Tag Archives: Politics

Talk About Daddy Issues

The argument I made in my last post “The Legitimate Liberal Process” elicited a strong reaction from certain circles both in its comment section and on other blogs. One reason the counter argument to the liberal system of government seems flimsy to me is because it only (as far as I have observed) attempts to poke moral and logical holes in liberalism. It never provides an alternative system as a replacement. It is fine to say that government which prioritizes the freedom and equal rights of its citizens (i.e., liberalism) is a bad form of government for this or that reason but doing this alone merely boils down to at best intellectual masturbation and at worst nonproductive whining and complaining.

One important aspect of liberalism that is often overlooked or dismissed is the adherence to the rule of law. The rule of law is important because if we are to temper the direct and arbitrary rule of men with legal structures in which they can become rulers and according to which they can rule it is necessary that these legal structures are respected and adhered to. Of course it can be argued that there are always instances in which these structures are violated in various ways. But as long as the legal structures provide an authentic system for dealing with and rectifying these irregularities then the system will hold together and maintain its integrity.

One argument made against this legitimate liberal process was that rules and regulations cannot replace actual authority. Specifically it was argued:

Rules, procedures, and written law are not capable of becoming transubstantiated incarnations of authority itself.  The crafting of positive rules, the writing of text onto paper, is not a sacrament. Bureaucracy … and formal decision procedures cannot become a substitute for kings.

I find this argument unconvincing. I assume the person making this argument includes legislatures, courts and executives (e.g., Presidents, Prime Ministers etc.) to be sub sets of the “bureaucracy” category. If this assumption is correct, I do not understand why democratically elected people in authority (limited in power by laws) cannot be adequate substitutes for kings. Clearly there needs to be people in authority to enact, interpret and enforce law. What difference does it make whether this power is defused into different branches or that the person in authority received their authority from the ballot, inheritance or a strange lady lying in a pond distributing swords? Come to think of it, no monarchy in history (to which I am aware) existed without a bureaucracy to carry out its will. It was the king who invested the bureaucracy with the authority to carry out its will in the same way that a modern electorate invests its elected officials with their authority who in turn invest the bureaucracy under them with authority. As long as there remains faith in the legitimate authority of this bureaucracy I fail to see why one system is any more or less valid than the other.

But the argument continues:

[T]he modern mind … desperately wants to believe that a politics with minimized authority is not merely coherent, not merely possible, but is the only moral state of affairs.

The argument as to whether a government can coherently limit its own authority has been debated previously and there is no reason to revisit it in this blog post. To argue whether such a government is possible seems to reflect a confused perception of reality. Self limiting government has existed (at least) ever since the Magna Carta. Not only is limited government possible but it has out competed the older forms of government which I assume this person believes were established on a more coherent foundation. As for the morality of limited government I would not argue that it is the “only moral state of affairs”. It it simply the overwhelmingly preferred moral state of affairs in the modern west.

As appears to be the case with a great deal of anti-liberals they are seemingly incapable of making an argument without launching an ad hominem attack against their perceived enemies. For example the same person went on to say:

Ultimately though reality doesn’t really care about the daddy issues of modernity. Pervasive commitment to an incoherent conception of authority doesn’t make authority go away as a feature of reality: it merely makes authority sociopathic.

The implication here is that a person who prefers to live under a liberal system of government is somehow anti-authority in general which in turn reflects an unresolved and maladaptive psychological hang up related to the person’s father (i.e., the familial authority figure). This seems to be a bit of a stretch to me. First of all, a person who prefers to live under a liberal system of government is not anti-authority but rather pro-authority of a specific type. Liberal authority however limited is still essentially authority. Second of all, it seems to me that the person who cannot seem to make an argument without attempting to shame someone who might disagree or question him is the one with “daddy issues”. As when a person is shamed by their parent they tend to want to vent this shame on those he perceives to be weak or incapable of defending themselves as in blogs, comment sections and the like. To project his own daddy issue on to his opponent seems entirely psychologically consistent and is certainly no substitute for a civil and reasoned debate.

 

 

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Religion and Politics

When people argue about religion and politics I get suspicious. This is especially true if they are overly defensive or overly critical of people who do not share their point of view. When they do this  I suspect that their true reason for wanting to argue has nothing to do with the logic or persuasiveness of their point. I think it has more to do with their desire to feel better about themselves by making other people feel bad about themselves. This is the shame dynamic I have blogged about in many other posts. The notion that shaming their opponents is their true motive tends to impeach the validity of their point of view in my mind.

It does not seem likely that anyone can prove that their political point of view or their religion is any better than any other political point of view or religion. However, there does seem to exist a drive and desire to convince other people that we are right. It seems we want to our ideas to be correct. It seems we want to validate ourselves. This drive has nothing to do with the correctness of our views except to the extent that we hold the correct view in relation to the person we argue with.

The holders of correct views are better and then the holders of incorrect. This is the ego’s line of thinking. But the thoughts are disguised as a logical or philosophical debate. And there can be enjoyment in this space. There is fun to be had. But let’s be honest about what is going on. It’s not about trying to convince someone else that we are right. It is about trying to convince someone that we are better and they are worse by comparison. And why do we want to convince these other people that we are better? So that we can convince ourselves that we are better. And why do we want to be better? I think it is partly because the better people get to push around the less better people. It is probably partly because the better people fear exchanging places with the less better.

