Hillary versus Bernie:  Why I Don’t Feel the Bern!

Vote HillaryOver the past few months, the vitriol between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters has increased in both intensity and animosity.  I have had numerous arguments with Bernie supporters.  I suspect many of them were once my friends and are now no longer so.  This is interesting since you would think that we would have more in common than not.  It would not surprise me if you were a Republican or Trump supporter and banished me from your Facebook, Twitter or any other list of friends that you maintained.  However, it seems sad that so much rancor has been generated by the Hillary/Bernie battle as to result in lost friendships when we have so much in common.   I must take some of the responsibility though since I am not and never will be one to shy away from a fight.  If a fight is what you want, I will give it to you and no holds barred.  I support my candidate and I will explain my reasons but when you get personal or insulting that is the end of the line.  It would seem to be a line that is easily crossed and that reasons and emotions are two very different things.

This past week, a good friend of mine sent me the following attached letter.  It was written eight years ago.  He was supporting Hillary (The establishment figure) and I was supporting Barack (the outsider).  I hope some of my Bernie supporter ex-friends will read this blog but I sort of doubt it.  I would like for them to see that I have supported outsiders as well as insiders and my support of Hillary has nothing to do with supporting the establishment or not supporting the establishment.  Indeed, I would argue that my logic for supporting Hillary today is very similar to my logic for supporting Barack eight years ago.  How can this be?  How does one justify supporting an “establishment” figure when most of my work and writings have been anti-establishment?  Well, a quote that comes to mind is as follows:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.  With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.  He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.  Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood?  Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.  To be great is to be misunderstood.”  —- Ralph Waldo Emerson,

I rather think I might be misunderstood by my allegiance to Hillary, but if I can stand for even a brief moment of time in the shadow of such as Socrates and Pythagoras, I will die a sublimely happy man.  In the letter below, you will see that my friend has laid out his very practical and logical reasons for supporting Hillary.  He acknowledges my candidate (Obama) but does not try to disparage or denigrate him.  This is an apt lesson that many Bernie supporters might pay attention to.  I don’t remember any of my friends calling Obama a liar or evil.  Many felt that he was unrealistic but they did not disparage his character to the extent that Republicans and some Bernie supporters have been disparaging Hillarie’s character.  If you think you are going to win me over with such attacks, you do not know me very well.  Anyway, here is the letter my friend, the Hillary supporter, wrote me eight years ago while I was then in the Obama camp.  BTY, I also voted for President Obama four years later and still have no regrets.  History will remember him as a great man, a great leader and a great president.

Hi John,

How are you doing? You know I miss speaking with you as well. There’s night time talk show here in Philadelphia. They address diverse topics. The host, Dr. Maz, reminds me a lot of yourself regarding his tone, and speed of speech. Of course, I believe that you could do a much better job because of your wit and broad range of interests. This might be something that you could look into.

Well, this certainly has been an interesting political campaign these past 2 years. I must admit that I voted for Hillary at the NJ Democratic Primary. I’ve listened closely to both people, and I believe that Hillary is the person who is most likely to bring change needed to this nation. I don’t see trying to recapture the 90’s as moving backward, but rather as retreat to a solid foundation on which one can move forward.  No change happens by itself, and one person can change little. Anyone who has tried to run an organization knows how consensus is essential to getting anything done.

One can look with pride at what our ex-presidents have accomplished after leaving office. Jimmy Carter, George Bush, and Bill Clinton have accomplished near miracles. Their experience, their contacts, and their savoir faire have changed ideas into reality. I don’t believe that those same men could have been as successful if they tried to accomplish the same tasks in their 40’s. Not because of the age but because skill takes time.

When I listen to Obama, I too am enthralled. I remember the speech Ted Kennedy gave at Robert Kennedy’s funeral. He said “Some men speak of the way things are and wonder why. My brother spoke of things that never were and asked “why not? “ I do believe in inspiration, and do believe that leadership can do wonders. But also know that this nation has done nothing of consequence to restrain the violence that is being done to Arab people around the world by the United States.  Do you expect these same people who acquiesce not only to an insidious apathy but the mindless shelling of their own tax money to promulgate a hell on earth? You think Obama’s pipe dreams will be realized? We can’t even shut down Gitmo!

My friend, Dave P, who passed away 2 years ago used to explain his reluctance to embrace radical change like this. He would say that the USA is like a large ship of state. When you want to change its direction it must be done in very small increments over a long period of time with a great deal of planning.  To do otherwise could harm the vessel and sabotage the voyage.  Radical change can not be applied to a large ship.

If I were to vote with my heart, I would have voted for Dennis Kucinich. I am in complete agreement with him, even with regard to UFO’s.  I did as much in 2000 when I voted for Ralph Nader.  These past 7 years have made me take my vote much more seriously.  If change is to come, it has to come from the ground up. My pipe dream is that as I get nearer to retirement that I will become more politically active and begin to advocate a progressive agenda at a local level.

A United States where the grass roots of the people embraced this agenda would bring far more success to an Obama presidency.  Perhaps our best shot would be the ideas of Dennis Kucinich advocated by Obama to a populous prepared to accept such changes.

Well, John, sorry it took so long to get back to you but I knew that some time should be set aside to explain myself.  There’s really so much to talk about. I don’t have a cell anymore. I do still have my home phone, 856.xxx.xxxx. I became a grand-father last year. My son, R, had his son, R. Wonderful, wonderful.

