The phenomenal rises and impacts of bureaucratic manoeuvring and power struggle have been so embedded and pervasive as to render or qualify them as highly corrupting forces and exacerbating factors in the broader sociopolitical environment, manifestly contributing to not just the insurgence, proliferation and intensification of, but also the blatant pushing and perverted justification for, inequity, discrimination, polarization, conflict (of interest), dereliction (of duty), misconduct, malpractice, even systematic denigration or disenfranchisement, outright exploitation or oppression, heavy-handed suppression or persecution, and unmitigated invasion or annexation, all of which have transpired via or within the regulations, procedures and operations of social institutions both within and between entities, states or countries. The sheer extent and potency of ignorance, irrationality, intolerance, parochialism, polarization, illiberalism, immorality and even criminality in atomizing and polarizing people into schismatic and ill-informed individuals, as well as in fomenting and extending people’s misguided, perfidious, disruptive, destructive, provocative, reactionary or counterproductive behaviours into the nooks and crannies of everyday life, have both unveiled and unleashed the language of misperception, cupidity, corruption, deception, subreption, antipathy, antagonism, obscurantism, resentment, hatemongering, fearmongering, blame (shifting), injustice, bigotry, culture war, identity politics, ideological extremism and science denialism, often manifesting as dramatic forms of misrepresentation, sensationalism, cognitive bias, selective empowerment, discriminatory practice, invidious policy, historical negationism, social amplification and cultural tribalism — ones that are unflatteringly ill-equipped to address or moderate, but unenviably well-equipped to worsen or contribute to, the wider structural causes of complex, partisan or contested matters and wedge issues, especially those pertaining to racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, immigration, multiculturalism, crime, firearms regulation, national security, religion, abortion, vaccination, genetic evolution, climate change, the environment, the economy, as well as civil and political rights. All in all, the resulting instability, conflict, crisis and degeneracy have reached pandemic proportions, burdening a large number of peoples, institutions and societies with awkward, difficult, complex, dangerous or hazardous situations occasioning gross injustice, perturbation, violence or lawlessness, and resulting in social, legal, political and bureaucratic quagmires, whilst (con)straining both intellectual discourse and civic life.
Even though the state can endeavour to ensure and increase justice by operating courts and enforcing their rulings, one would do very well to recognize and accept that there exist certain conditions and circumstances in politics and governance under which even legislation has its limits and cannot be counted on to preserve liberty and realize (the significance of) democratic freedom, particularly when human fallibility and corruption prevail to the detriment or exclusion of probity, liberty, equality, fraternity, decency, acumen, rectitude and morality (being defended and applied with good sense and fine judgement); or when laws and decrees can no longer (be judiciously utilized to) guarantee, maintain or restore (any semblance of) order, justice and even democracy itself. On page 374 in “CHAPTER 21. REASON” from “Part III: REASON, SCIENCE, AND HUMANISM” of his 2018 book entitled Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker highlights the far more deleterious and corrosive nature of political polarization than that of its intellectual or academic counterpart with respect to politicization compromising the tenets, workings and legitimacy of democracy:
Of the two forms of politicization that are subverting reason today, the political is far more dangerous than the academic, for an obvious reason. It’s often quipped (no one knows who said it first) that academic debates are vicious because the stakes are so small. But in political debates the stakes are unlimited, including the future of the planet. Politicians, unlike professors, pull the levers of power. In 21st-century America, the control of Congress by a Republican Party that became synonymous with the extreme right has been pernicious, because it is so convinced of the righteousness of its cause and the evil of its rivals that it has undermined the institutions of democracy to get what it wants. The corruptions include gerrymandering, imposing voting restrictions designed to disenfranchise Democratic voters, encouraging unregulated donations from moneyed interests, blocking Supreme Court nominations until their party controls the presidency, shutting down the government when their maximal demands aren’t met, and unconditionally supporting Donald Trump over their own objections to his flagrantly antidemocratic impulses. Whatever differences in policy or philosophy divide the parties, the mechanisms of democratic deliberation should be sacrosanct. Their erosion, disproportionately by the right, has led many people, including a growing share of young Americans, to see democratic government as inherently dysfunctional and to become cynical about democracy itself.
In other words, a system of government and its legal and political institutions are rarely beyond the fray of power struggles, private interests, sectional agendas, partisan politics, competitive culture, corporate pressure, bureaucratic wrangling, systemic corruption, endemic discrimination and ideological warfare. After all, laws and legislation are hardly ever unexceptionable and unassailable products constituted from a set of rational principles and neutral practices that are applied to adjudicate disputes, differences, injustices, malpractices and wrongdoings, considering that they are not merely contingent on and entangled with a system of meanings and values but also reflect and construct social relations, all of which are folded or embedded into legal reasoning and legal culture. Moreover, the meanings and values in the system are always fluctuating as a result of being conditioned by culture and history, and thus are subject to biases and misinterpretations, even if rationality can be consistently strengthened or appealed to. The capacity of laws and legislation to be legally valid, binding and enforceable in different contexts is both contingent (acceptable only if certain circumstances are the case) and circumscribed (restricted to certain roles or situations). The radical and profound implications of these two conditions are that legal facts and claims are often akin to opinions whose popularity or acceptability is (liable to be) transitory and far from conclusive; that legislative validity and reliability are less certain and durable than they are usually assumed to be; that codified constitutions and jurisprudence are ultimately not the reassuringly solid, supremely sensible, outstandingly immutable and gloriously enshrined affairs that numerous people have been led to believe; and that the justice system can become preferential, adversarial, contradictory, peremptory and even oppressive, if it has been abused, exploited, perverted or corrupted by wealthy individuals, organizations, criminals, miscreants, attorneys, jurists, law enforcers, regulatory authorities, administrative agencies or governing bodies for purposes not intended by legislators (also known as deputies or lawmakers), or if it has been deployed as the overarching instrument and expression of the policy goals or political aims of a dominant social group, a despotic regime or an unjust ruler. Laws and legislation thus comprise or constitute not unadulterated reality of legal control and scrutiny but a version filtered through the lens and scope of social expectations and human experiences as well as the contexts, power structure and social hierarchy in which they are presented. Since each epoch has its own knowledge system within which individuals are inescapably entangled, all laws and legislation must be understood, framed and used within the worldview and sociocultural context in which they are created or sourced. Their value, usability and validity cannot be found by appeal to a categorically independent external truth, but only within the confines of the norms and forms that frame, formulate, phrase and interpret the laws and legislation, and within the conventions used to decode them. By the same token, the content, relevance and quality of laws and legislation are fundamentally filtered and moulded by class structures, social stratifications, cultural reproductions and communication frameworks as well as by the interaction between legal cultures, and the social construction of legal issues, and therefore cannot be unified neatly, explained fairly or understood impartially in any centralizing perspective or intellectual stance. All in all, the validities of laws and legislation are inescapably constrained by, or contingent upon, not merely factuality, intentionality, advocacy, allegiance and partisanship but also contemporary modes of thought, standards of reasoning, epistemic principles, theoretical perspectives, ideological standpoints, leading paradigms, social conventions, cultural traditions, ethical frameworks, moral ideals and the like. Therefore, undesirable or contentious matters such as those pertaining to systemic racism and more broadly to systemic inequality, systemic discrimination and systemic corruption can insidiously creep into the system governing laws and legislation via public opinions, political trends, contemporary zeitgeist, social change, paradigm shift, cultural evolution, invisibility, perceived neutrality, generalized preferences, (un)conscious biases, evasions, gaming the system, loopholes, legal opportunisms, legal abuses, political intrigues, political polarization, historical negationism, sophisticated casuistries, cunning sophistries, uncurbed normalizations of duplicity, and routinized notions of propriety, all of which can corrupt (principles, policies and practices within) the justice system, and can be traced by comparative analyses, uncovered by evidence-based research and investigated by independent commissions. As can be discerned from the following excerpt from Judge Billings Learned Hand’s historic pronouncement known as “The Spirit of Liberty”, presented as the final speech of the “I Am an American Day” event celebrated in New York City on 21 May 1944, there are simply no substitutes for inner wisdom, moderation, benevolence and social conscience with constitutions, laws and courts, all of which are hardly ever guaranteed to be impervious to partisanship, perversion and manipulation, and have always needed to be guarded against misuse and abuse:
… We sought liberty; freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning. What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow.
