Sunday, September 30, 2007

Courage, energy, valour and calm perseverance

What kind of courage is mine that I always try to avoid the fight? What kind of energy is mine, that I am instinctively frightened of the new effort to be made and try, without being aware of it, to go to sleep passively, relying upon the results of previous efforts? In order to act, I have to be compelled and my mute contemplation is partly made of laziness.... All this is becoming more and more clearly apparent to me. All that I have done till now seems to me to be nothing. The poverty and limitations of the instrument I put at Thy service, Lord, are evident to me, and I laugh a little sorrowfully at the idea that at times I could have a good opinion of my being, its efforts and their results. This threshold of the true life that I always think I have reached is like a hope bestowed upon me but never a tangible realisation; it is the toy promised to a child, the reward held out for a moment before the weak.
When shall I become a truly strong being, made entirely of courage, energy, valour and calm perseverance; when shall I have forgotten my own person completely enough to be nothing but an instrument moulded solely by the forces it has to manifest? When will my consciousness of unity be no longer tinged with any inertia; when will my feeling of divine love be no longer mixed with any weakness?
O Lord, all thought seems dead within me, now that I have asked these questions. I search for my conscious mind and I do not find it; I search for my individuality and I cannot discover it anywhere; I search for my personal will and it is not there. I search for Thee, and Thou art silent.... Silence, silence....
Now I seem to hear Thy voice: “Never hast thou known how to die integrally. Always something in thee has wanted to know, to witness, to understand. Surrender completely, learn how to disappear, break the last barrier that separates thee from me; accomplish unreservedly thy act of surrender.” Alas, O Lord, for a long time have I wanted it, but I could not. Now wilt Thou give me the power to do so?
O Lord, my sweet eternal Master, break this resistance which fills me with anguish... deliver me from myself!

Page - 131 Document: Home > E-Library > Works Of The Mother > English > Prayers And Meditations Volume-01 > 7 April 1914-15 June 1914

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Community means nothing if it doesn’t mean local. Community is a matter of geography

I am not one. While I love to travel, and love music and food from around the world (well, some of it), and of course I’m engaged in world events, political and otherwise, I never want to consider myself one, nor a member of the “world community”. I’m an American citizen; and my community is my home town: Lyons, Illinois, and in some sense, Chicagoland. Of course, I don’t think anyone actually can be a citizen of the world (because the term is contradictory) or a card-carrying world community member (because everyone’s a member, hence no one), but inarguably the attitude behind this sort of thinking certainly exists, and to some extent is pervasive in the American political left. And I happen to think that everyone, no exceptions, who takes this kind of world citizen/community attitude is deeply confused on this issue.
Etymology, as always, sheds light. The world citizen has roots in “city”; thus citizen is “someone of a city”. So while we allow for several orders of ambiguity in contemporary language relative to its roots, we see even here that “world citizen” is nonsensical. “Someone of a city of the world” is perhaps the most charitable way to frame it; and, well, there is literally not one person who that does not apply to. A good general rule for me is to basically dismiss (or at least use very rarely) any term or phrase intended to be a category that, if used properly, applies in all cases, in fact, no matter the category.
Now, “American citizen” would also fail if we only followed etymology. But, here we take account of laws, and how they are written. “Citizen” in America carries a particular, significant, and unique legal meaning. When one is an American citizen (of course, I refer to legal citizens), one is enjoys rights and responsibilities that non-American citizens do not. Of course, the same goes for any country with laws. These determine who does and who does not count as a citizen. And, as a practical matter, this is where the term “citizen” ends. You are a citizen of a city or town, and you are a citizen of a country, and that’s it. In no other way larger than a particular city and country does “citizen” make any sense. There is no jurisdiction — no “world federation” or some such sci-fi drivel — to confer rights and responsibilities at the level of the world.
Something similar applies to “world community”. Giving a modicum of thought to what it means shows that it applies to everyone, no matter the category. So as a term of category, it means nothing. That’s one reason I loathe that phrase. Another is that, in fact, I don’t really think it holds any practical import. How, exactly, does anyone who lives in Chicago share “community” with someone living in Paris, Sydney, or for that matter, Peoria? This is why this phrase is entirely impractical, and useless — what is actually shared (that is a requirement of “community” one can’t ignore) by people who don’t share a timezone? And, for that matter, what actually unifies (in a day-to-day sense) a bloke in Peoria and a bloke in Chicago? Obviously, there might be a time and place for political bonds by representatives of Peoria and Chicago, in the Illinois capital city of Springfield, as the machinations of political policy unfold. But you see my point. Community means nothing if it doesn’t mean local. Community is a matter of geography. Community requires regular meat space, so to speak. It is not an abstract, but only a concrete, term.
Here’s the rub: both phrases — citizen of the world, and member of the world community — do much more harm than good. In fact, one would actually be hard-pressed to find any “good” either term is responsible for. The bad; let us count the ways: a homogenized society, a real loss of genuine, healthy patriotism (which binds a country), a loss of interest in the particular and funky and the local, diminished liberty and shared values, lack of actual neighborliness, increased “hunkered down-edness”, and … well, that’s plenty.
One might say that the good would be the increased sense of “humanity” or “awareness” that other people inhabit this world, and ought be respected. A more pluralistic world is a better world, the argument goes. And this more pluralistic world, to achieve that, requires diminished attention to national borders, national traditions, and anything that attempts to put obstacle between the peoples of this earth. But I don’t buy it; because to believe all that requires demonstration and proof that people historically have never travelled the world, explored it, been fascinated by the “exotic” and “foreign”. Obviously all that has happened, as far back as the historical record shows. Probably people always will, and that’s fine. Someone can be a world traveler and still deeply love and revere their native country, and every ideal that country stands for. Lacking love of country, one is a nomad. And if one thinks that is the ideal that all inhabitants of Earth ought shoot for, then you haven’t read history, and should, immediately. Here’s the short story: nomads don’t last long, and eventually seek to build what become (wait for it) … countries.
Until we find other life forms on some other planet in the universe, or other life forms find us, all that is intellectually coherent is to refer to myself, and every one else, as “inhabitants” of planet Earth. Saying anything else — world citizen, member of the world community, or something else — makes no sense, and probably signals some “post-nationalistic”, “trans-patriotistic, “cosmopolitanistic” political agenda ya-ya echoing communism that ultimately can be summed up by John Lennon’s song “Imagine” — a childish, utopia song that, as philosophy, exemplifies the worst form of muddle-headed thinking. Admittedly, it has a nice melody, though. I used to love that song. Then, as it went, I grew up. This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2007 at 1:29 pm and is filed under America, World, Citizen.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Because the left is guided by feelings and intentions, they are blind to the results of their actions

One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin
One thing you will notice about the left is that they are passionate. Because the left is guided by feelings and intentions, they are blind to the results of their actions. If their feelings are infinitely good, then in the unconscious mind, the results must also be infinitely good.
As I have written before, this is a religious passion in the absence of religion, so it has no traditional means to structure and channel it. Just as religion partakes of symmetrical logic in an adaptive way (i.e., the meek shall inherit the earth, the Golden Rule, humans are made in the image of the Creator, etc.), leftists do so in a terribly unhealthy way. That is, because of the intensity of their feelings, these feelings reach way down into the symmetrical realm, with no way to structure or make sense of them. This is why you always see so much highly charged, "unfiltered" unconscious material coming out of the left. To borrow a metaphor from someone, reading dailykos or huffington post is like taking a ride through a sewer in a glass bottom boat.
As Bomford writes, the dictates of symmetrical logic mean that deductions "do not follow the path of fact, but of feeling or emotion." And although this inevitably leads to "crazy" deductions based upon a chain of feelings, in a sense, it is much more "free" than asymmetrical, Aristotelian logic. For example, the latter "has a deterministic feel. That is to say, it never delivers a new truth, though it may deliver truths that had not been clear before. Everything is already 'there' in the premises."
Not so symmetrical logic, which has considerably more freedom to "deduce." It can easily arrive at patent falsehoods while still obeying its own logic. For example, the knuckleheads at Columbia University believe that having a genocidal sociopath speak on their campus is an instance of defending "freedom of speech." I would agree, but only in a psychotically cluelessidal way, rooted in symmetrical logic. By the standards of normal logic, it makes no sense whatsoever. It's crazy.
One of the most fascinating aspects of unconscious logic is the way it can shift attributes from agent to agent. For example, as mentioned above, it is the work of a moment for a leftist to turn a perpetrator into a victim and a victim into a perpetrator, based upon the emotional needs of the day...posted by Gagdad Bob at 9/24/2007 08:33:00 AM

