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Center for Inquiry turning to the Right?
Posted: 21 February 2007 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Agregon said:

Does this mean we don’t have a deal?

You do not have to read Fotopoulos; it’s really up to you.  I’ve read Rand before, and long ago realized it was not the direction I was heading in.  I think Rand has terrible and inaccurate notions about human nature, money, capitalism and radical individualism.  Her sort of mindset strikes me as adolescent - and perhaps, as the human species in it’s adolescence right now, it holds some truth (if only temporary); but I feel we will soon move forward from adolescence to adulthood, forgetting our more wacky teen-aged ideas.  I really cannot dedicate more time to regressive ideologies as I think we need to progress toward a more humanistic society and not waste time proving any further than most of us already have, that such regressive ideologies are anti-humanistic and false.

Agregon:

Are objectivism or libertaianism mutually exclusive with Humanism?

I feel Left-Libertarianism fits humanism, but not objectivism or Right-Libertarianism.  Note that Left-Libertarianism leaves market capitalism in the dustbin of history ... where it ought to be put.

mckenzievmd:

Wow, we have really gone off the deep end here!  I take my eyes off the boards for a day, and now we’re justifying political terrorism in the name of liberating the oppressed, talking about doling away with money and replacing it with some vague sort of communitarian honor system based on personal reputation (craziness from the left), or honoring money as the highest expression of human reason, creativity, and industry from which nothing evil can flow (craziness from the right). I despair of finding anything rational to say, but I can’t leave poor Doug out there all alone trying to be the voice of reason.

I don’t mind the sarcasm Brennon, but please don’t equate “poor Doug” with “reason,” for his “reason” does not extend very far beyond his own comfort zone.  Doug seems to me to be very traditional - about human nature, economics, politics… etc.  This is why he fits so well with CFI.  Paul Kurtz once said humanism was “radical,” and I intend to keep it that way :D

mckenzievmd:

Open Money- Read the essay and, as I said before, it is vague and founded on what I believe to be a ridiculously Polyanna and naive utopian notion that people are so naturally cooperative that only the evil institutions of government, and the artificial hierarchies they impose lead, us to bad behavior. I still think it’s bullsh*t.

Well, no words minced there!  And I happen to agree that the Open Money folks need to be clearer on what they are talking about.  Again, perhaps one of their advocates will join this forum and we can begin an Open Money thread!  I spoke to an advocate in Canada yesterday via www.skype.com - something we all should try because it allow FREE voice communication for two to many people at the same time over the Internet (not telephone) through you PC or Mac - and it is becoming much clearer to me. 

But we need more background in order to have a rational conversation about it; otherwise it will be like explaining natural selection to pre-Darwin laypersons.

mckenzievmd:

YES, we have been selected for cooperative behavior since group living was a clear advantage to our ancestors, and we have inherited that as have most of the other extant primates alive with us. We are probably the most complex cooperators in nature, and as individuals we get along more often than not. BUT, we are also naturally very competitive, since the same social environment which we cooperate to sustain is a selective force and leads to intragroup competition. The two aspects of human nature (and yes, Barry, I believe there is such a thing) are not mutually exclusive. And the competitive side can give rise to lots of bad behavior within the context of sociality. Sure, environment influences the type and frequency of the behavior. Resource scarcity increases competition and violence, bread and circuses lead to less overt competition and struggle, culture plays a role, etc. But outside of very small, culturally (and probably ethnically/ideolgicaly) homogenous groups, the idea that we can create our own medium of exchange which others will give value to based on our personal reputation is nonsense.

First of all, I never said we were NOT both competitive and co-operative.  I think you are fairly correct there.  But I agree with David Buller that there is no universal human nature, that humans are very plastic and we have multiple natures, and that most of our behaviors are directed by our surroundings (natural or human-made) ... which is why I think we need to find ways to build a humanistic society so as to activate our better natures. 

Capitalism and traditional money systems are tied up with profit and markets and bring out the worst in us.  I am looking for workable solutions.  I think the overall LETS program is one such solution.  I also think community-based economics is something to consider, and perhaps participatory economics an even better idea for we 6 billion humans. 

We won’t get to an equitable, humanistic society overnight - we won’t reward effort and sacrifice over contribution or productivity over night either - but if we stay where we are now, we will screw up the world even more than we have already.  The U.S. (and its exportation of neoliberal globalization), has not been as non-equitable - in terms of the gap between the rich and poor - since the “Robber Barons” years… And this time, Social Democracy won’t save us because it allows market capitalism to remain the foundation for human trade systems and thus leaves open plenty of room for the robber barons (last time, begun by Reaganomics and Thatcherites) to roll back any and all progressive advances and the safety net.  The early social democrats - pre W.W.I - knew that the main question was how to supplant market capitalism with social democracy. But with Roosevelt’s “compromise” with capitalism (the ‘New Deal’) and Europe’s Keynesian, the question changed to how do we keep market capitalism from destroying humanity.  A good question, and social democracy made some headway - created a larger middle class - but its compromise with capitalism led to its downfall. 

Social democracy needs to take a page from libertarian-socialism and understand that a truly free and equitable democracy will not come about until we begin to dismantle the market.  We NEED democracy.  We NEED to abolish market capitalism (and not replace it with market socialism), but it will take some time, and a number of reforms to let folks see how much more humanistic life would be if it were created by we humans to be as fair as possible.  THAT we can do… as a species.  It is in our “multible” natures!  It is certainly not utopian. 