One way to measure the morality or validity of laws and legislation is to determine how and why they enshrine, benefit or preserve the right, freedom, tradition or idea of their proponents as well as how and why they affect, curtail or infringe those of their opponents. In respect to contentious matters, where people fall within a particular spectrum of opinion or line of thought that is diametrically framed or straddled by some opposing worldviews or polarizing paradigms may indeed reveal the underlying risk, limit, pitfall, provision, contingency, peculiarity, changeability, fragility and fallibility (in relation to the validity and generalizability) of their claims, positions or convictions, whether or not they are indeed prepared to live and die by their claims or convictions, whose longevities and legitimacies are not even necessarily guaranteed by the rulings of the court due to the facile and labile nature of law, which becomes more evident with the passage of time and in the larger scheme of things. Maintaining judicial independence as well as the separation of church and state aside, the contingent (acceptable only if certain circumstances are the case) and circumscribed (restricted to certain roles or situations) nature of laws and legislation in determining their contextual validity is further complicated by the ever-present caveat that without the rule according to a higher law (mandating that no law may be enforced by the government unless it comports with certain written or unwritten universal(ly self-explanatory) principles of morality, equality, autonomy, respect, dignity, fairness and justice) or the mediation and benefit of the scruple, prudence, moderation, sagacity and good will of those in charge of systems, and more specifically, the justice system, even legal arguments and determinations predicated on morality or moral principles can persistently fail to resolve fundamental disagreements or epistemological impasses that often arise in a pluralistic society saddled with competing moral values. Such problems are worsened when the claims, sources or nuances of morality, philosophical ideals, legal determinations and even judicial activism are themselves the products of political bias rather than political fairness; moral bias rather than moral reasoning; religious dogma rather than enlightened deliberation; science denialism rather than scientific validity; creeping authoritarianism rather than political plurality; and giving an inordinate or unjustifiable degree of influence over political outcomes to some entities or social classes rather than ensuring equal access to means of influence for all and sundry. Furthermore, the jostling for legality and legitimacy amongst disparate voices and factions can often manifest as a zero-sum game, where the outcome is a gain or advantage for one side and an equivalent loss or disadvantage for the other, such that the net improvement in benefit of the case or scenario is zero. Accordingly, championing or enshrining the claims or moral values of certain societal groups via legal means and legislative controls not merely results in the suppression of the claims or moral values of other groups, but also risks undermining or infringing on their respective prerogatives, autonomies or sovereignties that preserve the sanctity of their personhood or body politic, all of which have been conferred by long-cherished and inalienable civil liberties that are the indispensable cornerstones of a liberal society or a free country, cornerstones that define the polity of civic humanism since the age of enlightenment. Such divisive issues can be tricky and challenging to manage, adjudicate and resolve efficaciously even at the best of times, and have become all the more insidious and perilous in the face of a fiercely partisan sociopolitical climate dominated and marred by intolerance, corruption, moral bankruptcy, Machiavellian conservatism and inimical illiberalism perverting democracy for achieving deceptive, subreptive, disruptive, oppressive, inequitable, pernicious or nefarious purposes, and for justifying, obfuscating or muddying the waters of controversial matters and legislations pertaining to (systemic) sexism, racism, discrimination, exploitation, marginalization, subjugation, and curtailment of civil rights. In this regard, the timely publication of Daniel A Kaufman’s post entitled “Compelled Birth and the Liberal Polity” promptly shines a much needed light on the precarious nature of leaving civil liberties and prerogatives to the machineries of the court, politics and election cycle. As can be seen in the following extracts, the author explains the legality of abortion via the lens of autonomy and self-determination, and concludes that the preservation of basic rights is unlikely to be guaranteed in perpetuity when liberties and prerogatives cannot be elevated above contentious political and moral issues:
Many commentators will be doing deep-dives into the details of the [Supreme Court’s] ruling and all of its potential implications. My interest, however, is in the general question of reproductive freedom, and why one cannot have a liberal society without it, and the short of it is that reproductive freedom is a form of bodily autonomy, and bodily autonomy is fundamental to the very idea of a liberal society, let alone any acceptable implementation of one. With regard to the question of abortion’s legality, then, the moral dimension is largely irrelevant.
For political-philosophical and prudential considerations to supersede moral ones is hardly unusual. … the morality of the thing itself … is not the governing consideration. And as the question of the thing’s morality is a matter of irresolvable dispute, if it is taken as the governing consideration, we wind up with unsurpassable and toxic political divisions; a winner-takes-all universe, in which political victory means forcibly imposing one’s morality on others, and political defeat means having others’ morality forcibly imposed on you. And they will be imposed on you, because you will not always prevail in political contests.
So, the question of whether having an abortion is morally right or wrong is irrelevant to the question of its legality, insofar as there are overriding politico-prudential considerations to take into account. A liberal polity, at a bare minimum, depends upon sustaining a rigorous distinction between the public and the private and granting substantial prerogative to the private, with respect to incursions from the public. In liberal societies, like the US, this prerogative is often extended as far as a person’s place of residence or even his or her land. That there are things you can do to an intruder on your property – including killing him – that you could not do to him out on the street is one expression of this prerogative. That the police cannot enter your home without a properly served warrant is another. One would think that some similar prerogative must also operate at the bodily level or an even stronger one perhaps, insofar as one’s body represents a far more intimate portion of the private sphere than one’s house or land. It is why the state cannot compel you to donate an organ, even if considerations of Utility deem it obligatory, or prevent you from masturbating, even if there is a credible moral philosophy that prohibits it. It also is why the state cannot compel women to give birth, regardless of whether there are credible moral reasons suggesting they are obligated to do so. It beggars belief to suggest that one’s prerogative on one’s land is so great that you can shoot dead a person on your property, but that one’s prerogative over one’s body is so small that the state can force you to give birth. But once again, here we are.
… If fetuses gestated outside of the mother – perhaps down the street – we would not be having this conversation, as women’s bodily autonomy would not be at issue. As it happens, however, human fetuses gestate inside women’s bodies, so a mothers’ bodily privilege is in full effect. And remember, once again, it is not credible to suggest that one can kill a grown person on one’s property, on grounds of private prerogative, but that a woman has insufficient bodily autonomy to determine whether or not she is going to give birth.
Now all of this depends upon the value of living in a liberal society … I’ll offer two observations.
First, the United States is in fact and by design, a liberal polity, something – as already mentioned – that is reflected throughout its foundational documents and enumerated and unenumerated rights. [The ninth amendment to the US Constitution explicitly states that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”] If one political faction in this country wants to alter the country’s fundamental nature – wants America to cease being a liberal polity – it will require a constitutional convention or a raftload of major constitutional amendments. It cannot be effected by the judgments of a bunch of political appointees to a court [including the Supreme one] or a rabble of state legislators.
Second and as I’ve already maintained, the preferability of a liberal society over other types also has a purely prudential rationale. I’ll summarize it again here:
A liberal polity is preferable to any other, because you cannot win every election and you cannot kill all your opponents. 
I want to close with a brief remark on systems.
Because the landmark Supreme Court rulings of the mid-20th century had such a positive impact on American society – the ruling regarding desegregation being the most obvious example – we came to think of the court as the place where fundamental rights were protected in the face of hostile populations. More generally, many if not most Americans think this about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights themselves: that they provide systemic protection of fundamental rights and liberties from the vicissitudes of democracy. People, after all, can vote for anything, good or bad.
But this reliance on systems is a mistake, because there is no system that can be designed, whose proper functioning does not depend on the good will of those charged with implementing it. Bad actors will always prevail over systemic obstacles, and this latest Supreme Court decision is merely the latest and most egregious illustration of that fact. Liberties and prerogatives – and liberalism itself – need to be re-established and re-defended with every turn of the political cycle, in perpetuity.
