Tafelmusik

An Illusory Intertwingling of Reason and Response

Philosophy: I wax philosophical, and many times violently politico-philosophical. If you can stand the heat, here’s the kitchen: enjoy your stay . . .

Tafel :: philosophy

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Definitions of Libertarianism

According to Short Definitions of Libertarianism, the American Heritage Dictionary defines “libertarian” as an advocate of the maximization of individual rights and the minimization of the role of the state. By that definition, yes, I am a libertarian. “Self-government,” it’s also called. Well, I must say I agree with that as well. However, the underlying philosophy of most libertarians in the public eye is more libertine than libertarian, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to differ on that point.

Am I a libertarian? The World’s Smallest Political Quiz seems to think so, but I’m not sure (though I scored 100% libertarian on economic and 80% libertarian on personal issues). I think I’d rather have legalized drugs than soft-pedaled drug legislation, and we haven’t had a real conservative in the Republican Party for a long time.

Give it a few more years. I’m bound and determined to have liberty, and in five or ten more years, the Libertarian Party (whatever disagreements I may have with them) may be its sole guardian and advocate. Until then, well, there’s always breathing life into stiffened corpses, I suppose. I guess I’ll try that.

In Memoriam America

In memory of those whose dreams and schemes gave us this land, of those who died for the freedom that was America, of those whose blood watered the Tree of Liberty.

We have not kept your dream. We have abandoned your hopes. We have sold the freedom you died for us to have. We have failed you.

Forgive us.

In memory of that for which which once she stood,
In hope of that for which she yet may stand.

*****

July Fourth, Two Thousand and Five, a mere two hundred and twenty-nine years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, found America in the later stages of giving up freedom for security and finding she had neither.

In Memoriam

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Meaning of 1984

Mood: Discovering

George Orwell’s 1984 has never struck me as a positive book at all. Not to say that I don’t like it — on the contrary, it’s one of my favorite politico-philosophical works — but I never quite understood what it advocated: I only saw that it deprecated collectivism and exposed the roots of collectivistic philosophies. Now I see it: the point of 1984 is that a productive and free society cannot help but be luxurious and self-governing.

. . . an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction — indeed, in some sense was the destruction — of a hierarchical society. In a world ini which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motorcar or even an airplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves: and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.

— George Orwell, 1984, chapter IX

You see, it’s not collectivism which is going to eliminate Marx’s class warfare. In the end, collectivism of some sort (“Oligarchial Collectivism” was the name Orwell gave to Ingsoc, the collectivist society forming the basis of 1984.) is necessary to preserve that class warfare for the benefit of the ruling class.

While the Capitalist (“Das Kapital” of Marx fame) is usually set up by proponents of collectivism as the guilty ruling class (usually attempting to oppress the working class by some nefarious means, such as employing them), it is shortly discovered in any country which plunges too deeply into these waters that the instigators of the change are the very ones who set themselves up to benefit as the new ruling class.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

In Defense of Certainty

Time Magazine has done well. In fine form, they’ve challenged one of the most easily-assumed certainties of our time: that certainty is dangerous. The last page, ninety-six, of the June 6th, 2005 issue, is an essay by Charles Krauthammer, a regular Time columnist, entitled “In Defense of Certainty.” Krauthammer decrys the zeitgeist that “it’s trendy to be suspicious of people with ‘deeply held views.’ And it’s wrong.”

While more and more people are at odds with the beliefs of “evangelical Christians and traditional Catholics,” Krauthammer claims that to discount their opposition to popular secular views as theocratic is “nonsense.”

Now I am not much of a believer, but there is something deeply wrong — indeed, deeply un-American — about fearing people simply because they believe.

And it’s ironic that Americans are becoming more intolerant of what they view as deviant beliefs here on our own shores while preaching that Israelis should be tolerant of Islamic beliefs that demand their extinction.

But when someone takes the contrary view [to the secular view], all of a sudden he’s trying to impose his view on you. And if that contrary view happens to be rooted in Scripture or some kind of religious belief system, the very public advocacy of that view becomes a violation of the U.S. constitutional order.

What nonsense. The campaign against certainty is merely the philosophical veneer for an attempt to politically marginalize and intellectually disenfranchise believers. Instead of arguing the merits of any issue, secularists are trying to win the argument by default on the grounds that the other side displays unhealthy certainty . . .

