Jean Stimmell asks the right question but slants it the wrong way - Granite Grok

Jean Stimmell asks the right question but slants it the wrong way

Individualism vs Collectivism

There is no doubt that the Concord Monitor swings Left- even more so since it decided that it would eliminate comments “from the Conservative rabble” who would often make that Progressive Narrative twist rapidly in the wind. Without such competition, the Left has gone Lefter. This example of that, penned by Jean Stimmell, has been on my “shelf” to get to for some time. While the whole thing is below, there were a couple of parts of it that I just couldn’t let go – after all, look at the title (reformatted, emphasis mine):

Unfettered individual freedom vs. the greater good

Just the title tells you all you need to know. Individual bad, Collective GREAT! Selfishness (always assumed by the Left of the Right) vs Happy “we’re all in this together”; you know where this goes right from the get-go:

No more excuses! Isolating because of the pandemic, we now have the time and space to “to think what we are doing,” as Hannah Arendt long ago urged.

Arendt, perhaps the foremost political philosopher of the 20th century, observed that in the past we didn’t have to think: “Tradition, religion, and authority told us how to behave and defined our moral options of right and wrong, the mass of humanity did not need to think for themselves.”

Norms. The normative behavior that Society has crafted, sometimes by hit and sometimes by miss, over time to protect itself and to provide a platform for order and proceeding into the future (NO – I will NOT use the Left’s “Progress” because 1) once I use their language, I lose, and 2) their sense of “Progress” is all about the ensnarement of the Individual back into a Collective). I do take exception to the “didn’t have to think” part – it’s absolutely wrong. Much thought, wrangling, loss, and gains went into establishing those Norms. And they stayed around because they WORKED. And because they WORKED, they were adopted and formed a common gestalt within that “mass of humanity”. And people do think about them in modifying their behavior. Rather, we used to…

In their evil rush to remake Society into their own regressive image, it is our Norms that are under attack today. Hard, Fast – they are hungry to grab the Power, Norms be damned. They seek to overturn those Norms, disrupt our “these are our lives” feelings of normality, and cause disruptions of our sense of “security” and “all is right with the world”.

For they know that if they can destroy those last two items, they win. They know that once those are gone, the only things that are left are chaos and insanity. Convinced of that, those that seek to take over KNOW that people will run to them to get that “security” – even if it isn’t true security and without counting the cost of that security (in which that cost is always counted in the diminution of Freedom and Liberty).  Like here:

….One lens, promoted by the medical and health professionals, sees our first duty is to protect our community, the body politic. Under this view, individuals should be willing to forego certain liberties during a deadly pandemic, like self-isolating and wearing masks, to safeguard the greater whole. That’s one view of reality, in step with most religions.

Or just being nice. But that phrase, “willing to forego”, is problematic and Stimmell doesn’t define how that lens’ nuance comes to be. Is it a voluntary forbearance in which one decide “I shall, or I shall not? Is it for a short time, a specific purpose – or forever?”. Or is it, a la Hobbsian capitulation, where the Collective TAKES those liberties from you forever – for the “common good”?  And who always seems to have that “conversation” that always seems to end up as a one-way monologue ending up in the debasement of the Individual for the Collective? The bit about “in step with most religions” ONLY works in a voluntary environment. But that is generally not what is wanted.

The above is the kind, the gentle, the obliging side of the equation; the Liberal face – his side. However, any Conservative should take a bit umbrage over the flip side that he represents as the Conservative: cruel, no rules, the strong dominating everyone else because they can. In other words, a Conservative world that is evil:

Another lens revolves around the idea that the world is a dangerous place, like a cage fight with no rules, where only the fittest individuals survive. Proponents of this view believe that’s the way it should be, with little or no government restraint.

Note the nuances. The Liberal side is not dangerous but calm, cool, where every one cooperates with everyone else without competition. In the Conservative side, competition is King and if you can’t compete, who cares? A cartoonish view that only a Progressive could believe – or want other people to believe even if wrong. He automatically headlines that Conservatives don’t cooperate – simply by its absence.

Note, too, the use of “with little or no government restraint“. Again, the nuance is that Conservatives HAVE no internal restraints (contra what we are seeing on the Left right now) – that Government is necessary and necessary to keep people in control. Somehow, the vibe that comes across is not the normal Conservative outlook that we want an ordered Society (that which we see is breaking down all around us in those bastions where illiberal Progressive Democrats rule) which does require the restraint – but of a limited Government. Conservatives DO cooperate – just on a voluntary basis when there is a need. I guess Stimmell has never read “Who Really Cares” by Dr. Arthur Brooks.

We just don’t need, nor want, Government meddling in how we organize and run our lives. And that seemingly is setting off Stimmell to no end – we neither need most of Government doing the Obama “Life of Julia” on us nor others trying to force it on us. This is what Progressives both don’t understand and cannot accept – they WANT Government hovering all around all the time as if it was their security blanket. Take that thought and extrapolate it out.

