Words of warning and welcome:

This is very much my blog, so don't be surprised if this doesn't follow accepted patterns and norms. Obviously it started out as a blog about my cross-dressing but it has developed a great deal since then. It is a place where I can be anonymous and honest, and I appreciate that.

It will deal with many things and new readers would do well to check out the New Readers' Page above this and the tag down there on the right. Although there's nothing too bad in here there will be adult language, so be careful. If you think this needs a greater control, please let me know. Thank you!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Sexuality

This is not a post that will lend itself to mys usual image-accompanied style. So I apologise for the wall of text.

I am a very lucky individual.

My sexuality as I currently understand it in
visual form.
As yet, my sexuality has not been considered to be so abhorrent that there are laws passed against it, let's leave aside the fact that most of my circle do not know the fullest extents of my sexuality and that my wife struggles to even talk about it, I am nevertheless incredibly lucky. As part of a majority, being middle class, white, male and outwardly heterosexual (in the sense that there would no point anyone questioning it) I get to bask (and I'm not being sarcastic) in the anonymity and positive judgement that is assumed in everyday life. No one questions my preferences, I am married to a wonderful woman, and no one ever challenges my worldviews or my opinions about who I am. In short, I am left to create and to nurture my own identity in the privacy that I can dictate without too many feelings of shame or pressure.

Then I watched this. And I realised that luckiness that I spoke of in the above paragraph. I began to get a sense of just how much my life is different from others whose sexuality is actively and publicly legislated against. It is so feared and misunderstood that, frankly, bizarre descriptions of made up enemies are enough to convince people of the justness of their hatred and fear. As a Bible believing Christian who knows the two verses (in a book of thousands) that prohibit homosexuality (well, actually, neither of them talk of love, they talk specifically of sexual practice and Leviticus is even more specific "to lie with a man as with a woman" which is not terribly encompassing - Paul speaks specifically to the Greek practice of teacher and student having sex with one another to deepen the pedagogic bond rather than more generally, otherwise we'd have to accept that women cover their head and that any Christian with long hair is breaking an equally serious part of Christian dogma, not something I see much of about) I also believe that God creates human beings.

In other words, it is not for me or anyone else to try and legislate sexuality until we can scientifically prove that these things are entirely choice. Not, by the way, something I feel that science will ever prove. Indeed, whilst it is looking far more complex than a gay (or otherwise) gene or set of genetic encoding it is nevertheless looking less and less likely that sexuality is entirely down to choice. I do believe that there are, and have met, those who claim that they have modified or changed their sexuality through choice and force of will (though, interestingly, my anecdotal evidence of 'people I have met' [all three of them] who claim this did so to become bisexual rather than straight and started from heterosexual baseline assumptions rather than homosexual ones - that is, men who decided they were attracted to men as well as women rather than men who decided they were attracted to women as well as men). But I do not believe, anecdotally or otherwise, that they would constitute a majority or even a sizable minority.

Which brings me to this snippet. I need to watch the whole damn' thing. I need to in order to educate myself further as there is little in the mainstream, that I have seen at least, that takes the assumption that something that is not considered normative is normal. Like I say, being considered normative in my sexuality means that I am free to make my own challenges and not challenged on a day-to-day basis about my preferences. Few heterosexual people are. I consider myself lucky to be challenged occasionally about my sexuality and blessed that I spent a good deal of time as a teenager dealing with self-imposed challenges to my internal perception that helped iron out a lot of the big sexual issues. Of course, I'm still very much on a journey, I recognise that, but my journey is at my own pace in many ways - which is a luxury not afforded to many people whose sexuality differs more openly and obviously with what is considered normal. And, like I say, to my knowledge my sexuality has never been legislated against or feared to the point of unthinking and unreasoning violent reaction by others. I am lucky.

The whole damn' thing:


I mean, I don't venerate Fry like many seem to - he was a top comedian in the 1990s and a decent enough host of QI but I very much disagree with much of his fluffy-liberal and fuzzy-logic worldview - but I have to respect what he's done here. I have to.


21 comments:

  1. I have to admit that I'm of two minds on the subject of legislating morality. I call it that because if we don't follow the knee-jerk reaction of demonizing the people legislating against homosexuality we can see that they are doing this from what they see as legislating a moral belief. I may not agree with their moral belief, but I do have respect for people that do so. Doing so has lead us to making such things as murder, rape, child pornography, and hate crimes illegal.

    BTW, I think 'hate crimes' are just about as bad as anti-gay laws.

    Anywho... I am a firm believer that the majority does and should rule. So long as they leave room for minority voices and differing opinions, then that's the way it SHOULD be. Instead of trying to push back against a legislative body that's responding to their citizenry, I try to do my damndest to educate the citizenry in the hope that they'll elect more open minded and educated legislators.

    Where you find yourself lucky to be grouped together with other white, male, heterosexuals, I find myself in a kind of gray area. Yes, I'm white. Yes, I'm male. But while I am heterosexual, I can't assume that it's always assumed about me. Being in my fourth decade of life and never married doesn't give me any cover. Not currently dating doesn't help either. Working in a female dominated profession offers even less help. I don't know what people assume about me... and frankly I don't care what is assumed about me. Guessing my sexuality should be about as interesting as guessing what month I was born in.

    At the same time though, I've never been openly disparaged, hated, or legislated against. That gray area is still comforting when compared to someone living openly homosexually.

    I guess if I could change anything about people, I wouldn't make anybody accept anything that they find immoral. I would just change them from trying to make the world over in their view to make them accept that there are other morals that people can follow. Laws shouldn't be made to fit any one particular moral

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    1. I wrote a proper response, but forgot to publish it because I am an idiot!

      Making it shorter: thank you, I love this sort of debate generally and your thoughts particularly.

      I disagree that laws against unlawful killing (there are no laws against murder, or war would be awash with lawsuits), child pornography (define 'child', then analyse why the definition is based on age), rape (which are rarely, if ever, enforced properly or soberly) and hate crimes are about morality. Indeed, the last one on that list would fly in the face of 'majority rule' as, invariably, it is sold as protecting a minority.

      Rather I see them all as more about maintaining State power and perpetuating the belief that we need a State to function. Indeed, most laws are about this, the assumption that we need to be protected by the State from ourselves. The carefully made list of crimes seems more about making us unable to set our own morality than it does about enforcing a morality.

      Legislation of sexuality has nothing to do with morality. Despite the fact that the main arguments for doing so are espoused by those that would have us believe they are all about morality.

      My other point, that I made a better job of explaining the first time round, was Mill's point that most democracies are "the tyranny of the majority" and that I agree. I would not trust majority decisions in most areas of life. Not because people are dumb, far from it, but because the majority is nearly always dumber than the people that make it up. Any decision based on an attempt to condense so many opinions into a single thought - a law - is so flawed as to be unusable.

      There are better legislation methods than representative or direct democracy. But we are wedded to an early-modern, low-technology, minimally-moral State model that self-perpetuates.

      Okay, in being shorter I am coming across as a bit of a bitch to you, Calvin, and for that I must apologise. I restate, because it's not at all obvious by this point, I find your commentary brilliant, illuminating and interesting. I'm not having a go at either you or the opinions you express, I'm more enjoying the debate (and thus Devil's advocacy) far more than I ought!

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    2. I certainly don't think you come across as a bitch. We are of like minds in that we enjoy debate, and unless you disparage me directly I like debating and discussing things with you. Especially topics that can become heated.

      I'm not going to say that no state anywhere creates laws just to perpetuate its own power. Dictatorships certainly do this. But I think that in any democratic designed or representative republic style of state that their very design prohibits laws as being just about propping up the government. There are a group of people over here that get elected for the very reason of taking power away from the federal government.

      What I mean by saying that those types of laws (murder, rape, child pornography, and hate crimes) come from legislating morals is that the person or people who wrote the laws were dictating their moral beliefs on to others. They don't believe it's right to murder, so therefore no one can murder. They don't believe it's right to use children in pornography, so therefore no one can use children in pornography. They don't believe it's right to 'hate' someone, so no one can hate someone (or at least act upon those hates).

      I believe wiping all such laws under the carpet of 'maintaining state power' argument is akin to using the Illuminati or One World Government arguments. There ARE people who do believe that we need to be protected from one another, and I'm one of them.

      I remember hearing a parable once on locking the door to your car. You don't do it to protect yourself from a criminal that wants to steal your car or stereo, because if someone wants it they will get it. They'll just pick the lock or break the window. It's to stop the less than moral person who will take advantage of the tempting situation of an unlocked vehicle. Laws like these are similar because a law against killing does nothing to prevent said killing... it simply gives pause to someone from doing so at the drop of a hat. It stops the guy from killing the driver that just cut him off on the highway.

      Having a large community of people all living by their own personal morals is a fine idea. A utopian idea. But most utopian ideas can't stand up to the weight and variety of individual morals. I know a person who believes, on a moral basis, that anybody who kills an animal should be put to death. There are people who believe that abortion should be banned because of their morals. There are people who believe that the races shouldn't marry or even interact because of their morals. There are people who believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman because of their morals. Without a state defining what morals (laws) we all follow, how would we ever live together in any type of harmony?

      I do agree that there are certainly better forms of government out there. But I also believe Winston Churchill said it best; "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." It would be easy for the majority to crush any minority opinion, but over and over again we see the majority standing up for the rights of the minority. A fine and recent example would be gay marriage. Homosexuals are still a minority, but we have many states passing laws allowing for homosexual marriage. Yes, majority rule is mob rule, but until I see something better I still have to stand by majority rule.

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    3. All states everywhere create laws for the purposes of maintaining the existence of states. Especially democracies as we elect a class of people who have been placed by wealth and background into a political class. Does that mean I'm into New World Order or Illuminati stuff? No.

      Consider the role of a politician in any form of democracy: to be re-elected. Now, not by ALL people, or even a majority of people. Not by educated people, rarely by informed people and, likely, by people who vote the way they do for irrational reasons. In office, they need to appeal for the funding to run their campaign next time. Most politicians will genuinely believe in what they do, many will struggle morally and nearly all will believe what they do is for the good of everyone. But it's to keep them in office. And, over a population of many politicians, you end up with State power being maintained as they rely on the State for their employment and their chance to do good. No evil mastermind, no evil plot, just electioneering. Capitalism?

      Churchill's quote doesn't make sense here (mind you, he rarely did) as democracy covers a wide range of different systems. The USA, the UK, NZ and Classical Athens, for example, are all different but democratic. There is no 'democracy' for him to talk about the way that he does.

      If you lock your car door to deter ordinary people from breaking a law then the law isn't doing the job, is it? You locking your door does the job. Ergo, laws don't keep anyone in line.

      Why would anyone want to try your car door on the off chance you didn't lock it? What do you have that they would want? Why would they want that? Why not gain it themselves?

      How much of human nature is set by the environment in which we live and how much of that environment is created by us? As a parent I have had to completely rethink my position on this. I always thought that human beings were basically selfish but my children weren’t! This is a blog post in itself…

      Large communities without laws have and do exist. Christiana in Denmark, for example, or Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War. Hell, the whole Russian countryside between about 1915 and 1920. The latter cases were destroyed by people who realised that experiments like that could NOT be allowed to succeed. By Statists. Levellers and Diggers were dealt with in the same way in the British Civil War.

      Put another way, harmony has existed without laws and without states. There were rules, certainly, but with the option of opting out geographically.

      Disharmony seems to come from inequality (and, no, equality does NOT mean everyone having the same). The more unequal a society, the less harmony and more fear of the Other. Going back to your car: do YOU often check the doors of cars to see if they're not locked and so steal what might be inside or the car itself? If not, what makes you think most other people do? SOME people do, but, statistically, they are either socio-paths, acting out of desperation or a misplaced sense of social justice. The law therefore doesn’t work to protect you or your possessions.

      And you dodged my point about laws NOT outlawing murder. They allow for murder very much, provided the State carries it out. Also, my point about child pornography you dodged. The law is not there to protect the child but to punish the pornographer and, crucially, the definition of child is predicated upon age NOT maturity. No law based on age can protect a child. There will be plenty who reach that age and are still incapable of really giving their consent in an informed way.

      Majorities may protect minorities, but don't get too happy about the state of, say, gay marriage in the USA. You STILL have issues with race that are far worse and that's with minorities that are sizable enough to be majorities in vast areas. No, the rule of the majority does not protect minorities and nor will it except out of pity or out of a feeling that to do so will benefit the State materially.

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    4. Lemme cover the points I dodged in the last post first: Murder. Yes, the state does allow killing. In war, executions, war, and to some degree police work. I don't see a problem with the state barring us from killing one another while allowing our soldiers to kill enemies in a war (hopefully in the defense of our nation), criminals convicted of a heinous act, or police defending the someone or the public at large. I do wish we lived in a world where killing was never necessary, but so long as we live in a world where others (enemy soldiers/states and criminals) want to kill or harm, then we have to be able to respond in kind.

      There are several states over here that have what they call "Stand your ground" or "Castle" laws that allow citizenry to use deadly force against people they perceive as a threat. I'm not sure if the recent Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis killings made the news over there, but both were about someone killing someone else merely because they felt threatened by them. THIS is something that I can't support as it's allowing the citizenry to act as judge, jury and executioner.

      So I still stand by my original stance that the moral belief of "killing is wrong" lead us to making Murder (defined as "the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another:") illegal. By it's very definition the state can in fact outlaw Murder... just not outlaw killing.

      As for child pornography, there will always exist a gap between defining laws with age vs defining them with maturity. I think we can both agree that at some point every child is unable to give consent, and (for most people) at some point they ARE able to give consent. Without setting up some large and unwieldy state mandated 'maturity test', we are left with only the ability to define that point by age. Almost everybody is able to make that choice in their thirties. Most people can make that choice in their twenties. Some people can make that choice in their late teens, and very few can make that choice in their early and pre teens.

      I think a better way to say what you did is "No law based on age can protect ALL children". But it can protect the vast majority of them. Does that law hurt some children who are honestly mature enough to make that decision? Yes. Does that law hurt some young (and no so young) adults who can't make that decision? Yes. But I think overall it's a good attempt at protecting the majority of children. By the way, I find it very interesting to see how state's decide upon which age consent can be given as it ranges from 12 to 19. In the terms of maturity, that is a huge difference.

      As for the laws being there to punish the pornographer and not protect the children, I still have to disagree. I can't at this moment think of many laws that are actually enacted to prevent any activity except through dissuasion. The traffic laws against speeding don't actually prevent people from speeding, it only punishes those who do. That doesn't mean the laws weren't enacted to protect the public from people driving too fast... it just means that the law is acting as a deterrent from participating in that activity.

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    5. That actually leads me back to the car door locking example. I will freely admit that you make a very good point... the law isn't working well enough to prevent someone from opening up an unlocked car and stealing either the car, parts of the car, or items stored in the car. Yes, common sense does have to be PART of the equation but merely locking my car door does not do the entire job either. If there were no law against stealing something, then even locking the door or having a car alarm wouldn't prevent those activities. Ergo neither laws nor common sense keep everyone in line. But put both together and we do a pretty good job.

      You say that harmony has existed without laws and without states, but that there were certainly rules. When exactly does a rule become a law? You can opt out geographically, but what happens when the geographic line doesn't match up with all people on that side of the border. An extreme example, but what if a person in that society thinks that nothing is wrong with rape. Raping (I'm assuming) would be against the rules, but if he opts out and convinces a woman to come into his very small geographic area (his home) where rape isn't against the rules, is he doing anything wrong? Would there be any justice for the woman who was raped?

      I think of all the social and moral differences here in the States. Some think that homosexual activity is wrong and should be banned while others think it's a right that should be allowed. Some think that abortion is wrong and should be banned while others think it's a right and should be allowed. Some think that even thinking hateful thoughts is wrong and should be banned, while others think that your thoughts are your own and should be allowed. How small would our individual communities need to be where everyone can agree on everything without there being any laws? And even if we had such a harmonious community, what exactly do we do about those that are sociopaths, desperate, or have a misplaced sense of social justice?

