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Thread: Theory and Practice
January 13th, 2009, 01:44 PM #31
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My gut tells me it's going to be a contextual response. There will be personal aspects, things we've thought of, things we've been trained for, things we've planned in the safety of our imaginations but, when the stuff hits the fan, then I think something else takes over. Something about that moment in time, whatever was going through your mind, whatever you perceive to be the issues at the moment, you react. You don''t think; you don't weigh alternatives, you don't calculate conseqences; you react.
Personal reflections by a good many decorated soldiers, fire fighters, and policemen indicates that they did what they did because it was the only thing they could do. Yes, they had been trained but so had all the other soldiers, fire fighters and policemen in the immediate vicinity but they were the ones who reacted.
Given different contexts, my bet is that everyone present would react differently.
January 13th, 2009, 05:41 PM #32
I agree that most everyone will react differently. I believe we are hard-wired by the decisions we make on a daily basis. It even goes down to the level of our thoughts minute by minute. If we have selfish thoughts, we will be concerned only with the self. If tend toward altruism in our daily life anyway, then we will help that person in trouble when the time comes.
I know altruism is a sensitive subject, but why do we always have to make political and economical decisions based on selfishness. Don't we just further our own selfish natures? If the incentives are there, won't we continue to react the same way to our incentives?
January 26th, 2009, 04:23 PM #33
I intensely distrust government, whether liberal or conservative. Right now, our government continues to grow and expand and take on more and more power for itself. Whether or not the programs that the U.S. government puts in place are to one's liking is immaterial. If you're a Democrat, eventually this powerful govt. will come under conservative control one day. Would a Democrat really want a Mike Huckabee type-conservative in charge of such power? I wouldn't, and I'm not a Dem.
So, for me, the best means to deter such an over-bearing government and defend individual (wonder of wonders, we agree on something, RAD) liberty (however you wish to define it, Fung) is a (very) well-armed and organized populace.
And yes, I do think that tyranny in the U.S. can easily occur. Just look at the terrorism legislation that was rammed through Congress after Oklahoma City. It makes me wonder what Dems would have done had they been in charge of both the Presidency and Congress on 9/11. Or go ask the Japanese in California about their experiences in the 1940s.
How far off-topic am I, anyway?
January 26th, 2009, 06:39 PM #34
Not off topic here.
What protects us all from tyranny? We've read all the predictions. Do you remember the book It Can't Happen Here? It was written in 1935. Yet we are reasonably free and we seem to be able to force the system to work better when it's malfunctioning.
We have a sense of community and individual rights. We're suffering now and hopefully we're pulling together with compassion rather than hate and blame. We've chosen a unique leader for our time. And we're all embracing him. What does that tell us about theory and practice?
January 27th, 2009, 02:30 AM #35
This discussion about theory and praxis reminds me a quote of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a preacher that joined German resistance and got incarcerated and later killed by the Nazis (any translation mistakes are wholly mine)
„Die Kirche darf also keine Prinzipien verkündigen, die immer wahr sind, sondern nur Gebote, die heute wahr sind. Denn, was ›immer‹ wahr ist, ist gerade heute nicht wahr. Gott ist uns ›immer‹ gerade ›heute‹ Gott.“
The church must not preach princips that are always true only commandements that are true today, because what is *always* true, is not true just today. God is *always* just *today* our god.
January 27th, 2009, 12:43 PM #36
I don't like that translation either. The phrase is difficult to translate because of word order. "...is not true specifically today." would be the literal translation, but the emphasis sounds wrong.
The idea is that the historic context invalidates "general truth".
January 27th, 2009, 02:54 PM #37
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Then it becomes survival of the fittest. That is, fittest to thrive in a savage society. And civilization goes right out the window.
The Nazis only got their monopoly on violence after a brutal period of natural selection involving battles between powerful, organized, armed civilian groups - the Brownshirts and the Communists. Both sides aimed to destabilize or destroy the government, which was the only check on them. The lesser out-groups couldn't match them and the destruction of government meant they were prey for the larger beasts.
