Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:



Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.


The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.


The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.


Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income



Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market



Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.



Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.


Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.



Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.



Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.


Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President



Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On Ethnic Cleansing And The Right Of Return

BELLAPAIS, Cyprus- Sadly many places in the world have seen ethnic violence and remain fractured and angry today. The latest struggle in Lebanon follows similar actions in Africa and the Balkans and is itself a return of the region's own past.

One of the central issues in these conflicts is the status of land once occupied in a mixture, before the current crisis. The Palestinians demand the right of return, while the Serbs have largely given up on this idea.

Cyprus offers a test case for resolving such a dispute. In fact, it presents the best possible starting place since violence there ended more than 30 years ago.

The island's history of mixed ethnicity and religion goes back to Byzantine and Ottoman empires. However, after WWI the British assumed control and administered the island through a period of increasing sectarian difficulties.

Greece was resurgent after WWI while Turkey was greatly weakened. Greece even invaded mainland Turkey in 1921. Following WWII the idea of a much enlarged Greece, dominant over all areas of former control, began to grow under the name "enosis".

In 1955 Greek Cypriots organized local militias to fight for independence from Britain and union with Greece. In 1958 the Turkish Cypriots established their own militia. In 1959 Greece, Turkey, and Britain signed a treaty by which they agreed to guarantee an independent power-sharing-government in Cyprus.

In 1960 the Greeks on Cyprus began to revolt against British rule and canceled the power sharing government with the Turks. The fighting turned neighbor on neighbor and led to many brutal killings, often of entire neighborhoods, by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In 1964 the UN was deployed to try to keep the peace.

However, in 1967 Greece was itself upset by a military coup. The colonels who assumed control of the mainland began to agitate for enosis and in 1974 they sponsored a coup in Cyprus.

Turkey fulfilled its treaty obligations and invaded north Cyprus to protect the Turkish population on the Island, while Greece pulled its soldiers out and the UN moved in once again.

Today 37% of the island remains under Turkish protection and operates as an independent state for around 20% of the island's population, although only formally recognized by Turkey.

In 2004 the UN proposed a new power sharing agreement that was approved by most Turks and rejected by most Greeks. The Greeks see little reason to share power equally with a minority, while the Turkish side fears minority status and insists upon power sharing.

With the admission of Greek Cyprus to the EU in 2004 and the success of the international embargo of the Turkish side the Greeks have little reason to negotiate. And with the presence of 30,000 Turkish soldiers the Turkish side has no pressing need to compromise either.

During the period of ethnic conflict from the 50's into the 1970's hundreds of thousands of Greek Cypriots moved south and tens of thousands of Turks moved north. Today Greeks occupy former Turkish land (such as the international airport in Larnaca) and Turks occupy former Greek land.

While the Greeks enjoy titles granted by the "official" government, the Turks are merely squatters. When the border was opened in 2004 the Greek side organized visits to their former homes. Many Turkish and foreign home owners woke up to angry trespassers picking flowers and yelling at the current residents.

I met one such occupant, Hikmet, a Turkish Cypriot who once lived in Paphos, now on the Greek side of the island. Hikmet has a dark chocolate tan and wild white hair. He is softspoken and usually barefoot, as he pads in and out of his open air house and lush garden.

He described a scene where the former residents of his home pulled up one morning and walked down the long driveway. They approached him as he pruned his plum trees and stood there working up the courage to talk.

After eyeing Hikmet's rich garden of succulents, flowers, and fruit trees the man asked him in Greek, "Tell me one thing, truthfully, is this not paradise?"

Hikmet thought for a minute and answered in Turkish, "Yes, it is. However, when I came here the building had no roof, its interior was burned out and water damaged, and the garden was dead down to the grass. I have spent more than 20 years starting new plants, laying a new roof, and replastering the walls with my own hands. It is paradise, but it is my paradise".

The Greek man looked around the yard and the building, then looked Hikmet in the eye. He nodded his head slowly, turned away, and walked up the crunchy gravel path to his waiting car. The car drove away and Hikmet has not heard from the man for over two years.

When I asked Hikmet how he felt living in a former Greek home he reminded me that he was forced to leave his home, and all his possessions, behind in Paphos. He has had to make a new life for himself in a new city.

It has been very hard at times - made even less easy by the simmering anger of the Greek side and the force of their international recognition constricting the economy and freedom of movement - and surely it must have been hard for the Greek refugee who moved into his old home.

I also asked Hikmet if he would return to his old home if the opportunity arose in the future. He thought about it and shook his head. Too many bad memories, too many angry neighbors. His future is now tied to this new place.

This scene could play out in Israel someday as well. The right of return is only ever hoped for by those with the ascendant demographic or diplomatic hand. The right of return is only ever wanted by those who are sure that it would be just the start of a new round of ethnic cleansing.

For the rest of the world the future should be moved into straight ahead, from where you stand today. No right of return, no prisoner swap, no reparations... just the struggle to improve what you have right now. Otherwise the cycle of violence just begins again.

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Sean: Tuesday, August 01, 2006 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere