Philosophy and Motorcycles

Philosophy and motorcycles are two of my favorite things in life. This blog will be bits of wisdom gleaned from a misspent youth and an adventurous dotage. People who like/love wisdom or motorcycles, classic or modern versions of either, are welcome to visit and comment.

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Location: Wisconsin, United States

I have been married to the same lovely woman for decades. We have one son, two cats, and live in rural Wisconsin, USA. I ride and rebuild motorcycles, and I am semi-retired. Favorite bikes are Yamaha XS650, FJ1200 and Ducati 900SS. My wife is a home care nurse. I am a Myers-Briggs INTP. She is ESFJ. Our son works at the Apple store in downtown SF and is teaching English as a second language in San Francisco, no grandchildren.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rights and Abuse

The very idea that we have rights is fairly new in the world. Throughout history the powerful granted a certain amount of safety to the common folk in return for fealty and taxes. It was a Mafia style arrangement wherein the powerful would not hurt the common folk so long as the commoners recognized the superiority of the powerful and paid protection. The idea that a common man had a right to the fruit of his own labor without obligation to anyone was a novel notion. Religion, at least in the west, has seldom stood for the common man except to divide him into camps in which each group assumed themselves to have rights above and beyond those of people in general. The thought was that since I and my fellows represent the divine truth we are superior and entitled to rule over others. And within that group there was always a sub-group, the priests or leaders, who represented a more direct pipeline to the divine truth than ordinary folk. The secular notion of rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of property, is the absolute foundation of modern democracy. Man has no natural inclination to respect the life, liberty or property of his neighbor. This can be seen on the playground where those with a natural advantage of size or confidence will command control of both the property and the play. The larger child has no natural tendency to share his toys or to play by any rules other than those he invents and which favor himself. (I write in the masculine but intend no gender bias) What is it that causes democracy to work? How can a civil society exist and what will hold it together? Locke presented the idea of enlightened self interest. In simple terms I will respect your rights if, and only if, you respect mine. The wonderful documents which established the ground rules for America ensured, at least in theory, that each citizen has equal access to law and equal rights. How could this be maintained? It was, and remains, based on the idea of reciprocity. We hold this truth to be self evident and without it democracy cannot function. The basic fact underlying the crisis in modern government is that there is no longer even a pretense to reciprocity. Technology has made it possible for those with money or power to eavesdrop on the public while surrounding themselves in an ever greater shroud of secrecy. While it is possible to penetrate that shroud and expose truth it is generally to late for truth to have much effect on outcomes. By the time the population became aware that the war in Iraq was initiated based on fiction it was too late to avoid the conflict. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives based on that series of decisions and fortunes have been made. And where is reciprocity? Are those who lied held to account? The same is true of the economic crisis. By the time it became obvious that banks were engaging in fraud the economy of the world had been upset. Again lives were lost and fortunes made on these decisions. The loss of life is not so evident as in war but many suicides and suicidal despair resulted from the loss of security of those whose life savings was wiped out, or transferred to the accounts of the wealthy. Again where is reciprocity? To my knowledge not one banker or Wall street player has been hanged, or even charged with a felony. Americans have never resented the rich simply because they are rich. We envy them but we don't resent their success. What we resent is people getting rich by cheating, and especially cheating with no fear of consequences. Just as your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins your right to pursue profit ends when it is based on theft or deception rather than industry or innovation. When a person or group can lie to the American people and steal from the American people with no fear of consequences it is the end of democracy. Voting becomes an exercise in futility. Americans need to demand justice. The pledge of allegiance concludes with the phrase liberty and justice for all. American will warrant allegiance only so long as it continues to provide liberty and justice for all.

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