Added: June 8, 2005 Apparently, all the research and thought has been done before: "All conservatives are such from personal defects. They have been effeminated by position or nature, born halt and blind, through luxury of their parents, and can only, like invalids, act on the defensive." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
An update: Last I looked (April 14, 2006), a Google search on lizard brain republican gave over 176,000 hits. Shall we we say "hmmmmm"? Now (October 18, 2007), there are only 23,000 hits. Shall we we say "hmmmmm"? While a lizard brain democrat - Google Search gives 25,900 hits.
Even more interesting perhaps is that on this same date, AlltheWeb.com: Web results for "lizard brain republican" gives 145,000 hits. More hmmms? AlltheWeb.com: Web results for "lizard brain democrat" gives 70,300 hits, about half of the previous search.
These very divergent disparities in the results from these two search engines raise some more than just interesting questions concerning what, or rather which information is summoned up by various search engines. These Internet tools are very clearly not equivalent in any way.
If you want to experience the true unbridled sociopathology, try www.redstate.com. I wonder, naturally, how much Bushco has stolen, and from where, to finance this. Interesingly, and significantly, there is no www.bluestate.org. Would you like to guess why that is?
It is said that the first step to wisdom is learning to call things by their proper names. It certainly helps to know what those names mean.
The title expresses the usually posited polar dichotomy, but in truth the better expression in terms of ideologies would be conservatives v. progressives. I keep pretty much to the word "liberal", but throughout, also consider how progressive might be better substituted as it is a more specific word.
In old senses of the these words, their meanings are difficult enough to discern, and in the new ways in which they're used, damn near impossible. Before embarking on a search for meanings of particular words, it is often helpful to consult all the dictionary meanings of those words since they are related in one way or another, and do tend to supply connotative cross meanings in different usages. I did that after the fact, but you will find some interesting relationships between what follows and the cross meanings in dictionary definitions.
Two on line dictionaries that can be consulted:
The Exploding (Hyper) Dictionary | Yourdictionary Dictionary
Today, however, the semantics of these words have lost denotative meanings and acquired almost purely connotative meanings, and this is no accident because it has become understood that all good things are conservative, while all bad things are liberal, and therein lieth a sequence of problems to be understood - alas, only by liberals, and specifically not by conservatives.
The problem with this loss of any meaningful denotation, and the retention of only connotative meaning, which is an unargued emotional valuation, is that it allows no room for arguing, much less understanding of, anything. The particular distinction between liberal and conservative is merely one out of thousands of distinctions that have been subverted into emotionally charged meaninglessness.
What, for instance, is the difference between a liberal and a neoliberal? What, for instance, is the difference between a conservative and a neoconservative? From what I can gather, neoliberal and neoconservative are simply disinformational words meaning conservative, meaning Crony Capitalist, which has absolutely nothing to do with Capitalism, and is rather its antithesis.
And conservative has come to mean even more unpleasant things than the dictionary meanings convey, which may explain why those disinformational words have become necessary.
We now have libertarians (who are not liberal, though they used to be) supporting conservatives - who conserve what, exactly? There was a time, not too long ago, when libertarian meant a person with licentious views. That hardly describes what would now be called a conservative, and doesn't describe what are today called liberals, nor those who, now, are called libertarian.
Perhaps the combatants in the title are not really conservatives and liberals, but conservatives and progressives. The word "progressive" for some reason has not yet been perverted to mean its opposite, so perhaps, for discussion, that word should be used.
What is a progressive? This seems to be a person who realizes the obvious: that things change, that in this process of change it is possible to steer in a direction of some summum bonum, which is labeled "progress", and that such steering should be attempted, with the knowledge that full knowledge for this attempt is not possible.
At one point in the not too distant past these progressives were called liberals and this - miracle of miracles - comports with the dictionary meanings of liberal. We may be on to something here.
What is the conservative view opposite to this? Well, it is just the opposite - beginning with the denial of change, or the refusal to allow it to happen. That is basically a dead end, both in philosophy and in reality, because then conservatism becomes merely a denial of reality; not only that, but an active denial of reality that assumes that all laws of reality will be suspended - just for conservatives.
Maybe that is not too far off the mark of current reality.
Regardless, there is still that nagging question of what is being conserved. I have asked a number of self described conservatives what it is that they intend should be conserved. When they are as honest as could be expected, the answer was uniformly "the status quo". That, of course, connects directly with the preceding understanding, and always gave me pause, until I asked what the "status quo" was.
The status quo is not the status quo, and it never has been because reality is not a closed system, or even a definable system, so the idea that one may act for any purpose or to any end with the the hubris that one's acts determine the outcome is silly enough, but also to assume that one's actions have only the desired results, breaches the boundary of sanity and bespeaks a total ignorance of reality, all reason, the world and its history.
It was at this point that I began to understand the true nature of modern conservative beings, and that there is something deeply disturbed and disturbing about them.
After going through this tedious exercise, probably for longer than was necessary, three main characteristics of self described conservatives began to emerge that were not necessarily mutually exclusive:
1) Almost everyone of them was fundamentally meanspirited; deathly afraid that someone, some place was taking advantage of them, or that they were going to lose some sort of material wealth. What else, after all, is there to lose that can be lost through another's intervention and so therefore requires conserving?
The idea that someone did not share their dogmatic beliefs du jour was emotionally unacceptable and somehow became associated with material possession; they were intellectually incapable of presenting any reasonable support or knowledge for their beliefs. The word "intolerance" comes to mind.
Oddly, they might have been members of some minority group, but that experience seems not to have been recognized, and the lessons of compassion that one might suppose to have been learned never, apparently, seem to be worthy of consideration. The expression "compassionate conservative" showed itself simply to be an oxymoron, a smokescreeen antithetical to the conservative's basic nature, by which they attempt to make their intrinsically repulsive selves somehow lovable by telling an intolerable lie. That should come as no particular surprise.
2) About one third were almost pathological liars, even to themselves, and thought nothing of contradicting themselves on a regular basis, with no understanding whatsoever that that is what they had done. They would use words to bolster an opinion, as if that is all there was to do. Knowledge and concept that stand behind the words for the purpose of conveying meaning were to them extraneous, if not totally unrecognized. The simplest syllogism most often went unrecognized.
3) About one third were incapable of thinking their way out of a paper bag, and had no idea what they really did or did not believe. Belief was a matter of ephemeral expediency. It did not matter a ferret's fanny that any expressed belief contradicted all the other expressed beliefs; the concept of contradiction is hardly known among them. Bringing up their self contradictions merely brings out their inner reptile, with its associated intrinsic aggressiveness.
I'm not making this up.
Some were "educated", some were not; the abilities to observe and think about either self or other than self, in either case, was severely compromised. Some were, usually in some highly specific technical sense, intelligent; most were not the brightest lights on the Christmas tree. Most actually spoke well, but showed cracks instantly when the meanings of words, and well defined thoughts became at issue.
That covers the overall results on conservatives. But what of liberals? This turned out to be more complicated, simply it seems, because liberals are a more diverse lot - which already told me something.
While conservatives, whose apparent psychological nature really is of the type outlined above, holding change in contempt, naturally integrate themselves into the conservative beliefs of other conservatives by adopting their words and espousals. Liberals, who tend to be individualists, do exactly the opposite. To find more diversity in liberals than in conservatives is almost axiomatic.
How did liberals compare with three conservative characteristics above?
1) Uniformly, liberals were kinder of spirit. Some had suffered greatly, some not. In any case, they were not off put by a difference of opinion or view. At the same time, most of them were willing to argue their own viewpoints. Compassion is their middle name - sometimes to a fault. They even have compassion for the defects of conservatives, without wanting to bother with understanding the nature of those defects. They ponder both sides, or multiple sides of an issue, even when the choosing of sides is clear by their own values; they doubt their own values, but often not in any meaningful or constructive way that actually changes their minds, preferring the position of continuous moral, semantic and logical ambiguity to actually making sense.
2) Uniformly, they had greater self knowledge, and greater acceptance of others. They were freer in allowing that they themselves were changeable, without that necessarily being a consciously thought or expressed idea in abstracto.
3) In thinking, more were adept than not, unlike conservatives, and many were as indoctrinated in certain espousals as conservatives, showing that the ideas and thoughts of others has simply been accepted as absolute, in herd like communal thought, just like conservatives.
The intelligence distribution seemed almost to match that of conservatives, although, overall, the liberals were "smarter", and more knowledgeable. They certainly made better use of the knowledge they possessed. The distinction here turned out not to be in matters of education or intelligence, but more a matter of wisdom and breadth of view.
