Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Freedom or Communitarianism: Your Choice"

Nobody can tell me what to do


"Freedom or Communitarianism: Your Choice." That is the title of a billboard we passed this weekend as our family ventured from the blue part of our blue state into the red zone. The "O" in communitarianism was the Obama logo, just in case we weren't clear what the target of the billboard actually was.

But really, I still wasn't clear. It was anti-Obama, got it; but "communitarianism?" Did they not know how to spell "communism?" Or was this some new meme in the ever-expanding culture wars?

I looked it up:

From Wikipedia

From Britannica.com


The Republic of Just-Me-istan
I found a few other definitions, too, and slogged my way through an encyclopedia of philosophy entry on the subject (dear philosophers: hire an editor). I also came across this article, which might have been written by one of the billboard creators. So, now that we have a grasp on what the billboard people are talking about, let's reiterate the message:

"You are either a member of society, or you are free."

That's what it seems to come down to, doesn't it? Freedom is antithetical not just to tyranny, but to community. If you are even part of a family, you are not free. Families, like towns, like churches, like countries, like any group of people, impose limits on individual freedom. Each member of society, no matter what scale "society" we're talking about, has to give way to some degree to other members of society. We have rules. We have laws. We have regulations. While we may quibble over the specifics, humans have agreed to the concept of governance and rules since humans have shared space with other humans. In fact, even non-human pack animals have governance and rules: you just try subverting the rules in a chimp clan and see what happens.

There has always been a push-pull between individual rights and community rules. Most of us accept this and work to keep a balance. But the billboard represents something different: it pits the two concepts starkly against each other. This vs. that. What we have here is a cry to abandon the compromise and abolish civilization altogether.

Anarchy used to be something a few feral young men longed for; now it's podgy middle-aged men in suits, men who erect billboards and run for office. I use the term "men" because they are overwhelmingly male. Many of them identify as libertarians. They are profoundly anti-social. They are an increasing problem. There would be no reason to take them seriously if they were still hanging out on the margins, or had actually decamped to their wee cabins in the middle of nowhere, but we're starting to see their talking points adopted by politicians. These men, elected to govern, talk as if the opposite is their goal. They preach that anarchy is what the founding fathers actually intended. Any attempt to establish community standards is seen as tyranny. Rules, any rules at all, are bad. It's like half the country is turning into the churlish teenager who refuses to empty the dishwasher because you're not the boss of me, Mom.

We share a planet with 7 billion people. We cannot all remove ourselves to highly-armed fortresses in the mountains, and most of us don't want to. We are elbow-to-elbow with other human beings and will only be more so in the decades and centuries to come. We have to get along. This anarchist Rambo fantasizing needs to go.

Grow up, boys, and join the world.

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. These (mostly) lads come across as spoilt and unwilling to share, while at the same time being quite happy to take what they consider they are entitled to.

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    1. "Spoilt and unwilling to share" is an excellent summary.

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  2. Can you imagine how scary it would be if everyone did live in their own hilltop fortress? Society isn't perfect, neither is our government, but we need to get along, we need the structure to keep us all safe.

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    1. Too true, Sara. And I can imagine how scary that would be: I know a guy who is building a literal fortress in the mountains, complete with sniper tower. He told me, with complete seriousness, that when the government collapses (any day now) he will retreat to said fortress with his family and shoot anyone who comes into his sights. He said this at a party, lots of people heard him, and everyone acted like it was a perfectly normal thing to do/say. I wonder how common this sort of thing is becoming. It IS scary. Like any millenarian, he is not interested in working to prevent civilization's collapse, he welcomes it. The good stuff (in his case, anarchy) comes after the collapse.

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  3. Well said. It would seem that "some people" are so hung up in the ME-ME-ME--first mindset, they feel no sense of responsibility to the world and people around them. As if they think "community" is a dirty word.

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    1. Couldn't have said it better myself, Susan.

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  4. Excellent article, Stephanie. Excellent comments as well. Please keep up the great thinking and sharing you do. I hope this era of selfishness comes to an end soon. The world and it's people (and critters) need more community, not less. Thank you for reminding us of that!

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    1. Thanks, Hells. Yours is pretty fantastic, too.

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  6. Very, very nice analysis. Not that a reasonable argument, even this well stated, will change the mind of those married to selfish motivations.

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    1. I'm sure you're right. It might remind others why they are worth pushing back against, though. Too easy for the reasonable people to fall asleep at the wheel while the crazies take more and more control.

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