OPINION

Poverty - An Analysis

October 13, 2008
K. M.

What is poverty? What are its causes? Is it a personal problem or a social problem or a political problem? Whose responsibility is it? What actions are needed to eradicate it?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines poverty as

1 a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions b: renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property
2: scarcity , dearth
3 a: debility due to malnutrition b: lack of fertility

Note the difference in definitions ‘1 a’ and ‘2′. The perspective of ‘1 a’ is social, egalitarian and materialistic. It emphasizes a comparison between the material possessions of people. It equates self respect with prestige and prestige with the possession of material values. It seeks to identify people in terms of class. By this definition, a worker in an industrial society who owns a car and is able to provide for his daily needs is nevertheless in poverty, simply because there are a large number of people who have bigger, better or more material possessions than him. If this definition is accepted, then it is in the nature of society for some of its members to be in poverty. Any attempt to eradicate poverty would then be a (necessarily futile) revolt against the nature of society. The nature of society cannot be a problem in itself and no further analysis of this definition is necessary (The fact that ‘1a’ ranks above ‘2′ is quite interesting but it is not the topic of this post).

This post will therefore be concerned with definition ‘2′ - poverty is scarcity. But scarcity of what? Scarcity of the values and conditions necessary for a proper human life. What are these values and conditions? Food, shelter and clothing are often considered to be the basic values necessary for life. But man needs to earn these values (and all others) by conscious, wilful and sustained effort and by the application of knowledge. Neither the effort nor the knowledge is automatic. Both are affected (to some extent atleast) by social and cultural conditions. In the absence of proper conditions, the lack of the basic values for life becomes endemic. This sort of poverty is a social and political problem and it is this that is the concern of this post - poverty as the lack of the social and cultural conditions necessary for man to flourish.

What are these conditions? The primary condition for a flourishing society is a respect for the mind. Man’s mind is his only tool of knowledge, his only judge of truth, and his only means of survival. All the values he needs to live, from basic material values like food, to abstract intellectual values like art, are a product of his mind. A respect for the mind has three aspects - rationality in ideas, egoism in ethics, and liberalism in politics. Rationality is the recognition that the mind is capable of understanding and dealing with reality. Egoism is the recognition that the mind (or self, or ego) is one’s greatest value. Liberalism is the recognition that the mind cannot coexist with force.

The primary cause for endemic poverty is a lack of respect for the mind, most commonly in the form of supernatural and religious beliefs. Supernatural beliefs destroy all three aspects of respect for the mind. By claiming that the truth is beyond the reach of the mind, they destroy rationality. By claiming that man’s ultimate purpose is something greater than his life (whether an after-life in heaven or a cosmic consciousness), they destroy egoism. By claiming that the truth is revealed only to certain prophets, they create figures of authority and destroy liberalism. Societies flourish only when some of their members are able to shake off these beliefs. Shaking off supernatural beliefs is not enough however. The many experiments in all kinds of socialism in the last century are a good illustration of this. The advocates and leaders of these experiments claimed to be rational and scientific even as they rejected egoism and liberalism. They only succeeded in plunging their societies into poverty and economic collapse. Rationality, egoism and liberalism are merely different aspects of the same philosophical outlook and it is not possible to practise them selectively. The only solution to endemic poverty is a culture of reason and the social and political institutions that are necessary to maintain it.

The crucial thing that must be understood is that endemic poverty is not just a lack of wealth but the lack of the conditions that make the creation of wealth possible. Unless these conditions are established, no amount of wealth redistribution will have any positive effect. Unearned wealth is not a solution to poverty but a catalyst for corruption and violence. It allows the unscrupulous powers that invariably rule irrational cultures to maintain their stranglehold on people by preventing their collapse. Over the past few years, there have been vigorous calls for action to end poverty by a certain date, mostly focusing on Africa. The proposed action consists of writing off loans and granting new ones to the corrupt and tyrannical regimes that rule most of Africa, the loans to be funded by tax payers in the developed world who are not responsible in any way for the irrational and primitive cultures in Africa. These calls for action are extremely repugnant - morally, practically, politically and economically. Morally repugnant, because they are attempts to achieve a sense of altruistic greatness, to be paid for by the forced redistribution of unearned wealth by selling unearned guilt to the people who produce that wealth. Practically repugnant, because a century of such attempts has shown that forced redistribution of wealth results in economic collapse and a loss of all individual rights. Politically repugnant, because such action can only be carried out by the further enslavement of productive individuals in a global welfare state, and because the beneficiaries of such action are corrupt and tyrannical governments. Economically repugnant, because such action consists of punishing success and rewarding failure.

This post is a call for action - not the action of donating to charities that help to sustain corruption and violence - but the intellectual action to discover, understand and apply the moral, political and economic principles that govern man’s life. An examination of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism is a good place to begin.

Note: This post was written for Blog Action Day 08 and will be published on my personal blog on 15th October.

I am a software developer based in Mumbai. I am interested in ethics, politics, culture, books and philosophy in general. Most of all, I am interested in making the most of my life. You can find my blog here
eXTReMe Tracker
Keep reading for comments on this article and add some feedback of your own!

Poverty - An Analysis

Article

Author: K. M.

 

Comments! Feedback! Speak and be heard!

Comment on this article or leave feedback for the author

#1
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 14, 2008
11:43 AM

Dear K.M.

This has been an era of the mind, no question about that. Therefore today if someone is poor, to an extent it can be said that he or she did not have the proper education and tools to earn a decent living. However, your contention that religion somehow makes one less rational is questionable. Not all religions are the same. Going by that hypothesis communist Russia and China should have been the richest countries in the world.

I am against forced distribution of wealth but at the same, I also don't believe that a (wo)man has an unlimited right to earn and horde property. There has to be a limit on how much wealth one can accumulate and pass on to progeny. We have limited natural resources and limited economic activity in the world and therefore at some stage it does become a zero sum game.

Poverty can't be eradicated by developing grand philosophies. People need to be educated irrespective of their class or race. Basic education is a right, not a privilege. It is the collective responsibility of the society to educate everyone. I don't believe this gells very well with Randian philosophy. The vicious circle of poverty, teenage motherhood, poor parenting and poorly adjusted children can not be resolved by preaching.

I have read Ayn Rand. While her writing skills were prodigious, her philosophy was something else. We are seeing the end game of runaway and unbridled capitalism. Ayn Rand is truly history now and we are better for it.


Regards,

Ravi

#2
Lexiss
October 14, 2008
12:15 PM

Good Article:

@Ravi: I agree this has been an era of the mind, but only for the young people. The politicians and other people in control are still living in the era of religion and irrationality. We wont truly enter a rational era until the people who are in power are rational too.