The liberal tends not to be emotionally, intellectually or educationally constipated, while the conservative tends to be all of the above. Consequently, the liberal has a far more accurate idea of the immense complexity of "the world", while the conservative has a narrow, simplistic picture within which bullying is not only permissible, but de rigeur, and to be engaged in without, of course, any deleterious consequences in sight.
What became rather clear is that the designations of liberal and conservative, as people use them to describe themselves, have little to do with ideology or thought, but do have very much to do with fundamental psychological makeup. In a psychological sense, they are indeed opposites.
It was somewhat amusing to see that while liberals can be far more emotionally demonstrative than conservatives, the liberals seemed to know the difference between emotion and reason - but the conservative often did not, almost always using the word "think" when the obvious proper word, in context, should have been "feel". Liberals tended to make that "think/feel" distinction, and extrapolating to other circumstances it seems a minor characteristic of conservatives to criticize liberals for emotions of any sort, while hardly even being aware of their own vicious reptilian natures.
I now have a better understanding of that fairly typical behavior.
Are liberals some sort of secular saints, then? :-) Hardly. Only saints are saints, and even then, rarely, if ever. But, the only fault that is quickly observable is an overly extended sense of compassion that sees no reason why you should not also pay for their particular compassions, instead of being allowed to determine your own; so, there is a certain amount of petulant bullying in the liberal camp as well, but at a lower percentage. That happens to be a particular kind of intolerance that many of them share with conservatives. Among liberals, that bullying can be from those who would only like to be thought of as liberals but who are not in reality. In that case and in that sense, those people should not be counted in the liberal/progrssive camp.
If the human race were genuinely sane, neither the distinction between conservative and liberal, nor the comparison would need to be made. But, it is made, and that very distinction has fallen into such a mess that it also needs to be made sense and sanity of again.
The philosopher Wittgenstein said that to understand philosophical discourse one had to understand what words meant, and that in order to understand what words meant one had to understand how they are used. That idea is an associate of "logical positivism", which I can think of only as an amusing philosophical detritus. However, Wittgenstein's idea, as a method, of trying to find out what someone else means to say by examining how they use words isn't completely without merit. That notion is what caused the ongoing experiment that is at the basis of this brief essay.
The problem is exactly what we experience now in the free uses of the word "liberal" and "conservative": those words have simply lost their ability to convey meaning without long winded qualifications and explanations that transcend the words themselves, rendering them useless and meaningless.
Somebody said that to allow words to be defined ambiguously is to deny language the ability to convey ideas.
If, at the end, it begins to look as if conservatism should better be classed as some sort of mental infirmity or emotional disturbance, rather than a legitimate but ill defined socioeconomic and political viewpoint - well, I, being neither liberal nor conservative, but more akin to some cross between ancient Greek Stoic and Sophist and going wherever the evidence and argument leads, couldn't possibly care less.
And that's the way it is. It will not remain that way, no matter how hard any number of people try to make it remain.
So what does all this mean, and why should it matter? Whether it matters or not is debatable, and what it means may only be, itself, meaningful if the matter can somehow be put into a larger context. For a context, I figure that the approximately 6000 to 8000 years of human history will probably suffice, although I have no intention of covering all that here. However, if one takes a tour of that period in seven league (or more) boots, dropping in on various specific events, there are certain recurring patterns that provide enough for a context, or at least for an outline of a context.
Here are a few of those recurring patterns.
People have been in the business of denying reality on a regular basis for that entire time period. You would think that after all this time and with so much recorded experience under their collective belts, that they would see that every time they do this it almost inevitably ushers in a catastrophe. You would be wrong.
One can start with the Sumerians who twice forgot that they were subject to invasions, as well, to take this into account and defend themselves. The sequence of such thoughtlessnesses can run into a litany reaching up to Britain's PM Chamberlin in the late 1930's pretending that Hitler was somebody else. As the historian Eugen Weber said of this particularity, "wolves will always be wolves, even if you pretend that they are chickens."
To assume that anything will change its basic nature just for you is always to court disaster. Speaking of Hitler, the world was undoubtedly spared even more misery and grief at his hands by his own failures in the reality game. Anybody in his right mind looking at Hitler's situation when he decided to turn on his ally Russia and invade it when he did, would have run, not walked, the other way. Apparently, Hitler forgot Napoleon's lesson. That would simply be old news were it not so relevant. Chess games are most often won not by some brilliant strategy, but by the opponent's mistakes. In a way, we are fortunate that Hitler was such a conservative - and he was.
