Friday, July 08, 2005

Scattered and Confused Musings on Feeling, Thinking, Action: Why Democracy is Good for Religion

I've disabled comments on this post because I don't want to fall into the quicksand of political blogging: it would be bad for my health. You're welcome to send me e-mail comments, though. The Lioness is better suited for this battle, and that's why she's a Lioness and I'm not.

Some people ignore one or two of these three human capabilities. Others try to always line them up, and think they are admirable for being authentic. But feelings should not dictate action without thinking, and all thinking depends on knowledge.

Sometimes thinking and knowledge are flawed. So much for militant Islam. And Christian Crusaders. And Meir Kahane's followers. And Nazis. And adolescent acting-out. And two-year-olds. And paranoid schizophrenia. In fact, a problem in any large organized group is keeping knowledge current. The CIA, the KGB, MI5, Scotland Yard, the FBI and Interpol spend their time and their taxpayers' money updating their knowledge. Sometimes they also update their thinking. One hopes.

I think killing in self-defense is justifiable. What constitutes self-defense? It's not a feeling of fear, it's physically threatening actions by others. Is the state a "self?" Well in fact, that is the purpose of the state. To take over responsibility for the physical self-defense of its citizens in as many situations as possible. That's why you're supposed to call the police if you are physically threatened and have time. That's why "honor killing" is obnoxious to modernists. It's taking the law into your own lands, instead of observing or changing the law. If China declares war on Saudi Arabia, that constitutes a physical threat to Saudi Arabia. Is a religious denomination a "self?" Kind of. Can Protestantism present a physical threat to Islam? Certainly it can, in the context of a state or on an individual basis. But Islam itself is not a state. And neither is Al-Qaeda. Is Islam a "self?" Is Iraq? Is Judaism a "self?" Israel is, but it's not theocracy. So anti-semitism, and anti-islamism undermine democracy, which must teach tolerance and pluralism as state principles. So it is in Protestant England or in Jewish Israel or in Catholic Italy. (For that matter, is Microsoft a "self?" Only for contracts and liability.)

What about corruption in the workplace? It's a slippery slope. Is awarding a contract to a friend a corrupt act? Wrong question. The right question is: under what circumstances is it corrupt to award a contract to a friend? Because when you are a very small business owner, awarding a contract to a friend may be cost-effective. You don't have a Purchasing Department and you know your friend does good work. But as you become the head of a government agency or a large corporation, you have to change your procedures. You have to delegate Purchasing and other decisions. You have to define merit. If you don't, corruption grows. People don't naturally change their procedures, especially when they've been successful. That's why democracies require eternal vigilance. So do banks. So does everyone. And that's why families can't teach everything one needs to know in modern society, except how to learn and change.

Checks and balances keep civilization alive in the face of man-made and natural disasters. I just wish the Palestinians would change their educational materials. [And the Israelis would reduce their maximum public school class size from 40 to 25!]