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48Highlander

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Personaly I think you're confusing politeness with fear and social pressure.  From what I can see, people are no less likely to insult certain grups than they were a century ago, the only difference is that now they insult groups that don't have many defenders.

Hell, scratch my last, it's not any different.  5 decades back it was alright to insult blacks because everyone could get away with it.  There was no social outcry against it, and the blacks generaly didn't fight back.  I'm sure the more "enlightened" individuals had a problem with it, but they were in the minority, so it didn't matter.  Today, the same situation exists but with a new target group.  Americans and Jews are both insulted and belittled on a daily basis, largely because there's no public outcry against it, and because they don't fight back.  Sure the more "enlightened" individuals have a problem with both, but they're still in the minority, so it doesn't matter.

Try an experiment, go to York University and yell "DEATH TO ALL AMERICANS" or "DEATH TO ALL JEWS".  Then come back the next day and yell "DEATH TO ALL BLACKS" or "DEATH TO ALL MUSLIMS".  If you're right about how enlightened and polite our society is, then any one of those statements should generate the same response.  However, I gaurantee you that you'll get a much different response using the latter two than the former.



I do understand what you're saying when you speak about our society being superior because we're more liberal and understanding.  I agree, those values which our society is based on ARE what seperates us from more destructive (and self-destructive) cultures.  However, there's a big difference between having a tolerant culture, and having tolerant citizens.  And it's hypocritical to allow insults against one group while ignoring insults against another.  Yes, the cartoons were impoilte and misguided.  But no more so than cartoons in our own "tolerant" news publications which paint Americans as oil-hungry violent war-mongers.  And BOTH are an allowed form of self-expression.  If we attempt to control either, we're infringing on peoples rights to express their own beleifs.  Where do you draw the line?  If my girlfriend is offensive to a muslim because she doesn't wear a burka, should my moral, tolerant, and polite values dictate that I ask her to put one on?
 

Kirkhill

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Edward I think this might be a reference of interest:

"Refined and Refinement: these were important words for the Scottish Enlightenment.  They went together with another term that Hutcheson (Francis, 1694-1746) picked up in Dublin, when he turned to the writings of Molesworth's patron, Lord Shaftesbury.  That word was politeness.  Shaftesbury took a term associated with the world of jewelers and stonemasons (as in polished stones and marble) and elevated it to the highest of human virtues.  Being polished or polite was more than just good manners, as we might say.  Politeness for Shaftesbury encapsulated all the strengths of a sophisticated culture:  it keen sense of understanding, its flourishing art and literature, it self-confidence (emphasis added), its regard for truth and the importance of intellectual criticism, and, most important, an appreciation of the humane side of our character.....Kindness, compassion, self-restraint, and a sense of humour were, for Shaftesbury,  the final fruits of a "polished" culture........Shaftesbury also explained where the highest and most sophisticated polite cultures came from. The answer was simple: liberty. "All politeness is owing to Liberty," he wrote.  "We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision." ... How the Scots invented the Modern World, Arthur Herman, 2001.

The concept of politeness was in direct and conscious contradiction to Hobbes vision of life as nasty, brutish and short.  It did not imply softness however.  The same school of thought embraced the ideas of Adam Ferguson, chaplain of the Black Watch, who also saw the need to maintain a degree of savagery in a civilized society.  His ideas can be said to have been invoked to justify the Second Amendment in the US constitution, the right to bear arms and more importantly the need for the citizenry of any society to be involved in its own defence - the need to balance politeness with a willingness to be savage when the occasion warrants.

As with most other aspects of the Enlightenment the watch word was moderation - not in the sense of standing in the middle but actively choosing, as situations demanded, when to be savage and when to be polite.

Put it another way.  It costs nothing to be polite.  It allows you to better pick your battles.
 

Edward Campbell

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48Highlander said:
Personaly I think you're confusing politeness with fear and social pressure.  From what I can see, people are no less likely to insult certain grups than they were a century ago, the only difference is that now they insult groups that don't have many defenders.

...

I’m not about to argue that there is not a double standard in our society.  I read, this morning I think – but I’m not going to search the trash (or the Internet) for the article, a bit about a cartoon which won an award in Britain.  It showed Ariel Sharon eating a (Palestinian) baby.  (It was a grossly distorted caricature and reference to the old blood libel, part of its effectiveness was, I presume that it was, clearly, a caricature of Sharon and of our own ingrained anti-Semitism.)  In any event someone asked the representative of the group which gave the cartoon an award: why that one? Why not an anti-Arab terrorist cartoon?  The answer was something like: “Jews don’t issue fatwas.”

My problem with your position, if I understand it, and part of Dare’s, too, is that it appears to me that you suggest that we ought to race to the bottom, that we should, just because we can, do what we (rightfully) deplore when others do it.  I don’t accept that position – we are ‘better’ than that.

48Highlander said:
...  If we attempt to control either, we're infringing on peoples rights to express their own beleifs.  Where do you draw the line?  If my girlfriend is offensive to a muslim because she doesn't wear a burka, should my moral, tolerant, and polite values dictate that I ask her to put one on?

This is one of the issues which, I think led to the original Danish ‘test’ of the limits of free speech.  (I think that’s what the Danish editors had in mind according to what I have read/heard.)  A Danish lawyer argued, in a rape trial I think, that the Muslim defendants should be acquitted or punishment should be mitigated because they were inflamed by the immodest actions and attire of young Danish women.  They, the rapists, were ”offended” by the social mores of the country to which they had, voluntarily, migrated.  There was, I think, considerable outrage amongst ethnic Danes, as there should have been – I suspect the ever polite, cultured, tolerant Danes even took to the streets and waved placards saying ‘Denmark for Danes’ and so on.

I have consistently supported Costello when he says: adapt or move on.  (Which is about the same as saying, ”America: love it or leave it!”)  What I suggest, however, is that those who do adapt are entitled to their privacy which I take to include a right to preach and practice their religion and live their lives without gratuitous insults from others, including the mainstream or majority.  The same applies to homosexuals and members of the flat-earth society.  Good manners, alone, demand no less.

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By the way, the old elementary school rule is: 'I' before 'e' except after 'c' or when sounded as ‘ay’ as in neighbour and weigh.
 

48Highlander

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I just stumbled across an excellent article that does a good job of explaining what I was trying to say.  Unfortunately I can't edit my own posts at the moment, otherwise I would have just added it to my last one :)  Anyway, here it is:

http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/008045.php said:
"I know the evil of my ancestors because I am those people. The balance is delicate in the extreme. I know that few of you who read my words have ever thought about your ancestors this way. It has not occurred to you that your ancestors were survivors and that survival itself sometimes involved savage decisions, a kind of wanton brutality which civilized humankind works very hard to suppress. What price will you pay for that suppression? Will you accept you own extinction?"
-- The Stolen Journals of Leto II (F.H., God Emperor of Dune)

.....

Human psychology is pretty constant across cultures and has remained pretty much the same throughout history, and anyone who believes for a second that Westerners are intrinsically above these sorts of shenanigans is kidding themselves. Every age and every society has always had its peculiar heresies. And there is no better way to disabuse oneself of the notion that Muslims are somehow special in their capacity for savagery than to simply study history –- life through much of human history has been nasty, brutish and short, and it is only in the last few centuries that we have begun to pull ourselves out of the proverbial muck. The past century alone has witnessed enough bloody wars and shameful predations against minorities even among "civilized" nations that it renders risible the very notion that "those people" are somehow intrinsically different from us.

No, the authoritarian mindset lurks within many of us, and anyone who doubts that tribalism is our default psychological mode should watch a soccer riot, or go spend a few hours reading the comment sections of various extremely partisan political weblogs.

But it's not merely the ideologues and hooligans that we need to be wary of. In the General Social Survey, Americans were asked how they felt about the following statement: "People should not be allowed to express opinions that are harmful or offensive to members of other religious or racial groups." A total of 42% either agreed or strongly agreed. Liberalism does not come naturally to humans, and its true friends are few.

And yet, here we are. We live in the most wealthy, tolerant, pluralist, liberal society ever to exist on Earth. Taking the long view is enough to make one marvel that such a thing is even possible, and feel a mild sense of terror at how fragile and precious the social environment we take for granted suddenly seems. So how did we get here? How our part of the world get to be so different from that one over there?

Simply put, we've spent a very long time building up social mores and legal rules that bind our innate psychological tribalism. Another interesting data point from the GSS is that people were subsequently asked whether they agreed with the following statement: "Under the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, people should be allowed to express their own opinions even if they are harmful or offensive to members of other religious or racial groups." When the questioners phrased it this way, the median response suddenly became a lot more friendly to free speech. As Bryan Caplan puts it:

"The median person agrees with free speech if you link it to the Constitution. Otherwise, the median person could take it or leave it. . . . While many people seem to think that the Constitution always favors whatever policy they prefer, there are actually quite a few people who prefer whatever policy they think the Constitution favors."

An older friend of mine from Iowa remarked to me years ago that Americans have their own religion -- they worship the Constitution. Only recently have I come to understand what he meant. The median Westerner's support for free speech arises more out of a sense of tradition and group identification than a well-considered commitment to liberal values in themselves.

You see this same sort of dynamic among the conventionally religious: to take one example noted by Razib, there is a substantial minority among the Roman Catholic laity who, if asked, will profess a belief in some form of Creationism. When informed that the official Papal doctrine for the past few decades has been that natural selection is in fact wholly compatible with the Catholic faith, they'll typically switch their position to the doctrinally correct one.

This is not irrationality; this is just humans being their boundedly rational selves, relying on salient focal points and epistemic authorities on which to anchor their beliefs so that they can get on with the business of life. For all but those on the rightmost intellectual tail of the bell curve, their most basic assumptions about the world and society are largely matters of faith.

Read more here


The key point there being that human nature does not change.  Many members of our own society are quite capable of being irrational, bigoted, and violent.  The only thing holding them in check is a sense of tradition, and "societal values".  However, when you have a target group which isn't protected under those values, there's nothing to restrain their behaviour.  You see that at any anti-war protest you go to.  We see ourselves as accepting and understanding, and under our current rules of conduct that means we don't insult minority groups.  But human nature being what it is, instead of truly becoming tolerant and understanding large segments of our society instead turn on other groups for which there are no taboos against attacking.

So you're right, the values of our society DO set us apart from "them", however, the values of our society do not accurately reflect who we really are; rather, they reflect what we picture ourselves to be, and what some of us strive to become.  Whereas "they" make much less of an attempt to hide their (very human) nature.

How does this relate to the cartoons?  Well, it's more of an argument against your views that we should encourage politeness in all things.  If we accept that a large segment of our society does not truly believe in the liberal values which our society is based on, but rather only give in to them because of social pressure, then it becomes obvious that we're fighting a losing battle when we condemn those who speak out aggressively against more regressive societies.  When you have millions of Muslims protesting against these cartoons, AND you've got half of our own society arguing that such speech should be forbidden, you are helping reinforce the perception that it's wrong to offend Muslims.  This perception automatically creates social pressure, and people quickly jump on-board.  Meanwhile, when Muslims attack our society and our values in much the same way, it makes very little difference that you're also going to be against their "hate speech" against us.  Your voice simply gets lost in all the noise.  If you view it as a propaganda war, you're adding your support to their defence, while being overpowered by their attack.  Like I said, it's a losing battle.

That's one of the reasons I believe in near absolute freedom of speech.  It's not just that I believe in true liberty, although that's certainly a major part of it.  As it relates to the current clash of civilizations though, I would rather give people the liberty to verbally attack ANY group they chose, than forbid them from attacking only those societies which are in direct competition with our own.

An interesting parallel can be drawn between the current conflict and the pre-WW2 attitudes of the Germans and the "allied countries" respectively.  Germany allowed and encouraged extreme propaganda meant to glorify the German people while dehumanizing Jews and "others".  Meanwhile, the rest of the world was split between condemning German attitudes, and making apologies for them.  The "polite" individuals amongst us went to great pains to ensure the rest that the Germans really wanted peace.  The side of the war that we eventually ended up fighting in was massively fragmented before it began, and that certainly aided the Germans in making massive advances before facing any real opposition.  Eventually, before we achieved victory, we ended up indulging in the same sorts of propaganda campaigns and the same de-humanization of our enemies, because it became necessary in order to achieve victory.  How much different would things have been if we hadn't been so fragmented to begin with; if we hadn't been so eager to accept or ignore their attitudes and actions, while simultaneously pooh-pooing those who suggested that the Germans may be a threat?


P.S.  You can stop correcting my spelling mistakes, I took the time to run this post through a spell-checker :)  And yes, I am quite aware that I nearly always misspell the word "believe", thanks.
 

Edward Campbell

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It is, perhaps, a question of ‘base.’  My ideas are based on Locke, Hume, Smith and Mill; I think Hobbes got it wrong.  You appear to differ.

With respect to ” near absolute freedom of speech”: how near?  Is shouting fire in a crowded theatre still over the line?  Isn’t hurling gratuitous insults at anyone in the same category, if you understand that it might inflame passions?

I also wonder if we understand ‘true liberty’ in anything like the same way.  I believe that liberty is defined in terms of the sovereign individual against all collectives: the state and its minions, churches and their minions and, indeed, the majority when it rules.  I also believe that true liberty is accompanied by responsibilities to secure and protect that same liberty for others, even for those who abuse it.

Absolute liberty to do anything is, it seems to me, just more Rousseauistic drivel: an excuse to not try harder, to simply drift down to the lowest tolerable societal level.  I mistrust the concept. 
 

Kirkhill

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Absolute liberty to do anything is, it seems to me, just more Rousseauistic drivel: an excuse to not try harder, to simply drift down to the lowest tolerable societal level.  I mistrust the concept. 

I once heard absolute liberty in this sense defined as licence, as in licentious behaviour.  Liberty was the freedom of the individual to act responsibly or accept the consequences when they failed to act within the rules of society.
 

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Just to help clarify the source of the above quote presented by 48Highlander:

http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/008045.php

February 04, 2006
We Have Met the Enemy, and He Is Us
by Guest Author at February 4, 2006 10:44 AM

by Matt McIntosh of Conjectures and Refutations

    "I know the evil of my ancestors because I am those people. ....

http://conjecturesandrefutations.net/weblog/?page_id=8

About the Author

The author, Matt McIntosh, is an Ontarian college student with a professional interest in digital systems and networking. Those are his work, while his play includes an interest philosophy, economics, evolution, and history, among other things. He also pays far more attention to politics than is probably rational. His general philsosophical and political outlook is a frothy brew of Karl Popper, Friedrich Hayek, Daniel Dennett, Thomas Barnett, Steven Pinker, David D. Friedman, Ronald Coase, Thomas Schelling, and James M. Buchanan. He has also grown to enjoy mathematics more since leaving high school, and now tries to educate himself in a patchwork fashion.

http://conjecturesandrefutations.net/pictures/me.jpg


 

48Highlander

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Edward Campbell said:
It is, perhaps, a question of ‘base.’  My ideas are based on Locke, Hume, Smith and Mill; I think Hobbes got it wrong.  You appear to differ.

My ideas don't depend on philosophers.  Blame it on too much exposure to people who quote Chomsky.

Edward Campbell said:
With respect to ” near absolute freedom of speech”: how near?  Is shouting fire in a crowded theatre still over the line?  Isn’t hurling gratuitous insults at anyone in the same category, if you understand that it might inflame passions?

Hardly.  In one, the victims have no option but to take the threat seriously.  Yelling fire in a crowded theater is no better than pointing a gun at someones head and saying "I am going to shoot you".  It's a direct threat.  An insult on the other hand depends on the desire of the "victim" to take offence.  It has no effect and no meaning unless the person it is directed at choses to respond.

True, many people can't control anger very well.  More often though, reacting with physical violence when insulted isn't a reaction to the words themselves, but to the perceived slight and the loss of status if one ignores it.  For me personaly, an insult has very little meaning.  I have certainly never struck anyone just because they chose to insult me.  Nor could I picture myself ever reacting in such a way.  What's the point?  Personal insults generaly only display the ignorance of the person offering them.

What do YOU beleive?  That yelling "fire" in a theater, and saying "muslims are suicide bombers" equals to the same thing?  Why, because someone may get offended and become violent?  Come on.  Where does that kind of logic stop?  If you say that you support the war in Iraq, and I get offended by it, will you apologize for that statement?  If I get offended by your use of the word "the", will you remove that word from your vocabulary?

Edward Campbell said:
I also wonder if we understand ‘true liberty’ in anything like the same way.

Obviously not.  True liberty is allowing people to do whatever they wish as long as they do not harm others.  "Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins" as it were.  What do I care if you want to go pump yourself full of drugs, wear a KKK hood, and sodomize goats in the town square.  I beleive a lot of the extreme behaviours people exibit are a result of the fact that those things are forbidden.  So keep it simple - the only things that should be illegal or forbidden are those which harm others, or are clearly intended to harm others, and the punishment for those few crimes should be extreme.  Truth be told I'd prefer a system of vigilantism to enforce the law, but that would depend on people being a lot more mature and responsible than most are.

And no, when I say "harm others" I don't meant "emotionaly harm" or "psychicly cripple", or whatever the newest touchy-feely phrase is.  Words are just words.  They can always be fought with words.

And since my idea of true liberty obviously isn't anywhere near to becoming reality, I'll settle for as close as we can get.  And then I'll push for some more :)
 

Edward Campbell

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48Highlander seems intent on personalizing ( or, perhaps, individualizing) what should be, I think, a discussion of what I called, a couple of days back, large scale civility,

It seems to me that any kind of liberty, even true liberty, must include a dose of responsibility for society.  I think this is easy to manage in small scale civil societies: families, clans, even villages.  My personal observations, after living/visiting and working in a few different parts of Africa, the Middle East and West Asia is that small scale civility is pretty much the same the world over, but I conclude that large scale civility is much different in those regions than it is in North America, Australia/New Zealand, Western Europe and East Asia.  (I do not think this has much to do with religion, although it might be true that Islam enhances some attributes in e.g Arabic culture which have made successful large scale civility difficult.)

The relative weight of liberty and responsibility seem, to me, to define us as liberal, conservative on the successful side of the large scale civility equation or illiberal or, perhaps, primitive* on the failed side.  I think that liberal Western societies have succeeded in developing a large scale civility which works in the 21st century; ditto conservative East Asian societies.  I think most (many? just some?) Afro-Asian (including Middle Eastern) societies (cultures) failed,** largely because the changes which have been imposed by 500 years of globalization were, largely, imposed by Europeans.  I believe that cultures can succeed if they are either liberal or conservative, although the paths may differ – see The Economist, 21-27 Jan edition, Coming of age, page 10).  I think it is demonstrably impossible for illiberal (most (all?) of Africa) or primitive (Africa/Middle East and West Asia) societies to do the same.  The processes of becoming liberal (or adapting cultural conservatism to a globalized system created (or taken over) by the liberals) has not been easy – in fact it was long and bloody - arguably the European enlightenment only came about because of the experiences of the 16th and early 17th centuries: reformation, civil wars, religious wars, regicide and so on.

Kirkhill makes two important points:

• For the original, Scottish enlightenment, the nature of society at large was to be based on the positive cultural values of the small scale civility – on the “liberty” which is polished by an ongoing series of the ‘amicable collisions’ which characterize life in the family or clan or village; and

• Contrary to Jerry Rubin’s adolescent view, liberty ≠ licence.  ”If it feels good, do it!” is precisely what is happening on the streets of Beirut this morning.  This is unrestrained liberty taken to it logical, unconstrained conclusion; this is what Hobbes had in mind; this is why it was, and remains, necessary to affirm that Hobbes was wrong and that in reality we need to polish our liberty by rubbing (not knocking) off the rough edges.

Individuals, sovereign individuals will each react differently to each stimulus and, on balance, it doesn’t matter, to society at large, how a few individuals respond.  What matters is how most of those individuals act, as a group, as a culture, regarding all the things which shape our society, day-by-day and decade-by-decade.  That is the nature of large scale civility.  We, in liberal societies, tend towards protecting the individual from the pressures imposed by law and custom; those in conservative societies want to protect the collective cultural values (expressed in law an custom) from the radical pressures of individuals.  In successful liberal and conservative societies neither tendency is absolute or even extreme.  In failed (mostly primitive or illiberal) cultures we see only the extremes: imposed order by e.g. Big Men and the sort of licence being tolerated in Beirut today.

The point, to go all the way back to the start of this thread, is that we need to affirm the kind of country we want, on in which, as Mr. Costello said, ”… you would [not] feel comfortable if you were opposed to democracy, parliamentary law, independent courts …”  But we need to add a positive to Costello’s negatives: once anyone accepts the foundations of our society and the country which reflects it then they are entitled to all the rights and freedoms which we values, including access to all the virtues of our civility which, I suggest, ought to extend to more than mere tolerance of differences.  I believe that the essence of our secular, liberal democratic society (culture) ought to be that it is respectful and protective of individuals and groups and I believe that is also the essence of good manners.

In my opinion, the sort of true liberty which 48Highlander appears to advocate is nihilistic and, at the end, meaningless and, consequently, destructive of civil society.

We - especially the Anglo-American ‘we’ – have developed an imperfect (to be sure) but workable secular, liberal democratic and polished society/culture.  It is, now, under attack by movements which I have described, elsewhere on army.ca, as: Arabic, extremist, fundamentalist and Islamic.  It seems to me that we must understand what we are defending – we need to know that our ‘large scale civility’ is worth the price which we ask Canadian soldiers to pay.  I do not think that a social construct based on ” What do I care if you want to go pump yourself full of drugs, wear a KKK hood, and sodomize goats in the town square.”{?} qualifies.

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* Many, me included, refer to the medieval mindset of some, especially Middle Eastern cultures (societies)† - the implication is that they are primitive or have, at least, failed to adapt to the ongoing globalization which has characterized the past 500 years.

† I know I am using these two terms interchangeably but neither, in conventional usage, expresses the whole idea I have which is that

** Someone posited, within the last few days, that we are watching Arab-Islamic rage at the dawning realization that they (their cultures (societies)) have failed and that, most likely, they cannot recover the lost ground of the past few centuries.  It is, to me, an intriguing proposition.
 

48Highlander

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Edward Campbell said:
In my opinion, the sort of true liberty which 48Highlander appears to advocate is nihilistic and, at the end, meaningless and, consequently, destructive of civil society.

That right there is the crux of your argument, and you are certainly entitled to your opinion.  However, I've heard that argument applied many times.  It's been used to argue against everything from allowing blacks in "our" schools, to legalizing gay marriage.  Any time some new and revolutionary freedom is about to be implemented, there's been individuals who argue that it's "destructive to society".

Who knows, maybe you're all right.  But the sky hasn't fallen on our heads yet, and as far as I'm concerned, the closest we get to absolute freedom the better and more civilized our society becomes.  Your type of polished aristocratical society isn't my idea of what Canada is or should be.
 

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It appears we have just come full circle:

48Highlander said:
Your type of polished aristocratical society isn't my idea of what Canada is or should be.

Edward Campbell said:
Those who do not share our civility have a right, perhaps even a duty to tell us why we might be wrong and how and why we should change our ways.  Some of us might even listen.  Those who cannot accept the society into which they have migrated and which is unwilling to change to suit them must either accept their fate or move on.

48highlander, I would suggest it's time to build your case on more than just your personal opinion, or accept that you do not have a case deserving consideration as a basis for restructuring our society.
 

48Highlander

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Michael O'Leary said:
It appears we have just come full circle:

48highlander, I would suggest it's time to build your case on more than just your personal opinion, or accept that you do not have a case deserving consideration as a basis for restructuring our society.

What?  Restructuring?

I stating, quite clearly I thought, that I disagree with Edwards idea of what our society IS.  We don't live in a Gentlemens Society, where the majority are well behaved, polite, polished aristocrats.  So the sentence you quote from me does not advocate changing our society.

As to the parts of my argument where I WAS advocating changing our society?  What else would you like me to build my case on?  It all boils down to opinion eventually.  The US Declaration of Independance, the Constitution....they were just the amalgamadet opinions of a group of people.  They advocated the type of freedom that I do.
 

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What?  Restructuring?

I stating, quite clearly I thought, that I disagree with Edwards idea of what our society IS.  We don't live in a Gentlemens Society, where the majority are well behaved, polite, polished aristocrats.  So the sentence you quote from me does not advocate changing our society.

48Highlander:  Whatever you think the state of our society IS currently it is in no way comparable to what it WAS prior to the Enlightenment that Edward refers to.  That world was close to your perfect Anarchy (my words in your mouth because that is what it appears to me you are advocating) and in many ways comparable to what we see today in Afghanistan, the Caucasus or the Congo.  Edit:  However far we have to go to achieve or regain (depending on perspective) a "Gentlemen's Society" it is a lot less far than we have already come.

Our polished society resulted from people that were just plain, bone tired of planting people in the ground, building new houses, trying to find new cattle and sheep to replace the ones stolen, dealing with strong men making up laws as they went along.  Eventually they came to the conclusion that somethings just weren't worth the bother.  One of those things not worth the effort was trying to prevent your neighbour from going to hell because he or she didn't bend the knee to God or preferred to be surrounded by images of Saints.  You would both find out in due course who was right.   In the meantime both of you just wanted to get on with your lives.

One type of polishing came from the rise of social clubs like the Masons which admitted all religions and all classes.  These clubs were not the domain of the aristocrats.  They were, amongst other things, places where working men and tradespeople could sit down to supper with the local gentry.  The gentry got to know more about other's problems.  The working men picked up manners by osmosis.  Schools, churches, women's institutes, etc all have contributed to the polishing process.   All have striven to teach toleration, moderation and respect.

I am one who believes that where the system has begun to come apart in recent years is that where in the past those were attributes ascribed to the individual, with the individual determining their own actions, the attributes are now ascribed to our society and society determines the actions of the individual.  The difference between the two situations is that in one instance the individual is free, trusted and respected, and sovereign, while in the other the individual is suborned and constrained by society.  It is the difference between leadership by example and leadership by command.

You may think that a society of absolute freedom (something of an oxymoron there) or license or anarchy (another oxymoron) has it attractions but I put to you that in Iraq the LAST thing that the people over there want is an absence of government.  Their primary desire is for security.  This is no different than the desire of any other people.  The difficulty is trying to create the conditions where they can learn to get along amongst themselves and that requires give and take, toleration, moderation and respect.  When most people get tired enough of the mess around them they will take steps to clean in up themselves.  In the meantime, people being people, would prefer that someone else clean up their mess for them.  Under those circumstances they are susceptible to accepting the pitch of the latest fast talking salesman promising to make things all better.  This is what Will Durant meant when he said “When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near” .

People cherish order as much as they cherish freedom.  It is impossible to have either in absolute form.  It is necessary to find the middle.

When it comes to dealing with unpolished societies all we can do is set the example, instruct and assist those that see merit in our example, and not forget how much of a struggle it has been to get here.

I was once asked which bear was truly free: a bear in a cage being tended with three squares a day, a bear in a park that is protected from man but has to forage for themself, or a bear in the wild that can be shot on sight.  There is no absolute liberty.

 

zipperhead_cop

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48Highlander said:
What do I care if you want to go pump yourself full of drugs, wear a KKK hood, and sodomize goats in the town square. 

You have to be careful when you divulge the secret initiation rituals of a group.  They are really fussy about that stuff. :dontpanic:

I think the two camps here sum up as:  the right to say what you want, and even being justified in the face of misbehaviour on others parts and conducting ourselves in a credible manner that is fitting of our excellent country. 
Here in Castle North America we really can do whatever we want to.  Sure you can publish all kinds of defaming items if that is what you are in to, and you may be held to an accounting.  In states that are theocratically run, they don't always have things like free speech and uncensored journalism.  We do, and maybe take it for granted.  I agree that it is a double standard, but so what?  That is the price of holding the high ground.  There is already so much anti-western sentiment that is being pushed in the middle east and else where that even if we don't do ANYTHING there will be people pushing others to hate us.  So why give them concrete examples of why they should hate us?  You could publish a thousand items flogging the virtues of Islam and what not, but if people are living in a state of information censure, then they won't see it.  But lob out one dumb thing (like a false article about flushing a Koran down the toilet) and it will be out like lightning and linger like cancer.  The bad guys pulling the strings (the extremists) WANT us to fight back so they have more fodder.  If we ignore them, or just keep being nice (whether we mean it or not) we don't give them any fuel. 
It bugs me too, having to eat sh_t and saying "yum".  I am a big fan of massive retaliation and retribution.  But I have to compare this situation to being philosophically the same as when I deal with a person suffering from mental health issues.  I take a lot of time and patience with them, because they can't really help the way they are, they were born with a problem.  I can get mad, and yell and us sheer physical force on them to get my way, but that only makes it worse for the next guy who has to deal with the nummy the next time.  They aren't going to stop being MHA just by putting time in, and they will definitely be dealing with the police over and over.  If the MHA person always has good contacts with the police, they may still have Neil Diamond in their head telling them to put up a silly putty shield and hit the cop with a Ramen noodle sword, but they may hold off because there is a bit of intellect there that says "these guys are okay".  However, if the last contact they had was to get dropped on their head, cuffed and carted off, the next time something happens they will be on the attack from the get go, because that is what they expect. 
Maybe we should put up some mental "Don't poke or throw things at the Arabs" signs.  Eventually they will probably show up here on a refugee claim, and we should be in a position to welcome them, but not cater to them.
 

Michael OLeary

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48Highlander said:
What?  Restructuring?

I stating, quite clearly I thought, that I disagree with Edwards idea of what our society IS.  We don't live in a Gentlemens Society, where the majority are well behaved, polite, polished aristocrats.  So the sentence you quote from me does not advocate changing our society.

As to the parts of my argument where I WAS advocating changing our society?  What else would you like me to build my case on?  It all boils down to opinion eventually.  The US Declaration of Independance, the Constitution....they were just the amalgamadet opinions of a group of people.  They advocated the type of freedom that I do.

I believe one of the points you are missing is that we do live in a "Gentleman's Society", where societal norms for morality and behaviour tend to tolerance and right to use within stated legal boundaries.  The failure of the few to accept these social responsibilities, who wish their world to resemble Jerry Springer's universe, all the while 'enjoying' the liberties society allows, are insufficient cause to spurn the qualities and advantages of a developed western society which must incorporate some controls on behaviour to maintain acceptable norms.

My point is: that your 'points' do not satisfy the case being argued.

You seem to have no qualms decrying the general approach within Canadian society towards social morality and politeness:

48Highlander said:
If you truly beleive that being polite is part of "our" moral code, I respectfuly suggest that you must not have been paying attention to recent events.

One has only to look at the conduct of our politicians during the recent election campaign to realize that insults, lies, and misrepresentation of others is still a large part of our society.  Or, look at Carolyn Parish's reaction to "those American Bastards".  We've just shifted targets.  Instead of attacking other religions or races, we attack people based on political beleifs, and a large segment of our society sees nothing wrong with continualy insulting and belittling our souther neighbours.

Your post was very well written, and very nice and idealistic and warm and fuzzy.  But it doesn't live up to reality.  There's nothing polite about our society, we're just not as extreme as some others.

48Highlander said:
So you're right, the values of our society DO set us apart from "them", however, the values of our society do not accurately reflect who we really are; rather, they reflect what we picture ourselves to be, and what some of us strive to become.

... and you state your personal views are for something radically different:

48Highlander said:
That's one of the reasons I believe in near absolute freedom of speech.  It's not just that I believe in true liberty, although that's certainly a major part of it.  As it relates to the current clash of civilizations though, I would rather give people the liberty to verbally attack ANY group they chose, than forbid them from attacking only those societies which are in direct competition with our own.

If that does not constitute thinly veiled advocacy for change, then what is it? Hypocrisy, or simply whining?

Your case is built solely on your personal views; easily espoused on the internet when you wish to post words into a vacuum without regard for solid discourse of fundamentals and facts. You spurn Edward's references to philosophers:

48Highlander said:
My ideas don't depend on philosophers.  Blame it on too much exposure to people who quote Chomsky.

Yet you would surf the net until you find a self-aggrandizing student 'philosopher' who, in a single piece of writing expressed a few sentences that agreed with you:

48Highlander said:
I just stumbled across an excellent article that does a good job of explaining what I was trying to say.  Unfortunately I can't edit my own posts at the moment, otherwise I would have just added it to my last one :)  Anyway, here it is:

Read more here

Your stated preference, as described by Edward is nihilistic, you would turn over basic principles of western humanity for your own ability to do what you wish:

48Highlander said:
True liberty is allowing people to do whatever they wish as long as they do not harm others.  "Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins" as it were.  What do I care if you want to go pump yourself full of drugs, wear a KKK hood, and sodomize goats in the town square.  I beleive a lot of the extreme behaviours people exibit are a result of the fact that those things are forbidden.  So keep it simple - the only things that should be illegal or forbidden are those which harm others, or are clearly intended to harm others, and the punishment for those few crimes should be extreme.  Truth be told I'd prefer a system of vigilantism to enforce the law, but that would depend on people being a lot more mature and responsible than most are.

And no, when I say "harm others" I don't meant "emotionaly harm" or "psychicly cripple", or whatever the newest touchy-feely phrase is.  Words are just words.  They can always be fought with words.

And since my idea of true liberty obviously isn't anywhere near to becoming reality, I'll settle for as close as we can get.  And then I'll push for some more :)

Attempting to separate physical harm from anything psychological or emotional based simply underscores the immature development of your argument. I am certain that many rape and abuse vistims would rush to your banner under this opinion.

Nihilism as a personal philosophy is tolerated, but only in a society free enough to allow such expression, whether it does so under the heading of "rights" or "artistic expression" is immaterial. This is because the social matrix protects the nihilist from the more aggressive retaliations they might fully expect from a surrounding populace who would also believe in complete freedom of action.  But as a societal norm, it would be ultimately destructive, because it has no bounds, no expectations of social responsibility, and no means to generate expectations of good social behaviour supporting the very existence of the society itself.

