Class Warfare Blog

October 30, 2016

Conservatives and Freedom

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 8:46 am
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Many a conservative has uttered the claim that they are only trying to protect their “freedom,” which is precious to them. This is hard to argue against so liberals, like me, ask them to clarify what their notion of “freedom” is. They respond with something along the lines of “what we had when….”

I have commented before that conservatives have a much too rosy picture of the past while liberals have a much too rosy picture of the future. With regard to the “freedom” most conservatives say they want: freedom to do what they want personally, freedom from governmental interference in their lives (except in the case of abortion, women’s rights, etc., etc.), freedom to do what they want in business, and so on, harkening to the past is a strange approach.

If you go to our deep past, back to when humans lived in tribes or family groups, what kind of individual freedom did we have? In such a small group, there was very little individual freedom. One did what the tribe needed. You had no choice of occupation. You didn’t get to choose who you worked with. You didn’t get to choose who you married, or whether you married. You didn’t get to choose where you lived or what you ate, and so on. You did what the chiefs/leaders told you to or you found yourself alone.

If you jump from then to much closer to now, the conditions were much the same. As an individual, you had the choice to starve and not much else. Most people did what they were told to do by a religious official or a rich person. Ordinary people did not have the resources to strike out on their own unless they were quite self-sufficient and there were very, very few of those people.

So, from where did the idea of “individual freedom” come? It came from modern society. The closer you get to modern society, the more individual freedom there is.

And what is it that most conservatives are rejecting?

You got it in one: modern society.

Conservatives have existed throughout human history. You can’t go back to a previous time for which there are written records without finding complaints from conservatives about the moral decay of society and the same for “today’s youth.” Youths are pretty much the only humans who have the energy to oppose the inertia of our society, so they are an obvious target for progress suppressionists. So, as our society has “decayed” we have become more and more free.

Conservatives apparently want the product of the modernization trend (freedom), but don’t want the modern along with it. Any who say we were “more free” in the past are probably pointing to a privileged group, such as the rich, who had a pocket of greater freedom due to their wealth, or to a group who had privileges hard wired into society, such as racial privileges. The “freedom” of those people was at the expense of large numbers of other people and was a false kind of freedom.

September 20, 2016

A Origins of Monotheism

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:30 am
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I have been writing about sporting equipment lately. Too often athletes using a piece of equipment and liking it offer opinions that are unfounded. They say “My whatzit is the best” and “This is the best whozewhatsit on the market.” These enthusiastic and uniformed opinions are apparently human nature. Various forms are used to create such “endorsements.” Some say that their thingie is as good as the “best thingie available.,” as in “It is as good as a Mercedes but much cheaper.” Others start with how good their piece of gear is and then switch to deriding the comparable items: “Oh, they’re good but way overpriced.” or “Those are overrated.”

That got me thinking about the progression of the Hebrews in the Bible from being a polytheistic bunch to being monotheistic. Even using the chronology of the Bible, much of the Bible wasn’t written down until very late in their history and that which was was kept away from the hoi polloi (many of whom couldn’t read in any case). But you can see the progression in the Bible itself, what with the Hebrews starting to drift away from Yahweh worship the minute Moses takes a walk up a mountain. Even well later Temple leaders struggled to get the people to accept that there was only one god worth their worship, to the point of enforcing it with regulation and Temple soldiers. Even through that period, there were still comments about people building little shrines to other gods up in the hills and it took quite a long time to root them out.

So, what we see, in the scriptures of all three “major” monotheistic religions is a people who were quite comfortable worshiping a multitude of gods. Then there are religious authorities working over time to get them to only worship one god. (This didn’t happen in Greece and Rome. In those traditions the religious leaders simply decided to “go along to get along.”)

So, if you were a religious leader and trying everything you could to convince people to worship just one god, what would you say? You would say things about how good our god was and how many good things were given to us, god’s chosen people. Here scripture has a very mixed record because Yahweh doesn’t treat His chosen people well at all. Any time the Hebrews got their asses kicked by an opponent, the religious leaders claimed that their god, Yahweh, made it happen to punish them for their transgressions against Yahweh. When King David incurs Yahweh’s wrath, He punishes the King by killing several tens of thousands of David’s subjects. (David, being part of the 1% gets special treatment.) If I were one of the “chosen people” so treated I would not look on that as being especially worthy of worship.

