time? And if you agree it is, is there anything in Cicero's observation on the "Nature and Nature's God",
    "Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst penalties, even if he escapes what is commonly called punishment."
    , that goes against your judgment? How? Does it have meaning for your life... or has it somehow been made 'outmoded' by... what... your iPhone? You and I both know what the popular response to that is - is it worth your life to simply accept it as yours?

    You should realize that your judgment (and if a 'snap' judgment is all you've given to these issues, know that that's how thin the foundations of your life are built upon) privately and out loud, has a direct influence upon whether you will further the aims of Progress, or of Pro-Regress, whether you will give power and support to the Rule of Law, or will instead yield own power to having a shadowy Doppelganger of a 'Rule of Rules', ruling over you with its ever growing legions of rules for you living your life.

    Learn the tune, sing the song, for auld lang syne, lest our auld acquaintance with real Progress be forgot... we'll revisit our past Progress with the 2nd key step in tomorrow's post - Happy New Year!

    No comments: