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In Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer talks about “holding the tension” when in discussions with those we disagree with. This should extend to our reading and listening. So, when you hear or read something that offends you this means listening or reading more closely. Reread it. Play it over and listen again. If it sets you off, there is a reason. It can be the hardest thing to do but if you can hold that tension, there is learning in there.
(Thumbs up button didn’t work so thumbs up!)
Based on this piece and Ben’s recent Twitter thread on rights (which shows why long-form arguments are a poor fit for Twitter), my humble but enthusiastic suggestion is for an ET piece on human rights (and, as Ben alluded to, animal rights) - which includes that thing I’ve been struggling with my entire life (because it’s all about me), an explanation or argument for what a true human right is, what the core, base-level ones are and how one tests or proves for both that definition and those canonical/core rights.
One part of the rights’ argument that resonated with me the first time I heard it is that a right cannot impose an obligation or duty on another. To be sure, restraining violence (i.e., you can’t shoot me to express your freedom) is not a burden on another as he or she can still pursue his or her life’s preferences unimpaired by not killing me (I’m sure a few people who’ve known me would argue otherwise), but saying another person owes me food, or shelter, or healthcare does burden that person’s ability to pursue his or her own rights.
Away from that “test,” my ability to define rights “at the beginning” is muddled, which is why I’d love to see you and Ben tackle the topic. And as we try to live a clear-eyes, full-hearts life (interesting discussion with the girlfriend about that this morning - that ET piece is incredible) amidst the seemingly widening-more-every-day gyre, a core definition of rights appears to be almost a requirement.
Thumbs up button did not work. So here’s a thumbs up to Mark on Ben’s recent Twitter.
Humano-centrism, the Rabbit Hole on steroids! Is our survival as curators sufficient, or is local information efficiency the real morality of the universe? The answer is 42!
(Just kidding) It’s astounding that these ET essays can bring Feynman, Sommerfeld, Ecclesiastes, and TNTC cultural icons all together in one place. Most excellent! Thank you
Duly noted, Mark!
Learning how to do this is among the first prerequisites for truly becoming a citizen, I think.
You could argue that most of the fundamentals of the Western value system evolved to serve the imperial state-bank alliance of modern times.
Think of Enlightenment ideals like freedom of expression and due process of law. During most of the 18th century and before, France had an equal or better claim to global hegemony than Britain. But France was an absolute monarchy during this time. British promotion of individual rights must have formed a good part of its eventual success in overcoming France at the game of global empire, by the early 19th century. (In fact, in France itself, so many people believed passionately in these ideals that a certain General de Lafayette came to America to teach crucial military expertise to the rebelling colonists, thus pursuing both his love of freedom and service to le roi, by hurting the British, at the same time.)
The idea of national sovereignty, that all countries, regardless of size and power, deserve independence in running their own affairs, was hammered home at the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, and it was such a universal and powerful principle that a good part of it survives to this day. Regardless of its intent, its end result was limiting the power of strong countries (and there was none stronger than France at the time,) and protecting weaker countries (such as the Dutch empire, which the best bankers were allying themselves with.)
And it just happened, that universal suffrage was not on offer, even in Britain and the US, until the early 20th century, when an alternative socioeconomic model had risen up in Russia.
The question of race is also quite interesting. Since a good part of British soft power during its stewardship of global empire came from the perception of the superiority of Anglo-Saxons and the belief in the genetic basis of national qualities, it just happened that, what we would call racism today, was allowed to permeate the Western world. After a more diverse America took over, it was also natural for the elites to try to effect a change in these beliefs.
Was it a coincidence that the evolution of Western cerebral institutions followed that of the Western imperial elites and alliances at these turns?
Don’t get me wrong. We’re talking about what are and should be cherished values. But we absolutely need to be clear-eyed as to how things really work. Neither was it totally cynical that the imperial elites promoted these values. It was a matter of making alliances with certain historical forces in order to add soft power to (inadequate) hard power. To the extent that it propels mankind to seek certain ideals, you could also argue that it’s progress. There is a certain connection between might and right here that, you could almost say, has a kind of divinity to it.
Continue the discussion at the Epsilon Theory Forum