Monday, November 10, 2008

Repudiation of Polemics

Stephen Alrich Marshall
Fri, 07 Nov 2008

Entitlement, to the prerogatives of power, and the spoils thereof, was (and may still be) the flaw of the Republican mind. Feeling the right to dictate moral coda and to concentrate wealth in fewer hands, there was and must be a righteous "us", and a flawed, perhaps evil, "them". Having already split the world into friends and enemies, they could speak softly to their friends the truth, and they could lie and distort facts and ideas to anyone else, as needed, to acquire the power to which they were, after all, "entitled". And which they needed to effect their agenda. Like Eco-terrorists who get into a construction site and destroy the equipment, only to find the owners fetching the police on them, they so successfully implemented their vision to destroy government that now the owners of that government have evicted them from power, they have in fact repudiated that vision.

Who tells us we do not need government? How, without laws, and without placing the police power in the hands of some accountable agency, do we guarantee that greed, sadism and deceit shall not operate in human affairs? How, without an institution that is accountable to and guided by the people, can we fairly, democratically, set the minimum standards of good citizenship, and enforce them? How, without an incarnation of the community, its institutional memory, and its sole possession of the police power, are we to negotiate the terms of life in society, except by violence and fear? There are yet places in the world without government, and these are dangerous places that armies avoid.

The Democrats, the Independents, and the apatheticists failed also, having no vision and no story to counter the narcissism of the Right. Democrats and Activists also failed when they lashed out at Republicans, in spiteful words. Hate radio has been baiting us for years and we needed to vent, but hate only feeds hate, so let us hope we cool off and apologize. Democrats, feeling repudiated by Ronald Reagan's call for personal responsibility, and cowed by the ridicule heaped on the epithet "liberal", have failed to reclaim the vision of an effective government, as a necessary fulfillment of the vision to "... form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity...", not in denial of personal responsibility, but as a complement to it. The Democrats, like the Republicans, failed to see the validity and necessity of the vision of their ideological opponents.

The deeper philosophical error was and is to believe that one political and economic philosophy can guide a nation and its policies. The Republican dogma of personal responsibility, keeping the government out of personal business, and minimized cost of operation, is valid only if seen in contrast with and balanced against a progressive philosophy that reminds us that we cannot live alone, without sharing our streets, homes, businesses, banks and fates, that we have common interests, that the well being of individuals is an inherent interest of the community, and that the government is where communities make their decisions. Likewise, the Progressive dogma that government can be a force for good is only valid when countered by the conservative abhorrence of dependence. The core truth, forgotten by polemicists, is that all views are needed to find the pragmatic middle, and that no one view is sufficient for a complete vision.

We need a new vision of contest in American Politics, in which the opponent is a representative of a different way of seeing the world and our common business, whom we can question and probe for deeper understanding, and which we ourselves need, to get the policy and the philosophy right.

No comments: