Murphy\’s Bye-Laws

Law #4: Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. –H.D. Thoreau

Liberal Descent or Open-Minded Liberals Have No Room for Dissent

Posted by PintofStout on June 22, 2007

Perhaps it was the end of a week vacation away from computer and news and all serious thought, or perhaps just the 36 previous hours of drinking, or it may have even been only the activity of the previous 12 hours, which included (in order) hangover, wedding, worsening hangover, drinking, reception, drinking, reception, drinking, drinking, drinking (the last few activities run together in my memory), but my bodily atrophy from the above-mentioned activities must have led to intellectual atrophy when I fell into a discussion I have some interest in. I know I wanted to discuss or debate the topic because it had been a week or more since I had exercised that part of my brain and I was thirsty for it.

The scene was a decidedly lefty bar on a somewhat prestigious college campus. It was a great place in an old carriage house behind a mansion, which now housed a café. The band was playing “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash as we approached the patio, which was crowded with youngish college-dwellers at picnic tables drinking pitchers of beer from plastic cups. The patio spilled out one or two sets of French doors which were wide open and led to some tables, the four-man band, and back out more open doors to a small patio on the other side of the carriage house. A___ and I walked through another single open door to the right and perpendicular to the French doors and found our friends at the bar pouring pitchers.

The bar was dark, the way a bar should be. The old man behind the bar, who I believe was the owner, looked like he had been on loan from the nearest convalescent home. Despite his age and apparent decrepitness he was able to keep up with the moderate demands of pouring drafts. Contrary to the larger crowd outside, the bar had half of the four or five small tables, most of the dozen bar stools, and every shadow occupied inside. On the wall were various anti-Bush posters, slogans, stickers, etc., pictures of music acts who’ve played there, and various playbills and posters from national music acts. I would later be told that bands line up to try and get in to play this place…for free. The bar pays no one to play music there, though a hat or jar or modestly-priced receptacle may be passed during the night. The music was excellent acoustic folk-rock by Blonde Boy Grunt and the Groans and the mood of the night, after having left the coolest wedding reception I have ever been or likely will ever be to for two dear friends, was pure joy and chemically-enhanced happiness, thanks to Great Lakes’ Holy Moses.

It was probably between sets that the Stranger emerged from the shadows and engaged in conversation with A___. I think I must have been talking to someone else in our party and not heard the beginning of their conversation, but when I turned around – straight into the conversation – I overheard that the discussion loosely centered on voting. About the time I started paying attention, I hear A___ comment that she doesn’t really vote anyway and that I’m a conscientious non-voter. The Stranger stepped into the light at the corner of the bar and opened his Holy Book of Bad Arguments and prepared to quote prodigiously. His outward appearance offered no obvious signs of generic political affiliation, but with his first quoted scripture I had, fairly or not, labeled him as a stereotypical liberal. My quickness to judgment was aided by the environment and, after some reflection, the Stranger’s appearance. The subtle clues in his appearance were simply his age, his casual dress, and his comfort in such a place all taken together. (To be fair, I hadn’t labeled him at all until after the conversation and then based on observations being recalled (or made up) up until now.) The unfairness of applying such shallow labels makes me blush now, but I’ll shamelessly continue until I reach my point.

Before the Stranger even had a chance to be exasperated he had unleashed the John 3:16 of Bad Arguments, the one even heretics know: “By not voting you’re not really changing anything.” My memory is fuzzy here, but I think he may have pantomimed pulling a lever before bowing his head and kissing his voter registration card after reciting this verse. Pointing out that voting changes nothing brought out the name calling where I became lazy or apathetic, another verse from the Holy Book (different chapter). Again the clarity is suspect, but I may recall being called a doodie-head as well. Apparently, that is what St. FDR would do and, according to some reports, actually called Truman a doodie-head pretty frequently while having his martini at breakfast.

I tried to keep from engaging in a playground back and forth, so I attempted to place myself outside of his particular religion and told him that I’m an anarchist and, like an ignostic praying for protection from a god, it would be rather silly for me to participate in a system I was trying to dismantle. At this the Stranger ventured outside of his Holy Book and started making his own interpretations (and we all know how this usually turns out). He just flat told me I wasn’t an anarchist; I don’t throw bombs (seriously, I remember vividly him saying this and, in fact, is why this post is even getting written). I was so taken aback by such an uninformed comment that I actually responded with a hearty nuh-ah!

OK, so that was a lie; I actually tried to tell him that there are several different denominations of anarchist. I even tried to make the moral argument of Voluntaryism, but his hands were over his ears as he shouted that he wasn’t listening. OK, that’s a lie, too. He actually recognized the impasse (translated: me winning) and graciously deflected the subject toward an infamous politician that only Youngstown could produce and love, Jim Traficant. I took a silent victory lap, turned back toward where the band would be coming back and let A___ take the baton to continue the relay. Before the band came back on I overheard her say, “Jim Traficant: the man with a tie as narrow as his views.” I chuckled and checked out of the discussion altogether.

Even without partial incapacitation I’m a pretty lousy oral debater, unless the pace of such occasions is more ambling than hurried. Inevitably, days, hours, even minutes after a point can be cogently made I find the right words to make it. Sometimes no other points come to me, but observations emerge that can clarify obscure events. In this instance I feel my point would have been better made by pointing out that for someone with an assumed liberal bent, a bent renowned for and associated with open-mindedness, would have such a narrow view of such a complex word as anarchy, with its many caveats and gray areas. The complexities of words and labels like anarchy got me thinking about the word liberal and its literal and associative definitions. Upon reflection, my surprise at him melted away. It melted away because I realized that the only thing a “liberal” such as himself seeks to liberate is the potential control over me that he or his party-of-righteousness desires to wield.

The desire to control, directly or through someone else, is evident in all political systems and participants. Erich Fromm, in the only real source I’ve read addressing this, labels the authoritarian personality as part of a desire to be in a group to ease anxiety over security. Oddly enough, the drive to control is the same as the drive to be controlled, as I elaborated on briefly a while ago, because there cannot be control without a group of at least two. It’s in that group that one can hide from the insecurities about their individualism and place in society; afterall, they know their place in the group.

There are varying degrees of the desire to control others. Political systems and those who insist upon participation – their own and yours – derive a false sense of security if able to track or control the actions of others. Contrarily, those who seek and practice true individualism are more of the “live and let live” personality and don’t seek to control – or even force liberty upon – others; they may preach liberty, but it isn’t forced upon anyone. The preaching may even be a necessary tool against the authoritarians in order to try and convert them and protect the liberty of the individualist. Likewise, the feeling of security or the need for the false security of control, either being wielded or wielded upon, in a group is also missing from an individualist personality; they are ok on their own with no guarantee of forced group belonging, though voluntary grouping occurs and is welcome.

In terms of control, then, the flavor of control is what (barely) distinguishes voters and political creatures. Minarchists and even some anarchists desire some control of the systems permitted to be practiced in a society. Perhaps that is why the only doctrine of legitimate individualists can be Voluntarism. Unfortunately for the individualists, the control they experience comes against their wishes from the outside, and nothing can stop those attempts at control. If the authoritarian personality could be dissuaded from exercising unwanted control, they’d be Voluntarists themselves.

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4 Responses to “Liberal Descent or Open-Minded Liberals Have No Room for Dissent”

  1. It’s fine if people want to exert control, but the problem is that everyone believes the State is necessary and just. It is control through the State that is the main issue.

  2. They see the State as necessary (just hardly enters into it for most) because that is the control mechanism they are indoctrinated by and conditioned to seek. First, they must be torn down as individuals so their sense of security on their own is shaken, then they naturally seek to be part of a group for perceived security. Butler Shaffer’s article yesterday (linked in my del.icio.us column above) is a fine illustration of that.

    I would also contend that the exertion of control, regardless of apparatus, is the issue. It would make little difference when someone else’s will was imposed upon you whether they were a State or a gang of thugs numbering one more than you could handle on your own. It just happens that the State is the most readily available option for so many.

    So the State tears people down and destroys their individualism like a desert decimating a human’s moisture only to be the easy oasis (or mirage) of relief. Who wouldn’t try to indulge?

  3. That is an excellent analogy. I will have to try to remember it.

  4. […] A__ had dozed off in the chair and D__ and S__ and I were left to converse while the alcohol and general exhaustion slowly pulled us under the surface of good judgment. I don’t know how or why the subject was breeched, but it was laid upon me to present the blueprint of the anarchist society that I envisioned. Let me now refer the readers to two previous posts that, when parts of each are blended, resemble the conversation of this waning Irish evening. The first is The “What-About[s]” in which the typical pattern such discussions ultimately take is laid out. I followed the advice I included in the post to a point, but was unsuccessful in swaying the other party to my view. This often happens in debate, where the fundamental premises can be clarified and still found to disagree. This disagreement lied in one party’s belief in the sanctity of individuality and the other party’s insistence on collectivization usually for the sake of expediency and utility, similar to the observations put forth in Liberal Descent or Open-Minded Liberals Have No Room For Dissent. […]

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