Monday, May 19, 2008

Our deep national divide

My friend, the Spanish Inquisitor, tells us an interesting story of how he spent his weekend. In the process he further develops this thinking on the future of society in regards to religious practices. Specifically to doing away with them, without doing away with “ceremony”, which he believes are critical parts of human interaction.

SI said: …the last couple of hundred years, since the Enlightenment, indicates that we are already on that path, and we’ve come pretty far along it to boot. Recent claims to the contrary notwithstanding, America is based on the premise that we can continue along this path of secular humanity without gods to guide us, using only the reason and intellect we’ve developed on our own.

This forced me back into thoughts I have been dwelling on quite a bit. As I look back over my (our) life I think I can see something going on. I hesitate to claim it as a fact, because I'm well aware of how easily our senses can skew towards a belief of the times we live being particularly important for one reason or another. This is a very human failing. For instance, has there ever been a generation who thought, “Huh, how about young people these days? They have better music, are more well-behaved, and know better than we did how to face the challenges of life”? We all know the answer to this and it has to make you laugh every time you hear someone say it (or catch yourself thinking it).

But it seems that even if you simply do an objective historical comparison by cutting this country’s history into 50 year chunks, you will have to conclude that the last 50 have been a critical point in the Culture Wars that have haunted our nation (and the very idea of the first truly egalitarian society in the history of mankind) since our founding days, when slavery was given a pass. This was the so-called "original sin" of America.

Since my birth we have seen the end of segregation, movies and (to a lesser degree) television and radio free to use the explicit content of the choice of the producer, women obtaining and extending rights won earlier in the century, minority groups finding legal remedies to problems created by racism, reproductive rights, inter-racial marriages, new acceptance of gays and lesbians in the community, minorities and women in places of power, people feeling more free to declare their atheism openly and much more. Some of us feel completely at home with the notion, but think how radical it is that the Democratic Party primaries have come down to a decision between nominating for President a woman, or a black man.

These are substantial and revolutionary changes over a mere half century. As we all know, there are 10's of millions of our fellow Americans who would turn back each and every one of these advances if they could. And, so, we are at war. Make no mistake - it is a culture war. It's a terrible sore that is coming to a head. In the near future people will be making the ultimate decision – do we carry on with this noble experiment or do we stem the tide of freedom? Either we continue headlong into the notion of egalitarian society, or we destroy the experiment.

Most of us might not see the determining battles in the conflict. But we can be among those who lay the groundwork for a winning final battle. Think of the turmoil and upheaval of the past half century and then imagine what could happen in the coming 50 or 60 years.


Spanish Inquisitor said...

Nice riff off of my post, Evo.

As for the war, I think it's been going on for longer than the last 50-60 years, but only in that time period has each battle been used as an example to press the next one. You look at that list of what we liberal godless call "wins", and every one of them have been won without divine interventions. More to the point, every single one has been a triumph of the intellect and reason over belief and bigotry.

John Evo said...

SI - I absolutely agree it's been going on a lot longer than 50 or 60 years. That gets to my point about the "original sin" of the nation, which was only partially corrected 150 years ago witht the Civil War. And nothing EXCEPT slavery was addressed during that period.

The Exterminator said...


An "egalitarian" society is not the same as a society in which every individual is equal under the law. An egalitarian society is one in which a person competing for one of the toughest jobs in the world, a person who should be better than your neighbor in dozens of measurable ways, is not supposed to be an "elitist." An egalitarian society is one in which god-loving, gun-worshipping, immigrant-hating, race- and gender-biased voters are pandered to by candidates who ought to be above those sentiments. An egalitarian society is one in which the media broadcasts the opinions of illiterate 19-year-old pop stars as if they're ideas that educated viewers should respect. An egalitarian society is one that cannot stand any divergence from the general "egalitarian" mold, a society without intelligentsia, or great artists, or brilliant scientists, or -- atheists! An egalitarian society is one in which the majority can "outvote" the Constitution.

The founders, of course, justifiably feared an egalitarian society. So do I.