The main thing that bothers me about folk of any political persuasion — liberal, conservative, or libertarian — is a predilection against rational thought. Whatever view is espoused, I much prefer it being backed up by evidence and reason than by liberal-bashing, religion-bashing, or other attempt to “win the argument by default.”

And if you&rsqo;re going to climb up on a soapbox and declare right and wrong, shouldn’t you be certain about it? It worries me when people recommend and even demand public policy without being sure themselves of its efficacy. However, certainty carries with it certain demands, the most onerous of which is consistency. If you are certain of something, you may be expected to produce convincing arguments for any change of opinion you may have. That “weariness with the responsibilities and the nightmares that come with clarity — and the demands that moral certainty make[s] on us” is the driving fear of certainty. The innate laziness and unwillingness to think of humankind in general (for isn’t it natural, for you as well as me, to want ease and comfort?) is our great enemy and the cause of our fear of certainty.

However, those who came before us were sure of their cause, and their legacy certainly behooves us to strive for the same certainty.

You want certainty? . . . How about a people who overthrow the political order of the ages, go to war and occasion thousands of deaths in the name of self-evident truths and unalienable rights endowed by the Creator? That was 1776. The universality, the sacredness and the divine origin of freedom are enshrined in our founding document. The Founders, believers all, signed it. Thomas Jefferson wrote it. And not even Jefferson, the most skeptical of the lot, had the slightest doubt about it.

Time Magazine: “In Defense of Certainty” (mirror - plain text)

Apathy Online, June 11th, 2005.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Beginning 1984

I’m just starting to read 1984 for the first time in four years. It, Brave New World, and Anthem are the three politico-philosophical classics of my library. I own quite a few others answering to the theme, but as far as political philosophy (and Objectivism) goes, there’s just no topping those three.

Anyway, I just broke into the first chapter — about twenty minutes of reading got me almost to the end of the first “Two Minutes Hate.” The scary thing about it is that, yes, just like Winston feared, others more weak-minded than yourself may be taken in by dangerous diatribes. Only, it’s not Emmanuel Goldstein I’m afraid of . . .

I’d like to write a short piece on 1984, in the manner of an apologist: there are many out there, especially in my generation (college-aged), who have never been given the chance to think about political philosophy for themselves. They’ve been steadily fed a diet of collectivism, and honestly are innocent of the concepts of true freedom and personal responsibility. In effect, all they know is “we,” and someone must teach them how to say “I.”

Now, might I commend these three books to you, my discriminating reader? None of them will take more than two hours of your time; unless, of course, you count time spent pondering — then they’ll take weeks.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

To Ride a Train

Someday I’d like to ride a train. The long, long train vanishing into the distance calls to me; the sound of its mournful whistle cuts to the very core of my being. A train is going away from; it is not going to. You leave things behind a train, and you may never see their like again.

In a train, there is much sorrow; and in that sorrow is joy. But the joy is not in the train: the joy is in the euphony of sorrow. A true sombre melancholy which pervades a train is the heart of all its joy. When those in a train are happy, it is because of the pure and silent peace true sorrow and bereavement of all brings.

When one boards a train, it is a step longer than any taken anywhere else: the last step of “here” and the first step of the unknown. Every step taken in that train is a step within a netherworld, and a step which does not exist.

A train is curious. It merely goes from “here” to “there” and back again, but while you are aboard a train, “there” comes “here” and “here” hastens elsewhere. The nature of “here” and “there” is as surreal as that of joy and sorrow, aboard a train.

What is joy? What is “here”? Or sorrow, or “there”? “Here” is sorrow, to many on the train; ergo “there” must be joy. But nature twists and turns as the tracks sweep smoothly, endlessly, over the country. And sometimes joy and sorrow get muddled up in “wheres” and “elsewheres”, and sometimes they fall out of the train and onto the gravel and are lost.

And oftimes the joy we sought, and the sorrow we sought to flee, we carry behind us, stored up safe in the baggage car, or perhaps in a sleeper . . . And the joy and sorrow everywhere are just as deep, and just as true, wherever you run or ride to. But the sorrow is more true than the joy, for where there is deep joy, there is deeper sorrow; and sorrow is the stuff of which joy is knit.

Originally written March 21st, 2002.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Never So Glad

Never So Light

Tonight has ended one of the most profoundly influential chapters of my life. The grand test of my philosophy of relationships has ended. Results: inconclusive, but promising. While I did not succeed in beginning a long-term dating relationship, I was quite successful in maintaining a mutual trust and friendship with all admitted.

