There are two points that I want to take up though, that fell out of this series of comments quite unexpectedly. In their context they are the pieces bolded …
T F Stern | Homepage | 03.19.07 - 8:22 am | #
"I suspect, from reading TF’s context, that he sees these two levels as interchangeable, perhaps even identical."
The individual is more important than the nation or country. I have been reading your point of view for quite some time and often as not the individual takes a back seat to the heard mentality of socialism. That is where we do not see eye to eye. The entire experience of being here in mortality rests on the individual; granted, the interaction that the individual has with everyone else is factored in.
The origins of thought, those letters of correspondence between the founding fathers of the US and those in Europe contain the essence of a government which would recognize that the individual is the most important factor, not the group and certainly not the nation. The purpose of our government was originally to protect individual rights from government's natural tendency to encroach on the individual's God given rights.
It has taken a little over 200 years for our government to encroach upon the individual’s God given rights to such a degree as to ignore them almost entirely; it’s called Creeping Socialism by some, in any case the heard mentality has swept aside the intent of our Constitution.
This most recent 2nd Amendment decision has reignited the hope for freedom, the slim chance that government can be put back in its place, that the individual’s God given rights are more important than the government’s quest to control all aspects of society.
probligo | Homepage | 03.19.07 - 3:48 pm | #
It is a frightening prospect, TF, when you speak thus.
To have the brave and valourous men and women of your own armed services branded as victims (I hesitate a very long while before suggesting willing participants) in a "socialist plot" is a shocking thought indeed.
Even worse in my mind is the idea that you see the Second Amendment as justifying the citizens right to bear arms solely for the overthrow of your own government and for defence against your fellow citizen. That your Founding Fathers apparently saw the need to provide thus shows that they had very little faith in their fellow man, or the State they were trying to create, or the religion that they intended should be its foundation; or all of those factors.
Well, I said I was not going to debate the RKBA and I am very close to, if not past, breaching that promise.
I leave it there.
T F Stern | Homepage | 03.19.07 - 4:14 pm | #
Actually, you nailed it better than I could have said it,
"Even worse in my mind is the idea that you see the Second Amendment as justifying the citizens right to bear arms solely for the overthrow of your own government and for defence against your fellow citizen. That your Founding Fathers apparently saw the need to provide thus shows that they had very little faith in their fellow man, or the State they were trying to create, or the religion that they intended should be its foundation; or all of those factors."
History has proven that governments are power hungry with limitless appetites and that an unarmed public becomes slaves to government if that government is not held in check by an armed citizenry. Our founding fathers knew this and built in the limited protection afforded by the 2nd Amendment.
The thread that runs through these highlights is the opposition of the individual with the heard (I think he really means “herd”, as in cows) mentality of socialism. Now I hope that I can follow this without breaching my word on RKBA, and without launching into the same faux-political labels…
First point, “…often as not the individual takes a back seat to the heard mentality of socialism. That is where we do not see eye to eye.”
No, TF, the difference is something more fundamental than that. As an NZer, as a small member of a small culture and a small nation I think that I can see just a little further than can you.
In this instance, I am referring to where and how I live in exactly the same way as you have.
You see the greatest threat to you and yours as being your own government. I would have thought that recent events (like the last 60 to 70 years, the last average lifetime) would have well put the lie to that as a debating point. Pearl Harbour could never happen again? Perhaps it did in New York?
I see the greatest threats to my lifestyle coming from two sources. First and most likely is the direct attack from an enemy country. I can imagine that the popgun under my pillow will be of great effect in warding off an Indonesian tank, or a Chinese gunboat. Second and less likely might come from a total breakdown in NZ social structure – the kind of situation where it becomes every man for himself. The causes of such a breakdown might be the radicalisation of the Maori, it could be the consequences of catastrophic events elsewhere on the planet, it might be the result of a meltdown in the international trade and finance systems. One of the more likely (if still remote) possibilities would be for a disease such as avian flu to become pandemic.
In any of those instances, having a means of defending my family and my means of survival would become a paramount.
So, I leave open the question of the individual being more important than the group. That is not really a part of this debate. I have individual and group responsibilities. More important is how I react to different threats.
Second point –
“Even worse in my mind is the idea that you see the Second Amendment as justifying the citizens right to bear arms solely for the overthrow of your own government and for defence against your fellow citizen. That your Founding Fathers apparently saw the need to provide thus shows that they had very little faith in their fellow man, or the State they were trying to create, or the religion that they intended should be its foundation; or all of those factors.”
I can not believe that you read my statement carefully before saying outright that you agreed with it. My mind though puts the stress heavily into the first two words. Take another look, TF, and particularly at that second sentence.
I guess that the NZ equivalent of the Second Amendment is called “The Ballot Box”. There are a number of governments who have suffered at the business end of that particular weapon; Muldoon, Lange, English all led their respective governments into the political wilderness through playing fast and loose with the electorate. Auntie Helen will be the next at the end of this term. It will not be the use of taxpayer funds for electioneering, or gay rights, or child smacking, or financial policies that will knock her government over. It will be attitude, and the lack of new workable ideas that will cost her the Treasury benches.