And a rational reading of the economists and analysts I have been reading the last few years would lead any of us on this forum to the same conclusions… so as long as we are not dogmatically married to capitalistic or Hobbesian rhetoric/ideologies.

mckenzievmd:

There may be alternatives to money as we know it now, but it has developed and stayed with us largely because it is an effective medium of exchange on the scale at which our economic interactions take place these days. And I don’t think we’re going back to the kind of small, largely self-contained geographically local communities that would be necessary to abolish such a mechanism.

But it won’t have to be small or self-contained… In fact, the Open Money project is about building up to a global exchange system using the Internet as a tool.  Also, Robin Hahnel’s Participatory Economics is also set up for World-Wide usage.

mckenzievmd:

Terrorism-Killing people is usually wrong, and certainly killing people who have no personal connection to whatever evil you are trying to fight just to frighten a population, gain attention, or manipulate public opinion (which is, I think, a pretty fair definition of terrorism) is absolutely wrong. Is there sometimes justification for armed rebellion? Probably. Is the U.S. a horrifically arrogant and brutal (not to mention myopic and driven by bizarre factors like Bush’s religious ideology and domestic political posturing) actor on the world stage? All too oftem, yes. NOT, I hasten to point out, always. Sometimes we are genuinely trying to do the right thing, and occassionally we even do some good. But the fact that most Americans were shocked by the 9/11 attacks and bewildered as to where they came from and why (and subsequently cynically and all too easily misled into supporting the wrong response) is just a function of the fact that we pay too little attention as citizens to what’s going on in the world. Bread and circuses again.

Americans (mainly white Americans) are a privileged and naive people.  Living with an irrational fear of people coming to take away our “stuff” or “freedoms” because we are so privileged, and - most importantly with regard to 9/11 - horribly UNaware of what our leaders do in our name in other countries. 

I spoke to African-Americans after 9/11 and asked if they were as shocked as the white people I spoke with were.  They were not.  They told me how they have been the victims of white America for hundreds of years and have seen what white westerners do to people of color (who have what we want to have or can use), throughout the last few centuries.  They did not know all the facts.. say those about how Osama bin Laden was ‘America’s main man’ working against the USSR in the 1980s, or how Saddam was ‘America’s main man’ when he gassed the Kurds and others with American made weapons and American support, or other such facts of history; but they were not surprised to hear these facts either.  They were certainly felt that ‘one day,’ people of color in the so-called “Third World” would get some revenge. 

They only wondered what took them so long!

Anyway, I myself could not kill innocent Israelis any more than I (a Jew) could have killed innocent Germans in 1942 Germany.  But if others could and would and did do this to save me from genocide or worse, I would not hold it against them.  Afterall, it was/is the elected leaders of the German people and Israeli people who have and still commit myriad crimes against humanity ... Why were/are most of them silent?  It may have been hard for German Christians or pagan to protest the Nazi treatment of the Jews in their Germany - I admit; but it is certainly not for Israelies (more than just a few) in modern day Israel to do this! 

When Spain was bombed because the Spanish leaders participated in Bush’s attack, invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Spanish people elected a socialist leader who got them our of Iraq!  Jingoists here called that empeasement.  I called it humanistic action!  Spain has not been touched since.  Why do the Israeli people NOT elect reps who will demand Israel stop their genocidal, apartheid behavior and pull back to the pre-1967 borders and move toward “truth and reconciliation” with the Palestinians?  How can such still be going on in a democracy UNLESS people want it to go on.  In this way, the Israelis are being immoral by their inaction.  The killing of these so-called innocent Israelis is the sad price of their allowing their leaders to act immorally toward a people who have no other option left to them via methods to resist their plight. 

By the way, I do not see the U.S. planing to regime change Israel so that the country would have to treat their neighbors better.  Iraq broke a few UN resolutions, Isreal has ignored every single one since 1967! 

Honderich is right on, and he and I are very sad that he is…

mckenzievmd:

Rand and Barry are both wrong in thinking that without some coercive authority people will all just naturally arrange the most peaceful and prosperous possible social order. Obviously, there are libertarians in CFI in sizeable numbers who believe their program of little to no government and unrestricted markets is the best path to individual fulfillment of potential, but I think history and present-day reality argue stringly that they’re wrong.

Coercive authoritarianism is not needed… and you don’t have to be an anarchist to agree with this. You see the problem with religious authority but not secular?  Anyway, there are just too many examples I have already pointed to in these forums which disprove your notion, and there are many, many ways to keep people motivated and cooperative if the right system is in place.  Anarchism is not disorder, but order without bosses.  Libertarian socialism is perhaps less interested in total state abolition than anarchists, but in the end, it will lead to a stateless society (at least not of the kind we have had for the last few thousand years)...

And there are many reformist ways to move from here to here so no bloody revolution is required.

Also, libertarians who believe in unrestricted markets are not true libertarians.  Milton Freedman and Rand and the like are pure capitalists, not libertarians.  American economists like Freedman distorted libertarianism and the term has come to mean something very different from what it was before the middle of the 20th century.  True libertarianism is socially the same for the most part, but void of market capitalism ... and that is where we ought to head back to…

PS: To me, your “libertarians” (which since I am writing in America, I have called Right-Libertarians on these posts), may ‘belong’ to CFI as atheists or skeptics, but they certainly ain’t humanists!

Occam:

First Barry, “anarchistic society”??? That’s about as good an oxymoron as I’ve seen lately.

You do not understand Anarchism or Liberarian Socialism very well.  An example of such a society, though it lasted less than 2 years due to the fascist attacks on it by Franco’s army, was what was occurring in Spain around 1936.  If not for others in Spain buying into Hitler and Mussulini’s ideas of the state, and getting actual support from Nazi Germany and Italy, Spain might be a fully libertarian-socialist nation by now (if not totally anarchistic; that is, totally stateless.) 

