i hope i may be forgiven for this digression into personal matters. however to say a little about my own thought processes has, perhaps, some relevance to how my comments may be interpreted or misinterpreted. it also offers others the opportunity to subject these thought processes, or my inevitably flawed and incomplete attempt to elaborate them, to a critical evaluation.
this is an impromptu document, written from scratch in about an hour. perhaps one should be more cautious or considered. but for me the dialectic method is the most productive and at the same time the most forgiving. any inadequacies of the thesis can be pointed out in the antithesis. the resulting synthesis should then represent an improvement on what was there before. this i regard as being true to the spirit/ethos of deLiberation. nothing here is final – the process of deLiberation is ongoing, and i welcome the chance to broaden my thinking, to enlarge my knowledge, or to become aware of bias and error.
i believe in freedom of thought. however i also believe that this phrase is widely misapplied and misunderstood. in my view true freedom of thought is something that must be struggled for by the thinker – it cannot be bestowed by some benevolent temporal or spiritual autocracy. in the same vein, my notion of jihad is that it is a struggle against the powerful urgings of what some spiritual philosophers have termed our lower nature.
i accept that my situation has in some ways been fortunate compared to many whose opportunities are curtailed or restricted by any of the various forms of oppression with which the world is disfigured. this does not mean that i believe in privilege. nor does it mean that i have been free from oppression. it is simply that my oppression has been easier to bear. at a deeper level everyone is oppressed in a world where lies rule instead of truth, and where love is drowned out by hatred, greed, selfishness and murderous aggression.
allow me to attempt (somewhat haphazardly) to articulate some of the reasons which led me, in the later 1980’s, to cease from active involvement in politics. i hope these same factors are also sufficient to explain why i do not belong to or participate in any religion or sect. i reject the teaching of all the many schools of the philosophy of usandthemism. it has always seemed curious that the dominant influence in current geopolitics is a nation which, with an utterly insouciant self-complacency, calls itself (in upper case!) US!
it is to be hoped that my use of the word attempt in the foregoing paragraph will be taken to imply that i have some degree of awareness of the inadequacies of my understanding and knowledge. certainty is persuasive, yet in private conversations, as well as in public pronouncements, my observation is that a person’s expressed certainty is often inversely proportional to their capacity for critical (including self-critical) thinking. for example when a politician says let us be perfectly clear about X, i experience an immediate involuntary twitch in my vomit muscle. at the end of the day i would like to put procedures in place to move the goalposts onto a level playing field.
this non-involvement with religious and political parties neither requires total inactivity with regard to these matters, nor a lack of sympathy with the adherents of any particular school of politics or with the faithful of any religious denomination. indeed, my vain striving is to increase the scope of my sympathies and my ability to empathize with others, through the exercise of whatever level of understanding, tolerance and compassion i am capable of mustering. this by no means entails an abdication of critical judgement. to sympathize with someone does not demand either agreement with them or approval of their thoughts or deeds.
whatever the benefits of belonging to groups and the associated partisanship – and we must recognise that both at the personal and political levels such benefits are by no means negligible – i feel the negative aspects of these phenomena far outweigh whatever utility they may possess. in particular the benefits of partisanship generally seem restricted to some particular group or tendency, whereas the disbenefits accrue to humanity as a whole.
perhaps due to my own admitted mental peculiarities, i have from an early age found all dogma, conformism and coercion repugnant. likewise all kinds of of persuasion which attempt to bypass the dialectics of rationality or the intelligence of the heart. the modern approach to advertising is a precise paradigm for what i dislike.
by contrast the partisan position is that dogma and conformism are only lamentable in those with whom we disagree. our dogmatism and conformism are fine, since we are right. surely that is a part of the semantics of the first person pronouns. of course, for the same reason, in our case the terms ‘dogmatism’ and ‘conformism’ are not required. instead we may refer to praiseworthy virtues – party discipline, orthodoxy, faithfulness to principles, hatred of the common enemies of humanity…
i am deeply suspicious of all justifications of particular forms of argument, action or policy which rely on some application of the plausible ethical fallacy that the end justifies the means. here Kant’s teaching is a valuable guide – every human individual should be viewed as an end in themselves.
i personally view with grave distaste all manifestations of hypocrisy, double standards as well as doctrinal strait-jackets of any kind. having said that, even my overbearing arrogance does not persuade me that i am incapable of falling into such traps myself. but if i do become aware that any of these things is exerting a pernicious influence on the clarity of my mental processes, i struggle with such tendencies. such self-critical activity requires analysis of causes, examination of one’s feelings, thought-processes, culture-relative prejudices, and insufficiencies or inadequacies of relevant factual knowledge.
however, we all need a few certainties. for example it is axiomatic to me that no individual or group has a monopoly of truth. this requires me to acknowledge the relativity of my own judgements. it also means that whilst i am at ease with the notion of inspired spiritual guides or political leaders i can accept no historical personage as any kind of ‘divine incarnation’ and i recognize no political ‘great helmspersons’.
my faith is that love holds the secret of creative evolution, whereas hate, though unquestionably a powerful force , always thrives on, and amplifies, dissension and destructive tendencies.
the Fenians used to say:
England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity.
whilst this was undoubtedly true at the tactical level, it is a bon mot suitable only to a state of war. and as ever, the first casualty of war is the truth. in fact war is merely an extreme form of weaponized partisanship and the Fenian motto merely a special case of another popular ethical fallacy: that
my enemy’s enemy is my friend.
to reason thus can cement temporary allegiances, and procures relief from cognitive dissonance – but only at the expense of an inability to deal justly with complexity, whether complexity of human motivation or of a geopolitical conjuncture. in my undoubtedly deviant and inadequate view, the twin nemeses of the my enemy’s enemy… school of political philosophy are the ubiquity of compromised alliances and the universal tendency to schism.