Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Monday, April 18, 2005

questions...

Values and rights. Right and wrong. Morals.

Are they absolute?

Are they subjective?

Who decides?

Are they neither, but arrived at through agreement?

If so, how should agreement be reached?

Are people allowed to practice their religion without interference from those outside of that religion?

Are those who choose to eschew religion allowed to live their lives without interference from religions?

Which values/rights should be enshrined in law?

Why?

Who decides?

It's all very well to belong to one moral tribe and sling shit about the evils of those in the other moral tribe. But in a so-called multicultural country, how should these tensions be resolved?

So, readers, instead of slagging off at those on the other side of the moral divide, how about you bust a gut to try to answer some of these questions...

Aw bugger it, it's all too hard, let's just sling shit at the other mob...

37 Comments:

Anonymous Guy said...

I don't think values or morals are absolute. Decisions made on what a society's moral code constitutes is largely up to the society in question.

People should be free to practise religion or not practise religion without interference from other religions.

I tend to think that only the minimum agreeable standard of values/morals should be enshrined in law - the rest should be decided on a per-individual/family basis.

But you're right, it's all a bit too damned hard. :)

April 19, 2005 11:37 AM  
Blogger Ron said...

You're right it's too damned hard. I've got headache thinking about it.

April 19, 2005 7:49 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Bloody hell, Gerry! What about one question at a time? Those are big questions.

PS. Did you see Supervolcano? I was hoping they'd kill off the long-haired bloke in the end, just for being so annoying...
:)

April 20, 2005 12:13 AM  
Anonymous Theo said...

Often these moral dilemmas are not so hard.

Just live by the Wicca adago.

It basically says you are free to do whatever you like, provided you don't hurt somebody.

Then if you want to have morals as well it can be extended to do not allow somebody else to experience hurt by your inaction.

The first one takes care of all morals relating to yourself, the second sets your standards as far as society is concerned.

No complicated rules and involved arguements by the local witch doctors are required.

April 20, 2005 6:10 AM  
Blogger Ron said...

" Did you see Supervolcano?"

Now there's a question I can answer. Overhyped and bloody boring. And what a supercilious bunch of immature idiots the main characters were!

April 20, 2005 8:57 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

I'm a bit disappointed that no one's seriously engaged with this. Can't you guys figure out why I'm asking these questions? Isn't it important to have debate about this?

And I have one more question: Are morals any different from a sense of right and wrong? (I don't think they are, but what do you think?)

April 20, 2005 5:21 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

Sorry, Gerry, you have been upstaged and overtaken by Pope Benedict XVI.

April 20, 2005 8:17 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Sorry, Gerry...
But can you hang on a minute?

(whispering: Ron! Overhyped, all right. Have you ever seen so many actorly earnest looks in your life? I thought some of those people would rip their foreheads open, the way they kept frowning. The only really good bit was when the truck was being chased by the lava...)

Gerry. Right then. I actually was being serious about taking one question at a time. And also, "Can't you guys figure out why I'm asking these questions?" No, sorry. I (deliberately) don't keep up with the news. What are you getting at? What's the debate?

April 20, 2005 11:00 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Deirdre, what am I on about?

Ok, it started with the Schiavo thing, then it continued with the crap being hurled at the Pope and the Catholic church. And I got to thinking...

Most of the white noise directed at Fundies, Catholics, the Pope, etc seems to have a common base which is highly political and seems to be rooted in the gay rights lobby and the pro-choice lobby.

What gets me is that each side seems to be carrying on as if they're somehow in touch with the Absolute Truth.

Each mob reckon their position is the only true and correct one and that the other side are pure evil.

Both sides want the government to pass laws enshrining THEIR values and "rights".

Both sides claim to be acting for the greater good as they see it.

Hence the questions.

A new question: In a democracy, what role should the majority-view on any of these questions play?

April 21, 2005 1:10 AM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Okey dokey, then! Very good project. That last question is really interesting: what role should the majority-view play? "Should might equal right?" in effect. You're talking about legal matters there, aren't you? (Or are you?) Whether what you do or think is in accord with others is probably your own business unless there's a law against it, though you might need to fight against ridicule or social expulsion or something in order to maintain your individual stance. That's at the base of all your questions, I think: if you assume there is no absolute truth, what should our values be based on - law? public opinion? religion? philosophy? grooviness?

Guy seems to be saying we should agree on a minimum base-standard (which would necessarily rely on majority support) but then be free to work out the rest individually; Theo seems to agree with the golden rule of do unto others; and Ron and I are busy watching tv. (Apologies if I've misrepresented anybody's view. Sue me.)

What really annoys me about public debates like the ones you've listed is plain rudeness. You could say that people insult each other because they're fighting to uphold their beliefs, but what if it's the other way around? What if they're using the issues as an excuse to just have a bloody big fight?

April 21, 2005 11:20 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Deirdre, you've pretty much understood what I'm trying to get at. The debate helps me get clearer.

I guess my dilemma is that in the past, religions had (directly and indirectly) a lot to do with the way our laws were shaped. Laws are made by the legislature (government). So in a way there was always a dregee of theocracy.

Now, with secularists going apeshit unless there is a distinct separation between church and state (and I don't think there ever was, really), it raises the following questions:

(1) If the churches are not going to be the shapers of the laws, then who should it be, and why them?

(2) Since law-making is the role of the government, and the government, in a democracy, represents some sort of majority view, is a law wrong if the majority agree with it?

(3) And if governments make the laws should laws change each time a new party comes to office? And should laws change everytime a different faction within a ruling party gains control?

So what's the process to be? This is what I ask those who so easily decry the impact of religion on law.

It's all very well to bitch, but how about coming up with a solution that the majority has a chance of agreeing with, or else admit you (generic "you") are just part of a petulant minority wanting to have it their own way without going through the democratic process.

So let's hear it from those who claim to have the answers, and those like me, who are just looking for an answer.

April 21, 2005 3:43 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

I just Googled the church/state separation thing:
"Australia does not have a legally entrenched principle, or even a vague set of conventions, of the separation of church and state." (Michael Hogan, University of Sydney, 2001)

If politicians make the laws, then churches can only influence law-making by influencing politicians. Maybe your fundamental question is to do with the power of lobby groups, rather than with values or morals?

April 21, 2005 11:19 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

The thing, Deirdre, is that those I would like to debate this with, i.e. those who squeal about the church having too much influence, aren't here trying to debate it with me. So you're like the proxy here.

Ok, but some politicians have strong religious views influencing their law-making adventures. And then there's the lobby groups.

But Tim Dunlop says: "The many references we hear to the "Judeo-Christian" origin of our laws and system of government are based on a common misconception. Our laws are based largely on the English Common Law, the genesis of which actually pre-dates the arrival of Christianity in the British Isles."

So now I'm utterly confused. I'm not game to debate it with Tim (feeling outclassed and outbrained), but if I did, I'd say that the genisis of common law may be as he says, but what's happened since, eh?

Anyway, back to the complaint that the church has undue influence in law-making/policy-making: Those taking that view need to make suggestions on how they think this "unfairness" can be rectified.

and also, I'd like to hear from them about what they think of the idea that values/rights should be decided by the majority, or, if they have a problem with that, then I'd like them to tell me who then should decide on the issues of values/rights and why.

But all I get is deafening silence from the usually vociferous church-bashers. Like, they're all of a sudden not reading this blog? Yeah, right. I see them sneak in here on my tracking radar... :-)

Anyway, thanks for letting me rant at you, Deirdre..

April 22, 2005 12:01 AM  
Anonymous Kent said...

Gerry, I spent about half an hour writing and re-writing an answer to your post, when nobody else had replied, and gave up, in the end, because it's just too difficult. I think the questions you ask are particularly fundamental and thus can't be dealt with simply - it's as if you asked whether man has free will - the smartest people on the planet have spent the last three thousand years trying to answer that, and they still argue.

The background is too deep. I can answer your questions in a meagre way (morals are subjective, but probably derived in part from views of society as a whole, there is no agreement because they're personally held; rights enshrined in law should be those chosen by the majority, because that's the fairest way, - the population decides). But christ, I can see the gaping holes in that response, and I can't answer them without a whole lot more discourse and background, which could take ages - a process which I'd rather undertake in my mind. And most of all, I can't defend my response. So what's the point of making it?

April 22, 2005 2:52 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Very well put, Kent.

If I'd had your perspicacity at the same age as you are, I would have known what was wrong with the Vietnam war and I would have been protesting instead of killing.

The point I was trying to make is the same as the one I just articulated to Ron in the comments on the post above: "...those who feel their cause is great need to spend less energy attacking their perceived enemies, and focus more energy on how to get more people educated to the wisdom and rightness of their cause hopefully to the point where they can mobilise 5 million to assemble in one place (strategically chosen for maximum effect) to make their point felt. That was my message - not to misdirect one's energery on ad hominem attacks, put-downs, lies and mud slinging, but rather direct it towards educating using fact and reason, and motivating people to become active, again in a non-attacking way. Just let your truth set them free."

Democracy is a bazaar of highly subjective values, morals, rights, etc, and those who manage to sell theirs to the most number of people win. All else is crap. So study the art of selling (all of life is selling) and not the art of verbal warfare. Here endeth the lesson...

I think there should be a "Australia's most smart-arsed blog" category and I think this blog should be nominated. :-)

April 22, 2005 2:03 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

From one smart-arse to another, darl, you've had fine comments about values/morals from Guy, Theo and Kent, and you haven't engaged with any of them. Which tends to suggest you weren't actually asking those questions in the first place and/or you don't actually care about the answers. Now you seem to be saying (or are you just trying to stir up responses?) that we're all stupid consumers in a marketplace, easily swayed by flashy advertisements, and that lobby groups should focus on selling "the wisdom and rightness of their cause". What happened to asking if they are wise and right?

PS. You were right when you called me a proxy, but I'd just like to point out that I'm here only and ever on behalf of The Lord Our Heavenly Father and His Holy Church here on earth. There is only ONE church of course, but we do our best to interfere with everything as best we can.
Bless you, brother.

April 22, 2005 9:33 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

I'm sorry if you think I'm treating you or any of the other commenters with contempt, Deirdre.

If I haven't adequately dealt with something you've said (and that goes for everyone else as well) please point out what that is by asking me a direct question about it. Too easy.

That's the best I can do for now and if that's not good enough, then maybe it's not worth your while to intereact with me. Perhaps I'm just too much of a dickhead.

That's ok, I've been thinking lately how pointless blogging is becoming for me anyway. Seems I'm just too damn inarticulate to get my ideas across and those I do manage to express are too banal or crude to bother with.

So if yuze all piss off I'll just shut the fuck up and go away. No worries there at all, trust me. I don't do Mutual Admiration Society crap. I'm too rude. I have no social skills. Sooner or later my crapulous personality shows through. Seems people aren't interested in taking me as I am - that's just too darn unacceptable.

Happy Anzac Day y'all.

April 22, 2005 10:23 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

I don't think you were treating people with contempt, Gerry, I'm saying you ignored the comments of Guy, Theo & Kent (which were full of good ideas, worth responding to). I wouldn't call that contempt, just wasted opportunity. (And that's just me being schoolmarmish: "You there! Gerry! Pay attention!")

Maybe your ideas are just changing as you go along though, which is fine and good. And maybe I'm just running along beside you pointing out where you're changing direction ("Look! You turned to the right! You did! You did!") and if that's giving you the willies, I could just "shut the fuck up and go away" myself.

On the other hand, if you're not sick of this discussion, here's a direct question for you: What happened to asking if [lobby groups] are wise and right?

April 23, 2005 1:24 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Deirdre, I can see that nothing short of a comprehensive response will satisfy you. OK, here goes:

It's about secularists vs various religious groups on the subject of values, morals and rights, and the bunfights happening around that.

I was treating the comments (except where clear questions were asked) as "votes" and I was letting the thing run for a while till it looked like "all the votes are in", THEN I was going to come back to "the bunfight" and see what the "votes" have told us.

Where pertinent questions were asked, I think I responded to all of those. (Sorry I forgot to answer your red herring question about "Supervolcano" - the answer is "yes".)

Yes, it's about law-making. That's where the problem is. Secularists keep wanting laws to be one way whilst various religious groups want the laws to be another way. Everyone thinks they are in touch with some absolute "rightness" about which way the laws should be, but the truth is there is no real agreement and as things stand (I think, but Dunlop disagrees) that there is little real separation between Church and State in this country (or in America.)

Judeo-Christian values are the dominant paradigms shaping our current laws. The legal/legislative world is heavily infiltrated with Christian rituals, as is our government. The refusal to remove these is a sign of the lack of separation between church and state. And until this is rectified, the secularists have unrealistic expectations on which their whinging is based.

If there is no separation between Church and State, or only a token one, then secualrists are in la-la-land with regard to their expectations. The fact is (I think) that this country is a quasi-theocracy and not a secular state at all (and you seem to agree with this assessment). Until they can change that, the secularists have not even gotten to base-camp.

If you read my comments in more depth you might realise that everyone's comments have a certain irrelevance to the central theme here, and yet advice is offered to secularists as to what and how they ought to proceed to get their values/morals/rights enshrined in law, and until this is successful, secularists would do well to stop their bitching and focus their energies on getting the numbers to get the laws changed.