“(Your gods) are weak and puny and can’t do squats until they pass out …”

Usually you blame bad stuff on the other guy’s god, but that would introduce the question “How come their god kicked our god’s ass?” and that just wouldn’t do. So, you say wonderful stuff about your god (he loves you, he gave you the entire Earth to do with as you will, he gives you slaves to work and virgins to bed as you like, he is a really cool god), then at the same time, you denigrate the other gods. They are weak and puny and can’t do squats until they pass out … (Sorry, I slipped into Arnold Swartzenegger there.). They are false gods, they are evil, they vote Roman, whatever they could come up with. And there is only a small next step between those “other gods” being “false gods” to being “nonexistent gods” … “There is no god but Allah.”

It is not at all strange that the big push for monotheism came when Jews were allowed back into Palestine from Babylon and allowed to rebuild the temple that was destroyed. They could convince themselves that they had been “punished” because they hadn’t done Yahweh right and that they were now back in His good graces, so they better not eff up again. There was more than a little pressure to toe the party line. (And they did create this story line, pretty much out of whole cloth, that too, can be found in scripture.)

This very human tendency to ratchet up the criticism of “others,” and exaggerate the praise of what is ours can be seen in our current campaigns for political office, in fan behaviors at sporting contests, and in general discourse, even with regard to selecting what sporting equipment to buy.

So, monotheism, in my mind, most probably evolved from polytheism due to overzealous religious officials trying to tout their god and denigrate the gods of others. You can see how it happened by reading scripture.

November 20, 2012

Why the Angst, Conservatives?

In a recent column (Conservatives, Don’t Despair—11-13-12) David Frum noted:

. . . Compare the United States of 2012 with the United States of 1962. Leave aside the obvious points about segregation and discrimination, and look only at the economy.

In 1962, the government regulated the price and route of every airplane, every freight train, every truck and every merchant ship in the United States. The government regulated the price of natural gas. It regulated the interest on every checking account and the commission on every purchase or sale of stock. Owning a gold bar was a serious crime that could be prosecuted under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The top rate of income tax was 91%.

It was illegal to own a telephone. Phones had to be rented from the giant government-regulated monopoly that controlled all telecommunications in the United States. All young men were subject to the military draft and could escape only if they entered a government-approved graduate course of study.

Even if you look only at the experiences of white heterosexual men, the United States of 2012 is a freer country in almost every way than the United States of 1962. . . .

His point was that the U.S. is freer than ever before, so there is no reason to decry any “loss of freedom,” a constant drumbeat of the right-wing media.

And he left out a few things.

Married women couldn’t get credit in their own name, for example. Ordinary people had the devil’s own time trying to buy stocks. And, his exclusions of segregation, racial discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, alternant lifestyle discrimination, etc, were far from trivial.

But, on the plus side there were usury laws that limited interest rates (People are still paying off credit cards that started with 30+% interest rates that never would have happened under the old laws). There were fairness laws limiting what you could say on the public airways, the elimination of which (bad regulation, bad!) resulted in the current sewers of information generally called “news channels.” And remember the Glass-Steagall Act (bad regulation, bad!) that caused all financial meltdowns to be mere hiccoughs instead of global catastrophes? Also, there were no real negative affects of the 91% marginal tax rate (this was the tax on income over $100,000 if I recall right and average income was about $6-7000). Most wealthy individuals then, as now, availed themselves of tax shelters to avoid paying that tax rate. And, I don’t see how owning gold became anything like a plus; sure you can do it, but why would you?

But, why the angst? Really. Why has there been so much angst over a moderate, centrist President? Yes, he is on the left side of center but not very far to the left. Conservatives are reacting so wildly: requiring people to purchase health insurance is a big gift to Obama’s base. Say what? Equal pay for women in the work place (the Lilly Ledbetter Act) is socialist! Not if you ask any woman in the workplace. Obama is trying to take our guns! If this is so, they could at least name one regulation or piece of legislation indicating that this is the case, and they can’t.

So why the angst?

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