Hence, even in a mature liberal democracy putatively governed under the rule of law with independent judiciary and free public debate, (the quality and due processes of) the judiciary cannot always result in unassailable justice on and enduring protection of something as fundamental as human rights and civil liberties, which are supposedly considered to be imperative and upheld as sacrosanct. Adding considerable uncertainty to legal determinations and judicial outcomes is that the (moral) stance taken by the judiciary or political leadership of a country towards (some legal determinations, decisions or rulings under) the principle or doctrine of the rule of law can indeed increase the occurrence of “justly enacted unjust laws”, insofar as the court or government may still manage to produce results that many reasonable persons, discerning observers or incisive critics deem to be unfair, unjust or unconscionable. On the one hand, political leaders in certain countries assert that since the rule of law is largely or purely a procedural concept, they contend or conclude that any government may legitimately deprive its citizens of their fundamental freedoms or infringe their personal liberties and vital interests via a duly implemented legal mechanism. On the other hand, even if political leaders in some countries assert or stipulate not merely that all written laws must conform with the universal principles of morality, equality, autonomy, respect, dignity, fairness and justice, but also that since “no one is above the law”, the rule of law requires the government to treat all natural persons equally under the law, the actual or eventual legal and political outcomes may still be adverse, inimical, deleterious if not devastating to the attainment or maintenance of wellbeing, civil liberties and self-determination, because the proclaimed right or entitlement to, and the policy or procedure for, accessing or receiving equal treatment, are susceptible to being invalidated, nullified or revoked, whenever the government decides to deny or stop bestowing adequate rights, respect, dignity and autonomy to a certain class of individuals or the general population, by abridging extant guarantees and freedoms via constitution, legislation or judicial interpretation, with or without due process.
Where legislation could ultimately fail, education would hopefully prevail. Whilst Judge Billings Learned Hand asserts that “no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help” when liberty, which “lies in the hearts of men and women”, “dies there”, Manuel Garcia junior, in reflecting “On Plato’s Republic and Just Societies”, believes in the primacy of education for the establishment of “good and intelligent morality” that is encapsulated or embodied by good moral character equipped with strong virtue (a trait or quality deemed to be morally good and valued as a foundation of principle), insofar as he espouses a political philosophy in which having or maintaining a majority of citizens with “incorruptible moral character” is the key ingredient or essential condition for achieving universal justice and viable “societal stability” on a long-term basis across multiple generations in a society. The realization of such a just and stable society is predicated on “the operation of its educational systems”, regardless of its politics and political structure:
In his book, Republic, Plato lays out his political philosophy for the establishment and maintenance of a stable, well-ordered and just society. In his time societies were city-states, like Athens in the time of Socrates, Plato and Diogenes. The essential element of Plato’s scheme is the “guidance” of the city — “governing” is too strongly “micro-management” of a word — by a class of “guardians” who were carefully selected and trained from youth for the task, and who were wholly devoted to it for their lifetimes: basically philosopher-guru-priests.
However, I note that the viability of Plato’s political formulation for the construction and operation of just societies rests primarily on the incorruptible moral character of its central and guiding personnel, the guardians, and secondarily on the reasonably stable decency of behavior of the citizens: that is to say, their morality.
Please note that by “moral” I do not at all mean “religious”; there is no functional correlation between the two (and in my view more likely an anti-correlation).
At least since the end of the Neolithic, the idea developed that a stable, well-ordered society (whether just or unjust, but always to the liking of its rulers) could be established solely by political means, such as in: monarchies, parliamentary democracies, socialist and communists states (most pointedly those sharply Marxist materialist), and dictatorships (whether purely materialistic or theocratic).
By political I mean social arrangements for societal management that are constructions external to the individual person. Note that such political structures can include elements of physical compulsion on individual behavior, and elements of thought-control by indoctrination and propaganda to capture, shape and distort individual thought, and that such political structures will still be external to the individual as a moral being.
So, I do not believe [that] it is possible to ensure the stable continuation of any momentarily just society, whatever its political structure, solely on the basis of the forced maintenance of that political structure, nor solely on the basis of a change of political structure whether that change is reformist or revolutionary. Justice as societal stability requires a taproot into incorruptible moral character by a majority of the citizens. Justice is good politics and good political structure, and is a natural outgrowth of good and intelligent morality, which in turn is individually personified as character.
Given the above, I believe that any social movement aiming to “permanently” evolve, reform or revolutionize a society in need of anything from improvement to drastic change in order to make it universally just, has to base its efforts on developing the moral character of its movement adherents and the mass of citizens [that] it wishes to convince, for lifetime incorruptibility. Here, we have faith that a society with a majority of its citizens being of incorruptible moral character will ensure the continuation of such in succeeding generations, by the operation of its educational systems.
The centrality of education is also affirmed by Plato’s quotation of a conversation between Socrates and Adeimantus in book 10 of the Republic, which reveals Socrates’ firm belief in the critical necessity for cultivating a knowledgeable and responsible public on the basis that democracy without educated masses would invariably occasion populism rather than competence as the main factor or criterion for the electability of a leader, eventually precipitating a sociopolitical crisis and leading to a societal demise; and that the right to vote should neither be indiscriminate nor ordained by birth or citizenship so that it is granted only to people who have sufficiently deliberated on their choices.
On balance, education and legislation are the two major keys for ensuring effective democracy and good governance, for advocating safe and ethical uses of technology and social media, for developing cultural and global awareness, and for fostering critical thinking, information literacy and media literacy in citizens to better equip them against the assault of Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic. The consequences of ongoing and widespread 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠 are manifestly costly, far-reaching and capable of ripping the social fabric apart. Hence, heeding the precautionary principle and the age-old wisdom derivable from the adage “An ounce of prevention is better than ten pounds of cure.” is all the more necessary since it is often too late and too difficult to educate or legislate against those who have been poisoned for too long and too deeply by the “me” culture driven by self-interest and political expediency to amass power, influence and wealth by plotting control, intrigue, conspiracy, exploitation, oppression, corruption and social polarization.
