What Should a Government Be?

All too often, political conversations of any sort—whether by public, or by politicians themselves—sink quickly into the mires of partisan politics. Teams of left and right, red and blue, create straw effigies of the other’s values, and burn them upon the altars of their own smug self-righteousness.

This is a matter of hopeless grandstanding—and seldom serves to advance the policies of either side. Elections are won and lost on insults and rumours, and the greater good of the people is abandoned to the wayside of this sickening side-show.

There is a good exercise which can help people of either viewpoint learn more about not only their opponents, but themselves. Setting aside personal emotions and group identities, one may challenge themselves instead to describe only what they believe a government’s role should be. What should it provide, protect, or prohibit—and on what grounds? What is its purpose?

Try to do this without reference to actual individuals, and certainly not to specific parties. Discuss only ideas of the primary functions that must be served.

It is important not to hang yourself on lofty words with little meaning. Freedom, peace, liberty—such words hold high aspirations, but speak little to practical realities. What do they truly mean to you, and how are they to be upheld?

We discussed these concepts in one article, ‘Greed and the Village’, using a simple tribal village as a model for the type of considerations that must be pondered.

We also discussed the fears around giving power to government in the article ‘On the Fear of Big Government’, where we established the wild and barbaric reality of a world with no authority.

Is it a government’s role to protect businesses, or people? Which people, and from what? Are there exclusions to this protection? What happens when the rights of one violates the rights of others? What about when the growth of a company enriches its members but casts many others into poverty?

Is this a natural and enviable result of a free market, or an economic violence which must be redressed?

These are the questions, and the approach to engagement, which can lead people of wildly different persuasions to not only challenge their own beliefs and grow in the process, but also to find the common ground with those who they long considered their rival.

There are very few people on either side of the spectrum who truly want the young to suffer, or women to be scared, or people to live in hateful captivity. By accusing those who think differently of such intentions, we vilify them and close off all possibility of informed debate. Only by remaining open, and seeking sincerely to find the underlying values for ourselves and our opponents, can we hope to find answers which can unite and help people, rather than serving only to reinforce the wild and destructive division that serves only the powerful.

What do you think?

-Brad OH Inc.

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Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Civil discourse these days has become pretty uncommon. You’ll rarely hear a debate that doesn’t soon slip into name calling and paranoid wailing.

It’s both sides.

Everyone is simply too afraid. Afraid of everything, yet somehow afraid of all the wrong things.

That fear is the problem, and it stunts any level of intelligent discourse by wheeling us into knee-jerk reactions and assumptions—making our conclusions for us. When angry and afraid, you go with what you know: Red or Blue.

That’s the thing about political thought however, it never quite fits into a single definition. Try as they may, there is no binary option that can capture the nuance of human belief—of our values.

Values, now there’s a word that’s thrown around a lot in politics, yet never really utilized the way it should be. Values, after all, are what it really comes down to. The truth of it is, I strongly suspect that a measure of fundamental values would show a far less divided picture of humanity than a typical measure of political preferences.

Behind the rhetoric and uproar, there do remain basic rights and wrongs, and obvious decencies which I still believe the vast majority of people can agree upon. These are values which go beyond culture and language.

They are innate to us, and are denied only by the most wretched of deviants, or those desperate souls who by poverty or avarice have found themselves denied entirely of their moral compass.

What would happen then, if people were to put aside their labels and colours—the brand names of political philosophy—and turn away from their hot button issues to discuss instead the basic values they hold dear.

No loose terms like freedom here. Tell me what that really means.

What do you love?

What do you fear?

What do you hate?

Do you realize the last answer is most likely the twisted spawn of some unknowable combination of the former two?

Or that the second closely follows the first?

Really though. If the world at large could manage such civil debate for a while—I mean really keep it going, get deep, and avoid falling back into the ‘yeah but’ type thinking which somehow convinces us that the forces of reality must in the end overwhelm the deepest of truths—what might be the result?

And what would you have to say?

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Politics’ is Not a Dirty Word

Another day, another tragedy. Presently, it’s the Las Vegas massacre on my mind, or the recent terrorist attack in Edmonton. But depending when you’re reading this, I have sorry little doubt there will be some fresh new event to use for context. Nothing will be different if we use another example, so it doesn’t really matter anyways. Inevitably, you will be told that “this isn’t the time to get political.”

“Let’s not politicize this.”

“Can’t we just have a day to grieve?”

There are a million ways to say it, but it always boils down to the same idea—“Let’s not go using the government to solve problems…that’s not what they’re for.”

It happens after all the most political events. We are told not to get political, not to examine issues and causes. Just be sad.

Pray…if that’s your thing.

Just…don’t try to do anything about it.

They can’t afford real change. They won’t.

But ‘politics’ is not a dirty word, and must not be treated as such if there is ever to be any real progress in this sad world of ours. To turn any political discussion into a taboo subject is to actively waste the opportunity for learning and growth. Further, to claim that political discourse over a tragedy is disrespectful to the victims is not only unhelpful, it’s pigheadedly ignorant.

If we want to prevent tragedy, we must learn from those that occur, and improve our society to prevent future occurrences. That’s what politics is. Anything else—any claim of respect, or timing, or taboo is obstruction of politics. It isn’t kind-hearted, or even well-intentioned. It’s intellectual dishonesty, and in any such instance, you can be damn sure someone is being well paid to convince you that scoffing at the chance to fix things is somehow the moral high ground.

Yes, this is about informed gun control policies.

At least today.

It could also be about systemic racism.

Or police brutality.

Or climate change.

Or money in politics.

Or dozens of other important debates which have been put off for far too long.

These aren’t inappropriate subjects, and they are absolutely the business of politicians and citizens alike. What they are not, is the business of corporations and lobbyists, and yet those are the only ones who seem effective at turning it into their business—specifically, profit.

Shame on them, and shame on anyone who resorts to such hair-brained, nihilistic diversions as ‘let’s not make this political’.

Avoiding civil discourse creates a gap in our understandings, and feeds the ever-widening divide in our nation, and our world. It is uncouth to discuss who you vote for. It’s provocative to talk about the ecosystem during a hurricane. It begins to feel anti-social to make any attempt to discuss our world, when it should be incumbent upon every citizen to do so.

Sadly, when this happens, it usually quickly devolves into attacks like ‘snowflake’, ‘libtard’, ‘hack’, or ‘radical’. This inevitably kills any drive towards honest engagement, and prevents us from truly exploring our values and examining the facts to dream up a better world.

The truth of the matter is that at the end of the day, just about everything is political—especially if it has the potential to affect another living thing without their direct consent. That may seem like a heavy qualification, but there’s an easy litmus test to use for those of you too jaded to do your own research.

Is a great deal of money being spent to convince you something is none of your business?

If so, it’s probably directly affecting to you, your family, and the world you live in.

So, talk about it.

Scream if need be.

If that fails, act.

Make them hear you.

Leave them no choice.

You still have power—never forget that.

 

-Brad OH Inc.