"There has to be a limit on how much wealth one can accumulate and pass on to progeny."

Who sets this arbitrary limit ? and what do you do with the earnings of a person who already has that much property ? isn't that forceful distribution of wealth ?

"Basic education is a right, not a privilege."

I don't see this going against Ayn Rand's philosophy. Nowhere does it talk against education.

"We are seeing the end game of runaway and unbridled capitalism."

I think what we are seeing is the good part of capitalism, that whoever messes up goes down automatically. All the companies that made a mistake went down.

No other economic system provides automatic removal of the bad players.

#3
K. M.
URL
October 14, 2008
01:53 PM

Ravi,
Your comment raises so many issues that I cannot hope to answer them all in a single response. So I will pick only a few points to answer:

1) The issue of rights (Is education a right?):
A proper political right is a negative concept. It specifies what actions individuals may not take. It does not require anyone to act in any specific manner. A right does not impose any duties. Consider the case of education. If a child has a right to education, then someone else has a duty to work to provide that education and is no longer a free person. Contrast this with the right to free speech. I have a right to say whatever I want on property that I own or control, and this right does not impose any duties on anyone else to do anyting. Any positive concept of rights necessarily means that some persons are slaves of others. For more on the nature of rights, you can have a look at this post on my blog and these essays by Ayn Rand.

2) The importance of philosophy:
Man cannot live without a philosophy. Every action you take, every judgement you make is affected by the implicit philosophy you have accepted. A proper philosophy is an integrated, logically consistent set of principles, consonant with reality. Without such a philosophy, man is doomed to contradictions. Just look at your comment for an example. You say you are against forced redistribution of wealth and yet claim that there should be a limit on wealth. How will this limit be implemented, if not by force?

3) Unbridled capitalism:
Where in the world do you see unbridled capitalism today? The entire world has been running for close to a century on fiat currencies - total government control over the money supply, massively complicated taxation policies, innumerable subsidies and tariffs, restrictions on trade, anti-trust laws, outright government control of certain sectors of the economy etc... Calling this unbridled capitalism is plain ridiculous.

4) Russia, China and communism:
I did address this in my post. Communism (and other forms of socialism) is militantly against the mind. Its combination of altruism in ethics and totalitarian government in politics is deadly (even in the short term), far deadlier than any religion. Its claims to be scientific, but a respect for the mind goes well beyond science. As I wrote in the post it necessarily includes egoism in ethics and liberalism in politics.

#4
K. M.
URL
October 14, 2008
03:03 PM

Lexiss,
You make some good points in your comment. But let me address the issue of education in more detail.
Note that children don't just 'happen'. Having a child is a conscious choice by mature adults. The education of the child is their responsibility. A responsible couple, who is not capable of providing for the education and upbringing of a child, will not have a child. An irresponsible couple will. With this background, consider what granting a right to education will involve. It will involve taxing the responsible people for the consequences of the actions of irresponsible people. Consider that a responsible couple who would have been capable of raising a child, absent the taxes, will now no longer be capable of doing so. Is this just? And yet this is precisely what the moral code of altruism demands. Altruism punishes the virtuous (the responsibile and capable) for being virtuous. This is what Ayn Rand (in her characteristically strong words) called "Hatred of the good for being the good."
In a free society that does not enslave the capable for the sake of the incapable, there is plenty of good will for the small amount of charity that may be needed to help those who suffer through no fault of theirs.
Such accidental suffering however cannot be the basis for a moral code or a political system. Accidents, by definition are exceptional. Man by nature has a mind capable of dealing with reality and succeeding (spectacularly, given the evidence of the last few centuries). A proper morality and proper politics must be based on this nature.

#5
Morris
October 14, 2008
03:05 PM

I must admit right at the outset that I find this a little hard to understand. Any way I am trying.

"The primary cause for endemic poverty is a lack of respect for the mind, most commonly in the form of supernatural and religious beliefs. Supernatural beliefs destroy all three aspects of respect for the mind."

If that was so, why the christian world emerged materially rich in spite of their supernatural and religious beliefs. In fact even now xian right is as strong as ever in the US. They are refusing to believe in evolution. This is the weathiest country in the world. There may be poverty there as defined in 1a but there is a little or no poverty as defined in 2 which is the subject of the discussion.

#6
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 14, 2008
03:06 PM

Dear KM,

Thanks for your response. You are right, these are broad topics and will require long responses. So I will first take up the issue of rights.

Education is a right from a consumer's perspective. So this means every child has a right to some basic education. This right implies that it is the duty of the society to provide. In fact this right already exists in America and many other countries. The ability of a child to acquire basic education should not be dependent upon earning capacity of his or her parents, their class, race or any other factor. Why should this be so? Because education is a very important factor in the well being of a person as well as the society in which he or she lives. Also, a child is often helpless to realize the importance of education and to acquire it on her own. This does impose certain duties on the parents as well. They have to ensure that the child goes to school everyday. Again, this situation does exist in America, save those kids who are home schooled. Is it perfect? Far from it, but it works reasonably well.

Other countries like India would do well to make education a basic human right.

Regards,

Ravi

#7
temporal
URL
October 14, 2008
04:11 PM

km:

at the outset you wonder and delineate it as a "social" or a "political" problem

what if poverty is NOT a problem?

***

what if poverty is a condition?


***

what if poverty is a civilisational curse ...a ghetto...imposed on a baby born free...?