      Yes, we do still have issues with race here. But one thing I really like about our society is that we are ever making progress. Dating back to before the US civil war when certain states banned slavery, through the civil war where it became a federal law, through the civil rights movements where "equal but separate" was deemed wrong, up through today where we are still working on voting laws and racial equality. Gay marriage is transforming far faster, but I take that as a sign of progress that its changing so quickly in a single generation. I think both of these act as fine examples of majorities protecting minorities and I don't believe either was done out of pity.

      I'll finish with the point I made through Churchill... I don't think our system is perfect or even really all that good. There are vast problems with our legal system including the law making process, the enforcement process, and the court room process. But I don't see how having a society without laws or a government would be better or even as good.

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    6. Ah! Two comments! Why didn't I think of that!? I ended up editing down and editing down and editing down again...

      On murder: it's all well and good arguing about the Other who are out to get us (enemy soldiers/murderers/rapists/other nations) but I always come back to the main issue - soldiers fight for states. In other words, it's NOT their motivation mainly. Terrorists don't count. They AREN'T out to kill us, just terrorise use. The clue is in the name. But modern media has decided that terrorists are irrationally evil and Other and so fair game. I don't claim killing will never be necessary, but I do object to it being entirely in State hands and for the State to decide how and when to use that power (for anyone). Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a state mandated security person and acquitted (IIRC).

      Anyway, point was, the law is maintained there to support the State, to maintain that state power and ensure we look to the State for protection and security. Fair enough on one level, but it perpetuates the state. I'm not arguing for personal gun ownership either, by the by, as most acts that require such lethal force style defence are caused by state induced and state mandated inequality.

      Age of consent is an interesting one as you state. Not sure if it helps one way or another when considering if states self-perpetuate. Mind you, it does remove common sense (whatever that is).

      If laws aren't there to prevent acts that are harmful then they aren't about anything other than dissuasion through threat of punishment. And this fails on many counts: people never believe that THEY will be caught, so the law fails to stop the acts, and in making something specifically forbidden often makes that act more desireable anyway. Something I have learned in schools in particular!

      As for the car door example. My point was that most people would NOT try the doors. You don't. A vast majority wouldn't. Why? They don't want and/or need any of the stuff they would gain by trying. A really tiny minority would. A tiny minority that you point out wouldn't be deterred by the lock anyway. So, the law is pointless and you locking your door is... uh... mostly pointless. It's more for your peace of mind. However, the combination of the law and the state tells you to fear the Other, the person that is not you and to fear everyone around you (within reason) as a potential Other. So we do. And thus the state wins and self-perpetuates.

      On rape. Interesting stats from Barcelona and Rural Russia suggest that rape was either incredibly rare or non-existent during the periods of anarchy. Indeed, in most anarchies (as opposed to chaos) rape is vanishingly rare. Rape is a crime of power out of sense of powerlessness and sociopathy. Remove the powerlessness and most people don't resort to rape.

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    7. Second post!

      On what to do with that vanishingly small minority who are sociopaths etc. In anarchistic societies that have existed there have also existed methods for dealing with these issues. One is education and support - in a holistic and socially rooted way. That works for some. The second is exile - in a sense of ejecting those who disagree with the rules (I'm not sure you'd find many women who would agree with rape as not a rule breaker and so I'm guessing you'd find few areas where that would happen. Arguing someone's house is... well, disingenuous as we both know that won't work - the woman could go to the geographical community and still have her rapist dealt with. Or the man. Whichever). The third is execution. Not my personal choice, but that would be a community I would leave.

      Proudhon started his thoughts on this interestingly: "All property is theft". He didn't comment on possessions (yes, there's a difference). When society thinks of partners as property and removes agency we have the problem of rape more and more.

      Hmm. Black Civil Rights. As an historian, and a European one to boot, the rosy story you paint is... rosy. It's more a back and forth thing. And, oddly for a nation-state that prides itself on freedom, often very backward compared to the rest of the world (mind you, much of that is a European inspired problem). You're right,m the changes weren't through pity, they were through the threat of violent action, revolution and non-violence as a policy. Gandhi did the same in India. Gay marriage hasn't gained as much traction as it might. In all these things, the state acted as counter, to hold things back, and moved progressively only to self-perpetuate. Never morally or to be good. I'm not saying the state can't do nice things, I'm just saying more nice things would be possible and likely without one.

      On the size of communities, Barcelona is a pretty big city. Anarcho-Syndicalism ran that. Russia is big. Really big. Makhno was able to effectively deputise for and speak on behalf of a pretty large chunk of that. That was Anarcho-Communalism. Anarcho-Feminism is a worldwide movement. Just a few large examples of large-scale communities with agreed rules.

      Compare any of those, or the Diggers or Levellers or Anabaptists or the City of Munster or Christiana, to either the USA or UK... Societies without Law (note capital) or State (not government, that's different) work as well as, if not better than, us.

      tl;dr - Oftentimes States aren't what we think they are. Nor are governments. Nor is Law. Anarchy almost never is. Libertarians aren't all of Anarchists (thankfully).

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    8. I'm of course going to reply to specific points, but I want to start by asking something. How do you define community, government, and state? The sense I'm getting from you is that both community and government are OK, but "The State" is something inherently wrong. In my personal view, the state is simply the inevitable combination of community and government.

      I mostly agree with you on the terrorist issue. I see terrorists as a group of people with incredibly strong moral convictions willing to go to almost any length to enforce their beliefs on other people. Let's face it... one person's terrorist is often someone else's freedom fighter. I'm fairly sure that in the beginning of the revolution the British looked upon the newly termed 'Americans' as terrorists. I don't believe that terrorists necessarily intend to kill people, they just don't mind killing people to further their agenda.

      George Zimmerman, the man that gunned down Trayvon Martin, was part of a neighborhood watch organization. The neighborhood watch organization isn't state mandated, or even supposed to be security related. At least not in the sense that the enforce the laws. Instead they simply task themselves with 'watching' for crimes or suspicious people and should call in the police (a closer example to a state mandated security force) for any legal or security related tasks.

      I'm still trying to wrap my head around your logic on laws, so forgive me if I'm making this too simplistic. Let's start with the assumption that there are people that will do things that are wrong (for this example let's just stay with the 'stealing from an unlocked car' example). They can do this for all manner of reasons varying from desperation, inequality, addiction, less than moral beliefs, or even being a true sociopath. Most people won't do this, but there is a small minority that will. As a community we don't want these people to act on their impulses so we propose a law saying that if you commit this wrong doing (only after the law is passed could we truly call it a crime), that you will be punished for doing it. But as this law does not actually prevent the act, you are saying that the law is pointless and therefore shouldn't be enacted?

      I agree that it would be far FAR better if we could dissuade these people from ever wanting to commit the crime (or wrong-doing if we don't have a law defining it as a crime). But until we live in the equal and utopian society where that would be possible, isn't having the law better than not having the law? And isn't having the law doing social good and not simply perpetuating The State?

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    9. You mentioned previously how through your children you rethought your position on human's being naturally selfish. Without children of my own I don't have such a personal revelation, but through viewing children of friends and family I have to say that I've come to a nearly opposite conclusion. That humans ARE naturally selfish. Only by being taught by their parents, guardians, and community do they learn their morals. A good example (but by far not the ONLY one) is a recent visit I had with a couple friends and their children (ages 4 and 2). For the most part the kids are well adjusted. Loving, sweet, and kind. But they are still learning. You can almost see the process in the boy's (4) eyes:

      He's happily watching his cartoons on TV. She has the iPad and is watching something else on it. He notices her and then wants the iPad for himself. He looks to 'dad' to ensure he isn't watching, and then pushes her down and claims the iPad. Much crying ensues, along with 'mom' and 'dad' swooping in to return the iPad to her, scold him for being mean, and to remind him not to push his sister like that.

      Let's assume he doesn't live in a family that teaches him that actions such as that are wrong. He ends up being an adult who thinks taking (by force or by mere opportunity) is fine. Shouldn't we as a community have a law in place to ensure that he doesn't continue to live his life that way? Sure, he may not think he's going to get caught but when he does and has to spend some time in Prison it's a final punctuation point to that lesson.

      I didn't know about the lack of rape in those areas and times. I think it still fits the debate we're having though. YES, it would be better if we lived in a equal and equitable society. YES, we should do everything in our power to move in the direction of that equal and equitable society. But until we are there, we need to have laws and repercussions for those actions. Having those laws are repercussions are not perpetuating the state, they are dealing with the situation as it currently exists.

      I didn't intend to be quite as rosy about civil rights as I wrote. The fact that it took over 100 years between civil war and civil rights legislation alone shows that it wasn't always forward progress. And sure, gay marriage hasn't gained as much traction as it might... but it IS gaining traction. And when compared to the traction black civil rights had, it is happening very fast.

      I think this comes back to my original question (or at least original in the sense of this reply... or series of replies); How do you define community, government, and state? You say that the state only acts to self perpetuate and not to be moral or good. I would counter by saying that the state only acts as its governed dictates it to act. I'd go further along this line of thinking, but it really depends on how you answer that question.... How do you define community, government, and state?

      BTW I am absolutely LOVING this discussion. I read your replies here Saturday morning but had to work both Saturday and Sunday, so I didn't have (or at least I didn't take) the time to write out a proper reply. But I was thinking about it all weekend. I'm both learning from this discussion and changing the way I think about some things. If nothing else comes out of this discussion... if we can't agree or even agree to disagree... I am thankful for having the discussion itself!!

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    10. I too am enjoying this, and yes, I am learning much!

      I'm also being shit at doing this probably so...
      Laws: I have no truck with the concept or, mostly, their execution. I am just painfully aware that most of the laws, and the Rule of Law, as it currently stands is used by those who make laws. This is clear in legislation around the world (topically Uganda), laws as they stand generally protect the State. They don't have to, sometimes they don't, but mostly the whole edifice is about the State.

      It's the *edifice* that is the problem, not individual laws.

      My point with the car example was that the laws aren't there for us *primarily* - they are there to convince us that there's something to protect us from.

      In effect, States create most crimes (or wrong doing).

      Hold on, next comment...

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    11. Children.

      When a child looks around before doing shitty things and then is punished for the shitty things by having shitty things done to them they learn to do the shitty things to others first because that's how the world works.

      Put another way, we had to work what we considered to be counter-intuitively with ours. The more we, as parents, pushed (rather than guided) the more our children responded 'badly'. I'm not saying that children are born socially conditioned, far from it, but when you create situations with what *the children* perceive as unequal, they respond with inequality. That is, often we feel we have to *force* children to adhere to our morality without thinking how what *we* do appears to *them*. In your example, I wonder how many times the child in question saw his parents or other adults and children acting in that way before the child did what they did.