Perhaps the predominant question, since you turn away from intimations that your point is to advocate change to the principles of a social framework you don't seem to agree with, should be: What exactly is YOUR point?

 

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Moving in a somewhat different direction here.

One of the problems we are having here in Canada, and to a certain extent in "Old Europe" is the seeming inability to actually define what our values are. We are "tolerent" and "Multicultural", seemingly without limit, and even behaviour which would have seemed outrageous only a few years ago is now considered (officially at least) "the norm". When Canada's defining value is "Health care", how many people will rally to the trumpet?

The consequences range beyond the questions of how certain followers of Islam behave; the "ganstas" who terrorize the citizens of Toronto are almost certainly not followers of Islam, but in some ways they, David Dingwall and the people now pushing the idea of legalized polygamy and polyandry all share certain values in common. In every case, they have no allegiance to any overarching set of values, but are simply in it for themselves and their own personal gain. The Ganstas and David Dingwall are easy to figure out, Ganstas want your money and will personally come out and use force against you to impose their will. Dingwall and his "crew" are a bit more subtle, they use lawyers and creative interpretations of the rules and regulations to extract your money. The polyandrists (for want of a better term) simply want to tear down social constructs which have lasted centuries because it interferes with their own wishes and desires. While many of us might say "who cares if they want to marry five different people?", they also want to use the power of the State to enforce their desires, and of course the State will also be used to extend many privileges and benefits designed to assist the family in its primary duty of child rearing to all these family analogues.

"We" have difficulty countering any of this, since "we" have been denied any framework of reference to do so. Toronto "ganstas" are not greedy amoral monsters, the problem is we are not "inclusive", or "guns" or declining welfare benefits or whatever. Dingwall sits there and demands his "entitlements", even though a person who voluntarily leaves his employment isn't entitled to anything. (Accepting and indeed demanding a severance under these conditions should result in fines and a jail term for fraud and breach of trust). Arguments for polygamy and polyandry are of course identical to the ones for "gay marriage"; any attempt to question these concepts is simply met with a barrage of abuse and a refusal to answer any of the questions raised. Suggesting that parenting and child rearing is a special duty which should be rewarded or protected by society isn't on in these circles, they are simply demanding they get benefits and rewards as well.

The radical Islamist can move in quite nicely in this environment. He is a moral absolutist, who also realizes that "we" cannot or will not support our values, since we have essentially reduced our values to milking the system in order to satisfy our personal wants. Like the gansta, he wants to impose his will, but unlike the gansta, he has a very deep set of values which will sustain him through all kinds of adversity.

Now it is a difficult task to agree on a set of values (much less live up to them), and this sort of project will actually take generations. Americans are raised on a clear set of guiding principles in their Constitution, and are taught these from childhood in their schools, history, mythology and so on. If we want to have the same clarity of purpose as the American Administration, John Howard's Australia, Tony Blair (although the rest of the Labour Party is wavering), then we need to start working on this now.

 

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zipperhead_cop said:
Maybe we should put up some mental "Don't poke or throw things at the Arabs" signs.  Eventually they will probably show up here on a refugee claim, and we should be in a position to welcome them, but not cater to them.

The trouble is we're not dealing with an Internet "don't feed the trolls" type of situation. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

In any case, I think I have to side with the "civil society" camp, as opposed to 48's offerings. The fact is, we do live in a society with imposed norms of civility and morality, even though we don't see it. Personally, I don't believe that is being eroded, as a_majoor suggests, by our level of tolerance, however, I do see that tolerance being tested.

Edward has quite eloquently defined the issue of values. To recap, we have low-level civil disipline (to redefine the terms) in the family - one shows respect for elders, for example - this transcends culture. On the other we have the macro-societal civil discipline. This can be enforced through religion (Judeo-Cristian and Muslim restrictions - on diet, dress and deportment) or through what Kirkhill describes as "people who are just plain tired..." of an endless cycle of revenge and violence. Our Common Law evolved from that attitude.

Our society is sliding down the slope to barbarism though - less common respect, less civility - maybe we are heading toward 48's "society?"
 

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Acorn said:
The fact is, we do live in a society with imposed norms of civility and morality, even though we don't see it. Personally, I don't believe that is being eroded, as a_majoor suggests, by our level of tolerance, however, I do see that tolerance being tested.

Edward has quite eloquently defined the issue of values. To recap, we have low-level civil disipline (to redefine the terms) in the family - one shows respect for elders, for example - this transcends culture. On the other we have the macro-societal civil discipline. This can be enforced through religion (Judeo-Cristian and Muslim restrictions - on diet, dress and deportment) or through what Kirkhill describes as "people who are just plain tired..." of an endless cycle of revenge and violence. Our Common Law evolved from that attitude.

Our society is sliding down the slope to barbarism though - less common respect, less civility - maybe we are heading toward 48's "society?"

Accorn

The first issue with the change in the value structure goes back to the time of the introduction of the television into the family home. Now this is key for a number of reasons. Everybody was drawn to this new invention, pass time became sitting in front of the TV. Interaction slowed down both in the internal family structure, "sush the show is on" to the pure interest of the show itself. An external effect was now their was a reduction in family verses family contact as everyone in their own home watching TV. We all know the humans will mimic from clothing styles to actions. So to a certain extent society values are coming from the TV. Less interaction less chance to practice polite social interaction.

Next we have the beginning of the "latch key child" or the child that returns home from school and amuses themselves until mom or dad get home from work. Mom, dad tired from work, child have home work, TV less interaction, generation two.

Lastly, we come to today and the Internet and computer age. To a certain extent children are being overwhelmed by this. Facets range from your "all day gamers and chat forum types" to the widespread intergration into schools. An intergration which to some extent has replaced traditional book learning. And several school districts have been experimenting with computers doing the teaching. What we do have again for the third generation is a lack of social interaction and a almost overwhelming technology.