#8
K. M.
URL
October 14, 2008
04:39 PM

Morris,
Consider what we know about the history of the Western world and Christianity. The fall of Rome coincided with the spread of Christianity which culminated in The Holy Roman Empire, where the Pope was among the most powerful people. Even kings and emperors were dependent on the Pope for the legitimacy of their powers. This was Christianity at its worst, with heretics being burned at the stake by the inquisitions. It had total control over the minds of people (No respect for the mind). Not surprisingly, this was also the period known as the dark ages. The authority that the Church enjoyed led to widespread corruption and the Church slowly lost its authority culminating in the Reformation, whose leaders such as Martin Luther preached that ordinary people do not need the Church to understand the word of God, but are capable of understanding it themselves. This set individuals free from the power of the Church over their minds and beliefs (An increased respect for the mind). Around the same time, the Western world experienced a renaissance, a flowering of the arts and sciences. During this period, their were frequent clashes between science and religion, but the Church no longer had the powers to burn heretics. Finally with the advent of science, the industrial revolution and Lockean political theory, men were set free from all authority. The founders of America created a constitution recognizing the inalienable rights of every individual to life, property and the pursuit of happiness. There was nothing religious about these ideals. In fact the constitution enforced what we call a wall of separation between the Church and the state. (Great respect for the mind). The results were spectacular and America achieved great success.
Inspite of their political theories however, the founders and most men of their time still believed in altruism. Altruism is not compatible with capitalism or individual freedom however. Man is moved and motivated by his moral beliefs, and a belief in altruism necessarily meant an erosion of capitalist institutions and individual freedom. What we have in America today is a pale shadow of capitalism. With the collapse of socialism however, the liberals (in the American, not the classical sense) abandoned all attempts at moral certainty, with the result that the culture degenerated into the widespread moral relativism that we see today. Man, however needs firm principles to live and the moral relativism has allowed religion (which substitutes dogma in the place of rational moral principles) to make a comeback. The two dominant forces today, the left with its moral relativism and the right with its religious dogma, both ridicule the idea that there are firm, rational moral principles. But without these principles, we are headed for destruction irrespective of whether the right or the left happens to win. Moral relativism leaves man directionless. Dogma gives him a direction while simultaneously blindfolding him.

#9
K. M.
URL
October 14, 2008
04:45 PM

Ravi,
I would offer my response to Lexiss (in #4) to you as well. I assume you posted your comment around the same time that I did. I will be glad to continue the debate once you reply to #4.

#10
K. M.
URL
October 14, 2008
04:51 PM

temporal,
Poverty is certainly a problem to those who are poor. So it is a definitely a personal problem. Further, as I tried to argue in the post, social and political factors like an irrational culture and an illiberal political system can make poverty endemic.
I am not sure I understand what you are trying to drive at. So could you please elaborate?

#11
kerty
October 14, 2008
05:24 PM

KM

My parents lived with far less consumer goodies, but they never thought themselves to be poor. Poverty = gap between material needs and ability. Scarcity = gap in consumer demand and supply. Consumer needs acquire highly elastic dimensions under different religious, ideological, cultural and social contexts - therefore, there can not be one universal definition of poverty and scarcity.

Pursuit of happiness is what drives human enterprise. Material possessions and consumerist comforts can be one of many components of happiness. How much role they play in pursuit of happiness depends on conditioning.

Wealth creation = happiness creation. GDP = Gross domestic/national happiness. Socialism skewed their definitions and made them entirely materialistic, and than devised mechanisms to entice but not deliver, leaving the frustrated masses turn to capitalism to deliver consumerist utopia. Consumerism adds altogether new dimensions to definition of poverty. Politics of poverty has lost the aura it once held during hay days of socialism.

#12
kerty
October 14, 2008
05:52 PM

Ravi

"Basic education is a right, not a privilege"

When something is declared as a right, it means that it is my responsibility to pay for somebody else. It gives other people right to pick my pocket. That is highway robbery.

When education is declared as a right, it means government has to make sure everybody is educated - which essentially means education is government's responsibility, which means government has the monopoly on education - which means reining political ideologies define what constitutes education and impose such ideological indoctrination as education. Acquiring such indoctrination is made the pre-condition for well-being and progress of a person in the society . Political ideologies, aided by might of tax-money and government machinery, can sniff out any challenge to their monopoly over indoctrination and re-engineering. And this is to be accomplished by jizya taxes? No wonder it made strong impetus for people withholding taxes from such regime.

Pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment should be treated as basic human rights, and best way to guarantee them is for government to step out of the way.

#13
temporal
URL
October 14, 2008
05:56 PM

km:

pardon my skepticism

we are (or at least i am) discussing an affliction that is not a dire "problem" with us...the p-o-v i mean...hence when we tend to "analyse" a condition (if you insist it is "problem" for them it is ok by me) ....of poverty....we do it as an exercise...an armchair exercise!

***

i agree here:

...social and political factors like an irrational culture and an illiberal political system can make poverty endemic...

being born in some parts (sub-sahara e.g.) or being born into some situations (dalits) almost guarantees economic (and political) subjugation

hence: a civilisational curse ...a ghetto...imposed on a baby born free

***

either way...a condition or a problem...practical efforts are needed to eradicate and eliminate...and while it is an impossible task...every little step in the direction would be helpful...

that is all

#14
kerty
October 14, 2008
06:47 PM

Ravi

""Basic education is a right, not a privilege"

Just substitute food and clothing for education, and see how ridiculous it sounds. We device entirely different approaches when it comes to all other basic necessities of life, and same needs to be followed for education as well.

What would happen if everybody is a doctor, a pinnacle of educational achievement? Who would grow our food, who would build our roads, who will do zillions of things that society depends on? My point is that education is not everything. Farming, labor, business, trading sectors thrive on uneducated and less-educated, and these sectors are the life-blood of any society. It is the educated that has screwed up world. I do not think society needs every tom dick and harry to be educated - as long as small section of population is educated and proficient in certain knowledge and skills, it is sufficient for rest of the society. We also do not need highly consumerist enterprise for which high level of education is a must - simple living and high thinking works even better for sustaining the society and ecology. I think education is overrated. Skills, expertise, knowledge, wisdom, enlightenment, progress can exist without so-called education.

#15
Morris
October 14, 2008
06:52 PM

K.M. #8

Very good. I agree with what you have said. But I am still looking for connection between supernatural and religious beliefs and freedom to use mind and thereby to the poverty.

"The founders of America created a constitution recognizing the inalienable rights of every individual to life, property and the pursuit of happiness. There was nothing religious about these ideals."

Yes indeed there was nothing religious about those ideas. But you are not suggesting that the founders did not have any supernatural and/or religious beliefs. I think they were religious people. Egyptians for that matter built massive pyramids with all kind of supernatural beliefs. I agree those pyramids were for after life etc. but that must have required immense wealth and skill. I think unconstrained thinking has nothing to do with beliefs in supernatural so long as you do not permit such beliefs to control all your life activities.

#16
Morris
October 14, 2008
07:33 PM

kerty

I think the word education should be replaced by 'ability to read and write'- language skill.
I think that should be a right of every citizen. Education is too broad. State cannot guarantee that. What do you think?

#17
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 14, 2008
11:05 PM

Dear K.M. (#4),

"Note that children don't just 'happen'. Having a child is a conscious choice by mature adults."

That's not always a good assumption. Consider teen pregnancies. Consider people who are illiterate, which is quite common in India and many other parts of the world. These circumstances are the norm in many societies, not exceptions.