Attacking Christian values/teachings only makes them (the Christians) feel more like they are under seige and this gets them to become more militant and more organised to counter-attack the secularists.

I see bunfights, mudslinging, ad hominem, vilification, and unfair accusations that religions cause harm, yet classic secularists like Stalin, Mao and others quite happily killed millions.

I don't see any appeals to reason or any rational debate focused on changing the laws. I only see multilateral finger-pointing and abuse-hurling. All in the name of "our values are the right ones and you guys are pure evil bastards."

It's all crap, it's hostile, it's divisive, it's ideological warfare. And war begets war. Attack begets counter-attack. Since I'm trying to teach the the secularists something, it's to them I speak when I say "Until you are prepared to 'think outside the square' (of ideological warfare), you're not in the race because as things stand, your opponents have all the winning cards when it comes to ideological conflict.

If Guy, Theo and Kent ask me direct questions I'll repond to those and until then it's sufficient that I believe I have taken their comments on board when shaping my subsequent comments. I don't feel the need to go further than that.

You asked " What happened to asking if [lobby groups] are wise and right?"

(1) Which lobby groups?

(2) I thought there was an implied concensus (or at least an absence of assertions to the contrary) that wisdom and "being right" are utterly subjective things and so there can be no absolute answer to that question.

Again, until someone engages me directly on these matters, there's not much I need to do, Deirdre.

I don't even think there's anyone left who's reading this shit except you and me, Deirde.

April 23, 2005 4:47 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

I don't even think there's anyone left who's reading this shit except you and me, Deirde. And the problem with that would be...? You'd prefer to be debating this with squealing secularists, but they're not here at the moment and I am, so, you know, suffer, you big whinger. (I could squeal, if that'd help?)

Is your central theme:
(a) "Which values/rights should be enshrined in law?" or
(b) "...secularists would do well to stop their bitching and focus their energies on getting the numbers to get the laws changed" or
(c) something else?

I've been assuming it's (a), and that you're asking about the philosophical basis of current lawmaking and whether it matches majority public opinion about such things, or instead follows a "Church-party" line (a "Church-party" being the supposed influence of "The Church", an argument which I actually think is bogus, but don't know enough about to argue the case).

If your theme is actually (b), you're asking how lobby groups can get lawmakers onside ("lobby groups" being those who feel their cause is great [and need to] focus more energy on how to get more people educated to the wisdom and rightness of their cause hopefully to the point where they can mobilise 5 million to assemble in one place)

I don't think there is a consensus 'that wisdom and "being right" are utterly subjective things'. If there was, no one would be claiming the truth for their own positions, would they? It would be a meaningless statement to claim truth, if everybody believed it was completely subjective. Which is why I think it's important to ask your initial questions: "Values and rights. Right and wrong. Morals... Who decides?" Is there some shared agreement about these things which could be the basis for our laws? (Or perhaps is already?) Or are they always going to be contested issues - a battleground where political or social influence imposes its will?

April 23, 2005 7:55 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

You made me chuckle, Deirdre. And no, squealing won't be necessary, but thanks for offering. :-)

Now, enough of the frivolity!

My central theme (why do I feel like it keeps changing?) is that the secular left are just as fundamentalist in their unswerving belief in the correctness of their values/morals/rights and my original set of questions were designed to elicit the understanding that due to the highly subjective nature of these things, a fundamentalist posture is inappropriate and doesn't allow for others to have a different set and that this then leads to question (a) "Which values/rights should be enshrined in law?" which in turn leads to (b) "...secularists would do well to stop their bitching and focus their energies on getting the numbers to get the laws changed"

So yes, the theme is both (a) and (b).

About the churches, I think you fail to understand the grip in which they hold Australian politicians (i.e. the law makers) but I really can't substantiate this allegation so I may as well leave that to those on the left who keep suggesting that it is a fact.

You said "I don't think there is a consensus that wisdom and 'being right' are utterly subjective things. If there was, no one would be claiming the truth for their own positions, would they?"

An interesting point you make there, Deirdre, but then you go on to say "I think it's important to ask your initial questions: 'Values and rights. Right and wrong. Morals... Who decides?' "

Well if people are going to debate this, wouldn't that be implying that these things are purely subjective, i.e merely a matter of debate and agreement, of arbitrariness?

Hmmm, Deirdre? :-)

April 23, 2005 9:48 PM  
Anonymous Kent said...