Which brings out another pattern. If one looks at that 8000 years of history, all those bloody centuries of carnage, grief and destruction, it is instructive to examine just who were the perpetrators and instigators of those endless wars which were not started for any reason of defense, but for reasons of theft, pure and simple. That, of course, being the only reason for which wars have ever been instigated.
Darius, Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin were all notable conservatives. Some of them, in spite of themselves, wound up doing some good things, but those benefits were more a matter of unintended and unpredictable effects of later years. One could argue that in the long run that creation requires destruction, and that new information can only be filtered from noise and that these conservatives are good and necessary exactly because they serve that function of destroyers who make room for the new, which is the opposite of what they intend. There can indeed be too much of a good thing.
The world of men is an irrational place. Even if it were rational its complexity would be beyond anything humanly understandable. The clockwork picture of the Deists all turning on the eternal laws of Newtonian physics is only a dangerous approximation. The world is also a very complicated place, mostly beyond the possibility of our ken, as anyone who has lived through earthquakes and volcanic eruptions is likely to understand.
Conservatives are utterly irrational. But, is it rational to attempt to view the irrational rationally? It's difficult to avoid the idea that that very attempt is irrational, and that to such rational thought belongs a component of the irrational as well as rationalizing, trying to make the irrational appear rational. But then, that is precisely the mode of thought that leaves any number of us living in houses instead of dank caves that might have to be shared with a less than friendly critter of some sort - homes that have heating, and artificial light, indoor plumbing, and oh yes - computers!
The world may be an intrinsically irrational place, but to contribute to and further that irrationality is not necessarily to do any great favor. It is difficult enough to deal with the consequences of rational, creative acts without having to negotiate the dire consequences of irrational and destructive acts too, yet that is indeed the story of human history.
I thought for a while that I could give some quarter to conservatives, that living irrationally in an irrational world was somehow defensibly rational. Well - it isn't, and I can't.
Those thousands of years of history are the problem. They show with no doubt or equivocation that change is inevitable, even if we choose not to make it.
They show instances of the salubriousness of accepting and adapting to change, which are few; they also show the overlapping cascades of disaster that are the direct result of the opposite - which happens to be the conservative viewpoint.
A major aid in understanding the successful rise of Hitler and of Nazi Germany is seeing the conservative insistence of the British, and especially the French honchos, on totally crushing, demoralizing, and controlling the future of the German Enemy.
Had Wilson been able to convince those conservative allies to accept his 14 points, and his suggestion that the victors should be more magnanimous in peace than the enemy had been in war, there is good reason to suppose that WWII would never have happened. But, there were more forces at work that Wilson's espoused reason, and these forces wanted the development of Nazi Germany, and the ensuing WII. Certain forces profit greatly from wars.
Wilson's was a liberal and progressive idea that transcended the savagery of conservative beasts, but it was crudely rejected by those same beasts, and millions paid for that all too common occurrence with their lives.
That sums up the conservative legacy as the integrating of perhaps the very worst of all those human traits that are so inhumane, and it illustrates what exactly is wrong with conservatism in any sense of the word.
A response to the piece below sent in response to the essay above: [We love emotionally manipulative humor for its transparency, and also because we are completely immune to the manipulation; it's so wonderfully sick.] Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2004 17:45:37 -0500 (EST) Subject: Re: An Essay LOL It's absolutely wonderful when the inverted fictions of an obviously "conservative" writer actually makes the very same points by exhibiting the signal behaviors. It works like a "lockproof", or checkmate. But, don't even try to explain that to a conservative; there simply are not enough synapses there to sustain the complexity. Speaking of a dearth of synapses, the author here is perfectly correct about the conservative mentality having earlier more primitive and brutish origins, but then he fails to see the actual consequences of what he has said, and continues on to attempt to turn reality about, thus exhibiting another great conservative trait: Where a progressive mind that accepts reality attempts to use language in modeling that reality, the brutish conservative mentality can think of no other use for language than as a poor substitute for his big nasty club. Cf. Neocons. These are exactly the people that Voltaire (not exactly a conservative) had in mind, when he said, "Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts." Almost any source of actual history or reality would snap this author's ironically funny (in spite of itself) pseudoargument to its opposite. The brutish repto "conservatives", contrary to their delusions, are not the producers or creators of anything, unless you start counting bloodied heads and instruments of theft as creations. Conservtism is simply a kind of instinctual and limbic behavioral pattern that outlived its usefulness many millennia ago. "Conservative" is a nicely long rather pretentious word to describe what could equally be called anal retentive, in the real meaning of the expression. What is being so infantilely conserved is just the ill gotten gains that are not the result of their production, but gotten from the theft of the production and creation of those who are capable. They "make deals", rude bargains for the works of others, for which they demand payment. The paralyzing fears of their own incompetence do not exactly induce in them generosity of any sort. Producers can well afford to be generous, and mostly, they are. Conservatives, however, from experience, understand the difficulties, effort and rigors of theft, and being unable to produce are therefore mightly irritated at having to thieve for in order even to appear generous. Their mimckry, like their intelligence, has low limits. Typical of the brutish subspecies, he also gets his history wrong. The conservative mentality, that mesencephalonically centered, reptilian reactive brutishness arises long before 12,000 BP, (i.e. 10,000 BCE), as asserted. The real hunter gatherers go back to about 6 Million BCE with the emergence of the first hominid, "Oorrorin Tugenensis". Their mentality has not changed much since, and they do indeed walk among us; alas, they have also been trained to speak, albeit a bit like parrots, aimlessly and repetitively without being able to hold the pertinent knowledge to make sense, but pretending that they can and do. Evolution then produced a higher order mentality that organized language that rose above intimidating grunts and whining, and then writing, and the arts and sciences that are the substance of what we call civilization. Personally, I believe human language to have emerged around 125,000 BCE, but by many other people it is considered to have been a bit later. My arguments for that are a bit long and involved, so I don't make them here. At any rate, the emergence of language is a signal for the development of a new functional mentality that is cerebrally centered, rather than mesencephalonically (limbically) centered, and from this comes the conceptual and rational thinking that is completely necessary for the creation and development of everything that can be called human and civilized. These are the alleged "girleymen". Unfortunately, the brutish form does still exist, and can still find no other purpose for the technology that springs from science than they can for language, i.e., as substitutes for their clubs. Now, however, they also have new items, those of art and science, to bash in their limbic frenzies. Being confronted with reality and intelligence does drive them into limbic frenzies, since they are unable to cope with either of them. What should be perfectly clear is that this liberal v. conservative dichotomy is indeed a biological and genetic phenomenon. The brutes' civilization is completely given to them by the "girleymen", but they haven't the knowledge or intelligence to figure that out. The girley men so offend the brutes' limbic systems that they would dearly love to murder every last one of them, doing what they have always done, and the only thing they really can do: kill, maim and thieve, in an endless alpha-repto game of "King Of The Hill", a game of destruction that they have been playing ever since they managed to take control by inflicting on all, the institutionalized murder and theft called government. Their minds are illusions, artifacts served up for the consumption of humans, when in fact they are merely a useful camoflage of words the create the illusion that they actually think. Repto ruling conservatives by their very primitive, brutish and limbic natures have managed to keep a fair stranglehold on all people, both humans and other reptos for most of recorded history, hence the unbroken history of wars, genocides, stupidity and cascades of seas of human misery. We pretend these things are human, when, biologically, they are something quite different. They are a distinct and virulent subspecies whose sole purpose is destruction and annihilation. Historically, and quite plainly, they are distinct and separate from those who create and produce. Again, "Wolves are wolves, even if we pretend they are chickens." -- Eugen Weber (historian) Now, you have a genuine, logical and knowledgeable Comment/History on conservatism, that explains in yet another way why it is a psychosis from a human point of view, and perfectly normal from a conservative's point of view. That they would attempt to enforce with verbal clubs the virtue of their less than useless existence is to be expected since that is exactly in character, and in their natures. -- Bill
---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2004 09:55:40 -1000 From: Loy Subject: Fw: POLITICAL COMMENT/HISTORY OF THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT HISTORY LESSON The division of the human family into two distinct political groups began some 12,000 years ago. Humans existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunter/gatherers. They lived on deer from the mountains in the summer and went to the beach in winter to live off of fish and lobster. The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups: Liberals and Conservatives. Once beer was discovered it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor the aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early human ancestors were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That is how villages were formed. Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to BBQ at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is know as the "conservative movement". Other men, who were weaker and less skilled at hunting, learned to live off of the conservatives by showing up for the nightly BBQ and doing the sewing, fetching and hair-dressing. This was the beginning of the "liberal movement". Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as 'girleymen'. Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, trade unions, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided. Over the years, conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass. Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime slice added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish, but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting revolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels then their men. Most social workers, personal injury lawyers, journalists, actors, and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule, because it wasn't "fair" to make the pitcher bat. Conservatives drink domestic beer and eat red meat, and potatoes. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, soldiers, athletes and generally anyone who works productively outside the government. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living. Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to "govern" the producers and decide what to do with the stuff conservatives produce. Liberals believe that Europeans are more enlightened then Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. Liberals crept in after the Wild West was tamed, and created a business of trying to get MORE for nothing. This is the end of today's lesson in history.
