Thursday, February 17, 2005

Brief Journey Into The Ideological Jungle

It was about five years ago when I first heard of libertarians.

Then, my on-line self used to frequent most often atheist forums. (Given that atheism entails not a single one, just the lack of one belief, people would discuss anything, with the luxury of disagreement without others' expectation of agreement.) The guys I first debated invariably were of the following kind: rabidly anti-social-spending and pro-business, rabidly anti-domestic-regulations but pro-draconic-immigration-regulations, rabidly anti-international-treaties and hence pro-Israel, rabidly pro-US-Security-State (and as it could be guessed, all Americans). These guys were stauch strong atheists, yet criticised President-(not-yet)-Selected Bush from the right! I then concluded libertarianism is fascism in new guise.

How I erred.

Of course, what changed it was discovering the site during the run-up to the Iraq war. I not only read the news but the commentaries too - only then did it dawn on me that this is a site run by anti-war libertarians. While disagreeing with arguments or the slant at places, elsewhere I found points stated forcefully which most of the anti-war Left ignored or slipped over - in particular, their focus on parallels to and consequences of past US imperial crimes, and monstrous disasters borne out of all the good intentions. (On my blogroll, tex represents them.) And I didn't yet know Justin Raimondo will vote for Nader.

Yep, as Trotsky said, march separately, strike together. But I'd like to go a bit further.

Here am I. I am kind of a political homeless, tough on the British side of the street. Growing up in a 'communist' dictature, one's first ideological experience is the discrepancy between propaganda and reality - so one either cynically throws away all the seized-upon ideals too, or keeps some in spite. The environment (ignored and destroyed by the architects of planned economy) and public transport being so important to me, my political awakening happened under a green sun. The reasons for my non-assimilation seem now pre-historic; of present-day Greens in politics (whom I would vote for if they would be organised enough to be on offer here...) and in public life, my criticism would be that in "think global, act local", the first half or first quarter seems sometimes lost.

Next I found myself in the tailwater of liberalism, whose (East) European branch in the rosy post-fall-of-communism times still had a social-liberal branch (one strong about minority rights and inequal opportunities), which unfortunately died away in the shade of populism and nationalism and its cancerous twin, neoliberal elitism.

Later, as the nineties economy-nonsense bubble grew, and the Centre-Left took another dive globally with the ascent of NuLab and those it inspired, the arrival of the 'anti'-globalisation movement[*] moved me toward the (European) Far(?) Left. It's no accident the provocatively titled Lenin's Tomb is currently my favourite blog. It seems to me these modern socialists are the most willing to think hard today.

Now if I want to specify what exactly separates me from a their kind of socialist, I get into troubles. I would stress I don't want to do away with all competition between economic entities, but from what little I know, even anarcho-syndicalists allow for competition between their autonomous producing communities (tough not an existential one). I would stress many if not most people are ignorant of their class interests when it comes to politics, or indeed that both aspiring for power and following a leader are parts of human nature[+] - but 'agitation' is a really really old keyword for them. I would also stress that I can't accept a moral worldview solely based on human beings, then again Western socialists progressed well beyond the blunt everything-else-is- means-of-production mindset I so hated from our past 'communist' dictature.

Maybe it's just that well-versed enough in their favoured authors to decide?

Maybe it's something else. Let's get back to the libertarians: there are some eerie parallels between the ideal world of libertarians and communists/socialists. Both imagine the state abolished and replaced reason-based interaction of autonomous units (whether individuals or communes), just one sees the State as the main roadblock to there, the other capitalism/MCM. As mentioned above, the latter allow for competition after all, while the others think a market of rational people would end exploitation.

Strangely enough, the better-versed libertarians don't like corporate capitalism that much either, and there is even this: a pro-free-market attack on neoliberal economics! And it happens I see a libertarian and a leftist railing against the same politicians for the same idiocies, but where one sees another sign of the State's failure, the other sees another sign that capitalist interests shouldn't have a hand in decisions.

Also, while I'm probably not the only leftist giving more thought to the libertarians' argument that good intentions won't make a decision immune against becoming the source of even greater disaster, some anti-war libertarians could see that even a corrupt UN is better than a bound-loose imperial State.

What this all boils down to is NOT some wishy-washy we're-all-the-same-deep-down New Age mumbo-jumbo, but that some differences are down to perspectives and language rather than categorical differences. From which follows, for the Left, that when marching separately, it may be wiser to confront libertarians (and others striking together) in a more nuanced way, it can be worth to listen. (And the Other Side is already trying.)

(This post was in part inspired by the discussion that followed Robert Lindsay's rant against libertarian economics, which started with my enthusiastic approval.)

[*] Not the hundreds throwing stones, sometimes orchestrated by Berlusconi sometimes not, but the hundreds of thousands protesting and discussing while CNN talking heads dismiss their own field reporters' reports... [BTW, I almost never watch CNN; anyone seen Alessio Vinci on-screen recently?]

[+] To cut through the underlying sillyness of the nature vs. nurture arguments some readers might see implied here: I think these parts of human nature are things to anticipate and sidetrack (nurture changes the effect of nature), rather than either deny them or declare that what is is what should be. For example, imagine if 90% of people would restrict followership to dancing at the tune of some musician or sports games, while they would vote or protest after criticising each alternative (and news source)?


At 6:46 PM, Blogger josh narins said...

Are we ready?

Perhaps, being trite, if we march together, the striking can occur less often?

And, for humor relief...

The early bird gets the worm, but
the second mouse gets the cheese.

I've been talking to Libbos since 1995 or so. Back then, IRC's philosophy room was dominated by them. They had an #objectivism chat which I would haunt. My favorite moment was when a young Libbo, halfway through the Fountainhead, said, in a way that he intended as insulting "Hey, Josh is like Howard Roark."

The other Libbos jumped out of their chairs to tell him he was wrong.

Poor kid.

Tell me when we are ready.

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At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone has days when they are down, worn out, chronic anxiety and just not feeling all that happy.

That's OK, you need to have days like this, otherwise how would you know when you are happy. You need to have something to contrast your happiness with. What is black without white?

Even though you know that sadness (chronic anxiety) is a part of life, let's try to make it a small part of life.

With that said, here are a few tips to help you feel better when you are feeling down in the dumps. They are easy to do, easy to practice every day and they work!

1. Stand up straight, sit up straight. When your body is in alignment your energy can flow and when your energy is flowing freely, you can flow.

2. Smile! Yes, just smile. Easy to do and effective.

3. Repeat positive affirmations. Things like "I feel good", "Positive energy flows through my body", "I see the good in all".

4. Listen to some music that you like. It doesn't have to be anything specific, just something you enjoy. Certain types of music work better than others, but experiment and see what works for you. Studies have shown that Classical music and new age music work best.

5. Take some time out for yourself, relax and read a book, do something for yourself.

6. Meditate. Meditation is an excellent habit to develop. It will serve you in all that you do. If you are one who has a hard time sitting still, then try some special meditation CDs that coax your brain into the meditative state. Just search for "Meditation music" on Google or Yahoo and explore.

Our outside work is simply a reflection of our inside world. Remember there is no reality just your perception of it. Use this truth to your advantage. Whenever you are sad, realize that it is all in your mind and you do have the power to change your perception.

These tips will lift you up when you are down, but don't just use them when you are sad or chronic anxiety . Try and practice them everyday, make them a habit. You will be surprised at how these simple exercises will keep the rainy days away.

On a final note, if you are in a deep depression that you can't seem to shake, please go see a doctor. This is your life and don't take any chances. chronic anxiety


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