Charlie Stross wrote:
However, I'd like to note in passing that _no_ country today is a utopia, or
has abolished poverty, or has abolished civil rights abuses. Some are better
than others, but that's as far as it goes -- and even then, the relative
position varies depending on your status within your own culture.
I totally agree with you. As I said in my post, there is still much to be
done, even in the United States. But again, the U.S. does have much to be
proud of in terms of making the world a better place, as does the United
Maybe my perceptions are coloured by just having finished reading a
history of the first world war; but patriotism is a particularly dangerous
emotion -- especially when it's directed outward and expressed as contempt
for those who _don't_ do everything the way we do it over here.
I think rational patriotism can be easily perverted in dangerous ways. And
a common way is to develop contempt for other nations, especially those that
are in opposition or culturally very different.
For starters, nationalism -- which is inextricably linked with patriotism --
is deeply anti-libertarian. _Any_ ideology that tries to fit people into
pigeon-holes is to some extent anti-extropian, and nationalism, which in
extreme cases subordinates the individual to the state, is exactly that.
Out of control nationalism is strongly linked with patriotism, but the
perversion of it that I discussed above. I can see the point of your
statement that any ideology that tries to pigeon-hole people is to some
And yet isn't extropianism an ideology also that has guiding principles to
'influence' or even 'pigeon-hole' members? I realize that Max has written
"these Principles are not presented as absolute truths or universal values."
I am just playing devil's advocate here.
I'd also like to note that from a non-American perspective making children
swear an oath of allegiance in school each day looks positively Orwellian,
and I don't see massive military power as being admirable, either.
I sure don't consider children taking the oath of allegiance to be
'brainwashing!' There is nothing similar in England? I am surprised. The
sad thing is that as a schoolboy in the U.S., I did not have the meaning of
it really explained to me. I remember my friends and I purposely changing
the words to be 'funny' and making eachother laugh. But generally I took it
seriously and felt patriotic as I spoke the words. I would want any future
child of mine to continue taking the pledge.
For seconds, it amounts to an unpleasant delegation of the divine right of
kings to the national government. Back before the age of enlightenment,
kings ruled by divine fiat. Now we don't have kings, so we have nations to
which we're supposed to be loyal. Why? What do they do to deserve such
loyalty? A social contract is all very well, but when it pulls on jack-boots
and starts marching over the border it's time to ask some searching
I have never thought of the connection with the divine right of kings, very
interesting. The social contract between the citizen, other citizens and
their government is supposed to bind us together in mutual self-interest.
And at least in theory, when a citizen or group of them want to change
something, the mechanisms are in place to at least give them the chance at
being heard and having something done about it.
I still think much of the authority of the gov't does come from the law
enforcement departments and the military, or in other words, from the barrel
of a gun. But being a democracy, we have ways of changing things that don't
entail starting a violent revolution! lol Unlike some other nations where
that is a regular occurence.
I think citizens of any nation should be thinking hard about what is going
on in their nation and what they are going to do long before the leadership
decide to invade a neighbor for the greater glory of the state. Nazi,
Germany is a great example of this and some Germans did try to stand up for
what was right despite the majority going along with things.
The national system we've been bequeathed is just a degenerate form
of the monarchical system, with the powers devolved to a national level
which is just a replacement for the Crown.
Modern democracies are just a degenerate form of the monarchial system? For
reasons stated above I would have to disagree. I can see some connection
but not the wholesale link you do. I appreciate having the vast power one
man used to have as king being spread around with various branches of
government that are limited by checks and balances. And we can try to
influence or change things without being hung or imprisoned if the king
really dislikes the idea.
I do think I understand your point as being that ultimately, the federal
gov'ts of even democracies still have incredible power over the citizenry,
even if it is generally more fairly used. And we are expected as citizens
to be generally loyal subjects to not a king anymore, but our flag and p.m.
I fervently hope that in the first world and especially in the United
States, that dialogue and change can be done in productive and peaceful
ways. Rather then an elimination of the U.S. government, I see changes that
would simply reduce its size and influence, while handing over much more
power to the people.
I agree with you about the hope -- but I'm not optimistic. People with
vested interests in the existing system don't welcome change unless it is
clearly going to benefit them. We also see signs of really irrational
behaviour in existing fields; see, for example, the conduct of the war on
drugs. (It doesn't make sense, but it's _still_ going on.)
I agree that people with vested interests within the hierarchy of power will
most likely try to maintain the status quo in various ways. It will be
fascinating to see if a half-century or so from now, if people stay fairly
'content' or if a boiling point is reached with the public and fairly
radical libertarian ideas are instituted. Nanotech, AI and superlongevity
will certainly have a good chance of 'freeing the mind' of many people.
At least with the war on drugs some progress is being made. Last I heard, a
bill was about to be made law that limits the power of law enforcement
agencies to make 'lawful' searches and seizures. The Rico act had turned
police departments into money-hungry treasure hunters looking to enrich
I suppose for me the acid test is, do you feel pride and a touch of
emotion when US Navy ships fire cruise missiles at factories in some
other country because of a rumour (no more!) that they're supplying
nasty raw materials to a third party?
Initially, when I hear we are shooting cruise missiles at terrorist-aiding
facilities, yes, I do feel pride that we are doing something. But later, if
I hear U.S. intelligence sources were wrong and that innocents were hurt and
killed, then I feel very sad about it.
Sometimes in cases like this the military is not to blame, they are
receiving information and taking orders from other parts of the government.
Ultimately though, it is all part of the same government. The U.S. should
only act when we have solid intelligence and the reason for the cruise
missile launch is to impede aggressors and not to boost presidential
So Charlie, how do you think the U.S. and British government should deal
with terrorist (aggressor) nations and organizations? How would you handle
them? Would P.M. Stross ever order bombing raids? And what would cause him
Being proud of having built something good is one thing. Being proud
of having the ability to kick someone else's work over is something else ...
I take pride in seeing my nation kick some else's work over when their work
is going to be used for unjust aggression. Kicking over Saddam Hussein's or
Omar Quadaffi's pile of blocks is no problem to me.
Remember the Falkland Islands? Now, that was a patriotic scene with all
those Brits waving at the ships loaded down with troops and equipment to
stop those vicious Argentines from trying to control land right off their
Charlie, I do realize we live in a complex world and that the U.S. did help
create some of these bullies that later we have to knock down a notch or
two. And the uses and abuses of foreign aid have already been discussed on
the list recently.
The next forty years are going to be very interesting. I enjoy your posts
and hope over the years to get your take on things. When I am reanimated
from my cryonic 'slumber' I look forward to hearing your views on the late
21st century(I'm hoping you will be around). If you like what you see, I
will know things are ok!
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