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Re: On Joni's "authority"

From: think!harvard!topaz!jerpc.PE.UUCP
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

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.")