Monday, July 13, 2009

And Now a Word from John Locke

"Any man who admits to nothing but that which can be plainly demonstrated may be sure of nothing but perishing quickly."

There was a time when John Locke (1632-1704), a British philosopher of intrepid thoughts, was considered quite the liberal thinker. He believed that since governments exist by the consent of the people in order to protect the rights of the people and promote the public good, governments that fail to do so can be resisted and replaced with new governments. He defended the right of revolution, the principle of majority rule and the separation of legislative and executive powers. His philosophy also included the concept of self-governance and, eventually, self-policing.

Locke, right now, is probably spinning like a dirndl in his grave.

We've entered an interesting time in history. First Black president (why is Obama Black when his mother was white?), Republicans rushing to get into Dante's 7th circle of hell, a stock market crash, recession, coming inflation, real estate bust, so many foreclosures that the banks cannot handle them. The likelihood is that it will not get better quickly. And yet there is no revolution, no outraged mobs taking to the streets in protest of lost life savings. Afghanistan and Iraq are at best distant wars that only affect the families of the fallen. The outrages perpetrated on the average citizen range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Pay extra for your bag when you fly, knowing you will arrive late, miss your connection, and be given a small bag of peanuts for your troubles. Watch as AIG negotiates more bonuses to keep the people who had a hand in its failure. Pay extra for gasoline even as the major oil companies rack up record profits. Lose your home to the banks and watch them get bailed out.

On a smaller scale, we increasingly appear to assume that citizens are guilty until proven innocent. A friend's car was recently broken into and left in the middle of her yard, the GPS dismantled and spread on her lawn. When the police came, they implied she had been driving while drunk and done the damage herself. A few months ago, a Virginia swat team invaded a small-town mayor's home, killed his two dogs, and accused the man's family of distributing drugs. When the case was dropped for lack of evidence, the team's leader and the local police chief opined that this was an unfortunate but acceptable mistake and refused to apologize for the damage done.

Perhaps this kind of behavior has to do with the fact that we no longer expect the best from people but have come to expect the worst. There are no more heroes--Obama, miracle worker we thought he might be, has yet to reverse the course of the ship of state. We're battered daily with news of transgressions by the very people we've elected to positions of trust...

Oh well. According to the Mayans, all this is to end in 2012. Locke might be pleased.

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