Random Thoughts on Politics

This is another collection of short pieces on my random thoughts, this one happens to be political in nature. I understand if you dislike politics and don’t want to read this, I swear that I will be returning to languages soon and then some philosophy stuff. Anyways here are some random thoughts on politics.

Immigration and Refugees

This is a big topic in light of recent events and yet I can only bring myself to barely care. That probably makes me a terrible person, oh well. The reason I barely care is that in my ideal world neither of these things would be issues, but this isn’t my ideal world so they are. I’m for free and open immigration, I’m for letting refugees enter the United States; however, I’m against all forms of the government getting involved in either of these matters. There are ways of privately helping refugees and those are what we should be engaged in. No immigrant should receive government money, not because they’re immigrants but because governments and by extension government money shouldn’t exist.

I know I’ll be criticized, if only silently, by many. One criticism is “what about national borders, national sovereignty, or national culture.” Granted the last one usually doesn’t have the word national tacked on the front but it is certainly implied. Well, I don’t care about national anything because I don’t believe nations should exist, not in some weird one-world government meaning of the phrase but in a localist way that everything should be run locally. Simply put, I don’t think governments, certainly not national governments, should exist and therefore I don’t believe in the nation-state as a justification of anything. Oh and on the culture thing, people seemed worried about “losing their culture.” I’m really not sure what that means. Culture is not a stagnant thing, it is a constantly changing process, a negotiation made each and everyday by each person. Another criticism is that “we don’t want violent people coming into this country.” On some level I agree, I mean no-one should be violent period. That actually leads me to disagree on a much deeper level with this sentiment. First, there are already violent people here, I doubt it will be that much worse if some people come into the country. Second, as I stated above I don’t believe in the whole nation-state thing so there is no “our country,” there is a piece of geographically territory that is ruled by an entity founded on force that for some reason everyone insists on asserting is “one and unified.”

Maybe you can see why I am basically apathetic on this issue. People seem to want everyone to adopt a pro-immigrant/refugee policy stance of an anti-immigrant/refugee policy stance, but either way they want you to have a (governmental) policy stance. That makes it tough for me, because both sides are wrong due to the fact they both of them believe that government must be involved; whereas, I don’t.

Hate Speech and Free Speech

I have declared before that I am a free speech absolutist and I am. In my opinion all speech should be free including what is commonly labelled “hate speech.” This is not a generally accepted or even tolerated position, which to my mind shows the lack of nuance in people’s thinking. Let me explain. To begin with let me state plainly: I despise bigotry and despise bigoted and hateful speech. However, that does not mean I think it should be banned or in any way silenced. This is where people seem to lack nuance; many seem to believe that if something is terrible, evil, or vile that it ought to be banned or silenced. However, this creates more problems than it solves.

When speech is open and free there is more responsibility. Silencing speech removes responsibility for that speech, the speaker of hateful words goes into hiding, makes all their comment anonymously, and never takes responsibility for their speech. Furthermore, silencing removes the possibility of openly combating the ideologies that lead to hateful speech. Moveover, silencing does not kill hatred, it grows it.

Let me be clear: I understand the psycho-emotional damage of hateful and derogatory speech. Hateful speech is despicable; however, that doesn’t mean it should  be silenced. No, it should be made openly and combatted openly and decisively. Moreover, it must be combatted with respect if for no other reason than to be unlike the bigot. As Marcus Aurelius wrote: “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.” Hate speech is disgusting but it is free speech and thus must be allowed. By the same token, it must also be decry and freely combated at every injunction without silencing or disrespect. If allowed to be openly express it is unlikely to last long in the market of ideas, as Louis Brandeis said: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

Note: Hateful action is not speech. Violent must never be allowed. It must always be denounced.

Respect and Listening to Each Other

It seems as though no one can listen to each other any more, if they ever could. In all matters of disagreement people seem to only shout at each other and never engage in meaningful and free discourse. Moreover, not only can people not listen to other viewpoints, they feel compelled to constantly insult and belittle everyone that disagrees with them. There never seems to be respectful discussion instead it is merely insulting each other. All sides engage in this shameful practice and it works because it captures people’s emotions. However, at the end of the day respectful discussion and debate have better results than emotional appeals and insults. Not that this is anything new. Insulting opponents seem to have always been a tacit, but they’ve never been a tacit that should be accepted. Hopefully, we can all try to be better at listening and being respectful even of those we most disagree with (i.e. don’t call people names!).

