THE PROBLEM OF DEFINING THE PROBLEM

frustrated

Whose Agenda?

In our era, there is one thing we do not lack for. That is input. We each receive a huge amount of information. Unfortunately, most of what we receive is junk, and we do not know how to filter out the junk. Therefore, we flounder in frustration.

Consider how the 21st Century Schizoid Man by 4thalove poses this problem. 4thalovethoughtfully describes a society composed of competing interests. Each is immersed in the details their agenda, whatever that agenda might be.

This brings us back to the huge issues of good and bad. We need serious leaders and discussions that will critically engage and challenge our definitions of what is good and right and what is bad and wrong. We have flung opinions around with little to no critical engagement with what the other side has to say. Curiosity, with all our channels of information, is apparently dead or has left on a long vacation. We have become one huge mouth and cut off our ears. If I saw someone who disagreed sharply with someone else ask an honest and even earnest question with due respect to the opposing side I may pass out from shock. It just doesn’t happen. “Dear. Mrs. /Mr. (conservative, progressive, LGBT advocate, Tea Partier, Communist, Socialist, Libertarian, Zoroastrian, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Humanist, etc. etc.), what do you think is good and why? This is the most important question we leave hanging in the background, alone and devoid of attention because we are too busy incriminating one another with politically correct victim trips. Our disagreements can unite us if we critically engage. (from here)

Everyone has an agenda. Nobody is listening? Since 4thalove and I have agendas too, let’s hope someone is listening.

So what does 4thalove want? Well, one thing 4thalove apparently wants to see is the unity that can result from a rational discussion. Such unity seems a rather distant possibility, but I wonder why I should care? Do our disagreements have to unite us? How would they? What if I don’t want to give up my agenda? Don’t I have the right to pursue my own definition of happiness? What if most people do not believe I do? What if most people think government provides us with happiness?

The Value Of A Good Education

What is the primary virtue of a good education? I think that is defined by what a good teacher does; a good teacher facilitates learning. A good teacher helps his or her students learn how to filter out junk information and acquire and organize the information they need. To master any discipline, that’s why we must first learn the basics. To determine which information is pertinent and which is not, we need a foundation.

The need for a foundation is also true of the subject of politics, but what kind of foundation is needed? I believe we must understand how human beings are suppose to interact. Here an understanding heart is of primary importance. We must learn to correctly discern what is good and what is evil (1 Kings 3:1-15). Until we know the difference between right and wrong, we cannot know how human beings should interact or what kind of society we should work to achieve.

Yet as 4thalove observes, we disagree over what is good and what is evil. Therefore, even if we could agree upon the true condition of our society, because we have differing beliefs over what is good and what is evil, we would still disagree. We would not want the same goals for our society.

Because we have different teachers — and we listen differently — we each believe different foundational truths. Therefore, we each have our own beliefs about what is good and what is evil.

Understanding the importance of education in establishing foundational beliefs, we squabble over what is taught in our schools. Thus, some seek to interfere with their neighbor’s freedom of religion, in particular, the right to impart what we believe to our own children.

How Did We Once Achieve A Rational Sort Of Unity?

Once upon a time immigrants came to America seeking the freedom to practice their own beliefs. Because Americans once believed in limited government, agenda driven schemers could not use the power of government to involve unwilling participants in their causes. Therefore,  those who wanted help in the pursuit of their dreams had to form voluntary associations. Although that limited the prospects for those with more grandiose dreams, it also limited abuses of the rights of the People.

Whenever we  invest or donate our time or our money to what we think is a good cause, is that not a good example of how we can work together in the pursuit of happiness? Don’t we still have numerous private associations: businesses, churches, charities, political parties, and so forth.

A Bad Example

What happens when those who run private associations involve the government in their schemes? Don’t they risk their identity, the very purpose for which they were created? With that in mind, consider Brazil offers new handout to the poor: Culture (www.washingtonpost.com).

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Like millions of other residents of Sao Paulo, Telma Rodrigues spends a large part of her waking hours going to and from work. She hates the commute, and not just because public transportation is packed, slow and inefficient.

She finds it boring.

Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it has nothing to do with new bus lanes or subway lines. As of last weekend, the government will give people such as Rodrigues a new “cultural coupon” worth $20 a month — enough, the 26-year-old said, to buy a book to enliven her daily ride.

The money, loaded on a magnetic card, is designated only for purposes broadly termed cultural — although that category could include dance lessons and visits to the circus in addition to books and movie tickets.

In a country battling poverty on an epic scale, the initiative has won widespread praise as a worthy and yet relatively cheap project. But it has provoked questions.

Is it the state’s job to fund culture? How will poor Brazilians use the money? How do you, or even should you, convince people that their money will be better spent on Jules Verne rather than Justin Bieber? (continued here)

Did Andrew Downie, the writer of this front-page article in The Washington Post, seriously consider the ethics of Brazil’s new “handout”? No, but he did say “the initiative has won widespread praise as a worthy and yet relatively cheap project”.

Nevertheless, the ethical questions are numerous.

  • Who decides what is culturally worthy?
  • What do businesses, churches, and nonprofits have to give up to qualify as culturally worthy?
  • Where does the money for this “cultural coupon” worth $20 a month come from? Don’t Brazilian taxpayers have to pay for it? Why should these Brazilians give up their right to make their own decisions about how to spend their own money?
  • Where does such a program stop? If $20 dollars a month is worthy and yet relatively cheap, why not $100 dollars a month?
  • What is wrong with extending this program to coupons that can be used for other worthy and yet relatively cheap purposes? Why not coupons for food, housing, autos, public transportation, dental care, health insurance …..? You say we already have  food stamps, housing vouchers, subsidized auto companies, subsidies for mass transit, and subsidies for health insurance? Oops!

Even if we could answer all those ethical questions and still justify something like a cultural coupon, we would still have a practical concern. Have we considered the temptations Socialist programs pose both to our leaders and to our people? When we give our government great power, can we trust our leaders to make the best ethical decisions?  Hasn’t past experience shown they will reward their cronies? Are We the People any better? When politicians offer some of us goodies at the expense of “others”, how many of us vote for the goodies?

Those Phony Positive Rights

As the Declaration of Independence attests, the founders of this nation fought for a government that protected their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They wanted the right to decide for themselves what they should do their lives. Thus, in their pursuit of the protection of individual rights, they found unity.

Look around America now. How many businesses, churches, and nonprofits have changed how they define what is good and what is bad for the sake of government funds? Is our right to pursue our own definition of happiness — our freedom to pursue God our own way — so trifling we would give it up just to suit the whims of self-important politicians and government bureaucrats? How small is the price for which we will sell our souls?

Some politicians (con-artists) promote what they would have up believe are “positive” rights, rights given to us by government. These “rights” include such things as same-sex marriage, reversed racial discrimination, healthcare, education, a good job, and so forth. Yet positive rights do not exist. We have no “right” either to force our neighbors to respect us or to steal from them. In fact, when we ask our leaders to force our neighbors to respect us or to steal from them, we create a moral impossibility.  When government exists to redistribute privileges and wealth, we cannot trust our leaders. Leaders empowered to give us “positive rights” will not protect our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Such glorious leaders will just decide who merits respect and who gets to play with other people’s wealth.

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