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sri Aurobindo provided a "post-modern" commentary on society more than 80 years ago

084 rc. Should IY community practice Habermasian intersubjectivity? by ronjon on Sat 23 Jul 2005 02:21 PM PDT Permanent Link From: "Richard" Date: July 23, 2005 2:21:02 PM PDT To: Subject: well,..why (how) even talk about it'!!!
All intersubjectivity implies is how in a rationally ordered secular society men and women come to a common agreement and judgment. Therefore so in this context, in this day and age, I can find nothing to doubt about the utility of coming to such common agreements.
Now the reason that many of us maybe skeptical of these common agreements, including Sri Aurobindo especially in politics and secular democracies of our day and age, is that they do not really employ Habermas's methodology for achieving intersubjectivity. In short these "secular societies are most often "oligarchies" supported by the simulations and simulacra of mass media which have become effective tools of propaganda, and thus for the oligarchy to retain power. And it is true that Sri Aurobindo who in this context valued "social" democracies (at present Switzerland) over "individual" democracies ( at present USA) - goes on to say that such rational existence by common agreement will not hold long simply because the vitalistic demands of individuals and groups seeking their special interest would tear it apart. (Its amazing how he contextually provided a "post-modern" commentary on society more than 80 years ago)...
Why introduce Sri Aurobindo into a wider cultural context' In fact, there were two very good caveats which were mentioned at AUM concerning the potential for success in entering the public discourse, one made by Matthijs and one by Bindu. Matthijs spoke of the dangers of mistranslation of Sri Aurobindo's terminology which is endowed with a certain power of consciousness, and Bindu warned of the dangers of diluting Sri Aurobindo's message. (goodness knows we have all seen examples of this) (I also will add that although Matthijs has some caveats about the success of the project, that paradoxically I think he does manage to successfully find the appropriate language for engaging IY and science in his talks and writing)
Now these are very real dangers when one enters the intersubjective sphere of discourse. the problem of language looms especially large. And it was a hope of mine and I think of Debashish as well, that this forum may become an instrument of uncovering just such an appropriate language.
And here is the crux of the problem, and why I believe it is important to do so, Disregarding the fundamental issue that it may be in the best interest of the greater "planetary" culture to come into contact with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the other reason for engaging the IY in a wider context is quite simple; because if those who are attempting to sincerely practice the yoga do not find the appropriate language and engage in proper intersubjective public dialog, then others who are perhaps less sincere will do it anyway. And I would argue as Sri Aurobindo becomes even more relevant for the future evolution of mankind, he will be increasingly brought to public attention.
Simply stated if we don't do it, other will do it for us, and the results will be very mixed. People like Ken Wilber, Allan Combs, Andrew Cohen will in the absence of other more sincere voices become the popular spokespersons for interpreting Sri Aurobindo to the wider public. And although they may be well intentioned, I may add they will do so with the intent unconsciously or consciously of placing their own system on top of the heap... Keywords: SriAurobindo Posted to: Main Page

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pluralist Commonwealth

September 19th, 2007 (posted by Edward Berge) Open Integral
The title of the above is a book written by Gar Alperovitz, a University of Maryland political economist and president of the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives. This is an extension of an earlier thread here called “Emerging economic structures.” I think it’s a vital project to explore, promote and develop a political-economic expression of an evolving consciousness. The following is from a review of the above book in dollars & sense: The Magazine of Economic Justice
The schematic model outlined here is termed a “Pluralist Commonwealth”—”pluralist” to emphasize the priority given to democratic diversity and individual liberty; “commonwealth” to underscore the centrality of new public and quasi-public wealth-holding institutions.
At the heart of this model is a robust vision of community democracy as the necessary foundation for a renewal of democracy in general. The model prioritizes a variety of strategies to undergird local economies, thereby creating conditions favorable to the growth of local civil society associations and an increase in the power of local government to make meaningful decisions.
The model also projects the development over time of new ownership institutions, including locally anchored worker-owned and other community-benefiting firms, on the one hand, and various national wealth-holding bodies, on the other. These ultimately take the place of current elite and corporate ownership of the preponderance of large-scale capital.
At the national level, a major new institution—call it a “Public Trust”—is projected to oversee the investment of stock on behalf of the public as state and other pension boards commonly do today. The proceeds could flow to individuals, to states, to municipalities, to the federal treasury—or perhaps to fund such basic public services as education or medical care for the elderly.
A fundamental shift in the ownership of wealth over time slowly moves the nation toward greater equality: directly, for instance, through worker-owned enterprises, and also indirectly, through a flow of funds from the large-scale public investments. (Capital would likely be assembled both by the taxation of elite income and wealth and through new loan guarantee strategies to finance the broadened public ownership of new investments.) Over time, these flows of funds are allocated to finance a reduction in the work week so as to permit more free time, which in turn bolsters both individual liberty and democratic participation. In addition, ownership structures and strategies that stabilize the local economy strengthen the traditional entrepreneurial foundations of liberty while also enhancing individual job security.
Finally, the emerging model implicitly moves in the direction of, and ultimately projects, a radical long-term devolution of the national political system to some form of regional reorganization and decentralization. The region is the most logical locus for economic planning aimed at securing jobs in particular communities and for handling ecological, transportation, and other issues in a rational and democratic fashion. This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 at 7:31 am and is filed under Politics, Economy. 5 Responses to “America Beyond Capitalism: What a “Pluralist Commonwealth” Would Look Like”

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A high degree of centralization and planning is incompatible with meaningful federalism

The Volokh Conspiracy Ilya Somin, September 19, 2007 at 2:08am
How Federal is Star Trek's Federation?
While teaching my Federalism seminar recently, I made an analogy to Star Trek's United Federation of Planets. That got me thinking about the role of federalism in Star Trek. How much power does the Federation's central government have, and how much is left to the individual planets? Does the central government's Star Fleet have a monopoly of military force, or do Vulcan and other planets have their own local forces? Does the Federation subsidize planetary governments heavily, or are there hard budget constraints? Despite five Star Trek TV series and numerous movies, these questions haven't really been answered. Unfortunately, the academic literature on Federation law isn't much help either (see also this supposedly comprehensive volume on Star Trek and the law, which almost completely ignores federalism issues).
The evidence in the TV series' on these points is contradictory. On the one hand, the Federation seems to have a socialistic economy with a massive welfare state and no currency, which would require a high degree of centralization and planning incompatible with meaningful federalism. In the absence of a currency and price system, central planning seems to be the only way to coordinate a complex economy to even a limited degree. On the other, member planets apparently have considerable autonomy. For example, Vulcan seems to have very different laws from Earth. And Vulcan's economy seems to have a large market sector dominated by family-owned enterprises. In Deep Space Nine, the planet of Bajor applies for Federation membership. Although Bajor is at least a partial theocracy with a government heavily influenced by religious leaders, anti-Federation Bajorans never argue that Federation membership would lead to the end of Bajor's quasi-theocratic political system (as it surely would if the highly secular Federation denied political autonomy to member planets).
How to reconcile the evidence? I would suggest that it is only Earth that is socialistic, while the other member worlds have free market systems or mixed economies. The human-dominated Star Fleet military is the only Federation military force, and is tasked with collecting tribute from the nonhuman planets for redistribution to Earth. But as long as they pay their taxes, which subsidize Earth's welfare state and Star Fleet itself, they are largely left alone to govern their domestic affairs as they see fit. The Federation is essentially a big protection racket (in both senses of the word: providing external security, and also "protection" against its own depradations). There is even a good historical precedent. The 5th century BC Athenian-dominated Delian League also collected tribute from the other member states (which had no independent militaries) and used it to finance government spending on welfare benefits and the Athenian Navy, an analogue to Star Fleet. As long as the allies paid their tribute, Athens mostly left them alone and did not try to influence their domestic policies...Trackbacks

Monday, September 17, 2007

Local self governments in rural and urban India

Vinodvyasulu writes: transition to local government
While the 73rd and 74th amendments have created local self governments in rural and urban India, the process of transition from the earlier system where the State Government alone was responsible for the delivery of critical services to citizens to one where local elected bodies take on this responsibility has been slow. One reson has been the fact that line departments of states have not been restructred after the constitutional amendments. It was not realised that this was important. How does one work to bring about such a transformation, in which the personnel and funds now with line departments are devolved to LSGs? How does one redesign the line deparment as policy makers, as providers of resources, as setters of standards etc and not as implementors? How does one get the MLAs to adapt to this new reality? I will be happy to exchange ideas on this Posted Aug 10, 2007 1:07 am Reply Please sign in to post messages. It's fast and free to join.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Socialism is not an European idea, it is essentially Asiatic and especially Indian

Our correspondent accuses us of attempting to corrupt society with the intrusion of the European idea of Socialism. Socialism is not an European idea, it is essentially Asiatic and especially Indian. What is called Socialism in Europe is the old Asiatic attempt to effect a permanent solution of the economic problem of society which will give man leisure and peace to develop undisturbed his higher self. Without Socialism democracy would remain a tendency that never reached its fulfilment, a rule of the masses by a small aristocratic or monied class with the consent and votes of the masses, or a tyranny of the artisan classes over the rest. Socialistic democracy is the only true democracy, for without it we cannot get the equalised and harmonised distribution of functions, each part of the community existing for the good of all and not struggling for its own separate interests, which will give humanity as a whole the necessary conditions in which it can turn its best energies to its higher development.
To realise those conditions is also the aim of Hindu civilisation and the original intention of caste. The fulfilment of Hinduism is the fulfilment of the highest tendencies of human civilisation and it must include in its sweep the most vital impulses of modern life. It will include democracy and Socialism also, purifying them, raising them above the excessive stress on the economic adjustments which are the means, and teaching them to fix their eyes more constantly and clearly on the moral, intellectual and spiritual perfection of mankind which is the end. Bande Mataram, September 22, 1907 SITE OF SRI AUROBINDO & THE MOTHER AUROBINDO.RU Home Page Workings Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library Vol.1 SRI AUROBINDO BANDE MATARAM Early Political Writings. 1890 - May 1908

Through a transformation of spirit and not merely of machinery

In the ideal of Nationalism which India will set before the world, there will be an essential equality between man and man, between caste and caste, between class and class, all being as Mr. Tilak has pointed out different but equal and united parts of the Virat Purusha as realised in the nation. The insistent preaching of our religion and the work of the Indian Nationalist is to bring home to everyone of his countrymen this ideal of their country's religion and philosophy. We are intolerant of autocracy because it is the denial in politics of this essential equality, we object to the modern distortion of the caste system because it is the denial in society of the same essential equality.
While we insist on reorganising the nation into a democratic unity politically, we recognise that the same principle of reorganisation ought to and inevitably will assert itself socially; even if, as our opponents choose to imagine, we are desirous of confining its working to politics, our attempts will be fruitless, for the principle once realised in politics must inevitably assert itself in society. No monopoly, racial or hereditary, can form part of the Nationalist's scheme of the future, his dream of the day for the advent of which he is striving and struggling.
The caste system was once productive of good, and as a fact has been a necessary phase of human progress through which all the civilisations of the world have had to pass. The autocratic form of Government has similarly had its use in the development of the world's polity, for there was certainly a time when it was the only kind of political organisation that made the preservation of society possible...
We only point out that Indian Nationalism must by its inherent tendencies move towards the removal of unreasoning and arbitrary distinctions and inequalities. Ah! he will say, this is exactly what we Englishmen have been telling you all these years. You must get rid of your caste before you can have democracy. There is just a little flaw in this advice of the Anglo-Indian monitors, it puts the cart before the horse, and that is the reason why we have always refused to act upon it.
It does not require much expenditure of thought to find out that the only way to rid the human mind of abuses and superstitions is through a transformation of spirit and not merely of machinery. We must educate every Indian, man, woman and child, in the ideals of our religion and philosophy before we can rationally expect our society to reshape itself in the full and perfect spirit of the Vedantic gospel of equality... Bande Mataram, September 20, 1907 SITE OF SRI AUROBINDO & THE MOTHER AUROBINDO.RU Home Page Workings Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library Vol.1 SRI AUROBINDO BANDE MATARAM Early Political Writings. 1890 - May 1908

Posterity will judge between him and the petty tribunal which has treated his honourable scruples as a crime

The Magistrate thought perhaps that he was serving the interests of the present system and ensuring its stability by putting Bepin Pal in prison for six months, but what has he really done? Merely made people believe that the bureaucracy is so savage in its repression, so enamoured of power, that for its sake it will not even allow a man to possess a conscience, that an honest and reluctant protest on the part of a distinguished and honourable man against a misuse of the law will be punished by it with eager severity if it happens to conflict with its own interests or its repressive policy.
The country will not suffer by the incarceration of this great orator and writer, this spokesman and prophet of Nationalism, nor will Bepin Chandra himself suffer by it. He has risen ten times as high as he was before in the estimation of his countrymen: if there are any among them who disliked or distrusted him, they have been silenced, for good we hope, by his manly, straightforward and conscientious stand for the right as he understood it. He will come out of prison with his power and influence doubled, and Nationalism has already become the stronger for his self-immolation. Posterity will judge between him and the petty tribunal which has treated his honourable scruples as a crime. Bande Mataram, September 12, 1907 SITE OF SRI AUROBINDO & THE MOTHER AUROBINDO.RU Home Page Workings Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library Vol.1 SRI AUROBINDO BANDE MATARAM Early Political Writings. 1890 - May 1908

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lindsey is on to something in his talk of a "libertarian synthesis" combining self-expression and self-restraint