Add in the success of the equal rights movement in their shift of values. And the impact here was the following of the wayside of "polite society". Opening a door for a member of the opposite gender became taboo for example. So yes in three generations yes a major portion of polite society has slipped away.

For some this "change" has been recognized and "change" is being implemented. With the high school based computers several schools have a "wean off program". Basically loading a class or two into buses and a week or two of "back to nature" camping. Sort of a win win situation in that the children are now interacting socially more as the computers are no longer there. The better programshave a high degree of interaction built into the in varrious forms. I know of several larger city schools that have taken this approach.

A method found in the elementry schools is a "gotcha" program in which the child receives a slip to drop into a end of the week draw for a small prize. Earning a "gotcha slip" can be done by saying please and thank you to helping another student but the entire system is built on manners and politeness. Schools themselves as a whole have also reinstutionalized conduct of what is expected of their students in a "polite society". For those of you with sons or daughters look in the front of their school student hand book especially in elementary. Or the next time you drop them off, look just inside the front door. In a "good" school you cannot miss it. In a nut shell behaviour modification.

Now back to overall society in general, yes there is a small shift back to polite society in major urban centers. To be honest to me in rural areas I do not think the slide away from polite society was as great. Afterall many rural areas retained that sort of familiar social intimacy of earlier generations verses the hustle and bustle of urban centers. Just my thought on the decline of polite society.
 

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Acorn said:
The trouble is we're not dealing with an Internet "don't feed the trolls" type of situation. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

I am definitely not suggesting "ignoring" anything.  But if you have a wasps nest, do you knock it down with a stick, or do you blast it from a distance with high pressure chemicals after dark?  Responding in kind to petty crap is a waste of time.  Better to quietly read the extremist crap and say nothing, then track the sources, find a cell of dinks and waste them (of course if its justified...blah...free speech...blah...talking about terrorists).

Acorn said:
Our society is sliding down the slope to barbarism though - less common respect, less civility - maybe we are heading toward 48's "society?"

I'm not sure about the barbarism part.  That would suggest that maybe a-holes could get purged, and they seem to flourish these days.  I think people are getting beat down and tired.  All they see is a total lack of accounting from the legal system, both at street level and from their government.  They see normal people doing normal things, like holding a kid that egged their house, then getting sued.  They see their kids coming home with report cards that are not allowed to have a harsh word in them, and hear how the bully in the class cant be spoken to because the bullies parents are louder.  All around us we are bombarded with signs that indicate "your opinion does not matter".  That is where you get your "silent majority" from.  Any time someone wants to speak up, they get crushed, labeled and ignored (albeit, that should be okay for the hippies).  No body wants to advocate common sense, because there is always some civil libertarian that will scream about some crap and make them look like a horrible person.  Look at the demonetization of Harper in the last election.  Just ludicrous some of the crap being thrown around. 
We talked in other threads about the "Broken Windows" approach to law enforcement.  The same principles can be applied to regular societal rules.  When someone is being a jackhole, call them on it.  That's what used to happen in "the old days".  Or if someone is giving crap to said jackhole, and they start getting flack back, stick up for them.  All of a sudden, the Joe citizen starts thinking "maybe I can do something" or at least has a story to pass on of "you should have seen what happened at the mall today". 
Canadians have no sense of ownership to this country.  They need some sort of leadership to start getting them to take personal active pride in this greatest of nations, and take a little responsibility for it too.
 

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zipperhead_cop said:
I think people are getting beat down and tired.  All they see is a total lack of accounting from the legal system, both at street level and from their government.  They see normal people doing normal things, like holding a kid that egged their house, then getting sued.  They see their kids coming home with report cards that are not allowed to have a harsh word in them, and hear how the bully in the class cant be spoken to because the bullies parents are louder.  All around us we are bombarded with signs that indicate "your opinion does not matter".  That is where you get your "silent majority" from.  Any time someone wants to speak up, they get crushed, labeled and ignored (albeit, that should be okay for the hippies).  No body wants to advocate common sense, because there is always some civil libertarian that will scream about some crap and make them look like a horrible person. 

'Okay dogs come on, walk time, your master has to do some thinking'. I think you have made some very excellent points here Zipper. First off the 'beaten and down and tired" syndrome in at least two professions I know about teaching and law enforcement. With regard to teaching you have mentioned one of the key issues the inability  to call a "spade a spade". Three times a year I dread the filling out of report cards "John displays an over developed sense of physical interaction with his peers", "Susie has remarkably well developed vocal abilities and should be encouraged to concentrate on other classroom skills" and the list goes on. It has gotten to the point now were you just cut and pasted the most applicable politically correct comment into the box from a ministry supplied lists.

Along with another favorite of mine "psychologists have SUGGESTED that it is detrimental to a child's well being if he/she is failled and not kept with his/her peers." Okay, no epidemiological studies performed just a suggestion from a psychologists from another country and the civil libertarians jumped all over it as Gospel faith. Detentions are deemed as cruel and usual punishment in todays schools. And then the public wonders why incidents such as Rena Virk's death occur. Add in the new definition of professionalism "keep your mouth shut so you will not put the 'profession' in a bad spot light in the public's view" So now we have one of the main institutions of society in which there is no recourse to what society had previously deemed as unacceptable. If I can get away with it in school then I can get away with it in society in general. After all there is no recourse in the court system either. No one wants to advocate common sense as to do so is going to be turned into an attack on one of the many self interest groups. One of the nicest aspects of working two jobs is that after dealling with the fine upstanding youth of today in the classroom and having ones hands tied behind your back you report in for your second job. One of the first things you hear is "Golf 32 I am on on my why back to the station with one in custody, John so and so". The cell door is unlocked, pers property box is out and a smile of at least one nights justice slowly creeps across your face.
 
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