"Altruism punishes the virtuous (the responsibile and capable) for being virtuous. "

Actually when it comes to education it is not altruism. An illiterate person can potentially do much harm to the society in many different ways. It is much cheaper to educate that person than incarcerate him or her later in life or otherwise provide basic social services. It is in the interest of the society to provide basic (note I am saying basic) education to all and that's why it should be a right and not a privilege. Higher and specialized education can be considered a privilege.

Regards,

Ravi

#18
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 14, 2008
11:36 PM

Dear K.M. (#3),

"You say you are against forced redistribution of wealth and yet claim that there should be a limit on wealth. How will this limit be implemented, if not by force?"

There should be a limit on wealth because, sum total of all natural resources in the world is limited. By agreeing to live in a civilized society we have already accepted the force (of society) as a fact of life. When man lived in the caves, the law of the jungle prevailed. Then acquisition of property depended upon how physically capable or cunning a person was. Now it is dependent upon how intellectually capable or cunning a person is. Do you see the parallel here? Just as we limited a person's ability to do physical harm to others by adopting laws, we have to adopt laws that limit a person's ability to harm others economically.

I will illustrate this by an example. Consider a very rare natural resource, such as Zircon (I am just making it up). Let's say someone comes up with a treatment for a common disease such as diabetes which uses Zircon in minute quantities. In a laissez faire world, a rich will be able to corner the entire source of Zircon and then charge people who need this natural resource exhorbitantly. As a result of this, a large percentage of people may die without the cure.

What this illustrates is that a person's right to make profit is not an absolute right. There are higher principles which should be the guiding principles of any civilized society. In fact we do have one such principle: all organizations, commercial, non-profit and government exist to serve humanity. This is because the founding principle of any civilized society is to ensure that humanity endures and thrives. So even though, it is not written in the founding principles of any commercial entity, it is an implicit principle. If this principle is absent, then that entity has no right to exist, period.

Another factor to consider is that when too much power in terms of material wealth is concentrated in one person or family, it leads to corruption of the mind. Such people have again and again illustrated that they will do anything to hold on to their wealth and add more to it. This includes, breaking laws, lobbying, creating new instruments of financial destruction (such as CDOs and CDSs) just to name a few. We can't trust on a possibility that these people will be charitable and will use their wealth in a way that will benefit a large section of the society. There are honorable exceptions of course, but in general it does not happen.

Lastly there is no reason why a person born in a wealthy family should receive all the wealth as an inheritance. By sheer accident of birth a person is infinitely more privileged than the other who is born poor. Do you think that's fair? Even if one were to say that, a person who has earned all his or her wealth through hard work can, fairly pass on 100% of the wealth to their children, can the same be said about the second and subsequent generations in that family? They certainly haven't worked as hard to earn it?

Ayn Rand made a fatal error in not considering the spiritual nature of human existence. When such an important part of human nature is ignored, it is no wonder that her conclusions are so wrong.

Regards,

Ravi

#19
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 14, 2008
11:52 PM

Dear K.M. (#3),

"Where in the world do you see unbridled capitalism today?..."

This argument that somehow totally free capitalism will be better is very similar to claim of Islamic fundamentalists who say that when a state practices pure Islam, it will be a heaven on earth. It is just a claim, not a proof.

The reason a pure capitalist state will be disaster is this: there is nothing to prevent an individual or a company to completely monopolize a given segment of the market. Take Microsoft as an example: today they have erected such a huge entry barrier for operating systems that save Apple and some Linux initiatives, no one has been able to make even a dent in their control over the market. Can you imagine if there was no government oversight whatsoever? I am sure even Apple, Sun and many other IT companies would have been wiped out and perhaps Linux would never have survived as a force to reckon with.

Power corrupts people. Pure capitalism has nothing in it that can prevent such corruption. Greed is a part of human nature and pure capitalism without restraints will just bring back the jungle raj where might was right.

Regards,

Ravi

#20
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 14, 2008
11:58 PM

Dear Kerty (#14),

"When something is declared as a right, it means that it is my responsibility to pay for somebody else. It gives other people right to pick my pocket. That is highway robbery."

Please note that I am referring to "basic" education, not advanced or professional education. A child has a right to an education, because, a child is not capable of earning this right. A child is not just a family's responsibilty but also a societal one. An uneducated or ill-educated child can become a huge liability for a society; a well educated one a big asset.

No private enterprise will voluntarily undertake to educate all children irrespective of their financial status. That's why it should be a government responsibility.

Regards,

Ravi

#21
kaffir
October 15, 2008
12:41 AM

Do guys (and it's almost always guys) beyond high school take Ayn Rand's work seriously? I mean, really???

#22
kerty
October 15, 2008
12:44 AM

Ravi

"A child has a right to an education, because, a child is not capable of earning this right. A child is not just a family's responsibilty but also a societal one. An uneducated or ill-educated child can become a huge liability for a society; a well educated one a big asset"

How do we handle the responsibility of feeding children? Feeding children is a fundamental need too. Do we see government run giant kitchens to feed people? Surely, many families can not feed their children too. We also know that unfed people are likely to become a den of deceases and vices that can harm the society. We still delegate the responsibility for feeding them to the families. We let families in private sector produce the food. Government limits its role to creating infra-structure, and helping the poor families with price subsidies. But it does not create rights or entitlements out of basic necessities like food. The problem with creating artificial rights about anything is that it immediately gets embroiled in culture of entitlements and politics of reservations and special treatment. People start to shun personal responsibility and dump it on to tax-payers and politicians rather than taking responsibilities for their own families.

Granted that family is a too small a unit to take care of educational needs of its members. But families and communities can join hands to create necessary educational institutions. Government can help too with infra-structure, grants, subsidies, scholarship etc. But when socialist ideologies classify education as a fundamental right, I do not think it is about education.

#23
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 15, 2008
01:08 AM

Dear Kerty,

In most countries, it takes very little to feed a person. Same thing can not be said about schooling (since you seem to dislike education ;) ). Agreed that it will be best if this can be handled within the private and semi private initiatives such as community centers, charitable organizations. But it does not usually happen and that's where the govt needs to step in. I think we are in partial agreement here.

Regards,

Ravi

#24
kerty
October 15, 2008
03:22 AM

Ravi

"In most countries, it takes very little to feed a person. Same thing can not be said about schooling"

There is a reason why it takes very little to feed a person. Because food and feeding it is not a govt enterprise. Communists tried but ended up with long food lines.


"Agreed that it will be best if this can be handled within the private and semi private initiatives such as community centers, charitable organizations. But it does not usually happen and that's where the govt needs to step in".