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2004 04:33:11 -0500 (EST) From: Flash To: Nic O Subject: Re: liberal vs. conservative Hello Nic, Thank you for the e-mail. Your question provoked some thoughts; let's hope my answer does also. On Sun, 19 Dec 2004, Nic O wrote: > > Just came across your little expository piece on the > definitions of these two commonly used labels. > > With all due respect, I think you havn't done too much > thinking on the topic. > Undoubtedly no amount of thought is ever sufficient or sufficiently expressed. It would have been more useful, and given me some direction if you had said, something along the lines of "But, you seem to have missed _________". > Tell me, do "liberals" (or progressives, as you call > them) tend towards relativism or absolutism in terms > of moral values? Honestly, I'm curious. > As is, I don't think I have answer for that, even guessing. It depends on what is meant by "morals", and whose morals; and how whomever is to recognized as a liberal or conservative. Who's doing the labeling? Would you be horrified if I were pick up a piece of food with my left hand? Some people would. Is that a moral issue? Some might think so. To others it might simply be disgusting, and others yet, would never notice. How about killing? Some people are so sensitive about killing any living thing that they will brush ants from their path lest they step on one and kill it. For others, the taking of a human life becomes a moral duty, and torture is an acceptable delight. The problem is that selfproclaimed moral absolutists are anything but. For any Jew or any Christian, just as one example, the proscription "Thou shalt not kill", is very clear and rather absolute. Then, there is the reality, where everybody all of a sudden becomes a lawyer for the defense, and needs to interpret the obvious. We have the same problem with our Bill of Rights with the oft repeated phrase, "Congress shall make no law restricting ...". To some weasels, "no" doesn't really mean no, and they can prove it. :-) They can also prove that black means white and white means black. Absolutes in the sense of laws are mostly a mistake, precisely because of that. They [laws] are made and waiting to be subverted, and it doesn't matter how careful and complex you make them. The great lie is that they are there to create justice. That's puppy poop. They are there to be used by rulers against the ruled for ultimate purposes of control and theft. History doesn't give many counterexamples to that. Here's one counterexample: The Egyptians of the Old Kingdom had no body of law. They had ma'at, the principle of justice, and it worked rather well for millennia. No law, but they knew right from wrong, and that it was wrong to take your neighbor's goat, and also that it was rather unkind. Simple & "moral", by standards we understand today, but which with the benefit of the abstract law we can weasel our way out of regularly - or get unwittingly ensared in. The Romans created the same ridiculosities with their laws. The C & L words have little denotative meaning left, but do carry their connotative and subjective meanings. Some people call themselves liberal, but if you tease their real beliefs out of them, often shown to have been unknown to them, it would be difficult to see how they are liberals. They simply like the idea of being liberal because somehow they have been taught this is good thing. Similarly with a conservative label. Many (most) people are compartmentalized, with different set of rules for different areas of their lives. Mutual contradictions are not even noticed. Liberal here, conservative there, but even in that, depending on the selected meanings of the words that could not even be a contradiction. If you can make informal or formal statistics about properties of L's and C's, if you can tie down good definitions, but then those statistics are just that, and cannot be used to imply anything about any arbitrary person with a given label. If you take for purposes of discussion my bottom line of conservative which denies and defies change, then, statistically, an L is more likely to a relativism of the kind, "what may be fine for you is not fine for me, and vice versa." But, if you walk up to some arbitrary L or C and ask all the probing questions, don't expect the expected and don't expect consistency. Any given one might revel in social change (to a point, or not), but expect economic stasis - or the opposite, and be oblivious to any fundamental contradiction in that. Were Old Kingdom Egyptians L or C? Mostly you would have to call them C, for a very good reason. They had no sense of change or progress. What small changes there were, took centuries at least. Their abiding sense was one of stasis beyond the annual cycle. They were rather xenophobic, and in some senses what we might call socially and a bit artistically conservative, but somehow, not so much so that brilliant inventiveness was suppressed. The prime example of that is the life and work of world's first great architect, Imhotep, as he is often called, architect of Djoser's necropolis, a mathematician & physician, probably the world's first certified genius. It's undoubtedly more useful to speak abstractly of "conservatism" or "progressiveness" as complicated properties than it is to try to label a *person* simplistically, either or. Extreme examples do exist, of course. I take as a working hypothesis that conservatism is a product of mesencephalonic dominance, while progressiveness is a product of cortical dominance of behvior, while acknowledging that something so simple cannot be exactly and absolutely true. It's an idea that generally seems to fit about 8,000 years of human history, complete with a small mess of interesting confusions, like Alexander the Great. I'm not about to write the full book any time soon, but there really is considerably more thought and study behind that essay than the essay itself shows. I wasn't trying to be academically tedious, merely suggestive and thought provoking - so, you have returned the favor. > reply at your leisure, > But I'm anxious to hear your response to this. > I hope you weren't really anxious, and only eager. :-) Sorry if I was a little prolix. The time just happened to be available, and the mind ranged over several fields in directions I may not have taken before explicitly. > -me > Be well Nic O*, -- Bill
On Fri, 9 Sep 2011, Greg Z wrote: > bill, > i'm glad after everything u said about L's and C's that u decided that Egypt, > a great culture that spanned thousands of years, had a huge library like our > library of congress and generally was an extremely wealthy nation was C. > In the early days they were not so xenophobic as to refuse commerce with Sumer, whose ultra C. behavior destroyed its economy - twice. Egypt is also the forgotten source of Humanism, though most Classicists are of the opinion that humanism appeared in Greece spontaneously with Protagoras (490 BCE) "Man is the measure of all things". The Greeks long had commerce with Egypt by then, and humanism runs back at least to Amenhotep I, who begins an Egyptian Golden Age of four pharoahs - a long one by most reckoning. Their lives (about 50 years) are even shorter than Republics. The longest lived I know of is the Roman Republic, lasting about 500 years. In its later days, beginning with Persian empire Egypt was coveted by empire after empire, and had the status of a colony. The empires, as all empires could not support themselves. Read the part of the history of the Roman empire during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. Hadrian was the smart one. Trajan, like our modern day "neoconservatives= neoliberals" did not understand the Principle of Unintended Consequences. The C. Imperial Romans were rather dim; nothing of any greatness came from them. Greeks were hired for anything significant, certainly any engineering, and the Greeks learned most of their mathematics from the Sumer-Akkad-Babylon line. > it's also interesting to note that China, a xenophobic sovereignty had/has > the longest-lasting country and is also C. > Most of its history is turbulent, and the last and longest imperial dynasty, Manchu, is actually an occupation of the Han people who speak a large variety of Sino-Tibetan languages. Manchu is more akin to Turkik than any Han dialect, as is also Japanese, Korean and several Mongol dialects. The conquerors have now pretty much absorbed the language of conquered, as the Norse invaders of Normandy stayed and absorbed French language and culture. The art of the rather free Ming dynasty is quite different from a far less inventive C. Manchu dynasty - about 1,000 years of Chinese Dark Ages. > in fact, most of the notable republic-empires whether xenophobic or not > were C. > Almost all the approximately 200 members of the UN call themselves "democratic republics"; it must be very fashionable. Of course, it's not really true, and most are dictatorships (C. by nature) and at war with their neighbors in midget empire building. That leaves most of the world in destructive turmoil. Republics don't last, and either do empires. Empires rarely leave anything but physical, economic and emotional rubble in their wake. This is good? > the L's have quite alot of thanking to do for the C.'s in their life over > the centuries. > You're doing a little fancy cherry picking here. I have no thanks to anyone for wars, murders and other hideous crimes on grandscales, destruction everywhere, famine, poisons, starvation, as well as hatreds and miseries that last for centuries. > Greg After all considering of history, linguistics and psychology, my final understanding is that the C-L distinction is not a good or useful one. First, it is ill defined and requires a host of qualifiers to make any sense. Second, it does not actually contribute to any understanding, but instead contributes to unnecessary multiplying of contradictions - like an antirazor of Occam. If you seek to understand biology, making a distinction between flora and fauna (spirogyra not withstanding) will contribute more to understanding than short and tall, or big and small. Be well, -- Bill
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