Saturday, May 14, 2011

Two Days, Two Cons, Two Rants


Sean Hannity and others like him are so fond of the use of a particular analog of late: if it’s okay to put a bullet in the brain of Osama Bin Laden, then why isn’t it okay for us to torture Khaleid Sheikh Mohammed and others like him?

A Leon Panetta quote was discussed at length and, before it could become clear that Hannity’s point (derived from misquoting Panetta) was likely incorrect, Hannity excitedly broke out with an extension of this analog to serve his point: If you had two or three children, and you were walking with them when suddenly a van pulled up and abducted them, what would you do to get them back?

The “Great American Panel” guest was flummoxed, but recovered. Her answer, as would be the obvious answer from any sane parent (hypothetical or not) was to do absolutely anything to get them back. Point proven, right? The analogy, true as it might be on a personal level, obviously holds just as well in matters of national security and in our national interest, then. Right?

Wrong. The problem with this particular analogy, and illustrative of the fallacy of analogy in general, is that what one person might understandably do in the case of his or her own child’s abduction has no basis for comparison whatsoever to the matters of scale in which Hannity and others like him are attempting to connect them to. The parent's decisions and attempts at vengeance are based upon one event, on a small scale. A decision which is undeniably derived by pure emotions borne of the situation- anger, fear, and wrath.

Our nation, however, that is able to utilize an unfathomably large military and arsenal, must not be ruled by such emotion. Thought experiments attempting to connect events on such a micro-scale are invalid, and Hannity knows better.

Though, I should know better than to say such things. Appeals to emotions like anger and wrath are commonly utilized to justify the death penalty as well.

“Wait just a second, Cody. You mean to tell me that if someone killed your wife or daughter, that you wouldn’t go after the murderer and kill him yourself?” No, of course I would. Many people would jump at the chance to avenge the death of a relative or friend, sometimes by the most violent means possible. That’s precisely because we’re human- subject to emotions arisen from the bonds we form, as well as feelings inflamed by the loss of those relationships; those other human beings. What more could you expect from one man or one woman? But when it comes to the actions of our states, our federal government as a whole, and of our military service members at home and abroad, I expect more than such appeals to emotion. I don't expect vengeance. I expect justice, but only if arisen from rationality.

Rush Limbaugh outlined his problem with David Brooks’ column entitled “The Missing Fifth,” which references the 20% of young American males who wake up each morning and don’t go to work. What this means is not clear, however, and I take issue with Rush’s implied argument that this lack of work must be a bad thing (and not only that, that it’s all Obama’s and the Democrat’s fault), and that all of us should be working, just about all of the time.

Now, I would understand Rush's point that having this 20% of males constantly in the state of joblessness better if there were a statistically significant and defensible means of determining how many of that “fifth” were actually relying upon welfare and unemployment for long periods of time to sustain that very jobless lifestyle, rather than as aids to help them out of the situation they find themselves in. But since there isn’t, I will take issue with an argument that assumes an inherent wrong in the fact that a young male wakes up and doesn’t go to work; one that Rush and many other conservatives bring up.

One reason for my objection is that this feeds into the Continuous Growth model that many believe to be so critical to America’s greatness. The model seems to claim that we, as Americans capable of work of one kind or another, should be working as hard as possible, not only for the “betterment” of ourselves, our financial and social standing, and for the well being of our families, but also in order to aid in the growth of the American economy as a whole. To be cogs in the ever-growing machine that is American economic growth. To be, in a sense, parts of the whole for the betterment of the American economy.

Is it just me, or does this smack just a bit of the anti-individualist, “socialist” philosophy, the sense that we exist not just for ourselves but as tools to build a greater and more prosperous society, that Rush and other Republicans rail against so laboriously on a daily basis?

And why, for that matter, is growth for growth’s sake unpalatable to some, including myself? No, it’s not that I hate America, or that I wish for others to be denied their dreams. It is for the simple fact that it is not sustainable, and not just in an ecological sense. In the broadest sense possible of the word "sustainable," I claim here what I have yet to here a solid argument against- such economic activity can not continue forever.

More initiative, more work, and more sweat must then equal greater wealth, greater prosperity, and more opportunity, which then leads to greater job markets, further burgeoning industry and commerce. According to the Continuous Growth model and the conservatives who espouse it, this should be continued ad nauseum. Natural resources become, even more than they are viewed currently, merely sources of kinetic energy. They’re merely waiting for our consumption and use for further growth. The current size of power plants, oil refineries, houses, shopping malls, hospitals, and highways are only indicators of the greater size of future ones, and of the resources required to feed those growing flames.

After all, who wants stasis when we could always have more, and then more still?

Of course, we must remember that Rush purposely turns on all of his lights and appliances, running his computers on the highest possible CPU on events like Earth Hour, just to show that he can, and also to "prove" that man has no effect on our climate.

When we become aware that he, and many others, purposely do such things, it’s difficult to then espouse optimism about how we could ever hope to convince others like him that sustainability isn’t a political issue. It’s not a Republican issue, nor is it Democratic one. It’s a human issue. It will take all of us to search out and to advocate alternatives to economic models like the one discussed above. If Rush and others, who deny that man can have any impact on our environment, fervently speak out on these issues day in and day out, so must we. Even more so.

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