There is another aspect to this statement of mine which is clearly stated, and when I wrote the original I pondered long and hard on how best to address it. If you read up on South Pacific news at all over the past three months you will know that Fiji has once again become a “no-go area”. Once again it is because an individual, this time the Head of Defence Forces (Bainimarama), has unilaterally determined that the current Fijian government is corrupt and should be dismissed.
Is this likely to happen in NZ? No. Could it happen in NZ? Yes it most certainly could. The success of a military takeover would depend in very large degree upon the level of popular support for the military’s action.
Looking at a citizens uprising, there is again very direct and pertinent recent history available. One could use as examples the Tienanmen Square uprising, or the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, or the Velvet Revolution in Poland, even the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The interesting thing about all of those examples, apart from the fact that they were against (true) Socialist governments, is that only one can be considered to result from the actions of “individuals”. All the remainder were the consequence of large groups adopting a herd mentality and acting in concert – far from individual action. The one exception would be Tienanmen Square.
And there I invite you to recall the images that came out of Tienanmen Square to our tv news. Just how effective would an uprising of individuals be against the US Federal Government? I could equally ask that question with “could” in place of “would”. I guess that one could point to Baghdad as some kind of evidence for the possibilities and a direct parallel.
But then it would be unfair to leave this without putting such an uprising to the same test as I put NZ. Is such an uprising likely in the US? I very much doubt it. Evidence in support? The herd mentality of many Americans who have taken the past six years to work out the truth. Could such an uprising happen in the US? I can not rule it out, but if Mugabe can maintain his rule for twenty years and more just from bribery and corruption alone then the prospects for the US are poor indeed.
Final point –
“History has proven that governments are power hungry with limitless appetites and that an unarmed public becomes slaves to government if that government is not held in check by an armed citizenry. Our founding fathers knew this and built in the limited protection afforded by the 2nd Amendment.”
Piece by piece –
“History has proven that governments are power hungry with limitless appetites” – AGREED
“…an unarmed public becomes slaves to government…” – qualified agreement. Yes, I am a “slave” in that I am required (I have read the word “coerced” used in this context) to pay taxes on my income. In general I am reasonably happy with the amount that I pay, and the use to which the money is put. I am not a slave to the government in that I have free will and free choice in how I run my life, as has every other citizen of NZ except those who are criminals or are unable to take care of themselves. There is no life decision that I have ever made that has in any way been influenced directly or indirectly by the Government. The nearest would have been being balloted for National Service – our version of the draft. That was at the time of Vietnam, so NZ was not a unique instance then. The draft was cancelled – by the government – three days before I was required to report for medicals.
“…if that government is not held in check by an armed citizenry”. - As I have said before, the greatest weapon in that armoury is The Ballot Box.
Now, if I may, I want to return to the idea of “herd mentality” and the perceptions that you attach to it.
If you consider any electoral democracy – we could look at either NZ or US, or Britain as you wish – the first very fundamental feature is that the shape and form of a government is in large part due to the actions of individuals. When you accumulate individuals with common attributes into groups, you suddenly have herds of electors acting with a herd mentality. The “membership” of groups might change as the selection criteria change – lower taxes, more spending on health and education, fewer members of parliament… It has to be a political foundation stone that group can achieve far better and effective results than the same number of individuals. That is why political parties exist, the Republicans and the Democrats, National and Labour, are the result of that truth.
That may result in a “socialist” government (note the small “s”) as one which is operating within and for the benefit of a society. It may result in a Socialist government, which term could as easily and equally be applied to US and USSR in the sense that you might use it. Certainly the term can cover a multitude of sins.
Even in its purest form, democracy is far from perfect. I have seen it suggested that the only true modern democracy is Switzerland. I could accept that as a principle, but it would require minor tweaking to my thoughts on the political democratic process. I recall a considerable hooha coming out of Switzerland a few years back – something to do with citizenship and immigration. A proposal from the government was put to the popular vote and the row started when a very small number of voters (75 if I am right) were able to stymie the law change.
On this basis at least, one could accuse any agreed and common action taken by a group of people as being “following the herd mentality”.
Can I now turn to “action as a group” in relation to the process of democracy and governance.
I do not know of any government that exists today where there has not existed some form of political grouping. The rationale and justification equates with the structure of the military – even in its most modern form like alQaeda, IJ, or Hezbollah, Republicans or Democrats. The strength comes from combined effort, from constancy of purpose. But then I should be preaching to the converted here; this is surely the principle behind the organisation of a religion into “churches”?
“Action as a group” in the communities we live in does not (as a matter of course) require adherence, demand constant and unquestioning obedience, nor does it stifle the freedom of individual choice. I could point at some groups that do limit the individual to that extent; including specific religious sects and political systems. I am fortunate, as I believe that you are TF, to live with freedom to choose.
There is another aspect of “action as a group” that is both the heart of democracy and its potential death. It is the ability or power that a small number might have (with completely valid application of the law) to frustrate the wishes of the majority. We see it in NZ under our MMP system where the power wielded by a small group can be far in excess of their political backing. In the US it might take the form of a small group that succeed in “making law” through SCOTUS which does not have the backing of a majority of people – Roe v Wade might suffice as an example.
At this point I have used the word “freedom” several times, and I want to end on that note.
Which is the most important freedom? Speech? RKBA? Choice? If you were allowed only one freedom, which would it be?
I think I know my choice. And when I think about it, it lies at the heart of every other freedom, and at the very base of democracy.