I was thinking yesterday about one of my purposes in founding – the need for us to think our way past “mere partisanship.” Then this morning I noted the 5e post by Brian from daedalnexus and the response from nsingman on the state of our health care system, and it seemed a perfect example of the kind of challenge I was thinking about (the post, response, and my comments here).
So here you have a couple pretty smart people, both writing in good faith, staring at each other across a broad philosophical divide. I have a sense that if we can start finding ways of analyzing our way past the issue-to-issue manifestations of our respective underlying articles of faith, we can begin to climb out of the hole we’ve seemingly dug for ourselves, and at the very least we’ll be better equipped to recognize the cynical divide-und-conquer tactics that our power elites like to employ on us. However, this means we have to be as honest as possible with ourselves when it comes to acknowledging and understanding exactly what, among all the things we believe, is a demonstrable fact, what is informed opinion, and what is unproven and unproveable faith. There’s no crime in this last part – we all proceed from a set of basic givens that cannot be “proven,” but they can be discussed intelligently and evaluated.
The example I always use is high school geometry class. By the end of the year, you can use a series of proofs you’ve worked through earlier to prove ever more complicated realities about the Euclidian world, but if you remember, it all started on day one when you were given some postulates (I remember getting three, but maybe it was five – more details here). These postulates, like some core canons of religious faith and the basic precepts of all political systems, are never proven. So the whole of geometry works perfectly, so long as you’re willing to live with the givens, which by definition can’t be demonstrated.
Out of all this, I essentially encouraged Brian and Noah to see if they could examine their precepts and find some possibility of “thinking their way toward one another.” Most interesting to me was Noah’s assertion, consistent with the principles of Libertarian philosophy, that no one has a right to health care, which led me to poke at the idea of what are rights, where do they come from, and how do we know. Brian and Noah are awfully smart guys, and I won’t be surprised to see some others here jumping that debate, as well, so I’ll be interested to see where it takes us.
Of course, they aren’t my monkeys, and it’s only fair, if I’m asking them and others here to start looking for and building bridges, that I make the same attempt. So I’ve asked myself if there’s a way I might build a bridge in the direction of those who lie in the opposite corner of the Political Compass from me. Tough one, because by definition we’re talking about a philosophy that I have very little in common with. But it does occur to me that if you go back to the time between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, there were some very frank discussions out there about what might be the best role for the US in the Middle East. Some raised the possibility that it was time for us to enforce a Pax Americana on the region, as well as on other regions where (select the term you like best from among the following: anti-democratic, less enlightened, unenlightened, fundamentalist, terrorist, different, Islamic, etc. – there’s bound to be a term here to offend most folks, and if there isn’t one that bothers you, feel free to make one up) forces dominate society. Some of these arguments came from surprisingly “liberal” quarters, and if you have a look at what I said at the time, you’ll note that I was willing to entertain the idea. I wasn’t sold by a long shot, but I acknowledged that there was perhaps an intelligent argument to be made.
Obviously, the Bush Administration had its mind made up on the Pax Americana strategy by this time – depending on who you believe, Dubya may have been locked into the idea before 9/11, even before he was elected. Now, Iraq has been a bungling disaster just like a lot of folks said it would be, and for precisely the reasons that were predicted. It is also true that many people are starting to see something like progress in Iraq, and from that they’re concluding that the US perhaps can “bring” “democracy” to the region. So, for my bridge offer, I’m willing to entertain this argument on the part of people who can approach it from the standpoint of intelligence instead of raw ideology. I can’t promise I’ll be convinced, and even if I am convinced in principle, it’s unlikely you’ll demonstrate to me that this particular administration is capable of pulling it off, but it’s important to me that we begin talking to each other instead of shouting at each other.
Many, many arguments are now poised for launch, and I welcome them.