My philosophy of relationships has developed into one of honesty, in which other concerns sometimes get lost. Two points of honesty (and nine of roguery) I require in relationships. I write my own rules by which I abide and expect to be abode by, which doesn’t usually go over too well — most people don’t like when you write your own rules for an established game. However, when my rules fail, I merely take it as a sign that this is one more girl who’s not the one for me.

*****

The first point of honesty is premise. To me it has always seemed silly and a little dishonest the excuses which suffice to meet someone. Merely standing behind a girl in line, or having a class with her (even if you sit across a room of a hundred and fifty from her) are excuse enough. To me it has always seemed to say, “I have a right to meet you because we registered for the same class.” Usually the girl believes him, and he begins — on what I would consider a false premise.

I have no right to meet someone based on chance circumstances like classes or queues or daily schedules. However, it seems to me a great loss that an excuse is required in the first place.

Meeting someone without excuse or premise states, “I want to get to know you,” an admission most are quite unwilling to make. However, honesty demands just such an admission, if that is indeed the intent. An excuse says, “I’m meeting you only because I have to,” in some form or another, reneging responsibility for the meeting.

I had been told that C__ was the one girl on campus (PCC) anyone could walk up to and say, “Good morning, C__. How have you been?”, and receive an unquestioning, “I’ve been doing well, thank you. How about you?” Of course, I didn’t believe it. I’m much too used to girls who would be frightened by something like that.

However, I was convinced to try it. One Sunday after the morning service I caught up with her as she walked back to her dorm. As I caught up with her, I realized that at some point I had started believing that it would work: that she would answer as predicted. It dawned on me all that such an answer would indicate about her, and hence, what kind of person I must have believed her to be — my kind of person. She answered verbatim.

If that’s when I met her, the following Thursday is when she met me.

First, let me say that girls, and really, people in general, can be divided (Yes, everyone divides the world into categories. I’m no different on that count.) into three categories: specifically good, specifically bad, and neutral. Only the first group is really worth anyone’s time.

So I ran into her after chapel and chatted with her about the sermon. (Dr. Carl Stelzer, Dean of the Division of Bible, and one of my favourite preachers here at school, had spoken that morning. His sermons are never weak surface glazings, but deep, thought-provoking exegeses.) Though I wasn’t consciously intending so, the conversation was, in a way, a test — which she passed.

*****

The second point of honesty I require in relationships is one of process. I don’t like the silly charade most people put on. There can be a guy and a girl who like each other, and know that the other likes them, but nothing is spoken. In fact, they will pretend, and even state outright (which is a lie), mere friendship. I suppose they just aren’t mature enough to interact in a social setting with any admitted feelings between them (which doesn’t excuse the lie).

Eventually, when the guy decides the time is right, he’ll climb out of his trench, stand in the no-man’s-land waving a white flag, and hope she comes out of her trench rather than simply shooting him from where she is. How much easier would it have been to never pretend “friends with no intentions” than to have a façade which must be admitted to at the last?

So, having met C__ honestly, with no pretense, and nothing to make her think that mayhap I just wanted to be friends, I proceeded to get to know her on a likewise honest basis. (Now, I never came out and said it, since that would have been an indication that I was intending to act immediately, which I wasn’t.) To try to ensure that I wasn’t communicating “just friends”, I acted as obviously as I thought was within decorum. She always received special treatment at my hands. For example, when I would join the group outside the dining hall: “Hey guys. Good evening, C__.”

*****

The Following Day

So ends one of the most profoundly influential chapters of my life. Strange, isn’t it? I’ve dated (S__) once before, for about a year and a half — not much longer than my pursuit of C__ lasted: S__ had orders of magnitude less of an effect on my life and how I live it.

Now, the lightness has in some measure worn off. I am left with a friend — something with which I thought I would never escape. She proved her continued friendship (now on the tenuous pedastal of Plato — Hemingway said that “Women made such swell friends. In the first place, you had to be in love with a woman in order to have a basis for friendship.”) today, and I now have that to cherish as I go on alone.

The time has finally come for me to live by what I speak. I am complete in myself, or so I say. Her presence had polarized me, and now, in her absence, I find myself pointing, compass-like, towards any who seems able to fulfill my expectations. Once my oscillations have completed, I may drift, again a perfect neutral sphere, whole again in myself, and again with all of myself able to meet and meld with another, not demanding my completion from her, but on equal terms.