      Schools - in schools and playgroups we corral children into a situation with loads of other human beings who have no idea what to do and few, possibly harried, adults. Then we act surprised when 'law of the jungle' is enacted - when attention-starved children decide to try and gain attention, fail (or worse, succeed) and then cast about for a reason.

      Sorry, I'm not making this as clear as I should be.

      Your following example punishes the child. Except the parents are the ones at fault here - so intervention would need to be earlier and less confrontational and with the parents. Also, if they get away with that one must assume that other parents, the circles they move in, accept that to. "It takes a village to raise a child" even when we wish it didn't and, especially, when we think it doesn't. It's not the *child* has to learn, it's the responsible adults that need to model and teach.

      Government: an organisation of the decision making process. Whatever that is. Necessarily transient (and some moreso than others).

      State: What remains when governments change. Simply put. It enforces laws and enacts them. Societal, legal and political. By its nature it becomes concerned with maintaining the position of those that operate and run it. Of course it does. Not evilly, it's just that that's its purpose. And, to maintain the State as it currently stands in most polities means that the State tries to convince the people of the State that they need to be protected.

      Agh, I've cocked this up tonight.

      Basically, I don't oppose law per se, but I do feel that laws are primarily serving the State rather than people that live in territory administered by that State.

      We don't live in a utopian society, by definition: we can't. However, we can live in better ones than we currently do.

      And yes, loving the fact we can discuss this without argument!

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    12. Laws, and The State:
      I think I understand your position better now. I still disagree with it overall... but I agree with more of it than I did before. I'm starting to look at this in three ways; What's going on here in the states, what's going on in other long established 'free' republics (most of Europe), and what's going on in burgeoning republics. The main reason I separate the states with other established free republics is just that I know far more about my own' country's system and can only assume that the other republics are similar if not exactly the same. In all of these I'll concede that there are those in power who's primary purpose is to remain in power. The main difference in the three examples is the percentage of those whose primary goal is to keep their power when compared to those who's first goal is to govern (second goal of course is still to remain in power).

      Others:
      I do see this, but I believe it's the outlier in laws (both in their creation and their enforcement). A recent example is the state of Arizona. Their legislature recently passed a law that would allow business people to discriminate against homosexuals. The most commonly cited example is that of a baker that would be able to refuse making a wedding cake for a homosexual couples (btw, homosexual marriage is still banned in that state). In this case the law is presented as protecting good conservative Christian business people from the homosexual menace that wants to tear down their moral beliefs. Another recent example would be Tennessee politicians fighting against a VW plant from unionizing. They didn't do it through legislation, but they still held rallies A bigger example than either of these would be politicians fighting against immigration reform, protecting us from the illegal aliens. The homosexuals, the unions and the immigrants have all been cast as an 'Other' to protect us from.

      So yes, I can see examples of The State creating 'Others' to protect us from. I haven't given it much thought, but I imagine there are examples of this inside current law. But when I think of MOST current law, I don't see it. Making theft illegal is protecting us from people who steal. Making laws against murder is protecting us from people who kill. Having the laws won't prevent the actions, but it does set up a framework wherein we can discourage the activity and punish those who do it.

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    13. Children:
      I see where you are coming from. I'm constantly fascinated with the 'science' of how children develop. I put science in quotes because let's face it... it's still not down to solid fact. For example we know that executive brain functions (the reasoning part of our minds) is one of the last things to develop. Consider most actions at their most basic level; There is a want/need, there is an interaction, the want/need is satisfied. Infants get hungry, they interact in one of the only ways they are able to by crying, they get fed. The opposite end of the spectrum is an adults want/need of a nice car, they interact by working hard, saving money, getting a car loan, and buying the nice car. If the adult didn't have the reasoning ability though, it would go more like this; want/need a nice car, take a nice car, have a nice car.

      I believe a lot of parenting is accepting where their children are on this spectrum or reason. They are going to experiment with their environment to find ways that work for them. The problems of children learning how to interact with the world are far worse when they are presented with bad examples, but even when they don't see said bad examples of behavior, they still have to work out what interaction needs to be done in order to have their want/need met. And in some cases, their want/need will be in direct conflict with their safety.

      I'm reminded of the experiment done with children and marshmallows. The experimenter sits a four year old child down in an otherwise empty room with a marshmallow (modern examples use a cookie or some other sweet) in front of them and tells them that if they don't eat the marshmallow that they will later get two marshmallows. Children at that age will almost all fail at the task and eventually eat the marshmallow. The study is mainly about finding how long the child can hold out for a future reward vs a lesser current reward. If I'm remembering it correctly most children fall in the range between 20 seconds and 4 minutes. A scant few don't wait and eat it immediately, while a few others hold on until the experiment ends (I believe it ended after 20 minutes).

      (a quick aside about the experiment simply because I find it amazing. The experiment has been going on in various forms for decades and they've been following the children as they age and progress through adulthood. It's still corollary evidence, but they've found that the children that wait longer tend to live better lives. They do better in school, succeed better on tests, progress further in college, get better jobs, get promoted faster, make more money, and have better relationships with family/friends/lovers.)

