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:

 

Conservative:

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.

 

Liberal:

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.

 

Reactionary:

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

 

Radical:

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

 

Capitalism:

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

 

Socialism:

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.

 

Communism:

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.

 

Democracy:

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.

 

Republic:

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

 

Fascism:

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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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Children Of Men

I just saw the latest "Mexican-invasion" of cinema... a remake of a P.D. James novel called "Children of Men". It is directed by Alfonzo Cuaron, the same guy who made "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien", and stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine.

The movie opens with Clive's character "Theo" getting coffee in London. Then we follow him through a really bad couple of days where he meets his ex-wife, Julianne Moore, who leads a bunch of terrorists fighting deportation. We learn from her and from Michael Caine's modern hippy that during the last twenty years mankind has suffered environmental and social collapse.

But the terrorists have found the first pregnant woman on Earth in twenty years and want to use her as a symbol to rally the people to an uprising. Clive gets tasked with leading the girl through the English countryside to a refugee camp on the coast from which she hopes to be rescued by a kind of human-oriented Greenpeace.

Alfonzo directs the film as one long chase scene. The camera follows all the important action and we get to pick out the character development and environmental details as we go. Since the future in this film is tense, gritty, and depressing we become progressively frazzled ourselves as we watch. Then all the action just kinda ends and we are left adrift to think about the lessons we should have learned. In this way the movie is similar to other "conscious-ness raising action films" such as "Blood Diamond" or "Tears of the Sun".

Although this is a very good film, it was not quite the spectacle that I was hoping for. I guess I have become jaded by a plethora dystopian films, expensive special effects, and visual art work. The Chinese film "Hero" was filled with panoramic scenery and vibrant costumes, Mel Gibson's "Apocolypto" over-deliver on gruesomeness, and "Code 46" nailed the future-has-no-future-multicultural-hyper-realism thing. Unfortunately "Children of Men" had little new to add.

Fortunately there were two good acting roles... Clive Owen was great in his world-weary action hero thing and his bit with his feet was excruciating (although not perfectly consistent). Michael Caine had a fun and touching role as a modern John Lennon. I really wanted to learn more about these characters and their back-story, but the chase scene style of the film would not allow us the time.

Some of the contemporary political criticism in the film was unnecessary and distracting. A rather obvious Ab-Ghraib torture scene ignores that Abu-Ghraib happened in the shadows, where teenagers were forced to play prison guards for terrorists from another country... while these scenes are of British soldiers detaining British residents out in the open. I didn't buy the implications of man-against-man brutality. Perhaps only a Mexican director can imagine Allied soldiers acting like Nazis, but I just didn't think it was necessary.

The most humane deportation would still be dramatic and horrifying, especially considering what kind of a world was suggested beyond England's shores. Sometimes keeping things simple and realistic works better that hitting the viewer over the head, just as with porn or horror we can imagine far more effective images than any the director can show us. But I am quibbling, this was a very effective film.

I was pleased that the movie ended where it thematically should have. Other viewers have wondered "what happened?" at the end, but I thought it was rather obvious. Actually, I would have preferred that the film had ended just a few minutes sooner. One of the themes of the story was the interplay of faith and chance and I would have liked the ending to dangle a bit more to force the viewer to make a choice of faith themselves. But it was fine as it was. This is a good movie and it might actually raise your awareness of the environmental and social calamities that are warming up and coming our way.

Sean: Saturday, January 06, 2007 [+] |
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