Most view the possession of wealth as a contiguous, stable continuum. In such a view, there are the extremely wealthy individuals on one end, and the abject poor on the other.
It is presumed that between these two polarities exists a nominal scale (one in which the difference between each value is equal). However, a sobered analysis of how wealth is utilized suggests that such views are misguided and simply inaccurate.
In concise terms, wealth exists less as a nominal relationship but rather as a dichotomous one. In general terms, either one has enough money, or they do not.
While this notion, for understandable reasons is intuitively objectionable, a simple look at the utility of money in our existing society shows why this is true. As an individual gains more wealth, the utility of their wealth gradually decreases, to the extent that newly acquired wealth eventually becomes ineffectual, doing little to differentiate wealthier members from one another.
We will call this, for purposes of simplicity, the law of decreasing utility. As an individual acquires more money, the utility of their money goes down exponentially.
To help elucidate, an individual living in dire conditions has scant money to spend on luxuries. As a result, the individual on welfare cannot afford a computer, and thus has no access to the internet.
A member of the middle class, however can afford the purchase of a computer, albiet one with mediocre qualities, while a member of the upper class, by virtue of their wealth, can afford a high end computer.
The key point here, is that the difference between the individual who must pass up the purchase of a computer altogether, and an individual who can purchase a mediocre computer is much greater than is the difference between an individual who can purchase a mediocre computer as compared to an individual with the capacity to purchase a high end computer.
Furthermore, as long as one has discretionary income (ie income that is not used by necessities such as food, housing etc), they have the ability to establish priorities. The establishment of such priorities allows one to spend more on a certain type of item and less on others, thus allowing them to enjoy certain types of items that many consider the wealthy to typically afford.
For example, if one’s greatest passion is video games, they can spend a disproportionate amount of their money on video games, and decide to live in an apartment. The general point is that beyond a certain threshold, what one does with their money becomes less and less about how much money they have, but how they spend it.
Put simply, there is essentially no difference between what Cristiano Ronaldo can afford and what Warren Buffet can afford. After a certain point, more money becomes superfluous and ineffectual.
However, the difference between the utility of a homeless man’s wealth and the wealth of a working class individual is staggering. One has no shelter, little food, and lacks basic necessities. The other, while certainly not comfortable, has access to housing, the internet, AC, and the ability to spend any extra money on items valued by that individual. Yet the nominal difference between these two individuals’ income is, on a grand scale, rather minuscule.
Thus, as a society, we must work toward the aim of ensuring that all members are above this aforementioned threshold. This threshold does not contain any specific numerical value, but exists in the abstract.
How do we achieve this? By the institution of *mitigated* capitalism infused with the limited role of the state.
Most view the possession of wealth as a contiguous, stable continuum. In such a view, there are the extremely wealthy individuals on one end, and the abject poor on the other.
Quaeris, quot mihi basiationes tuae, Lesbia, sint satis superque.
Quam magnus numerus Libyssae harenae lasarpiciferis iacet Cyrenis oraclum Iovis inter aestuosi et Batti veteris sacrum sepulcrum; aut quam sidera multa, cum tacet nox, furtivos hominum vident amores:
Tam te basia multa basiare vesano satis et super Catullo est, quae nec pernumerare curiosi possint nec mala fascinare lingua.
Alas! The Wake,
from twilight reverie,
— I wanted both — to take,
but darkness ebbed from me,
In intolerant night,
solitary owl hunts from yonder
these penitentiary walls,
(or was it the dream?)
— or both of them —
Hither The Wake!
Thither The Sea.
my eyes like churning butter-
fly wings, the contradiction
looms, the shuttlecock wonders
how I sunk impressed
within the frame!
— I wanted both —
but was ripped asunder,
the cherub rosy cheeks
coalescing with the
Lest my pale heart stop beating,
and true darkness ebb onto me,
will the chimeras venture
or will both beseem?
Living in the United States, government is something we likely have interaction with every day of our lives. Whether it is driving on government owned streets, or paying sales tax; the government touches virtually every part of our lives. You may find this pleasing or displeasing, depending on your political inclinations. A libertarian, for example, writhes in pain with every ounce of influence the government exerts over him, but who’s to blame him? Our present-day government in the United States has thus far followed a theme of mediocrity. With a congress that is bi-polar as much as it is bi-partisan, nothing ever seems to get done. And with what seems like a financial meltdown around every corner, more and more Americans are losing money, jobs, and homes every day. It is understandable why a newly unemployed ex-government employee would feel sorely about the government. But, surely enough, government is a necessary evil. Without a sufficient form of governance, anarchy would consume the nation, chaos would ensue, and order would cease to exist. I am a firm believer in the fact that we humans are inherently selfish, and the existence of the government insures the safety of the less fortunate. Were it not for the government, whom amongst us would maintain the public domain? Who would pave the roads we all drive on? And the sewage system we all rely on? My answer is no one. And hence government is needed for the well being of society as a whole. We shall now proceed under the premise of having established government as right and necessary.
The Origins of Political Order
Early on in history, man reached the conclusion that a form of governance was needed to maintain stability. One of the greatest examples of ancient order is the Code of Hammurabi, in which Babylonian King Hammurabi enacted the eponymously named Code of Hammurabi. This code consisted of 282 laws with scaled punishments adjusting “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man (Driver 63). Worthy of note is the Code’s establishment of the lex talionis judicial law, in which the punishment is identical to the offense, thus setting a precedent for modern legal systems. Another political trailblazer worthy of mention is Solon, recognized by many historians as the father of democracy. Solon made valiant efforts during his life to enact social reforms and societal upheaval, and although he failed, he is credited in history for laying the foundations of Athenian democracy, the democracy that served as the groundwork from which future democracies flourished.
The final topic I wish to discuss in regards to the topic of the history of government is that of the Magna Carta. I am assuming my readers are aware of and possess basic knowledge about this document, but I shall briefly discuss its significance. The Magna Carta was the first law, or series of laws, in history to limit the power and reach of a monarch. The barons of England forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, which served to set limits on the power of the King, and forced him to respect certain unalienable rights. The Magna Carta was an enormous step towards democracy, and a testament to its unprecedented global reach is evident in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. Ironically enough, it was a British invention that the Americans used against their colonial rulers in demanding self-sovereignty and economic and political autonomy.
Forms of Government
The decision to have a government has always been an easy one. The decision on which type of government to use was never as simple. The list of governmental systems is vast, with all types of religious, economic, and social variances. There have been many trials throughout history of various forms of government, and with a bit of research one can see which were more successful than others. Political philosophers spend lifetimes weighing the merits and deficiencies of these respective systems, and even today there is no dominant consensus. For this, many turn to their religious beliefs. Most of the world’s major religions advocate or promote a form of government; for Judaism it is Kritarchy, for Islam it is the Caliphate, and for Christendom it is the Papacy. Each of these systems has its own style and methods of rule, and its own flaws.
Modern Law and Divine Right
Let us now shift our focus back to modern U.S government, and the issues that plague it. At the time of its inception, the U.S government had hints of Christian principles because it was based in an overwhelmingly Christian country, hence catering to the majority of its populace and ergo following the Democratic tradition from whence it came. Although some of the major founding fathers were not Christians, but deists, the preponderance remained Christian. This led to the inevitable marriage of Church and State in America. Examples embodying this new matrimony are abundant, the Prohibition of Alcohol in 1919 is one.
In a country in which 83 percent of adults identify with a religious denomination, 40 percent state that they attend services nearly every week or more, and 58 percent say that they pray at least weekly (Putnam & Campbell, 5), religion is obviously a very important part of life. A very important voting point for voters is the Religious beliefs of a candidate.
It is understandable that the citizenry would want to elect one of their own to office, but making religion an integral part of government is an unwise thing to do.
