Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sauron Himself Is But An Emissary - Part III

Expanding Brotherhood

As promised, I am working backward from what liberals say today about their values, trying to discern whence they spring. I will return in another post to the historical data.

Liberals deplore the dividing of the world into Us vs. Them. They see the world as having gradually progressed from tribalism to nationalism, and now progressing from nationalism to internationalism. To constantly expand the categories of people to whom we show good will is to them, a mark of civilization and moral improvement. They also believe that this can be made to happen by external pressure, though not easily. School desegregation is their best political example of this, coupled with their own experience of moving from childhood to adulthood. They learned that people different from themselves are not the dangerous folks they had been taught to be suspicious of – that you could be on sports teams with black people, or visit other people’s homes and churches without going to hell.

Something like this is the way to world peace and understanding. They are not dogmatic about how this is to be accomplished, and in fact are quite flexible and creative about finding ways to accomplish this. This is a large part of why they see themselves as openminded, and conservatives as narrow, and prone to bigotry. Nor are all progressives starry-eyed about this. Many willingly concede an enormous difficulty in getting this to happen, especially on an international level. They agree that there are dangerous nations which must be contained at times, treated firmly at others, and not everyone is an ally.

But they believe deeply that we must continue to try – that one or all of the strategies of putting people in contact with each other in an attempt to hear each other’s point of view will eventually bear fruit. Even if it takes a hundred years, with many setbacks, this is the goal of brotherhood we must seek.

There is an enormous weakness in that argument I will not go into here. Just now we are trying to discover where the belief comes from.

The roots of the idea can be traced to both the monotheistic religions – the brotherhood of humankind under one God; and to empire – the equality of citizens of many nations under one empire. The development of this concept is an entertaining subject, which I may return to, but it is the 20th C versions of this I am concerned with here.

After WWII there were great changes in how the world turned. The Europeans moved away from their version of nationalism, seeing that as the driving force which had gotten them into two catastrophic wars. The US moved (relatively) rapidly in the area of rights for African-Americans, resolving to finally make good on its American Dream for everyone. The national unity during the war was no small part of this, and the extension of said rights was often framed in terms of how blacks had also fought, well and honorably, in the devastating war. Though NATO and the UN had different, even opposing goals, both were transnational organizations in which the US played leadership roles. Israel was founded, the first nation created by international consent. (Ironic it is now the one thing the international community seems to want to take back.) International trade, communication, and travel expanded enormously.

To the left, everything seemed to be moving according to plan, albeit slowly. The world was learning the necessity of internationalism, and peaceful change, and talking through difficulties. All that Esperanto, unionism, One-World sentiment, colorblindness, civil disobedience, cultural exchange, and elevation of the common man seemed to be paying off. Ignore for a moment how much information they had to overlook to perceive things this way. It was easy to ignore, because the problems were underreported. I understand this feeling well, as I felt it – still feel it, despite my suspicion of its limitations.

It is important for conservatives to remember that much of this was not illusion, but largely true. All this does work sometimes. By changing external circumstances, you can get people to change, at least a bit.

To the far left, the idea that the Soviet experiment might also come true, perhaps more slowly, did not seem farfetched. The world seemed to be moving in their direction, though not in the way predicted. People were getting it somehow. The world was changing.

I hesitate to break the mood of understanding this aspect of what drove liberals and still drives them. It is a noble sentiment, consonant with Christian, Jewish, and Enlightenment thought. I will say only that the progress was glamorous, the difficulties subtle and harder to notice.

One hint: American nationalism was not like other nationalisms.


copithorne said...

Our experience of the world is becoming increasingly global. Our economies and environments are becoming increasingly interdependent. A financial meltdown in America spreads across the globe. Pollution in China causes problems in America. Instability in the Middle East leads to violence in Europe and America. Naturally and inevitably we will see increasing global institutions to implement global solutions to global problems. There is no going back.

Our experience of the world and our nation is also becoming increasingly diverse. Here in America we are a shining beacon of the ability to have a multi-ethnic nation living in harmony. Our diversity is an economic and political strength. Diversity and integration will only increase. There is no going back.

There are many who will find these changes distasteful, objectionable, and frightening. Change will always frighten a lot of people. But fear will not slow the change. It will only make it more painful.

Others will seize the initiative to lead and guide the inevitable change in a way that supports human life and happiness.

karrde said...

It is curious to attempt to unravel the threads in this pattern of thought.

Copi: when you say that financial troubles in America ripple across the world, are you referring to 1929, or 2009?

It is easy to see several orders of magnitude difference in the speed of electronic communication, and assume that it makes things fundamentally different. But that doesn't mean that things are different. They had international electronic communication then, too. The market-watchers in London, New York, Amsterdam, and other financial centers all followed each others' news.

On another line of thought:

I celebrate the increasing peaceful commerce in the world after 1945. Among other things, it means that Germany, France, England, United States, and Japan will likely never go to war again. Not while their businessmen do so much business across the oceans and borders between the countries.

