Open Letter to the Americans: Communism is Socialism But Socialism Isn’t Necessarily Communism

Political leaders, particularly ones from the Republican Party (but not exclusively), misrepresent socialism whenever they get a chance. They use the “S” word to scare you; they bring up horror stories about Stalinist Russia, gulags, and the specter of communism. (I don’t know how many times I’ve heard them use a failed state like Venezuela as an example of what socialism gets you. What they should do is show you what a successful socialist country looks like.) Canada is socialist. So is France, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Norway, Finland and a half dozen other countries in Europe alone. Australia and New Zealand are socialist. Citizens living in socialist countries enjoy higher standards of living than people residing in the United States; and every single country I mentioned is a genuine democracy where people are free to own private property, marry who they want, practice a religion (or not) if they want, participate in elections, form political parties, and so on and so forth.

Communism is one of many forms of socialism; it is accurate to say communism is socialism. However, it is not accurate to say socialism is necessarily communism. This is because there are different types of socialism (communism being only one kind). When most people hear the word “socialism” it is actually being used in reference to something called Fabianism; this word is an allusion to the “delay tactics” used to slow the invading armies of Carthage by the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximum Verrucosus (280-203 BCE) during the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE). Fabians reject the revolutionary doctrines of Marxism, recommending instead a gradual transition to a socialist—or more equitable—society. Fabians do not want to abolish private property or do away with fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech. On the contrary, Fabian socialists (or “socialists”) are trying to mitigate some of the worse aspects of capitalism—like exploitation and massive wealth inequality—by introducing social reforms like progressive taxation, enacting minimum wage laws, improving working conditions, and guaranteeing the right of workers to bargain collectively and to strike.

I wrote this because I’ve heard even Democrats (e.g. presidential candidate Julian Castro) conflate “socialism” with “communism”. The Demorats are supposed to be the “reasonable” ones but they appear to be just as ignorant of it as any Republican.

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Fascism 101: Pay Attention to Trump’s Quirks

President Trump recently claimed that the noise from wind mills cause cancer. Quirky opinion. He is full of quirky opinions, really. But people continue supporting him, overlooking his “quirks” because he promises to do some things they want. I don’t blame the people who support him who want a job. Not one bit. Completely understandable. I wonder, though: is it possible to elect and support someone who can get things done without simultaneously undoing 200 plus years of liberal democracy?

I hate the comparison (because I feel like it’s intellectually lazy) but, in all honesty, there are some parallels to draw with Germany’s situation in 1933: Hitler’s “excesses” (a synonym for “quirks”) were tolerated by the business class because he promised to put labor unions in their place (thus maximizing profits); the army looked past Hitler’s quirks because he promised to rebuilt the military (something the “weak kneed” Wiemar Republicans refused to do). Vice-Chancellor von Papen, and President Hindenburg particularly, looked past Hitler’s quirks because he would bring order to disorder (or make “Germany Great Again” (a trope Hitler literally used)). He quickly outsmarted both men and was dictator within a year of being made chancellor.

As it turns out, those “quirks” everyone seems to conveniently look past are kind of telling: they reveal what’s going on or not going on in the mind of that person you are supporting with such unqualified loyalty. Oh, I don’t support Trump, he’s cRaZy, but I like what he’s doing. So what is he doing?

Fascism is an insidious thing: democracies can evolve into them (as was the case with Wiemar Germany in the 1930s and Italy in the 1920s). Democracies die the death of 1000 wounds. Every time you look past a quirk because you or your tribe are going to somehow materially benefit, democracy becomes just a little weaker.

You cannot put a price tag on the rule of law. Once it’s gone, it’s gone (and only restored after great violence). History tells us as much.

The philosopher Hegel observed the only lesson history teaches us is that we don’t learn from history.

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Awareness: A Garden of Possibility

Who am I? Why should I strive to be good? What is goodness? What is justice? Why do people do the things they do? Why do I think the way I think? What is the meaning of life? Why is it important to ask such questions?

Socrates once remarked that the un-examined life is not worth living. Jesus said as much when he observed “Man does not live on bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). For both teachers the purpose of life was to grow in our understanding of ourselves and others. We cannot grow in that understanding unless we take the time to examine and reflect upon life.

By consciously examining ourselves we become aware of how our subconscious programming shapes our decision-making. If we do not do this, that is, increase our awareness of the powerful mental software running our lives which we call mind, we are little more than robots living day to day in unconscious and automatic repetition; an existence where people surrender to the illusion of fate or the weight of circumstances wondering why they are unhappy; they live life as though they are living on an assembly line—unaware, mechanistic, assembling, persisting in constructing the same things over and over while vainly expecting different results.

I recall when my first son was born feeling something like I was living out the life-cycle of a moth. My son’s birth was of course tremendously meaningful and important to me; nonetheless, I couldn’t help feeling as though I was walking someone else’s path or living out some sort of role. A conscious examination of life helps us not only deal better with what life happens to throw at us but it also helps us perceive our existence, less as a prison, and more as a garden full of possibility.