The United States was founded by a group of colonists who fled England and the Anglican church seeking religious asylum on the untamed shores of the new world. These colonists were followers of Martin Luther and Protestant Christianity, and took conflict with the corruption of the Catholic and Anglican Churches. The United States Bill of Rights would later express this same sentiment, with the purpose of maintaining the status quo of America as a neutral territory for dissidents to seek haven. No clearer is this than in the First Amendment, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”(Jefferson & Others) This establishes American neutrality. The fact that this amendment guaranteed the right to freedom of religion might have led many proponents of religious and political unification to assume that by virtue of this guarantee, the government must thus be religiously directed. But I would like to point out that this same guarantee actually prohibits the unification of church and state. If the writers of the constitution forbade from making a law respecting an establishment, imagine how they would have felt towards a religiously directed state! My guess is they’d vehemently disapprove. Contrary to common belief, the founding fathers were in fact not Christians. The Christian right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States as part of its campaign to force its religion on others. They try to depict the founding fathers as pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity. This is patently untrue. The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians, believing in some form of impersonal Providence but rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the absurdities of the Old and New testaments. (Morris 2, 5)
The Government and the judicial system have the duty to be completely objective. Hence, it is of utmost importance not to allow religion to interfere with governmental decisions. Religion is not objective, rather it is pure and distilled subjective opinion and judgment. Our judicial system functions based upon whether you can prove something in a court of law. To prove something, one must have concrete evidence. Think about a scenario where you were trying to convince a jury composed of a group of people with no prior bias’ or leanings. I say that it would be impossible, and because the existence of god cannot be proven with solid evidence, the court would toss out the case; it is for this reason I have deemed religion subjective. Government is supposed to function justly and with fairness based upon fact and reason, and religion possesses neither?
Allow me to provide a prime example of why government and religion shouldn’t mix. Because the Federal government leaves educational legislation largely up to state governments, radical states are left to do what they wish by way of biased legislation and rules. In the southern United States, where religious fervency is commonplace, the state of Tennessee has ruled in favor of a law allowing Christian creationism to be taught in public schools (Flock 1). I find this law to be blatantly unconstitutional, as it violates the first amendment by passing a law promoting a certain religion over others. The only reason such a law passed was because of the Christian influence in the Tennessee state senate. Because this pushing of creationism will be occurring in public schools, and not private parochial schools, the government has the duty of preventing this obvious bias towards a particular religion from occurring.
“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:21)
This equation of the state’s claim on man with the sacral claim of the universal divine will itself was cut in two by the saying of Jesus quoted above.
Pope Benedict XVI states: “In practice this means that it is only where the duality of Church and state, of the sacral and the political authority, remains maintained in some form or another that the fundamental pre-condition exists for freedom. Where the Church itself becomes the state freedom becomes lost. But also when the Church is done away with as a public and publicly relevant authority, then too freedom is extinguished…The ideological state is totalitarian; it must become ideological if it is not balanced by a free but publicly recognized authority of conscience. When this kind of duality does not exist the totalitarian system is unavoidable. (Ratzinger 144)”
It is astounding to see that the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope himself, agrees that Church and State should be separated, warning that if the two merge, freedom becomes lost. The right to freedom of religion is so central to American democracy that it was enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution along with other fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
In order to guarantee an atmosphere of absolute religious liberty, this country’s founders also mandated the strict separation of church and state. Largely because of this prohibition against government regulation or endorsement of religion, diverse faiths have flourished and thrived in America since the founding of the republic. Indeed, James Madison, the father of the United States Constitution once observed, “the [religious] devotion of the people has been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state.” Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black best expressed the purpose and function of the Establishment Clause when he said that it rests “on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion.” Some Americans reject this dictum, promoting the idea that the government should endorse the religious values of certain members of the community to the exclusion of others. In fact, such violations of the separation of church and state take place with disturbing frequency in American government, at local, state and Federal levels. Recent incidents include the following:
• An Alabama judge regularly opens his court sessions with a Christian prayer. Further, he has refused to remove a plaque containing the Ten Commandments from his courtroom wall. Alabama Governor Fob James has threatened to call in the Alabama National Guard to prevent the plaque’s removal.
• Local municipalities have erected nativity scenes, crosses, menorahs and other religious symbols to the exclusion of those of other faiths.
• The Board of Aldermen of a Connecticut city has opened its sessions with a prayer that beseeches citizens to “elect Christian men and women to office so that those who serve will be accountable … to the teachings of Jesus Christ … .”
• A variety of religious groups are demanding that their faith-based social service programs receive public funding although these programs engage in aggressive proselytizing and religious indoctrination.
• On the “National Day of Prayer,” local authorities acting in their official capacities have led citizens in sectarian prayer. (Volk 33)
It is apparent that the frequency and alacrity with which these events occur is testament to the corrupting effect the Church has on state matters. Particularly disturbing to me is the Alabama judge who rejects formal requests for the de-theocratization of his courtroom. This judge, appointed to uphold the law, has brashly and brazenly put his religion before his obligation to the state. Being a practicing member of a religion is completely acceptable, and freedom of opinion is treasured and encouraged in the U.S, but U.S always takes precedence over everything else; such is the case for all creeds, religions, and races.
Combining Church & State—A Loss of Religious Liberty
If the combination of Church and State is allowed, then one of the implications that will follow is that religious liberty will become restricted. It is obvious that the heads of state greatly influence popular thought and perception, and hence if the U.S government subscribes openly to one religion, and the heads of the government openly advocate, this will have an adverse effect on all other religions that are left out. Both the Christianity and Islam promote their members to actively promote the religion and seek to convert new members to the faith. With our heads of state promoting their religions, imagine the atmosphere this will create for all other religions. Not only will they be cast aside, but, they will be actively persecuted, not in the traditional sense of the word, but rather through verbal and strategic means. Many religious institutions around America benefit from tax breaks from the government due to their non-profit stature. These tax breaks could be removed or seized, and instead be heaped on the government’s “approved” religion. While the very existence of these tax breaks is debatable, as the government’s issuing of tax breaks to religious establishments openly violates the promotion clause of the first amendment, but that is for another research paper.
The Limits of Democratic Power
Democratic power is the de facto power of the citizens in a democracy to determine its policies by enforcing the will of the majority. While “majority rules” is one of the basic tenets of democracy, the will of the majority should sometimes be limited, in order to prevent occurrence of the argumentum ad populum fallacy.
Argumentum ad populum: The Appeal to Popularity is the basic idea is that a claim is accepted as being true simply because most people are favorably inclined towards the claim. More formally, the fact that most people have favorable emotions associated with the claim is substituted in place of actual evidence for the claim. A person falls prey to this fallacy if he accepts a claim as being true simply because most other people approve of the claim. (The Nizkor Project; Appeal to Popularity)
It is clearly fallacious to accept the general consensus as sufficient evidence for a claim. Many establishmentarians like to argue that if the majority of Americans are of a certain religion, then the officially endorsed religion of their state should be that particular religion. Not only is this circular reasoning, but it is also a prime example of the ad populum fallacy. Allow me to provide context that shatters the validity of the aforementioned argument utilized by establishmentarians. For example, suppose that a deranged madman who also happens to be a very skilled public speaker manages to convince to a huge following that a particular race are inferior, are a threat to society as a whole, and should be eliminated post-haste. He sends his proponents into a bloodthirsty craze, and they establish and organize the systematic rounding-up and execution of said race. Due to the unlimited democratic power, the majority was able to impose its will upon the minority. Of course, if you haven’t figured it out yet, the scenario described was that of Nazi Germany. Hitler, the deranged orator, ushered in the dominance of the eugenicist Third Reich regime, which carried out the all to well known Holocaust genocide.
Did Hitler’s widespread support justify the killing of six million Jews, and millions of others? This question puts the supporters of the self-sovereign approach to the question of the Establishment in a very precarious position, as their beliefs would have them answer yes, but doing so would ruin their image in the public and cost them their credibility.
The Last Supper
My argument speaks in context of the United States, and therefore I shall continue to utilize the First Amendment as the cornerstone of my thesis. Church and State must be separate, otherwise religious and civil liberties shall be encroached upon, the judicial system shall be corrupted, and the original intentions of the Founders shall be abandoned. The First Amendment prohibits the favoring of one religion over others, and I believe that we ought to do everything humanly capable to uphold this statute. I am a proponent of strict constructionism, and that should be the approach taken towards the constitution when creating any legislation.
Government also has the role of being omnisciently objective, and religion prevents it from doing so, as religion is purely subjective. This goes against one of the basic principles of our judiciary system, and prevents it from functioning correctly, hence serving as an obstacle to the law of the land, and ergo unconstitutional. Regardless of whether a majority of the nation practices or a follows a certain belief system, the government must remain neutral. Avoiding the ad populum fallacy is of paramount importance, as is avoiding any fallacious reasoning when making government decisions.
In the end, it really comes down to this:
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
We have created a blog on the wonderful social networking site, Quora. We would greatly appreciate if you followed us. Also, for your own personal benefit, check out Quora, it’s an amazing Q & A social networking site for professionals.
Don’t forget to follow!
Radical skepticism induces relativism which, in turn plagues the search for epistemic progress. In fact, it disposes entirely of such a search. It is a pean to stagnation; an argument for the futility of the search for truth. Such positions engender disillusionment with the intellectual process. They render all efforts to arrive at truth as trivial.