      Bringing it back to my example of the boy and his sister's iPad, I don't believe the parents are at fault. Nor do I believe the boy is at 'fault'. It's a combination of the two... it's both nurture AND nature. I think I was wrong to call children naturally selfish, as they don't really have the reasoning ability to BE selfish. They are simply working around their current set of reasoning skills and experimenting to find the correct interactions to satisfy their wants/needs.

      Back to The State:
      After this discussion I'm certainly not going to say that The State doesn't pass laws to help it continue to exist. But I also won't call their activities as "primarily serving The State". Instead I'll simply say that The State can both enact laws and provide a framework that helps people (or at least intends to help people), and at times can enact laws that are intended to keep them in power. At times they can even do both at the same time.

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    14. Just a quick placeholder set of responses (I'm going to *have* to mark some books tonight) is this:

      One of my current contradictions is my belief in Big State's great power for good (see my love of the NHS or a functioning Welfare System supported and run by the State), my admiration for Scandanavian Socialism (now on the wane) and the fact that I strongly support State education over non-State provision. And this is held at the same time as I distrust the State, and its agents (of which, let's not forget, I am one) in holding any reins of power.

      At once I see the great power and potential of the Welfare State - simultaneously reducing government borrowing (no really, check the stats for the UK) and providing a humane safety net - as well as the ability it has to track trends and research new ideas not open to private concerns simply through universality of data and lack of shareholders or profit motivation. And I also see the demonisation of People Who Steal (without parsing this - if one person simply 'steals' then we must ask if all of us would, if we don't believe we would and we wouldn't 'because it's wrong' rather than fear of punishment we have to consider what pushed other people to steal). Rather, the State creates the Other in all of us, not even (though as you point out, sometimes) specific groups. We are all the Other to everyone else.

      Cont on next post...

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    15. Quickly on Wants and Needs. Statistical evidence (see stuff like Gabrielle Palmer's 'Politics of Breastfeeding' or 'Love Matters' by an author whose name I forgot and haven't googled) suggests that children below a certain age (i.e. before reason) do not have Wants, only Needs. Wants seem to be created through envy, shortage and parental teaching of what is yours and what is someone else's. In short: jealousy.

      We are not born perfect. But nor are we born specifically with Wants. Just Needs. We don't ever suggest that animals have 'Wants' (well, we do with pets, but we anthropomorphise those something fierce to make us feel better about ourselves), even those that show capacity for reason (primates, dolphins and octopuses spring to mind) but we're happy to assign Want to a child of about six to eighteen months.

      It is that disconnect that allows States to run the way they do, or rather, dictates that they must. And, also, how we create the Other - by pushing rampant 'rugged individualism'.

      Ah, longer than a placeholder. In short, yes, I actually agree with you immensely but also disagree with you just as much and often *on the very same points*. In that sense I am very much an armchair anarchist.

      Also, a great deal of European polities are constitutional monarchies. I think there's only a few would describe themselves (or qualify) as Republics. I'm not sure that the USA completely counts. I think it more appropriately falls under 'Representative Democracy'. Also, all aspects of your State and Government are elected (or rely on elected officials to be appointed) - which means that much of your State is out for re-election. Governing, as an aim, is no different to 'Staying in Power'. I do believe that Governing should never be an aim in itself.

      Or, put another way, Rousseau postulated a Social Contract to explain the issue of having people in power with the right to take sovereignty away from the individual that required the person whom sovereignty is passed to to have more sovereignty in the first place. Hobbs talked of avoiding the chaos and misery of anarchy - the Natural State. But research seems to suggest that life is more complicated than Hobbs supposed (and considerably more rosy) and Rousseau's contract was impossible (to have more sovereignty the person in charge must have got the sovereignty of others, a right they would only have if they had more sovereignty in the first place, which is impossible). Mind you, Rousseau also said "the first crime was committed when one man put stakes around a plot of land and declared 'this is mine'. The second when all those around him agreed." (paraphrased as a. he was French and b. I haven't got my copy of his 'Social Contract' to hand).

      I'll stop now, I must mark! Dang you and your interesting conversation, it's the intellectual equivalent of shiny things being dangled in front of my eyes. Ooh! Shin-

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    16. I too have that same contradiction... the good and the bad that the government can do. I guess what really keeps me focused on the 'good' side of that fence is that most of the 'bad' things I see from government we see in one form or another (although almost always on a far smaller scale) in any group or even individual. Corporations, businesses, and individual people can all hate, blame and point fingers at 'THE OTHERS", and often do. They make themselves feel better by either blaming others or distracting people by pointing out flaws elsewhere. But the good that governments can and often do are far harder to see in other smaller organizations. Defense, healthcare, welfare, protecting rights of minorities... sure I'd like to see more of these 'good' things from any level of government but I find it hard to believe that any group of individuals could create that great things that governments have done.

      These thoughts on want/need are somewhat from science, but mostly from my own internal thought process. I agree that saying a 6 to 18 month old has wants is far from realistic. They have needs and seek out those needs in any way they can. But I believe that older children (say starting as early as 3 years old) have wants based on pleasure that have no bearing on need nor on any envy, shortage or parental teaching. For example in eating, a child that needs to eat (i.e. they are honestly hungry) will often eat what's available, but they will almost always be open to sweets and candies (assuming that they've been introduced to those things before). That's not a need, it's simply a want. As they gain bits of reason and self identity and start accepting what pleasure is, they'll seek it out. That can be playing with their toys (not a need), playing in the snow without their boots on (not a need), or watching their favorite cartoon episode over and over and over and over and over and over and over and crying when they are made to stop.