Whoever's got the most organized people with the best guns and the ruthlessness to advance their cause by whatever means necessary wins.
Are you saying that someone (the government) should arm and organize them, or that they should be permitted to arm and organize themselves?
If the second case, then obviously the side with the most resources, the most people, and the most ruthlessness, wins. A lot of people just want to live in peace. They simply don't have the killer instinct or commitment to an ideology that they would die for.
The Ku Klux Klan were certainly well-armed and well organized, and they thought they had right on their side and the government was interfering in their business. The African Americans couldn't match them even had they tried (they were too dispersed and didn't have the resources to acquire weapons). Just look at the appalling history of lynching in the US where the guys in the white sheets lynched 'em at night and went to church the next morning with a clean conscience. Upstanding community members all.
Protecting minorities and de-segregating schools is a legitimate use of government force to prevent the more powerful in-group from oppressing and intimidating the less powerful. Force applied against force.
The Japanese internment and (a more severe example of the same case) the Holocaust was an example of a government legitimizing the dominant in-group's prejudice against out-groups.
The only problems are individuals who want to take advantage of the system and this application can be slow to recognize the danger posed by groups that intend to use a free society's freedoms to destroy said society. Steve Emerson exposes a lot of this in his investigations into terrorist groups.
Emerson, by the way, has put his own life in danger from fanatic in-groups with resources he can't match. Another legitimate use of government force in this case would be the protection of the individual (like Emerson or Ayaan Hirsi Ali) from the group.
I've got nothing against people having guns and using them for the purpose of personal and home defense. That's good. And you're probably thinking of a bunch of landowners on the frontier who band together for common defense. Good too.
Compare that to, say, a corporation that wants a profit and doesn't care if an area's land is polluted or workers oppressed to get it, and can hire a private army of trained thugs to prevent organized unions and bribe the government to look the other way.
Or to a Mormon Patriarch with a small army of fanatics who believe he's divinely appointed, that the world's full of demons and on the verge of apocalypse, and who want to raise their sons as fanatics and their daughters as child brides?
As Lee Harris points out: there was a reason Joseph Smith's neighbors wouldn't tolerate him. They were free yeomen while Smith was setting himself up as an Oriental despot, complete with a harem and a bodyguard of Jannisaries.
I distrust the government too. But then, I distrust any organization or ideology and the government is at least accountable to the people and must make its actions and intentions known.
True, some nasty and stupid interests can grow like a fungus in the beaurocratic shadows, but the system allows for them to be uprooted and brought to light without destroying the whole thing.
a Huckabee type conservative in charge of such power
Thanks, now I've got to go and change my pants.
January 27th, 2009, 04:26 PM #38
It can be the survival of the fittest, if the armed and organized citizens are out to displace the government. It can also be a tyranny if the government in question is unchallenged in its appropriation of power. My contention isn't that an armed and organized citizenry is the only thing that is necessary to check the power of a government, but I think it is certainly a key ingredient. And keeping the government in check or honest is very important goal, I would think.
I agree that governments should have the ability to defend the rights of individuals from the depredations of the more powerful. However, I also believe that individuals should make sure that the government is not so comfortable in its power that things like the Japanese internment can take place with impunity.
January 27th, 2009, 07:00 PM #39
The theory is our beliefs and hopes. The practice is about context and choice, about whether one has a choice, about how much time one has to process information and weigh options, about how much one knows and doesn't know about what's going on, about physical reactions over which we don't always have a lot of control, and about plans that go awry and what is available as resources and abilities to deal with logistics. There are situations where I might risk my loved ones to help others. There are situations where I might not. And if I'm starving, feverish, and can't really understand what is happening around me, my behavior would be different than if I'm not. If I have thirty seconds to assess what is happening, my action is likely to be different, more instinctual and very possibly not what I would have picked if I had an hour to think it over.
