Thought Archive

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What Unites Us

My morning was dedicated to Famous Café Philo in French Insitute off South Kensington tube station. I do not visit often, but when I do I enjoy debates immensely as it allows me to interact.with fellow human beings, intellectuals, some of them of high standing. Today’s discussion was about politics and individual and it did strike me that the panel, excluding some non-Europeans like me, was operating in a frame of reference which I do not believe is universal. French, as usual, were lukewarm relativists and British were passionate defenders of liberal society and free speech, but in the end it was all the same. It also hit me that the only possibility to have this conversation was here, in the West, and not anywhere else on this planet, simply because some of the concepts are only ingrained in psyche of a western intellectual and not in minds of many others who matter around the globe

People honestly believe that there is consensus as to how humanity affairs should be run and operated, and that social contract exists between the polity and its citizens. The aspects of this contract, that were being discussed, were complete liberty of an indivudal to exercise his/her rights and restrictions on liberty of the same individual to exercise power over others.

I for one do not believe that universal answer has been found, considering diversity of peoples on this planet, increasing strain we put on it and glaring disparities that exists in the world. Especially, I have not tuck for hypocrisy of how these principles are applied by wealthy nations, which makes them - lofty goals – tainted by politics of associations. Where some see temporary setback on the road to “Freedom” (ok, I can not restraing myself from saying it; here it goes: “neo-liberal utopia!” ) and ultimate salvation of humanity, I see failure of a model, like that of communism. If one removes lofty ideals from hard facts of life there are only several needs people have, very basic needs, that may make possible for them to derive satisfaction from their life:

Material and Spiritual Well Being
Securtiy and Stability of their surrondings
A job and career prospects opportunities
Bright Future for their children assured
Sense of community,and belonging - positive identity.
Assurance for their afterlife (may not be applicable in all cultures)

States, communities, religions, businesses and have to create a system where these needs are addressed and opportunities to them are offered. The best system would be the one that satisfies the needs and wants of people in their lifetimes: who after all, do not want much, just to be happy (please catch the irony). God can reassure us about the last.


NoolaBeulah said...

This is a very big, and important subject. It's good to see you post on it.

A couple of points, though. Classical liberalism assumes that no Utopia is possible for the simple reason that no one person or group can know either the whole truth, or even enough of the truth to have the right to govern others. That's why the various powers are split up among different groups. That's why it allows for changes in government; it allows for fallibility. It also assumes that there must be conflict and so includes it in the system.

It assumes that government has no part to play in a person's spiritual life. That is a role that it cannot fulfil, and nor should it. Nor can it assure anyone's future. All attempts to do that end in either stagnation or collapse.

We make a big mistake when we sell liberal democracy as a panacea, or an ideal system. That's what communism tried to sell itself as, just as the jihadis do for their version of Islam. These systems cannot deal with the sloppiness, indeterminacy of human life. They give a few moments of hope, but end always in despair. Liberalism is not an ideology; it's an anti-ideology. That's its strength and its weakness. But as Churchill put it, "Democracy is the worst system around. Except for all the rest."

Hazar Nesimi said...

The perceptiion around the world however that it is peddled as an ideal system of governemnt (with all the paraphernalia). I vividly remember all the orange revolutions (Georgia, Ukraine etc) and bitter aftermath, and even as far back as Berlin Wall and dissolution of Soviet Union. I will post sometime in the future about slow decline of my faith in the liberal democracy. It took long time :)I am not debating the merits of the classical liberalism, i think it is free, progressive, but not necessarily very fair. I am trying to define what people need to live their lives to the satisfactory level. Belief into a brighter future is intrinsic to human nature. Difficult topic, isnt'it. Not for the lack of trying!-

Hazar Nesimi said...

Actually to make a further point, though I am degressing, it is because people need to belive something or someone they WANT ideology. So a non-ideology will simply not work, that is why all assume that there is one, or hide behind one. Hence decline of the society is only apparent when there is no threat and all are affluent ("affluenza"), where threat appears again Ideology thrives. Herein is the conflict when one ideology collides with the opposite.