"my original set of questions were designed to elicit the understanding that due to the highly subjective nature of these things, a fundamentalist posture is inappropriate and doesn't allow for others to have a different set and that this then leads to question (a) "Which values/rights should be enshrined in law?" which in turn leads to (b) "...secularists would do well to stop their bitching and focus their energies on getting the numbers to get the laws changed""

so - you present questions which you say you want answered but are really rhetorical - your first seven - i say they're rhetorical because, without mentioning any answers to them, you say "this then leads to" your last values/rights in law question, and then you say that somehow this questions results in your last point - that, essentially, secularists should shut up.

perhaps you can see why this post is hard to engage with. but anyway. i'll ask some direct questions. you say you think australia is a quasi-theocracy. how so? paradigm is an over-used word. the only christian traditions i can think of are parliamentary prayers. all of the law has been made by elected parliamentarians, none by organised religion. no religious official holds any position in government, and we can ignore tony abbott for the moment.

April 23, 2005 10:49 PM  
Anonymous kent said...

actually, bugger the whole thing. moral philosophy is not something we can discover under guise of a political and religious argument. of course i can ask you direct questions (do you think morals are subjective, or absolute?) but i don't see the point.

April 23, 2005 10:55 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Kent, I assumed that in trying to answer the questions a person would arrive at the view that values/morals/rights are purely subjective. If my assumption is wrong, please feel free to explain my error to me in ways that I will be able to understand.

But until then, I'll assume that it's a given that values/morals/rights are purely subjective and that this leads naturally to the question "Which values/moral/rights should be enshrined in law?" since we like to pretend that we live according to the rule of law.

You are wrong when you assume the following: "..your last point - that, essentially, secularists should shut up."

I said they should stop mimicking fundamentalist behaviour (by carrying on like they are in touch with the absolute truth) and that they should redirect their energies away from bitching about things and to focus their actions on getting the numbers needed (lobbying) to get laws changed (where they are not happy with the law).

You say "...you think Australia is a quasi-theocracy. how so? [...] All of the law has been made by elected parliamentarians, none by organised religion. no religious official holds any position in government, and we can ignore tony abbott for the moment."

Let's not forget Tony Abbott, John Howard et al, that would be the biggest mistake. Many of those law-making politicians are Christians. Many others dare not offend Christian voters. All of them are heavily lobbied (coerced might be a better word) by Christian fundamentalists. When we go to war, our troops are blessed in a thousand churches around the country and few church leaders ever speak out against war when the troops are leaving to go to war (i.e. they back the political decision.) This weekend church services will play a pivotal role in our rememberence process and in thousands of churches this week end our troops will be glorifed and the congregations will again be told "served this country". The preachers will not say "they died to maintain the empire", nor wil they say "they served Big Business interests" (read this). So the churches support, or play along with, the most deadly political decisions that could possible be made - consigning hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, to death. Tell me how this does not equate to a quasi right wing theocracy?

You end by saying that you don't see the point in debating this.

Well, for instance, whether it is acceptable or unacceptable to be gay is a purely subjective moral stance, whichever stance you take. Ditto about whether abortion is right and wrong. The legal ramifications are immense. Do you still not see the point in debating "moral philosphy" as you call it?

I would hazard a guess that the need to debate these things only evaporates after one has taken the position of believing one is in touch with absolute values/morals/rights i.e. if one has adopted a fundamentalist stance.

But hey, maybe you don't want to debate these things. That's fine by me.

I'm actually just trying to re-focus lefties towards more effective action in achieving their desired outcomes. Bitching is often what people do instead of engaging in effective action. It's pure waste of energy.

A bunch of people commiserating with each other about how fucked it is achieves nothing unless it leads to effective action of some kind. So if you're not an activist engaging in effective action, you're wasting your time bitching. That's what I'm trying to say to lefties even though their craziness keeps driving me back to the centre. Your ball, your court, Kent.

April 24, 2005 12:55 AM  
Anonymous Kent said...

feh, i retire on all but a few points.

"Tell me how this does not equate to a quasi right wing theocracy?"

i still don't see how it does! so the churches support military action? big deal. a theocracy is where the church decides to go to war, not support the decision already made.

so politicans are christians? (thus influenced by churches) irrelevant when it comes to talking about a 'theocracy' - the politicans are there because they got voted in, not because they belong to a church. sure, their constituency might be christian and therefore will vote for a christian, but that doesn't mean the church is in control.

a theocracy is a state run by a church. we are a state influenced by church(es) - and i think it's a mild influence. obviously you think it is significant, we'll just have to differ there. i don't think it's anyway near significant enough to call the country quasi-theocratic.

not to mention the distinction between 'church' and 'churches' in the above paragraph. evagelical protestantism ala fred niles is a long way from catholicism ala tony abbott is a long way from anglicanism ala john howard is a long way from the much milder mainstream non-church-attending christianity which i'll agree does pervade the country and thus the politicans.

hardly government by church.

