Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fremdschämen and The Very Human Nature of Our Political Leaders

Fremdschämen This German word refers to that feeling of embarrassment we experience on behalf of another person … who is clueless that he has just embarrassed himself.

Germans experience fremdschämen when I use a German word, thinking I have pronounced it flawlessly.

Fremdschämen is what we feel for the drunken best man who stands to toast the bride and groom and then proceeds to regale us with stories of when he had been dating the bride.  

I remember when I heard the word over twenty years ago, while on one of my first business trips to Germany. I immediately fell in love with it because it not only describes an experience common to us all but as with most German words it also sounds like a curse word: a common practice when experiencing fremdschämen.

I frequently think of this word when someone, in effect, says, “The average human is weak, interested only in his own welfare, and, therefore, prone to making foolish, shortsighted decisions. This is why we need political leaders, legislatures, and their representatives to guide society toward what is best for all of us.” (This, of course, would be those politicians “we” voted for and not those for whom “you” voted.)

Aaaand Monte comes down with a frothy case of fremdschämen.

So. Our political leaders aren’t human? They are made from the dust of stars, while the rest of us are fashioned from mud? Politicians are altruistic, while the average citizen is a skin-bag full of self-centered and shortsighted desires? Exactly what is it that happens to human nature when an individual is elected to a political office that transforms him or her into a higher form of being? Even with only the most rudimentary understanding of logic, human nature, and political history, sane people experience fremdschämen and cry out, “Bovine excrement!” or, if you really want to mess with ‘em, “Fremdschämen!”

Why, pray tell, do you think our nation’s Founders created three branches of government—legislative, judicial, and executive: because politicians are humans, who have the same weaknesses, foibles, and mixed motives, as the rest of us. Without a vigorous and TURF-ORIENTED political system of checks and balances, “What is there to restrain them from making tyrannical laws, in order to execute them in a tyrannical manner?”  (John Adams)

Schadenfreude is another gem of a German word (thank you, Boston Legal) describing a common experience many people are having, as they watch those who believed their political leaders knew better than the hoi polloi and are now suffering the consequences of their assumptions. Schadenfreude describes, “The feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” For example: “You can’t afford your insurance premium and it doesn’t cover what you need? You actually believed those political leaders who rammed this through Congress while saying that Healthcare Reform was going to provide us with health insurance that was comprehensive and affordable? O my. Hehe.” As a Christian, I do my all to resist post-fremdschämen cases of schadenfreude but, in times such as these, it is O. So. Very. Difficult. On the other hand, I don’t pretend to be a higher form of being.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Free Market, Human Dignity, and Moral Responsibility

When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.  - Frédéric Bastiat

Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.  - St Pope John Paul II

I espouse and defend a free market economy because, properly understood and practiced, it is the only economic system that is based on the premise of respect for private property (Thou shall not steal) and the moral responsibility for people, in the words of St Paul, to “work with your hands … and not be dependent on anybody.” Furthermore, I believe that a market economy demonstrates a far deeper respect for people and what they are capable of, as well as for their God given moral responsibilities, than all other so-called compassion-based economies that, in the West, are only thinly disguised systems for the modern State to arbitrarily define and regulate what is best for its citizens.

Where is the respect in telling someone, for example, “There there … it’s okay. We get that you are incapable of making it on your own. You can depend on the State, from womb to tomb” or “You aren’t smart enough to make decisions for your own life. The State will do it for you”? And where’s the respect for private property when, in order to care for all these dependents, not to mention a badzillion other outlays paying for “rights” no one had ever heard of until recently, the State demands an exorbitantly higher percentage of the tax-payer’s money (private property) than God Himself, who only requites a tithe? Talk about a pathological god-complex. 

Dear US Government: “You Shall Not Steal” applies to you, too!

At this point, a lot of people bring up the needs of the destitute, victims of disasters or foolishness, the mentally ill, and etc. and the question of who is responsible for caring for such people, if not the State. While this is a critical issue, for sure, I believe we must first be clear about exactly what it means to respect the property and moral responsibility of all people. If not, what we end up with are systems -- laws, regulations, and policies -- that actually disregard and disrespect those who are not destitute, victims, or mentally ill.

Underlying this debate regarding economics is the question of who defines the truth about human nature and goodness. I say “debate,” but a more accurate description may be “war,” because what we are facing here is a kind of spiritual warfare over who does the defining. While Western Civilization in general and the US in particular were grounded in the wisdom and precepts of the Old and New Testaments and, accordingly, in the belief that we humans have a given nature with a given moral compass, we now appear to be moving away from such an understanding, at lightening speed. Today, there are no “givens,” there are only competing factions of independent Definers-of-Truth being managed by a State that sees itself as the Final Arbiter of Truth regarding whose life is valuable and whose is not; whose contributions to the market place and society are useful and whose are not; and of what constitutes goodness.

As I see it, the battle here is not to place a more compassionate human face on systems (economic or otherwise) that are degrading and defrauding human dignity. All forms of governing that establishes and enforces laws and regulations that are contrary to the truth of what it means to be a human being and, as the US’s Declaration of Independence asserts, are contrary to what “the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them,” must be resisted and rejected.

I believe that only a free market economy corresponds to and compliments the truth of what it means to be a human being, including the tasks and responsibilities that comes with the gift of life and of creation. All other systems of economics actually interfere with and restrict, to one degree or another, the freedoms necessary for the individual to fully steward his personhood and possessions, before his Creator.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sameness v Individuality

Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual, but our fatally short-sighted age thinks only in terms of large numbers and mass organizations...

― C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self

Sameness – Where every one looks alike, talks alike, believes the same (what they are told to believe), goes along to get along; is brought about by the belief that the judgment of others is more important and more valuable then his or her own evaluations; lives based on fear and self-distrust. Synonyms - Cookie-cutter, boring, mindless, asleep at the wheel, dishonest, robots

Individuality – The product of a relentless pursuit of truth; the result of the belief that one’s life is a gift to be stewarded before the Gift Giver; a person who holds to his or her own beliefs, values, truth, and vision, and respects the same in others; lives based on love and self-respect. Synonyms - Unique, interesting, engaged, responsible, real

Sameness is mindless imitation
Individuality is a commitment to one’s own path

Sameness is cheap, requires very little effort, and leaves one without a self to respect
Individuality demands a steep price but produces the priceless reward of self-respect

Sameness drives out creativity and leaves only dullness of thought and feeling
Individuality requires the use of the full range of one’s mind and senses for creating the noble, the sublime, and the beautiful

Sameness is encouraged by The Powers That Be because robots are easier to program and control
Individuality threatens Control Freaks and Power Brokers because they won’t be managed according to the blueprints of others

Sameness stands or falls before The Group
Individuals stand or fall before their own beliefs, judgments, and actions

Sameness only listens to parrots and robots: all others are categorized as “ignorant,” “foolish,” or “the enemy.”
Individuals listen for truth, logic, and wisdom.

Sameness goes along to get along, giving up individuality for “the common good”
Individuals unite for a common purpose and then integrate their uniqueness’ for the sake of that purpose.

Sameness only sees and groups people according to classes, races, religious groupings, political factions/ voting blocs
Individuals see … individuals: presently the smallest and most abused minority in our country.

Sameness sees the means of “salvation” as Group Think
Individuals stand on the wisdom of St Paul: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” 

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2015