Beyond Election 2012 – Seeking a Political Party

Obama was not my man.

I am not a fan of redistributionist theory of economics. I believe that wealthy people pay more than their “fair share” already (statistics are clear on this point) but that tax loop holes should be remedied. I believe that the wealthy should be extremely charitable towards those who are in need but object to that role being played by the government. Private choice and private charities can work wonders to “re-distribute” resources.

While understanding that rampant capitalism is dangerous and self-serving, I find Obama’s lack of understanding how small business works appalling. This economy will never grow as long as small businessmen and women continue to be inundated by regulations and higher taxes. Economic uncertainty is the bane to any business plans for expansion and/or new hiring.

Obamacare itself adds such burdensome taxation that many small business will withdraw their offered health care programs and risk paying the penalties for doing so. I object to his re-creation of the entire health care system in a manner which adds layers of bureaucracy without doing anything to address quality of care. In particular his refusal to acknowledge the cost of defensive medicine secondary to lack of tort reform is disingenuous on his part.

On the other hand the Republican party’s social agenda bothers me tremendously. I cringe when I read their positions on a woman’s right to choice, objections to gay marriage, anti-scientific religious agenda such as teaching “creationism” as an alternative to evolution.

So you can see my conundrum–there is no party that reflects my core beliefs.

I also believe that I am not alone. There many of “us” out there–social progressives, economic conservatives. Perhaps I would have felt comfortable in a branch of the Republican party that no longer exists– “a New York Republican”. There are references to Jacob Javits, Nelson Rockefeller and others who were politically liberal in their thinking but more libertarian and pro-business when it came to government intervention and control over other sectors in our lives.

For close friends who grew up under Eastern European communism, the rhetoric of class envy and attacks on success in this country are deeply frightening. This country promises one thing only–opportunity. It cannot, nor should it ever, guarantee “success”. That is unreasonable and contrary to human nature. Correcting imbalances, encouraging minorities who do not have the personal connections and resources to succeed is a part of the American dream. That is something I wholeheartedly support. The regressive social/religious and moral agendas of a segment of the population do not belong in the platform of a major political party. Perhaps I should consider myself an Independent. Unfortunately, they rarely have much political clout. So I , as many others, remain a political anomaly.

My hope is that there will be some political party structure will represent my personal philosophy. Until then I will remain frustrated.

Neuroscience & Ethics – An Uncomfortable Mix

In a recent NY Times article William Egginton discusses the fascinating relationship between science and morality. In particular he references those whose political and personal moral agenda seek to make any abortion illegal, to request that neuroscientists explain when a human fetus first feels pain.

He refers to a 2005 review of clinical research conducted by the Journal of the AMA to conclude “evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.” Egginton, a professor of humanities, expands the topic into one that has engaged philosophers for centuries–what constitutes “personhood”. Descartes wrote of the “reflective” nature of human consciousness found in adult humans as necessary for perceiving pain. While many have found fault with this notion (apparently he had no problem with experimentation on animals) it ultimately raises the question–should science be used to understand questions of morality anyway?

Egginton quotes Immanuel Kant who argued that science can tell us nothing about the nature of God, immortality of the soul, the origin of human freedom etc. He goes on to note “the basic liberties of Americans should not be dependent on the changing opinions of science.” What he is saying is that we need to respect the advances of science in an ongoing attempt to understand the physical world around us. Deep problems arise when science is then “used” to support moral, religious and political agendas.

Is it ironic that some of the same people who seek the assistance of science to declare that all abortion is murder of a sentient human being, deny the undeniable–that evolution is not a theory but the real nature of life on this planet.

To pick and choose how science supports ethical and moral beliefs opens a Pandora’s box which then taints the achievements and ongoing value of science itself.

The Karma of Hate – The Self-Destructive Force

I believe that we intuitively understand that individuals whose lives are consumed with hatred of others live shallow, pitiful and ultimately self-destructive ones.

History has shown that even societies whose past was notable for tremendous cultural and scientific progress can plummet to the depths suicidal self-annihilation when their fanatical goal is genocide–witness Nazi Germany in the 20th century.

Hatred is a karmic cancer whose victim is its perpetrator. It is a spiritual black hole that consumes those who are obsessed with it.

Unfortunately we can see the consequences of such attitudes in the many parts of the Muslim world today. Hatred of nonbelievers: of the West, of America and especially of Israel is such an all-consuming fact of life that there is energy for little else.

And what “else” is there? Everything!

How is it possible to develop a civil society based on principles of liberty and free expression (formerly a basic tenet of leftist doctrine) when religious fanaticism blocks any dissent? How can at least half of the population (women) be subjugated and regarded as chattel. Where is the energy to create works of art, of music, of philosophy, literature? And what about science and medicine? What about the development of advances that can help ALL humanity?

The irony is that the Muslim world was such a leader–in philosophy, art, science. That was about 500 years ago. But apparently such a worldly approach was compatible with its religious tenets then. Is it not true now, in the 21st century?

Yes, to my leftist friends–Israel is militarily superior to the Palestinians. And yes there are legitimate reasons for Palestinian frustration with their political conditions and standard of living.

Attacking their more powerful neighbor, knowing their own civilians will be killed when they hide their weapons among them is clearly self-destructive. And to my leftist friends–is hatred and targeting of civilians a strategy to laud? Is religious intolerance and genocidal rhetoric now a part of the world’s leftist creed?

The thrill of killing another human being is a spiritual poison–regardless of the impetus for doing so. Former prime minister Golda Meir is quoted as saying “there will not be peace between Israel and the Arabs (substitute Islam and the West) until Arab mothers love their children more than they hate us.”

It is a powerful yet sad statement. Of course Muslim mothers love their children. So why do they feed their children a diet of fanatical hatred?

Societies driven by hatred take on the karmic burden that individuals do–they will ultimately fail. They will succumb to the karmic poison, the darkest of energies known to the universe.

Dealing With The Suffering Of Loved-Ones

A recent article in the NY Times by K.J. Dell’Antonia was fascinating and relevant. Giving a Child Permission to Be Miserable.  It specifically addressed issues of parents and children.  But the issue is far more expansive in its implications.  How do anyone of us deal with the pain and suffering of those we care about?

Of course when dealing with our children the situation may be more pointed.  Parents feel an obligation to guide, heal and shelter their children from suffering.  But in truth this is often not possible and perhaps not always desirable.

In generations past parents understood that their role in their chidren’s lives was to be as supportive as possible.  But I think they understood that life will present challenges, failures and disappointments that are inevitable.  The article points out that always stating that “life goes one”, “things will get better”, “don’t worry, this too shall pass” while well intentioned, just doesn’t work very often

It also may be true that the lessons each of us learn best, that remain as lifetime guides and lesons, are the ones we personally experience.  Sometimes the suffering of our loved-ones was self-induced.  They may have been responsible or  created the conditions which led to such situations.  Sometimes, in hindsight (always 20/20) they should have “known better”. Other times they were truly the unwilling or unwitting subjects of serendipitous events.

We need to come to terms with the truth that all suffering is deeply personally felt and that empathy ancd compassion, although powerful, cannot ulimately take away the suffering of othres.

Perhaps the best that we can offer our loved-ones is our support and presence. If they know that someone is there for them, cares deeply about their suffering, will help if possible….that is enough. Unfortunately, there are many individuals, of all ages, who do  not even have that knowledge to comfort them.