What We Talk About When We Talk About Politics

I feel like people are turned off to the idea of “politics”, because it makes them think of red vs. blue arguments, polling percentages, talking heads on television using dronespeak to discuss policy, and a certain nitpicky squabbling that’s become the de facto standard for how political discourse is conducted in America. But I think they wouldn’t be turned off if we remembered we were supposed to be exchanging ideas on how we should govern ourselves, and our foundations and philosophies which is what we should actually be doing. It seems like in America we don’t even get into those things when it comes to governance– how we do things, why we do things, if there’s a better way to do things, what our goals are, etc. If you don’t have a solid foundation of principles, how can you be sure anything you are doing is the right thing?

I feel like the media has successfully shifted the nature of the dialogue from “How can we best govern ourselves?” to “What’s wrong with those people governing us?” A subtle difference, maybe, but a significant one.

Wait a minute, I think I almost got this

I was researching Catharine Macaulay for my 18th century British Literature class when I came across this.

“Macaulay argues that it was the failure to guard against the growth of inequalities in wealth that led to the downfall of the Roman republics.

Had the Agrarian been ever fixed on a proper balance, it must have prevented that extreme disproportion in the circumstances of her citizens, which gave such weight of power to the aristocratical party, that it enabled them to subvert the fundamental principles of the government, and introduce those innovations which ended in anarchy. Anarchy produced its natural effect, viz. absolute monarchy (Macaulay 1767, 35).”

“Failure to guard against the growth of inequalities in wealth”… Hmm… Why does that sound familiar?

I should probably be more secure about stuff like this

But I can’t help but notice my friends tally on Facebook has been slowly trending downward lately, which means people are either closing their accounts or unfriending me. And I naturally wonder: Who were they? And why did they do it? Did I do something?

In fact, I don’t think it’s a matter of security: It’s a totally natural thing for a social creature who is introspective to ask.¬† I find it important to think about how my actions affect others. I find it important to consider if my actions are getting the results I want.

I won’t necessarily change. It’s decently likely that I did nothing particular at all. If I offended someone, did I do so because I was careless in my speech or because they disagreed with my ideas? If it’s the latter, I won’t worry about it. As long as I’m living by my values and principles– which include being respectful of others and being willing to speak up for what I believe in– I won’t worry about it.

But that self-examination is always necessary to make sure that’s the case. Until recently I’d been ill and not thinking about it so much.

Wherever you go, there you are

For the first couple of days of my vacation in Boulder I really fell for it– gorgeous scenery and weather, enough stuff to do to keep me entertained and happy, very friendly towards bicycles and public transportation– and I started thinking I might want to live there. I even complained a little to Carolyn about Houston.

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Something we all need to think about

This week I picked up Sam Harris’ excellent¬†Letter to a Christian Nation. Even though it seemed on the surface to be something I already knew, agreed with, and thus something of fan-service to people like me who are tired of religious-based thinking dominating public discourse, I was pleasantly surprised to find it excellently written and concise (the main letter, before the afterword, checks in at just under 100 pages), as well as giving me a couple of new ways to think about and articulate just what this problem is and why it’s a problem. Continue reading

Food, Consumption, and the Snarky Anti-Health Movement

I like food. I like a great, great variety of foods. Meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, fish, birds, breads, grains, sweets, cakes… there are few things that I don’t enjoy eating.

That said, I try to be conscious of my health as regards what I eat,¬†especially now that I’m 30 and I feel the consequences of my decisions more and more (and don’t shed the extra weight as easily when it comes). Continue reading