There is a great phrase in the textbook I currently assign for Public Opinion that captures one of the most vexing problems with the American electorate – Americans "endorse, but do not demonstrate, democratic basics." That's an elegant way of saying that nearly every piece of evidence we have based on previous research suggests that Americans don't have principles, politically speaking, but tend to think they do. For example, they will state in interviews and on surveys that they are strong supporters of the 1st Amendment. And then they start listing off the exceptions – the people who should not have free speech, freedom of religion, etc. The idea of a principle as an abstract idea that we consider integral to our belief systems and guides our attitudes toward new information…that just doesn't exist. We trust the institutions of government (and believe they should be strengthened) based on which ones are controlled by our preferred faction. We oppose the Senate using the filibuster, until they do it to block something we don't like. We are staunch believers in free speech, except you shouldn't be able to criticize the government during wartime.

This phrase keeps coming to mind when I look at the puzzling public response to Edward Snowden, to re-hash yesterday's topic. Is he a hero? Is he a traitor? Should he be punished or feted? The pioneering work of Zaller and Feldman in public opinion stresses that reasonable people hold "competing considerations" on most subjects – in other words, depending on the context and how I phrase the question, you might reasonably tell me that he's a hero today and a traitor tomorrow. Part of our intense confusion with this NSA scandal – Who are we supposed to be mad at? Whose fault is it? When George W. Bush and Barack Obama agree, won't our heads explode? He did a good thing but he also broke the law! – is that we don't really believe in an underlying principle here. We're not mad that the government is spying; we're mad that the government is spying on us. We've recently all but begged the government to wipe its ass with the 4th Amendment…but to spy on them, not on us.

In short, violating other people's rights is totally cool with most Americans, pending the conditioning effect of which party controls the process at a given moment. We appear to be angry because the government has violated the implicit agreement we made in the wake of 9/11 – do whatever possible to make us feel safe, but do it to The Terrorists. Brown ones, especially. Nothing about the reaction to Snowden suggests that we think the government shouldn't be listening to phone calls or recording data about emails and internet usage. We're just outraged that it's happening to us. Conducting surveillance in a manner that ignores all basic constitutional rights is fine, as long as it isn't done to Hard Working Americans or whatever euphemism you prefer for old white people who vote.

Basically, SnowdenGate is the "Don't Touch My Junk!" guy writ large. How dare the government treat me, a good, loyal white person, the way I encourage it to treat others?

34 thoughts on “ON PRINCIPLE”

  • Americans seem to think of civil liberties as a zero-sum game. However much you have, that's how much less I have. (This, to me, explains the howling outrage over the demise of DOMA and the "threat" this poses to straight marriage–bigots think that if teh gayz have access to marital benefits, that will somehow deprive straights of those same benefits, of which there apparently a finite amount.)

    The Patriot Act promised to give us (that is, the white voting bloc) greater freedom (freedom from fear, from danger, etc.) in exchange for taking away the freedoms of others–Fifth Columnists within our borders who were determined to strike terror at us from secret–blah blah blah, and so on and so forth–and to conclude: brown people, because fuck them amirite?

    No wonder it was popular. Why wouldn't it be? If the IRS had been discovered to have been targeting Islamic Charity Groups (betcha a quarter they have been, by the way), would anyone who currently cries "Fascism" be even slightly put out? (Rand and Ryan Paul, maybe. Gotta give those hateful loons that much credit.)

    But now it's being used to spy on white people (apparently–I only know the databases the NSA has access to, not whose e-mails they've been hacking) and we're horrified. Only…we're not. For all the hand-wringing by the blogosphere, I detect a substantial amount of who-gives-a-damn in the general population. Why? Because we still believe that the government is spying on the bad guys. Or the brown guys. Or whoever. Not us. I simply don't detect any real outrage by large groups of citizens. Where are the mass demonstrations? Where's the reaction beyond a collective shrug? Nowhere, and it's easy to see why: we still don't think the Patriot Act is something that will ever be used against *us*. Until we do–until it *is*–a thousand Snowdens can release millions of pages of documents proving rubber-stamp-warranted access to the most shockingly intimate personal information online, and our collective reaction will be "Good for them–go after those A-rabs/Messicas/Nigras with a stick!" White people have other things to worry about–like figuring out how to insure that black people can't vote.

    Side note: Should we, the White God-Fearing Citizens of Rock Ridge, be panicked? Eh. If we had something approaching a strong central government, I might be worried about Orwellian totalitarianism. But there's no charismatic and/or iron-fisted dictator. (I'm sorry, but if you think Obama fits that bill, put the hyperbole down and step away–you've had enough for one night.) There's no Politburo or Central Committee. All the would-be Bondian supervillains (Murdoch, the Koch Brothers, Cheney, etc.) only really seem to care about power as a means to wealth, which is despicable, but just not that menacing–and a boring-ass use of authority. I would be afraid if someone was in charge. I am not convinced that anyone is.

    Which, come to think of it, is spooky as hell.

  • Perhaps the explanation for this contradiction lies in the fact that most Americans spend a major portion of their day within a totalitarian dictatorship known as "the workplace" where you are expected to follow orders and you have no constitutional rights. In fact the state itself is just a proxy for the power of capital.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    "We're just outraged that it's happening to us."

    In other words, human nature.

    People have been calling on their God's to smite their enemies, since humans first created God(s).

    We ask no less of the governments we create and maintain.

  • Ed, there is no " intense confusion with this NSA scandal."

    It is all very clear to Americans: their Government does not respect the Fourth Amendment and Americans are going to do nothing about it.

  • "We oppose the Senate using the filibuster, until they do it to block something we don't like."

    This has (as you might expect) been mentioned several times in the past week or so. Here's the thing: the motivation for filibuster reform is not "let's do away with the filibuster". In general, people recognize that it's an important thing – but as it stands it's not a Mister Smith Goes to Washington filibuster, it's someone saying "yeah I'm filibustering that" and going back to playing a game of Angry Birds on their phone.

    When Rand Paul actually got off his ass and filibustered, I supported that even though I think filibustering nominees for positions is a little stupid, but if that's the hill you're going to die on, go die on it. Yes, I supported Wendy Davis' position, but that's not why people are calling what she did heroic – it's not heroic for some ornery Senator to just say "okay everyone pretend I'm up there talking – now you need 60 votes to pass that bill NYAH NYAH NYAH". It's heroic to actually get out of your seat and talk for hours on end with no sleep and no breaks because you think stopping something is important enough to take an actual physical and mental toll on your person.

  • The only thing that we can hope for is a videotape showing a handful of douchey, 20-something NSA sub-contractors sitting in a room somewhere scrolling through random people's browser histories and laughing at them. People won't like that.

    Or they might. Arslan makes a compelling case for plain old subjugation.

  • I realized yesterday that if the Snowden thing were a movie he'd be the hero, like Will Smith in Enemy of the State or something. The fact that the difference between movie whistleblower and reality whistleblower is so different certainly says something. I'm not quite sure what it says, though.

  • We all live with myriad contradictions in our lives. It is only when they become intolerable that we do anything about them. (I believe I'm paraphrasing Mao here, and he was talking about the people he knew,I.e. Chinese). Right now the government intruding into our once private communications is not intolerable to the great majority of us. We may sniff with disapproval but its.not bad enough to do anything about. When the government starts breaking down our doors and searching through our stuff maybe we will do something about it, but the Germans, for example, never rose up against the Gestapo. I don't think we have any claim to moral superiority to them or any other set of people. Basically we humans just want to get through our lives with a minimum of hassle, so we are willing to eat a lot of shit.

  • What Hobbes said. The beauty of the filibuster as it should be done is that while a silent majority may not find the stones to vote against the media on some crap legislation one can.

    Imagine if one senator out of 100 had gotten up and filibustered the PA.

    Another good thing about a filibuster is that it shows how craven the majority is. Such as cutting Davis off early, or holding special closed door sessions to ram the legislation through.

    I'm under no illusion that a site like this is being monitored. Same w fb. They are public forums after all, and don't be surprised if there's a rat two in the ranks.

    I'm especially cognisant that certain sites will garner more attention than others. Whilst I believe that it probably is one of the better news services, I sure as heck not going anywhere near its website nor watch it from home as la maz era could cause more ears to prick up than I'd want.

    Email. Not so much as that should be like a private letter and same with if it's your thing adult content in the privacy of your home. Now if they're "staking out" the internet equivalent of a crackhouse, then you're starting to give probable cause for enhanced observation and a warrant.

    But the idea that I go on a watch list because I'm opposed to Shrub and his policies, and I criticise Obama for pulling this. BITE ME! Has the P.A. been challenged in court ever?

    JD— I beg to differ. Cheney isn't just about money.

