We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Saturday, August 7. 2010
Liberty - Who needs it?
This is a repost from 2006 (so you need to right-click on the links)
What if the part of human nature which wants paternalism, or maternalism, in the State is sometimes, or often, stronger than the part that wants freedom, autonomy, self-reliance and self-determination?
What if we are wrong to imagine, as Bush claims, that an aspiration for freedom lives in the hearts of all mankind?
What if that aspiration is a simple error of a uniquely American culture, which combined northern European Calvinism which rejects any hierarchy in church or in life; a personal relationship with God; Lockeian liberalism; a distinctly northern European moral code in which honor, reliability, hard work, personal responsibility, generosity, and integrity are the measure of a person; a frontier attitude which expects life to be difficult but remains optimistic, and an innate distrust of government and politicians - is a very strange brew?
Maybe a strange brew which permits people to make the most of their lives and their "inner lives" - or the least of them, if they so chose - but requires more practical and psychological independence and liberty than most humans desire. Maybe?
We know that our revolutionary ancestors were in the minority, here in the colonies. The most vociferous, for sure. But most were Loyalists until the tide finally turned. Zogby polls would not have supported rebellion against the Crown. Neither King George, nor Lord North, were evil people, by any means. Well-intentioned, but confused by the new American spirit.
These are hardly original questions, but they come up because of a series of bits that stuck in my mind. One was a piece at Daily Pundit, about the Russian comfort with Putin's moves towards autocracy. A piece by Callick at TCS asks Is the world moving beyond liberal democracy? Another was a piece also posted on Maggie's about the blue-ification of my once-granite-ribbed New Hampshire, where I own the ancestral family farm, and where I live Thursday night-Monday morning. Also, Dr. Sanity's piece, which said it better than I could: Come for the Equality, Stay for the Bestiality and Tyranny.
As a shrink and a psychoanalyst, I am philosophically - and spiritually - biased towards the idea of an environment in which people can find their own way, and discover and use their strengths and individual gifts and talents in life. I am fond of telling my psychiatry students that "reality is always on your side."
But I also know that, in the big world, this view is often odd, blasphemous, antisocial, or rebellious. After all, few cultures even would embrace the notion of Erikson's idea of individuation - much less his notions of development. For us, the independent individual is King - but not so everywhere. Our Western near-sanctification of the individual is unusual, unique perhaps.
The revolutionary notion of the Individual As King is why we have guns, and private property, and educational chances for all, and a zillion places of worship, and clubs, and blogs, and a million volunteer organizations and charities and land trust and conservation organizations. And why we rely on our families before anything else, and why we distrust what the experts say. And it is why we have opportunity - not material equality - but opportunity for all, to make our own choices and decisions as grown-ups about how to plan a life. Economics is just one of many considerations in life, for most (not that we all would not welcome a bit more money).
Europe has embraced state parentalism - little different from its monarchical past: the fantasy that smart, powerful persons know best, or deserve power over us, is a piece of our childhood which we are reluctant to give up. A left-over from the time of nobility and serfdom. Our American culture may label that "childish," but probably most do not. Since psychosocial development is driven by the need to adjust to reality, the endurance of the parental fantasy must distort development for many people, similar to what happens commonly to the kids of the very wealthy.
Give me liberty or give me health care and more freebies: The American Left has similar aspirations, and a similar condescending attitude towards the human potential for autonomy and self-determination on the part of its policy-makers. "We'll take your money you earn, and fix it for you - because we care." AKA "It takes a village." (And, by the way, in my opinion it does "take a village" - but not a federal government.) The classic and revealing argument of the Left for idolizing the thug and murderer Castro is "But they have free health care." It's close to what they always said about Mussolini: "He made the trains run on time." (And that is saying a lot, in a place like Italy.)
State parentalism is one step from totalitarianism. And not just psychologically, but also in reality. First, you get the people used to the idea that they can depend on the government to take care of you and to solve your problems (rather than simply to defend you, and to keep life reasonably fair), and, having slowly softened them up, you build on that until you can't smoke a cigarette in your car without getting fined, or find a decent fried chicken take-out in NYC.
I always thought that Jack Kennedy's "Ask not..." (listen to it) was a fine call to maturity, and Reagan often echoed JFK in his speeches. The more powerful government becomes, the more the people will tend to regress psychologically, just as the more of their money you take from them, the less motivated they will feel to work hard, and to be inventive and creative with life. Necessity is the mother of invention, and a thoughfully planned life is necessary for most of us.
Happy human cattle is my nightmare. And yet every human is prone to the regressive, almost gravitational, pull, to childhood and relative helplessness. We must thank God for the adolescent rebel which lingers in all of us, however mature and effective in the world we may or may not be.
The bottom line is this: What if most humans do not feel that they have what it takes to handle life in freedom, and to deal with their own basket of challenges in life? What if most of them, both in the US and abroad, do not share my Yankee ideals? What if most people do not want to be kings of their own domains? Then what?
Image: Time Magazine named Joseph Stalin "Man of the Year" in 1939 and 1942.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Our Essays, Politics, Psychology, and Dr. Bliss at 12:42 | Comments (30) | Trackback (1)
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Every legal immigrant to the USA should be required to memorize this post!
Sounds like a Maggie's Farm mission statement, intentional or not. Is it intended to be one?
I wiould accept it as one, with great pleasure.
You may be right. No, you are right - the strength of our aspiration for freedom is a uniquely American achievement. But the other question is whether the lure of technocracy and dirigiste solutions is quite as universal as you claim. Consider this - when socialism and fascism were created, "science" and by extension, technocracy, were exalted in ways unimaginable today. All those Futurist poets and the Trylon and Perisphere at the World's Fair and all that stuff. The romance of Progress. Linked in the minds of many with socialism and its twin, fascism. The elites guiding the masses. Now, the Euros still want their state bennies of course, but that old romance is dead, for the most part.
Yes, well, I really meant to be speculating about the psychology of the subject rather than the politics/history, which I know less about.
What if...?? it goes much deeper and is much older than that? What if it is our battle between choosing for God (true freedom, truly actualized man) or following our sinful nature (slavery to the world, cosmos diabolicus). Think of Israel under the prophets where God wanted them to follow his laws and heed the prophets and they demanded a king.
Scary thoughts, Dr. Joy. A famous far-left blog stated last year that democracy was a bad idea because "the people" could not be relied upon to make correct choices, and that therefore a benign dictatorship would be far better. We wrote to suggest we were in agreement with part of the blog's assertion (remember the statement [whose?] that democracy is not the optimal form of government, merely better than any other). We know that benign dictatorships as with all of their ilk will ultimately be determined by the armed forces, and they will most likely rule by decrees that the far left will not enjoy.
However, the decadence of the far left and trial lawyers turned judges and congressmen in it for the votes can easily corrupt the manners and morals of this country to its point of destruction. Even now, the Saudis have leaked that they are considering intrvening in Iraq against the Shia, and developing nuclear arms on the basis that the USA will no longer have the will to defend them.
Our civilization is at a "tipping point" right now, and we're tipping toward Rome, withdrawing out outposts, discouraging and abandoning our friends, encouraging and enabling those who have openly declared their intention to destroy us. The libs patronizingly disqualify the latter in their usual racist way, saying in effect that they lack the capacity to understand the true import of their words, and therefore don't realy mean what they say. Quaere - do they and their followers believe what they say? Will they die for it? Yes?
Thanks, Dr. Joy for the wake-up.
This is the kind of attitude which is destroying America. There is no freedom when the people are oppressed by the rich and rich politcians. People starve while you privliged white persons worry about freedom and inner life. You are out of reality. There is hunger, oppression, and homelessness and desperation all around you and you do not even see it through your rosecolored glasses.
#8 Do you have a name or are you afraid/ashamed to add it to your'e thoughts, they are yours aren't they? And what the heck is an inner life?
"This is the kind of attitude which is destroying America. There is no freedom when the people are oppressed by the rich and rich politcians. People starve while you privliged white persons worry about freedom and inner life. You are out of reality. There is hunger, oppression, and homelessness and desperation all around you and you do not even see it through your rosecolored glasses."
If "rich politcians" are part of the problem, then I must assume you wish to get rid of them. So you advocate anarchy.
Please inform me if you "think" (I use the term with great hesitation) there's another translation.
Freedom is just a euphemism for oppression by corporate and money and militarist interests. There is no true freedom without equality, and there is no equality without a state to provide it to us all. Your "freedom" is slavery for the masses.
