Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Evening Ramblings

It's a lovely afternoon in Streeterville. The slanting yellowish afternoon sunlight is hitting the water treatment plant and Navy Pier just so. The wind has died down so there are no longer white caps on the lake, or waves crashing up over the running path. It's 45 degrees under partly cloudy skies at the Mini. It is officially Spring Break. I sent the little suckers home, or wherever it is that they go after they leave school, and now the next week is for me. After all, what is important in life? I believe it's me.

A long time ago, somewhere in the realm of 1960, I saw a movie length thing on my family's old black and white TV. It was written by Rod Serling, yes that Rod Serling, of The Twilight Zone fame. It was a futuristic story about after the nuclear apocolypse, and the world was being run by youngsters. They had set up a society in which the most important concept was "Me." Nobody gave a shit about anybody else except themselves, and one 20 something guy was the "Leader of the Pack," so to speak. His title was "The Imperial Me." He exalted the concept of self-indulgence, belief in self-worth, and belief that everyone else exist only to serve "Me."

I'm not so sure that I buy into the belief that we are devolving into a bunch of self-obsessed pricks who will stab everybody else in the back for a buck, but there is a great deal of egocentrism in the world. Actually, I believe in a greater good, but I'm not sure I'd go to war to ensure it. I was a Conscientious Objector back during the tail end of the Vietnam War. I certainly saw no greater good in that conflict. Nor do I see a greater good in Iraq. Afghanistan, and over the border in Pakistan, now there might be an argument in favor of that being for the greater good of the world. Taliban and Al Qaeda bad. Tolerance for others, not like onesself, good.

Speaking of which, there was an item in the papers and online yesterday and today about a new law that was passed in Afghanistan. The law guarantees the right of a husband to have sex with his wife at least every third night, or was it fourth. At any rate, human rights groups are protesting the law because they say it basically legalizes rape. If a woman doesn't want to have sex on a given night and it has been 3 or 4 nights since she last had sex with her husband, she must, by law submit to him. If he forces himself on her, she has no recourse. Who in the hell puts that kind of stuff into law? Mind you this is not from the Taliban. This is from the mainstream government of Afghanistan.

The Taliban forbade women from attending school. Forbade women from leaving home without the accompaniment of a male family member. Forbade women from most everything except being dominated by their fathers and husbands. The Taliban stoned people to death in soccer stadiums, with large audiences, for committing adultery. The Taliban are busy taking over whole areas of Pakistan, and trying to retake areas of Afghanistan. They take Shariah and the concept of Jihad very literally. This is definitely not Vegas boys and girls.

The Taliban represent an extreme faction of Islam that thinks it has a responsibility to see that everyone becomes their version of Muslim, and anyone who disagrees with them has to die. Meanwhile in Northern Idaho we have anarchists who reserve the right to do whatever they please and shoot anyone who disagrees with them. On the one hand, total responsibility for a society in your own vision. On the other hand total disavowal of any structure for society and actual rejection of it. Both reserve the right to kill anyone who disagrees with them.

This brings to mind the discussions in my old political science classes where some were convinced that when political beliefs get too far to the left or the right of the spectrum there is no difference between the two. Far left and far right justify their actions with different stances of why they do what they do, but inevitably their stance at the far extreme of the spectrum leads them to embrace the same repressive methods, namely they kill or severely punish anyone who disagrees with them. Hitler-Far Right. Stalin-Far Left. Both Leaders-Mass Murder. Enter the Taliban and theocratic repression. Same shit.

I'm not really certain where I'm going with this ramble, nor am I quite sure how I got here, but one thing I am certain of is that we live on a planet with 6.5 billion people and we are not going to agree with all of them. It is insanity to try to push the "Me" vision of reality on everyone else. It is insanity to try to enforce your vision of reality on everyone else at the expense of their lives if they disagree with you. Furthermore, it must really suck to be a woman in a Middle Eastern country. I'm willing to live and let live. I'm willing to let people continue believing whatever they think is real as long as they don't try pushing it at me. There lies the rub. Fundamentalists, in the religious sense, and in the political sense, always feel the need to make everyone else think what they do. Then there are those who do not get converted willingly. Then comes the killing.

In the end, it comes down to this. I believe that "Me" is an important concept. One should believe in his or herself. One should not believe that to the point that he or she believes that everyone else needs to believe the same, or pay the consequences. There are a great many right ways for people to live their lives on this planet. Mine is just one. Yours is another. The founding fathers of this country believed the Enlightenment thinkers who said we all have certain natural rights, "Life, Liberty, Property." We all have the right to do any damned thing we want as long as it does not infringe on the natural rights of others. When we take ourselves so seriously that we begin to take away "Life, Liberty, Property," from others, we have stepped over the line. I can accept you as you are. Can you accept me? And if you cannot accept me, can you at least avoid recriminations because you cannot?

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