Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The good life

Liberalism contains a contradiction.

On one hand it is based on tolerance and individual freedom: it tries to create a structure in which individuals can go out and pursue their own vision of "the good life."

While at the same time, liberalism itself is a subjective version of the good life.

As Michael Sandel points out, if moral relativism is the arguement that animates liberalisms commitment to diversity, are not toleration and freedom values that are subject to the same scrutiny of moral relativism?

The focusing point for this arguement might be the debate about whether people should be allowed to wear their Muslim burkas and scarves in a public school. Liberalism is torn between the messiness of diversity and the attempt to create universal, secular institutions in which individuals can live and pursue their own visions of the good life.

Liberalism, in the broadest sense of the word, the sense in which all Americans are liberal in their belief in inalienable rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness/property. Liberalism is hard to grapple with. It a tool to make sense of an increasingly confusing world.

In America, can people truly go out and seek their own version of the good life? What could be done to further that? Is their a tension between diversity and toleration?

Toqueville said: "Americans are born equal, instead of becoming so." "In the beggining, all the world was America."

Do you ever feel like there is a trade off? You can pursue your own vision of happiness, but your neighbors are strangers. The liberal public square is either a hushed, secular non-temple or a babbling chaos of strangers speaking different languages.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Appocalypse When?

The first thing you should know about this blog is that Cheney2012 was taken.

Cheney was once asked for comment on the fact that a great percentage of Americans wanted withdrawal from Iraq, and disagreed with the Iraq War. Cheney's response? "So..." As in "So, what is your point exactly?"

At the time I clucked my thick tongue, feeling severely put off that, what? in retrospect the Executive Branch wasn't taking their cues from whatever Gallup Poll the 24 hour news channels had latched onto?

For all his faults, that Dick Cheney understood something about the way our democratic republic was intended to operate. There are elections, and the representatives are supposed to govern somewhere in the space between the demands of their conscience and those of the next election cycle.

Cheney, hate him or love him, he believed something about the centrality of American inerests. I wish I had better choices, but 8 years of Bush brought us Obama. Unfortunately, it looks like we're going to need another 8 years of Bush to get the Change We Can Really Believe In.

How do you manufacture a majority for radical reform? Radical: as in starting at the roots of problems and not just pruning the leaves. We need actors who will assert America's power, while exposing our contradictions. Maybe I'm disillusioned, but I think we need to just take our medicine and vote in the leaders we deserve.

In the Jim Carrey movie "The Yes Man," he is riding on the back of a moped, with a woman driver, terrified for his life.

"Do you want me to slow down?" The woman asks, noticing how tight he is holding on.
"No," Carrey says, "If anything speed up, I don't want to be kept alive artificially."