  • I'd like to give an example. I think most of us think that the big banks, Bank of America, Chase, Goldman Sacks, Wells Fargo really suck. They siphoned billions and billions of dollars out of the middle class. What they did to America is a thousand times worse than any Snowden, but we do not want to engage personally in doing anything about it. How many of us would picket in front of their banks? You might argue that the Occupy protestors did while you watched them on TV with mixed emotions….heroes or rabble? You might argue that we passed legislation to curb their appetites, but most of us see this as at best a joke. So nothing is really done. We live with the contradictions because we are afraid that engaging will make our lives even less comfortable.

  • @ Xynzee: I'll concede the point about Cheney somewhat, with this caveat: Cheney definitely seeks out any opportunity to profit financially from his political adventures–"profit for the right people" seems to be the litmus test for whether a policy is good or not. (Hence, the invasion of Iraq was good because of what it did for Halliburton.) Like most bullies, he's probably all about power, but I think he mostly measures that power in dollar signs.

  • Hi from Texas. Most of what is going on down here is a calculated political move by the Republicans to throw red meat (aka dead women) to the extreme right wing of the republican party (the fetus fetishists). Only one in FIVE Texans support this legislation. No matter how you do the math that means even the majority of Republicans do not support his legislation. So WTF? Texas has been so severely gerrymandered that you cannot be a moderate Republican without the TP throwing some mouth breather at you and beating you in the primaries. (How the hell do you think we wound up with Ted Cruz?) These laws by every objective measure do little to reduce abortions, just safe legal ones. So they kill women and are profoundly anti woman. I think they may have miscalculated just a bit. They've pissed off the women. A LOT.

  • Before I (reluctantly, at best) retired the door to my office reminded students that "poor planning on your part does not nessesarily constitute a crisis on mine." I agree with your earlier assessment and am otherwise ambivilent about it otherwise. It's old news to anyone who has been paying attention and all this faux outrage is just thay, faux outrage. A conditioned response.

  • Can anybody explain to me how someone comes into the White House promising transparency and then becomes a champion of secrecy? Is Obama just completely unprincipled? Or did he walk into the Oval Office to be greeted by some cabal who said " Look, Kiddo, the way we see things? THIS is th way it's gonna be. If you want your wife and kids to live through your administration, you can fool around with your healthcare plan…so long as Big Pharma and Big Insurance go unscathed. But you can't touch the Military and you can't touch the Banks. And if you even THINK about messing with our version of reality, well, there will be consequences….."

    I know this sounds like I've watched too many movies, but I just don't understand. Surely SOMEONE has principles they would do a Patrick Henry for. If I thought absolutely EVERYTHING were negotiable, I'd just go glut a can of Drain-O.

  • So you're telling me most of this Patriot Act/Spying on us crap wouldn't have happened if there was a world wide terror campaign by Nordic Laplanders who were dedicated to Odin and the destruction of all the warm eyed infidels of the lower latitudes?


  • Only tangentially on point, but John Zaller's book on mass opinion absolutely blew my mind in grad school (at least, once I finally understood the implication of his "political mind as a file card system" model). I think it should be given much more attention in political writing.

  • What is this "we"? I question conflating actions by ostensibly elected officials which go against the wishes of large numbers of voters as being the same as consent. Or the loud voices of powerful media elite or a few selected man on the street interviews as representing all public opinion.

    Especially when it's increasingly obvious what the powerful say "we" want is not true: see Texas, see Mayor Bloomberg's determination to continue stop and frisk, see how surveillance law is made in secret and ways even dedicated policy wonks have trouble following, let alone influencing.

    This over broad presumption lets David Simon and others do a condescending superior dance, but isn't actually insight. This seems to be a problem when people in traditional positions of authority speak against that authority. They still can't quite give up that special flower feeling of superiority, so they inflate their authority as lone truth speakers, i.e. "everyone but me is complacent / racist / blindly biased / fooling themselves". Except everyone isn't. One is speaking in a group, many of whom may be more persuasive or even have more authority to speak. It ends up erasing the voices and power of the very masses one presumes to speak for.

    Saying "Conducting surveillance in a manner that ignores all basic constitutional rights is fine, as long as it isn't done to Hard Working Americans or whatever euphemism you prefer for old white people who vote." ignores the millions who object to surveillance cameras, stop and frisk and so on. Some are minorities who are neither invisible nor voiceless, some are white people of all ages and incomes and even multiple political philosophies who object as well. Who do you think follows, supports and staffs the ACLU, Anonymous, the Guardian, your blog, etc. Elves?

