13 August 2009

Those who listen

Watchmaker's Daughter: So much caution in a man like you, it seems so wrong.

Number Six: Many times bitten, forever shy.

They are not shy, those who listen.

-It's Your Funeral, The Prisoner.

The Prisoner talking to a young woman who needs some help, and finding that ever-present security breeds distrust.  Indeed, those who do listen can and do listen as they are in charge and seek to end anything that supports individual freedom and even individuality itself.

We are not in the world we were warned about by the techno-pundits... not in full, at any rate.  When we were warned that the 'medium is the message' (actually from my memory the actual quote that is mis-stated was 'the medium is the massage' in that the medium changes the message) the worry was that the media would transform how we think into a form of limited system in which tribalism would predominate via the then new media of television.  Tellingly this was not 'group think' of the Orwell conception but a dynamic in which society would break down across media associated lines so that the ability to have common discourse would disappear.  Each group would soon have itself boiled down the minimal state of its internal culture: the lowest common denominator would then predominate and fixate these groups.

This has been passed down to us as 'identity politics' in which groups predominate over individuals and slowly attempt to liquidate individuality in favor of group lowest common denominators in thought and outlook.  For all of that and its slow distancing of common culture from society and making culture a 'relative' thing amongst groups, a second and much more different trend of the media has taken root in those identity politics venues.  The LCD 'diversity' system has a broader systemic over it enhanced by the media up until the last decade or so: that of echo chamber group think of the larger sort that trends towards Orwell.

I went over this dynamic in: The more things change, the more things become The Village.

The Prisoner television series started by Patrick McGoohan is a sharply different view of media and medium, plus message than MacLuhan.  It is not the form from Orwell, exactly, as he puts the niceties of a benevolent ruling caste that perennial changes and forever remains Number 2.  There is no Big Brother, although there appears to be an unchanging Number 1 who is never seen, never heard from and yet always present by his absence in the Number system.  While our outward politics has gained many of MacLuhan's tribalistic characteristics, the outcome of that tribalism is starkly that of the benevolent totalitarian State that only requires you to give up your individualism to become a 'functioning member of society' by the mandates of that State.  Thus you can't, really, question authority as it also has your health as its concern and any attempt to move away from the States 'good' way of thinking needs treatment!

And lots of it.

Don't worry about the price of it, it is FREE at the expense of those who run The Village.

The cost, however, is your very self identity.

What is most disturbing about LCD politics is that those practicing it soon find all of their groups sharing insular and common LCDs and brooking no deviation from them.  MacLuhan's tribalism and clique concepts from the media have been transformed into a bland conformity in which differences are outward in dress, sexual characteristics, skin color... but inwardly conformist to a group LCD.  The 'diversity' of programming gives you deeply similar characters no matter what they pretend to represent.  You can only 'celebrate diversity' if it is the diversity that is being presented to celebrate and any OTHER diversity isn't allowed.  Proscribed diversity is what you get, and yet tell that to the practitioners of it and they, one and all, see nothing wrong with that.  Authoritarian diversity with overall conformity is just fine to those practicing it.  And when Number One, that great and unseen actor, changes the arrangement of diversity, adds or subtracts some, then you are to follow suit without question and those who would be falling out from diversity they once favored must now conform to the NEW diversity, no matter how at odds that is with the old one.

You don't need a boot to the face to get group think, you only need a blind willingness to follow anyone who puts forward certain forms of ideology.  That ideology which seeks more power for government to 'do good' then gives that power to the one place that was not designed for 'doing good'.  The things we hand over to government are necessary for short term survival: taking killers, murderers and rapists out of society to penalize them; serving as the society level intercourse with other, separate societies that form Nation States; upholding a common law for all citizens; using the negative liberty of Public War to defend the Nation State against other Nation States and to identify those waging Private War and confront them and give the public opportunity to confront them on all levels.  There are other items with that base suite of powers, such as the guarantee of safe passage within a Nation State and ensuring there are no separate systems for tariffs within the Nation State, and upholding the basics of what is necessary to be a citizen via immigration.  These powers are restrictive in nature in that they stop sub-parts of society from attempting to garner wealth to themselves away from the common good and common wealth guaranteed to all citizens by having such things put at a higher level of authority.  The things handed to the Nation State are, of necessity, given to that level of created being so as to properly address things of the scale for the entire Nation as a whole.