Freedom Fetishists The cultural contradictions of libertarianism. BY KAY S. HYMOWITZ OPINIONJOURNAL FEDERATION Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
The diverse origins of libertarianism and its recent accomplishments are the subjects, respectively, of two new books by capable advocates of the creed. "Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement" by Brian Doherty is (as its subtitle suggests) an appreciation of even the most gnarled branches of the ideological family tree. Brink Lindsey's "The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture" is, by contrast, a broad survey of the social and cultural changes sparked by the free market's triumph in postwar America. Perhaps because of their differences, however, the two books are neatly complementary. Together they make clear why libertarianism has yet to find a secure place in the American mainstream...
For Brink Lindsey, vice president for research at the Cato Institute, Americans today are the fortunate heirs of Mises and Hayek. Since World War II, he argues in "The Age of Abundance," the libertarian principles of competition, free trade, and deregulation have given the United States a level of prosperity that would have astounded our ancestors. For most of human history (and, even now, for much of the developing world), the lot of ordinary people has been scarcity, brutal work, and lives cut short by ill health. No more--thanks to the bounty of modern capitalism.
As Mr. Lindsey writes, Americans "live on the far side of a great fault line." On one (now distant) side, there were polio, diphtheria, outhouses, child labor, candlepower, life expectancy of under 50 years, sweatshops and the Great Depression. On our blessed, present-day side, there are miracle drugs, hip replacements, peaches from Chile in winter, Russian caviar in the summer, central air-conditioning, 500 TV channels, master bathrooms with whirlpools, and Dow 14000. Marx predicted that civilization would travel from the "realm of necessity" to the "realm of freedom" (the title of Mr. Lindsey's first chapter). About that much, he was right--but the engine has been bourgeois capitalism, not class struggle.
To critics who say that the market is a nasty rogue, supplying the fortunate with mansions and Cristal Brut while condemning the luckless to rags and scraps, Mr. Lindsey gives no ground. America's late-19th-century Gilded Age, frequently described by the economically naive as an example of "unbridled capitalism," was anything but that. The "robber barons," he writes, were little more than crony capitalists, insiders who manipulated government to squelch competition and keep themselves flush. By contrast, the more authentic free-market practices of the past several decades, Mr. Lindsey argues, have improved the material lives not just of millionaires but of deliverymen, waitresses and teachers.
As for today's poor, they are less likely to suffer from hunger than from obesity, and they are able to afford such luxuries as cable television, washers and dryers, microwaves and cell phones primarily because of deregulated global markets. Instead of laboring in dangerous mines or steel mills, less skilled workers are security guards or restaurant workers. Such jobs are not exactly easy street, but they beat getting black-lung disease or third-degree burns.
Mr. Lindsey goes well beyond most libertarians in his claims for the moral benefits of the creed. In his view, it is not simply freedom that improves morals; it is the prosperity that follows in freedom's wake. Wealth allows us to transcend "the cruel dilemma of lifeboat ethics," in which scarcity prevails. Moreover, wealth expands human tolerance and imagination. Drawing upon the psychologist Abraham Maslow's theory of the hierarchy of needs, Mr. Lindsey proposes that once people are confident of their survival and comfort, they feel free to pursue "postmaterialist values." They have the time, energy and ease of mind to try to perfect themselves.
As a practical matter, this means that Americans no longer just take jobs to support their families; they look for meaningful work. They do not just marry the girl next door; they search for their soulmates. They do not just sink quietly into flabby middle age; they jog, go on yoga retreats in Costa Rica, and stock their bedrooms with Viagra and vibrators. Playboy, the decline of the Victorian paterfamilias, permissive childrearing, feminism, the sexual revolution, the fitness boom, gay rights and even the civil-rights revolution--all, in Mr. Lindsey's view, are logical outcomes of the age of abundance. The expanding marketplace has unleashed individual desire from traditional constraints in favor of an "ethos of self-realization and personal fulfillment."
Is Mr. Lindsey, then, just one more defender of everything that falls under the rubric of "the '60s"? Not exactly. He has read his Max Weber and knows that middle-class norms are the indispensable cultural infrastructure of free-market economics; he appreciates the irony that without Protestant self-discipline and respectability, Americans would not be enjoying their Napa Chardonnay and Internet porn. He thus condemns "the wild overshooting of the Aquarian Left," which (in addition to despising capitalism) "trashed . . . legitimate authority and necessary restraints." Indeed, in his view, the rise of the religious right was a predictable, and to some extent even salutary, response to the excesses of the '60s.
Fortunately, by the 1990s, Mr. Lindsey contends, Americans had found a middle ground between the antinomianism of the Aquarian left and the pinched moralizing of the Moral Majority. As he wrote recently in an online discussion of his book:

It turned out that the American Dream retained its vitality even in an age of abundance, because Americans still wanted more--more comforts, more conveniences, more opportunities, and more challenges, all of which were best provided through continued economic development. The strength of this desire, and not the fading hold of old cultural forms, provided the basis for ongoing commitment to middle-class self-restraint--self-restraint as a means to exuberant self-expression.

Americans, in Lindsey's view, have reached a noble synthesis. They are tolerant, open-minded, inclusive--and enthusiastic practitioners of free enterprise. "The culture wars are over," he concludes, "and capitalism won."
At a time when many others in the big tent of American conservatism are in the dumps, such upbeat assessments are rare. Messrs. Doherty and Lindsey are positively Reaganesque in their optimism, and the movement of which they are a part has undoubtedly made a real contribution to the policy debate in recent years. Lindsey's Cato Institute, the premier think tank of libertarianism, continues to publish its valuable free-market reports and books. Libertarian bloggers have established a substantial readership, and some of them, like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and the law professors who write The Volokh Conspiracy, have become prominent (and notably sane) voices in the world of online political commentary.
More important perhaps, today's libertarian movement has been open to the sort of internal disagreements that are a sign of a healthy, maturing philosophy. Differences over the Iraq war are a striking example. Historically, libertarians have been programmatically antiwar, in part because of their opposition to coercion in all its forms but also because war increases the power and reach of the state. Today, by contrast, a number of libertarians, including the Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett in a recent Wall Street Journal article, make the case for more flexible thinking about dealing with the threat of Islamism, and some have been supporters of the Bush administration's efforts in Iraq.
Even on social and cultural questions, where libertarians have often tangled with tradition-minded conservatives, Mr. Lindsey is on to something in his talk of a "libertarian synthesis" combining self-expression and self-restraint. If the country was slouching toward Gomorrah for a while, it has at the very least straightened up a bit. Many of the indicators of social meltdown that received alarmed attention in the 1980s and early '90s--high crime rates, "children having children," teen drug use, rampant divorce--have improved lately.
But they have not improved nearly as much as one might wish--and it is difficult to separate the reasons for our abiding social disarray from the trends that Messrs. Doherty and Lindsey praise and for which libertarians bear a measure of responsibility. Despite Mr. Lindsey's protestations to the contrary, libertarianism has supported, always implicitly and often with an enthusiastic hurrah, the "Aquarian" excesses that he now decries. Many of the movement's devotees were deeply involved in the radicalism of the 1960s.
Nor should this come as a surprise. After all, the libertarian vision of personal morality--described by Mr. Doherty as "People ought to be free to do whatever the hell they want, mostly, as long as they aren't hurting anyone else"--is not far removed from "if it feels good, do it," the cri de coeur of the Aquarians. To be sure, part of the libertarian entanglement with the radicalism of the 1960s stemmed from the movement's opposition to both the Vietnam War and the draft, which Milton Friedman likened to slavery. But libertarians were also drawn to the left's revolutionary social posture.
Murray Rothbard, for example, became a fan of Che Guevara and the Black Panther leader H. Rap Brown. Karl Hess, a libertarian/anarchist said to have written Barry Goldwater's famous lines about "extremism in the defense of liberty," was an equal-opportunity revolutionary; during the 60s, he symbolized his move to the New Left by donning a Castro-style beard and jacket. And many young libertarians spent the decade moving back and forth between the right-wing Young Americans for Freedom and the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society.
The point in rehearsing this history is not to play gotcha; many good people did and thought things during those days that they would prefer not to remember (assuming, as the joke has it, they can remember). Rather, it is to suggest that when one's moral compass consists of nothing more than doing "whatever the hell you want" and avoiding physical harm to anyone else's person or property, it is very easy to get lost... Ms. Hymowitz is a contributing editor of City Journal. This article appears in the September issue of Commentary.

History and harsh

As I read Greg, he wants to replace extant explanations with his story. In my creative "rereading" of Greg, I want to add his two factors to extant explanations. Greg wants an explanation with a Malthusian or a Ricardian rigor and logic. I believe our explanations will be more like those of history than of economics. That means lots of variables, lots of messiness in the causal chains, unclear predictive power, and the accretion of knowledge bringing less rather than more simplicity.
Hmmm..."the Vatican must respect us"? Something tells me this isn't exactly something Martin Luther would be proud of. And, frankly, I would respect his direct and sometimes harsh approach far more than this sort of theologically-clueless "I deserve respect!" whining. With all due respect, grow up and be a, um, uh, Lutheran?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sri Aurobindo is re-infusing the resplendent and robust life-dynamism of the ancient Aryan and Greek founders and builders of society

Sri Aurobindo recommends the swift and assertive resplendent dynamism of life itself, it fulfilling itself in the richness and plenty of the world Science, Culture and Integral Yoga
A Rishi’s Integral Vision of Society by RY Deshpande on Mon 10 Sep 2007 06:30 AM PDT Permanent Link
The truth of capital importance is that, the dismissal of the spirit from the world is as lopsided as of the world from the spirit, a fact that was never recognised by mediaeval thought and religion. In a certain sense we may therefore say that Sri Aurobindo is actually re-infusing the resplendent and robust life-dynamism of the ancient Aryan and Greek founders and builders of society; he wants us to receive the gifts of the spirit in the wholesomeness of the individual and of the organised collectivity. That indeed is the entire thrust in the thesis of freedom and future.
When Sri Aurobindo speaks of sanātana dharma as a nationalist’s creed, he does not speak about it in a sectarian sense. Nor is the definition of nationalism restrictive in any constricted fashion; in fact, people often find patriotism and nationalism difficult to define. Even Tagore thought that the concept of a nation is not an Indian concept but of an alien origin, the one which we have borrowed from the Western thinking. But it must be well recognised that nationalism is not a mere political programme based on occidental ideologies.
“Nationalism is a religion that has come from God. Foundation of nationalism is the country and not race.” It is that which indeed sees “the Motherhood of God in the Country”. At the same time, we have to properly understand that Sri Aurobindo is not recommending a theocratic society or a theocratic form of governance of some particular brand. In fact such a system can never work in the freedom of the spirit and the soul. During the Second World War he saw the grave danger in our not comprehending and following the spirit of true nationalism. One example of it is the non-acceptance of Sir Stafford Cripps’s Proposals containing the Dominion Status for India. Sri Aurobindo not only found the offer deserving our positive consideration; he actually went out of his way and made a special appeal to the worthy and esteemed leaders of the time to unreservedly go for it. Unfortunately, however, the advice was rejected and the partition of the country became inevitable. We are too well aware of the horrendous consequences of that deplorable rejection which has easily set back, by several decades, the clock of real progress, of destiny itself.

People oftentimes confuse swadéśi with patriotism. So too they generally mix up sanātana dharma with religion. But all that is patently wrong and mistaken, even ill-conceived, is retrograde. Religion, a living religion and not a creedal religion, promotes the aspirations of human soul in a great way; but very rarely does it understand that spiritual life cannot be based on dogma or any kind of fetish, not on any diehard worldly conviction. On the contrary, it tends to become an instrument of traditionalist conformist development in the hands of violent and reactionary individuals or groups. It is a fact of history that there were far too many religious wars in the past, far too many. In practice and strangely so religion always posed more serious problems of societal management than did it help man in the growth of a more harmonious collective life.
State versus Religion, Reason in conflict with Religion, the Secular in opposition to the Esoteric, Science dismissing Faith,—these are well known issues. To these and to several other issues of a deeper import, Albuquerque finds answers in Sri Aurobindo. He quite emphatically drives home the point that, in a wider context, in the context of the greater destiny awaiting humanity, what Sri Aurobindo is recommending is the vision of a forward-looking and progressive spiritual society in all its gleaming dimensions…
The mountain-streams of true religion had their beginnings in spirituality; but soon in these worldly lands they got dried up, if not cut off from the ever-so-desirable and crystalline purity of the source. Now what remains behind are wildernesses of the suffocating spirit. Thus neither religion nor any abstruse metaphysical theorisation can satisfactorily explain, for instance, the appearance of evil and suffering in the beneficent and beautiful God’s original creation. Ethico-religious mind shudders to think of a frightening Godhead poised for universal destruction. But the Indian concept and intuition, the ancient Indian experience has the boldness to accept even such an aspect of God the Terrible,—as Arnold Toynbee very perceptively recognises, a fact he arrives at by studying his own discipline. Not only that; we should also remember that the office of the Spirit is a very complex and strange office and that it does allow terrible agencies to reign. Such are the possibilities and these have to be taken care of.

It is to these terrible agencies of the Spirit can readily fall prey the gullible and superficial approach of the ethico-religious mind. In it is the danger of Hitlerism, or in the modern parlance of Neo-Nazism, prospering to destroy the entire civilisation, of promoting the establishment of the anarchical Rule of the Asura himself. There is in the working of the universal process always such a mischief-laden possibility. Can we then say that Mahatma Gandhi’s “spiritual democracy” involving compassion, sacrifice and identification with the lowly and the lost would really save the world?
His was a lofty ideal no doubt but it was of a Western variety, based on Tolstoyan-Christian ethics. And the difficult thing which he was trying to do was to bring such pious and holy ennobling doctrines, full of mass-appeal, to the world of abominable politics where prevail unbridled ambitions of the worst kind. We may even go farther and admire the ingenuous Mahatma, that he was not particularly interested in any conventional form of government, that he was right in saying that “that Government is the best which governs the least.” This is a great statement indeed and it does make a vast improvement over the Western concept itself, the traditional idealistic theory of a decent and élitist political democracy which more often than not functionally tends to become exclusive with the concentration of power in fewer hands.
But, then, to tell a ravaged war-torn nation to stand up ethically above the ghastliest form of crime and horror, above fascism, advise it to fight against the advancing menace of the maniacal Führer with the weapon of non-violence, is to take a very simplistic view of life and of life’s million forces working in different occult ways. It is also not to recognise that our active co-operation with Good and Right does not become complete without the active and forceful opposition and rejection of Evil and Wrong. It looks as though God is too good to be a gentleman,—because freedom is his mantra. With it we have to discover the true governing law of life, the deep harmonising law:
In spirituality... we must seek for the directing light and the harmonising law, and in religion only in proportion as it identifies itself with this spirituality... It will give... freedom to philosophy and science... freedom even to deny the spirit... It will give the same freedom to man’s seeking for political and social perfection and to all his other powers and aspirations.
Sri Aurobindo’s ideal is vivid and daring, clear and far-reaching in seeing, that the possibilities of the mental being are not limited and that the truncated and analytical Cartesian I think, therefore I am is not applicable in the domain of the spirit when the spiritual experience tells us that thoughts themselves come from outside. Even in his early writings Sri Aurobindo held for us the emerging spiritualised society as an unenviable goal. In the very second volume of his philosophical monthly Arya, dated 15 August 1915, he wrote the following:
Unity for the human race by an inner oneness and not only by an external association of interests; the resurgence of man out of the merely animal and economic life or the merely intellectual and aesthetic into the glories of the spiritual existence; the pouring of the power of the spirit into the physical mould and mental instrument so that man may develop his manhood into that true super-manhood which shall exceed our present state as much as this exceeds the animal state from which science tells us that we have issued. These three are one; for man’s unity and man’s self-transcendence can come only by living in the Spirit.
What he had put forward as an ideal at that early date, it is that which he set for himself to accomplish in his thirty-five years of long and untiring spiritual sadhana, his yogic labour, a God’s labour indeed, a labour undertaken for the sake of the Divine in Man.