Hopefully, the same is also true of Russia. (They seem happy to cause trouble in Europe now, but are more likely to use state-owned companies which deliver natural gas into Eastern Europe, rather than the Russian Army.)

However, my skeptic's mind asks whether continuation of this trend is inevitable, and whether the trend is irreversible.

Mighty forces were at work. But I doubt that the free will of the leaders (and of the nations) involved were entirely subverted by those forces.

I also wonder whether increased economic/business/government connections was the only force at work.

copithorne said...

Karrde, either one. This is an ongoing process

The crisis of 1929 in time led to Bretton Woods.

World wars led to the League of Nations and the United Nations.

As the intimacy or velocity of our interdependence increases (and as we reach global resource limits), then the institutions that can organize global action will be become more cohesive and powerful. There's no maybe about it.

Gringo said...

As the intimacy or velocity of our interdependence increases (and as we reach global resource limits), then the institutions that can organize global action will be become more cohesive and powerful. There's no maybe about it.

Do you consider it a good thing that the UN Human Rights Council, as currently constituted, as a whitewash for tyrannies and a scapegoater of Israel, becomes more powerful?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

So copithorne, you agree with my premise that this value is one common to liberals, and that they believe this is the way history should go and is going? You seem to be saying exactly that, but I wanted to check.

copithorne said...

AVI, globalization and integration are both processes that are inexorable.

There are opportunities and challenges, things that are gained and things that are lost. But better to manage the change rather than to wish it would stop.

I do see myself as stating in my own words what you are attributing to others, yes.

Gringo, I don't really know enough about the work of the UN Human Rights Council to have a view on it. There will be fits and starts and things that will go wrong as this process unfolds.

karrde said...

copi, I will note that your assertions remind me strongly of the 5th postulate of Euclid.

If I may give a short lesson: Euclid built a system of geometry. The foundation of Euclid's geometry was a list of 10 Postulates. They could not be proven from inside the system, but all of them were necessary for the system.

Millennia later, geometers began tugging at the edges of Euclid's system, partly to see if it could be made simpler. One of the avenues of inquiry was the 5th Postulate.

A lot of interesting results arose from this study.

The conclusion that the geometers arrived at was that the 5th Postulate was necessary for Euclidean geometry. If they changed the 5th Postulate, they still had a geometry that worked, but it was a different geometry.

Now, I'll return to the assertion
globalization and integration are both processes that are inexorable.

This assertion (and its opposite, that said forces are not inexorable) produce problems when I attempt to use it.

If I accept the statement, I produce a model of world affairs which reaches certain conclusions. Inside the model, this logic make certain predictions.

If I put a different assertion in its place, I produce a different model of international affairs. It has a different internal logic. Within the model, a different set of predictions arise.

The hard part comes when we test these predictions against the real world. Claiming that such a progress is inexorable is equivalent to claiming that somewhere, somehow, the system will arise. Any counter-example can be demolished by claiming we haven't waited long enough.

The same is true if I try to prove the opposite. You might raise some evidence against the assertion that progress towards globalization is not inexorable. I can easily reply with you haven't waited long'll fail eventually.

To sum up: the statement (and its opposite) are logically unprovable. It contains wiggle-room that allow it to ignore any criticism.

Further, it is accepted before the logic begins. It is essentially a statement of faith.

I will hold off my further critiques for the moment.

karrde said...

Now I realize that my memory was fuzzy, and I'd forgotten something really important.

Euclid's geometry depended on 5 Postulates, not 10...but he had 5 Axioms of geometry alongside his 5 Postulates.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I don't want to get distracted from developing my rather lengthy set of points, and I had not thought of going in karrde's direction. Nonetheless, the point is well taken for discussions in general. When someone claims that such-and-such is inevitable, the old=fashioned response would be "Sez who?" Copithorne's predictions about globalization and integration may indeed turn out to be true. They might be more likely to turn out to be true than some other projections we might make. But neither seems inevitable.

I am glad to know that I got the part right that this value of an ever-expanding circle of who should be considered "us" is indeed dear to at least one progressive.

copithorne said...

AVI, I'm cautious about the way you translated what I said.

Each of us carries a heirarchy of identifications. We put them on and take them off according to various roles we play.

The main 'us' in my life is my family.

A second 'us' is my church.

Maybe there is my job, my universities, my neighborhood.

Both of us seem to put more energy into identifying with a political party than we put energy into identifying with a nation.

I have no argument that we should move from more intimate identifications to increasingly general ones. I'm only saying that our problems are going to be increasingly experienced as global requiring global cooperation to create global solutions.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That's a fair clarification, copithorne. I'm not trying to back you into any untenable position of claiming that you have committed to regarding Pakistanis with equal regard to your own kith and kin. Liberals tend to want to expand the circle of brotherhood more than conservatives, but that's a percentage difference, not an either-or.

Thank you also for the added thought that you believe we will have to expand that circle whether we want to or not. I hadn't stressed that angle of progressive belief, but perhaps I should give it more weight.

karrde said...

I would hope to not be derailing an argument.