PS: An oxymoron would be an “anarchist state,” but NOT an anarchist society!

Occam:

Second, now I’m a neo-libertian??? What the devil is that neologism?

Like Brennen I’m usually considered extremely liberal. Now I’m a tool of the conservatives???

I think I’ve used the term neo-liberal” which is not the same as classical liberal (which is close to Left-libertarianism if not mutated by capitalism or conservatism), and not the same as New Deal Liberalism either (or social liberalism, for that matter, which is something else completely). 

Neo-liberalism is most similar to Right-Libertarianism or unrestricted free market capitalism, only its not totally unrestricted ” yet…

rationalrevolution:

I’m glad that CFI is cooperating with CIA or former CIA members, and with ideological rightists.

Handing one side of the spectrum over to religious people is just plain stupid. We should be courting both sides of the spectrum, because if there are atheists on both sides then the discussion with be less about whether something is right or wrong based on the Bible and more based on the merits.

I do not see the logic in this.  Religion is regressive when it turns to the Right” when people interpret the texts (which can often be interpreted many ways due to its contradictions and unverifiability), in conservative ways.  Religion is less regressive and even progressive (politically) in the hands of those who interpret it in liberal ways.  The liberal ways may be arguable in many cases, but the point is there ARE very religious liberals. 

The question we need to ask as HUMANISTS is whether or not humanism is in line with conservative ideologies or liberal ones?  Secularists or atheists on the right are just as cynical as rightist religionists and just has Hobbesian and regressive ” they simply don’t need to believe in God to be that way. 

So, ideologically lining up with atheistic rightists is no less destructive and anti-humanistic than lining up with religious rightists.  Of course, ATHEISTS can be rightists, Joe Stalin, Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss are three such atheists, but as I have argued, while CSH and humanists are being represented under the CFI banner, inviting rightists and perhaps murderers (CIA is a murderous club, as is the Israelis military and ‘friends’ of Sharon), may be fine for atheistic rightists, but not for humanists!

Humanists then are being disenfranchised by CFI in Florida re this conference, and need to have their voices heard.

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Posted: 21 February 2007 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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I don’t see that having these people speak on relevant topics amounts to much. It’s a good thing that CFI may be able to get the attention and the ear of those on the right and associated with the CIA.

There are two views to these types of things.

#1) Shun all those whom you disagree with (basically the US / Cuba approach).

#2) Engage those whom your disagree with and open up the possibility that you may influence them.

Like it or not, the groups and individuals invited have power and influence. either we can exclude yourselves from dealing with people who have power and influence because those are “bad guys”, or we can deal with them and perhaps affect them.

IMO, engagement is better.

Do you think that CFI members are likely to listen to a speaker from the CIA and become warmed over by their patriotism and suddenly fall in love with the institution?

Come on, these speakers will be received skeptically by the audience.

The fact is though, that making the “war on terror” a “war on religion” is a good idea, and getting people to see that these two things are linked and that tackling religion is important for national security is a good thing, CIA or no CIA, and trust me, I understand the issues and history of the CIA.

The reality that you are perhaps missing, though, is that these institutions exist and don’t need us. They will do what they are going to do regardless of whether or not we have anything to do with them. This has every advantage for us. Making friends with these people is beneficial to CFI, and not making friends with them has no benefit at best, and negative impact at worst.

Remaining outsiders does nothing.

You may not think so, but there are plenty of “liberal” and leftist minded people in the US military, special forces, etc., even the CIA.

Yeah, the powers that be in those organizations are typically not that way, but many of the rank and file are. We should be building bridges with these people, giving them a platform to discuss things, etc. We should be doing things that help to empower like minded people in these groups, not shunning these groups.

Hear what they have to say first at least.

The more diverse the viewpoints at these types of things the better, and hearing from people in the institutions that actually affect policy on the ground is always important, even if you don’t like the people who affect policy on the ground.

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Posted: 21 February 2007 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Excellent points, rationalrevolution. I’m in total agreement with you on the issue of engagement. CFI has been a marginal organization for way too long. (And I don’t mean to demean it for that; but it had a much narrower impact, ensconsed up in Buffalo, NY). It’s time to come out of the skeptical closet and join the general political and social fray. And that means precisely the sort of engagement that is being discussed in this thread.

I don’t expect we will change everyone’s mind—I’m too much of a realist for that—but at least we will get on the radar screen. It’s a start.

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Posted: 21 February 2007 11:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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The fact is though, that making the “war on terror” a “war on religion” is a good idea, and getting people to see that these two things are linked and that tackling religion is important for national security is a good thing, CIA or no CIA, and trust me, I understand the issues and history of the CIA.

The reality that you are perhaps missing, though, is that these institutions exist and don’t need us. They will do what they are going to do regardless of whether or not we have anything to do with them. This has every advantage for us. Making friends with these people is beneficial to CFI, and not making friends with them has no benefit at best, and negative impact at worst.

Remaining outsiders does nothing.

You may not think so, but there are plenty of “liberal” and leftist minded people in the US military, special forces, etc., even the CIA.

Yeah, the powers that be in those organizations are typically not that way, but many of the rank and file are. We should be building bridges with these people, giving them a platform to discuss things, etc. We should be doing things that help to empower like minded people in these groups, not shunning these groups.

I agree with Doug that CFI has to get political.  Actually, I have been arguing for this for 5 years (having joined CFI in 1999)!  Indeed this is why I have been often shunned and attacked by the CFI powers that be.. they say CFI should NOT get involved in politics (except the special church/state like issue).  But it was always my leftist politics they hated.

Now it seems they are moving right into the belly of the body politic ... pun intended!  They have chosen the RIGHT to do this with. 