Under this perverse paradigm, real wisdom is reached through the realization of ultimate subjectivity. Such a world view was promulgated most famously by Nietzsche, with his ‘perspectivism’. It gives up entirely on the truth false dichotomy that has for so long been the basis of epistemological inquiry.
Not only is the notion of an absence of truth and falsehood detrimental to the advancement of intellectual progress, it is also blatantly fallacious and self contradictory. Put simply, truth exists because it must. Any claim to the contrary need only be shown its tendency to produce inherent logical paradoxes.
The argument against truth derives from previous failures at its achievement. More precisely, it stems from a history of fervently dogmatic yet contradictory claims to knowledge. It begins with the observation of intellectual diversity, and from this observation it reaches the conclusion of relativism.
How can so many ostensibly well-educated, well-intentioned people be simultaneously wrong at any given point? Given the frequency of the revision of previously long-held assumptions, how can we ever know if we are ever right? While such questions are certainly interesting, they are only useful to the extent that they are met with the continuing search for truth, not the abandonment of it.
To claim that all matters are relative is an easy solution to the vexing problem of the attainment of truth. To argue for relativism is to argue against reason, for reason is predicated upon truth and falsehood. Indeed, the very foundation of the logical process is to elicit truth. Logic simply cannot exist without this function.
To argue against truth is contradictory for two reasons. The very process of attempting to disprove the existence of truth involves a logical process, which assumes the very existence of the thing being argued against. Secondly, the very assumption that relativism can be proved as true accepts the truth falsehood dichotomy being argued against.
Given that no argument can be predicated upon anything other than reason, one cannot, through reason argue against truth. To attempt to disprove a statement affirming truth would be to posit that one’s own position (that truth does not exist), is true, thus rendering the entire argument futile and inherently paradoxical.
Put simply, the very process of disproving truth affirms its existence.
The appropriate response, however, must not involve a Manichean worldview, but rather one consistent with the existence of nuance and complexity in this world. Surely, the acceptance of nuance is not synonymous with the acceptance of relativism.
In response to complexity, it is cowardly, not to mention blatantly fallacious to resort to relativism. Thus, the search for truth must ensue.
The failure to attain truth must not end the search for it.
(For an explanation of my prescribed method of the search for truth, reference my earlier post: http://on-to-logical.tumblr.com/post/21635485380/undogmatic-dogmatism )
In today’s society, the term diversity has gained an almost exclusively positive connotation. When an area, location, city, or college is described as ‘diverse’ this is seen as cause for celebration.
Indeed, it is considered a pinnacle achievement. Politicians celebrate the fact that America is now a ‘diverse’ nation, colleges indicate progress through displays of racial diversity. A community that is considered homogenous is lambasted as regressive.
This phenomenon has been especially true in the U.S., and understandably so. We are, after all a nation of immigrants. However, a sobered analysis of the results of diversity elucidate an entirely contrary point; that wherever it exists, diversity is a cause for conflict, and consequently, unhappiness.
More diversity being beneficial in a given society is not only not axiomatically true, as is the current pervasive consensus, but given human nature and empirical evidence, more diversity often leads to perverse outcomes.
The goal of a society is to increase net happiness within that given society. Arguments indicating otherwise will find that their claimed goals ultimately lead back to happiness. Many will claim a society’s goal to increase justice. This is because a just society is an orderly society in which more of its members are happy, precisely because they are not subjected to injustice.
Other similar claims can be dismissed by using the same process. Simply put, a society’s main goal is to increase net happiness. We are all hedonists.
Beginning with the premise that a society’s ultimate aim is to maximize happiness, we must evaluate the consequentialist effects of diversity to society’s change in net happiness.
The second premise, is quite simply that as a general maxim, more diversity leads to more conflict within society. This understandably leads to a decrease in net happiness.
If the two above premises are true, then we must arrive at the conclusion that diversity must be avoided, and homogeneity sought after.
Empirical evidence shows that humans, in situations of diversity, react with hatred, and the tendency to cast those different from them as ‘other’. A study done follwing desegregation showed that racist attitudes actually increased after desegregation in public schools among students. (Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion)
Evidently, the competitive school environment, contrary to the beliefs of many hopefuls, led to even more hatred between Whites and African Americans. It seems that this is true in most situations. In France, hatred for Arabs is greater than it is in European countries with a smaller Arab population. In Libya, Sunni attitudes towards those who are Shi’a are not as virulent as are the attitudes of Sunni’s in Iraq.