The part of the piece that caught my eye was the ending question:

Do we want to insist on unfettered individual freedom during this pandemic, unwittingly advancing the interests of the strongest and richest against the rest of us? Or do we want to come together as a united community for the greater good of us all?

Certainly a false presentation of a false choice proposition. This is akin to the “unfettered Capitalism” canard that hasn’t existed for well over a 120 years (ever since Progressives believed they were necessary to “fix” problems). We have no many rules and regulations that Government has laid down there is no way that “unfettered” is the proper word. But again, with that one word, its an ill-light that is cast. What really galls is that Individual Freedom is put in such a dim light. And that anyone believing in that idea is nothing but a stooge for what the Occupy Wall Street (and now Antifa) called the 1%. Stupid us – we have no idea of what we do.

It is put as a negative – one that no rational person would embrace. The entire proposition is put up as an either/or – either you are for yourself or you unselfishly working for others.

Such a dielectic.

Stimmell’s  worldview is pixie dust and unicorn farts that smell like chocolate that unselfishly put themselves into the Collective – that the “us” Collective is more important than the Founder Vision of maximal Liberty for the Individual – a most radical idea in history.

Sorry, I will choose that unfettered Freedom over the slavery of the Collective (see, two can play that game). I can voluntarily bond with others when it is needful – and then separate when the time is right. Once in the Collective, though, you’re in for forever. It’s the Hotel California of politics.

*****

Jean Stimmell: Unfettered individual freedom vs. the greater good

No more excuses! Isolating because of the pandemic, we now have the time and space to “to think what we are doing,” as Hannah Arendt long ago urged.

Arendt, perhaps the foremost political philosopher of the 20th century, observed that in the past we didn’t have to think: “Tradition, religion, and authority told us how to behave and defined our moral options of right and wrong, the mass of humanity did not need to think for themselves.”

However, nowadays, she wrote, it’s a free-for-all, with no guard rails on how we should act: “Adrift in a world in which everything and anything is possible, thinking is the only activity standing between ourselves and the most heinous of evils.”

Today, many different worlds exist, depending on which lens we look through.

One lens, promoted by the medical and health professionals, sees our first duty is to protect our community, the body politic. Under this view, individuals should be willing to forego certain liberties during a deadly pandemic, like self-isolating and wearing masks, to safeguard the greater whole. That’s one view of reality, in step with most religions.

Another lens revolves around the idea that the world is a dangerous place, like a cage fight with no rules, where only the fittest individuals survive. Proponents of this view believe that’s the way it should be, with little or no government restraint.

During the pandemic, some proponents of this view have suggested sacrificing some of us in order to achieve herd immunity, a term from veterinary practice meaning letting a disease play out throughout the herd without intervention. The end result is that the weakest are culled from the herd, leaving only the fittest.

I hope most would agree that there’s a fundamental distinction between how we should treat human beings and animals bred for slaughter.

On top of that, the odds are unfairly stacked against us. The massive income inequality that exists today would, to a large extent, determine who would pay the ultimate price: The losers would include minorities and the poor without access to adequate health care; the elderly, who have compromised immune systems; and working people, first responders, and essential workers in nursing homes, grocery stores, factories.

Meanwhile, the more well-to-do can work safely at home or self-isolate at their secluded second homes. Defining herd immunity in terms of who is the most affluent is an insult to us all. On top of that, the toll would be catastrophic: Johns Hopkins estimates, without any mitigation, the price for herd immunity in the U.S. could be 500,000 excess deaths.

Finally, I want to present Joanna Macy, eco philosopher, Buddhist and general systems theorist, who sees the world through a different lens, similar in many ways to that of the medical and religious communities, but with a modern touch.

She uses the human brain as an analogy for explaining systems thinking and how it contrasts with other approaches: She points out that human brain cells would die if they tried to compete to gain “power over” neighboring cells. Instead, to be effective, nerve cells must ensure maximum flow between cells to communicate and form collaborative networks.

According to her, in microcosm, that is how life works. Natural scientists now understand that what appears to be separate entities are interacting currents of matter, energy and information.

Using a poetic metaphor, she says, “we are flames that keep our shape by burning, by the act of combustion – matter in and matter out. . . . So action isn’t a burden. . . . It is something we are.”

Why is that important? Because if action defines who we are – if we are bright, burning flames by our very nature – then we are meant to be engaged, vibrant actors in life, not couch potatoes dozing through the evening news.

As political polarization inches closer to civil insurrection in these times of COVID-19, we must heed Hannah Arendt’s warning about the imminent danger we face. And be empowered by Joanna Macy’s call for action.

Do we want to insist on unfettered individual freedom during this pandemic, unwittingly advancing the interests of the strongest and richest against the rest of us? Or do we want to come together as a united community for the greater good of us all?

 

(Jean Stimmell is a semi-retired psychotherapist living with the two women in his life, Russet the artist and Coco the Plott hound, in Northwood. He blogs at jeanstimmell.blogspot.com.)

 

(H/T: Concord Monitor)