Sure, CFI have had some liberal or leftist speakers at times, but they often try to point out re these events that the liberalism is not the issue while these speaker’s points on science or religion are.  But of course politics IS the issue, and this is why TRUE leftist speakers have not been found at CFI.. almost none at all.  The Humanist magazine interviewed Chomsky, would Free Inquiry do this (and not as a point to some rightwing counterpoint written by the likes of Hitchens or Tabor Machan?) 

The CIA/Israeli folks are not even righest acedemics (I have NEVER seen CFI endorse a leftest NON-academic such as a Leftist activist) ... These folks (CIA) are operatives of one of the most regressive anti-humanist orginizations around!  I do not care if some CIA’ers are “liberal” (which seems almost impossible based on what the CIA has done for the last 50 years), the orginization is a spy network built to over through governments or leaders deemed contrary to American “interests!”  And we KNOW what Sharon and the like have done in their dubious lives. 

This afront to humanism is not such like when CFI invites Hitchens to give a speech about why Bush was right to invade Iraq (which also ought to be counterattacked by humanists on stage) - at least Hitchens is a “public intelectual.”  The CIA et al are criminals!

Sorry, I cannot see anyone on this forum finding it immoral for Palestinians to save themselves from genocide and yet find a “conversation” with these guys NOT immoral! 

Dawkins does not want to even debate Creationists and their regressive ideologies anymore because he feels such debate gives Creationists a stage they do not deserve.  I’ve come to agree with him.  Having these guys on the staqe to debate humanists is giving them a platform they don’t need, nor deserve.  But CFI ain’t even debating them. their joining (intellectually) with them (and that does not mean all will agree with them, only that they are being given legitimacy by an intellectual “think-tank.’)

I never thought I’d see the day CFI gave legitimacy to the CIA or Ariel Sharon’s former advisors.  What next?  Should CFI share a stage and give legitimacy to some neo-Nazi atheist organization or the NRA?  I could only imagine what outrage would befall CFI if they did a seminar with Hugo Chavez!

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Posted: 21 February 2007 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Well I don’t agree that CFI should be political, I think that it should stay non-partisan. To me politics distracts from the core issues and mission of the organization.

As for Chavez, anyone that allies with Ahmadinejad can’t be a “real” leftist.

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Posted: 21 February 2007 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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As for Chavez, anyone that allies with Ahmadinejad can’t be a “real” leftist.

I do not ally with him.  Just making a point…, But he is better than BUSH (as long as he stays democratic and does not become a dictator like Castro)

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Posted: 21 February 2007 08:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Capitalism and traditional money systems are tied up with profit and markets and bring out the worst in us…The U.S. (and its exportation of neoliberal globalization), has not been as non-equitable - in terms of the gap between the rich and poor - since the “Robber Barons” years…

With this, I agree. The problem is I don’t see the very general ideas you are referring us to (and I admit I haven’t had time to read as extensively in the area as you have) as legitimate alternatives. Everything I read that you suggest seems vague, ill-defined, and based on unrealisticaly, I would even say naively, opttmistic appraisals of how humans would behave in the absence of government as we currently conceive it. I think one fundamental point of disagreement we have is the degree to which human behavior is dictated by the social institutions we have. I really feel that the institutions are more reflections of how we tend to behave than the primary reason we behave as we do.

The last economic system Western Europe had before capitalism was feudalism, which certainly doesn’t seem a workable alternative to capitalism. And the attempts at creating state socialism have, as I think we agree, been disastrous. I would argue that this is because of fundamental characteristics of “human nature” more than the flaws in the system itself, of course. Both capitalism and Marxism sound good on paper, but they go wrong because of greed, individuals’ drive for an unfair share of wealth and power, and other common human behavioral characteristics. I am certain that capitalism is not the ultimate form of economic organization, and like most social institutions I suspect it will pass away some day. I won’t mourn it. What I am not convinced of is that the sources you refer us to have a clear, viable, achievable alternative. What would you suggest as reading material with regard to the pre-fascist period in Spain, because I would love to see an actual historical example of the sort of thing you are proposing?

Anyway, I myself could not kill innocent Israelis any more than I (a Jew) could have killed innocent Germans in 1942 Germany. But if others could and would and did do this to save me from genocide or worse, I would not hold it against them. Afterall, it was/is the elected leaders of the German people and Israeli people who have and still commit myriad crimes against humanity ... Why were/are most of them silent? It may have been hard for German Christians or pagan to protest the Nazi treatment of the Jews in their Germany - I admit; but it is certainly not for Israelies (more than just a few) in modern day Israel to do this!

My point is that the murder of innocents does NOT save anyone. It is evil justified in the name of a greater good, and that is the most dangerous kind of evil because, like that commited in the name of religion, it claims exemption from common standards of human decency most cultures otherwise agree to. It is facile to say that the Germans elected Hitler and so are responsible for the crime of the Holocaust and to make a similar implied connection between the populations of America and Israel and the evils commited by those states. Among the weaknesses I would argue are a common feature of “human nature” and that are universal is a tendancy to support the “tribe” against an “other” cast as the enemy and to then demonize this other and apply to him different moral standards that are applied to those within the “tribe.” This tendancy can then be turned into acquiesence with atrocities by fear (which terrorism only exacerbates and justifies) and by the manipulation of government (as Chomsky would say, the manufacturing of consent). This doesn’t make the people legitimate targets for terrorist violence. Such violence is wrong morally and inappropriate strategically. The path to undermining support for the misbehavior of governments is not through terrorizing the people but through raising their consciousness and chipping away at the distinctions of “us and them” and the demonization of “them.” Gandhi, as an example, utilized this strategy effectively and achieved his goals in a morally superior way.  Honderich’s position, and by your identification with it I guess yours, seems merely a morally indefensible response to his/your own outrage, and it is disingenuous to then say you are “sad” to have to admit violence against innocents is justified by the evil done in their name. Tell the families of the people who died in New York (or just those of the poor immigrant laborers, or the Spanish commuters who died there, if you feel more sympathy for them than for white stockbrokers) that their loved-ones’ deaths are justified by their “responsibility” for American support of Israel’s misbehavior. But don’t be surprised if they feel just as justified in cursing you for your Machiavellian logic and lack of “humanist” compassion.

