Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Quintessetial Question: Time to THINK!

I have been pondering for quite some time just how to define a person and what they stand for, philosophically speaking. Over the years terms or labels like "right" and "left" or "liberal" and "conservative" have been blurred to the point where, for me, at least, they have all but lost their meanings and relevance. This is due in no small part to our politicians, pundits, and media on all sides mis-applying these labels to themselves and each other based on specific issues - like tax cuts, abortion, or government spending - and support base of special interest groups - like evangelical Christians, environmentalists, labor and teachers' unions, and the ubiquitous "big business."

A perfect example would be referring to our current US President, George W. Bush, as a "conservative" or "right-wing." Based on his support base, one would have a good case for applying those labels to him, but, based on his actions or support of specific issues, the lines get a bit blurry. Yes, he is opposed to abortion and has a large base of support from "conservative" evangelical Christians, but he spends money like a "liberal" - billions of dollars anually - on foreign "humanitarian" relief packages to fight AIDS in Africa, for example. And "big business" or "corporate America" donates money to those on both sides of the aisle, depending on who is actually in power. And both the GOP and the Donks as whole groups (individuals like Tom Tancredo or Duncan Hunter aside) have done absolutely nothing to stem the tide of illegal immigration into the US. In fact, it could be argued that both parties at the federal, state, and local levels of government have encouraged it either by active support of illegal immigration (how many "sanctuary cities" are there now across the USA? I've lost count) or by complicity in not enforcing the current immigration laws. I suppose that only military spending falls almost entirely into the realm of the "conservative" or the "right," despite the fact that US involvement in most foreign wars and conflicts of the last 100 years has been initiated by Democrat (traditionally the party of "liberal" causes) administrations.

See what I mean? There is a lot of overlap and grey area here when it comes to using those traditional labels.

So how does one determine where a person stands or what they believe in? I believe in applying a new set of labels: Individualist or Collectivist. These are by no means original, but I think they should be used in place of the current "left-right" "liberal-conservative" categories.

Here is the question that will determine just where one stands:
What is more important or matters most to you, Freedom or Equality?
If I was a teacher either in high school or university, this would be a great essay topic. Hell, I could make an entire course curriculum out of that single question.

So, here is your chance to have a go. There is only one real caveat as to how you answer. You have to actually choose one or the other; none of that fence-straddling. If you do give an answer like "both are important" or "there can be no freedom without equality" you had better elucidate your point very clearly and thoroughly; and even then I reserve the right to reject your answer (Don't like it? Tough. Start your own blog).

8 Comments:

Blogger OINK said...

Nope, that's a rhetorical leg-lock like 'how should we teach religion in public schools'? That assumes that there should be public schools.

Equality is a necessary fiction in The Law -- just like the Presumption of Innocence.

It does not exist in the Real World.
("Real World" = the place where it costs you more than loss of self-esteem to be wrong)

1:51 PM GMT+12  
Blogger Joe Ramen said...

Oink, not sure what you are referring to as a "rhetorical leg-lock". The question itself? If so, I don't think you've given it enough thought. The question is as straight forward as possible, and there is no "right" or "wrong" answer. It would simply be an indicator as to what a person's values are. Think about the answer in terms of what a collectivist or an individualist would value most.

However, no answer at all would be an "F" on the assignment.

As to your example, I would submit that another alternative would be addressing the issue of whether or not religion should be taught at all, and if so, who should teach it and where.

2:43 PM GMT+12  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Check you email, Joe. I just wrote you a lengthy response.

2:44 PM GMT+12  
Blogger Oldcatman said...

Tough question.

With me it depends on the issue..fence straddling?

IE: I hate war, I hate what it stands for and the Iraq War is/was a big con job--END THE DAMN WAR!

BUT....as long as our troops are imprisoned in IRAQ we have to support
them (buy bullets!).

Every major issue has this
'dilemma ' for me.

Liberal, conservative or
PERSONAL COMMON SENSE?

EXCELLENT POST!

2:06 AM GMT+12  
Blogger BobF said...

I would say freedom over equality. Men are not born equal and that’s a fact but freedom can make men equal. With freedom I can become whatever I want to be. By having the freedom to work hard and get an education, I can make myself equal to anyone else. But, am I willing to do the sacrifice necessary to become equal? Freedom doesn’t make it easy but it makes it possible.

When you think you’re equal, you fail to recognize your shortcomings and therefore can’t take actions to overcome them.

3:13 AM GMT+12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freedom.....to do what we want, when we want, because we want, to whomever we want....with all the attendant consequences that come with it.

Only be being free can we thrive and succeed.

Equality means we're all grey. If we were all equal BUT.......poor, and miserable, and living like the French in squalid little apartments driving tiny underpowered cars, eating crappy food, dressing the same like the Chinese in Ho's time would that be a life we'd want?

Give me freedom any time.

9:38 AM GMT+12  
Blogger OINK said...

Rhetorical leg lock example: Have you quit beating your wife? Answer -- refuse to accept the premises of the question.

Freedom exists.
Equality is a fiction.

12:07 PM GMT+12  
Blogger Joe Ramen said...

Your example does not offer a dichotomy; my question does. Your example makes an assumption about the premise being a "given that" you already beat your wife, and you would be justified in stating that the premise has not been proven. My question does not assume any premise. It just asks for "one or the other" and explain why. That's all; no tricks.

So your answer, then, is "freedom". If this was an essay question in a class, all you would have to do is then explain why "Freedom exists. Equality is a fiction."

To a leftist or collectivist, equality is just as "obvious" as freedom is to you. Marxism/leftism/collectivism is based on the principle of equality superceeding freedom because freedom is unfair to the disenfranchised. Freedom is a capitalist tool that the elite uses to repress the underclass.

1:31 PM GMT+12  

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