April 24, 2005 1:43 AM  
Anonymous Kent said...

oh and pt two: i don't see what's so wrong with bitching and commiserating and wasting energy in general. i have issues with the idea of efficiency being an unquestioned good thing; such an approach has unpleasant implications, i believe. though, of course, it's fine to castigate me/us for it.

April 24, 2005 1:52 AM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

I agree with what Kent is saying about the influence of churches, Gerry. As far as I can see there are only three ways to influence law-makers:
(1) by influencing politicians individually (through their schooling, education, social life)
(2) by influencing politicians collectively (through direct lobbying)
(3) by influencing the electorate (through membership of groups, or advertising, or word-of-mouth, or other social means).

Maybe "the Churches" have a head-start in item (1) because politicians are overwhelmingly (perhaps - I don't know) drawn from church-run private schools, or social networks in which church membership is important. But I don't see why they'd have any advantage over other lobby groups in items (2) & (3), if you're comparing groups with similar membership or supporter numbers.

As to the question of whether values/morals/rights are subjective: I agree with what Guy was saying. There is probably some general community consensus about certain issues. Where there is dispute, maybe we should debate the issues. But how would that work? Referendum? Surveys? Petitions? Debate through media only works if you have a big voice and/or can pay for advertising. And are you saying that majority opinion should rule? Because it seems like majority opinion favours detention of refugees at the moment, and also supported our involvement in Iraq.

What bothers me about your Go Lefty Go! campaign (teaching them how to lobby effectively) is how to tell whether their arguments are any better than anybody elses? What is your support for them based on? Personal affinity? Because others with a personal affinity for Christian fundamentalism have an equal right to support their own team, and in the end it all boils down to a question of who has the biggest team, rather than who upholds the values we as a community (if we are a community) would like to endorse.

April 24, 2005 2:46 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Kent, about my claim that we live in a quasi-theocracy. The meaning of "quasi" I'm using here is "seemingly", "almost". So, I'm saying "almost a theocracy", "seemingly a theocracy". I say this because although, as you so rightly say, religious leaders are not directly determining the law-making in this country, they may as well be if we factor in the influence the churches have.

You also make an almost killer-point in your "which church" comment. Certainly I'm now on the ropes, but I'm not down and out yet! :-)

Ask yourself, Kent, why can't the law changes you want to see, get up in parliament? Do you really think it's other than due to the influence of the churches? Yes, I know some are more moderate than others, ditto those voters who class themselves as religious.

I would argue that the contra-progressive influences are almost entirely (say 95%) from religious elements. As a ball-park figure, I'd say that at least 30% of voters are contra-progressives on issues about gay rights, abortion and the use of condoms (for example) in the fight against AIDS. Assuming this is a real-enough stat, ask yourself how many pollies can afford to alienate that kind of percentage and still retain their seats. That's the sense in which I mean "quasi theocracy"; because the God-voters have the power to take out any pollie who passes laws they deeply oppose and the pollies know this, and at the end of the day they will opt for retaining their seat.

So, am I saying "try and change the churches"? Nah. I'm saying change the "believers", work on educating/convincing the church-goers. Short of mounting an inquisition, the churches can do nought but follow the "followers" or lose them.

And to those who are religious and whose religions won't approve of the social changes they strongly believe should happen, I would say "Leave the church. Walk away." If enough disenchanted "followers" do this, the churches must fall into step with the people or disappear into oblivion.

I'll now admit that other issues such as the refugee/detention issues are less religion driven and more racism/xenoophobia (redneck) driven. this is another reason not to slag off at the churches, because they can have a huge impact in this area if they are on-side (and most of them are).

That's why I say that using abusive, insulting, or condemnatious behaviour (and I'm talking to bloggers now) towards religions or their followers is counter-productive. You might gain a few brownie points with your fellow progressive (lefty) bloggers, but any religious people looking in on your blog are more likely to say "stuff you and the horse you rode in on" and vote exactly the way you don't want them to just to spite you for your venomous nature.

But if they see well-reasoned, respectful debate they are more likely to join in and you would have a much greater chance of making a difference. Putting it another way - change the voter and you change the vote. Slagging off at them has the opposite effect. It comes down to applied psychology.