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Posted: 22 February 2007 01:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]What would you suggest as reading material with regard to the pre-fascist period in Spain, because I would love to see an actual historical example of the sort of thing you are proposing?

Spain was never a historical example of this sort ... There was a first spanish republic (1873-4) and a second spanish republic (1931-36), but these were more similar to normally functioning parliamentary democracies.

[quote author=“mckenzievmd”] Tell the families of the people who died in New York (or just those of the poor immigrant laborers, or the Spanish commuters who died there, if you feel more sympathy for them than for white stockbrokers) that their loved-ones’ deaths are justified by their “responsibility” for American support of Israel’s misbehavior. But don’t be surprised if they feel just as justified in cursing you for your Machiavellian logic and lack of “humanist” compassion.

I would only add that most of the people who died on 9/11 were not stockbrokers. And further, that many stockbrokers are honest workers, and even the less honest do not deserve to die. I will leave my response there.

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Posted: 22 February 2007 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Brennen:

The last economic system Western Europe had before capitalism was feudalism, which certainly doesn’t seem a workable alternative to capitalism. And the attempts at creating state socialism have, as I think we agree, been disastrous. I would argue that this is because of fundamental characteristics of “human nature” more than the flaws in the system itself, of course. Both capitalism and Marxism sound good on paper, but they go wrong because of greed, individuals’ drive for an unfair share of wealth and power, and other common human behavioral characteristics. I am certain that capitalism is not the ultimate form of economic organization, and like most social institutions I suspect it will pass away some day. I won’t mourn it. What I am not convinced of is that the sources you refer us to have a clear, viable, achievable alternative. What would you suggest as reading material with regard to the pre-fascist period in Spain, because I would love to see an actual historical example of the sort of thing you are proposing?

Doug said:

Spain was never a historical example of this sort ..

Doug, you seem to be missing a few pages from your Spanish history book :wink:

Brennen… First of all I do agree that capitalism is better than feudalism.  That said, its still terrible but for only a few of us worldwide (perhaps a few more than under feudalism, but still a few).  While I am advocating for social-socialism - such as in leftist social (not political or economic) liberalism - I am NOT advocating for state socialism.  State socialism is about central planning which leads to a power elite and - in some cases - totalitarianism (USSR) or in other cases, semi-benign dictatorships (Cuba). 

‘Participatory planning’ with the social goals of socialism - minus markets - is what I am advocating for ... all via real democracy…

And I just won’t buy the ‘greed hypothesis’ because for most people to be greedy, they need a system which advocates for greed - as does capitalism.  I am also not saying people are “saints,” as I think I’ve made clear already ... but that any individual’s tendency toward real greed would be curved by a society using an economic (and political) system based on mutual aid and cooperation (and extended self interest) rather than a greed-based and greed-inspiring system such as capitalism.

And as for Spain, I am sure there is plenty of literature.. But be prepared to find most of it playing up the nationalism and other aspects (which were aspects needed to create a libertarian-socialist situation in the midst of more primitive systems), and downplay the libertarian socialism itself. 

History is recorded by the victors - and though the victors were at first the fascists, they later became either state socialists (who have no interest in seeing libertarian socialism succeed), or capitalists. 

The run in Spain was short lived due to outside forces and was not equal to what I am saying needs to happen today.  For what you should read to learn about what I am talking about… and a bit on what happened in Spain ... from the libertarian socialistic point of view, read Robin Hahnel’s “Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation.” 

In this book, Hahnel talks about the Spainish attempt toward real equity and what we need to do today - (Spanish info drawn partly from the book: “The Anarchist Collectives: Workers Self-Management in the Spanish Revolution 1936-1939” by Sam Dolgoff .. and made famous in Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” (1955).  Also see Noam Chomsky’s “Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship.”)

Here is a good quote from his book (though not about Spain)...

“... the vacuum left by the demise of communism and decline of social democracy in the 1990’s has given rise to a resurgence of interest in libertarian socialist thought on the left ... if large segments of the anti-capitalist left can learn what libertarian socialism has to teach about why neither capitalism nor communism is the answer to our economic problems; if new libertarian socialists can hold onto their anti-capitalist convictions while learning the art of reform organizing; if new libertarian socialists can relearn from their own past (as in Spain leading up to the revolution and in Russia from 1905-1917 and in Mexico in 1911), the importance of building imperfect experiments in equitable cooperation that reach out to those who want and need them….  We may discover we can live up to our potential.”

(The anarchist/libertarian socialist movement in Spain was more than 60 years old by 1936, it did not happen overnight.  We need to think in these terms.)

Brennon:

My point is that the murder of innocents does NOT save anyone. It is evil justified in the name of a greater good, and that is the most dangerous kind of evil because, like that commited in the name of religion, it claims exemption from common standards of human decency most cultures otherwise agree to.

If you know a way the Palestinians can get what they need - with the US backing Israel and Israel unwilling to listen to its more enlightened citizens - (taking into consideration just how bad its been there and for how long) - which is non violent… let me know!  Even Ghandhi said his sort of action in India would not work in all places - I think Palestine is one of those places at the moment.