Insightful thinkers, incisive experts and sagacious officials should and would have linked the health of the information landscape and the strong presence of an active, informed and educated citizenry as the major criteria and vital requisites for achieving social integrity, conflict resolution, civic engagement and democratic resilience with high reliability, efficacy and sustainability. For example, the pivotal roles of democracy in mitigating the degenerative regression of human behaviour and in promoting the ethical ideals of humanity have been profoundly championed by one of the most eminent American scholars in the first half of the 20th century, who wrote about education, epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, art, logic, ethics, social theory and functional psychology (or functionalism) in his professional capacity as a public intellectual and an avid proponent of social reform, progressive education and liberalism. Well-known for his educational philosophy of pragmatism and his advocating experimental intelligence and plurality through the judicious support and reconstruction of schools and civil society, John Dewey (20 Oct 1859 – 1 Jun 1952), an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer, has a pedagogical, percipient and penetrating perspective on democracy to such a deep-seated extent that he believes and contends that full democracy is only obtainable and complete not just when voting rights are widely available but also when public opinions are well-established by communication amongst citizens, experts and politicians, the latter of whom need to be accountable for their adopted policies. In other words, Dewey posits that human interests are best promoted through a democratic society of informed and engaged inquirers who(se agencies) are (able to be) empowered by politics, education, communication and journalism that are amenable to moral scrutiny, social possibilities and social responsibilities consistent with and conducive to ongoing social change, revision and expansion. Such a democratic society has the necessary conditions to equip its inhabitants to function as reasoning citizens capable of holding authorities to account via the fair and open arenas of public opinion, voting and election. Nevertheless, Dewey warns that institutions born of democracy can still conspire against cherished human rights and ideals because the ritualistic observance of formulae and the unmitigated reliance on checks and balances can cause people to be blind, numb or blasé towards the façade of stability, the limit of endurance, and the illusion of resilience in the face of insidious erosion of liberty and declining norms of decency, set starkly against a backdrop of complacency and overconfidence in which people mistakenly assume that democracy is immune to the spectre of despotism or totalitarianism, and that the enshrined existence and putative function of a codified constitution can always be relied upon to safeguard democracy, even when people are deplorably becoming more distracted by or accustomed to (witnessing, displaying or committing) cruelty, duplicity, iniquity, mendacity and enmity, let alone coercion, intimidation, transgression, corruption and falsification, all of which constitute veritable tests of their character, acumen, rectitude, morality, transparency and accountability. In particular, Dewey cautions in his 1939 analytical defence of democracy entitled Freedom and Culture against falling for such assumptions or beliefs
that democratic conditions automatically maintain themselves, or that they can be identified with fulfillment of prescriptions laid down in a constitution. Beliefs of this sort merely divert attention from what is going on, just as the patter of the prestidigitator enables him to do things that are not noticed by those whom he is engaged in fooling. For what is actually going on may be the formation of conditions that are hostile to any kind of democratic liberties.[❆]
That democracy can be insidiously undermined and severely compromised or even undone by stealth, intrigue, corruption or despotism aside, the foundational circumstances, historical peculiarities and longitudinal development of a nation may inexorably set democracy on a wild ride, if not already sow the seeds of its own destruction. The gist of this panoramic aspect of democracy in terms of its long-term prognoses or future prospects based on historical contingencies and sociopolitical (r)evolutions as well as competitive advantage and geopolitical dominance can be pithily conveyed by the following extracts from the comment submitted by Kumi (Lightness Traveling) upon SoundEagle🦅ೋღஜஇ’s invitation to peruse this post:
Firstly, current Americans have inherited a compromised version of an anachronistic system that was never intended to function as a liberal democracy. And secondly, the US as a nation continues to exist only due to its ability to out-compete the systems of other nations and cultures, either through violence, adaptation, access to resources, productivity, or just theft. I’m not saying [that] these are “good”, “right”, or “just” things… only that they reflect the way [in which] the systems actually work.
… the United States’ Founders were certainly aware of Plato’s assertions that stable societies do not exist as a means to salve the imaginings and the desires of individuals. Rather, the maintenance of social order acts as a way to preserve access to the meritocratic accumulations of both personal and social wealth. Full democracies, according to Plato (as well as Marx and most of the Founding Fathers), merely serve as a means to shift power toward the less socially and economically productive aspects of a society.…
The point here is to repeat that (often ignorantly) overstated observation that the United States was not created, nor intended as a democratic institution. Rather, it was created as a rules-bound timocracy, essentially governed by an invested class. Consequently, we’ve inherited a kludged democratic system that gives us only a very limited set of choices. That Republicans have ridden the locomotive entirely off the rails in vacuous appeals to reactionary ideology, or that Democrats have become fused to the plutocratic bureaucracy of corporate and institutional donors is the natural, self-preserving evolution of such a system. Most in both parties sincerely believe (perhaps correctly) that a true liberal democracy would plunge the country into chaos and bankruptcy. Despite all of the repeated handwringing and hyperbole, I sincerely doubt that Plato would be surprised by any of this, except that things have managed to last this long. If the US is truly going to embrace a genuine and functional democracy, it would require a broad and complete reset of American culture… something that would almost certainly end up hijacked by the leadership of some charismatic sociopath. (Think: Eric Hoffer’s 1951, “The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements”)
My second observation is that societies are emergent entities unto themselves in much the way of beehives or ant-colonies… just considerably more complex and sophisticated. And these various social systems (“nations”) compete with one another for resources… food and water, energy and technological/industrial resources, safety… But the emergent drives of a society aren’t necessarily the same as those of the individuals who create it, and so they’re not necessarily perceived by the humans who perform its functions (or dysfunctions). As a result, it’s easy for there to emerge both various social impetuses to act in ways that defy individual self-interest, as well as a frustration with the way a society moves as a whole. (Kevin Kelly’s 2010, “What Technology Wants” is an interesting take.)
Democracy is not a given. It can be quite fragile, can fail rather badly, and often is approximately as good and benevolent (or bad and malevolent) as the members who inhabit, practise, control or legislate it. We all need to do our parts in contributing to the smooth and equitable functioning of a civil society and democratic country. John Dewey concludes in Freedom and Culture that “[t]he democratic road is the hard one to take. It is the road which places the greatest burden of responsibility on the greatest number of human beings. Backsets and deviations occur and will continue to occur. But that which is its weakness at particular times is its strength in the long course of human history.”[❆] In that regard, SoundEagle🦅ೋღஜஇ has contributed a decent share of the said responsibility by highlighting many of the most fundamental causes of human flaws and social ills through publishing engagingly detailed and highly analytical blog posts, such that readers can find more penetrating answers and holistic solutions to thorny issues, some of which are exemplified in 💬 Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠.
It behoves us to develop and maintain a long-term resolve to continually educate ourselves, to learn more about life critically, and to refrain from being circumscribed by our initial chosen vocation or our aspiration to secure a highly profitable vocation. Such a resolve is also the impetus for SoundEagle🦅ೋღஜஇ’s pursuit of truth, knowledge and consilience via interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity, as one can amply observe from visiting this multifaceted website on which this related post is published.
All in all, judicial opinions, deliberations and verdicts seldom crescendo to a unanimous finale, especially when they involve complicated issues or concern controversial matters, about which justices may even vehemently disagree with each other. Furthermore, the Supreme Court tends to end up adjudicating controversial matters and producing controversial decisions because it often deals with cases that have failed to resolve in lower courts, or that have to be referred to the highest court for settling or reconciling important constitutional issues. On top of that, when the Supreme Court overturns an earlier decision or precedent, it is opposing or disagreeing with itself, or at the very least, with its former members.
Having perused this far, any reasonable and discerning reader can definitively conclude that the rulings of the court and the enforcements of laws and legislation tend to impel rigid compliance, incubate further grievance and even inflame social unrest rather than promote nuanced understanding and facilitate genuine empathy, thereby frustrating people’s effort in, reducing their chance of, and extinguishing their motivation for, mitigating ideological conflicts and moral issues by being more conciliatory, sympathetic, compassionate, open-minded, and less prejudiced or bigoted towards others. After all, outstanding manifestations of controversial matters and polarizing issues that ferment sociopolitical strife, especially those incurring, inducing or involving infringements of dignity, privacy, autonomy, liberty and civil rights, seldom cancel each other out neatly or resolve amicably on their own via an adversarial zero-sum game, winner-takes-all scenario, or one-size-fits-all strategy, much less when there also exist punitive sanctions, prohibitive constraints or stringent rules and regulations to the detriment of human rights, civil liberties and even democracy itself.
Much delayed and all too often ignored is the fundamental realization that contrary positions can indeed define each other’s existence and delineate one another’s validity, as well as promote a discourse between two or more people or parties holding differing viewpoints about a certain issue but wishing to establish a truth or truce via reasoned arguments, bilateral agreement, mutual understanding, compromise, negotiation, cooperation or synthesis, and in cases of ongoing dispute or conflict, via intercession, conciliation, adjudication, arbitration or settlement. In any case, reality often abounds with stark contradictions and polar oppositions, many of which await resolutions, even potentially or eventually arriving at some form(s) of fusion, hybridity, syncretism, synergism, inclusivism, eclecticism or consilience. The validity or viability of one(’s) position of concern can often be brought into sharper relief through contrast to what it is not, and what it precludes or excludes. For example, in many societies, vast wealth and power coexist alongside sheer poverty and misery, even though the former is supposed to (be able to) eradicate the latter. Such a severe degree of juxtaposition or polarization patently exposes, demarcates and foregrounds the contentious, provocative or confrontational issues flanked by the contrary positions. The stark juxtaposition of radically different viewpoints or realities may even highlight the arbitrary nature and historical contingency of one’s own values, convictions or claims by prompting one to realize that it is in some sense accidental that one happens to be having certain values, convictions or claims rather than their contrary kinds or opposing counterparts due to the upbringing, culture and social environment from which one has originated, and therefore one may begin to wonder whether there is indeed any (intrinsically good) reason or justification to believe that one’s values, convictions or claims are more likely to be right or valid than those of other individuals emerging from different upbringing, culture and social environment, let alone the subjectivity of those values, convictions or claims. Accordingly, one would be wise to avail oneself of as many opportunities as possible to be cognizant of not merely the facile and labile nature of law, but also the facile and labile nature of (one’s) traditional values and putative natural law, including those pertaining to reproductive rights, as can be gleaned from the following extract from Benjamin David Steele’s blog post entitled “Leftism Points Beyond the Right and Beyond Itself”:
There have been many kinds of radicalism over time and, importantly, most of them originated within religion. It’s historically complicated, but over time the specific radicalism of natural law seems to have faded almost entirely. As so often happens, the radicalism that takes hold as a revolution of the mind quickly becomes normalized and so becomes the new social norm as status quo to be defended by the reactionary right. That is how natural law has become neutered in being largely identified with the reactionary and regressive at this point. Fundamentalist apologists have come to treat their beliefs about social order, gender, family, abortion, etc as an ideological realism of natural law and so seek to enforce it through human law (i.e., theocracy); in spite of the fact that Jesus offered very little light on the subject or, if anything, a rather anti-fundamentalist view in his having heretically challenged the Jewish fundamentalism of his own era. Jesus went so far as to deny his own mother on multiple occasions; not to mention having told one man about his father’s corpse to let the dead bury the dead; having declared that he came not to bring peace but to turn son against father, daughter against mother; and we can’t forget his repeated challenge to wealth and power, including a direct attack on the established elite in overturning the moneylenders tables in the temple. As for abortion and homosexuality, he was silent, as was the Old Testament. Are these Christian moral values and family values?
Traditional Values Are Not Culture Wars
This is another area where traditionalism stands in stark contrast to the reactionary right and, at times, finds resonance with a progressive left. Think about how, prior to the 1960s, abortion was a non-issue among Christians with a long history of theological arguments actually justifying it, not to mention Christian communities condoning the practice that was common in the past. The Bible does speak against infanticide, but that is referring to the killing (exposure or abandoning) of babies that were already born, not the terminating of pregnancies which was a standard practice at the time. Abortifacients have existed in nearly every traditional society, for being able to control when to have children was even more important in the past when unneeded children to feed could be a threat to the survival of family and community. There is even an abortifacient recipe in the Old Testament. Odd as it may sound in this era of reactionary culture war, most early-to-mid 20th century American Christians, specifically Protestants and including Evangelicals, saw no conflict between family values and abortion; and instead they often saw these as closely related because family planning was seen as central to family responsibility.
Contrary to what those who have been unaware of or denying the deep-rooted past of abortion would like to believe, the controversial aspects of birth control, family planning and human reproduction have patently unfolded via their eventful and chequered histories throughout the world, even in America, where many ideas, issues and laws in the past were much more complex and contested than the press, judges and lawmakers, let alone laypersons, of the present have bothered or managed to realize and take into account adequately or satisfactorily. The underappreciation, underestimation or misrepresentation of the longitudinal variability and complexity of the controls, practices and cultural dimensions in pregnancy and abortion can be considerably worse for those who (in)tend to seek in the past only what validates or resonates with their ill-informed, misguided, biased, fallacious, corrupt or indoctrinated views and beliefs in the present, especially when they also reject substantial precedents, correlating trends and their implications, and fail to conduct equitable analysis and scrupulous research by triangulation using multiple methods or multiple types and sources of information. A good candidate for achieving a succinct understanding of the historical profile of abortion can be found in a recent offering from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), an American public broadcaster and noncommercial, free-to-air television network based in Arlington, Virginia. It is a short documentary dated 1 August 2022 and entitled “Early America’s complicated history with abortion access”, in which Paul Solman, the business and economics correspondent for the PBS NewsHour since 1985, examines such a history of abortion by interviewing relevant experts and scholars, including associate professor Molly J Farrell, who specializes in early American literature, the history of science, early modern affects and feminism, and whose “recent articles explore the intense affects emerging from seventeenth century writing about crises relating to reproduction; the connections between the Puritans and the present”:
The following paragraphs quoted from Diane Ravitch’s post entitled “Reader: Why The Supreme Court Is Wrong About Abortion” constitute an exemplary exposé for highlighting the decidedly problematic nature as well as far-reaching health and social costs of (indiscriminately) relying on or appealing to biblical validity, scriptural interpretation and Supreme Court’s ruling for sanctioning or making decisions on abortion and premature birth, considering that the resultant validity, interpretation and ruling can be pronouncedly at odds with, and even emphatically opposed or dismissed by, not merely relevant scientific and medical findings but also Judaism and certain Christian denominations.
The Bible is silent on abortion:
The 9th Amendment gives Clarence Thomas the constitutional right to live in an interracial marriage and gives women the constitutional right to abortion: The 9th Amendment says that rights do not have to be stated in the Constitution in order to be rights: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Americans have long claimed to right to and the practice of abortion. Benjamin Franklin, key Founding Father of America, shaper and signer of our Constitution, published a handbook titled “The American Instructor” that featured a long, detailed section on do-it-yourself abortion and conception prevention. The book was very popular throughout America and the prevention of and termination of pregnancies was widely practiced throughout America, especially in rural areas where an unwanted pregnancy could mean financial ruin in those days.
The current Supreme Court ruling on abortion not only violates the 9th Amendment, it violates the religious rights of many citizens: The Bible gives commandments on a very, very long list of more than 600 laws on everything from divorce to gluttony — yet the Bible says nothing about abortion. Why is that? If abortion was even as important as gluttony, it would have been mentioned in the Bible.
But, the Bible is silent on abortion: Out of more than 600 laws of Moses, which includes the 10 Commandments, NONE — not one — comments on abortion. In fact, the Mosaic law in Exodus 21:22-25 clearly shows that causing the abortion of a fetus is NOT MURDER. Exodus 21:22-25 says that if a woman has a miscarriage as the result of an altercation with a man, the man who caused miscarriage should only pay a fine that is to be determined by the woman’s husband, but if the woman dies, the man is to be executed: “If a man strives with a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet there is no harm to the woman, he shall be punished according to what the woman’s husband determines and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if the woman dies, then it shall be life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Ex. 21:22-25. So, the Bible orders the death penalty for murder of a human being — the mother — but not for the death of a fetus, indicating that the fetus is not yet a human being.
There are Christian denominations that allow abortion in most instances; these denominations include the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA. The United Methodist Church and Episcopal churches allow abortion in cases of medical necessity, and the United Universalist Association also allows abortion.
Most of the opposition to abortion comes from fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who believe that a full-fledged human being is created at the instant of conception. In short — it is a religious BELIEF and religious beliefs cannot be recognized by the government under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our Constitution. Moreover, the belief that a fetus is a human person, complete with a soul, is a Christian interpretation of the Jewish Bible — the Old Testament. But, Jewish scholars whose ancestors wrote the Old Testament and who know best what the words mean say that is a wrong interpretation of their writings.
Christians largely base their view that a fetus is a complete human being and that abortion is murder on the Jewish Bible’s Psalm 139: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb…You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.”
Who better to translate the meaning of Psalm 139 than the Jews who wrote it? And Jewish scholars point out that Psalm 139 merely describes the development of a fetus and does not mean that the fetus has a soul and is a person. In fact, the Jewish Talmud explains that for the first 40 days of a woman’s pregnancy, the fetus is considered “mere fluid” and is just part of the mother’s body, like an appendix or liver. Only after the fetus’s head emerges from the womb at birth is the baby considered a “nefesh” – Hebrew for “soul” or “spirit” – a human person.