Taxation and Federal Programs

I recently saw a post on a social media platform that asserted the minimal cost of certain “threatened” federal programs, including schools, museums, and arts funding. The post asserted that the cost to fund these various programs is only around 22 dollars per year for each taxpayer. It also asserts that the posters are happy to give up this money to keep these programs in operation. Interestingly, the post uses the correct terminology for taxation, saying “please take my $xx.xx;” take is the correct verb since taxation is theft. However, that is not the part of the post that made me want to write about it. I want to write about this post because it shows an odd twisting in logic. Imagine if someone said that these programs should be privatized, run not by government but by private means. There would be massive uproar, likely from that same people saying that they are happy to have their money taken to fund these federal programs. They would claim that if these things were privatized no one would give them money. However, they have asserted that they are happy to have their money taken to fund them, so by simple logic they should be happy to fund them privately. If you think that the government should fund something, then you should be able to see that it will be funded privately! If you are happy to have your money taken to fund a federal arts program then you should be equally happy to fund a private arts program. Unless of course, you just say that you’re happy to fund all these things because you think it makes you sound decent, civilized, or cultured, when in actual fact you don’t give a damn about whatever it is you believe the government should be funding.

The Federal Department of Education

Upon the confirmation of the Trumpian Secretary of Education there has been an outpouring of discontent. Justifiable or not, people dislike the new Secretary of Education for various reasons for her policy proposals, her lack of experience, or just the fact that she’s a Trumpian. Nonetheless, I don’t take issue with people that disapprove of her, nor for that matter people that approve of her. Either way, they’re wrong. I don’t care who’s in charge of the department, because the department shouldn’t exist. I’ve now uttered, actually written, the fatal words. How dare I claim that the Federal Department of Education not exist! Think of the children! Apparently, the Federal Department of Education is the only thing keeping children in the Bible Belt for being openly taught creationism in science class, ya know, because parents and teachers are too stupid to make decisions. That’s the point, I’m at most a localist, I believe things should be run locally, in fact, I would say we should run things at an even smaller level, but that’s a different comment for a different time. Schools should be run locally and by and large they already are. The Department of Education has rules and regulations, sure, but if you really have so little faith in the states (especially southern states) to educate without them, do you really believe they aren’t already ignoring as many rules as they can get away with? There are going to be bad schools with or without the Department of Education, and the benefit of not having it is that you wouldn’t have to worry about a Trumpian being in control of it.

Advertisements

Irrelevant Issues trump Policy Positions (pun intended) [NB strong language]

Apparently, new tapes of Donald Trump “bragging about kissing and groping women” have surfaced. Those that are against Trump are using the news to prove Trump’s “war on women,” etc. Trump supporters are retorting with talking about Bill Clinton’s record with women and Hillary Clinton’s involvement there. Both sides are acting as though this really matters, as they always do with this sort of thing. None of these sort of things actually matter, though people seem to believe that they do.

Apparently, people want a political leader that is a nice person with good progressive, modern, cosmopolitan personal views. Apparently, a candidate’s (or their spouses’) record with/ talk about women, is more important than their policy issues. People seem more concerned that Trump is a sexist pig than that his economic policies are ridiculous, or that he believes in Stop-and-Frisk. People seem to think that Hillary Clinton’s possible involvement in covering-up her husband’s indiscretions and possible crimes is more important than her equally terrible economic policies, or her hawkishness on war. Apparently, irrelevant personal issues trump policy positions (pun intended).

Does it affect the way he will govern that Trump is a personal sexist, that he mistreats the women in his life, etc.? Does it affect how Clinton will govern that her husband is unfaithful and possible a sex addict? Does any of this personal bullshit actually matter? Perhaps a moralist will say that all of this does matter. Well, if you’re a moralist you are completely screwed in this election since Trump has a terrible record with women, Hillary Clinton’s husband has a terrible record with women, Johnson is a former marijuana user (which assumingly a moralist will be against), and Stein has been in legal trouble (again assumingly a moralist will be against this). Perhaps, someone that is concerned about women’s rights and freedom will say it all matters as well. Well, unless being a sexist pig personally (or being married to one) automatically translates into having sexist policies, it does not matter. Trump has not said “I’m going to legalise being horrible to women.” No, all he has proven is that he’s a douchebag that women should avoid. His personal failings are not policy failings and it is these latter failings that should matter.

The point is that in elections what ought to matter is not a candidate’s personal issues or failings but their policy ideas. In the end I would rather have a completely unscrupulous, rude, bastard that won’t do anything with their government than have a nice person with a good record with women/men that is also cool that will put their boot on my throat and a gun to my head.  Unless a personal issues directly translates into a policy, I don’t care. Unless one’s personal issues with women, African-Americans, or other people directly translates into enacting policy against these groups, I fail to see why it matters. It matters much more to me that Trump’s economic proposals will be ruinous to the already falling economic prosperity and freedom of this country, than his “kissing and groping” of women. I apologize to all those that have some weird belief that this stuff matters, I completely disagree. Vote on policy not on personality, if you vote at all, which you have no obligation or imperative to do (I should come back to that).

A Little Bit about Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand is a very divisive figure. It seems that people either reflexively love her or reflexively abhor her. Well, call me an Ayn Rand revisionist, but my position on her is a bit more nuanced than either “she was the greatest philosopher-novelist ever” or “she is absolutely horrible, evil, and sucks at philosophy.” I would say that I am neutral on Ayn Rand, I see the good and the bad. However, there are two things I have a strong opinion on when it comes to Rand.

