iSoul Time has three dimensions

Category Archives: Relating

Relating as persons: psychology, society, politics

Geography and democracy

I’ve written about this before, here.

The old monarchies are as much about a geographic region as they are about a people. There is a strong identification of people and place. It’s the king of France, not the king of the French, though both are correct. The patriotic song God Save the Queen (or King), is as much about the land as the people who happen to live there. A monarchy is a geocracy, we could say.

A democracy, in contrast, is about people, with their location secondary. There is an openness about the boundaries of place, or even the limits of the electorate, in a democracy. The more people, the merrier, as in universal suffrage. Political liberals (or left-liberals) emphasize democracy. The more liberal U.S. Democratic Party supports more open immigration, and has the best support in large population centers.

Conservatives are the heirs to monarchy and landed gentry, while supporting democracy. But what is there between monarchy and democracy, the land and the people? In earlier times there was suffrage based on land ownership, a form of limited democracy. Nowadays, there is a division of population based on the land, such as what separates every nation. The U.S. Senate is based first on geography, and second on democracy. The combination of geography first and democracy second could be called geodemocracy. The more conservative U.S. Republican Party has greater support in the Senate and in more rural states.

The U.S. Constitution combines democracy and geodemocracy. The House of Representatives is a democratic institution, but the Senate, as noted, is a geodemocratic institution. The Electoral College for the election of the President preserves this combination. In this way the Constitution is a centrist document, combining elements of conservatism and liberalism.

Sane slogans

We live in a political time. Politics intrudes everywhere because the state intrudes everywhere. So the political stakes keep getting higher. And the political rhetoric keeps getting louder and more vulgar.

The only way to lower the intensity is for the state to back off. More issues need to be taken off the political agenda and put on the social agenda, the business agenda, the neighborhood agenda.

Meanwhile we need to reaffirm sanity — and have sane slogans. Here are a few:

Belief is more than knowledge.

Identity politics is hate speech.

Imaginary insults are no offense.

My race is the human race.

My sex is one of two sexes.

Peace is an attitude. Freedom is a goal.

Society is sovereign.

Centrism

Centrism: A compilation of posts

The centrist

In my usage, centrism is distinguished from moderation as follows:

The moderate seeks the relative middle so if the winds blow in one direction, the moderate moves in that direction to a moderate degree.  In contrast the centrist stakes out a position in the long-term middle so if the winds blow in one direction, the centrist leans against the wind.  The centrist may seem contrarian in two directions at the same time depending on the issue but their focus is always on maintaining a place between the extremes.

Centrists are aware there are always trade-offs and oppositions:  liberty vs. safety, property vs. equality, big business vs. big government, present generations vs. future generations, economic stability vs. economic growth, etc.  Centrists seek a middle way between these extremes, a compromise that is aware of the tension between these extremes and expects adjustments in the future.

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Geodemocracy

I introduced the term geodemocracy in a previous post here. In this post I expand on the concept.

A country is comprised of two basic elements: people and land. Both of these must be present for a country to exist. The government in some way must represent both the people and the land. For example, the interests of the land may be represented by a landed gentry.

A geodemocracy is a form of government with two elements: (1) elected representation of the people, democracy, and (2) elected representation of the land, geocracy. A geocracy is elected representation by geographical region, regardless of the population, whereas democracy is elected representation based solely on population. To combine democracy and geocracy into one legislature requires a bicameral system, with one chamber elected by population group and the other elected by geographic region.

The United States government is a geodemocracy in two ways: (1) Congress is a bicameral legislature with democratic and geocratic chambers; and (2) the President is elected by the Electoral College, which is comprised of state delegates representing population and geography. The geocratic chamber is comprised of 100 representatives of the fifty states in the U.S. Senate. The democratic chamber is comprised of 435 representatives in the House of Representatives. The Electoral College is comprised of 535 members, and each state has the number of delegates equal to their number in Congress, which gives states with lower population a boost in the number of delegates.

A geodemocracy naturally tends to have two political parties: (1) one that is oriented toward the populace, that is, large city interests, and (2) one that is oriented toward the land, that is, rural and small city interests. In the U.S. these parties are called (1) the Democratic Party and (2) the Republican Party.

The two elements, people and land, are reflected in patriotic hymns. For example, the hymn America the Beautiful speaks of the land: the mountains, the plains, and the extent “from sea to shining sea.” It also speaks of the people: brotherhood, liberty, and “the alabaster cities.”

Christian marriage

I have written a number of times about marriage, especially about the oxymoron “same-sex marriage.” Do a search on the word “marriage” to find them.

Marriage is a social matter; societies formalize and recognize marriages within a society. There have been significant differences between societies, such as including polygamy or not. Modern societies have civil procedures to ensure the minimum qualifications are met: age, sex, and no other concurrent marriage. Recently this has been relaxed so that sex is no longer a requirement for civil marriage in many countries.

Christianity honors marriage and acknowledges that it was established by God for our first parents. But marriage remains primarily a social matter: it is society that decides who is married and who is not. While same-sex marriage expands the concept of marriage to an extreme, if that is what a society decides, then members of that society should accept that, though not necessarily approve of it. Such a dilution of marriage is worse than polygamy, which has been widely condemned.

What is most difficult about this is the misapplication of the language of marriage. It is like society deciding that parents are no longer mother and father but parent 1 and parent 2 — which is taking place in some birth certificates (see here and here). Will Mommy and Daddy be replaced by Oney and Twoey? The long tradition of marriage between a man and a woman cannot be jettisoned so easily; it will no doubt return someday.

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Manliness

Harvey C. Mansfield wrote the book Manliness (Yale University Press, 2007) which is about manliness in the gender-neutral society. The author is a professor of government at Harvard University so the book is concerned with manliness in its social setting. The book is an intellectual tour de force that seeks a place for manliness in contemporary society. And the conclusion strikes just the right note.

What follows are some excerpts from this book:

Manliness seeks and welcomes drama and prefers times of war, conflict, and risk. Manliness brings change or restores order at moments when routine is not enough, when the plan fails, when the whole idea of rational control by modern science develops leaks. p.ix

Manliness is below the gentleman, since many manly men are coarse and rude, but I believe it is also above him in the unfamiliar uncelebrated manliness of the philosopher. p.xii

The gentleman, however, is an embarrassment to the gender-neutral society. p.5

How is it possible that men will let women do men’s work but no reciprocate and do women’s work when women are perfectly willing to let them do it — when women even invite them to do it? The answer is that men look down on women’s work. They look down on it not because they think it is dirty or boring or insignificant, which is often true of men’s work; they look down on it because it is women’s. p.7-8

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Three racisms

A previous post on racism is here.

This is a big picture, philosophical look at racism or racisms (as in Francisco Bethencourt’s Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press, 2014). It is also historical, although that is incidental to the philosophical progression.

Racism means treating people differently (e.g., negatively) depending on their race. Here races are understood as varieties of the human species (or kind), which are often associated with ethnic and cultural characteristics. Racism is wrong in an ethical sense. However, taking ethnic and cultural characteristics into account is acceptable as a social grace or for effective communication.

Realist racism is based on the doctrine that different races are different in kind, not merely in degree. So the various associations with race are considered as characteristic of the natural or created kinds. That implies there is nothing one can do to change these characteristics. If a race is considered slaves by nature (barbarians to the ancient Greeks), then that is what they always were and always will be. From this position an equality of races makes no more sense that an equality of apples and oranges.

Eugenic racism is the doctrine based on evolutionary biology in which races are different population groups, which could interbreed to form new races or be kept separate and maintain divergent traits. In evolutionary biology a single-race population might even become a new species. Because of the evolutionary descent from primitive organisms, it is possible that different races might be earlier or later in the evolutionary tree. This is taken as a justification by eugenic racists that breeding practices applied to animals should be applied to humans as well, in order to purify or perfect a racial group.

Identity racism is based on the doctrine that different racial identities (including related ethnicities and cultures) should be allowed to flourish on their own to ensure their development without interference. Identity racism supports race consciousness and race politics. The relation between races may be viewed as egalitarian or not. What matters is that independent racial development must be maintained for the sake of civil rights and social justice. Today non-egalitarian identity racism is widely condemned, but egalitarian identity racism is not widely recognized for its own racism.

The Western ideal has been individual development, apart from race. An ideal of collective development might also be different from race. In any case, we should focus beyond race to the development of our individuality and common humanity.

Post-Christian Posing

The following is an excerpt from John Zmirak at The Stream on July 26, 2018, here:

In the 19th century, many Christians were deeply troubled by Darwin. They accepted his theories as facts that disproved the Bible’s claim to be inspired and inerrant. But they weren’t ready to slough off Christian ethics. Or even (in many cases) quit their jobs as prominent pastors and try to make an honest living. They quailed at the ruthless atheist socialism of Marx and Engels, and the harsh “social Darwinist” movement that hoped to speed up the “survival of the fittest.”

So these men of little faith hearkened to the deeply biased methods of “Higher” biblical criticism. Pretending to be a “science,” it weeds out the miraculous and supernatural parts of the Gospel. What it leaves behind is an ethical core, derived from cherry-picking stories of Jesus’ actions and precepts. That core, they could pretend, is really the “essence” of Christianity.

Never mind all those metaphysical claims (Our Lord’s divinity) or so-called miracles (His resurrection). And certainly pay no attention to apostolic traditions, Church doctrinal councils, or historic Christian practice.

The Ten Disenchantments

No, the “real” Christianity is … well not a creed. It’s more of an emotive stance, which distills from the life of Jesus a few simplistic precepts. Since they replace supernatural faith itself, I’ll call them the Ten Disenchantments.

  1. Outsiders are always right.
  2. The underdog deserves to win, every time.
  3. Making judgments about people is evil, and it means you’re a hypocrite.
  4. Religious observance is empty ritual, only valid for building a sense of community among the disadvantaged.
  5. Rebels and dissenters are always prophetic and deserve our attention.
  6. Sexual sins are mild peccadilloes, and those who condemn them are much worse sinners themselves.
  7. Every hierarchy is wicked.
  8. All inequality is the fruit of exploitation.
  9. Suffering has no value whatsoever, and it’s our first duty to stomp it out, whatever the cost.
  10. A neurotic, extreme unselfishness, which no person (much less nation) can really practice, is nonetheless the Christian ideal.

Now this not really a comprehensive ethical system. Nor is it a fair and representative reading of Jesus’ words and actions. If it were, then He would not have been the Messiah, since the above list is utterly incompatible with the Old Testament.

Two kinds of centrism

I’ve written about centrism before, here, here, here and here.

There are two kinds of centrism:

Lagging centrism is a political position comparable to a lagging indicator in economics. This position is characterized by going with the direction of the political winds of the day but lagging behind as if hedging one’s bets or being somewhat cautious. It is a position in the middle of the range of acceptable opinions, which changes as that range changes. Lagging centrists are called moderates in the U.S.

Dialectical centrism is a political position comparable to a contrarian investment strategy. This position is characterized by a dialectical strategy of supporting the opposite of the dominant extreme in order to restore balance to the body politic. It might also be called contrarian centrism, though is it not always contrarian. If the dominant position has been dominant for a long time but the opposite position is growing in influence, then the dialectical centrist will support the opposite position until balance is restored.

For example, in the common political tug-of-war between increasing liberty and decreasing inequality, if the politics of the day is tending toward increased liberty, the lagging centrist will tend in that direction but less than the leading edge. Whereas the dialectical centrist will tend against increased liberty if that has been the dominant side for some time. Yet if the dominant side has been the opposite, decreasing inequality, but increased liberty is growing in influence, then the dialectical centrist will support the latter until balance is restored.

Not a marriage

A marriage is the union of a man and a woman for life. Marriage is recognized by all societies. Marriage is a social institution, and marriage customs differ somewhat from society to society.

Marriage is normally recognized by the government, though some people forgo such recognition. It can happen that the government will recognize relationships as marriage that society as a whole does not recognize. For example, the (Roman) Catholic Church has standards for divorce and annulment of marriage which differ from that of the government.

That is also the situation of society today concerning “same-sex marriages”. The government recognizes these but both the Catholic Church and many non-Catholics do not recognize them as marriages. Society and the government have different definitions of marriage.

We have seen in the 20th century how governments can attempt to redefine language. Totalitarian governments seek to make it impossible to think thoughts they find dangerous. George Orwell satifized this in what he called Newspeak. Forced labor camp was “joycamp”. Compliance to Party orthodoxy was “plusgood”. “Thoughtcrime” was the criminal act of holding politically incorrect beliefs or doubts.

“Compelled speech” is a legal term with wider connotations. It means the state is compelling individuals or corporations to speak, or to speak in a prescribed manner. There are cases in which it is consistent with democratic principles, such as requiring warnings on packages of cigarettes. However, when speech is compelled concerning controversial matters of society, it is coercive and against democratic principles.

For example, the state of California passed a law to force pro-life pregnancy centers centers to speak a message that directly contradicts their beliefs and mission. The Supreme Court struck down this law. Their ruling “makes it clear that no one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion.” (adflegal.org)

The definition of marriage is another such an issue. The question is to what extent the government can force people to speak a language that re-defines marriage as something other than what they believe it is. Such compelled speech should be forbidden in a democratic society, and people should be allowed to speak a language they understand and that reflects their beliefs about a basic institution of society, marriage.