I am not pro-abortion — I am PRO-CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, and until a fetus is in its 24th week of development the mother has the unquestionable constitutional right to decide what happens to the fetus. After the 24th week, society may have a legitimate legal interest in the fetus. What that interest is, to what extent it reaches, and how to encode that interest into law isn’t easy and will require a great deal of debate in society in general and in Congress, not the states, because it is a national constitutional right that is being dealt with.
THE COURT BENDS THE FACTS: The University of London scientist whose research is cited by the Supreme Court in its ruling to take away abortion rights says that his research has been misinterpreted by Justice Alito and the Supreme Court’s activist conservative majority. Neuroscientist Dr. Giandomenico Iannetti says that the Court is ABSOLUTELY WRONG to say that his research shows that a fetus can feel pain when it is less than 24 weeks of development. “My results by no means imply that,” Dr. Iannetti declares. “I feel they were used in a clever way to make a point.” And Dr. John Wood, molecular neurobiologist at the University, points out that all serious scientists agree that a fetus can NOT feel pain until at least 24 weeks “and perhaps not even then.” Dr. Vania Apkarian, head of the Center for Transitional Pain Research at Chicago’s Feinberg School of Medicine, says that the medical evidence on a fetus not feeling pain before 24 weeks or longer has not changed in 50 years and remains “irrefutable”.
LIFE OF WOE: In its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling upholding abortion rights, the Supreme Court set “viability” — the point at which a fetus can survive outside of the womb — as the dividing line after which some restrictions can be imposed on abortion rights. The pending ruling by current activist conservative majority on the Court will do away with the concept of viability, yet even with all of today’s medical miracles to keep a prematurely born or aborted fetus alive, of all the tens of thousands of cases, 90% OF FETUSES BORN AT 22 WEEKS DO NOT SURVIVE, and data shows that the majority of those that manage to be kept alive live the rest of their lives with a combination of BIRTH DEFECTS that include mental impairment, cerebral palsy, breathing problems, blindness, deafness, and other disorders that often require frequent hospitalizations during their lifetimes.
All in all, the ostensibly divergent or incompatible, and in some instances, diametrically opposed or outright antagonistic, positions or perspectives throughout the history of humankind demonstrate that the scope, reliability and validity of any claim or stance can be checked against, and contrasted with, those of its opposing form or contradictory counterpart, if the latter can be found or formulated. It is somewhat ironic or paradoxical that to ascertain the soundness of a certain claim or stance is to involve knowing, recognizing or even appreciating its contrary kind, opposite exemplar, reversed archetype or antithetical equivalent. Herein lies an implicit but palpable lesson that we ought to be mindful of being overly confident about our understanding of, and adherence to, certain positions or viewpoints, and that we stand to gain better or extra perceptivenesses, perspectives and insights by being receptive and empathetic towards those conflicting positions or viewpoints that seem to be (purveying the) oppugnant or irreconcilable, as the latter can potentially shed light on the validity, consistency, reliability and generalizability of our claims, positions or convictions. One way to measure the morality or validity of a claim or stance, or for that matter, the morality or validity of some law or legislation, is to determine how and why it enshrines, benefits or preserves the right, freedom, tradition or idea of its proponents as well as how and why it affects, curtails or infringes those of its opponents. Even if some or all proponents and opponents may not aspire or commit to achieving empathy, compromise, concession, conciliation, cooperation, agreement, fairness, magnanimity, or objectivity in value judgements, when two claims or beliefs contradict each other, the law of noncontradiction (mandating that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time) and the law of excluded middle (mandating that for any proposition, either that proposition is true, or its negation is true) together dictate that they cannot both be right, and hence everyone involved in those claims or beliefs ought to be seeking out the right answer or better path to resolve the disagreement. The corollary of both laws is that people can avoid or reduce conflict and misunderstanding by refraining from being too quick to dismiss or denigrate other viewpoints without giving them full consideration and attempting to reach empathy, acceptance, settlement or common ground.
For instance, in an engaging presentation (dated 30 May 2016) about predicting people’s political convictions based on neuroscientific analyses of differences between liberals and conservatives in cerebral structure (with 71.6% accuracy) and brain activity (with 82.6% accuracy) as opposed to parental influence (with 69.5% accuracy), American psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, columnist, author and television commentator, Dr Gail Saltz, recommends on Big Think (as transcribed from the video below) that liberals (who possess a larger anterior cingulate gyrus responsible for receiving new information and dealing with the impact of the information on decision making or choices; and who utilize more cerebral areas responsible for social awareness) and conservatives (who possess an enlarged right amygdala responsible for processing emotional, fear-based information and producing the flight-or-fright response) can achieve better rapport with each other by making decent effort in understanding and catering to each other’s sociocultural concerns and behavioural tendencies in order to bridge their political division and ideological stalemate:
If we’re trying to have a society that will work in its own best interest let’s say then we do want to be able to communicate with one another. And so if you’re a liberal and say you want to talk to a conservative about gay marriage you want to have in your mind how it might still speak to loyalty, stability and religious belief in some way. You want to have those ideas inform your communication as opposed to simply saying but, you know, this percentage of the population is homosexual and therefore, you know, we should consider whether everybody should have those same rights. And, you know, science shows it’s not a choice. It’s simply a fact you’re gay or not gay. And therefore shouldn’t those people have the same rights? That’s not the best way to appeal perhaps to a conservative on this issue.
You want to appeal to them in terms of how for example marital rules or history might be maintained and not really altered for those who are in let’s say a “traditional marriage.” How it won’t interrupt the fabric for example of their lives, of the rules that they adhere to. Those kinds of things would be more appealing to them whether or not that might be the most appealing argument to you as a liberal.
The truth is a conservative is more likely to be able to appeal to a liberal using novel new information that is science based and showing certain facts and allowing for it not necessarily to be purely religiously based. That not be the rule system so to speak. By being empathically understanding. And by that I don’t mean sympathetically understanding. I mean truly being able to stand in the other person’s shoes and have some insight into where their brain is directing them and appealing to that argument. So if you are a conservative you will want to appeal with new information because liberals are more novelty seeking potentially. And often science based is a good way to present new information.
Part of what’s difficult in terms of what I’m seeing now is that actually people are tending to double down on their own style and what appeals to their own group of thinkers. And that is increasingly preventing the kind of communication that would be important to our future so that we can’t so to speak cross the aisle because it would require trying on for size the thought pattern of the other group. And that’s hard to do. Let me say that is difficult to do. So if your amygdala is screaming at you, you know, run for the hills or double down and fight it’s hard to say well, let me take a step back and not have a fear-based reaction but instead present the science or present the new information.
A good example would be that of gun ownership. If I speak about gun ownership to a liberal group they automatically have thoughts probably about, particularly if they’re in an urban area, crime and danger because statistically that is what they have been privy to. The information has been given to them about how many homicides are committed, who is, you know, dying by gun violence, et cetera.
If I speak about gun ownership to a conservative group they are more likely in their loyal stable way to think about a sportsmanship, hunting with family particularly again if they’re in a rural area. Because that is what they grew up with, that is what has been stable for them, that is the memory that they have about guns. And so you can see how that’s coming from two completely different directions perhaps the same word, gun. And that it is hard to stand in the shoes for example of the other group so that you can come to make decisions about it.
So, for example, the CDC has been prevented from doing any research so that we could have new science about gun violence as a public health issue by actually the conservative political group has said, you know, you can’t do research on this area. We won’t call it a public health issue and therefore you’re prevented from getting dollars and prevented from having research into gun violence per se. And that comes probably from a fear position that if there is any new information that sways opinion we will lose our loyal standing to something that we firmly believe in and harks back to very pleasurable comforting memories from earlier life. So it’s very complicated in a certain kind of way. You know the liberal group is wanting there to be this research not necessarily to take guns away but to say we’d like to see the science to validate whether or not certain things about guns are good for us or not good for us.