In this respect the better people are afraid of the less better people. This applies to me right now as I write this blog. Part of me wants you the reader to think that I’m witty I want to think that I am intelligent. Part of me is afraid that I’m a nobody and that I have nothing important to say and nothing to offer.

I find that when I am in a political or religious debate if I can remain aware of this dynamic I can stop myself from taking it personally. If I am not taking it personally I am less apt to demonize my opponent and become angry with them. If I am not feeding into this negative energy then I suspect my opponent will be less apt to do this as well. Some people cannot help themselves however. There is the temptation to judge them for that. Probably best not to give into that either.

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Shame, Critical Thinking and Loyalty

Shame derails critical thinking because truth is not the shame ego’s main objective. The shame ego’s main objective is looking good in the eyes of others. Put another way, the main objective of the shame ego is to avoid humiliation. Put another way still, the shame ego’s worst fear is being humiliated.

If the shame ego were primarily interested in the truth and thought critically it could hear both sides of a debate and determine the winner objectively based on the merits of each argument alone. But with political debates in particular I find that most people do not evaluate the arguments primarily on their merits but rather based upon pre-existing loyalties to political camps and not wanting to appear foolish in the eyes of the opposing camp. I do this myself. When I do this I must realize that I am allowing my shame ego to take control of my thought process and am therefore not thinking critically.

In this context, loyalty can be a tricky subject. Most people think loyalty is an admirable quality. I would say, generally speaking this is correct. However, shame egos are more apt to invest their loyalty for the wrong reasons in the wrong causes. For example, a shame ego might be loyal to a cause because it does not want to appear to be following the wrong or loosing side. It is not so much that the shame ego ignores its critical thinking, but rather the shame ego prioritizes not appearing foolish or wrong above what cause actually deserves or has earned its loyalty. This is why (I believe) arguments involving religion and politics devolve into shouting matches and ad hominem attacks. These type of arguments are about personal beliefs and therefore in some ways define the people making them. If their beliefs are wrong then they as people are wrong. Shame egos cannot abide by this.

Critical thinking requires dismissing shame in order to be objective but a shame ego will not allow this. As such, a person with a shame ego never properly learns to think critically and therefore experiences a warped sense of reality and truth. At its heart, the shame ego is afraid of truth because the shame ego ultimately believes itself to be wrong. As such the truth (it believes) is humiliating and must be avoided, hidden or dismissed. In fact, a shame ego will sometimes deny truth even to itself and will react with anger or aggression against the people who insist on the truth.

Rather than feel the discomfort a shame ego experiences when confronted with the truth it will avoid the truth and therefore is incapable of thinking critically. In order for a person to think critically he must free himself from his shame ego. He must embrace the truth and allow himself to experience humiliation in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. If he is judged then the humiliation becomes too harsh and he will retreat back to the protection of the shame ego. But if he is not judged and can take in the compassion in the face of the feeling of humiliation, then he can start to have compassion for himself. This is the first step in the arduous road to liberation.

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Shame and Free Will

If my actions are motivated by shame then I am not exercising free will. I am acting out a prefabricated script that was passed down to be by those who imprinted their shame onto me. But it feels like I am using my own free will when I am acting motivated by shame. Or to put it a bit more accurately, it does not feel like I am acting out a script when my actions are motivated by shame.

Shame can be very subtle in this regard. Here are a few examples:

I am told to believe in the Bible because it is the word of God and was divinely inspired. How do I know this is true? I want to believe it but I really have no evidence to confirm it one way or the other. So I am left with a dilemma. Either I believe it on faith (because I have been told that is what good people do) or I remain skeptical. If I remain skeptical my shame will punish me for not having faith. But if I believe in the Bible my shame will also punish me for not being a modern, critical thinker.

I was brought up in a family that votes Democratic. There have been times over the years that I have flirted with conservative, Republican ideology. This was back before the invasion of Iraq. At the time my liberal, neo-hippie friends and my family tried to make me feel like a dumbass for siding with the conservatives. Very little of this was based on reasoned debate. It seemed to be all based on shame. Now I vote more along the Democrat lines but I still sometimes feel like I am made out to be a dumbass by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity and the people in my life who espouse that philosophy. Again, their tactics are loosely garbed in reason but their main point of persuasion is shame. Nowhere in the mix is what is true and false and best for the country. It is really all about shaming the other side. But when I pick a side I feel justified in my own beliefs and justified in shaming the other side.

I often feel awkward in social situations. When I am invited to a party my first inkling is to come up with an excuse not to go. Usually what happens is that I feel I should be social as the correct course of action. I go to the party and have a reasonably good time after a few drinks. Later in the night I feel glad I went and silly that I felt like I should not go in the first place. All this is shame. I don’t want to go to the party because I feel I will be judged. After I loosen up and feel okay talking to people I judge my pre-party self for being antisocial.

Where in the mix is what I really want? Where is my free will in any of these situations?

Shame is passed on from generation to generation. To the extent I act out the script I do so because my parents acted out the script on me. Their parents acted it out on them and so on down the line to the point where Adam took that bite of the apple, his eyes were opened and he felt ashamed. (See Gen 2:25 – 3:8). Interestingly it was free will (or so the Bible tells me so) that got us into this mess in the first place. If Adam had not chosen to eat the apple of his own free will then he would not have created the feeling of shame and it would not have then been passed down to me to rob me of my free will.

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