      I do agree though that The State will often feed on this most basic want to gain what they feel is necessary. I've always thought that government was at it's best when it could effectivly describe a need that only it can fulfill and convince people that only by working together can we (it's always we) can make it happen. Sadly government is far more effective when it helps us turn our wary eyes upon some "other' that it will protect us from. Why? Because it's far easy to fulfill that silent but ever present want rather than educate us about a present but unknown need.

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    17. I've never really understood the difference between a republic and a representative democracy. About the only times that I hear them used as separate is when our two biggest political parties want to differentiate themselves (Republicans use 'Republic' while Democrats tend to use 'Representative Democracy'. Sadly this may shine a line on my ignorance of constitutional monarchies... but when is the last time that a monarchy has exercised its power over their representative government?

      I see what you are saying though about our officials being constantly running for office. It's best represented in our House of Representatives. They only serve two year terms and beyond certain special circumstances they are all up for election at the same time. You'll often see the heaviest lifting in the government done only every other year... they couldn't possibly pass 'good' legislation while also up for re-election. Our Senators, on the other hand, serve six year terms and are never all up for election (or re-election) at the same time.

      I hate to say it, but while I've had to study Rousseau often enough in school (most recently in a cultural class I took in 2011), I never felt that I came away with a good understanding of what he was after. He offered up many good points which I could both understand and agree with. I just never could put all of his points together into something that made sense as a system. Part of that last class I took was having to create our own social contract. As I didn't feel that I understood Rousseau's enough to implement something anywhere near as complicated... I chose an elected dictator. The only limit on the dictator's power was that he couldn't extend his powers past his own life. Upon his death the entire population (men, women and yes even children) voted for a new dictator. My teacher lauded my project, although I think his praise had more to do with my technical writing rather than the 'ideal' I was pushing.

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    18. Yeah, children have wants past a certain age but I suspect that nurture plays a larger role in this than nature. For example, both of mine seem better able to deal with transitions from playing (or some other desirable activity) if they are given warnings of time remaining and we, as the adults, are consistent. It isn't always easy and doesn't always avoid a tantrum but the more we respect their feelings the more they respect ours in return. In short, we create certain wants but we also create the ways in which they are expressed, met and dealt with if not. Parents are very much responsible for this (though not all are properly prepared themselves so don't think I throw it all to parents - it takes a village etc etc).

      Rousseau is not consistent. However, he does have some good quotes. His Social Contract can be boiled down to that dichotomy pretty much. Everything else was complicated. Hobbes was similar with his 'alternative to the state of nature'. But these are, pretty much, just well-known theories and don't, as you say, lend any weight but the individual quotes to my argument (woo, I can name-drop! [/sarcasm]).

      From an outsider's perspective I can say that you guys have the best Senate money can buy. Much as we have the best Parliament money can buy too.

      As to the vagaries of Republics and Democracies and whatnot, I think it's what emphasis one places on such things. Being a Constitutional Monarchy, the British cultural system places emphasis on democracy whereas, being the result of revolt against an otherwise constitutionally balanced system, you guys place emphasis on not having a 'tyrant' King. In fairness, George III was no tyrant, but that was never really the point (and nor does it make the actions of the British state any more 'right' than those who revolted for independence).

      Governments aren't a bad thing per se, but my contention is that States do more harm than good. One can organise without a system there that remains when governments change in which people have a vested interest in creating situations and responses in which they remain in post and in power.

      And the UK has an elective collective dictatorship. :)

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    19. Your response on children's wants didn't sit well with me, but I couldn't put a finger on exactly why. But I think I've finally gotten to it. I think wants ARE more nature than nurture. The type of wants that our (we.... obviously not MY...) children experience are certainly a direct result of their parents actions. They want candy because they've been exposed to it. They want their games or coloring books because we've offered those to them. They want their television because we watch it and let them watch their programs.

      But if they were out in nature without parental or societal guidance, they would still experience wants. Those wants may be simply playing in the stream, or eating the pretty red berries, but it would still be a want vs a need.

      That being said, I do completely agree that being able to handle and deal with their wants IS almost completely a parental/nurture situation. Some parents do very well (and it sounds like you are doing well in this regard), but sadly most parents don't give it that much thought and therefore give their children all the wrong signals.

      It's funny that you mention us wanting to avoid a 'tyrant' king. More and more over the past few decades it seems that the presidential powers are growing. Executive actions taken under our previous (President Bush) and current (President Obama) have really expanded their power and left congress trying to find ways to reign them in. If history always repeats itself, I wonder if we're setting ourselves up for another revolution.

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    20. I concur. Wants such as most people perceive them are created by our society. Your examples of playing and eating berries are different because they would come from within. You can see this in children anyway, some will want to draw or to simply stand and stare at trees or to gnash their teeth and shout. These behaviours are all 'wants' but, and this is the crux of my point, they are all dealt with more effectively and, arguably, more easily (though counter-intuitively I'll grant) than those that we create through introduction (sweets, sugar, games, TV etc) as the latter we introduced and to deal with them in our children is to accept that we, as adults, must deal with them. We react differently when threatened.

      And, as I say, I concur.

      Not sure your current Presidential system counts as tyranny, but it definitely gets a worrisome note. And that, right there, was my point about the state... ;)

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All comments are welcome, I have a thicker skin virtually than I do in real life!