N.B.: Author's (RYD's) Foreword to Freedom and Future—an Imaginary Dialogue with Sri Aurobindo by Daniel Albuquerque, published in 1998 by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Keywords: IntegralYoga, India, History, Culture

Monday, September 10, 2007

We champion limited government, rule of law, free trade, and individual rights

The Centre for Civil Society is an independent, non-profit, research and educational organisation devoted to improving the quality of life for all citizens of India by reviving and reinvigorating civil society.
But we don't run primary schools, or health clinics, or garbage collection programs. We do it differently: we try to change people's ideas, opinions, mode of thinking by research, seminars, and publications. We champion limited government, rule of law, free trade, and individual rights. We are an ideas organisation, a think tank that develops ideas to better the world. We want to usher in an intellectual revolution that encourages people to look beyond the obvious, think beyond good intentions, and act beyond activism.
We believe in the individuality and dignity of all persons, and their right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. We trust their judgement when they cast their vote in a ballot box and when they spend their money in a marketplace. We are driven by the dream of a free society, where political, social, and economic freedom reigns. We are soldiers for a Second Freedom Movement.
What is Civil Society

Civil society is an evolving network of associations and institutions of family and community, of production and trade, and of piety and compassion. Individuals enter into these relationships as much by consent as by obligation but never under coercion. Civil society is premised on individual freedom and responsibility, and on limited and accountable government. It protects the individual from the intrusive state, and connects the individual to the larger social and economic order. Civil society is what keeps individualism from becoming atomistic and communitarianism from becoming collectivist. Political society, on the other hand, is distinguished by its legalised power of coercion. Its primary purpose should be to protect, and not to undermine, civil society by upholding individual rights and the rule of law.
The "principle of subsidiarity" demarcates the proper arenas for civil and political society, and for local, state, and central government within the political society. The principle suggests that the state should undertake those tasks that people cannot undertake for themselves through voluntary associations of civil society. The focus on civil society enables one to work from both directions; it provides a "mortar" program of building or rebuilding the institutions of civil society and a "hammer" program of readjusting the size and scope of the political society. Both programs are equally critical and must be pursued simultaneously. Weeds of the political society must be uprooted and seeds of a civil society must be sown.

Relationship Between Civil & Political Society

The "principle of subsidiarity" demarcates the proper arenas for civil and political society, and for local, state, and central government within the political society. The principle suggests that the state should undertake those tasks that people cannot undertake for themselves through voluntary associations of civil society. The functions thus assigned to the state must be entrusted first to local governments. The functions that local governments cannot perform should be given to state governments and only those that state governments are unable to undertake should be delegated to the central government.
The rampant growth of the political society—the institutions of government—since independence has hindered the flourishing of civil society in India. It is only by rethinking and reconfiguring the political society that India will be able to achieve economic prosperity, social peace and cohesion, and genuine political democracy. The focus on civil society enables one to work from both directions; it provides a ‘mortar’ program of building or rebuilding the institutions of civil society and a ‘hammer’ program of readjusting the size and scope of the political society. Both programs are equally critical and must be pursued simultaneously. Weeds of the political society must be uprooted and seeds of a civil society must be sown. Publications

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Piety, wonder and distance

What is an aristocracy? The scholar Philippe Mairet in his essay on Aristocracy and the Meaning of Class Rule published in England in 1931, points out that it is an elite which unlike a plutocracy, insists that its members should possess and exhibit excellence in the function of government itself. Aristocracy must stand for a higher type of man.
A higher type of man. That is what those who seek the aristocratic society seek to arrive at and this is truly Nietszchean as well, seeking the improvement of man, the transcendence of man, his overcoming of himself. For Dr Jacob and the thinkers he discusses here, democracy is responsible for a radical shift in the opposite downward direction, away from the transcendence of man and into the time of his great down going, his degeneration, his return to the primitive state from which he once emerged, his loss of consciousness of his own will, and his submission of the will to the technical forces of a materialist elite. Aristocracy is raised on the irreplaceable values, as Dr Jacob calls them, which universalist democracy is destroying: spiritual awareness, tradition and race. Precisely those three values are being constantly weakened in the West. Dr Jacob has provided a useful set of milestones giving some of the names of thinkers who hoped that Western society would take the anti-democratic path. Gone from our world are the qualities which made an aristocracy possible. They are: piety, wonder and distance. When and how will they regain, if ever, their lost authority among us?
Michael Walker [Return to
The notion of restoring an aristocracy is born of a belief in making the best of the world that we can in which the part played by aristocracy is a natural one, a time proven one, opposed to the uncivilized, undisciplined fury of radical rationalism as expressed in the French revolution. But when Dr. Jacob describes the ideas of Fichte, he points out that it was in the name of a universal idealistic rationalism that Fichte hoped that an aristocracy would be created, not restored, constituting the fulfilment of historical destiny.
Dr. Jacob informs us that for Fichte, the course of human history is a record of the various stages in the development of the self from unconsciousness to full self-consciousness. Like Herbert Spencer, Fichte even lays down stages of human development in which this evolution is said to be taking place.
1) the epoch in which man is governed by his instinctual life;
2) the epoch in which external authority is substituted for instinct as the ruling principle of social life;
3) the epoch in which men revolt from authority in a time of individualism;
4) the epoch in which men begin to understand the rules of reason and voluntarily submit to them;
5) the epoch in which reason becomes fully conscious in men as complete moral freedom.
This leads to the affirmation that the individual should forget him/her self as individual and place the one life in the service of the greater manifestation of life of which the individual life is only a part. The concept of aristocracy based on this paradigm of human history is radically different from the aristocratic philosophy of someone like Edmund Burke and this is a distinction which Dr. Jacob glosses over, apparently in an attempt to portray the purveyors of the aristocratic ideal here given as a harmonious whole. The book argues the case for the "superiority of aristocratic government" in a manner such as to suggest that "aristocratic government" is a category which requires neither analysis nor discussion as such, as though the belief in aristocracy is not itself subject to major and arguably quite incompatible conceptions of the meaning and sense of human social organization, of the state and of God.
There are parallels between Marx and Fichte, notably in the insistence by both that the state is created out of a conquest by one race/class of another. Underlying Fichte’s concept was a belief that each people should develop in its own way. The people are gathered in the nation and represented by the state and there are inferior and superior peoples/nations, according to Fichte. An important distinction between Hegel and Fichte which the writer does indeed point out is that Hegel’s morality was not a priori, that is to say Hegel believed that historical change created more perfect moral orders, whilst for Kant or Fichte, there is an absolute right which man is striving towards.
The lack of idealism in Hegel’s system has the fault, in Dr. Jacobs' view, that any system can be defended morally on the ground of its being created by historical necessity or as being a manifestation of the cycle of history. Similarly in orthodox Marxism, much can be and has been justified on the grounds of historical necessity which overrides a universal moral dictum. For Hegel, the state was not an instrument of domination or materialisation of power, it was the acme of human progress, the embodiment of freedom. Hegel advocated a restrictive system of voting rights, under which the franchise would only be granted to those gifted with learning, knowledge of public affairs and property.
There is an interesting chapter on Giuseppe Mazzini, who outside Italy is not well known as a thinker, but known mostly as a republican, revolutionary and Italian patriot. Mazzini was however an elitist political theorist, who divided history into two major periods, the period before and the period after the French Revolution. The French Revolution was the watershed of history, indicating the switch to a more rational understanding of the world. But the revolution was for Mazzini "inadequate" because it was individualistic and materialistic. (This reviewer would argue that the French Revolution was very anti-individualistic in the sense that all individuals had to subscribe to the general will of the nation in the people.) Mazzini did not believe that the end of human existence is material well-being. Liberty loses its importance once it is agreed that the purpose of social order is to create optimal circumstances for the improvement of material well-being.
Mazzini sought to stress social duties at the expense of rights and it can be argued (and Dr. Jacob does argue) that the philosopher Giovanni Gentile was a successor to these ideas. Gentile was the house philosopher of the Italian fascist state. He was an idealist, who believed that through the state, men would one day reach a perfect condition of social awareness of their fellow citizens in which a separation of private interest from public commonweal not longer existed. Dr. Jacob quotes Gentile that all human cruelty is a result of imperfect knowledge, exactly as it is in Plato and Plotinous." The basis of evil is matter, or nature, which is opposed to spirit and represents "not merely moral and absolute nullity: the impenetrable chaos of brute nature, mechanism, spiritual darkness, falsehood and evil, all the things that mankind is forever fighting against." this quotation highlights the point at which liberalism and fascism share a certain view of the world in opposition to conservatism.
It is a pity that Dr. Jacob does not examine this highly interesting issue. But it is useful that he has pointed to Gentile at all. Gentile seems to be largely forgotten and perhaps the (temporary?) oblivion in which he currently finds himself is unjustified... Nobilitas A study of European Aristocratic Philosophy from Ancient Greece to the Early Twentieth Century by Dr. Alexander Jacob University Press of America lanham, U.S.A. 114pp $18 50)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Smith's simultaneous advocation of free trade and his disdain for unchecked greed

