Sunday, October 02, 2011


Once again, circumstances illustrate that facebook is only as lame as its users. I posted this photo, of a sign someone was carrying for the Occupy Wall Street protests, on my girlfriend's wall. A short debate quickly ensued. With my older brother, of all people.

Chris That's an impossible burden to take on in real life. Hell, not even Superman could save everyone. Our own country clearly doesn't believe that maxim either. Or we would have intervened very early to stop Bosnian Genocide, Rwandan Genocide, Somali pirates, Libyan Genocide, Iraqi Genocide (there we waited til Saddam was through), Nazi Genocide, Ben Affleck's get the point.

Ron But you're taking a rather absolutist position on this, too. In all these cases you've named, the State Department (except with Affleck) had already taken diplomatic positions of opposition. In this sense, the US wasn't neutral.

Chris So as long as I send a strongly worded letter of protest I'm off the hook? Seems kind of like your slogan is pretty hollow then.

Chris Besides, no theory is true unless its always true. These aren't extremes either. Horrible stuff happens all the time and right-minded people don't lift a finger. Is everyone therefore siding with the injustice? So if I don't spend all my time fighting crime, then I'm siding with the criminals? I just don't think so.

Ron But in order to take your position, rhetoric, public opinion, diplomatic pressure, all these things have to not matter, when, in fact, they do. It's like FDR's famous comment to labor unions, "I agree. Now go out there and make me do it." Or JFK's decision to get out in front with the civil rights movement, rather than to oppose it. Rhetorical positions do, indeed, affect people's actions. I mean, you're right to note that often such positions are meaningless, but, you know, in the grand scheme, they often have meaning, too.

Ron Adding, I think "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" gave confidence and resolve to the opposition throughout the Iron Curtain countries and inside the Soviet Union, which eventually helped bring it all down. Okay, there was also the massive arms buildup, but the point is that rhetorical positions do, indeed, matter.

Ron One last thought, because the original comment comes from an Anglican Bishop, it seems appropriate to note that the entire ministry of Jesus, by and large, consisted of not much more than going around Palestine saying things to people, which radically affected Western civilization for the next couple of millenia.
Even though I get the last word here, which my big brother was kind enough to give me, it is impossible for me not to observe that this is the closest thing to a political discussion he and I have had in over a decade. He's very passionate about his politics, just as I am, but sibling rivalry always seemed to get inserted into the mix, and these kinds of debates, when done face to face, ended up getting a bit ugly. So we both clammed up back during the Clinton impeachment, and stayed that way for years. That was a real drag because he's brilliant. Conservative, but brilliant, able to formulate arguments on the fly better than anyone I've ever met. Indeed, my argumentative nature, my love for politics, my interest in economics, was all very much inspired by his example when we were young. I deeply regret our seeming inability to spar with each other in this way.

But now there's facebook, which, for all its problems, has allowed us some limited debate interaction. Part of me is worried that he's all pissed off at me back in Austin for daring to disagree with him. But another part of me is totally elated because I've gotten to engage with him on a neutral field on a topic that is important to me.

(Yes, I know the title of this post is "There Is No Neutrality," and that I just mentioned "a neutral field." If you're really going to quibble about this in such a squirrelly way, well, fuck you.)

At any rate, these little discussions I get into on facebook are exciting to me. I'm really starting to enjoy myself there, casting out some bait and seeing who bites. I'm probably going to be making more posts like this in the months to come.