Brennon:

Ghandhi, as an example, utilized this strategy effectively and achieved his goals in a morally superior way. Honderich’s position, and by your identification with it I guess yours, seems merely a morally indefensible response to his/your own outrage, and it is disingenuous to then say you are “sad” to have to admit violence against innocents is justified by the evil done in their name.

I do not agree that Honderich or I feel what we feel out of outrage (though we certainly are outraged), but it is clear that Ghandhi would not operate the way he did as an Indian if he were a Palestinian - different situation completely.  And I am sad that ANY person has to die… I am not being two-faced here.

Brennon:

Tell the families of the people who died in New York (or just those of the poor immigrant laborers, or the Spanish commuters who died there, if you feel more sympathy for them than for white stockbrokers) that their loved-ones’ deaths are justified by their “responsibility” for American support of Israel’s misbehavior. But don’t be surprised if they feel just as justified in cursing you for your Machiavellian logic and lack of “humanist” compassion.

I would not call 9/11 “moral terrorism” in the sense of what I think is via Palestinian “terrorism.”  So, I would not say that such deaths are “justified” by America’s support for Israel or any other American violation of humanity in the Middle East.  The 9/11 terrorists - assuming they were who Bush said they were - had a good ‘cause but acted irrationally and immorally.  However, when Americans asked “why do they hate us” or “why did this happen” (some amazingly STILL ask this), they must be told to understand that the answer to these questions lies very much in U.S. foreign policy and Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.  The policies are as much to blame for 9/11 as bin Laden or Political Islam (which of course, has its power due to American support from the 1970s onward)... 

Chomsky, who wrote about this in his short book, “9/11,” does not blame Americans or the victims per say for 9/11, but blowback is blowback… and we the people allowed ‘Carter/Reagan/Bush Sr./Clinton’ to do what they did in the Middle East and the chickens came home to roost that terrible Tuesday morning.  It can’t all be blamed on bad media, propaganda or ignorance because if I knew about this stuff over the years, so could have any one else.  We don’t live in Stalin’s USSR quite yet.


More from Honderich from ‘Terror for Humanity.’

www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/terrforhum.html


4. Whether Some Terrorism Is for Humanity

  There are more things to be said of how the morality of humanity can issue in or contain, in particular, a support for the kind of terrorism of which the Palestinian is an instance.

  Terrorism for humanity is terrorism with the aim of the principle of humanity. That is the aim of getting people, including whole peoples, out of lives of wretchedness and other deprivation, bad lives, lives of great evils. Do you think there is room for a certain question? Do you think there is room for the question of whether the killings by the Israeli in the helicopter-gunship, rather than the killing by the Palestinian suicide-bomber, is terrorism for humanity? Some will say that.

  It would be reassuring if the question of whether some terrorism has the end of humanity were always open to a confident answer. That is not so. There is often difficulty about deciding if a line of action, terrorism or whatever else, has, as we can quickly say, the end of humanity.

  The matter comes into view by way of the invasion of Iraq. It was not in my view terrorism, given its large scale, despite being against what there is of international law and therefore akin to terrorism reasonably defined.  Was this war aimed at saving people from bad lives owed to a dictator? Was it a war for humanity? Americans were told by their politicians that something like this was its justifying aim. The British, differently, being a people a little more affected by international law, had to be told by their principal politician that the justifying aim of the war was not bringing down Saddam but rather disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction that existed as an immediate threat against us. We could be killed by them in 45 minutes.

  Did the war in fact have the end of humanity? The best sort of answer, perhaps, consists in pointing out that the war, like many such endeavours, plainly had a considerable number of aims.

  One was trying to deter terrorism, including terrorism for humanity, by a demonstration of power against a suitable country. For this aim it was not essential that Iraq itself had carried out 9/11, or even contributed to it in any material way whatever—although that belief by half or even two-thirds of the American people was useful, and larged owed to its politicians and other leaders. It was not necessary to the anti-terrorist aim that Iraq had done anything more than half the world does with respect to terrorism for humanity—understand it, as some say.

  The war aims also included control of oil supplies, certainly the removal of a possible defender of the Palestinians, the removal of an otherwise anti-American leader of great audacity, wider American interests and strategies, and the removal of one of the world’s ruthless and anti-American dictators. These latter aims were not greatly less significant than the aim of deterring terrorism.

  There was also something less obvious. This was an ideological aim, the assertion of ideology as an end in itself, killing as assertion.

  This needs to be distinguished from aims having to do with the satisfying effects of imposing an ideology, some of them just remarked on, including profits to American corporations.  Killing as assertion is announcing what is right in such a way as to get attention, having the reassurance of being heard.  It is also aimed at the comfort of having fewer moral critics in the world, fewer moral judges, or anyway quieter ones.  It is related to what is known as the justification of punishment in terms of communication or expression, different from deterrence or other prevention.  Other forms of such self-expression, without the killing, are common enough.

  The war on Iraq also had the aim of putting in place new international deferences and expectations, no doubt under the name of international law, and of course a significant aim having to do with American domestic politics.  Not for the first time, people were killed in anticipation of an American president’s election campaign. There was also, on the part of an English prime minister, a lawyer-politician’s view of England’s material self-interest in maintaining an alliance.  Who avoids the opinion that his careerism was also in it, talked of by his cabinet colleagues in terms of his anticipation of a place in history?

  If you now ask again what counts as terrorism for humanity, one short answer is that it is that it is terrorism whose aim is more clearly the rescue of people from bad lives than was our war against Iraq. The war against Iraq serves as an excellent ostensive definition of what terrorism for humanity is not.

  We get a further answer to our question by returning to Palestine.