As a society we recognize that each and every individual is born with all rights given to them.  Our recognition of that, as a society, is to bestow upon that new born the derived rights that come from that perfect liberty and then to teach that individual why some of their rights and negative liberties must be handed up to larger organs of society for the good of all citizens in society.  Every society that has attempted to put government into the defining role, to make government the source of liberty and rights, has devolved into States that are by measure authoritarian, bureaucratic and inefficient, restrictive on individual rights and liberties, unable to discriminate between in-born rights and derived rights and, due to these problems, such governments over time become increasingly despotic and totalitarian.  In Great Britain, the great upholder of Parliamentary representative democracy, the concept that all rights and liberty flow from the Monarch through Parliament to be dispensed to the people means that in our modern age the Parliament has seen fit to legislate against the inalienable right to self-defense for oneself, one's loved ones and one's property.  The public has been disarmed to 'curb violent crime' and that has led to criminals up-arming to the point where the police now need body armor, rifles and automatic weapons.  When every man could defend himself, the police could go unarmed by and large.  The first National Rifle Association was started by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Britain.  In one century British citizens have been reminded that they are subjects of the Crown and its Government, that they are not allowed to defend themselves because the government says so via law.

That is not a path to a peaceful and more harmonious society, but one that is decaying as civil rights are suppressed by government fiat.  The UK is now the most watched citizenry on the planet by any authority, and still crime rises because the watchers don't really care about preventing crime or saving lives, just getting a meal ticket.  There is no manifest right to privacy any more in the UK and yet the people are less secure not more with that change.  The health care system there is so 'good' that people not only pay taxes into it, but the wealthy pay for private insurance to get away from the public form of health care, thus paying twice to get what they were promised, and find it is damned hard to compete with an organization that can print money and levy taxes: your ability to afford private care is an indicator you make too much and, therefore, must be taxed more.  This is the path of government 'providing' rights to the common man, and it leads to no good place.  If such a once civilized Nation as Great Britain can have such problems, that augers ill for those places with even less liberty and freedom to start with.  And it is a warning sign to those with more that this is not the route to go.

What is interesting is the parallel between that omni-watched, omni-regulated society and our own.  At base the Colonies started out with the majority being citizens under English mandate.  Yet even then the attitude of the Crown and its Government was seen as ill to the citizenry when that citizenry did not live on the home island.  From the end of the religious wars in Europe to that era there was a major sea change in the understanding of human rights and liberty.  I have looked at the main strains of this many times: part is from the Aegean and Greece, part is from Rome after its fall, part is from Christianity and a slowly widening view of the domain of the divine beyond individual instances of particular religions, and part is Nordic coming from the understanding that the King is only King so long as the people support him and that the King is under the common law just as his subjects are.  From that we get the concept that all citizens are due to equal practice under the law and that there are no carve outs based on position or party, only for things to keep the Nation safe from harm.  This multi-part background is where America got her roots, along with the Great Peace of Westphalia that brought the reconciliation outside the church that individuals are allowed to worship as they please within society.

