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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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Peace Of Defeat

Cyprus is filled with ruins from the many civilizations that have called the island home. There are Roman baths, Norman castles, and Ottoman hostels in almost every city. Walking through empty fields one can literally trip over old foundation stones.

In the 12th century the English King Richard I, Lion Heart, stopped at Cyprus for supplies before sailing for Jerusalem in the 3rd Crusade. While encamped near Limossol in the south he was betrayed by the mad "emperor" of the island. In response Richard sent troops marching north to the seaport of Kyrenia and seized the entire island.

When the Holy Land fell to the Muslim army of Saladin in 1187, Guy De Lusignan, the Christian ruler of Jerusalem, purchased the island of Cyprus from Richard and the Knights Templar as replacement. A few years later the Premontre Brothers of the Augustinian Order, also formerly of Jerusalem, founded the Abbey at Bellapais on the north side of the Pentadactyl Mountains overlooking Kyrenia. The monks held the abbey for centuries in spite of rumors that they had all taken wives and only allowed their children into the order.

However, in the 15th century Guy's lineage was forced to sell the island to Venice. The island saw a succession of owners and the village of Bellapais was soon abandoned. Under the Ottomans in the 16th century the decadent monks were thrown out and the church was given to Greek Orthodox priests. In the 1800's the British began dismantling the buildings for road stone before deciding it was too soft. Eventually English architect George Jefferey restored the church in the 1930's and led tours for wealthy visitors.

Until the 1960's the city was a fairly peaceful mix of Greeks, Turks, and foreign immigrants (including British colonists). However, the violent sectarian clashes and the final Turkish invasion of the 70's led to the withdrawal of the Greeks and the ruination of the city.

Today the town is held by the Northern Cyprus government under the protection of the Turkish military. Homes abandoned by Greeks have been restored by Turks or sold to British retirees. But they all live under the constant threat of Greek reprisal.

The Abbey's broken spines of yellow stones stand among tall green cypress and the odd palm tree. The crunch of a shoe against pea gravel sends large grey lizards running across the courtyards and straight up the crumbling walls.

The village of white-washed stone houses tumbles down the hill towards Kyrenia 10 miles away. But all the homes end just a few blocks above the abbey where steep mountains rise straight up to the fairytale crags of St. Hillarion's castle.

The name of the abbey and the town is French for Monastery of Peace and due to the travel embargo pushed by the South it is easy to wander all alone. In the dark basement you can imagine monks in white robes, torch waving Greek mobs, or Turkish soldiers with automatic rifles.

But back upstairs in the sunny courtyard you will only encounter a old man sweeping the stones flags under the shade of grape vines. A stray tabby cat may drag its tail against the legs of the rickety wooden tables while chickens cluck in a nearby apartment.

This is where English author Lawrence Durrell spent many hours drinking under the leafy Tree of Idleness before writing his novel Bitter Lemons. Legend holds that men who loiter under the tree become lazy and unwilling to work, but today the men are eager to work if only the tourists would come.

Nowdays the only visitors to Bellapais are the most intrepid of American tourists and a few British military personnel who are set on ignoring the current controversy. Some have bought or built homes in the traditional Mediterranean style in disregard of Greek claims. But the hotels and restaurants stand mostly empty even in July.

A few residents have titles that date to before the division and are safe from question. Lawrence Durrell's former girlfriend Guthrie McLean, a Scott, runs a small guest house beautifully overgrown with flowers and vines above the Abbey. It was built in 1952 and is hers outright.

However, her friend and neighbor Hikmet was chased from his home in Paphos in the Greek south and took over a pair of houses burned and abandoned by retreating Greeks. He had to defend his claim when the family drove up a few years ago and confronted him as he tended his newly planted garden.

Southern Cyprus was let into the EU on May 1, 2004 (even though the UN ordered them to reunify the island first) and has little reason to hurry reconciliation. Now Bellapais is a site of international heritage that is largely unvisited by the world (some 50k Brits visit the north each year compared to 1.5 million in the south).

Northern Cyprus cannot bring tourists into its airport and cannot ship its produce out of its seaports. If not for 30,000 Turkish soldiers it would be overrun tomorrow by the wealthier and more numerous Greeks to the south. Any immigrants who arrive from Turkey or anywhere else are declared invaders by the EU empowered Greeks.

The Abbey at Bellapais was built by the same stone masons that built Chartes Cathedral in France. It is quite grand with windows of delicate stone tracery under pointed Gothic arches. But now their work is a silent monument to ethnic and religious conflict on the Mediterranean and a warning to groups that today clash over shared land in places such as Israel/Palestine, Iraq/Kurdistan, and Serbia/Kosovo.

In Cyprus tourism and Euro dollars went to the victors and to the defeated was gifted the peace of defeat and a strangled economy.


The abbey.


The church.


The cloister.


The cafe looking over Kyrenia.


The downhill view.


The city tourist complex.


The tree of ideleness.


The road down the hill.


A fountain from the days of Queen Elizabeth I.


Guthrie's garden.


Quality details inside the home of a retired British officer.


Up the hill toward St. Hillarion's Castle.


Hikmet's garden.


Hikmet's figs and grapes.


A townhouse gussied up with Greek details.


Behind the new facades.


A local family raises chickens in the basement.


A Turkish girl and her prize rabbits.

All Photos: Copyright July 2006 by Sean LaFreniere

Sean: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 [+] |
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