    "We trust the institutions of government…based on which ones are controlled by our preferred faction. We oppose the Senate using the filibuster, until they do it to block something we don't like. We are staunch believers in free speech, except you shouldn't be able to criticize the government during wartime."

    In terms of freshman year level cynicism, one can say it's human nature to support that which serves your own interest. This is far too simple, however, for intelligent analysis.

    Outrage or distrust is often about expecting an institution to be fair no matter who is in charge. Those who don't like cops still get angry when cops don't protect them – not a contradiction, but wanting an institution of serve them as well.

    With the Filibuster, most who care about it at all understand it and are divided between thinking it can be reformed and eliminating it entirely.

    As for the last point, again "we"? Not the "we" who protested the wars for years. Not the "we" who voted for Obama because they (wrongly) assumed he was anti-war. Also let us not do the right wing nut thing and conflate anti-free speech "journalists should be jailed for leaking secrets" with people saying their opponents should shut up, even if the right (in my opinion) does take more actual anti-free speech positions.

  • A while back when Bradley Manning told the court one of the reasons he leaked the information he had was that he thought Americans should know the truth about what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he thought it would start a public debate about these wars.
    My first thought was that he was incredibly naive to think that Americans would really care enough to have that debate. The only time I ever hear anyone mention it is when they are mouthing some bullshit they heard from Rush Limbaugh (I live in Kansas).
    This post, and the first comment are both along these same lines. I agree with the points made, but I also think there is a considerabe element of "bread and circus" distraction going on.

  • Freeportguy says:

    People confuse "principles" and "wish list for themselves".

    Then it becomes "I've got mine, screw you". No sharia law applied on them, but THEIR anti-abortion position forced on others.

  • but the Germans, for example, never rose up against the Gestapo.

    Well, that's not completely true. There were some Germans who agitated against the Gestapo (and the government) and who got executed or deported to concentration camps for their trouble. See, the Nazis kept a lid on protest or objection by making sure the populace was terrified of the consequences of speaking out. Which one might argue is just what Obama is doing by harshly cracking down on whistleblowers.

    I also object to the "we" Ed uses. I have been against wiretapping since the beginning. Would rail about it. Know plenty of other people who also have a problem with it. Heck, a couple of Senators were trying to get people's attention about how extensive and abusive it is. Trouble is, most people don't have a problem with it because they are sure they have nothing to hide/won't be punished. When you try to explain that yes, that MIGHT be true now, but all this could be exploited by, say, a dictator, they just call you hysterical and shrill. I really haven't talked to anyone who worries about it targeting them at all. Most say "go ahead."

  • yes, it's been a wonderful exercise in targeting those gays,women, latinos, black, the "Other." Odin's war.

    the comfortable white people have enjoyed being played to. Reagan knew how to BS and the scared white people loved, bought it lock stock and barrel.

    so don't say "we" here. there are enough of us who have always said " no" to the BS. and the response during the Bush Iraq fiasco/black block/Occupy Wall St. shows just how firmly those "white folks" care about differences of opinion. Keep the gas stations filled, the airports running, and fighting those nasty "brown" people who have our oil, bitch about taxes/money/food stamps, and White America loves it. eats it up in warp speed.

    the ignorance and complacency is what keep America/White America going. If Rush is outraged, well, something must be done. the Media focuses on what Rush says/only. it all about message control.

    and no the East Germans revolted silenttly against the Stasi. so much BS here, it's sad.

    and yes BB, white folks have been quietly following Odin/Rush all along. us white folks know who and what matters. Non whites don't. i'm glad you finally wrote something that grasps the unspoken truth. you know, some of us are more equal than the others. lol, but i gather you still don't "get" it in your ironic twist.

    the Civil war on the non whites/women/the Other has never stopped. and the gains of the Voting Rights Acts was such an outrage that finally we "whites" will not have to deal with such a flagrant slap in the face for years of slavery. thank you Roberts Court for destroying VRA and a return to white control.

    the stupidity is so overwhelming, it is deafening.

    but only those who ass is being gored have been paying attention. as Pink Floyd said, "we are comfortably numb." oh and they will come for you BB, eventually, just like they did in Nazi Germany. or make sure you can't do anything about their "owning" you.

    we are in this all together or we fall apart, bit by bit. as we are doing right now. one thing i do expect is the jawdropping by the Right to be the "pig" that squeals the loudest. the Left has been gettingscrewed since the "60's. with such joy and approbation by the non Left. and it hasn't been pretty to watch the Right smack their lips in haughty approval. what goes around, comes around.

    so enjoy your police state, you asked for it, you got it.

  • The problem, Bernard, as I see it, is that now that you have in my opinion, rightfully, vituperated, you think that you have accomplished something for the cause, when in truth we are all just preaching to the already converted. Real change is going to take place, something like in Egypt, when we all get off our asses, take to the streets, screaming " I can't take it any more."

  • Property=Power. David Atkins today has some choice founding fathers quotes for the next time your libertarian acquaintance burps something.
    What about a national base level income, henggh? A rationale for redistributing that half of the national wealth currently siphoned off into the coffers of the upper 10%.


    Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund prod in this plan is to issue.
    The property owners owe rent to those who do not own property for the privilege of cultivating the land, and taking away the natural ownership that all people have…

    To create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property: And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.

  • @Bernard

    Happy 4th. You or I are certifiable. (maybe both!)

    Ed's point was that we tolerated the intrusion into our 'rights' space by the Gov because the people we (whites) thought were gonna get the scrutiny were non-white (in the main.)

    My question was 'If the terrorists were predominately White, would we have tolerated the intrusion?

    At that point you left me with Rush == Odin and I went completely off the rails.

    Sorry, I don't get it, you're right'


  • //bb

    We don't call white people that kill in the name of Jesus, high taxes or anti-government reasons terrorists now, I see no reason to think we would under your scenario.

    Eric Rudolph was a terrorist. Timothy McVeigh as well. So are Scott Roeder, James Kopp, John Salvi and Paul Jennings Hill. And Joesph Andrew Stack.

    And yet, not only are most of the latter names not remembered, what they did was never classified as terrorists, when in reality they committed terrorist acts.

    I'll let you connect the last dot or two on what they have in common.

  • Y'all are playing dodge ball…

    Ed poses 'brown people get the scrutiny under the anti-terrorism regime' and white folks thought they'd skate.

    ONE MORE TIME: Does anyone think that if we had a declared jihad by, say Chechens against every damn body not them, they're pretty white looking (and there were enough of them to matter) and it was world wide – would the US of A citizens (which are mostly White) put up with the same crap that we have now?

    I say decidedly Yes! because I believe that it is all about manufactured fear of terror – not primarily darker skinned people


    P.S. – Bernard – I always thought they'd get me before they get you. I am not an R so I don't want to carry their cross…

  • Maybe everybody should take a moment to look at Vagabond Scholars blog and his offering on the Declaration of Independence with intro by Morgan Freeman..After all its the Declaration's birthday. It is very much to Ed's point.

  • @bb: a sad whack of Americans thought Chechnya was the now defunct state of Czechoslovakia. So stick w the original analogy of the Nordic Freedom Fighters (leave the Lapplanders out of it, again most couldn't find Lappland on a map).

    So if a bunch of mead guzzling, tall, bearded and braided Nordic types detonated a few bombs on the Home Soil of Muther 'Murika. Probably not. Even for the KKK and those "Dago bastards" in the Mob at the height of their power required the FBI and *Hoover* and Ness to get warrants. And SCOTUS prohibited warrantless wiretaps.

  • thing is BB, it doesn't matter what you "believe," if you have a D or an R kind of mindset. to have people kill others for their beliefs in America, well, and then have these "killers" excused is what we have now. and they are sanctified by the Right. Frightening power of "religious" killers scares the bejesus out of me. Nuts with guns and Religion, American Version, Whites using Christianity to stop the "other."
    power is all that matters.

    and no, i don't think Americans will give up their comfortable lifestyles. so i'm just pointing out where we are, no what to do or a call to "revolt." lol not in this day and age. Big Brother has long been watching, which why the death toll from the NRA, is the accepted way to shut up opposition to Big Brother. keep the Right happy, and silence them at the same time, while innocent/collateral damage continues unstopped.

    you are Rigth BB, you don't get it. i would/did not expect you to. lol.

    changing the bad guys from Brown to White doesn't alter to whole premise. as i said, eventually they will get the white guys/your "chechens", too. that's teh whole point of Rev Niemuller's "they came for me" concept.

