Friday, January 02, 2004

Making Room for the New Year

As always Stephen den Beste comes up with some thought provoking material. Either he wrote the essay above well before posting it, or he was far less impacted by New Year's Eve celebrations and libations than I was.

Reading that essay, I was reminded of a few thoughts that had been knocking around in my head at various points last year. In the spirit of the season, I now lay them out in the open in the hopes that they'll clear out and make room for some new and hopefully better insights.

War is Not the Answer. Maybe, maybe not. I grew up under the tender mercies of a world entering the full conservatorship of the Baby Boom. As I worked my way through school I received the initial prototypes of what Eric Cartman would characterize as "Tree Hugging Hippie Crap" that had been reworked as profound lessons for youngsters. I got "It takes two to fight," and "You never hit back," and "The planet is going to die unless you recycle your aluminum cans." (OK, a little hyperbole from me on that last one.)

The Great Law passed down by teachers and recess duty aides was that fighting is wrong, period. Looking at a lot of the anti-war demonstrators who are my age and younger, they seem to have written that lesson indelibly in their minds. Unless you are talking about the types who trash Starbucks and toss molotov cocktails at the police. They seem to have accomplished some sort of mental gymnastics that I just can not comprehend.

Anyway, the Peace Loving (TM) types yell as loudly as they can that War Is Not The Answer. War can only bring more violence.

I was at a stoplight at Olympic and Bundy in Los Angeles when the intersection had been taken over by protesters, many of whom were carrying the aforementioned slogan on signs. This was on the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. The thought that occurred to me at that moment was, "Great idea, when do Saddam and Osama get to learn it?"

Sometimes violence is the only way to stop more violence. I know that is a paradox and it can make the heads of those who prefer to think in sound bites and slogans hurt. The only thing I can say to them is, the pain will be less once the brain is used to working for a living.

Dixie Chicks, et al.: First the basics that you have been ignoring all this time: the First Amendment guarantees your right to say what you want without getting arrested for committing a crime by saying what you said.

You have every right to say what you want to say, but I also have the right to say what I want about what you said. You then have the right to respond, and I can respond to your response. The First Amendment creates a wonderfully recursive environment that is ultimately very aware of itself.

So, Natalie, you had the right to go to London and say that you are ashamed to share the name Texan with President Bush. Note how you were not arrested as soon as you came back to the States. I also have the right to say that I think you are a stone cold bitch for saying that. If you are reading this (given my readership of six, all of whom I am on a first name basis with, not likely) then you are free to leave a comment or make some other public announcement. Just please mention the address, I'd love some notoriety.

People are free to act with their choices in other ways as well. They might not buy your records, or play your music on their radio stations, or go to your concerts. But you have the choice not to invite me to any of your parties or give me backstage passes. Not that I was given those before, what's up with that?

To all of the celebrities who are crying about having their dissent crushed: If you were being truly persecuted for your opinions, then your bookings would involve a person to be addressed as Officer or Sergeant, not as Larry, Jay, or Dave.

In another one of my can't remember who said it quotes: The First Amendment really lets you know who the idiots are.

The Greatest Power is Not the Only Power: In the run up to the Iraq invasion, the protesters and activists were doing everything they could, namely shouting at the top of their lungs, to prevent the war from happening. They called on President Bush, they called on Tony Blair, they called on their elected representatives, and they called upon the people of the West. The only person they did not call on to do what he could to stop the impending war was Saddam Hussein.

Hussein had the power to do what the UN demanded. Hussein had the power to step down and save his people the collateral damage of the war. Granted they were not particularly palatable choices, but that does not change the fact that he had the power to have prevented the war.

The attitude that only the US and its allies have the power to make anything in the world happen or not happen is highly condescending to the rest of the world. In a way it is scary to think that things can happen that you or those who answer to you have no say about. It is much more comforting to think that the rest of the world is nothing but an echo chamber that reflects what we do ourselves. Tempting, but wrong. This thought is both disempowering to the developing world, and ultimately racist.

Classist, as well. David Carr writing from London for Samizdata dissects some of the ideas proposed by the leftist elements of the UK government who come out and say that it is the proper place of the government to coerce a healthful lifestyle upon its populace. While this touches on my view that socialized medicine invites this kind of limitations upon the choices of an individual, the quotes also clearly show the attitude of these politicians toward the great unwashed.

The attitude stems from the idea that the corporations that profit from the unhealthy habits of the ordinary citizen are too influential via marketing for said individual to resist. Therefore, if the average citizen is a sheep, then it is the government's place to make sure the sheep are well tended.

How about we let people eat and drink and smoke all they want. In return, you let them pay for cost incurred when the heart attack comes. It has been shown (desperately wishing I remembered where the study was published) that people tend to make better choices with respect to their health when the idea of financial pain is increased. Or maybe it was that people made worse choices when the financial pain was decreased. Either way, it is something of a weird idea. Why would people be more concerned with a loss of money and health rather just the loss of health. You can't take it with you, nor can you enjoy the money without your health anyway.

I think that it is because we are all aware of the pain of being forced to spend money on a necessary item (home repairs, car repairs, payoffs to keep that little indiscretion in Tiajuana a secret), but not many of us have had the pain of true medical danger. Until that first experience, we can wave off the threat with denial. Most of us just don't have an appreciation of the cost inherent in the physical pain and emotional fear.

But back on point, it is a fallacy to assume because one entity has more power than another entity, the second has no power at all. I have no problem in encouraging people to take responsibility for themselves and showing them which of the choices has the best outcome. I just draw the line at forcing them onto a single option.

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