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We write and belong to our own stories:
but strong relationships,
just like good narratives,
are ones where we’re deliberate in the story-telling–
communicating to our partner what we need
so we can produce a single, cohesive work.

If we write alone, we live alone,
lone characters acting cross-purposes.

Yet, if we write together, we are together:
and my Beren will be to your Lúthien–
as hero to heroine–
and we’ll have a chance at defeating dragons.

The Propaganda Value of evolutionnews.org

Evolution News is an arm of the Discovery Institute (DI). The DI is not a science-based institution but a creationist think tank from the United States. The DI, and their proxies like Evolution News, are well-known for promoting pseudoscience. Two of the most influential ideas coming from the DI are intelligent design—really a watchmaker argument for God—and Michael Behe’s “irreducible complexity”, e.g. something as complex as the human eye could not possibly evolve over time because the rods, cones, retina, and such are, well, irreducibly complex.

Both intelligent design and irreducible complexity were used in the mid 2000s as part of the Discovery Institute’s “wedge strategy” for getting creationism taught alongside evolution in science classes in the United States. Unfortunately for the creationists, they can offer nothing but rhetoric in support of their positions, i.e. they have not conducted a single viable or peer reviewed experiment supporting their hypotheses (because their hypothesis is really just a fancy way of saying God did it which is entirely unfalsfiable). Since the DI offers nothing tangible in the way of research to back up its assertions they lack scientific credibility. I would not go to this site for scientific reasons; however, I would go to this site if I wanted to learn more about the “culture wars” raging in the United States. Sites like Evolution News don’t dabble in science but in theological and philosophical hand waving; it is a fundamentalist propaganda website.

Here are a couple links you might find illuminating as they relate to the DI (and by extension to Evolution News):

1). The “wedge strategy” I mentioned before is an important thing to be aware of, i.e. since the DI has repeatedly failed to use courts to push creationism into biology classrooms they have changed tactics. The tactic is now to attack science itself generally (not just evolution). If public confidence in science can be sufficiently eroded, the thinking is then evolution can be weakened and in the space created creationism can be seen as a more viable explanation. Wedge strategy – Wikipedia

2). For legal context, check out the Wiki on the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School Board case. This was, I believe, the most recent attempt by the DI to get creationism into science classrooms. The DI failed, again, because they offer nothing concrete in the way of experiments, tests, and so on. Here’s a link to that case: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District – Wikipedia. Interestingly, I read a book written by one of the biologists who was called to testify in this case on whether or not irreducible complexity and intelligent design were “scientific” theories. The biologist’s name is Ken Miller—a Catholic who believes in God by the way—who argued that these were not scientific theories because they could not be falsified, i.e. a genuine science question must be capable of being either proven or disproven. Intelligent design, for instance, is really the equivalent of just saying “God did it” when it comes to life on Earth. You cannot prove or disprove the claim. Anyways, Miller wrote a book called Only a Theory. He talks about the case and about Behe and so on in this book.

If you aren’t the reading type, you could download and listen to the podcast Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe (episode 190). Dr. Steven Novella interviews Miller and I believe they discuss the Kitzmiller decision and Miller’s role. Here’s the link to that: The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.

Again, Evolution News is nonsense from a scientific standpoint; it is an example of propaganda and little else.

Drop Your Chains

Jean Jacques Rousseau observed human beings are born free but everywhere they are in chains. The chains Rousseau spoke of were in one sense real and in another sense figurative and imaginary: chains are real in the sense that in order to live in society people necessarily give up some of their freedom. (Abraham Lincoln observed perfect liberty for the wolves means death to the sheep.) In terms of imaginary chains—and that’s what they are, imaginary—when we believe our tribe (based on either race, ethnicity, gender, or religion) is best we inevitably exclude others; and in the process of excluding others society repeats the same tired pattern of fear-based pointless conflict, violence and dysfunction that continues plaguing humanity preventing it from progressing and enjoying peace.

Canada in the Age of Trump

Months before Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and then the U.S. Presidency, Matthew MacWilliams, a University of Massachusetts postdoctoral candidate, stumbled across a striking way of looking at a candidate who seemed to defy all the rules of politics.
 
His polling research had revealed that parenting styles were a powerful predictor of voter attitudes towards Trump. In particular, MacWilliams discovered that those who preferred authoritarian child-rearing approaches—who valued traits such as obedience and good behavior in their children over curiosity or independence—were much more likely to back Trump. Moreover, their support wasn’t strictly contingent on traditional party preferences. As MacWilliam’s polls showed, authoritarian parenting preferences can be found among both Republicans and Democrats.
 
To further confirm his hypothesis, he also looked at correlations between those with authoritarian outlooks and more specific political views, such as attitudes towards the protection of minorities, terrorism and immigration. The results further confirmed the distinct alignment of values and politics that allowed Trump to win over working-class Midwesterners, religious South¬erners and even some affluent younger people, among them voters who might have balked at his positions on LBGTQ+ rights or looked askance at his behavior.
 
Extracted from Michael Adams’ Could It Happen Here? Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit.