I just finish reading an interesting post by James Bowden (see here). Bowden explains why he believes the attempt to remove Jeff Frederick from the chairmanship of the Republican Party of Virginia is a “cooked crisis.” He sternly attacks the elected leaders of the of the Republican Party for their unwillingness to adhere to well established principles. Because of the truth it contains, Bowden’s post is a disappointing read. The state of the Republican Party in Virginia is not something which should fill us with pride.
There limits to ethical compromise. There is a point at which moderation fails to be moderate. If life teaches anything, then it is that everything comes at a cost. We can only optimize our choices. We cannot make a choice that gives us everything we want. To make the best choices, we must each figure out what is important and relevant to the ultimate purpose of our lives. To make our lives meaningful, we must honor the principles to which we dedicate our lives. So it is that on some matters we cannot compromise. Unfortunately, the people we have elected to public office have demonstrated the capacity to readily compromise the principles upon which our nation was founded. Moreover, they will do so even if it means violating their oath of office.
It is said “politics is the art of compromise.” Yet if it costs you your soul, what is a compromise worth? Only the cynic would say it does not matter.
Word History: A cynic may be pardoned for thinking that this is a dog’s life. The Greek word kunikos, from which cynic comes, was originally an adjective meaning “doglike,” from kuōn, “dog.” The word was probably applied to the Cynic philosophers because of the nickname kuōn given to Diogenes of Sinope, the prototypical Cynic. He is reported to have been seen barking in public, urinating on the leg of a table, and masturbating on the street. The first use of the word recorded in English, in a work published from 1547 to 1564, is in the plural for members of this philosophical sect. In 1596 we find the first instance of cynic meaning “faultfinder,” a sense that was to develop into our modern sense. The meaning “faultfinder” came naturally from the behavior of countless Cynics who in their pursuit of virtue pointed out the flaws in others. Such faultfinding could lead quite naturally to the belief associated with cynics of today that selfishness determines human behavior.
If you believe only selfishness motivates human actions and that only what materially benefits you is important, then you are the modern cynic. Sadly, you are too apt to win elections. Too many of us today vote for our pocketbook. When we do so, we are all too likely to vote for a candidate willing to bend principle to win an election.
In fairness to Diogenes, I should mention that the original cynics thought the dog more noble than a man.
There are four reasons why the Cynics are so named. First because of the indifference of their way of life, for they make a cult of indifference and, like dogs, eat and make love in public, go barefoot, and sleep in tubs and at crossroads. The second reason is that the dog is a shameless animal, and they make a cult of shamelessness, not as being beneath modesty, but as superior to it. The third reason is that the dog is a good guard, and they guard the tenets of their philosophy. The fourth reason is that the dog is a discriminating animal which can distinguish between its friends and enemies. So do they recognize as friends those who are suited to philosophy, and receive them kindly, while those unfitted they drive away, like dogs, by barking at them. (from here)
There is a place for fault-finding. We must look for the faults in the choices we seek. Those that depart from our principles we must reject. When our leaders offer us choices that depart from the principles we honor, we must bark at them. We must choose leaders most suited to our philosophy.
Note: Here I promised to do a series of posts based upon Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History by Lee Harris. Unfortunately, I have been distracted from my regular blogging by the attempt to remove Jeff Frederick from the chairmanship of the Republican Party of Virginia. However, I have made use of material from the book. I first discovered origin of the word “cynic” in Harris’ book. His description of Diogenes’ philosophy and its relevance to today is most interesting.