(Yeah, I know, "practise what you preach, Gerry." Good point, Kent!) :-)

Deirdre, I hope the above also addresses much of what you said.
But you also said "As to the question of whether values/morals/rights are subjective: I agree with what Guy was saying." I never said I didn't. I think he's saying they are subjective.

And before we get all bogged down again, remember I'm talking primarily about those laws which the progressives want to see made/amended but which are being opposed by conservatives.

It's because values/morals/rights are subjective that it comes down to a pure numbers game in parliament and at the ballot box. It's also why they are decided through debate, lobbying and activism (e.g. petitions) It requires the education (conversion) of those who oppose those changes to the law.

"And are you saying that majority opinion should rule?" I'm saying that becasue we live in a democracy, the majority will rule, like it or not. The job is to influence and educate them to vote in accordance with those values/morals/rights which you belive in. It's called becoming politically active or engaged. You want to see change? That's how you accomplish it.

"What bothers me about your Go Lefty Go! campaign (teaching them how to lobby effectively) is how to tell whether their arguments are any better than anybody elses? What is your support for them based on?"

I agree with most of their moral premises and most of their politcal agendas. I don't agree with the use of any violence whatsoever in trying to achieve those political goals.

Is there anything in particular that bothers you about the left's values/morals/rights, Deirdre?

April 24, 2005 9:59 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Is there anything in particular that bothers you about the left's values/morals/rights, Deirdre? Nope.

What bothers me is the unquestioning certainty (and possibly arrogance) behind a statement like "It requires the education (conversion) of those who oppose those changes to the law." However, I concede your point that in a democracy the majority rules, and can see you're trying to be practical: in a limited pool of voters, if your team doesn't have the numbers, you either convert a few or lose the game.

I'm also just a little bit worried I might be providing a handy case-study for your "applied psychology" textbook on How to Win Voters and Influence Idiots... I'm running out of things to oppose you on. Damn you.

I do think you (or those nameless secularists) are being too harsh on the equally-nameless "churches"; what you imagine to be religiously-driven conservatism may instead be normal aversion to change - which, given time, evolves into acceptance. And have you forgotten that Jesus was one of the greatest activists of all time? Talk of "Christianity" being the enemy of Lefties is a big generalisation, and might be just plain wrong.

Also (now grasping desperately for something to fight you with) I would call your assessment of "contra-progressive influences" quasi-statistics; the meaning of "quasi" I'm using here being "seemingly" and "so-called".

:)

April 24, 2005 11:42 PM  
Anonymous Kent said...

i agree with all of that gerry. now, sleep.

April 25, 2005 2:44 AM  
Anonymous Kent said...

(for me)

April 25, 2005 2:44 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Heh! Are you enjoying getting you ass whopped yet, Deirdre? :-)

I enjoy mentally jousting with you.

And now, to complete your initiation into The Dork Side Of The Farce...

"What bothers me is the unquestioning certainty (and possibly arrogance) behind a statement like 'It requires the education (conversion) of those who oppose those changes to the law.' "

I beg to differ, old girl. It was through a long process of questioning and deep thought that I arrived at my current position on the subject of values, morals and rights (let's abbreviate this to v/m/r, ok?).

You'll note I said "current". I don't see v/m/r as being writ in stone. I see them as things which evolve as a civilisation evolves. You might even say that it's the evolution of v/m/r which marks a civilisation's evolution.

And whilst v/m/r are subjective, they are also things which an individual firmly believes in, whether s/he has gone through a process of soul-searching and questioning of these things, or whether they just blindly accept the v/m/r dished up by whatever "group of persuasion" their unthinking little minds are in the grip of.

So yes, I would assume everyone has a sense of certainty about the v/m/r they subscribe to. Otherwise they would be confused and dithering (which may well be an interim stage one goes through when engaged in soul-searching and deep thinking.)

Secularists being too harsh on Christians? Isn't that what I've been saying? Didn't I also say I teach best that which I most need to learn? And, hey, just to balance things, don't you think Christians are being a bit too harsh on secularists?

Which brings us nicely back to what I've been saying: We all need to avoid the trap of extremist thinking and find our way back to moderation in how we play the games of politics and religion.

Jesus? I'm glad you brought him up. He was indeed a great activist. I believe he was also a lefty, an anti-capitalist, a socialist and a pacifist. In fact, I've been threatening to start the Church of Jesus for quite some time now. ;-)

"I would call your assessment of 'contra-progressive influences' quasi-statistics; the meaning of 'quasi' I'm using here being 'seemingly' and 'so-called'."

[chuckle] Touché, Deirdre.