  The state of Israel ought of course to have been constructed out of a part of Germany after the genocide of the Jews.  But that it had to be established somewhere is a kind of moral datum, certainly in accord with the the principle of of humanity. So too, to my mind, given what seemed to be the necessity and the particular possibilities at the time, was it right that Israel was set up where it was, partly by way of Zionist terrorism for humanity, and despite its being an historic injustice to another people.

  That is consistent with the fact of the violation of Palestine by the neo-Zionism of Israel since 1967. This is indeed an offence of moral viciousness.  It is an offence of both neo-Zionists and also those who travel with them, in Israel and the United States above all.  It has the disdain of all Jews who are within that current of compassion in Jewishness, so free from legalism and divine revelation, clear and strong in its intellectual and other contribution to the struggle for humanity.  This is the current of compassion of the Jewish Left, singular and to be honoured without reservation.

  That the great goods have been wrongly denied to the Palestinians is made clear not by political history, let alone casuistry about who did what when, but rather by the figures for Arab and Jewish populations in Palestine since about 1876. There is only room for merely partisan dispute as to the proposition that one people took over the land of another.  Any real dispute about particular numbers can only be trivial.

  To speak more generally of the great good of a people that is their freedom and power in their homeland, its value has been better demonstrated historically than any other good. That it is one of few things that can be said to have formed our human history is a proof of this desire and the human worth of its satisfaction.  It would be childish to try to disdain the worth of what our nature gives this proof.

  The elucidation and explanation of the pain and suffering of its denial must include its being necessary to other great goods, respect and self-respect above all. It is no surprise that Palestinians can now be made the objects by some Jews of a racism of which Jews themselves have had unique experience. Things of the same sort can be said of the necessity of freedom and power to other great goods.

  It is my own view, importantly as a result of these facts, that the terrorism of the Palestinians is a paradigm case of terrorism for humanity, terrorism with the aim of humanity. The most salient of these facts is the established necessity of this terrorism, the clear absence of any alternative policy whatever for dealing with rapacity.  The terrorism of the Palestinians is their only effective and economical means of of self-defence, of liberating themselves, of resisting degradation.  It is to me ludicrous to contemplate Israeli state-terrorism, whatever else it may be called, has the end of humanity.

  But that this or any other terrorism is terrorism for humanity is not enough to make it right. The thought that all terrorism with the aim in question is right would be as absurd as the thought, sometimes inexplicitly and viciously relied on, that more or less any policy or action of a democracy is right. The proposal, rather, is that the only terrorism with the possibility of justification is terrorism for humanity, as the only war with such a possibility is war for humanity. - Ted Honderich (atheist, humanist, hard determinist, logic’s philosopher)

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Posted: 22 February 2007 02:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Anarchism and Spain

Here is a site I found, Brennen…

 

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Posted: 22 February 2007 03:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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I do not agree that Honderich or I feel what we feel out of outrage (though we certainly are outraged), but it is clear that Ghandhi would not operate the way he did as an Indian if he were a Palestinian - different situation completely. And I am sad that ANY person has to die… I am not being two-faced here.

I don’t think you can say that Gandhi would have supported violence in the position of a Palestinian, or anyone else. He had some pretty uncompromising things to say about non-violence even when referring to Hitler.

But that’s somewhat beside the point. I’m not arguing that we should all be Gandhi, and I’m no absolute pacifist myself. But I still don’t think it is morally justifiable to kill randomly selected civilians for political ends, however justified those ends might be. The firebombing of German cities in WWII and the use of nuclear weapons in Japan were justified publically by the argument that lives, on both sides, would be saved by the more rapid ending of the war. The campaign in Germany, in particular, fits your previous argument that acts of violence can legitimately be directed against civilians to attempt to motivate them to overthrow their government when it is doing evil. This, as it turned out, was not effective in Germany, and I still believe in is rarely effective strategically. And even if it were, I still see no convincing moral justification for violence designed to terrorize civilian populations, whether commited by states, individuals, or loose affiliations of nutcases like al Qua’ida. 

The additional material from Hondich you quote still says nothing to justify such terrorism except that it might be justifiable if it was intended to better the lives of somebody. There is certainly a fine distinction between a war for a “good” cause (such as stopping a genocide or freeing an oppressed populace) which the instigators know will have unintended civilian casualties and individual acts of violence with potentially justifiable aims. A large part of the judgement of the morality of an action, in common practiced if not in academic philosophy, centers on the intent and the actor’s perception of goal and consequences. I still feel that acts of terrorism, that is acts of violence targeting individuals who are known, or reasonably expected, not to have a direct personal role in the injustice the terrorist wishes to combat are immoral morally wrong. The justification of the killing of random Israelis, children in the daycare centers of the twin towers, or whatever population of victims one has to view as, essentially, innocent, with the argument that this might sway public opinion to then change the governments’ behavior falls afoul of the Kantian idea of using people as means, which I agree is generally wrong despite the ends. So while we agree in broad terms about the questionable morality of U.S. foreign policy in the MIddle East, you’re not going to convince me that acts of terror on the Palestinian side are justified by this.

And while you may be genuine is saying that the deaths of those killed by terrorists sadden you, I do think that saying this is sad, but morally acceptable as the price of justice, makes you sound a hell of a lot like Donald Rumsfeld. Beware of justifying evil in the name of good.

Thanks for the link on the Spanish Civil war. I’ll take a look at it soon.

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Posted: 22 February 2007 04:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Brennen, you may also want to get a library or used copy of Sam Dolgoff’s book (it may be hard to find an in print hard copy, but they do exist) I mentioned in the longer post (Hahnel seems to think it is a good one on Anarchistic Spain.)

Also, I am not quite sure I or Honderich can be compared to Rummy :evil:  But I understand Honderich’s argument is counter-intuitive to us humanists… and even if you read his entire essay (URL in long essay), it might not be enough to convince you.. and shouldn’t.  You might want to read more on this topic, not the least of which is Honderich’s full book on these matters:  

Also, re “what would Ghandi do?”, see these two opinions:

1)  

2) by Aziz Poonawalla:

“Many have emphasized [Gandhi’s] pacifism today. That’s quite appropriate. But in my opinion it’s also right to emphasize the struggle for freedom. Contrary to what one may have been told, peace and freedom do not always go hand in hand. Not nearly.

“If Gandhi were up against a Stalin rather than a Churchill and an Atlee, he’d have been shot, along with as many of those who were with him.

“What makes a struggle for freedom successful? Is it pacifism? Many have vilified the Palestinians for not being like Ghandi, whose peaceful rebellion ultimately drove the British from India. Though Ghandi’s methods were pacifist, the ultimate outcome of the political movement he sparked was the Partition, which was far from bloodless.

“But when you think of the Palestinians in the same context - one has to wonder. How would Ghandi’s peaceful rebellion have fared in the face of Ariel Sharon?

“There were Ghandis and MLKs among the Palestinians, such as Sari Nusseibeh and Dr. Mustapha Barghouti but they have been arrested, detained, and beaten repeatedly by the IDF. 

“Marwan Barghouti, a popular moderate elected to the Fatah leadership has been arrested and is being tried by Israel for murder, accused of being a terrorist. Eventually, there won’t be any moderates left to beat, exile, or jail.”


=============

Finally, I looked and do not see this Al Qaeda expert on the CFI-FL list of speakers…. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou.  He would be the type I would THINK CFI would want to have speak….

Book Title: UNDERSTANDING AL QAEDA

“Mohamedou provides a much-needed secular understanding of Al Qaeda. Unlike most writers, [he] insists on understanding the changing significance of [Al Qaeda’s] discourse against a historical backdrop.”

Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government, Columbia University and author of ‘Good Muslim, Bad Muslim’

“This sober and sobering analysis is essential reading for Americans and Europeans, and opinion leaders everywhere.”

Abdullahi An-Naim, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law, Emory University

Why does Al Qaeda attack the West? What are they trying to achieve?

This incisive book argues that it’s essential for the West to take a new approach to dealing with Al Qaeda. The ‘war on terror’ is failing, and only serves to recruit more terrorists to Al Qaeda’s cause.

Offering a cogent analysis of Al Qaeda’s development, starting with its creation almost twenty years ago, Mohamedou explains that there is a clear strategy to Al Qaeda’s actions—and how best the international community can deal with this new kind of warfare.

There is a great deal of resistance to a scientific, dispassionate understanding of Al Qaeda. This is the first book to examine the central tenets of the organisation and its demands and—most importantly—how it may be possible to achieve a peaceful future.

Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou is Associate Director of the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University. Prior to joining HPCR, Dr. Mohamedou served as Director of Research of the International Council on Human Rights Policy in Geneva, where he helped found and direct the research and policy program. He was a post-doctoral Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, and Research Associate at the Ralph Bunche Institute on the United Nations in New York.

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Posted: 23 February 2007 01:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]And while you may be genuine is saying that the deaths of those killed by terrorists sadden you, I do think that saying this is sad, but morally acceptable as the price of justice, makes you sound a hell of a lot like Donald Rumsfeld.

Actually, so far as I know, even Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney have never advocated the intentional murder of innocent civilians. So this may not be quite fair to Rumsfeld.

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Posted: 23 February 2007 09:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Barry,
As far as “what would Gandhi do,” the questions of morality and efficacy are related but not identical. I have no doubt his approach is morally superior to terrorism. I do have doubts about whether it would be successful if employed by the Palestinians, but I certainly do not think their current efforts are succeeding. Northern Ireland is another example of a prolonged terrorist campaign which was not only morally objectionable but of questionable efficacy. Such success as has occured there is the result of the turning away from violence of some, though not all, major players in the conflict. I still think violence, especially terrorism as I have defined, is unlikley to be successful. This is apart from whether it would be moral evein if it were successful, which I think would be a very tough sell for me.


Doug,
Well, “intentional” is a tricky word here. Deliberately taking action that you are certain will result in innocent civilians being killed, though that is not your intent, has pretty marginal claim to moral superiority over deliberately taking action that you are certain will result in innocent civilians being killed because that is your intention and goal. Then you have to wonder if a utilitarian calculus can be applied, arguing that Rumsfeld is knowingly responsible for probably thousands of direct, and many more indirect, civilian casualties in Iraq, as compared to the average terrorist attack which kills or maims only a few. I do not accept the idea that war is the same as terrorism, so I don’t completely discount the argument that military action taking in a good cause and with as much effort as possible to minimize casualties among the innocent is morally easier to justify than terrorist violence or military effort deliberately targeting civilians. But Rumsfeld et al, though perhaps not terrorists by my definition, have shown a pretty low regard for the lives and well-being of Iraqis generally, and their expressions of sadness for the plight of Iraqi civilians rings as hollow to me as the remark by Barry I was responding to above. And, though I indicated above I’m not inclined to give the “good cause” behind brutality very much weight in approving of such actions, I certainly believe that when they are taken for a bad cause, as I believe the invasion of Iraq to be (as distinct from, say, our efforts in Afghanistan or the Balkans), this makes condemnation of the behavior that much easier. So Rumsfeld ain’t gettin’ much love from me grin

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Posted: 23 February 2007 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]So Rumsfeld ain’t gettin’ much love from me grin

Nor from me. That was not what I meant to suggest.

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