America, although starting with much of the same basic culture of Great Britain, was starting with the culture of the 17th and 18th century which saw the slow ascendance of England to Great Britain via sea power, trade and colonization.  What England sent overseas, however, was an interesting mix of malcontents, criminals and misfits who wanted no part of the continued religious discrimination of those churches that went beyond Westphalian types.  Europe, itself, had been transformed by the religious wars and there was a sense of horror at what supporting the religion of 'The Prince of Peace' had brought in the way of war and death.  The Great Peace of Westphalia established the necessary parting of the ways between the secular Nation State and the Religious State: the temporal and purely material world was to be governed differently than the dictates of the divine as interpreted by man.  Indeed, recognizing that man is mortal as part of creation set up the pre-conditions for all of modern science, modern technology, modern economics and all that we consider to be areas of separate domains from religion, not because they are outside the purview of the divine, as they are not, but because they are necessary to separate from divine mandates as there is no common consensus as to what those mandates actually are in real and concrete terms.  Thusly the role of religion is to instruct each of us in what good works are, what they look like and then put us, as individuals, at the pointy end of that and say: 'figure it out for yourself based on the good works others have already done'.

Those things that are in the secular world, the common world, that place where everything happens, are different as they are things of creation under the Law of Nature and Nature's God.  In general Nature is not a happy place on its own, and is seen as 'red in tooth and claw'.  The Law of Nature is, no matter its origin, secular in operation as it must take place in the material realm.  In that realm we are to apply the dictates of the Heavens to create for ourselves those things we need to survive.  Actually many animals are more than happy to create for their own survival purposes, and it doesn't matter it their behavior is learned, adapted to via genetic mutations, or an aptation of using parts of their bodies for expedient purposes that are without any overall design favor.  What we, as creatures of Nature who are animals, for all the spark of the divine within us, have is the exact, same world as the animals have.  Our greatest gift, that thing which so many cultures have pointed to as the separation point, is the gift of reason.  It does not matter if it comes from divine mandate, is something garnered by genetic drift of an isolated population of hominids over time, or is purely a function of other genetic changes causing retention of youthful growth patterns and then cutting off adult ones in a process of neoteny. 

The truth of it is self-evident.

All of our Liberty comes from Nature.

How we apply it comes from Reason.

What we apply it to is determined by us as individuals.

Those things that we do create are of the material, mortal and imperfect realm of the physical world, and will always have the flaws of it present no matter how good we make these things.  The general category for these things that allow us to create a better living circumstance for ourselves in pursuit of our happiness is: tools.

Man creates tools.

These tools we use to further our ends, and they span the limits of thought from actual, real, physical tools that you can lay your hands on all the way to the society we create amongst like-minded individuals that then seek to use that creation to protect us in a way better than we can do for ourselves.  These tools have a positive role to play in our lives, but they remain tools nonetheless for all of their utility.  These tools are means, not ends in and of themselves.  These tools can also be very dangerous and require that we understand them, comprehend them and utilize them within the narrow categories they were made for so that we remain safe from them.

It is from this understanding that the United States gets a few axioms that we can all recognize:

'God helps those who help themselves.'

'In God we trust, all others pay cash.'

'If you want something done right, do it yourself.'

'You can't get to there from here.'

This is our understanding of Liberty and our tools, and the relationship is plain in that we decide on how to use our tools, we are to know how to use them and what their deficits are, we are not to complain when others do work for us that we asked them to that we could do for ourselves, and if a tool isn't made to do something, then you probably will be unable to make the tool do it.

The Nation State is that organ of society that is created by the members of society to protect society and to vest the use of negative liberties so as to keep track of how they are being used.  Like a band saw the Nation State has limitations by what it is made to do: as you would not use a band saw as a screwdriver, so you would not use the Nation State to care for you and feed you.  Yes you can re-craft the tool in question, make it so it can do these other things, but then is it still as simple to use as the original tool and does it actually function well in its new roles?  The Great Peace of Westphalia plays upon one of the teachings of Jesus to form its basis, and though never spoken it is present by that absence: Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto God what is God's.  Untold numbers of Christians died in Rome to uphold this and that their religion required different observance than that of the Empire and the system of morals that went with that, those of piety, self-restraint, caring for one's fellow man and chastity, would prove to be beacons of hope in a society that was decaying and gone decadent in large ways and small.  By the time Europe recovered from the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church was in the exact, same position of mandating religious doctrine that the Empire had been in.  Save that this time it was not just the Heathens, the Pagans, and other non-believers that were the target of repression, but other Christians of differing doctrinal outlooks.  Having gone full circle on this from State enforced religion to Religion enforced upon States to then enforce further, the idea that there needed to be a difference in outlook between the actual, real world State and the Divine was put in place.  From that the land of Caesar and the land of God parted their ways, but remained in hailing distance.  There is no 'wall' between the two, but an air gap so that one can inform the other of what is going on and send suggestions each way.

A Nation State, as an object, is well described as to its form and function by the time of the Founding of the Nation started and was known in Britain by then, also.  British legal minds worked with their compatriots after the Great Peace to help work out just what this thing we create called a 'Nation' was.  They examined all, known, past Nations and even City States so as to see if there was a common thread amongst them: if we, as humans, had created a common thing no matter what our culture, our time or our religious inclination.  Examining everything from what little was known of Ancient Babylon and Egypt, to what was coming in from the Indian sub-continent and the Far East in China and Japan, to what was known of the old cultures of southern Africa all the way to modern reports of native peoples in the Americas, all of these had their basis for what government was examined.  To a paleontologist the fact that they all did have deep similarities across all of mankind is no surprise as the dictum in the field is: form follows function.

In needing to create an organ of society to protect it, thus requires individual negative liberties to be lent to that organ and then kept in strict oversight.  That goes for nomadic tribesmen of any continent, the City States of the Bronze Age, and the modern Nation State, without exception.  When societies need to interact with each other they establish Embassies and send Emissaries to represent their society and report back on what is going on.  That holds true for all peoples that hold territory and settle on a common space for their society.  Those forms we know and understand cross all boundaries of civilization and peoples because the function is the same.  What the lawyers, philosophers and those who examined the theories of warfare and trade did, however, is to utilize best practices concepts in their formulations.  Thus Grotius would set the standard with The Laws of War and The Laws of Peace, plus his work on the laws of the seas which was derived from the 14th century work of The Black Book of the Admiralty.  Building on those works arrived at an understanding that the Nation State as a sovereign entity only had peers amongst other Nation States.  Further those Nation States had internal sovereignty by design, with proper description of limitations on vassal States and those who have lost wars also put down.  Law of Nations would serve as the backbone for our modern understanding of the Nation State, if we bothered to read it.

What the United States did was to put in place a Republican form of government, well described in The Law of Nations as an understood form of government.  Further, best practices were put in place so as to limit that government's internal role and to maximize that of individual Liberty that would be positive as the negative ones were put into government.  By design that tool is meant to protect the people of the Nation and to interfere as little as is possible in the lives of its citizens.  The rest is left up to the States and the people to figure out on their own.  Thus America is the 'Do It Yourself' Nation: we don't look to government to help us, but look to ourselves to help each other.  In helping each other we help ourselves to enrich society, care for the poor and keep those social organs directly accountable to us, as individuals.  When anyone proposes that government do more to 'help' the people, we give those saying that a wary eye as we feel that the reach into our Liberty, as an individual, is unwarranted for any 'good' that government may try do.  Government's role is to protect us from harm from each other and from other peoples, and to run those minimal laws in an orderly and equitable fashion so as to yield an equal process called Justice.  Any injustice that is not of that scale falls back to the States and the people to solve, and as the States have much the same problem as the National government, that leaves the people on the hook for these problems.

You are on the hook for EVERYTHING government does good, bad or indifferent.

As we have given this tool the ability to enforce laws, restrict the liberty of individuals who break laws, punish law breakers, and to serve as our means of self-protection as a society from other Nations, it has a damned full platter already.  And it doesn't do those all that well as it is created, staffed and overseen by mere mortals who are fallible and have all the problems of mortals attached to them. 

No law will stop us from being mortals. 

No law will enforce ethics. 

