Sunday, June 27, 2010

Political Agnosticism

Several months ago, I paused to admire a lovely neighborhood. A man and his wife approached and asked if I was putting up flyers on the wall. "No," I replied.

"How about this one," the man asked pointing at the shreds of a yellow flyer on a utility box.

Perhaps he asked the question because I was standing near that utility box? I explained that it was thought members of Organizing for America had done that and that Tea Party supporters had removed it.

The man asked, "Are you one of them?"

"Of whom? The Tea Party? Yes, I am. But I am an Objectivist, not a Conservative. No one in the Tea Party is OFA."

He said, "You're merely the other extreme. You're all the same."

I was taken aback. In today's clear-cut struggle between individual rights on the one hand and statism on the other, I had never met anyone who considered both as anathema. If he were a centrist, he would advocate features of both sides. But he had not. He considered both sides "extreme" and "the same."

Did he genuinely believe that both the advocacy of individual rights and government's violation of them were equally reprehensible? What sort of government was he for?

I did not discover the answer to my question until a couple of days ago.

I had a telephone conversation with a woman who is an officer of an organization allegedly devoted to advancing Albuquerque businesses. I thought an interview with her might be interesting for a radio show I'm helping to produce for the Patriot Activist Network.

After explaining why I had called, she asked, "What is your agenda?"

Thinking that she meant what was my political perspective, I answered, "I don't like what's happening to my country. I want to help businessmen understand that government should be limited, and that markets should be free."

"Are you connected with the Tea Party?"

"Yes. PAN is a branch of the Albuquerque Tea Party," I said."

"I am tired of anti-everything," she said, implying that Tea Parties are anti-everything. "I do not denigrate the President. I am not anti-anything." She continued in this vein for quite a while. Eventually, she began to tell me about what she undoubtedly considered her accomplishments.

She had been interviewed on an Albuquerque public television program, she said. Also the United Nations had hired her to go to China to teach technology. She had worked in Russia, too, doing the same thing. She wanted to be for things, she said, repeating again that she was not anti anything. She ended by declaring that she was for populism and worked "to develop and promote populism as the basis of a safe and strong society."

Now, populism is the doctrine that arose in 1891-1904 as a political party advocating among other things, public ownership of utilities, an income tax and government support of unions and agriculture. It is a variant of statism. Her claim that she was not anti anything means she is not anti our government's infringement of individual rights, not anti Russia's slaughter of millions of peasants, not anti China's ruthless suppression of student protests and Tibetan priests, not anti the removal of the clitoris of Islamic women, not anti the Taliban's bombing of the World Trade Center, and so forth.

Like the man I had previously met, she was a political agnostic. Not being against anything means not taking sides. What is it about taking sides that the political agnostic abhors?

Many people avoid passing negative judgments openly. In personal relationships they might be "sweet" to one's face but scathingly critical behind one's back. In political matters, however, the same people can take a specific stand and loudly protest in defense of it.

The political agnostic takes the opposite tact. He will tell you to your face face that you are wrong, but he is loath to criticize the government. Both the man and the woman referred to above told me, respectively explicitly and implicitly, that I was wrong to be involved with the Tea Party, wrong to criticize the government or denigrate the president. They claimed that they were not anti anything but in fact they were anti taking sides against the government.

The political agnostic is an authoritarian. He is comfortable taking orders. But only from authority figures. He feels safe to be told what to do. He resents those who question authority. He feels such questioning is a slur on his own self-image of a "good person cooperating with those who know best."

Safety to the political agnostic means the absence of public dissent. He does not say, "a plague on both your houses." He says, "Let there be only one house, the central government that tells everyone what to do." The political agnostic does not say, "I don't want to be bothered with politics." He says, "Let a leader decide, which we will all obey."

By advocating a central government he feels secure from that constantly moving ocean of different types of individuals, different premises, different tastes, likes, dislikes, opinions, desires, goals, and choices. In that continually teeming roar of ebb and flow, of striving toward different goals that is society, he believes that only a centralized authority will guarantee him "safety"---the "safety" of the straight-jacket---and a "strong" society---the strength of a prison's iron bars.

He evades recognizing that men of wisdom, integrity and benevolence are not interested in controlling others and consequently are not attracted to offices of omnipotent government. But vicious, fear-infested, manipulative and shrewdly malevolent men are. As has been seen countless times in an abundance of ghastly acts---the Nazis, the Communists, the Taliban, the Khmer Rouge---the bloodlust of totalitarianism does not stop with the abuse of men, women, children and animals but goes on to erupt in torturing, dismembering, starving and slaughtering all that lives.