Given that proponents and opponents holding their respective contradictory claims, conflicting beliefs or countervailing opinions cannot both be correct in the same sense at the same time (to the extent that ‘nothing can both be and not be’ and ‘everything must either be or not be’), it behoves us to understand the differences and bridge the gaps that exist amongst people such that we may indeed be better informed of the pros and cons of the matters in contention with respect to the claims, positions or convictions involved, as influenced and constrained by (the nature of) our emotional hangups, psychological makeups, mental barriers and cognitive filters. It is not so much a logical matter as it is a psychological one to ignore or contradict the law of noncontradiction and the law of excluded middle, insofar as what an American educator, businessman, motivational author and keynote speaker, Stephen Richards Covey, proposes as the essential ingredient of synergy (for the purpose of achieving interaction or cooperation such that the combined effect or resulting whole is greater than the sum of its separate effects or parts) on page 277 or 289 (depending on the edition) of his seminal self-help book entitled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” as follows:
Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy—the mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people. And the key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.
If I think I see the world as it is, why would I want to value the differences? Why would I even want to bother with someone who’s “off track”? My paradigm is that I am objective; I see the world as it is. Everyone else is buried by the minutiae, but I see the larger picture.…
If that’s my paradigm, then I will never be effectively interdependent, or even effectively independent, for that matter. I will be limited by the paradigms of my own conditioning.
The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings. That person values the differences because those differences add to his knowledge, to his understanding of reality. When we’re left to our own experiences, we constantly suffer from a shortage of data.
Is it logical that two people can disagree and that both can be right? It’s not logical: it’s psychological. And it’s very real.
Even if we seldom find ourselves engaging in any polarizing situation in which our claims or beliefs are in opposition to or pitted against those of certain proponents or opponents, some unforeseen or unintended contradictions may still arise within ourselves or occur in our life trajectories. For instance, although our chances of causing discrepancy, contradiction, confusion or befuddlement, and subsequently, of inducing conflict, scepticism or incredulity as a result of committing unruly juxtapositions of opposing views or polarizing claims are usually slim at the best of times (especially when sobriety and propriety are present), or at any point in time for that matter, our likelihoods of doing so over a larger span of time, and ultimately across our lifespan, are significantly higher if not inexorable or unpreventable, as we gradually or suddenly change our minds, goals, values, opinions, standpoints, convictions, allegiances, affiliations, aspirations, identities, lifestyles, careers and so on, particularly when our certain circumstances alter or evolve, never mind how and to what extent we can (hope, pretend or strive to) be feasibly independent of, or reasonably undeterred by, those circumstances. What is once (perceived or believed to be) a reasonable, equitable, justifiable, unbiased, agreeable, rational, logical or undebatable quotation, statement, principle, ideal, standard or stance may no longer be valid, upheld or cherished; and conversely, what is once (considered or thought to be) unreasonable, antithetical, undesirable, objectionable or indefensible may gradually or suddenly be acceptable, defended or endorsed. Furthermore, such a large shift, reversal, defection, (de)conversion, turnaround, belief revision, or change of heart from one position, perspective or paradigm to another may also involve significant amounts of compromise and subjectivity. Our faith, devotion, loyalty, adherence, patriotism and so on can often be conditional, varying in magnitude and dictated by emotion, at times even contradictory, waxing and waning, fervent here and wavering there, rigid or committed now and facile or flexible then. There are times in our lives when we defend or embrace certain quotations, statements, beliefs, traditions and authorities whilst explaining away counterexamples, and other times we doubt or reject them whilst drawing attention to counterexamples. All in all, even though our choice quotations, prime sayings, prize statements, noble tenets and moral axioms are fit to be scintillating gems capturing the fire and brilliance of certain ideas, claims or occasions, in time, we may doubt, regret, cringe at, be haunted by, or have various issues with, some of our past quotations, bygone sayings, former statements, entrenched attitudes, ingrained beliefs and inherited wisdom, since it can be forbiddingly difficult and soul-searchingly confronting to resolve critically the emotional travails of our lives as well as the trials and tribulations of our existence and conscience with the unyielding, impersonal dictates of Classical Logic: Laws of Noncontradiction and Excluded Middle. Nevertheless, where we fall within a particular spectrum of opinion or line of thought that has been diametrically framed or straddled by some antithetical standpoints, divergent perspectives, opposing outlooks or polarizing mindsets can reveal to us the underlying risk, limit, pitfall, provision, contingency, peculiarity, changeability, fragility and fallibility (in relation to the validity and generalizability) of our claims, positions or convictions, whose longevities and legitimacies are not even necessarily guaranteed with the passage of time and in the larger scheme of things, as Dr E John Winner, an expert in the Hegelian rhetoric and the philosophies of Buddhism, pragmatism and phenomenology, summarizes in his essay entitled “Exhaustion of the Dialectic as End of History” as follows:
Every field of human endeavor requires communication, and in communication, language generates ideas in the ordinary sense of that term (and sometimes in the technical philosophic senses of the term, as well). Since communication is a process, developing over time and in concrete contexts of social involvement, every idea has a history. Reviewing the history of any idea reveals that none receives universal acceptance by the first generation to be exposed to it. Rather, what we see is a narrative of conflict: disagreement, argument, counterargument, opposing ideas, criticism, rebuttal, appeals to differing authorities and differing procedures for justification. Eventually, the idea has been tested and comes to enjoy general (although rarely universal) agreement, or is displaced by a stronger idea, or gets subsumed into a better idea. Sometimes, as the context of its generation recedes into history, itself altered by changing economies, cultural formations, scientific discoveries, the idea simply fades from view.
We can derive deeper penetration of subject matters in relation to the sobering implications of the current state of affairs whose chaos and disruptions are very topical areas for conducting in-depth analyses and discussions, by exploring not only the escalating conflicts between liberals and conservatives fanned by the Supreme Court and its ruling on controversial matters, but also the outstanding tensions between one’s former beliefs resulting from religious indoctrination, confirmation bias, conformity bias, ingroup favouritism and echo chamber clusters reinforcing specific claims, causes, agendas, groups, identities and allegiances, and one’s more mature, sensible, considered, holistic and (re)conciliatory approach emerging from growing wisdom, humility, powers of observation and cumulative life experience, bolstered by one’s unswerving resolve to gain a sagacious comprehension of some of the greatest issues affecting people and societies, so as to emancipate oneself from the insidious clutch of cultural problematics, peer influence and groupthink mentality, by means of making stalwart endeavours to examine such issues with intellectual acuity, open-mindedness, sagacity and self-criticism. For instance, Drew Thomas Humphrey’s own detailed account of his evolving response to and much-altered understanding of what his younger incarnation “would have been elated … [by] a dream scenario, a climactic moment of ultimate victory on one of the key battlefields of the culture war for America’s soul” — all in engrossing contrast with what his updated self, now devoid of “hard-and-fast, militantly anti-abortion mindset” and “troubled by what the Supreme Court has done”, viscerally “felt [as] an uneasy sense of heaviness and gloom” — is highly illuminating in elucidating how “a once-fervent believer in the pro-life movement now fail[s] to find joy in the most significant pro-life legal victory of our generation” due to the collective influence and outcome of seven transformational factors, namely, Openness, Awareness, Privilege, Integrity, Practicality, Consistency and Humility, according to his post entitled “Hold the Confetti”:
1. Openness: Learning from those who see it differently
One of the most problematic features of our current abortion debate is our collective failure to understand that both sides are arguing for positions that are perfectly consistent with the premises [that] they each hold. On the pro-life side, the foundational premise is that full human personhood begins at conception. Given this starting point, it’s morally impossible to advocate for anything other than a strict anti-abortion position. But the problem is that pro-choice folks don’t share that same premise. In their view, the fetus is no more of a human person than an egg is a chicken. It’s only natural, therefore, that they would reach entirely different conclusions about abortion. They’re simply being consistent with their foundational beliefs.
Having been immersed primarily in pro-life circles for most of my life, I’ve grown accustomed to rhetoric that paints abortion rights advocates as baby-killers and monsters. But that sort of cheap and inflammatory language helps no one. It only serves to demonize perfectly moral and reasonable people on the basis of a highly subjective conviction [that] they’ve never claimed to hold. This realization has allowed me to escape the polarizing vitriol and instead respect each camp for faithfully following through on what it believes.
2. Awareness: Recognizing the complexity of the issue
During the course of my gradual ideological evolution, I’ve slowly grown in appreciation for the many different facets of the abortion debate. This isn’t just about people wanting to have unlimited sex without consequences (as the conservative culture warriors made me believe). For many Americans, this is about legitimate medical emergencies in which abortion is the only reasonable option, about preteen girls facing the devastating aftermath of a violent rape, about people who fear [that] they simply cannot provide the physical and emotional resources [that] a child would need.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about whether or not an abortion is justified in these situations. But for me, becoming more aware of the many different ways [in which] people are affected by the laws in our country has made it impossible for me to celebrate the removal of their reproductive rights. How can I cheer in the face of a woman with a life-threatening pregnancy who may die because she can’t get an abortion? There’s nothing “pro-life” about that.
3. Privilege: Accepting the limitations of my perspective
I’ve grown increasingly convinced that abortion rights advocates are justified in their complaints about governing organizations made up mostly of (old, rich, white) men determining what rights a woman does or doesn’t get to have with her body. It reeks of domination and control, and it takes the decision-making power out of the hands of those [who are] most qualified to wield it.
As it turns out, I’m not a senator or a Supreme Court justice. But I do happen to be a man who’s not capable of getting pregnant, and as such, I’ll never find myself wrestling with the implications of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. While that fact in and of itself doesn’t preclude me from having an opinion, maybe it does preclude me from forcing my opinions on others. In this debate, I can afford to be comfortably detached. Recognizing this inherent privilege has led me to take more of a back seat while letting those more qualified–and more at stake–take the wheel.
4. Integrity: Refusing to let the end justify the means
If there’s one thing that has soured me on pro-life politics in America, it’s the tactics of those in charge. From the organized harassment of women entering abortion clinics to the shameless commandeering of religious voters, the pro-life movement hasn’t exactly been winsome in its approach. All too often it has been harsh, manipulative, duplicitous, and narrow-minded. (Oh, and let’s not forget its highly troubling origin story rooted in segregation and racism!)
The recent Supreme Court[’s] decision is a perfect example of this fact. In 2016, a massive number of single-issue conservative voters decided to compromise nearly every principle of morality and decency in exchange for a presidential candidate who promised to deliver the Supreme Court into their hands. And sadly, it worked. Conservatives got exactly what they wanted, and frankly it makes me want to vomit. Perhaps the main reason [that] I’m so jaded about last month’s decision is because it reinforces the narrative that selling out to Donald Trump was worth it. But here’s the thing: when you win the wrong way, you still end up losing.
5. Practicality: Supporting solutions that actually work
I suppose only time will tell how the Supreme Court’s decision will affect the overall number of abortions in this country. But what I find particularly frustrating is that for years, the pro-life political machine has repeatedly ignored reasonable compromises that would have already been reducing the need for abortions, regardless of their legality. Why is it that the same people who told me as a teenager that abortion was murder also told me that it was demonic for my school to provide students with sex education and information about contraceptives? That’s just ridiculous, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
For quite some time now, measures to reduce abortions have energized me more than measures to ban them: putting financial resources in the hands of would-be-mothers in underserved communities, ensuring that affordable maternity care is readily available to all who need it, protecting pregnant employees from losing their jobs. The opportunities have been there all along, and from my vantage point, they seem far more promising (and reasonable) than criminalizing something that half the population views as a basic feature of healthcare. When I started to see that the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions is to prevent the need for them in the first place, my pro-life advocacy started to look vastly different from what I inherited from the religious right.
6. Consistency: Prioritizing life in all of its stages
You couldn’t draw up a more ironic plot twist: On the day before it ruled that Americans have no rights to an abortion, the very same Supreme Court ruled that Americans have every right to own all the firearms [that] they damn well please. It sounds absurd, almost like a satirical headline from The Onion. I’m not sure [as to] whose bright idea it was to follow that timeline, but apparently, the moral of the story is this: life is sacred when it’s manifested as a fetus in the womb, but life is totally expendable when it’s manifested as a first-grader in [their] classroom or a grandmother at the grocery store.
For me, being pro-life means limiting gun ownership. It means abolishing the death penalty. It means addressing climate change. It means giving everyone access to healthcare. It means creating space for immigrants and refugees. It means reducing wealth inequality. It means ending police brutality. At the end of the day, it’s hard for me to get excited about legislation that protects the unborn if the same people behind it are actively creating a society that will devour those children as soon as they’re out of the womb.
7. Humility: Knowing how little I actually know
This is the heart of the matter. I simply don’t know when human personhood begins. At conception? At birth? Sometime in between? It would be nice to have access to that information, but I don’t. And I don’t think [that] it’s going to arrive anytime soon. So how does lack of clarity inform my perspective on abortion?
At the personal level, it leads me to err on the side of caution. If I don’t know whether a fetus has achieved human personhood at 10 weeks (or 20 or 30), then my own choice would be to avoid abortion if at all possible. I suppose it’s the classic “better safe than sorry” mindset. In that sense, I guess I’m pro-life.
But at the political level, humility demands that I not hold others to my own personal convictions, nor judge them if they make choices that differ from my own. Once again, we’re dealing with highly subjective and ambiguous considerations here. The question of human personhood is a philosophical (or religious) one; it can’t presently be answered with absolute scientific certainty. This means that opinions will differ from one person to the next, and perhaps the best policy is to let each individual decide the matter for themselves. I guess in that sense, I’m also pro-choice. Given the complexity of the issue and the diversity of public opinion, I simply don’t think [that] it’s right to legislate as if we have access to a level of certainty [that] we don’t. [This] appears to be precisely where we’re headed as a country.
Driving by pro-life activists jubilantly gathered outside our county courthouse in the days following the decision, I found myself looking the other way and cringing with discomfort. There was a time when I might have been out there right alongside them, cheering as loudly as anybody.
But somewhere there’s a woman with no money, no housing, no healthcare, no family support, and a positive pregnancy test in her hands. She has an excruciatingly difficult decision on the horizon, and I’m not about to applaud the fact that her government has already made it for her.
At once pithy and piquant, the statement “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” intimates that how we take things to be is quite independent of how things really are. To the extent that our views are coloured by our expectations and upbringings, they have a strong tendency to be personalized or relativized, thus routinely deviating from and becoming at odds with the realities of life and the true nature of things. After all, our perspectives (particular slants, views, prospects or outlooks on things), orientations (basic attitudes, beliefs or feelings regarding certain subjects or issues), frames of reference (how issues or matters are structured and contextualized via a set of criteria or stated values in relation to which measurements or judgements can be made), and points of view (specific attitudes or ways of considering issues or matters) characteristically entail limitations, imperfections, biases, value judgements, opinions, interpretations, assumptions and even speculations or wishful thinking. Whether or not we are aware of and willing to acknowledge the ongoing sociocultural mediations and intrapersonal cognitive distortions separating our subjective reckoning from the objective reality, there is no escaping that we are individually conditioned and compelled to project our views and expectations onto matters through the lenses and filters of our minds and perceptions, often occasioning assorted pitfalls, prejudices and fallacies, many of which can significantly affect our ability, willingness and personal responsibility to make sense of, and account for, the relevant history, contexts and contests as well as the moral, social and political bearings and principles pertinent to (establishing and upholding) civil and political rights along with racial, economic, social and environmental justice, even more so in a social environment increasingly marred and dominated by big-personality cult, democratic decay, autocratic and corrupt tendencies as well as politics of fear, lies and division. Therefore, it will stand us in good stead to be prudent, receptive, humble and yet knowledgeable, broadminded and sagacious; and to be genuinely open to the transformative potential of humility, compassion and understanding, so as to reduce, forestall or supplant (the adverse outcomes and vicious cycles of) conflict, litigation and power struggle, especially with respect to controversial matters whose evolution and resolution can be compounded or confounded by the facile and labile nature of law.
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