1. Even if you hate her, actually, especially if you hate her, read her works, not all of them, not even Atlas Shrugged if you can’t stomach her. If you really hate her the best service for your hatred is to pick up a copy of, say, The Romantic Manifesto, and read it. Engage with the text. If you love her you should already be doing this. The argument is “I don’t need to sniff poop to know that it stinks,” yeah, whatever, read her if you want to bash her. You might find something, even something small you can agree with her on (though if you abhor her, you probably won’t). This engage with the text argument stands for everyone. Hate Hitler? Read Mein Kampf  so that you can go line by line and disprove it. Hate Marx? Read Das Capital. It will serve you well in fighting their arguments. Read them, then fight them.

2. Ayn Rand was deliberately divisive. Don’t believe me? Well, I hardly think calling Anna Karenina “the most evil book” ever, is meant to be a guarded, neutral, academic statement. If you hate Ayn Rand, she probably be happy because that means she’s gotten to you.

I DO NOT CARE ABOUT GUNS! SHUT UP ABOUT THEM!

Guns are in the news again as the US has had another mass shooting. It, as any gun rights advocate will tell you, happened in a gun free zone (“see if they had guns, they could have protected themselves.”)  It is also, another mass shooting in the United States, which, as any anti-gun advocate will remind you, is dangerously gun happy and full of shootings. Both sides have their arguments. There’s even some arguments in the middle. However, I don’t care about either sides arguments; in fact, I DO NOT CARE ABOUT GUNS! SHUT UP ABOUT THEM!

I get it guns and mass shootings are scary, but there’s the Second Amendment; and there’s the argument that if someone wants gun taken away from citizen they aren’t anti-gun they are pro-gun but only for the government. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I am sick of hearing these arguments. Mostly, because they never change. It’s like commenters and politicians have a note card labeled “guns” that looks like this:

Guns:

Insert trite statement of position on guns here. Insert name of tragedy here. Insert scary sentiments here. Rallying cry/ piss off the other side here. END.

It gets old. The lines are always the same and policies hardly ever change. Politicians and the media use each tragedy to talk about guns because it’s go for ratings and, therefore, good for getting re-elected. Everyone seems to have a passionate position on guns, either for them, or against them. Occasionally,  you’ll find people in the middle (but passionately in the middle). People rarely say anything that is not predictable. Sadly, it is also rare to find anyone not using scare tactics, or emotional arguments (the reason is that this charges people up and pushes ratings, likes, electability, shares, comments, status, retweets, etc.). It is sad that guns seem to turn usually sensible people into waking political slogans that ignore facts and do little to actually affect real change.

Why in the wake of (a gun-involving) tragedy is the first response to pull out the ol’ gun talking points and stall positions and make it clear to everyone that you have an opinion on guns? Why isn’t the immediate response to express one’s empathy and sympathy, and, then to remind people that, despite events like this, violence is in decline (https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence?language=es), that gun homicide has fallen greatly from the 1990s (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/21/gun-homicides-steady-after-decline-in-90s-suicide-rate-edges-up/), and that homicide in general has fallen (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ntmh.pdf)? Don’t these facts seem more comforting and more helpful, than yet another unproductive discussion about gun control?  Oh, that’s right, these facts don’t sell. Scary things sell, even better than true things. That’s why I know that this rant doesn’t matter. It won’t change one iota of anyone’s opinion or conduct. It just makes me feel good to put it out there; hopefully, people that constantly post about the newest politico-media tragedy/ scandal understand this as well.

In closing, I will admit that guns are an issue in the U.S. and I will also admit that all sides of the argument make some valid points. However, I am sick of hearing about guns. There are too many stall, emotionalist arguments that rely on scaring people and not one facts and rationality. In short, I never want to write about guns, ever again, I don’t care. People will murder people in hate with or without guns. There are bombs, knives, chemicals, hammers, hands, lead pipes, fire, poisonous animals, drowning, etc. Maybe, just maybe, we should talk about motive (usual hatred, absence of humanly love) and not about the tool one uses. Heck, hateful people used aeroplanes to kill others in recent history (9/11), so a conversation about method of killing is really pointless. What really matters is something deeper and harder to talk about, it is about hatred and love. Why this is never addressed is clear, politicians can do nothing to end hatred and promote love; therefore, it doesn’t increase their power, and, thus, it doesn’t matter to them. But guns, that you can make policy on, that can be legislated, that can get the politician re-elected (and isn’t that what the U.S. is all about make the dreams of elite politicians come true). There is only one way to address hatred, open and honest rational discourse about culture, about human nature, and about the individual. None of which can be made in any way political and remember that’s all that matters; the politicians. Think of the politicians. They need your help so that they can live in mansions (http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2011/08/23/politicians-million-dollar-mansions-mitt-romney-michael-bloomberg-al-gore-more-photos.html#viewAll).