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random notes towards a political credo

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.


12 Responses to random notes towards a political credo

  1. Jonathon Blakeley September 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    I am against authority figures in general, be they political or religious. Organised religion in particular make me want to vomit and I dislike and avoid churches of all types. This is one of many reasons why I found my way to the Church of SubGenius

    I was all over the net at this time searching for all sorts. Its a parody religion based on mythical character called Bob Dobs a Super Salesman.

    Anyway they have very many funny aspects to their credo. In relation to this article are sacred the principles of clenching and schisming.

    • David Holden September 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      the schism appears to me to be a symptom of social organisation based on egocentricity.

      at a formal level it follows a very fundamental principle of organic life – bifurcation.

      however for a growing tree two sub-branches from the same stem branch are still parts of the same organism.

      when a religious or political organisation splits the first thing is an exaggerated inflammation of external difference. but in the consolidation phase you get mutual hostility, denigration and disavowal which tend to be very long-lasting.

      Jonathan Swift satirised the exaggeration of petty contrasts:

      Traditionally, Lilliputians broke boiled eggs on the larger end; a few generations ago, an Emperor of Lilliput, the Present Emperor’s great-grandfather, had decreed that all eggs be broken on the smaller end after he cut himself breaking the egg on the larger end. The differences between Big-Endians (those who broke their eggs at the larger end) and Little-Endians had given rise to “six rebellions… wherein one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown”. The Lilliputian religion says an egg should be broken on the convenient end, which is now interpreted by the Lilliputians as the smaller end.


  2. Jonathon Blakeley September 19, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

    This always bothered me this phrase and I am glad you brought it up. because i think it is flawed and a fallacy.

    We should however unpleasant and noxious it may seem try to realize the other side to this coin.

    my enemy could be my friend

    (he could also kill you/ but you could also become friends)

    • David Holden September 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

      J, thx 4 the word-cloud 😉

      and the blockquotes – just saw how to do that, useful feature for emphasis.

  3. Jonathon Blakeley September 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    perhaps due to my own admitted mental peculiarities, i have from an early age found all dogma, conformism and coercion repugnant.

    Indeed, same here.

  4. Jonathon Blakeley September 19, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Word cloud is made from here..

    Make it then screenshot (varies depending what type of Computer and OS)

  5. Jonathon Blakeley September 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    relates also to Discordianism

    There is some division as to whether it should be regarded as a parody religion, and if so to what degree.Discordians use subversive humor to spread their philosophy and to prevent their beliefs from becoming dogmatic. It is difficult to estimate the number of Discordians because they are not required to hold Discordianism as their only belief system,and because there is an encouragement to form schisms and cabals.

  6. Somoe September 21, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    Yet another excellent piece! The cause of very much deliberation for me. I too have long been deeply skeptical about organised religion, which seems all too often to feed the darker/lower nature of humans for the reasons you mention, rather than being the unifying catalyst for humanity that it should be. The problem is that organised religion is not what religion claims to be – a means of spiritual, moral and ethical guidance but instead is used as a means by which to control with fear, divide, confuse and render control of the masses to an elite chosen few.

    Spiritual gnosis is beyond the petty distinctions that religions fall prey to, the rights and wrongs, arguments regarding what is truly of God and the ‘usandthemism’ (great new wordism) 🙂 . Mathematics, art, poetry and music are forms of communication that resonate harmoniously across cultures. Healing humanity from the twisted up state it has been screwed into will take much creativity but from what i see there is plenty of will for it. Exercising a co-creative approach seems to me the best way to channel higher forces and create a better reality.

    I really appreciate the wisdom in your posts, they truly are a joy to the mind 🙂 furnished as they are in such refinement of language – it has been said that you seek the most perfect choice of words to convey your meaning (and i heartily concur).

    The cartoon of sufi and salafi was very funny, reminded me of some comment threads/articles from the beforetime (before the schisming of KA and LS) 😀

    • David Holden September 21, 2012 at 12:55 am #

      Somoe wrote:

      Mathematics, art, poetry and music are forms of communication that resonate harmoniously across cultures.

      these are what we should amplify, and rejoice in – the things which affirm our common humanity. mathematics is, unfortunately. a rather unpopular subject – i have always felt that there is a conspiracy to deprive the majority of the insight and intellectual joy which even a little knowledge of mathematics can bring. but there are other things that are more accessible – much as i deprecate its ludicrous over-commercialisation, sport can serve as a unifying influence. so also cuisine. so, likewise, parenting.

      it might be interesting, and perhaps even useful, to attempt a more comprehensive list.

      thank you Somoe – (as always) your post combines gentleness with intellectual resilience and every sentence is sane and humane. whatever shabby virtue my illiterate ramblings may occasionally manifest, that graceful balance is far beyond my most optimistic aspirations.

  7. who_me September 21, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    dh, you might enjoy this quote i’m plagiarizing here:

    Civilization is the vital force in human history; culture is that inert mass of institutions and organizations which accumulate around and tend to drag down the advance of life;

    Civilization is Giordano Bruno facing death by fire; culture is the Cardinal Bellarmino, after ten years of inquisition, sending Bruno to the stake in the Campo di Fiori;

    Civilization is mutual aid and self defense; culture is the judge, the lawbook and the forces of Law & Ordure;

    Civilization is uprising, insurrection, revolution; culture is the war of state against state, or of machines against people, as in Hungary and Vietnam;

    Civilization is tolerance, detachment and humor, or passion, anger, revenge; culture is the entrance examination, the gas chamber, the doctoral dissertation and the electric chair;

    Civilization is a youth with a Molotov cocktail in his hand; culture is the Soviet tank or the L.A. cop that guns him down;

    Civilization is the wild river; culture, 592,000 tons of cement;

    Civilization flows; culture thickens and coagulates, like tired, sick, stifled blood.

    edward abbey – desert solitaire

  8. who_me September 21, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    nicely thought out and written article, btw. 🙂

  9. Ariadna Theokopoulos September 24, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    These “random notes” are like autumn leaves blown by a clever wind in beautiful sea-shell pattern. A kind, wise and true pattern. Some posts are like the book you save thinking you will want to re-read it. This is one.