Aristotle, Red Birds & Ameritopia
To start off my first blog, I will try and stick to things which I actually have a modicum of knowledge about.
As we speak, I am trying to make sense of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Now I am going to be quite upfront here: I love reason and rationality. As limited as my learning is thus far, I continually try to reason through course work, relationships, new information and life in general. To be quite honest, I absolutely love the Romantic poets (Keats, Wordsworth and Shelley). This love of both reason and Romantic poetry might strike you as odd, but here lies the nub of my fascination with reason. I believe that emotions should be embraced, experienced and used – not swept under the carpet. However, I think it is much more beneficial to enjoy one’s emotions through reason; indeed, emotions tempered by reason. To experience the good things in life, one needs to experience the bad things as well; most importantly, do not run away from your emotions. I’m no budding Freudian but I think it’s quite clear what happens when one suppresses emotions in favor of ‘society’ and what others demand – the volatile temperament of Wuthering Heights, for example, is testament to the great social suppression disaster which was Victorian England. Alas, I digress. The essential point is that one should experience emotions for the value they bring to being a human – you can experience, work through and use your emotions to your benefit.
To quote the greatest of the Romantic poets, John Keats:
“Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.” – From Keats’s Ode on Melancholy.
Back to more serious matters. The incredible intellectual challenge which Aristotle’s philosophy poses is daunting enough for the best philosophy student, and I am all the more excited to study his work for this challenge, but sometimes it astounds me that we so rarely encounter reason and rationality in today’s system of education. Throughout my University career (I am in 3rd year at the moment) I have been force-fed the message of relativism, subjectivity and ‘man’s inability to know himself’, never mind his environment and reality. I might be missing something essential here, but it does not appear to me that we are training leaders; we are training leaders who are beholden to others, to the ‘group’ and to ‘the country’. I am all for dialogue and discussion but there is a very firm line between talking to others, discussing things with them and rolling over and playing dead because you are too scared of stepping on anyone’s toes. Individuals drive society and they drive the world. If you have something to say, say it. Do not simply be a drone, doing things which are fashionable at the time. Fads will pass with time. Objective truth, reason and rationality will stand.
On to other matters, my love for the United States has moved me to look with shock and disgust at what Barack Obama is doing to that country. The USA is a Constitutional Republic. Now the President has repeatedly gone against the Constitution because he has some grand master plan for the country – he wants to mould the country as he sees fit, regardless of whether the people want that or not. The USA is not a nanny state, such as, for example, the United Kingdom. Capitalism, which has enjoyed its most amazing fulfillment in the figure of the society of the US, has resulted in the prosperity of millions. Not the welfare state, not state-run healthcare, but free market capitalism. Compare this to China, North Korea, Cuba and countless other countries which have tried to build their own utopias. Communism has resulted in the deaths of 100 million people, and counting. A popular argument is that ‘true’ communism has never been achieved. Actually, it was achieved, grotesquely and frighteningly so, in the leviathan that was the USSR – Soviet Russia. Communism is about control over every aspect of the human life, public and most importantly private. 100 million deaths is already too high a price for a so-called ‘worker’s paradise’. Also, true laissez-faire capitalism has also never been achieved and look at how well the system has done even whilst tempered by state intervention and state controls. The individual should be free to own private property, to own the profit of his labor (physical and mental). I have no problem with wanting to care for your fellow human being, in whatever manner you see fit, but you cannot demand that anyone else has a ‘moral duty’ to do the same. I find humans to be so fascinating and diverse that I find it to be a grave mistake to want to equalize everyone as communism tries to do – the brilliance that is the human mind is then destroyed. The disaster that is the NHS in England is testament to the danger of seizing the profits of individuals for the ‘good of the group.’ See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/oct/07/comment.comment. The specter that is Obamacare threatens the US in ways never before encountered, and it is my fervent hope that it will be declared “unconstitutional” by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year.
To end off on a lighter note, my favourite baseball team, the St Louis Cardinals, have enjoyed a fair start to this year’s MLB season. Their record reads 11-7 (which means they’ve won 11 and lost 7). Currently at the top of their division, it appears as though they have managed to ride the loss of franchise star Albert Pujols (He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for future reference) during the off-season and look to be building well. However, baseball is a fickle game and the season is still young, but I will always keep the faith. I also recently received the magnum opus of one of my favourite writers, Mark Levin, and I will be using it frequently to back up my arguments. Also, look forward to a lot of Ayn Rand references in the future, as well tit-bits from writers such as George Washington, Charles de Montesquieu, Alexis de Tocqueville, Aristotle and Milton, to name but a few.
I will end with a warning from President Ronald Reagan: “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”