It does not happen because govt will not let that happen. Socialism and communism have basic distrust of people, families, communities, private sector. So they create their own self-fulfilling prophesy where govt is the inevitable answer to all problems. There is a close nexus between unions and political parties that have been in charge of government. They have driven up the costs so high in the educational field that no private sector player can remain viable on tuition fees alone. They are denied the advantages and protections that are available to minority-run institutions. some have tried to enlist as minority-run in order to escape persecution by unions and government. Leftists want government monopoly in the educational field and drive out the rest(except minorities).

#25
kaffir
October 15, 2008
04:10 AM

There is a close nexus between unions and political parties that have been in charge of government.

Not in the US, where the nexus is between the political parties and big corporations, in what is correctly termed as crony-capitalism, or 'privatising profits, socialising losses'. We just saw the perfect example of redistribution of wealth - $700 Billion of it, along with a sneaky $25 Billion to the auto industries (and more to come) who effed up and came begging to nanny for help. All taxpayers' money.

#26
kerty
October 15, 2008
10:08 AM

#25

My comment was about India, not about USA.

However, in USA also, unions provide extreme socialist agenda to democratic party. Teachers union is a powerful union and it is closely tied with democratic party. Together, they have made government-run public education indispensible and most expensive in the world. It takes staggering amount of taxation and lottery revenues to keep the educational system fiscally viable, and yet, it never seems to be enough. Conservatives have tried to introduce privatization, competition, choice but so far, teacher union and democratic party have created formidable wall and even minor reforms seem impossible.

#27
kerty
October 15, 2008
10:40 AM

KM

Ann Rand has been thoroughly thrashed and discredited, and has been reduced to cult following. If you are going to recycle her thesis, please read the critique of her also. Ann Rand does have certain appeal to first time readers and novices, but most people tend to outgrow her world view very fast.

#28
K. M.
URL
October 15, 2008
12:58 PM

Thank you for all the comments. I will try to answer them all one by one.

#29
K. M.
URL
October 15, 2008
01:00 PM

Morris #15,
There are two main points I want to make about religion.
First, since religion depends on accepting ideas on faith, it is an invalid way of dealing with the world. The greater the role of religion in man's life, the worse the consequences, both material and spiritual. When a culture or society is completely ruled by religious beliefs and superstitions, (and this is true of most societies in deep poverty today) endemic poverty necessarily results. By complete rule of religious beliefs, I mean things such as praying to the rain god for a good monsoon. When an entire society believes in such superstitions, the society cannot rise out of poverty.
Second, societies such as America and the rest of the Western world in the 18th and 19th centuries were not religious in this sense. Most people still believed in religion in some form, but the outlook towards life was not religious. People (or atleast a significant number of them) did not look for supernatural ways to solve their daily problems. They were confident that the mind is fully capable of grasping and dealing with the physical world. In such a society, religion is a drag. It leads to personal contradictions and incosistencies. But not to widespread and endemic poverty.
I hope that makes my position clear.

#30
K. M.
URL
October 15, 2008
01:46 PM

Ravi #18,
"By agreeing to live in a civilized society we have already accepted the force (of society) as a fact of life."
You are equivocating on the concept force here - using the word to mean two different things.
A civilized society is a society where men do not deal with each other by force, where force is banned from all social relationships. A government in such a society necessarily has to use retalliatory force to protect people when someone initiates force. By agreeing to live in a civilized society, we agree not to initiate force against any one and to delegate the responsibility of using retalliatory force to the government. This is not an acceptance of force, but a thorough rejection of it.

"Just as we limited a person's ability to do physical harm to others by adopting laws, we have to adopt laws that limit a person's ability to harm others economically."
'Economic harm' is very different from the initiation of physical force. Just consider your Zircon example.
"Let's say someone comes up with a treatment for a common disease such as diabetes which uses Zircon in minute quantities. In a laissez faire world, a rich will be able to corner the entire source of Zircon and then charge people who need this natural resource exhorbitantly. As a result of this, a large percentage of people may die without the cure."
The people who did not have a cure at all now have a cure which they may or may not be able to afford. Is this harm? The person(s) who invented the cure and the person(s) who managed to obtain the entire supply of Zircon by recognizing its value before anyone else fully deserve to make as much money as they can for their efforts. Consider the much more common and realistic issue of the intellectual property rights of pharma companies to the medicines they invent. The pharma companies spend decades in time and huge investments in money on research to develop new medicines. When they succeed, should they have an absolute right to set the price of their medicines? From a moral perspective, they created the medicines by their efforts, it is their property, and they can dispose of it in any way they choose. They do not owe those medicines to anyone. From a practical perspective, preventing the companies from charging a market price (a price that would be the result with no forced restrictions on price) destroys their motivation to spend big sums on research and everyone loses in the long run as a result.

"There are higher principles which should be the guiding principles of any civilized society. In fact we do have one such principle: all organizations, commercial, non-profit and government exist to serve humanity. This is because the founding principle of any civilized society is to ensure that humanity endures and thrives. So even though, it is not written in the founding principles of any commercial entity, it is an implicit principle. If this principle is absent, then that entity has no right to exist, period."
There is no independent entity such as humanity. Humanity does not have a mind, is not capable of thinking, does not experience joy or sorrow, does not have a purpose, does not have a life, does not live or die. It is the individual to which all the above apply. All actions are taken by individuals. All decisions are made by individuals. Individuals are the beneficiaries or the victims of any action. Serving humanity is a meaningless concept. Every action serves the interest of some particular individual(s).

"By sheer accident of birth a person is infinitely more privileged than the other who is born poor. Do you think that's fair?"
By a sheer accident of birth, some people are born with a much greater intelligence or physical strength or beauty etc... Is that 'fair'? Should we start redistributing these things to make it 'fair'? The term fair, or the concept of 'justice' applies to actions which are in human control. A person inheriting a great fortune through birth is neither fair nor unfair. The concept of fairness does not apply to it. It does apply however when society or government prevents the owner of that fortune from handing it over to whomsoever he pleases. Preventing the creater of wealth from disposing of it by his choice is extremely unfair.

"Ayn Rand made a fatal error in not considering the spiritual nature of human existence. When such an important part of human nature is ignored, it is no wonder that her conclusions are so wrong."
Ayn Rand was no materialist as her writings explicitly show. Here is a quote from an eminently readable speech from Atlas Shrugged

"Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values, if he's evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he's evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent."

Nor am I focusing on just material things here. I am discussing ideas because I get a non material, spiritual pleasure in doing so.

#31
K. M.
URL
October 15, 2008
02:01 PM

temporal #13,
Certainly practical efforts are needed to achieve any goal, whether material or spiritual. The question is what are these efforts? How does one determine what efforts to make without being equipped with the necessary ideas?
The point of the post was to emphasize that the efforts that we are being called upon to make are not just thoroughly impractical, but also immoral and unjust. Forced donations will do nothing to improve the quality of life of the poor. They will however squeeze honest productive people everywhere a little more.
It is said that "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". This is not correct. The road to hell is paved with bad ideas. It is crucial to realize, that everything we are and everything we have is because of our, and our ancestor's ideas. Our ideas affect every aspect of our lives. It is crucial to understand them, make sure that they are correct and do not lead to contradictions.

#32
K. M.
URL
October 15, 2008
02:04 PM

kaffir #21,
I think you are intelligent enough to judge whether I am past high school and whether I am serious.

#33
K. M.
URL
October 15, 2008
02:20 PM

kerty #11,
I don't think what you are saying is significantly different from my position on this issue. I made it clear that I meant poverty as scarcity of the values (material) and conditions (social, political) necessary for life, not as a lack of consumer goods.
I also agree that it is the pursuit of happiness that drives human enterprise and that wealth also includes non-material values. I am guessing that we would not agree on what constitutes happiness, but I am sure we will have opportunities to debate that later.
Finally regarding #27,
I read Rand 6 years ago and have thought out a lot of her philosophy in detail. There is no chance that I will outgrow her now. Also her 'following' is not a cult by any means. Just look at some of the links on my blogroll. You might be surprised. There might be a number of people who accept her philosophy as dogma and then reject it later, but that is true of every significant idea.

#34
kerty
October 15, 2008
05:36 PM

KM

"A civilized society is a society where men do not deal with each other by force, where force is banned from all social relationships. A government in such a society necessarily has to use retalliatory force to protect people when someone initiates force. By agreeing to live in a civilized society, we agree not to initiate force against any one and to delegate the responsibility of using retalliatory force to the government. This is not an acceptance of force, but a thorough rejection of it."

This is pure utopia that can not sustain.

- What is state after all? It too is made up of people - burocrats, police, politicians, political parties etc. How come people in general can not be trusted to use force in just manner but same people, when in government, can be trusted to use force in a just manner?

- How can you trust the state(burocrats, police, politicians, political parties, king-maker votebanks etc) to use the retaliatory force in a just manner?

- Can you trust the state not to impose the will of hostile ideologies and ambitious political factions upon the unwilling with the threat of force?

- If you can not trust a fellow being to use force in just manner, how can you trust any group of people (votebanks) not to impose their will on the unwilling by using the threat of force vested in state?

It is precisely when state can not be trusted to use the force wisely and just manner, that people feel the need to create their own private mechanisms to defend against imposition of will of hostile persons and groups.

Ideal setup to strive for would be where individuals are raised to be morally, socially and economically self-sufficient, self-contained and self-reliant so that nobody feels the need to use force, where individuals and groups having differing aspirations are accommodated to chart their own course and create/suffer their own destiny as long as they do not encroach upon similar freedoms of others - state in such setup would act as facilitator and empire to ensure nobody interferes or violates the freedoms and autonomy of its subjects - such an order would qualify as civilization that is based on plurality, co-existence, peace and non-violence. However, one can also invert such civilization and create a totally opposite social order that is built upon negation of plurality, intolerance, hatred and violence. That can happen when all aspirants of diversity and freedom are hauled up in a melting pot against their will, where will of each other is negated by imposing the will of each other upon each other in order to produce some sort of ideological monolith, which forces aspirant of diversity to seek unconventional means to preserve, defend, persecute, victimize or retaliate.


#35
kaffir
October 15, 2008
05:43 PM

K.M. -
You could be a child prodigy. ;) :)

I think Ravi has addressed some of the "faults" in Rand's philosophy. It talks of an ideal world and a utopia where all are free, yet offers no steps on how to get there from the real world we live in. ("Educating others? Not allowed. That's altruism.") Yes, *you* may have realized that high state where your mind is free - by reading and understanding her philosophical points, but once you go out and *interact* with other human beings preoccupied with where to get their next meal from, or climbing the corporate ladder, you do find out the limits of that freedom - or rather, the limits to your freedom because of other people's actions. So, four options (that I can think of):
a. live in misery every time you realize some unenlightened immoral person is coercing you, or limiting your freedom (facts of life), or
b. seclusion/move to an island or jungle to limit exposure to those in immoral folks in a., or
b. "evangelism"/"conversion" of others to your world-view (e.g. this post written by you), or
c. interact only with those who have been certified by Ayn Rand Institute as Objectivists - where everyone's on the same frequency, so to speak.

In that sense, it's fundamentalist and not much different from Islamic ideology of a perfect world when sharia has been implemented, everyone has been converted to a pious Muslim and dar-ul-Harb is no more. Or Christianity, where their way is the only true way and the rest of us heathens need to be saved.

BTW, would you like to state how you define the word "altruism"? From what I've read, Rand's definition is slightly different from the dictionary definition of the word and how it is generally understood, and this difference sometimes/often causes confusion in discussions, as people talk past each other.

I think Rand has some good points and insights, but what's missing from her philosophy is "compassion" and "forgiveness" - and that is a huge lacuna, in my highly subjective opinion. What I find surprising is that she missed something so basic and obvious when it comes to human relationships. Then again, she grew up in Soviet Russia and probably witnessed horrible conditions and saw the worst of human behavior.

I will admit that -some- of my perception of Rand's philosophy has been shaped by many "Randroids" who dogmatically believe in Objectivism, and even when given an example that proves them wrong, come up with "It's a fault in my understanding, but the philosophy is perfect" as a response. Sounds familiar? Another group uses a similar line. :)

It'd be interesting to find out what percentage of aid to those affected by H. Katrina came from private charity.

By the way, was Rand knowledgeable enough and understanding enough of the different (religious) philosophies of the world, or did she reject all religions based on her knowledge of, or exposure to one single religion - Christianity? I hope you don't subscribe to the view that all religions are the same, even though there are some similarities. (By 'religion' I don't mean the organized religion, but rather the philosophical part.)

Then again, if Rand's philosophy works for you and makes you happy, then good for you. Ultimately, that's the only litmus test - as long as you don't expect others to live by your philosophy. :)

Thanks.

#36
kaffir
October 15, 2008
06:04 PM

IMO the philosophy of Objectivism is more suited to those people who view the world in strict black-and-white terms, enjoy having a strict code of honor or rules, and living life by those rules no matter what.

For those who are more comfortable with shades of gray and are fine with being flexible (or making a "compromise") when it comes to interacting with others, will find poO stifling.

Both have their pros and cons.

#37
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 15, 2008
11:47 PM

Dear K.M. (#30),

"There is no independent entity such as humanity."

This one statement summarizes the basis for Rand philosophy, correct me if I am wrong. When we start with this premise, obviously we don't need society, culture, government or any other organization.

In my own mind, humanity does exist, though in an abstract form. True, humanity is not a person, not a building or this or that object. But as evolved beings we are capable of developing useful abstractions, and humanity is one such useful abstraction. The spiritual nature of humans comes from realizing the underlying and yet undetectable connection that unites us. It is the intelligence, the langauge, the feelings, and something beyond expression that unite us. One can deny it and live in isolation, but to me that's not a satisfactory life. You may think otherwise, and that's fine too.

Kaffir summarized it in #35 much more eloquently than me, so there is no need for me to say anymore.

Thank you for a wonderful debate.

Regards,

Ravi

#38
Morris
October 16, 2008
11:49 AM

K.M. #29

I am still struggling to make sense out of what you are saying. I tend to agree with you about beliefs in religions. But I think the freedom to believe in whatever you wish to is more important than any thing else so long as you seperate such beliefs from the affairs of the state. That is what American founders came up with. Soviet Union demonized religions for 70 years and was not able to surpass the US. The US is there because of the freedom that includes people who may pray for rain or for change of weather. So while I agree with what you are saying, I still do not see a connection between supernatural beliefs and poverty. If the entire society believe in rain god then perhaps you are right. But the converse cannot be true. I see connection between freedom to believe in whatever you with to and poverty.
I am still lost in spite of agreeing with most of what you said.

#39
kerty
October 16, 2008
11:58 AM

Ravi

""There is no independent entity such as humanity."
This one statement summarizes the basis for Rand philosophy, correct me if I am wrong. When we start with this premise, obviously we don't need society, culture, government or any other organization."

The key word here is identity - which could be based on anything - language, culture, race, geography, ideology, religion etc - they all have been found as a basis for society, culture, nation/state.

Humanity is a recent ideological construct and a very abstract one as you say. And it is negationist of all other identities that have evolved over centuries and have concrete existence. Without defining itself in concrete terms, this humanist abstraction seeks to be universalist and expansionist, seeking to undermine all that has gone before and all that exists. Therein lies its conflicts with society, culture, religion. It is a zeal to be universalist and unifying force that has historically pitted religions on war path with rest of the world, and same crusades are in store for humanism - except humanism has nothing going for it except lowest common denominators and fringe underground. That is why they have been reduced to platform for fringe groups, terrorists, criminals, thugs. Let is face it. There is no such thing as universal or unifying at higher level - they exist only at lowest levels. As humans grow in their pursuits, their aspirations take them in all kinds of directions and dimensions - yes, they all still have 2 arms and 2 legs, but than so what? Are you going to restrict them to the level of physical and animalist existence so that they all can remain confined to same level and fulfill some humanist mandate of looking universal? This humanism is the biggest fraud since monotheism.

#40
K. M.
URL
October 16, 2008
12:56 PM

kerty #34 and kaffir #35,
You agree that a society that bans the use of force would be an ideal society but believe that establishing it is impossible - a utopia. Let me point out a contradiction here. You agree that something is ideal yet believe it is impossible. A moral code that prescribes an impossibility as an ideal is fundamentally flawed. The moral must always be practical. If it is not, the standard of morality is wrong. Consider where the ideal of freedom from force comes from. It is a fact that the mind is man's ultimate tool of survival and the exercise of the mind is incompatible with force. But it is also a fact that man has free will and can use force. A political ideal must accomodate both these facts. When I say that a society that bans physical force is an ideal, I do not mean a society in which no one will ever resort to force. I do not mean a society in which every initiation of force will be punished by the state. I do not mean a society where the state is infallible. All of these are impossibilities and cannot be ideals. What I mean is a society where the principle that 'initiation of force for any reason whatsoever is wrong' is widely recognized and serves as an explicitly recognized guideline (through a constitution) and limitation on government actions and laws. Where any person can challenge a particular law in court on the grounds that this principle has been violated. This is not utopia. This sort of political structure already exists. The US constitution even came quite close to banning force "Every man has certain inalienable rights, and among them are the rights to life, property and the pursuit of happiness" (I write from memory, and maybe slightly wrong in the precise wording). The founders did not have the benefit of an explicit philosophy to back up their ideas. They only had Locke's political theories without a full ethical base. With an explicit philosophy achieving such a system is certainly possible.

kaffir #35,
I would like to elaborate on the meaning of dogma, fundamentalism and certainty. The dividing line between dogma and proper beliefs is not the extent of certainty that its proponents claim to have. It is the method by which they arrived at those beliefs. Religious beliefs are dogma because they are arrived at through faith - a suspension of reason and accepted without question. Scientific beliefs, such as "The earth revolvs round the sun" are not dogma because they are founded on reality, experiments and reason. The mere fact that we are 100 % certain of this belief does not make this a dogma. What we call the scientific method, is actually pre-science. It is in the realms of philosophy. It is the method of reason, and for that reason is the only proper method of arriving at any beliefs. This might seem circular but it is not. We use (and have to use) reason and the perceptions provided by our senses to arrive at all beliefs and concepts, including the concepts of truth and validity. Since these - reason and our senses - are the base of all our knowledge, they are necessarily valid. They are axiomatically true. Any attempt to deny them will have to use them too rendering the denial invalid.

kaffir #36,
Rand's philosophy does not deny the existence of grays. It insists that the gray is a composition of black and white and that it is crucial to know what part is black and what part is white. It also insists that moral ideas cannot be gray, they must be black or white. Men can be inconsistent in their application of morality. That makes the man gray in an overall sense. It does not make the ideas gray.

Ravi #37,
What I meant when I said that "there is no independent entity such as humanity", I meant "humanity is not a moral agent", humanity neither makes choices, nor is humanity the beneficiary of anything. Certainly the concept of humanity exists (otherwise we would not be discussing it) and it is also a useful concept.
This does not mean that we do not need society, culture, government or organizations. We need all of those. Would I spend the sort of time I am spending here if i believed these are not necessary?

Thanks again everybody for the comments and the excellent debate. I have already spent much more time replying to comments on this thread than I ever intended. There are several points which I have not answered but those will have to wait. I intend to make some of them the topics of future posts, and I hope I have convinced you that these ideas are worth discussing.