And yet I'll use those figures as a quasi-yardstick (impish giggle) to make my point till more accurate statistics are made available by those who do polls and gather statistics which will then either underscore my point or demolish it.

Kent, I hope you slept well. ;-)

April 25, 2005 1:00 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Jousting, eh? Hmm...

Let me just get this old horse revved up, and away we go again. And can I say I'm a big fan of "confused and dithering"? We go back a long way.

You say "I would assume everyone has a sense of certainty about the v/m/r they subscribe to". But don't you also want to persuade them - if they disagree with your own certainties - that they're wrong? That's what I was trying to get at before (& I might be just repeating myself over and over now, sorry). You're saying that v/m/rs are subjective, but also assume your own particular position is better than the rest. (Or am I misreading that?) Even those views which to you seem ignorant and illogical might have been arrived at through a "long process of questioning and deep thought". I don't think that process, or individual depth of conviction, gives us any indication as to which v/m/rs are the best for us to adopt as law.

Are your plans for recruiting voters based on what you think is best for all, or just on getting your own views enshrined in law? The latter option sounds hard-hearted, but is probably the way things usually operate, so maybe it's just practical to focus on that.

As for the Church of Jesus... leave the "Church" bit out of it, and you'd get my vote.

April 25, 2005 2:15 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Ok, before we get into it, let's get back on topic. It all centres around this:

"Most of the white noise directed at Fundies, Catholics, the Pope, etc seems to have a common base which is highly political and seems to be rooted in the gay rights lobby and the pro-choice lobby.
What gets me is that each side seems to be carrying on as if they're somehow in touch with the Absolute Truth.
Each mob reckon their position is the only true and correct one and that the other side are pure evil.
Both sides want the government to pass laws enshrining THEIR values and "rights".
Both sides claim to be acting for the greater good as they see it.
Hence the questions."


So that's the context. Now, let's have a look at what you said.. Hmmm...

"But don't you also want to persuade them - if they disagree with your own certainties - that they're wrong?"

No. I was just trying to get them to see that it's not about absolutes, that it's about winning enough popular support for your v/m/r's to get them enshrined in law, that this requires working the democratic process, that by slagging off at people you're not likely to "convert" them to your v/m/r's, that many of the lefties have become screeching moral extremists who would make their Christian Fundamentalist "enemies" look like moderate pussycats and therefore they are undermining their own cause. So... That's it with regard to the context of this post, now if you want me to comment about my own v/m/r's generally, the answer to your question would be "yes".

"You're saying that v/m/rs are subjective, but also assume your own particular position is better than the rest.

Yes, better, or I wouldn't take that position. And by acknowledging that v/m/r's are subjective, this allows for debate, disagreement, and the democratic process (of law-making). Those who think v/m/r's are absolute would not welcome debate, they would invalidate those who disagree, and they would seek to disallow the democratic process of law-making.

"I don't think that process, or individual depth of conviction, gives us any indication as to which v/m/rs are the best for us to adopt as law."

Which is why this is generally resolved by one of two ways:

(1) Authoritarianly (as in a theocracy, dictatorship, etc.)

(2) Democratically where, if it is not tampered with, the majority view prevails and if you don't like that you need to seek to change the majority view through debate and/or education.

I opt for (2).

There have been quite a few secularist regimes which have opted for (1). This is why I try to caution against secularist fundamentalism.

"Are your plans for recruiting voters based on what you think is best for all, or just on getting your own views enshrined in law?"

I'm not entering politcs therefore I have no need to recruit voters, Deirdre. But it goes without saying that one thinks one's v/m/r's would be "best for all" and therfore one would want to see them enshrined in law.

Ok, so how would you feel about a Zen sect which recognises Jesus as its first patriarch? :-)

April 25, 2005 6:41 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Gerry, you've given me nothing to work with here, NOTHING!! I now agree with everything you're saying. Needless to say, it shits me, sir.

Glum, I am. Look: :(

As for Zen and the Art of Jesusmaking... hmm. Don't know. Do they do much fishing? I think he was pretty keen on that. And wine.

April 25, 2005 8:39 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Thanks for giving my brain a bit of a workout, Deirdre. You made me think. Not that we've changed the world or anything. I also see how much of a hypocrite I am. Many of my posts in this blog have been about slamming religions and here I am now saying "go easy on them". I'm really a joke.

Anyway, thanks for the debate. :-)

April 26, 2005 12:46 AM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Likewise, G - it was fun.

PS. Hypocrite or stirrer? Hmm... One thing's for sure, though: you're not funny enough to be a joke.
(ha ar ar...)

April 26, 2005 1:20 AM  

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