Sunday, November 27, 2016

Moderation and justice

While sitting in church today, my minister talked about social justice which has been a theme at both UU churches I visit (the one closest to me and the closest one with a functioning young adult group which I need). He talked about calling for justice and moderation (in a nutshell) and how the two are intertwined.

My personal opinion/experience is that these two are irreconcilable. There has never been a social justice movement in history which has been both successful and has not made enemies. Systems of oppression exist because some people benefit in the short run from keeping other people down. This is usually from discrimination and societal illness which poisons the mind of people. This makes them think that helping another group is hurting the dominant group, so-called "reverse racism" which is impossible. Moderation would encompass actions like the three fifths compromise, the Missouri Compromise, and the section of the 13th amendment allowing prison slavery. While in the short run they keep the peace, they merely pass the ball of progress down to future generations who have to deal with the problems of yesterday instead of moving forward.

Science and reason are the only methods I have ever observed which have actually worked to open people's minds in ways which benefit humanity. Calling for moderation and detachment which is popular in many religions I believe leads people to not work on self-improvement, or working on themselves without the tools to use their deeper understanding they get from introspection. When people follow philosophies of self-impoverishment this usually ends up with the king/priest/God Emperor of the country being the only one with any real power. It is a massive conflict of interest when the religious organization which calls for the letting go of physical goods is also the political organization which locks up people who speak out against the state. One must ask questions about why ideologies ask their followers to give up their tools of resistance. Places where these values are followed most frequently end up undergoing massive campaigns of religious persecution against anybody who preaches differently from that of the God Emperor. The list of people victimized by such is almost endless, Jesus, Al Wei Wei, Michael Severtus, the Burning of Books and burying of scholars, among so many other losses for humanity. Wikipedia has many lists of martyrs, EnglishUnitarian, and other groups.

Science and reason do not have moderation under a clear understanding of the word. Seeking common ground from where you start is not the same thing as seeking out reality. Societies based on science and reason are the only ones I have observed which consistently avoid episodes of mass martyrdom when science and reason are dominant. Sometimes a group is simply in the wrong. With a debate between the Nazis and SPD in the 1920s in Germany, the Republic of China and PRC over the last 80 years, and now between Trumpists and the rest of America the differences are so vast and detachment from reality so clear, trying to find middle ground with such ideologies is ultimately destructive. You are led to a situation where you have to choose between defending human rights and trying to negotiate with dictators who do not care about human life. By trying to negotiate with dictators by giving them leeway and try to give ground to people following purely evil ideologies which destroy the lives of millions of people you give them more power and by doing so further damage the lives of the people they oppress. The actions of Neville Chamberlain only deepened the horrors of the Third Reich and made the inevitable World War II longer than necessary. The sending of Jews from New York Harbor back to the meat grinder of the Third Reich was a great loss to the world. The same goes for other dictators in history. I cannot see any middle ground. History is very clear on this topic.

Science and reason demand an introspective life. Constantly questioning our current beliefs and actions. They demand us to not take anything for granted, understand why we have the beliefs we hold, understand their roots and consequences, and change our opinions when we are proven wrong. This is not a moderate viewpoint, this is a quest for understanding the world around us. When people try to hold on to old ideas which have no grounding they are committing an act of self-deception which then eliminates their ability to make the world a better place. If you deny global warming is real (IT IS REAL) then you are not going to be able to tackle the problem. If you do not go study how something works or at least seek out the scientists who have dedicated their lives you will not be able to understand the underlying roots to a problem.

I think of gardening for a day to day experience of this solution. When you pull most plants you can't just break the plant from the ground. You have to take out the roots otherwise the plant will grow back with bigger roots than before. I have yet to find a problem this analogy does not work for. Fighting global warming has to be done by transitioning off of fossil fuels, the root of the problem. Fighting for racial justice to a point where everybody has equality of opportunity demands us to understand 1. What race is from a sociological/political/economic point of view, 2. why some countries have race while others don't, 3. intensely study diverse nations which have different nations living together in peace, and then once you understand those three things 4. how do you move from a society with incredible racial inequality to a place of coexistence. This cannot be done overnight, this takes years of studying and learning to understand, but it does not require a college degree either.

