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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Walk on the Darkside, or the light?

Do we walk in the darkness, or in the light?

The human condition is that we are all on a walk. Some of us walk on the darkside and some of us walk where there is light. Those who walk in the dark do so for a lot of reasons: greed, anger, fear, pain.  If they only hurt themselves, they deserve all our love and pity and we ought to help them. But when they hurt others they have to be stopped or taken down politically. When people are walking on the darkside or dancing on the skulls of suffering people we have to love them enough to know them, walk in their shoes, and defeat them.


Anyone who has ever done any hunting or natural observation knows that the best hunters love their enemy so well they can predict their movements. A good hunter loves his target. His empathy and sympathy doesn't translate to sparing it because he knows that it's life is short anyway and that he needs to eat or use it's meat to live. Most natural hunters rationalize this with the notion that the animal will be "Reborn." When one kills an animal in conflict, they consider it a brother and mourn that they have to kill it. Killing is only murder in the state of nature when it is done out of spite, hatred, or is directed at "brother man". In a state of nature survival means making others life go dark so that one can survive. One can mitigate this by living as a vegetarian, but then one either gives one's life to predators or defends from them, so even vegetarians must kill to survive sometimes.


In a state of civilization, as Locke demonstrated in his famous book, we don't live like animals. Killing is never right. Running selfish plots that do in others is always walking the darkside. We have to survive too. That brings us into conflict with one another over resources, but the way we resolve conflict in civilization is to trade things we need for things we don't need. We can afford to gift one another and receive gifts in return. We can either live together for the common weal, or we can come into conflict. A virtuous commonwealth is one run for the common weal. The spirit of "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" can actually be a virtuous thing if it applies to everyone in a settlement or collection of settlements.

Advertizing versus Reality

Thus Locke's translation of "res publica" as "commonwealth was a statement of human dignity that epitomizes the human spirit. One can translate it as a a system run for the "common weal" really easy and he meant it to mean that. The latin just translates as "our thing" or a system run by "representation of the public". He knew however that many would see it as "commonwealth" as in the wealth of the commons, and have no problem with aristocrats owning it. But he made the point that in a state of civilization we trust authorities with power on the assumption that they'll uphold their end of the deal. He also made the case that when they violate that trust they neither deserve God nor the people's trust and no longer should hold those offices. People stand up to be officers advertizing that they will live up to principles such as equal application of the law, justice, equity and upholding the commonwealth. In reality the reality has been different from the advertizing since the first war leaders made themselves kings, then made themselves tyrants and emperors, then rewrote the history books to make themselves saints, or died trying. Advertized attributes like "nobility", justice, honor and courage have been defined as much by their violation as their being upheld. But unless a government is run in the common weal of all it's people, the reality is dark and muddy, not bright, clear and shining.

And in our present day, the same buccaneering spirit that drove the pirates and privateers, warriors and robber barons is still Animate. For some the "commonwealth" is motivated by a pirate spirit where the pirate captains keep firm chains on their pirate crew, and try to keep all the loot for themselves. Conservatism as a virtue is about protecting tradition, rule of law, family values, traditional values, and protecting society from violence and upheaval. Our modern cons aren't conservatives they are buccaneers. All that stuff is advertisement. They are really about protecting the property of the wealthy, dispossessing and looting, and darwinian behavior. They might advertise Christian values but they practice con artist values. Good Christians are manipulated by people who confuse them with issues like "right to life" and fears of homosexuality or brown people by people who know the hunting spirit of the "state of nature" and see them as mere tools to be used in reality. Hypocrisy is a term that doesn't even do the behavior justice. We've got a lot of people who have learned machiavellian and Randian philosophy, but pretend to be whatever they need to pretend to be to get power. They aren't conservatives anymore. Most of them are buccaneers and cons. Some of them are so confused they think that literalist religion and Ayn Randian con behavior go together. They don't.

Fighting the Buccaneer spirit

Buccaneers were often ordinary sea-captains who saw an opportunity and knew nobody was looking. Life at sea was difficult. More the "law of nature" than that of civilization. And men went to sea (mostly men) to make their fortunes and took their chances as much with storms and reefs as with other men. Modern businessmen see themselves pretty much as inheritors of the same tradition. J.P. Morgan is reputed to have flown Henry Morgan's Jolly Roger. Even if he never did, the spirit of the early Capitalist barons was never far from the pirate/privateering tradition of Henry Morgan and our founder Robert Morris. Our business teaches people to sell useless things to people. Many business teachers teach folks that they need to be willing to "sell refrigerators to Eskimos" to be effective. Sales and fraud aren't that far apart. And many modern businessmen all walk close to the border between the light and the dark. Turn your back and they train a broadside on people. Modern businessmen make money by bribing politicians, extorting from other politicians, and using the law to establish privileges and usurp resources they otherwise wouldn't have acquired.

Once we understand the buccaneer spirit which motivates the cons presently we can love them as our brothers and fight them well. Once one understands that much of what we are hearing is deliberate deception we can learn to read between the lines and seek to divine what they are really up to. Like the Commissars of Russia or the folks depicted in 1984 what they say is; often the opposite of their intentions, what they project on others is often reflective of their own intentions, and their promises are only not worthless when one has them by their b****. We can predict their next moves by understanding them. Protect the country from default? Only if that protects their investors. National Security? Only if it protects their wrong-doing from being leaked. "Free Trade" = Freebooting. The pirate captains of the world will get together to organize slavery for everyone but will never get along very long because pirates live to fight. Once you see them for the pirates they are, you understand organizations like "Skulls and Bones" and the people who take those solemn vows. They are our brothers of the coast, but until we can force them to treat us as brothers. They are as likely to give us a broadside as trade with us or do their mission with integrity. And our businesses have reinforced that profit, especially short term, rapacious profit, is the God really worshiped.

So we love them enough to beat them in business. Get laws to break up their monopolies, reclaim the commons they've usurped and looted. Recover their loot, and that give bounties to whistleblowers to rat them out. We laugh when they talk about "death taxes" -- as estate taxes are life for the living and not taxing wealth at death just passes unearned privileges they got from us to the next generation. We need to understand that wealth and privilege are earned -- not gained with a broadside of canon (figuratively mostly). We fight them using the same legal powers and privileges that they use against us. By fighting corruption.

We fight the buccaneer spirit at the expense of getting labeled pirates. We fight for the common weal against pirates who have gotten letters legalizing their buccaneering. They are after profits. If we can convince them that they can make more money by doing the right thing -- maybe they'll do it. But absent that we have to beat on them.

I still believe we can change. Nobody should deserve to be cussed out, attacked or put in jail unless they deserve it individually. But when they are walking on the edge of darkside or dancing on the skulls of suffering people we have to stop them for their own sake and ours.

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