Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Thu Feb 15 15:11:57 2007
Carter and Gore

A few years back, when I was dating Nicole, I made her very angry when I expressed my disdain for "high-culture" charity dinners - even for a good cause, they seemed to me to almost be mocking what I saw as actual efforts to do good. I saw her argument that they raised money that otherwise would not have been collected, but I hated the idea that the kinds of people who go to such things could, as argued, do more good by going to a masturbatory dinner where they do little more than eat an expensive dinner and feel good about themselves than people who are "in the trenches" pushing for legal change, volunteering, and sometimes giving up resources that are meaningful to them for the greater good. Is this what our society is about, that groveling before and praising the very rich is better for what we care about than digging in? I think I've come to a more careful understanding of it in the years since. There is little to no virtue in those wealthy who "contributed" in such a flashy way - they're broken people who were acting in the same kind of sick "high culture" that they always do, and their need to feel like they're good people is very human of them. At the same time, our society is broken in that it allows/creates such imbalances of power/wealth. Extracting money from the wealthy that way, just like with progressive taxes and other means, is a useful (albeit disgusting) task, and fits solidly with the type of comprimise needed for a partial compliance theory. In accordance with honesty, we should not be unwilling to discuss why we don't give deep respect for such people, even with them at such events, but at the same time to successfully extract the funds it would not be a violation of socialist ethics to attend such events. A certain fortitude of mind and ascetic focus are important to keep to avoid seduction by the luxuries of such events. I suspect this reanalysis could not be deeply satisfactory to her because of her aristocratic urges (descendant of French nobility blah blah), but that's not a concern to me anymore.

My respect for Al Gore has steadily been increasing since his retirement from political life - his efforts to popularise environmental causes are something the world needs. There's something that seems strange to me in using celebrities and concerts to do so, but with my effective retirement from direct action in support of that cause, I've come to agree that using all means possible to reach people and get them to consume and pollute less is helpful, even if, as above, we dip heavily into partial compliance ethics. I would not want there to be only one approach used to protect the earth - direct action may still be appropriate for some causes and situations, but, just like with different approaches to societal progress, taking every possibly productive route simultaneously will hopefully give good results. Back to Gore, he's reminding me a bit of Carter in building a postpolitical career - I wonder if they hope to become the next generation's Noam Chomskys.

In the meantime, the European Union, too timid to broadly and directly criticise the United States for torture of prisoners, is criticising its members who helped the United States send said prisoners to backwater states that permit such torture. The threat of trade sanctions is probably a cause - Europe, unfortunately, needs its ties with the US economy. I once heard an argument that two democratic capitalist states would never go to war with each other because the economic costs would be too great. In situations like these, it's sad to think that instead Europe would not stand up to the United States when we have a bloodthirsty idiot at the helm.

I am concerned that Fatah lacks the vitality of its (considerably worse) rival in the Palestinian Authority, Hamas - it takes a certain level of education and culturedness to see the advantages of a modern secular state (which Fatah, theoretically, stands for), and Hamas represents an alternative, much more easily swallowed vision for a society. Thinking about this, I can see that I don't entirely acccept the Marxist dialectic of progress, in that I think the movement towards secularism, culture, liberalism (as I understand it) and virtue as being of similar importance to moving towards more efficient societal-economic arrangements - just as Marxist historians trace ownership of the means of production from primitive times to capitalism and theoretically onward into and through socialism to whatever their flavour points at, the character of people and society must be part of that same analysis, as each arrangement places demands on the technology of the times and the character of the people. Marxist analyses that fail to incorporate this are by nature faulty.