    American like killing, we always have. at least those in power do. manly, virile and so forth. unless you are in the "bullseye."

    i think of the war on women and blacks, like Dr. George Tiller's killer Scott Roeder, is now a hero to the Right wing. and i never have heard or continue to hear any disavowal of Dr. Tiller's death. the Right has willfully played the "bad" guy to the Republican party "divide and conquer" of the American public.

    those welfare mothers, gosh, where would the Republican party be without them, which is why we have the War on Drugs/Black men, to keep a steady supply of Welfare mothers/aka Black men in jail, black women/children sucking on working Whites teats. so predictable and working so well since ST. Reagan sold that line.

    oh well being suckered is what i really don't like, but as Snowden has shown, Big Brother has enough of the White folks happy to help. until their time comes. and no one will help them when their "time" comes.

    Divide and Conquer. to think we fought a Civil War hoping to delay the enforcement of slavery for all Americans, no just the Blacks. Collateral Damage. lol. how times change. NOT!

    America. where at least i know i'm free, thank you Lee Greenwood, at least i know.

  • http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=8366
    People want democracy and peace and all that kind of stuff.

    "Let me repeat your first lesson: consult your own experience instead of believing the talking heads. Do you care about democracy or any other ideology — I mean, compared to money and sex and taking revenge on the MR2 that cut you off a couple of blocks back? The only ideology I see around me is God. Most people in Fresno have a bad case of God. It takes up all their brain power trying to read the Bible and mind everybody else's business. They wouldn't care if Charles Manson took power as long as he said God and Jesus every few seconds. Out of all the people I've met, I can only think of one who cared about democracy: my Social Studies teacher. But he was one of these decent old Minnesota Swedes, goodhearted, too soft for Bakersfield, committed to ignoring reality. His wife, another big Secular Humanist, left him for a dyke, his students called him "Gums" and he admitted once to our class that he'd lost his Faith. That made him Public Enemy #1 with the Christians and he had to transfer to another school district. That's what believing in that stuff'll get you.

    If this is a democracy, it's weird how the only people who go in for it are conmen and closet cases like Rove. No normal American would go near it. They know better. We all know local politics belongs to real estate developers at civic level and to the corporations at Federal level. Which is fine with me, and with most Americans, but why call it democracy?

    And as for peace, I was always against it. Peace is for people who have satisfying lives. The rest of us want that flood, that real rain. Like the man said, "Bring it on."

    Look around the world and you'll see that people are divided into ethnic gangs, like the planet's one big San Quentin. All they want is for their gang to win. If they have any ideology beyond that, it's more of the God stuff, and you need Thorazine to cure that. Godfearing gangbangers, that's exactly what we ran into in Somalia, 1993. Half the population of Mogadishu turned on our guys who were trying to provide aid for the starving. They didn't want peace, democracy or any of that shit. They wanted their clan to win and the other clans to lose. And if stopping the aid convoys from getting food to those enemy clans was the only way to win, they were ready to make it happen, ready to die fighting our best troops backed by attack helicopters and APCs. We killed maybe a thousand of these "civilians" and lost 18 Rangers and Delta operators. And the Somalis made the anniversary of that fight a national holiday. It's worth giving a moment to let that sink in: these people fought to the death against overwhelmingly superior US forces, because they wanted their clan to win by starving rival clans to death.

    Yes, Grasshopper, you must meditate on the fact that People are superstitious tribalists. Democracy comes about 37th, if that. Nobody wants to face that fact: we're tribal critters. We'll die for the tribe. More to the point, we'll kill for it. We don't care about democracy. And I'm not just talking here about people in tropical hellholes like Somalia, I mean your town, your street. Most Americans are just like me: old-school nationalists. We want America to be Roman, to kick ass. The rest is for Quakers."

  • In my idealistic college days, I once said (in context) "there are some ideals I would live for, a few I'd die for, but none I would kill for." My housemate said, somewhat pityingly, 'Have you ever thought what the world would be like if EVERYONE felt like that?!'

    I don't think he had thought it all the way through.

  • Wareq…your righteous rant is a good example of Ed's point. There is a way of looking at us humans as primitive clansmen and as I was digging what you were saying, counter examples kept popping into mind. Most of them had to do with individuals who stood up against adversity and made a difference, sometimes a great risk to their well-being, and in so doing changed the ideological set of the "clan," I.e. whatever group they identify with at the moment. It's hard to deny that MLK changed this clan of a country, not perfectly for sure, but change it he did. Nonetheless, I can hold both points of view at the same time without breaking into a sweat. In fact I can add more options as I go along. After all we are not as simple as we would often like to believe.

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