Good and evil aren't relative, but they aren't iron-clad absolutes either. Instead, perception, context, motivation, cultural pressures, personal beliefs, biology and other factors all play a part in both what we do and how we and others judge what we do. So of course you would be conflicted and not feel the same way every time about hypothetical or real life dilemmas.
January 28th, 2009, 11:23 AM #40
I find myself wondering why it is that private groups want to take over the government, either as elected officials or through violent means. What is it about being the government that is so desirable. It seems that being the government gives a group more efficient and powerful means to enact the issues that are important to them. In a democracy, we think this is usually doesn't happen because elections tend to be self-correcting. It isn't always so, though. After all, Germany was a democracy before atheist fanatics came to power - after first annhiliting their atheist Commie opponents. Currently, Russia slid from proto-democratic to proto-totalitarian with an old KGB atheist hand at the helm. (Yes, RAD, I'm tweaking you here).
Here in America, we've had a long history of localities that are corrupt due to the entrenched office holders. The same holds true at the federal level and state level. Entrenched politicians and bureacrats fight hard to keep their turf and prevent accountability (Everyone from LBJ to Hoover to any Illinois Chicago pol).
So is a powerful elected government necessary to insure the rights of everyone, or does a powerful elected government simply become the means by which an elected group disenfranchises the rights of those who think differently.
I would say the latter. In all the global-warming hysteria, the global warmers want to shut up anyone who disagrees with them by labelling them deniers. The worst want to bring Crimes Against Humanity charges against deniers who dare to speak. This is explicitly using the power of the State to destroy people. In Canada there is mis-named Human Rights Commision that, if you dare to speak in a non-PC way, will hammer you hard. It is not a criminal trial, but the penalties can be just as severe. Again, these were set up by a well-meaning group within the government. That they have run roughshod over the rights of Canadians seems not to matter.
So, does a well-armed citizenry help keep the balance so a government doesn't think that it can do as it pleases without consequence? I certainly think it can and does, but as RAD said, groups that organize can also seek to destablize ta government that is otherwise fairly benign.
January 28th, 2009, 12:00 PM #41
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Germany was a democracy before atheist fanatics came to power - after first annhiliting their atheist Commie opponents.
I would say 'mystic wacko fanatics occasionally supported by various Christian groups' came to power, but your more or less accurate with the rest.
And for yet another look at how theory and practice aren't jiving, this time on the international front where that declaration of human rights is on the fast track to irrelevence and is being rewritten for the very opposite interests it was meant to uphold.
Use it or lose it.
January 28th, 2009, 12:07 PM #42
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Methinks the power of the gun is being grossly over-estimated here.
Let us build a scary situation in our imaginations: let us imagine an all-volunteer force that is much better equipped than the aggregate civilian populace, even those whose fascination with automatic weapons exceeds common sense. In such an imaginary situation, please explain to me how an armed citizenry can possibly resist an armed force whose oath of enlistment includes the requirement to defend the government from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
An armed populace may have its merits, a point I do not choose to argue over. But to think that an armed population can prevent a government from acting in a disagreeable manner, seems like the ostrich stratagem to me.
January 28th, 2009, 12:41 PM #43
Well, in the U.S., or another country with a modern military, you would be right. The U.S. military could easily overcome the armed resistance of most citizens on a case by case basis. It can even easily overcome many of the somewhat organized militias in this country without much effort. Would the soldiers in those units carry out their orders to eradicate such militias? Probably, but they'd probably suffer losses as well. At such a point, would the military be able to pacify the whole country? Not a chance. They certainly couldn't do it in Iraq.
January 28th, 2009, 12:57 PM #44
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And a single person or a small group with a dirty bomb or two can do a fair job of overturning the whole chessboard. Then who picks up the pieces?
January 28th, 2009, 01:21 PM #45