I will play by my rules. I will not lie, and I will not apologize for it. Here I stand. I can do no other.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Too Dark

Is Classical music “too dark”? I suppose at times it can be just dark enough, but I will have to differ with him on this point. It is very nearly sacrilegious to turn to Jack Benny for a “smiler” after something truly sobering and thought-provoking.

Is it too deep? I would hesitate to say anything is too deep. Something too deep is too useful and too beneficial: too good. It simply requires too much work for the modern sensibility.

There is something in our *time and place* which creates even in those most respectable as thinkers a distaste for “extracurricular” thought — as if thinking is what ought to be done at and only at prescribed times, being an embarrassing intrusion at any other.

*****

I am not too dark. It’s not my fault that the world sees an impetuous need for untoward brightness. Brightness and ease: “so shalt thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.”1.

There are few types of people I detest more than the sluggard. In part, that may be because I detect in myself a certain tendency in that direction. (In the same way, I detest complaining: a vice which has been with great effort expunged from my life.) It may come across as pride to some, but I have no propensity to believe that anyone, with a setting of their mind and will to it, cannot do anything I have succeeded in doing. Therefore, if anyone is lazy, or a complainer, or merely has trouble understanding a concept, I tend to immediately attribute the shortfall to unwillingness rather than inability.

*****

If men were not afraid to think, if men were not afraid to do, if men could bring themselves to surpass mere existence, then and only then would this world meet my approval. Until then, thoughtful music will remain too dark; for to enlighten such music requires a lux interna, the which is quenched by men.

“Too deep” only exists in “too deep to see”, when you must swim deeper in order to discern.
If men would more than be, no depth would be too great to plumb, nor too dark to illumine.

*****

1
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

Proverbs 24:33–34

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Even the Fans Say It

Today I was following some affiliation links from site to site and I came across Silver-Shadows.net. Tracy (the webmistress) there is a die-hard Gillian Anderson fan, but thankfully has principles which are not laid at the feet of Hollywood. I’ll let her weblog entry (January 15, 2005) speak for itself while I comment:

It’s time for me to call Gillian Anderson stupid *gasp* . . . okay, this is the first and only time I will ever call her that, I promise myself . . . I was just reading something she said, and it struck me as stupid, so I must now vent: I now quote Miss Anderson:

“If the American government spent even a hundredth of what it’s spending on the war in Iraq on addressing AIDS in South Africa and the rest of Africa it would be great, but they don’t and they won’t.”

In logic, an “if:then” statement is supposed to suggest a useful or execrable (depending on whether you support or oppose the topic) outcome of a situation. “If something happens, then something else will follow.” However, for such an argument to be even worth refuting, it has to make a concrete claim. Do any of you notice anything concrete about “it would be great”?

If Bill Gates gave me a piddly hundred grand, [then] it would be great.” I didn’t just give Mr. Gates a good reason for giving me all that money, did I? Now, “If Bill Gates gave me a hundred grand, [then] I could go to graduate school and make something of my life,” has a little more ring to it. (Not that I particularly approve of such a request, mind you: I deplore “something for nothing”.)

Now, many of you (what many of you, do I even get any readers of my blog? *laughs*) are now wondering, “why does Tracy think that’s stupid? Is Tracy herself indeed the stupid one?” Okay, you know why it’s stupid? Because America is right now busy taking care of itself.

As well we should! Thank you.

We don’t need to take care of Africa, or any other country for that matter. It’s not America’s obligation to freakin’ take care of the whole world. It’s nice, yes, but it’s not our obligation.

If the rest of the world has gotten so used to getting our handouts that they can’t even in the slightest take care of their national health, not to mention national security, without us, then maybe it’s time to put those fat cats on diets, eh?

Once they need to start depending on themselves as we depend on ourselves, they could really become great nations. America did not become great by accepting handouts, and no other nation will either — any more than a bum on the street becomes a productive member of society by “making the rounds” of shelters and soup kitchens.

After we do what’s important FIRST *ahemNationalSecurityahem* then maybe we’ll spend more time taking care of Africa. After all, if we don’t take care of ourselves, there’ll be none of us left to take care of anyone else.