The Theory of Moral Sentiments First Sentence
How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Read the first page
Morality and decency are perequisites to capitalism
Jul 24 2001 By "a_patriot_sage" (Mesa, AZ USA) - See all my reviews
To truly understand Adam Smith's economic masterpiece "The Wealth of Nations", one must understand its moral foundation. Without Smith's essential prequel, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments", the more famous "Wealth of Nations" can easily be misunderstood, twisted, or dismissed. Smith rightly lays the premise of his economics in a seedbed of moral philosophy -- the rights and wrongs, the whys and why-nots of human conduct. Smith's capitalism is far from a callous, insensitive, greed-motivated, love-of-profits-at-any-cost approach to the marketplace, when seen in the context of his "Moral Sentiments." [Note: This book is a "page for page reproduction" of a two volume edition published in 1817, which is reflected in my pagination references.]
Smith's first section deals with the "Propriety of Action". The very first chapter of the book is entitled "Of Sympathy". This is very telling of Smith's view of life, and his approach to how men should conduct their lives. "How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it." (p 1:1). Later Smith asserts that this "sympathy, however, cannot, in any sense, be regarded as a selfish principle." (p 2:178)
This propriety of conduct undergirds all social, political and economic activities, private and public. When Smith observes that "hatred and anger are the greatest poisons to the happiness of a good mind" (p 1:44) he is speaking not only of interpersonal relationships but of its moral extensions in the community and world. Smith treats the passions of men with clinical precision, identifying a gamut of passions like selfishness, ambition and the distinction of ranks, vanity, intimidation, drawing examples from history and various schools of philosophy. He extols such quiet virtues as politeness, modesty and plainness, probity and prudence, generosity and frankness -- certainly not the qualities of the sterotypical cartoon of a capitalist robber-baron. Indeed Smith is contemptuous of the double standards employed by cults of celebrity: "The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers...of wealth and greatness" paying lip-service to wisdom and virtue, yet Smith oserves, "there is scarce any man who does not respect more the rich and the great, than the poor and the humble. With most men the presumption and vanity of the former are much more admired, than the real and solid merit of the latter. It is scarce agreeable to good morals or even good language...that mere wealth and greatness, abstracted from merit and virtue, deserve our respect." (p 1:79)
Tragically, the wealthy celebrity foists a dangerous pattern upon the public, "even their vices and follies are fashionable;and the greater part of men are proud to imitate and resemble them in the very qualities which dishonour and degrade them." (pp 1:81-82) For Smith, wealth is not the criteria of real success. He laments the political-correctness of his day: "Vain men often give themselves airs...which in their hearts they do not approve of, and of which, perhaps, they are not really guilty. They desire to be praised for what they themselves do not think praiseworthy, and are ashamed of unfashionable virtues....There are hypocrites of wealth and greatness, as well as of religion and virtue; and a vain man is as apt to pretend to be what he is not, in the one way, as a cunning man is in the other." (p 1:82) Smith, the moralist also warns that taken too far such trendy fashions of political-correctness can wreck havoc on society: "In many governments the candidates for the highest stations are above the law; and, if they can attain the object of their ambition, they have no fear of being called to account for the means by which they acquired it. They often endeavor, therefore, not only by fraud and falsehood, the ordinary and vulgar arts of intrigue and cabal; but sometimes by the perpetration of the most enormous supplant and destroy those who oppose or stand in the way of their [supposed] greatness." (p 1:83)
With such salient observations Smith embarks in a survey of vices to avoid and passions to govern. He describes virtues to cultivate in order to master one's self as well as the power of wealth. These include courage, duty, benevolence, propriety, prudence and self-love [or as we would say, self-respect]. He develops a powerful doctrine of "moral duty" based upon "the rules of justice", "the rules of chastity", and "the rules of veracity" that decries cowardice, treachery, and falsity. The would-be-Capitalist or pretended-Capitalist who violates any of the rules of moral duty in the accumulation of wealth and power in or out of the marketplace is a misanthrope who may dangerously abuse the wealth and position he acquires. Smith describes a moral base rooted in sympathy not selfishness as the basis for an economic system which has been labeled Capitalism. The real Capitalist operates without purposely harming other men, beasts or nature; in this sense capitalism is more a stewardship than an insensitive, mechanistic mercantilism or a crass commercialism. This book is a vital component to any reading of "The Wealth of Nations". "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" is the life-blood or soul of "The Wealth of Nations". Without "Moral Sentiments" one is left with an empty, even soulless, economic theory that can be construed as greedy and grasping no matter how much wealth may be acquired.
A book that shouldn't be ignored
May 5 2002 By Kevin S. Currie (Richmond, VA) - See all my reviews
Those who are looking for an answer to the age old question, 'Why should we be moral?' will be, in a sense, disappointed by this book. Smith from the get-go, shifts the question. Instead he asks, 'Why ARE we moral?' Subtle difference? It's bigger than you may think.Smith takes our moral nature as a given. Humans are born with an innate capacity for sympathy. We identify others as like ourselves and unless otherwise provoked, do not want to hurt others. We also have an innate desire for esteem. We learn early that treating others kindly gains us admiration in the same way that we naturally admire kind people. This is the core of Smiths thesis and from here he puts examines these principles across an array of human behaviors. Why do we tell truths when we could tell undetected lies? Why would we do kindly to others even if esteem of peers is not gauranteed? Why would some die for their family members or their country?
Probably the trait Smith admires most is prudence; the art of knowing what is and is not appropriate action both in our subjective judgement and that of an imagined 'impartial spectator.' The prudent person is able and willing to put herself in the context of other people. 'Although an action seems justified to me, would others see it that way?' 'Would satisfying small desire X of mine be an obstacle to other's fulfillment of larger desires?' It goes on from there. Smith puts these ideas well to the test going through scenario after scenario. Because of this, I would say this book should be shelved in psychology, not philosophy as it simply tries to give an account of the way we think. Thus the philosopher looking for a forcefully stated, internally consistent and completely reasoned 'moral system' will not find it in these pages. Smith takes us only so far but when asked 'Why do we have these inclinations to be moral and gain esteem,' he simply answers that it is in our nature. This may be the best answer we can hope for, but it will leave some philosophers unsatisfied.
Regarding the length, IT IS TOO LONG!! With a good editor, 200 pages could've easily been cut. I would even say that the last section, examining flaws in existing moral systems is not necessary and can be skipped. Aside from length, it is a joyful read, though. Smith is an excellent writer and certainly better than Hume, Locke and others of the day. As a conclusion, those looking to bridge the chasm in the 'Wealth of Nations' between Smiths simultaneous advocation of free trade and his disdain for unchecked greed in all it's forms...look no further than "Theory of Moral Sentiments."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Aster Patel draws out some of the implications of this work ahead of us

Understanding Thoughts of Sri Aurobindo by Debashish on Fri 07 Sep 2007 12:44 AM PDT Permanent Link
The book concludes with an article “Sri Aurobindo – A Century in Perspective” by Aster Patel. Sri Aurobindo became the first principal of National College, Calcutta, now known as the Jadavpur College, about a hundred years ago. In the century which has elapsed since then, humankind has experienced its most intense period of collective growth and crisis throughout the world. Human consciousness is poised on a brink where it is faced either with the specter of oblivion, the horror of the abyss or a leap into another modality of being, the integral consciousness of the overman. Mediating this critical choice is the life and work of Sri Aurobindo, throwing a powerful beacon ahead of us into the century to come.
Aster Patel draws out some of the implications of this work ahead of us in following the light of Sri Aurobindo in the coming century. Can we equal in consciousness the integral vision of reality which contemporary Science is indicating to our minds and our technological practice? Are we even ready to engage with the fullness of the term “integral”? How can we draw together our past and our present, our fractured personalities, our fragmented disciplines, our physical matter and our mental, vital and spiritual substance into the Oneness of integral being which Sri Aurobindo lived and wrote about? His integral consciousness is still fully alive in his words and each word is an invitation and a fire to kindle in us his life and reality. This is the ever-living fire of Heraclitus, the living legacy of the “thoughts” of Sri Aurobindo.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Only a handful of India's leading citizens, at home or abroad, appears to have taken his words seriously

