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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Liberation Day 3

Yesterday we went to LA to visit Jack.  We also went to City Hall to participate in the "Solidarity with Wisconsin" rally.  About 2000 people there--lots of speeches, some songs, some celebrities.  Like old time religion.  But maybe it's a start to change we can believe in.

But also some name calling--some attribution of evil intentions or souls in the hearts of the bad Republicans on the dole of the corporate elite.  (While I think the dole part can be demonstrated and behaviors can be opposed, evil intentions and souls and hearts cannot or at least should not.  It's none of our public business.)

The name-calling at the rally was minimal, certainly not as much as those saying Obama is a Muslim terrorist or a Nazi and we who do not believe in them are "nuts" or "idiots."  An article in the LA Times today quotes people (the other Michelle and her rival Sarah and of course Rush) as accusing the first lady of being a hypocrite, trying to get government to coerce good eating and exercise habits and endanger citizens by urging them to walk.

"Civility" and "civilization" of course comes from the Latin "civitas."  "Civitas" is often translated as "city" or "state."  It is the Latin translation of the Greek "polis" from which we get "politics"--often translated as "city-state" like classical Athens--and better translated as "public realm."  It is the place where people come out of their private households to discuss with, argue with, persuade fellow citizens with both thoughtful argument and emotional passion on the shape of the polis and on collective action for public welfare.

"Ad hominem arguments" have no place in the polis or civitas.  Disagreement, persuasion, passion backed by logical argument and science do.

When we citizens argue for our point of view by calling others who disagree bad names.  When we label them "evil" to stir up hatred for them, we not only commit a logical fallacy, we undermine the civitas, the public order, the nation.  We open the public space, not to collective speech and action, but to physical force or violence or simply passive silence.

Bernie's cousin Vern,  whom I like personally, disagrees vehemently with my politics.  But we can never carry on a conversation.  He would just pass on to me "bumper sticker" unfactchecked emails and when I would try to counter with an argument call me a "socialist" (which is not a bad name to me, but is for him), "nuts," "duped by idiots."  I tried over and over to have a civil (though admittedly passionate) discussion with him.  But I only received ad hominem arguments--i.e. name calling.  So no more conversation.

Nothing kills a republic like the kind of "politics" that is now being exercised--especially by many of the tea party enthusiasts who have a valid point of view and even some good positions.  Those positions are more in the interests of the haves than the have-nots than I would like, but that's certainly what the res publica is all about as Madison pointed out in the Federalist Papers, his defense of a strong central government.  But the name-calling, the we vs them, good vs evil mentality,  just undermines it all.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog, Mr. Smith. I, too, believe in the necesstiy and basic tenant of coming together with productive dialogue aimed at solving or mitigating the negative effects of society. While I am a capitalist, therfore quite possibly philosophically your opposite, the opposites are the balance beam of civilization. The ying and yang, so to speak. Case in point: every human is born helpless. It is only with careful nuturing that a human arrives at a point of logical, cognitive thought capable of, in turn, raising another. That we all learn the art of self-reliance, competitive productivity and social responsibility is what makes for us the best result. Being an utopianist, "who is John Galt?", you be the mule of socialism and I'll be the mule of capitalism, but both pull in the same direction. J. Morgenthal p.s. go to our blog "www.kcd-corp.org" J

Rollie in Fresno said...

I like this comment. I do think capitalism vs socialism can be a false choice. Thinking capitalists know well the social context and contribution to their success. Thinking socialists know well that the market needs to be fully free and accessible to everybody.You being the mule for capitalism and me for socialism works well for me--as long as we are not so mulish and can listen to and pull together as you suggest.