But they don’t think about that. All they care about is that the big bad bully (USA) gives them some money. They never even think about the fact that if we really were a bully-state, we wouldn't be giving them any money, and we’d be cutting the UN purse strings to boot! (Yes, Virginia, the UN would disappear without our money and troops.)

It’s refreshing to see a sixteen-year-old girl who thinks so clearly about life — who hasn’t had her brain filled with babble by our wonderful public indoctrination “school” system. Girls like her give me some small measure of hope for the future.
As long as some can think, there is still hope.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

How to Raise a Perfect Little Angel

or, Training and Trusting

Of course you’ve heard teenagers and even younger children claim, “My parents don’t trust me.” Every child psychologist will tell parents that the important thing is that they trust their children: trustworthiness is sure to follow. I’m sorry, but I’m just not used to paying for something and waiting six to eight weeks for delivery with no assurance of delivery or recourse when delivery is not made. Trustworthiness is something which results from training, and not from previously-doled-out trust.

Enter Joel L. He’s a second-grader in my Sunday School class at the Campus Church, Pensacola, FL. He’s also the most trustworthy and best-behaved child in the class. In fact, when I need someone to deliver something to the Junior Church teacher (Junior Church follows Sunday School, and is in a different classroom), he is the only student whom I have ever so much as considered for the errand. Joel can spout off a semester’s-worth of Bible verses at the drop of a hat (“How about the one before that, Joel? Do you remember that one?”), answer questions about last week’s story like nobody’s business, and sit still to boot! I have an idea. Let’s follow him for a moment to see where his behaviour and trustworthiness originated: from trust, or from training.

Friday, December 17th, 2004. Sports Center, Pensacola Christian College, Pensacola, FL.
The semester had officially ended at 9:45 that morning. Most of the student body had left, and most of us stragglers were in the Sports Center (gym, weight rooms, bowling, racquetball, ice skating, and miniature golf, along with pool, foosball, and places to just sit and chat or play games) killing time. My friends and I were sitting around watching The Artistry of Ivan1 on Rachel’s computer and making small talk. Suddenly Joel came (from nowhere, as far as I could figure) and stood over me (I was seated on the carpet). He and I chatted a bit, and he eventually sat down to watch the movie with us.

After not too long, Mrs. L, his mom, came over. I stood up to introduce myself (as the recipient of the cookies she had sent with him to Sunday School the previous Sunday to give to his teachers), and ended up in a conversation. I mentioned rather quickly how much I enjoyed having Joel in my class, and how well he always behaved himself.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that! I worry about him . . . When we do school, the girls always do their work, but he always wants to go outside and play.”

Are you seeing where I am going with this? The kid was homeschooled (which I had found out a couple of weeks earlier — but which in no way surprised me, given his beyond-years maturity). That’s nearly a given these days when you run across the rare decorous, well-behaved child. That aside, however, did you see how even the mother of my best student was not assuming of his behaviour?

A child can sense the difference between assumption and expectation, I think. Assumption states that the child will be trustworthy because I trust him. Expectation states that the child will be trustworthy because I train him; and because I, knowing that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”2, watch for the untrustworthiness when (not “if”) it crops up so I can immediately and lovingly correct it.

And you know, that is love.3 A kid like Joel is going to grow up and go places. A kid like D_____ (unanimously the worst-behaved kid in the class) is going to need some help. But you know, Joel’s folks could blow it. They could start trusting him — who, as sweet and obedient as he is, has a deceitful heart and a sin nature just like you or I. And D_____’s parents could stop trusting him and start training him. That would make all the difference.


1. The Artistry of Ivan is a student-produced documentary of Hurricane Ivan. Daniel Allen, a student at Pensacola Christian College, arranged for footage to be taken throughout the campus during the lockdown for the hurricane itself, as well as interviewing numerous faculty, staff, administration, students, and Pensacola residents after the hurricane had passed. The two-disc set, including a half-hour documentary and a large library of still images and short video clips, may be ordered from Brand X Multimedia by calling 815-212-3564 or 815-886-4144. The cost is $15US +S&H. It is well worth fifteen dollars to see the good coming from Ivan — the good that only God can bring from a catastrophe. As Mr. Allen said, “Ivan’s terror was not random or evil. It was all part of the Painter’s perspective to show forth the glory of God.” The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. — Nahum 1:3b

2. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” — Jeremiah 17:9

3. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” — Proverbs 13:24
c.f. Proverbs 22:15 and 23:13

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