Hatred for ‘illegal’ immigrants in the United States, which has led to general feelings of racism toward Latino’s in the U.S. did not exist before Latino’s began emigrating to the U.S.
The daily interaction with and competition against those who are different from us leads only to friction, not acceptance. Areas where interaction is between relatively similar individuals are more seamless.
An oft-provided response to such a claim is that the natural human tendency to ‘otherize’ groups who are different from them means that a homogenous society can never be achieved. If we separate two opposing groups into seemingly homogenous groups, these groups themselves will soon develop fissures, and the process will leave us with an amalgam of individuals.
Despite some truth to this, that in any existing group there will always exist divisive issues, there are certainly some groups in which these differences are more divisive than they are in others.
To prove this theory false, one must simply provide examples of societies that are more homogenous than others. If there exist societies that are more homogenous than others, then it follows that there does indeed exist a diversity homogeneity continuum. The existence of such a continuum proves that humans do not incessantly divide into equally divisive groups.
One could easily claim that, for example, Libya is a more homogenous country than Iraq. Iraq is a diverse country plagued by Sunni, Shi’a sectarian violence, while Libya is a country with mostly Sunni, mostly similar Muslims. If such a theory is true, that the lack of a divisive issue inherently leads to the creation of a new one, we would see a similar divide exist in a country like Libya.
However, that is not the case. While differences do exist within the populace, and while diversity is not absent in that country, one could very easily claim that its residence are far more homogenous than are the denizens of a country like the United States.
Nor is the goal an absolutely homogenous society. Such a goal is not only implausible, but will pose problems of its own.
To posit such a claim, that in general more homogenous societies are more cohesive and successful than less homogenous societies, does not denote a desire for an absolutely homogenous society, but rather for a society in which the members are less diverse and thus more cohesive.
Another response is to provide examples of ostensibly diverse communities and claim that they disprove the theory that diversity leads to friction. However, such claims are made only when psuedo-diverse communities exist. These societies may seem ostensibly diverse, but in reality, they are in agreement on most issues.
A poignant example is my own college, Grinnell, which prides itself on the presence of a large minority population as well as a sizable international population. However, despite these purported differences, most Grinnellians are fundamentally alike. In truth, they are not a diverse group, but rather a group that is only nominally diverse. Such counter-examples do not disprove the still standing maxim, that a more homogenous society leads to less conflict.
In fact, Grinnell is an excellent example. Because its students are for the most part so similar, there exist few group conflicts, and as a result most students get along fairly well.
In support of homogeneity, one must understand the simple principle that people get along with people who are similar to them. Shared interests, culture, and political views within a group lead in general to more jovial relations. Quite simply, there is little cause for conflict, and as a result, conflict is at a minimum.
In an ironic twist, it is in fact America, the celebrated land of diversity, that invented a solution to the problems posed by diversity: suburbs. Suburbs serve the purpose of fostering a community with mostly like-minded people who choose to live together in a community for precisely that reason.
It only makes sense that some suburbs, like mine, Claremont, are filled with a highly educated, liberal populous, and others, filled with other unifying factors. The propagation of suburbs in the U.S, and now throughout the world is quietly following this principle through self-selection. No longer must vastly different groups be subjected to each other, leading only to hatred and friction.
In response to such evidence, it certainly seems that the general consensus that diversity is good is false. If we want to increase happiness within society, we must allow homogenous groups to exist, and not promulgate the falsely accepted axiom that diversity is the ultimate aim.
I feel like guilt is a liminal actuality because it’s located on the border of demarcation, or the threshold, of the relentless passion towards pleasure of the Libertine (Rimbaud, Lord Byron, Baudelaire) and the austere, abstemious, life of the religiously/philosophically zealous. Buddha talked about occupying a middle path, but when I think of his life (as beautiful as it was in all its enlightenment) I think of a rather extreme method to achieve Nirvana and liberation from the self; one that is relatively unrealistic in a modern, chaotic world, where silence is hardly even achieved when one is by oneself, with the pervasive “White Noise”, both literal and figurative.