This is not a moderate path. This is not a 3/5 compromise. This is not a path of self-sacrifice. This is an intensive, challenging journey of studying the world and building a picture of what is happening which changes with new information and allows you to then manipulate with predictions of what your actions will actually do. It is a path of personal intellectual/spiritual growth which when practiced and channeled properly has the ability to change the world.

This also does not mean that you will get everything you want in one go. That has never happened before in history. You push for the best thing you can do and always do the right thing to the best of your knowledge. You focus your energies into the highest impact activity you can do in order to maximize your impact. This strategy has worked in the past with the Underground Railroad, Suffragist movement, Civil Rights Movement, and I believe it accurately describes the push from Black Lives Matter for police accountability among other demands. The modern push for civil rights by great people in history has a long history stretching back to the resurrection of Western Philosophy by Cosimo de Medici stretching to the present day and I hope it will last for the rest of humanity.

So, push for the best methods you can, use your time and money efficiently. Do not waste and be impactful in the world around you for a better future. If someone says you are wrong, inquire why you are wrong to gain insight they may be able to give you, and change your mind if they give you a more accurate picture of the world with better evidence than you have. When a good plan is on the ballot, if it will create more good than harm, vote for it.

The main goal I believe that we must work on is to work for justice around the world so that people are free. Stand up to dictators and always seek and tell the truth to the best of your ability. Engage in discussion for people to understand what is around the world. Build your complete viewpoint with the pieces to be accurate. A house built of paint would not work, but it is generally all you can see with your eyes. Behind the paint are wires, pipes, trusses, and details which hold the house together, even though all you can really see is the paint on the edge. An architect must start with the structure and understand how it all fits together to be resistant to weather, and general wear and tear, even though almost all the work will be hidden behind the paint. Accurate models of the world are similar in that even if you see the surface level equations there is always a deeper level of understanding to the world and what drives the moving parts which are necessary to fully understand what is happening.

The final question which must be answered is what justice is. Justice has many ways of being defined in history, Hammurabi, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and Adolf Hitler all had very different ideas of what justice is. Everybody in the world has an interpretation of the concept of justice, even if they do not call it justice themselves. I personally believe as a strong liberal that 1. each and every person is important, no exceptions, 2. people have the rights to freedom of thought, speech, and life, 3. Nations and class do not need to divide us and everybody deserves these rights no matter where they live, 4. People have the right to opportunity and respect from others. 5. Building up a system which is sustainble for the future. These are my core values on how we need to treat one another. They are not uniquely Western, there are records of people who believed these ideas around the world for thousands of years. I do not always succeed in these high ideals but I always do my best in the situation to the best of my knowledge and as soon as I realize I failed I try to fix the  given situation. A just system would then maximize human welfare and give everyone the opportunity to be their best and fullest on a material and spiritual level. This goal is probably unreachable in full, but we can and should get as close as we can to making a good world. It is not a quest for moderation but is a quest for universal human dignity.

In current politics these ideals lead me to the following actions: As in my last post, write an accurate obituary of the tyranny Fidel Castro created in Cuba. Oppose Donald Trump's plan for my country to the best of my ability. Fight climate change to the point where I will quit my job if an opportunity arises. Lobby my state legislature for legislation which supports education, builds infrastructure, increases economic opportunity, and fights climate change using the best science we have today. Most importantly, make people think about their current stances to the point where new information can broaden their understanding of the consequences of their actions. Seek out new allies on all of these causes and talk with people on how to achieve our goals in the least amount of time for the smallest amount of money.

This is how I interpret the principles of a free and responsible search for truth and meaning combined with the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. To not stand up to oppression and give into the temptation to make everybody equally unhappy is to drop that honorable goal of world community, and to not test your beliefs is to drop the responsible part of the free and responsible search, after which you will be victim to fraud, deceit, and lies. Combining the two principles fully however gives anyone the ability to change the world.

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