Postmodern classic?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

On Coercion, or The Problem of Politics

The reason why human rights don't work is pretty much the same as every other utopian ideology; because everyone won't agree to get on board and do it. Upon reaching this obstacle, the rationalizations start to come in. If only we could get to a 'tipping point' to which everyone would be compelled to follow such-and-such way... but reality hasn't appeared to work like that. In the 20th century we look to what the communists did, forcing everyone to be 'brotherly' and share their efforts towards the achievement of their socialist utopia. Solidarity at the point of a gun and freedom by the threat of prison, of course! But that's the price of equality and fraternity. What do the human rights groups advocate to achieve their ideals of world peace?

This is the world of political science and how people work in groups. Every political organization seems to be focused on that problem, the problem of coercion. One must have power to coerce others to achieve their ends- the power of wealth, violence, temptation and persuasion. Yet in the context of history one commonly sees the clear result, where the process of coercion dramatically undermines the end result of 'cooperation'. How can you balance the two contradictory needs?

But don't let my sweeping generalizations persuade you. History is a fickle mistress, misread in many ways, here in particular to include my own ideological viewpoints. I have a belief in the idea of a free markets and their political component of representative democratic government that approaches an ideological faith. Perhaps, imperfect as these can be in their fluctuations, they might be a better platform for the achievement of practical living standards as well as lofty human goals. Especially in the midst of the constant and ongoing change we live in daily. While the ambitious yet absolutist ideologue, firm in their belief, would force others to conform to his ideal, I would prefer the progress of a respectful dialogue and a well-considered compromise. But if this dialogue is disturbed, these ill-defined concepts must be defended from those who would take what is not theirs. A major problem seems to be the definition of where does defending our traditions and ideals stop, and forcing someone to adopt foreign customs start? Shouldn't it be that, if another country does not share our beliefs, they should not be forced upon them since they don't choose it?

If people want socialism, communism, Islamism, etc.... they should have it. There would be nasty lessons to learn for them, yet they would be determining their own path- without the influence of nasty, globalizing, unfairly wealthy and powerful foreigners. But this sort of moral simplicity by compartmentation is impossible on 2 fundamental counts, 1) non-democratic states don't operate on the basis of their people, therefore it is unlikely that the popular will is knowable or definable, 2) in the global arena, the action of one nation cannot be restricted to themselves. Their neighbors are inevitably affected somehow, for better or for worse. There are always global reverberations.

To deal with the problems we stumble across in determining our own path, it seems we have to return to the nasty world of politics by coercion. If you want something done, you must exercise power to do so. Yet, among others, these human rights folks seem to reject this, with their claims likening the U.S. to the world largest terrorist organization. I would warn any who proclaim to be advocates for human rights must watch that they don't fall into these moral pitfalls- the Scylla and Charybdis of politics, if I may- the zeal of fanaticism or the impotence of passivity. Not that they'd listen to me, or if so, probably to the same degree I would consider their opinion (not much at all).

So I conclude this treatise with the question, what would you do? Can you stay morally pure and get things done? Maybe, with some flexibility.

(more pretentious pseudo-intellectual banter to follow)


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