Thursday, February 17, 2005

Converstaion with a Friend on Civility

Hi Scott,

I met a few Randian nuts a couple of years back and I must say they are among the most wack-o people I have ever met. The ones I met advocated for total anarchy. Their premise was that any government of any kind was evil. I thought they were joking and that they were just venting. But as I probed more, it turned out that the histrionics weren't. They actually believed and were virulently against any form of government whatsoever.

Ayn Rand would have called them wack-o's. Anything I wrote, any entreaties I made to rationality were rebuffed. I submitted my best stuff and it was completely derided.

I have to say one thing about BTC [our unofficial stagehand's union group at Yahoo]. It seems at times like we act like apes toward one another and fair argument can be made in that direction. However, compared with the on-line manners in the bigger virtual world out there, we have the courtliest manners of any chat group I have ever seen. Folks, it is madness out there. The art of discourse is unknown.

Did your parents ever periodically sit you down at the dinner table on say--a Sunday night and include you in conversation? Turn the TV off and just you, mom and dad and sis? My parents would periodically do that. They would talk about any issue, religion, current events, history, cars, sumo wrestling--you name it, and I was expected to contribute to the conversation. It did not matter what I said. What was important was that I said something and exercised the old brain a bit. Experience and judgment hopefully would develop in time.

I have carried this tradition on, work schedules permitting with my wife and 3 kids. It is amazing the kind of dividends it pays when you treat children and teens with the same level of respect in conversation that you might give to Buckminster Fuller; allowing them to complete their sentences without interrupting. I learned from reading history that in Roman times it was not unheard of for 13-year-old boys to be leading troops around Europe and overseeing the building of aqueducts.

Can anybody in this forum remember back when they were 13 or so, feeling ready to inherit the earth? Remember back to just before you decided the cards were too stacked against teenagers and thus turned to drugs and/or alcohol as an escape? Am I the only one? I will bet I am not. Especially in this BTC forum.

Scott, tell me if I have you wrong on this, but my deal is this: If you actually EARNED the money by honest (not on technicalities and "legal" chicanery) and have paid your way to the top and have fairly compensated those who helped you get and stay there, then I think you can have all the money in the world. It does not bother me one bit.

What does bother me are the people who make money make money by manipulating stock markets, financial ledgers and duping investors and employees and so forth. The slack in the economy has to be taken up somewhere otherwise the value of the currency will falter. And guess who has to take up this slack? Yep. The working stiff. You and me. That is where the inequity lies. And that is why populations revolt. They get sick of the idle rich getting fat off their hard work with none of the promised trickle-down rewards or dividends.

Corruption is endemic in the capitalist system. Teddy Roosevelt, a far from perfect president at least was able to partially take the country back out from under the gluttonous corporate tyrannies of Rockefeller, Morgan et al.

What is the difference between capitalism and communism? One is a military tyranny where only a few live high on the hog and the other is a corporate tyranny where only a few live high on the hog.

In Ancient Greece, a local cynic by the name of Diogenes could be seen carrying around a lantern even during the day time. He was illustrating that he was ever searching for "an honest man", but to no avail. Well, Diogenes was, after all, a cynic. Cynics were not popular in Athens. They were mostly counter-productive. Cynics advocated apathy and spewed doom and gloom and cast a pall over everything positive. The cynic movement came from a section of Athens called "Kynikos", or translated; Dog-town. When a person is regarded as a yapping cur-dog or "cynic", one is referring all the way back to Ancient Athens.

It is a big world out there and in spite of appearances to the contrary, there is not much civility or decorum. What passes for it these days is mostly put-downs and red-neck or white collar rhetoric.

But where civility does exist, those who practice it probably have fond memories of conversation with family and friends at a dinner table somewhere.


Ah, civility. I was raised by red-necks who fought all the time in the backwoods of Arkansas. I spent my summers with my Dad at the Hollywood Bowl, because if I wanted to see him, that's where he was for the whole summer. I'd spend 9 months reading so I could spend three months talking to him (when he wasn't too busy). It's a miracle I don't have a split personality. He was a moderate Republican, and we had very civil conversations, even though he bordered on a racist with all that Bell Curve crap from the Manhattan Institute (Randians).

Your view of communism is shaped by the distorted fascist socialistic system the soviets used. It wasn't even close to what Marx wrote about. His was more of a big union (workers of the world unite) that threw off the chains the corporate, 1984-Rollerball world strapped upon us. I'm not a communist, even on small scales. I think some jobs should pay more. That's why I've supported personal service contracts in the local. Making more money than somebody less skilled or who works less is only fair. Hard work should be rewarded. But work should not be taxed more than wealth. That is where I depart from most Randians, present company excluded, and Bushians.

We have that little coke-head frat brat mommy's boy (I can't be civil when talking about GW "God Speaks Through Me" Bush) stand up during a Presidential debate and lie when he said "By far, the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the middle class." Two-thirds of the Bush tax cuts have gone to people who make more that $200,000 a year. And rates on taxes on investment income have fallen below the rates middle class people pay for income earned from their hard labor. Where are all the millions of jobs they told us these tax cuts would create?

I don't see how we can be expected to be civil when so much depends upon politics now. We have fascist Republicans comparing Howard Dean to suicide bombers (Governor Pataki, to his credit, rebuked this asinine comment from the head of the NY GOP). We have liars making commercials slandering a guy who actually fought for his country, to help a draft dodger who was snorting so much coke he wouldn't even take the physical he was supposed to. I get so many death threats I stopped counting. People call me a traitor because I don't support W. That one really gets me, when they question my patriotism, like they did to Kerry. Patriotism, the last refuge of a scoundrel.

As Democrats and other progressive have tried to make civil, logical, reasoned responses to these attacks, we have fallen into the trap to make us look like pussies. I'd like just one of these Chicken Hawk sons of bitches to stand and look Wes Clark in the eye and try that. He doesn't put up with that crap. Maybe it's all those years of being in the military, but he not only puts people in their place when they try to fuck with him like that, he does it forcefully and creatively. I try to do that, but I'm no Rhodes Scholar. Even Howard Dean doesn't take it. Maybe that's why they're attacking him so hard, because they know he's no push-over. He got an A+ from the NRA and that scares them too. He believes in balanced budgets, as opposed to Dick "Deficits Don't Matter" Cheney. Who are the real conservatives anymore?

No, when I think back to civility, I think of my Philosophy classes at the University of Arkansas. Since then, it's all been distortion, lies, vicious attacks, and death threats. It's time we started playing hard ball too.


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