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Date: Sun, 8 Dec 85 20:03:48 est
Subject: Re: On Joni's "authority"
> Second, I think it is > GREAT that she is outraged and angry about current U.S. spending practices > and the Star Wars program. Our government is spending tax money that we > give them in ways many of us think are insane. The Reagan administration > encourages people to keep quiet about the way they spend money. They say > 'we have the "experts" who know how things really work, while most of you > are just uninformed'. It has been proven time and time again that these > "experts" are just yes-men for the military and Livermore Labs. Well, this is not really the place to talk about politics, and also I am not receiving this mailing list any more, just catching up on what was in my mailbox when I got back from Seattle, but this does relate to music and musical lyrics, so... The problem with the above argument is that it assumes that the "common man" knows as much about politics as the people he employs to handle politics for him. The reason we elect and employ representatives in various areas of expertise is so they will handle those areas we don't have time to learn about ourselves. This is particularly true of both the military and the weapons research labs. Following this line of reasoning too long, you get into questions of "who were the Founding Fathers and what did they really intend," etc., which I know from experience is not a particularly cheerful line of thought, so I hope you will excuse me if I leave such debates mostly to introductory philosophy students, and to people whose job it is to resolve those problems. The counterargument, of course, is that "corruption can exist when you endow someone with the right to speak for you." Well, being one who usually gets angry whenever he goes to a scholarly conference and sees who he has elected-by-default to manage the scholarly organizations, I'm not going to say that argument is untrue. However, I will say that there is a sort of "gradation of evil" involved in these things. When I wrote the original posting, I was thinking particularly of a song by "Sting" which I heard on the radio just before that. Unfortunately I can't remember the lyrics; they contained lines something like "We share the same biology, eventhough not the same ideology". This is the sort of reasoning I complained about, because it is gravely wrong. A lot of music lyrics, in particular, tend to express this same line of reasoning: "I'm sure The People `over there' (in some `enemy' land) wouldn't do bad things to us, because I wouldn't do bad things to them, and I have a faith in humanity." There are two fallacies here. The first and simplest is the mistaken idea that all countries allow their citizens to have a say in the government. Most don't. The second and most problematic is that most people who do wrong do so believing they do right; it is like the (I fear misused) quote someone on the Usenet has by Blaise Pascal about "Men never do wrong so cheerfully as when they do so from religious conviction." It is presently a widespread idea that America is evil, and thus that doing away with it would be good for the world. Thus this line of reasoning is not consistent with the realities of politics or political ideology. (As for "Star Wars," frankly I don't know what I think about it. To know that, I would have to have access to information obtained by espionage on what the `enemy' countries are working on, and obviously if such information were publicized, it would be easy for the leaks to be plugged, and the information would not be available any more. Thus I have to have faith, while observing statements made in the media analytically in order to spot evidences of dishonesty. So far I have not seen many.) The idea that merely throwing some money (whether taken away from Star Wars, or through raised taxes, or by having a lot of people sing some songs) at World Problems will solve them is bothersome to me as well. I think that people have a moral responsibility to help other people; but I don't think that writing and singing some songs absolves one of this responsibility, any more than writing a newspaper article that says "Hey, all you people out there, go help out your neighbors!" justifies someone saying of the people who wrote the article, "They've done their part... now do your part." (Obviously, this is an unpopular opinion; it is not even entirely in keeping with what I feel is "moral" or "right", but if these were easy problems, they'd be solved already. (However, I would feel much better if I could earn a million dollars, then retire to a troubled country to help them out for awhile. When I see one of these musicians in an underdeveloped country, teaching them how to grow crops and control population growth, I will support the person wholeheartedly. Until then, I must agree with Thoreau, who said of the same subject to "Rescue the drowning and tie your shoelaces.")