Thursday, May 01, 2014

You can get anything you want

By Capt. Fogg

You hear a lot about "enlightened self-interest" and mostly from people who think Ayn Rand's fiction illustrates a paved path to a better world. Of course I can't argue against enlightenment in principle or against the fact that as living beings we must put self-interest on a high plane. My problem though, is with the slipperiness of the term.  In general it resembles self-interest wearing a nice Sunday suit, but everyone has his own ideas, from the ascetic practicing Ahimsa, to the libertine, to the employer or Investor amassing wealth.  It's hard to pin down, but your idea and your degree of enlightenment is in the eye of the beholder.

In an age where religion as a moral teacher and ethical authority has exceeded the credulousness of many Westerners -- and in an America where the most audible religion has receded into vicious threats and angry condemnation of most things other schools of enlightenment might accept or even applaud there are too many tempting choices on the menu.   This Alice's Restaurant style religion  really doesn't serve to direct us away from the authoritarian self-interests of  its merchants if it has a direction at all. You can get anything you want, but will the waitress let you eat it?

Take Arizona Pastor Steven Anderson, for instance, whose obsession with regulating sexual thought and behavior and the consequences of defying preachers isn't much different than other sticky things left in the bottom of the religion barrel like sludge as the lighter substances in the crude evaporate off.  For his ilk, birth control is just an evil thing, because it introduces an element of freedom, an element of personal choice.  It allows that God's plan for unrestrained procreation be tinkered with by other concerns like health, economics or that Humanist blasphemy: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

He's not content to give us his malediction without condiment however. He has to spice up the Crazy Christian Chalupa by insisting that women who don't feel like getting pregnant are whores and that women were meant to suffer in childbirth and probably suffer with the commandment to ignore her own needs and desires as well.  He has to point out to an audience  that needs, none the less, to give a false nod to science and pragmatism and public health, that birth control is somehow harmful to their bodies, unlike cigarettes and alcohol and punishment from the husbands to whom they are commanded to submit. After all, the woman not burdened and suffering as the Biblegod requires, is likely to "sin" which in general means to pursue life, liberty and all that happy evil  -- and that specifically means she's likely to have not only sexual thoughts, but act on them despite authority.

In general Steve, like the rest of the Oldest Profession, wants to tell us the freedom of not having to choose between love and suffering is  "ruining the country" which is really the admission that he and the other voices of ancient evil are losing control. It's also an unnoticed admission that the idea of Democracy is essentially and unavoidably sinful. 

Few of us would contest that enlightenment in the vague way most of us would define it, is the enemy of self-justified moral authority and divine but ambiguous wisdom, but who do we have to teach us just when altruism is required and how much and for how long?  Who will set guidelines with regard to how we treat others who compete with us or work for us -- or for whom we work?  Face it, the Bible leans both ways if we can discern any concern for human well being in it at all. The Bible in fact does not approve of democracy nor did Jesus and without democracy all we have left is -- well you know: people like Pastor Steven Anderson. He's no help.

So can we stop talking about enlightenment and begin to talk about our right to choose -- everything? Nobody is going to enlighten us without a self-interest of his own design and that means we have to settle for consensus and when 70% of America wants not only to have a minimum wage but to raise it, that's enlightenment enough and warring theories about what is good or bad or what Pastor Steve, Rand Paul, great yelping Yahweh or St. Loonie up the cream bun thinks are irrelevant.  Democracy is the best we can do and the only way we have to give everyone's enlightenment a voice. And what does that say about those who argue for limiting it to those with a specific interest?
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