Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Politics of Pathos

Reverend Devilstower of DailyKOS appears to be in a patriotic mood:

"The rights were not granted by treaty or government, they were only recognized. Human rights are innate. Preexisting.

So long as we base our policy on what's good for us, rather than what best upholds human rights, we are base pretenders to the legacy left to us by those men who signed the Declaration of Independence. So long as we uphold dictators for our own gain, our soldiers, no matter how individually noble or honorable, are bound to an unjust cause. So long as we nod solemnly over the need to deny others their rights under the pretense of securing our own, we are monsters no less than the worst of our enemies."

Hallelujah! So the story goes. Where doth this “right” reside, however, Rev.Devilstower? Can it be observed, or demonstrated via axiom? What does the word “right” even point to? Does Chas. Darwin discuss rights? Nyet. More like a type of freedom to do something, but obviously if the right means, a “right to torture children” it’s not so great.

One might hold a right to vote to be innately “good” (another problematic word), but majorities voted in fascists, communists and DiDi Feinstein. That one has a right (or appears to have a right) hardly entails that one does the right thing with that right. Intention is generally always an issue.

Even the great Founders did not prove that “rights” were objectively valid, or that they were innate: the rights are merely posited, as Locke himself suggests (tho’ there are other reasons to take issue with Lockean civics). TJ himself was too much the naturalist to argue for innateness of any type.

Rights-philosophy does seem somewhat noble in theory (and Nozick sort of updated Locke’s ideas), yet at the same time, people do act to further their best interests (or what they take to be their best interests). That’s the realism of RealPolitik. And that sort of secular perspective (going back at least to Hobbes) does not necessarily mean cynicism or amorality: it means that politics proceeds via consensus and human decisions, instead of by some vague, intutive–or theological— notion of right. Rights, then according to say an early RealPolitik scribe such as Hobbes (instead of his rebellious son Locke) are constructed, agreed to, contracted, enforced.

Regardless of the theory of social contract, however, most rationalists (that would exclude monotheists, most Kossacks, and DNC-o-crats) would probably concur with Jefferson’s grand dream of the Declaration, or even enforce it. Then have some people in Iran or Bejing or Moscow (or Washington) agree to that Declaration. Lacking some type of world court to enforce that constructed system of rights, it’s mostly just dreamy rhetoric (and now more so, after fascism and communism, and various theocracies)

RealPolitik objects to politics via pathos. RealPolitik writers such as Orwell objected to it (and there are RealPolitik peeps on left and right). Pink Floyd, arguably a RealPolitik sort of band (we prefer Prokofiev, but will do for illustration), offers up some rather cynical and dystopian product as well: “Welcome to the Machine” does not exactly affirm some optimistic vision.

* * *

(note to McNW: we doubt you would poo-poo islamic terrorism if you lived in Tel Aviv, or if you had lived in NY during the 911 attack. Or do you think the Hezbollah also are blessed with common sense as well? You don’t quite understand the code of the Prophet, either (a code which has quite a bit of force in LA and SF as well) Carl Sagan himself had harsh words for the Imams).
Custom Search

Blog Archive