Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The evils of hierarchy

It's weird that two very different Scalzi posts have come together for me. First, John tells me that Octavia Butler may have died. This spurred me to get some of her books from the library. I am now reading Xenogenesis, in which some aliens have pointed out two features of the human psyche which are fine on their own but together are a recipe for extinction. Those two features are intelligence and hierarchy. Now John points to a review of his latest book, in which the reviewer talks up the notion of individual choice as the prime driver of history. The Great Man theory of history already gets us into hierarchy by suggesting some people are more important than others in affecting the world. But John kicks it up a notch (Bam!) by talking about his influences in creating choice as the theme of The Ghost Brigades.
My fundamental view of individuals and the importance of the choices they make actually comes from Einstein, via one of my great teachers, Larry McMillin, and his Individual Humanities class at the Webb School of California. Einstein, who thought a great deal on education, wrote that the aim of education should be the creation of "independently acting and thinking individuals who see service to their community as their highest life crisis." Humans are capable of acting individually and making choices; therefore humans should be encouraged to act individually and make choices, and also taught that choosing to make a positive difference in the world through their own actions is a critical thing.

Butler's aliens are not suggesting that community is bad. In fact, they place a high emphasis on family and clan. But they also believe that deferring to a socially-defined leader even when the individual's intellect points in another direction, that is a fatal flaw. I'd be curious to see how current Republicans think about that idea. All the evidence tells us that George Bush is not following conservative principles: nation building, deficit spending, systemic incompetency in carrying out law and order. Thus the individuals who believe in conservative principles should be vehemently against George Bush. Or do they value hierarchy over intelligence?


Hucbald said...

Many conservatives constantly harp on Bush's lack of conservative bona fides vis-a-vis his entry into the Iraq war. William Buckley recently pronounced Iraq a failure, for instance, and he represents the paleo-con isolationist-unless-absolutely-necessary view. Many others bash the prez for his failure to veto any of the many pork-laden spending bills that have crossed his desk. I agree that Bush is not anything like a classical conservative, and many classical conservatives believe the same thing. Assuming that cons - paleo or neo - are some monolithic block is simply incorrect. I'm a classic libertarian, and I'm forced to vote republican for lack of any viable alternative among the democrats, for example.

Today's "liberals" are not liberal in the classic sense either, by the way. If they were, I'd vote for some of them.

Scott said...

There may be some conservative non-politicians who criticize Bush*, but Republicans as elected officials have been quite monolithic in attitude. There has been no oversight by Congress investigating the war, the illegal wiretapping, etc.

*Most importantly, conservatives were quite careful to not criticize Bush until after the 2004 election. Right after that his approval ratings started to slip, allowing the pundits to feel safe in criticizing him.