Fuck egalitarianism.

John Evo said...

1. asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, esp. in political, economic, or social life.
–noun 2. a person who adheres to egalitarian beliefs.

Whatever you say, Ex. You are the wordsmith, not me. But the above is representative of what I was talking about, and I think you know it. You are off-topic, but have away.

The Exterminator said...

It's never off-topic to point out what words mean. They're the only tools a writer has.

So I'd suggest you look at your definition of "egalitarian" and think about that economic equality and that equality in social life. I doubt that's what you meant; I'm guessing that you'd be one of the first citizens to call for the overthrow of an American commissar.

We rationalists should choose and use our words wisely. This is one of my highest of high horses lately, so I assume you'll excuse me for going "off-topic."

Anyway, I thought this was an egalitarian blog. All topics are equal, right?

John Evo said...

My friend, this is a HIGHLY egalitarian blog. As evidenced by my invitation to "have away".

As I assume you have made your point on "egalitarian", I'd love to know your thoughts on the point of my post.

The Exterminator said...

I agree we're in a Culture War. But humans are always involved in culture wars, at least since the beginning of recorded time. That's a good thing because it shows that brainwashing doesn't work universally.

I'm not anywhere near as optimistic as you are that we rationalists will win, nor do I see any evidence that makes me optimistic.

And I don't necessarily draw the same conclusions as you do from the history of the last whatever number of years. I mean: We're still re-trying the Scopes case -- of 1925! Every year or so, legislation similar in spirit to the Butler Act crops up somewhere in this country.

And while women, blacks, and -- maybe -- gays have now attained somewhat better positions in society from those they held 50 years ago, those advances are tenuous. The ignorant haters may yet win. Even if the bigots don't triumph in those particular instances, they'll fill the gaps. New minorities will take the places of those others when it comes to scapegoating, name-calling, and rabble-rousing.

That's the way humans have always been, and that's the way we'll always be -- until we evolve past the "team mentality" gene. On the other hand, maybe that very trait guarantees the survival of our species.

PhillyChief said...

Well some of us are more equal than others. I mean, come on now. ;)

As to the point of the post, I think perhaps you need a lower dosage on the meds. Don't get me wrong, it's nice not having you all mopey, but now you're all sunshine and flowers and pink fuzzy bunnies optimistic. "[L]ay the groundwork for a winning final battle"? Sounds evangelical to me. Is Rove the Whore of Babylon? Who's the Beast? You know the author of Revelations ate a lot of funky mushrooms on that Greek Isle, not quite Lexapro or whatever, but meds are meds.

Personally, I think we're moving forward, but the moment we get complacent, it all can easily go away. Let's face it, humans are inherently lazy, and ignorance and hatred and lack of empathy all derive from laziness, so there will never be a "final battle" and civil rights and freedoms will never be secure. If the last 7 years haven't taught you that, I don't know what will.

John Evo said...

I may be a lousy writer, but you two (Ex and Philly) are still missing the point.

I'm not saying the battle WILL be won. It's because of shit like this that you think me less a cynic than I am.

I'm saying that if you look at the culture war in a similar light to looking at the exponential advancement of technology, taking into account the rate of change and uncertainty - first looking at the last half of the 19th century, then the first half of the 20th century and finally comparing that to the past 60 years - is this coming to a head? If it is, and if "we" carry the day for a rational/secular society, then those of us here today can have a say in it. If "we" lose, did we do enough?

PhillyChief said...

Where the analogy fails is no one would throw away technological advances (ie - see "laziness" earlier), but plenty would throw away rights, freedoms and general societal progress in a heartbeat. Technological advances* are battles that don't need to be defended or re-won perpetually, but societal advances do.

John Evo said...

The only reason I mentioned technology at all was because most people have a strong sense of the exponential growth when compared to other historical periods and I wanted you to think of American culture wars in those terms.

There is also the exponential growth in scientific knowledge itself. And there is great resistance to that. But that's just one of the battles in the culture war.