But my conception of the self has always been one that re/deterritorializes itself (as Deleuze presents) according to social conditions — therefore my conception of guilt fluctuates according to specific contexts: where I live, who I talk to, who I’m trying to impress, how I’m trying to present myself, etc. We have to orientate ourselves along the lines of normality and moral acceptability (so that we aren’t socially or physically ostracized). It goes without saying that individuals combat this with excessive moral and socially engaged flamboyance — and hedonism — but I think that these lives end up being terribly oppressive, useless, and horrible in their constant yearning to be different, reactionary, ‘free’.
— Back to my original point, though: most of us (and I’ll hastily make this generalization for the sake of argument) exist in between both of the aforementioned Manichaen binaries; granted some live more austerely, and others live more pleasurably, but for the most part we all occupy the central locus. Therefore, guilt seems to affect us the most, because we are the most closely located to it in the metaphoric sense.
People who are libertines and spend their time attempting to satiate their inexhaustible cravings for sex, drugs, and pleasure in general, develop a rather thick skin that shields them from most guilt. Because they are usually Godless, they don’t have a religious conception of guilt and tend to shrug off any religious interlocutors who try to interfere with their pursuits. (It isn’t a coincidence that most libertines are usually libertarian and believe that liberation of the self comes from no restrictions). Conversely, the ascetic, conservative people believe that you must restrict yourself in order to attain some kind of enlightenment. Usually, they don’t have much guilt either because they’re always focused on individual betterment and are also very other-worldly (focusing on eternal realms: Nirvana, Heaven, Moksha), showing very few concern for material attachments.
But we, considerable occupiers of the real middle, are the largest , easiest targets for an all-consuming guilt that slowly eats us away, because we live in moderation, have a decent amount of idle time, and think a lot about ontological and existential truths. It is precisely because of this that guilt always has an incommensurate breadth and influence on our lives — whether it’s rooted in our religious backgrounds; less advantaged people criticizing you for being shallow; or the re/deterritorializing self that always shifts like tectonic plates (even if it is slightly) to accommodate societal expectations, ultimately increasing our chances of being accepted. Other responses to this guilt are varied, and this is meant to be an exhaustive discourse; I just wanted to present what I think are some of the primary ones.
— Yousef Hilmy
Young people don’t think about getting old. I mean, why would they? The world is theirs on the half shell. Thoughts of retirement income, osteoporosis, and medicare are for later, when you’ve already got one foot in the grave.
We grow up and marry and raise children. That’s a lot of living. You’d think that we would be ready at that point to begin realistically looking into the next phase of life. But usually we need a little nudge.
At the intersection of the kids leaving the nest and the day you realize that your house has an echo, suddenly you are there. You begin to think of botox as the “new normal,” that gaining weight can be managed, and that you need to begin working on your marriage. You stop pulling out your grays and switch to Just for Men; you enroll in an exercise group, join a gym and take up jogging. With your wife you discover the miracle of Viagra. And then there are grandchildren.
Now the lines between young and old are blurred. Sometimes you have lots of energy and are bursting with creative ideas. You see yourself as young - until you notice your reflection in the mirror. Other days, it hurts to get out of bed. Your bones feel tired and achy. Now life is a mixed bag. You get invited to your grandchildren’s school programs and ballet recitals. Your doctor invites you to come in for a colonoscopy. (And you thought that those physical exams were the last time you’d have to surrender your dignity.)
By the time you hit your mid-fifties, getting old doesn’t seem so terrible. In many ways, you embrace it. Sometimes you forget your age and have to calculate it. Aging is nothing more than becoming ageless. You begin to notice young people scurrying through their lives, hardly knowing what they are living for. You make yourself available to them and others and re-learn the value of altruism. As you help other people, your attitude brightens.
Along the way, something wonderful happens:
You begin to accept who you are and why you are here. Life becomes very precious. When you look at yourself in the mirror, your smile lines stop looking abnormal. You realize that they are living reminders of your authenticity.
Now you wake up when you feel like it. You do whatever you want, when you want. You fall in love with your wife for reasons deeper than the first time. You become confident living in your own skin, and you don’t want to be anyone else than who you are.
Growing old is not what it’s cracked up to be. It’s a lot better.
-Ibrahim, January 2013
Post Script: To my future self, hopefully you’re reading this from your yacht or private jet. Do me a favor and buy a Patek. (Rollies are blasé, we both know that.) And buy Mom & Dad that house in Corsica that they loved.
Post Post Script: Future self, you better not be a Republican