I also feel that I am repeating something that you've hinted at but not stated directly: most of the heat and noise in the debate between Progressives and Conservatives is due to conflicting assumptions (Postulates, if you will). Often, the debaters will set up a straw-man next to their target and attack the straw-man.

In the meantime, I urge you to carry on. I would like to see where the "Sauron is but an emissary" thought is going.

OBloodyHell said...

> or visit other people’s homes and churches without going to hell.

Well, this part has yet to be demonstrated... (8o9

OBloodyHell said...

> Liberals deplore the dividing of the world into Us vs. Them.

Well, unless you're an EEeeeeeevilll conservative Chimpy McHaliburtonbushitler supporter...

Got to disagree with you completely on this, AVI.

It's their stock in trade.

You are either WITH them or you are evil and AGAINST them.

This is even a cause of notable internal schisms in their little Cult of Darkness --
Obama vs. Hillary.
Green vs. any other basis for living.
AGW Accolyte or Global Warmocaust Denier.
And now, of course,
Anti-Slavery or Pro-Slavery.

When there is no middle ground, there is no other place to be but on one side of a dividing line or the other.

And since they get to pick where the line is, well, if you're not in complete agreement with them, you're on the wrong side of that line.

OBloodyHell said...

And along those lines comes this from MRC, regarding the Ricci decision (emphasis mine):

In the midst of pretty balanced ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscast
stories on the Ricci reverse discrimination case involving New Haven firefighters, one quibble: CBS's Wyatt Andrews framed the ruling as issued by the Supreme Court's "conservative" justices and opposed not by liberals
but by "civil rights leaders,"
as if the majority of justices who ruled against the racial discrimination were not advancing civil rights.

I mean, it's like copi, they cannot avoid the supreme arrogance in thinking, no matter what, that they have the Moral High Ground, that everyone else is somehow "less than them".

And of course, The One is the Best of All:

Obama is Better Than You.

Of course they divide everything into US and THEM. If there is no Them, how can they arrogantly claim to be morally superior?

And, by being "superior", they get to do and say all sorts of things that you would never get to do or say to them. After all, you're an inferior:

"Professional liberals are too arrogant to compromise. In my experience, they were also very unpleasant people on a personal level. Behind their slogans about saving the world and sharing the wealth with the common man lurked a nasty hunger for power. They'd double-cross their own mothers to get it or keep it."
- Harry S Truman, pp. 55, American Heritage 7/8 1992, from a 1970 interview --


Just think of left wing logic like this:
5 x 8 = 73.
Then get really mad about it!
Once you can do that, you will be able to understand them.
-- Don_cos

OBloodyHell said...

> Naturally and inevitably we will see increasing global institutions to implement global solutions to global problems. There is no going back.

Correct, but the debate is not if there will be global institutions -- there already are extensive ones -- but who will control them? And how?

As usual, copi, you frame the question as though you were the only one with a clue, instead of the one with the least clue of all.

> Others will seize the initiative to lead and guide the inevitable change in a way that supports human life and happiness.

Yasss, by government fiat and bureaucratic edict, I'm sure.

After all, that system has done such a bang up job so far, hasn't it?

OBloodyHell said...

> If I accept the statement, I produce a model of world affairs which reaches certain conclusions.

I agree that it is inevitable, but not in the same manner that copi does. And the difference is, my conceptualization, it's already happened. Now we're just debating the feedback systems that will refine our control over them.

Copi wants a chief engineer.

I want a neural network.

My system is proven, though occasionally less reliable than the ideal, his is only proven in one way, but boy is it reliable that way.

OBloodyHell said...

> Both of us seem to put more energy into identifying with a political party

I can't speak for AVI, but I've certainly noticed that you not only engage in this behavior, copi, but you also attempt to tell others what they identify with.

In the recent past you've presumed I pay any attention to Rush Limbaugh (when in fact I pay virtually none) and classed me as a conservative (when in fact I'm far more small-l libertarian).

That, of course, makes it easier for you to pigeonhole me, and claim the MHG, because, clearly, "My reasoning isn't valid, I'm just a Dittohead"

When I ever actually see you respond to a rhetorical argument with valid rhetorical processes, it'll be the first time.

OBloodyHell said...

> Liberals tend to want to expand the circle of brotherhood more than conservatives, but that's a percentage difference, not an either-or.

This isn't completely valid, AVI.

Liberals want to bring people into their circle without having anyone show an interest in actually being a part of their circle.

Part of "being in a circle" is that you give up a part of yourself to the circle, and you show allegiance to that circle. You're defensive about external threats to that circle, be they natural or man-made.

I don't believe liberals want more people in their circle than conservatives. They're just totally uncautious about it, thinking that their circle is so great and wonderful that, once someone is inside it, they'll clearly be Changed, and never again be anything but Good Circle Members.

Conservatives are not so arrogantly presumptious about how great their circle is. They know it's the best one, but you have to be open to its ideas and see how it actually works in practice in order to truly appreciate that it does.

And you know I'm correct with that.