India's Resurgence and the Legacy of Sri Aurobindo
On August 15th India celebrates sixty years of independence from British rule. The 135th birthday of Sri Aurobindo, who was one of the chief architects of that independence, is also celebrated on India's National Day by thousands of people around the world. Today India, with a booming economy and on the verge of becoming a 'super power' is a very different place from the India of 1947, when at the stroke of midnight, Independence was declared. Yet, what has come to be known as the 'resurgence' of India, was foreseen long before by Sri Aurobindo, even as far back as the first decades of the twentieth century. He spoke not only of a free and prosperous India, he spoke of a nation with a mission to lead humanity into a new age, even into a new stage of human evolutionary development.
Up to the present time, only a handful of India's leading citizens, at home or abroad, appears to have taken his words seriously for what they really were - a mission statement and a blueprint for future action, containing not only the outline of measures to be taken, but also a risk assessment of problems that would arise along the way. Honoured by political leaders for his contribution to the struggle for India's freedom, and by the spiritually minded as a great soul and master of yoga, Sri Aurobindo may one day convince India that her true destiny is to inaugurate a spiritual rebirth for the whole of mankind. This part of his message should not be set aside as merely the visionary dream of a poet.
In some traditions the sixtieth year of a cycle is held to be significant, heralding change and new beginnings. Whether or not this belief is justified, a sixtieth anniversary is a good time to pause and reflect upon what Sri Aurobindo said about India's destiny, and its implication for the world. His broadcast message of August 1947 is a good place to start.
'August 15th 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity. August 15th is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of it's full fruition. Indeed On this day I can watch almost all the world movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, although then they looked like impracticable dreams, arriving at fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements free India may well play a large part and take a leading position….'
The message continues with an outline of the five goals to which he had directed a lifetime of effort: first of all a free and united India; then the resurgence and regeneration of the peoples of Asia; thirdly, a world-union 'forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind'; after that the spiritual gift of India to the world; and finally 'a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness'. This final goal, Sri Aurobindo predicted, would have formidable difficulties to overcome, but the initiative, and even the central movement, could come from India.
More clearly than anyone, the Mother had understood the importance of Sri Aurobindo's message. In reply to a question, she had answered: 'His Independence Day Message issued on August 15th, 1947 needs to be read and re-read and its significance explained to millions of his compatriots. India needs the conviction and faith of Sri Aurobindo.'
Sixty years later we look back and can see why Sri Aurobindo had laid so much emphasis on the problem of human unity. He regarded the partition of India, with its consequence of communal strife, as a disaster to be remedied as soon as possible. 'India is free,' he said 'but she has not achieved unity.' India's destined role, to lead the world first towards greater unity and then in its evolution towards a higher consciousness, would be seriously hampered and delayed if the first step - internal unity - could not be achieved.
Human unity then is fundamental, and needs to be recognised as such. The obstacles are indeed formidable. The great mantra of the French revolution - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity - has never yet been realised in any society, because Fraternity (which is nothing other than human unity in practice) has always been sacrificed on the twin altars of individual liberty and forcibly imposed equality. This is the tragic drama that continues to be played out on the world stage. It will come to an end only when the consciousness of the human race can widen itself sufficiently to embrace the true Liberty and the true Equality as they are in themselves - 'eternal aspects of the Spirit'. Returning to this question in The Human Cycle Sri Aurobindo wrote:
'Yet is brotherhood the real key to the triple gospel of the idea of humanity. The union of liberty and equality can only be achieved by the power of human brotherhood and it cannot be founded on anything else. But brotherhood exists only in the soul and by the soul: it can exist by nothing else. For this brotherhood is not a matter either of physical kinship or of vital association or of intellectual agreement. When the soul claims freedom, it is the freedom of its self-development, the self-development of the Divine in man and in all his being. When it claims equality, what it is claiming is that freedom equally for all and the recognition of the same soul, the same godhead, in all human beings. When it strives for brotherhood, it is founding that equal freedom of self -development on a common aim, a common life, a unity of mind and feeling founded upon the recognition of this inner spiritual unity. These three things are in fact the nature of the soul; for Freedom, Equality, Unity are the eternal aspects of the Spirit. It is the practical recognition of this truth, it is the awakening of the soul in man and the attempt to get him to live from his soul, and not from his ego, which is the inner meaning of religion, and it is that to which the religion of humanity must also arrive before it can fulfil itself in the life of the race. ' (Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, Chap 34 )
As long as we live and act from the level of the rational mind, we live and act from the individual ego or the collective ego. This is not enough, however enlightened and well-intentioned we may feel ourselves to be, to bring about the radical change envisioned by Sri Aurobindo:
'A spiritualised society would live like its spiritual individuals, not in the ego, but in the spirit, not as the collective ego, but as the collective soul. This freedom from the egoistic standpoint would be its first and most prominent characteristic. But the elimination of the ego would not be brought about, as it is now proposed to bring it about, by persuading or forcing the individual to immolate his personal will and aspirations and his precious and hard won individuality to the collective will, aims and egoism of the society, driving him like a victim of ancient sacrifice to slay his soul on the altar of that huge and shapeless idol. For that would mean the sacrifice of the smaller to the larger egoism, larger only in bulk, not necessarily greater in quality nor wider or nobler, since a collective egoism, result of the united egoisms of all, is as little a god to be worshipped, as flawed and often an uglier and more barbarous fetish than the egoism of the individual.'
The challenge to India was to become precisely such a 'spiritualised society', to fulfil her destiny to lead the world. India alone could do this, for she had preserved for long ages the Truth of existence that has been called sanatana dharma, deeply embedded in the national soul. The spiritualized society envisioned by Sri Aurobindo does not exist at present anywhere in the world, not even in Auroville - the one place, founded by the Mother for the material realisation of Sri Aurobindo's vision, that is at least conscious of the goal of an actual human unity and consciously strives to achieve it. Auroville is a precious seed of the future planted on Indian soil and if it is to grow and flourish there, a symbiotic relationship with the nation as a whole is crucial. Auroville looks to India to nurture and protect this seed that is the most concrete expression of Sri Aurobindo's legacy. In turn the Aurovilian population, representative of the nations of the world, must absorb into itself the very qualities that distinguish the Indian national soul: the sense of an all-pervading Infinite; the synthetic tendency to embrace and harmonise opposing forces; the openness to exploration and experiment in every field of human endeavour.
'A spiritual religion is the only hope of the future. By this is not meant what is ordinarily called a universal religion, a system, a thing of creed and intellectual belief and dogma and outward rite. Mankind has tried unity by that means; it has failed and deserved to fail, because there can be no universal religious system, one in mental creed and vital form. The inner spirit is indeed one, but more than any other the spiritual life insists on freedom and variation in its self-expression and means of development. A religion of humanity means the growing realisation that there is a secret Spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are all one, that humanity is its highest present vehicle on earth, that the human race and the human being are the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here. It implies a growing attempt to live out this knowledge….' (Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity)
Will India make the attempt? Or will she, heedless of Sri Aurobindo's word of warning, walk in the footsteps of the capitalist economies of the West and fall into a trap - 'an inhuman social inequality and economic exploitation, an incessant class war and a monstrous and opulently sordid reign of wealth and productive machinery'? (Sri Aurobindo, War and Self Determination)