The political agnostic's role in this mayhem is seen in those who stood by and did not protest the rise of Adolph Hitler and his "Final Solution." It was revealed during the 1920s and for decades following, by those who celebrated the "noble experiment" of Soviet Communism in which countless millions were slaughtered outright or were driven to despair, mental paralysis and starvation by government policies. It is expressed in the intellectual distortions of those who deal commercially with Communist China providing them with western technology, know-how and world wide instant communication. It is seen in the empty-headed shortsightedness of those who declare, "I'll take anyone's money: I'm a businessman."

By refusing to take sides, the political agnostic shuns the virtue of justice and damns the good.

No one can justly stand on the sidelines and refuse to take sides at any time. Today, no one who makes the effort to arrive at an objective evaluation of the Obama Administration and Congress can justly conclude that Americans are not being railroaded into socialism against our will. And no one can rationally come to the decision that in such circumstances, one should do nothing.

The lives and thought of John Locke and the Founding Fathers resulted in the creation of the United States, the freest nation on earth and in history. For a while.

To regain the republic they created, one must take sides. Nothing short of that will regain our freedoms and restore our individual rights. And it will not end in November. That is only the beginning.

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At June 27, 2010 at 2:08 PM , Blogger Wayne Niddery said...

He said, "You're merely the other extreme. You're all the same."

I was taken aback. In today's clear-cut struggle between individual rights on the one hand and statism on the other, I had never met anyone who considered both as anathema. If he were a centrist, he would advocate features of both sides. But he had not. He considered both sides "extreme" and "the same."

Sylvia, I'm surprised you haven't encountered this before. This is a consequence of the long-ago success of socialists in placing fascism on the right end of the political spectrum in order to distance themselves from it. Thus it is common for most people to believe that the extreme of *either* left or right is dictatorship and therefore only the middle of that spectrum is safe politically (i.e. "democratic and free").

As a result, sadly, many people see support for full individual rights or full capitalism to be "extreme right" and they cannot help but associate that with fascism despite the obvious contradictions involved.

I've encountered this innumerable times in my discussions and arguments with others.

At June 27, 2010 at 5:57 PM , Blogger Ted said...

Most Canadians believe as these agnostics do. Even the "left-right" political spectrum is so narrowed that there is no, I repeat, no difference between political parties in Canada. The superficial differences do not count when talking about these critical fundamentals you mentioned.

The socialists are winning due to conservative cowardice and moral agnosticism. (Best expressed as pragmatism by Canada’s businessmen). This has led to a "soft" socialism in Canada. The word here is we are living in a "benign dictatorship." It is said in the same cowardly vein that politicians use to evade individual rights and rational principles. Politicians just use a lot more rag tag philosophy to justify their positions.

A benign dictatorship is a contradiction in terms and the cause of all bloodshed in history. Socialism is an end result. The wholesale transmission of life giving blood away from independent producers to ultimate destruction is these vast masses of agnostic fifth columnists.

My solution is to keep speaking out with an uncompromised message of freedom based on individual rights and expose these smothering destroyers of the future.

Thanks for this great posting.

At June 27, 2010 at 10:52 PM , Blogger 江婷 said...


At June 28, 2010 at 5:31 AM , Blogger Sparrowhawk said...

"He feels such questioning is a slur on his own self-image of a "good person cooperating with those who know best"

I think most people frame the world as they perceive it. They don't drill down objectively, nor do they care to. Understanding, truth and especially justice are not their concern.

To them, they want to see the movie. They don't care how many people were involved, or what coordination or hurdles had to be met to get there. A businessmen invested his life savings and every waking minute of his life to develop the life improving products they use. They don't care about process and reality, just the end game.

IMO ( In my observations ), I have found that those who don't do the work to think, can't even begin to know what you are talking about. You are from mars! They are so far away from the principles that to them we are extremists who take things too seriously and we are wrong for getting upset at what is happening in the country and to our rights.

Put differently, many and most people today lack any understanding of integrity, honor and justice. They just don't know, so they frame things from a position of fear and comfort. 2 + 2 they can make sense of, ask them to think about algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Woooo...why you getting so serious and extreme, on CNN they said "X", I understand "X".

For most are intellectually dishonest and do not take the time to even ask themselves the proper questions. So they react with the only reaction they have, anger and patronizing comments.

I enjoyed the post.

At July 1, 2010 at 11:38 AM , Blogger 江婷 said...


At July 20, 2010 at 3:23 PM , Blogger Cathy said...

I am so glad there are people like you who can express so eloquently what many of us are thinking, but, are not able to express as well! Thank you!

At July 28, 2010 at 8:11 AM , Blogger Dennnis said...

Tremendous post! It seems that most of the people I know are political agnostics. They are the kind of people who are passionate about an inconsequential activity like hockey, but mindlessly defer to authority on almost every other issue.

They might complain about a ban on smoking in bars one day, but the next day they're down at city hall demanding "justice" over a neighbor's violation of some arcane building code provision. These people couldn't make a philosophical connection if their lives depended on it.


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