#41
K. M.
URL
October 16, 2008
01:22 PM

Morris #38,
Very good. I agree with everything you said in your last comment. Certainly freedom to believe in anything (including religion) and act on those beliefs as long as they don't hurt others is crucial. Any society which denies that denies every other right as well.
The only connection I wanted to make is that consistently practised supernatural beliefs by an entire society is one of the most common forms of endemic poverty. It has happened in history and exists even today in many parts of the world.

#42
kerty
October 16, 2008
01:32 PM

KM

"When I say that a society that bans physical force is an ideal, I do not mean a society in which no one will ever resort to force. I do not mean a society in which every initiation of force will be punished by the state. I do not mean a society where the state is infallible. "

Yet. You find it ok for state to have monopoly on use of force and imposing its will on people. How do you expect state to police its own powers or acknowledge its infallibility?

"What I mean is a society where the principle that 'initiation of force for any reason whatsoever is wrong' is widely recognized and serves as an explicitly recognized guideline (through a constitution) and limitation on government actions and laws. Where any person can challenge a particular law in court on the grounds that this principle has been violated. This is not utopia."

It is certainly utopia. It creates its own brand monotheistic fundamentalism, constitution being its bible with literalist and liberalist interpretations vying for supremacy over state, seeking centralization and monopolization of all powers in in state and constitution - in exchange for bribing 'individual' with few hedonistic and materialistic liberties but suppressing and silencing the rest with the use of force.

"This sort of political structure already exists. The US constitution even came quite close to banning force"

USA has been the most violent state in the history of nation-state. It has highest per-capita crimes, highest prison population, highest gun owership in civilian hands, highest military spending than rest of the world combined, most wars waged by any nations. It has killed more people in this century than all the dictators and tyrants combined. It seeks to impose its will on rest of the world by threat of military might. It is no different from any fundamentalist fanatic seeking to expand hegemony by force.

#43
kaffir
October 16, 2008
03:48 PM

K.M.-

Thanks for your response and I'm certainly enjoying this discussion. But I didn't see a direct response or an answer to the points I raised in comment # 35, in your comment.

You are also using a very simplistic example of heliocentric theory to prop up science* over religion, when science and religion have different purposes; and at least in the context of Indian history, there wasn't a conflict between religion and science to explain the natural phenomenon (world, universe). This conflict, as far as I know, is a Western narrative involving a specific religion called Christianity.

Sorry as I've to run, but I'll address your conflating of all sciences into one, in a subsequent comment. There's science and then there's science.

* How about using "anthropogenic global warming" or "malaria and DDT" when it comes to science? :)

#44
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 17, 2008
12:25 AM

Dear Kerty (#39),

Very well articulated, but I would have to disagree. Humanity and humanism are not new concepts, not even relatively. Thousands of years ago, Upanishads proclaimed, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam (whole world is one family). This is a philosophical statement, not a religious one.

From superficial level we are all different. In fact each individual is unique. However if you delve deeper, you will notice that we are all full of same feelings, same yearnings, attachments, angst and sorrows. The way we look may be different, the way we express ourselves could different. But that does not belie the underlying commonality.

If anything technology such as mass media and the internet have made humanity a very real concept. I am sure we will live to see a day when our children and grand children are more united by ideas and concepts and less by their races, cultures, languages or geographical locations. Instead of killing individuality as you seem to suggest, humanism can be a liberating concept that celebrates the uniqueness of each of us at the same time recognizing the underlying spiritual connection that binds all of us.

Regards,

Ravi

#45
kerty
October 17, 2008
12:31 PM

Ravi

"Thousands of years ago, Upanishads proclaimed, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam (whole world is one family). This is a philosophical statement, not a religious one."

Contrast 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam' with humanism. You will find them antithesis of each other.

- 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam' is not negationist. You do not have to give up your family to embrace world as your family. It does not ask you to give up any of your identities or relationships, but rather it establishes dhrama and duties that are unique to such identities and relationships in order to nourish and sustain them.

- Even though it proclaims whole world to to be family, it shies away from universalism or conquests or imposition on rest of the world. It does not force world to join it as its family.


"From superficial level we are all different. In fact each individual is unique. However if you delve deeper, you will notice that we are all full of same feelings, same yearnings, attachments, angst and sorrows. The way we look may be different, the way we express ourselves could different. But that does not belie the underlying commonality."

In fact we have commanalities only at biological, physical and gross levels. Our freedoms, aspirations and pursuits in social, economic, ideological, political, cultural, spiritual, religious spheres make us highly unique and distinct from each other - they all need to be stripped away, suppressed and negated in order to achieve humanist ideals of making is all same, clones, monolith.

If anything technology such as mass media and the internet have made humanity a very real concept. I am sure we will live to see a day when our children and grand children are more united by ideas and concepts and less by their races, cultures, languages or geographical locations. Instead of killing individuality as you seem to suggest, humanism can be a liberating concept that celebrates the uniqueness of each of us at the same time recognizing the underlying spiritual connection that binds all of us. Sure we all have feelings, yearnings, angsts and sorrows just like we all eat, drink, deficate and urinate - but we do not share same set of feelings for different things, and yearn for same kind of things in life, and show angsts over same issues, and feel sorrow over same matters, and use our freedoms towards same pursuits, and what we value the most, and what we are prepared to defend with out lives. That is why humanism is over-simplicagtion, abstraction, seeking commanlities at most abstract levels and lowest common denominators - and yet harboring ambition to be overriding ideology of universalism, seeking to expand and impose its hegemony using statism and coersive force of state.

"I am sure we will live to see a day when our children and grand children are more united by ideas and concepts and less by their races, cultures, languages or geographical locations."

Oh yes. Second coming of Christ is just around the corner.

"Instead of killing individuality as you seem to suggest, humanism can be a liberating concept that celebrates the uniqueness of each of us at the same time recognizing the underlying spiritual connection that binds all of us."

Humanism can not liberate. It can only enlsave and reduce humanity to animalistic, biological, materialistic, hedonistic, sinner existence, from which it poses and pretends to save some of those who are willing to do its bidding. It is an ideological counterpart of liberation theologies, sharing same traits and modus operandi. Liberation theologies tend to be highly fundamentalist, fanatic, terrorist, expansionist. Humanism might pretend to reject liberation theologies in order to wrestle hegemony away from liberation theologies - but it sets its own course no better than any other liberation theology.

Add your comment

(Or ping: http://desicritics.org/tb/8316)

Personal attacks are not allowed. Please read our comment policy.






Remember Name/URL?

Please preview your comment!