Laws can only be enforced upon actions, not thoughts.

And any law that seeks equality of outcome instead of only equality of opportunity, will become the most repressive, dictatorial and tyrannical system ever devised, and we know that having seen the sweep of history of Nations who do try to do just that very thing.  Government as a necessary evil to protect us is the witness that we are not perfect, angelic nor fit for divine ascension.  If we were those things there would be no injustice on this planet. 

As government is our place for our vested negative liberties, the only tools it has available to make things 'good' is coercion.  That is not by mistake, not by neglect, not by poorly crafting this tool that is an organ by society.  That is the function of this thing we call government and its form must follow that function.  If we didn't need it we wouldn't create it in the first place.

The source of all good that we can create in society is not done via government but by ourselves.

When we follow higher mandates to care for our fellow man, we do not form government to do that, but we form charitable institutions run by committed individuals who want to run a clean, lean and efficient operation so that they can do the greatest good with what they get in donations.  Charities tend to be the most efficient, most accountable and most able social organs that mankind has ever created, bar none.  When the Christmas Tsunami of 2004 relief effort started, we would find the #1 contributor to the relief effort was the people of the United States via their charitable organizations.  Our GOVERNMENT would be #2 on that list.  And it is the charitable institutions that would hold themselves directly accountable via their balance sheets to their contributors, while such places as the UN never have given a full and exacting accounting of their cash spent, who it went to or even what it was used for.  Yet charities can account for every penny they spend because they have no guarantee of getting more pennies unless they do as they say they will do.

Wherever you see government 'do good' you see charity wither as the money that they would normally get goes to government and is spent less well, less accountably and with less transparency than charitable institutions.  Whenever I hear that our government hasn't 'spent enough' on foreign aid, I look to the American people and see that we are the most generous Nation on the planet per person and that our people spend more time working in charity to others than any other people on the planet.  Not by government mandate but by volunteering their time.  When government takes on that role, it also starts to dictate to individuals what they can or cannot do with the help they receive because that is the nature of government.  Charities give directed help to do certain activities so that it is hard to ill-spend the money and that is by design ALSO.

When I see governments running health care I see individuals who need desperate treatment either not get it, have to wait in line or be given a painkiller which can mask their symptom and may even kill them.  Meanwhile those who are in chronic pain can't get the painkiller as it is too expensive for their condition by government mandate.  Even worse is if you have 'private' insurance with that, as everyone MUST pay into the public form which never has to show a profit nor be held to account as well as a local charity, and then the rich pay to get BETTER treatment.  Thus it is the poor that are ill served, ill treated, and have their treatment decided upon by government.  At least in America the poor can go to charities and to organizations set up by companies trying to serve the society by making drugs and treatments available as a charitable tax write-off.

Tell you what, if you really want to 'reform' health care, get the government out of it entirely, let people and companies write-off 100% of all charitable donations to those charities running health based concerns, let individuals put aside a savings account to invest in future returns that can only be used for health care at no penalty so they can save for their future, and then let the market run wild with the ability to invest in charity and save for the future to provide better health care for everyone.  Let the people help themselves by letting them doing it themselves and get rid of the fancy notion that this tool we call government can even figure out how to use its lash as a means of treating the poor and the sick.  Throw in some tort reform so that people can only sue for the actual cost of the ill-done procedures and get rid of the pain and suffering lottery that we ALL PAY FOR by higher premiums and more expensive care.

Because I trust my fellow citizen to do this far better than I trust my government to do it, ever.

Getting to the point where the President wants people to snitch on each other when they see 'fishy' allegations about what government run health care will do, we see that government is trying to set the people against each other to the ends of government not for the good of the people.  It is not just authoritarian to use this, but those that do the snitching then are known informants who can have their past revealed to their fellow citizens and coerced to continue in that role for other things.  That has been seen in authoritarian Nations in the past and now we see it starting here and now.

And they are not shy, those who listen.

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