Our inalienable rights come from God, not the state. Governments are instituted merely to protect our rights.
What is the state? A classless class? A disinterested class among class interests? A computer? My lord, the marxists are idiots.
Hey Sal, at least you gave a name. Corporate/money/militarist interest, sounds like military industrial complex from two generations ago. I'm cuiorus, how old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living?
So your solution is to replace "oppression by corporate and money and militarist interests' with an oppressive State. Forgive me if I don't see that as an improvement after studying the 20th century.
Are you truly that blindingly stupid, or did you leave off the /sarc tag?
I think those last two commenters are mad at me for insisting that freedom be part of the human equation. I hope they appreciate the freedom they have to say so.
Nah, but it serves to gloss up their spite, envy, and vengefulness.
Gwynnie: Yes, a certain moral and human vision of the world is needed to support our idea of govt, I think.
BeeBee: That is our view, but it is far from universal.
Skook: I think they do.
Bravo! I couldn't have said it better myself--so I'll link to it!
As an American living in New Zealand, I can tell you that you have no idea how true your words really are. The Nanny State is alive and well here, and as a result, so many people here have no idea how to do anything for themselves. Whenever something happens, the same question gets asked: "What is the government going to do about it?" I really think that freedom and self-determination actually frighten people who have always lived with a government safety net to catch them if they fail.
As for Anon#8 and Sal#9 - Marx and Stalin would be proud of you, komrades....ffs. Waht these folks will never realize is that no matter how equal you make opportunity for all people, there will never be a guarantee of equality of outcome. That is where communism/socialism will always fail - unless enforced at the point of a gun.
Everybody wants to be king of their domain - domain as they prefer to define it. It’s the vi-kings that they’re afraid of.
When America was the final frontier, it was the self-selected few that ventured here, to make of their life what they wanted. Americans were at the right tip of the bell curve.
But the continent was tamed, and we are crammed ever closer together. Our higher standard of living is provided to us at the expense of our freedom.
But high-technology will save us. Thin film solar and self-replicating fabbers like the Rep-Rap will enable us to move from the cities to our own off-grid Walden Ponds. Check out the survivalist and greenie movements.
And when low-cost access to space is opened up, we will be able to take our Waldens out to the asteroids and live in small self sufficient space colonies as we desire.
The space vi-kings will find you on these asteroids of which you speak. Although my expertise has mostly been with the virtual realm, I humbly offer my services as space-ranger when you do actually colonize.
Hey - this dates wayyyy back before Calivinism.
Personal responsibility and free will flow naturally from the monotheism of Abraham and Sarah.
When there's no fate or demons that make you do things - but there are universal moral truths and fundamental unity - then it's up to you.
A young Nazi, shortly before WWII: "We Germans are so happy. We are free of freedom."
(I believe this was quoted by Erich Fromm)
You sure gottem' started. I think I'll go post on the other topic because Mary made me really notice that woman's feet. Good thing I'm free to do that.
Watched the network round tables this morn (keep your friends close; your enemies closer) and noticed all were complaining that the "rich folk" weren't expanding their businesses and hiring. Hmmmm...can I suggest that the Prez and his gang of thugs have introduced so many new expenses and taxes, one would be a fool to take ANY risk.
I (and most of my family members) have always made our jobs; i.e. find a need and fill it. I have the capacity to start up a couple of businesses as I have done before. No way. This political environment is a disaster for entrepeneurs and creative corporations. Too many laws, too many lawyers, too many pols with lifetime careers screwing up capitalism and our democracy.
'Nuf said. I'm really P.O.'d. Tracking Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Dr. Bliss, I'm part of that "strange brew".
Right now, I'm hanging on by my finger tips - sweat, blood and tears running out of every pore. In these dark moments, you have reminded me of who I am, and what I am, and why I'm on this mountain. Thank you.
To paraphrase what "Amy" wrote back in 2006 (see above), "every American should be required to memorize this post!". I wouldn't dare to improve on what you have written but I will summarize it, "Do not ever dare to transgress my peace."
Thank you Dr. Bliss. You have certainly earned your credentials today.
They are like bookends. They will bring you many years of pleasure, a veterinarian's assistant predicted years ago of then-kittens Tiny (above) and Baby (below), out in the side yard this afternoon assuming full bookend posture.Googling a half-remembered quotation [see
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