Saturday, October 16, 2010

Apology for the Truth of Me

Much as I try, I cannot quell the passion that flares up anytime discussions involving how free a person should be come up, or come to my attention. Like things in the last post, things to do with the USA and the evolution of free states--which have never quite existed.

We were almost there, and as a result much of the world is not as oppressive, openly, as it once was. But in reality, the beast has merely changed form a bit.

I think that once the idea was out of the bag that everyone is born to be as free as he chooses as long as he doesn't impede the same right in others, there was no turning back. All the Che types, the Lenins, Stalins, Castros, Sean Penns, Bushs and Obamas can't permanently pervert the idea and kill it.

Look how long it took before people had some say in their own affairs instead of being under a monarch with all power. It has not been that long, and tax money still supports inbred family titles and privilege in some places.

Wasn't that long ago that my ancestors may have been slaves to the Romans. I'm hoping they were Druids and had some great fertility rite celebrations before being nabbed.

Maybe the point is progress. Another word which may have different connotations to different people. I consider anything that enhances one's realization of the ownership of his/her own life to be a move in the right direction. Such things are constructive progress. That is different than things which feed egos, give one life power over another or special dispensation based on condition of birth. You can't have universal rights and ego feeding, separatist favoritism. Either freedom is everyone's birthright, or it isn't.

It's expensive though because it does not mean you are guaranteed wealth, wit, wisdom or anything other than the right to choose what you want to pursue, if anything.

Sometimes in looking into matters and their history, it takes shutting down kneejerk reactions and trained-in loyalties in order to face and accept truth. Many things have been assigned associations which may not be valid. If you question Obama or don't care for his wife, you are racist. If you think our involvement in the mideast sucks, you are anti-defense, and unpatriotic. Those are not valid conclusions but that is how things get painted. And I get addicted to narrowing down what really makes sense in the evolution toward a free society, and what is a built in roadblock that has the appearance of something else.

Why can't I just be this interested in flowers or dogs or something? It would be far less controversial. But no. I have to carry on this imaginary freedom fighter dialog with no one in particular, half believing that free speech really is under attack and that a few wrong words do get people harassed, audited, arrested, etc

Another Biography Review:Ben Franklin by Walter Isaacson

Since I do not have cable or satellite or much else in the way of TV, I sometimes become addicted to reading books at the neglect of all else.

In my quest for biographies about people whose stories might offer me something of substance, I ended up with Davy Crocket and then Benjamin Franklin. Crockett was an autobiography for the most part. It seemed less inclined to have subtle undercurrents revealing what he wanted you to think.

Although the Franklin biography is fairly even handed in many ways, it is clear that Isaacson comes from a viewpoint which renders him almost apologetic in acknowledging basic, useful accomplishments when not accompanied by cynical snobbery. It is subtle and I doubt the average reader would realize when the tone switches from fact and information based on letters and statements from contemporaries to the author's voice gently prodding the reader to come to certain conclusions. It is very standard in modern reporting and in historical texts of recent issue.

It is as if you are shown a photograph of a pastoral scene which includes cows, sheep, and a farmer and his daughter- who are picking tomatoes, then told, "obviously the farmer is overly fond of sheep and the girl resents having to pick tomatoes rather than tip cows". You both have the same information but he owns the photo, so he must be right.

There is a lot of good info and the book is well enough written. The between the lines, "Sorry, but this guy really was remarkable. Wish I didn't have to admit it", gets a bit in the way. It was as if he was treading a line so that academics who despise the whole liberty thing wouldn't accuse him of being Glenn Beck or God knows what.

Like I said, it is all done with enough finesse that I doubt most people would pick that out.

One thing that was inaccurate and somewhat misleading was his use of the words populist, liberal, and conservative in describing various beliefs of the time, and relating them to modern day impressions such terms give. For one thing, I do not think populist was even a term back then. In that day, conservative was Loyalist and all for mega government control, while liberal was freedom based and pretty much anti-authoritarian. Also, those terms may mean something different to me. He is subtly reinforcing what he wants the reader to think of the modern day categories. Very clever.

The terms have other meanings than they did back then. Today those who call themselves liberal tend to want a large central government which handles most aspects of life. Conservative, ideally would want less government (however most who class themselves as conservative tend to be unwilling to pull government out of some areas). Today the terms are not as meaningful as some espouse. But why split hairs. I would consider myself conservative if it was understood to mean fewer laws, legalize freedom, minimize government, and leave people alone even if you think they are wrong--ie: abortion.

Unfortunately it doesn't work that way, so I say Libertarian, or not quite anarchist.

Franklin started from almost zilch and managed to make great success in many realms. He was a successful printer/publisher/businessman, a renowned essayist/writer, extremely influential scientist and inventor, plus one of the savviest diplomats of all time.

In some ways I consider him a bit too much of a big government guy, but those people were living in a day when it was a big deal that you could even break the caste of your birth. That was a thing the colonies offered more than England and that helped lead to the nervy break and revolution.

It does help to get good information regarding that period because you otherwise have no idea how things happened, where the people deserve admiration and where they missed the mark. It certainly gives a better picture than the disparaging one which has been promoted in the last few decades. And a clearer one than the fairy tale nature which missed the point in earlier decades. Many a hardcore patriot who deems himself a constitutionalist may have no idea that the pledge of allegiance was not part of the deal until much later. I personally think it was a mistake, not a view I always held. Most everyone lost sight of the fact that many who framed the nations constitution were concerned that even under that document government could grow from useful to tyrannical. And it did.

Toward the end of the book, Isaacson quotes and offers opinions in a way that seduces you to think he's stating fact until you step back. How the hell do they know what Franklin would think of an office park or a mall? The effort was to imply that Franklin would have thought the modern version of the republic is just what the doctor ordered, and that he'd be all for this mammoth tangle of corruption lies and heavy handed control. I am unconvinced.

____==a little aside: people often blame Ben for daylight savings time. He's not guilty. He often wrote mock essays which were jokes and satire. In one of those he suggested the people of some country get up earlier to save on candles. He was actually joking. Who knew we'd be doing it seriously, and making laws about it? And have some hollywood people seriously, in public, going on and on about using less toilet paper?

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Ballistic Mountain, CA, United States
Like spring on a summer's day


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