Take care of yourself, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Your friend,

Greg

————————————-

Well, it is now eight years later and today I am supporting Hillary.  The reasons I did not support her eight years ago had nothing to do with her being evil or mean or a liar.  In fact, if you believe this propaganda about her then go ahead and vote for Trump, because you deserve him.  Here is what I recently wrote to one friend who seemed sincere in understanding why I am supporting Hillary:

My reasons are as follows:  1. I cannot support most of the prevalent Republican policies ergo I need to support someone on the other side.  Either Bernie or Hillary would do here.  2. I think Bernie has been given a pass by the Republicans since they see Hillary as the biggest threat, thus I think that Bernie would soon be slaughtered when they labelled him a Commie and/or Socialist which the majority of Americans either do not support or could not tell the difference between.  Thus, he would be defeated in the general election and we could get Trump.  3. I think Hillary is a highly intelligent well qualified candidate for the POTUS.  I think she has been subjected to a double standard in which opportunistic aggressive competitive male behavior is called leadership but the same in a woman makes her a bitch or mean spirited.  Finally, I think her being labeled as a liar is part of the Republican smear campaign that has been targeted towards her for the past 4 years.  I think all politicians lie and prevaricate and she is no worse and perhaps a lot better than most.  I am voting for her not just on her character but on her policies which I think will move this country in a progressive direction.  I hope that explains my position.

My friend made several good points in his letter above about change.  Heraclitus said that you can never step in the same river twice.  Is it irony now or has the water changed?  I think times have changed.  I have obviously changed my mind.  While, I regret losing friends over this difference, I am more troubled by the Bernie people who say they will not vote or will vote for Trump before they will ever vote for Hillary.  Sometimes half a loaf is better than no loaf.  William James said:

“I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man’s pride.” 

We need visions like both Bernie and Barack brought to their campaigns.  However, we also need a large dose of pragmatism to make these visions a reality.  Rome was not built in a day.  If the people energized by this present campaign (even those who support Trump or those who support Bernie) truly want to make this country GREATER than it ever was, if they truly want to create a fair and just society, if they truly want to create a land where all its citizens are happy and prosperous, then the only way they will ever be able to do this is by staying engaged in the political process.  Coming out every four years, regardless of how much passion and how much zeal you bring to the process, will not change the systems in our country that so badly need to be changed.

I have written about many of these needed changes in my blogs.  I have put forward many progressive ideas which I hope someday will be propagated in the Congress, legislatures and courts of this land.  Reading my blogs, some might say I am too idealistic.  I would probably agree but I am not running for office.  I am trying to be a herald whose ideas might someday resonate throughout this nation and speak loudly to the American people of the changes we need.  Read some of my following blogs and see what you think.

https://agingcapriciously.com/2014/12/01/social-legacy-systems-how-they-block-change-and-prevent-progress-part-1-education/

https://agingcapriciously.com/2014/12/08/social-legacy-systems-how-they-block-change-and-prevent-progress-part-2-the-legal-correctional-system/

https://agingcapriciously.com/2015/09/27/we-need-a-fair-immigration-policy-not-an-anti-immigration-policytru/

https://agingcapriciously.com/2015/11/09/towards-a-policy-of-diplomacy/

https://agingcapriciously.com/2015/01/12/when-the-truth-will-not-set-you-free-part-1-of-2-parts/

Time for Questions:

How much time do you spend on politics?  Do you speak your peace or do you avoid confrontations?  How do you tell when you should speak up or shut up?  Can we be too political?  Can we be political and still be civil and respectful to others?

Life is just beginning.

“Revolution is about the need to re-evolve political, economic and social justice and power back into the hands of the people, preferably through legislation and policies that make human sense.  That’s what revolution is about.  Revolution is not about shootouts.”  — Bobby Seale

 

 

 

Ask Dr. John: Wisdom for the World?

Dear “Ask Dr. John” is a new syndicated column for men only.  Each week Dr. John Persico Jr. will answer questions from his many loyal followers concerning a wide range of life issues.  The comments given in this column are not medical in nature and readers are advised to use discretion before following any advice or recommendations.  The author claims no responsibilities for sickness or death as a result of information or suggestions provided in this column.

Dear Dr. John,

I came home today and found my wife in bed with three of my best friends.  What should I do?

PS:  My wife is 19 years old and I am 74 but we have been happily married for several months now.

Signed,

Frustrated

————

Dear Frustrated,

I have thought about your situation very carefully.  At your age it might be easier to find a new wife than new friends.  I would give her an early buyout on your prenuptials and try to mend fences with your friends.

Yours truly,

Dr. John


Dear Dr. John,

I have the greatest grandchildren in the world.  My youngest grandson is smart, handsome and athletic.  He will surely be a pro-football player.  He is only three years old now but you can easily see how great he will be.  I bought him a football for Christmas and he handles it like a pro.  My problem is that none of my friends really listen when I try to talk to them about him.  Do you think they are just jealous?  I am not sure what to do as they do not listen very well.

Signed,

Grandfather of the Greatest Grandson in the world.

———–

Dear Grandfather of the Greatest Grandson in the world,

I am sure they are just jealous.  Sounds like your grandson is truly amazing.  Have you thought of entering him in the Guinness Book of World Records?

Keep hammering away at them, they are bound to come around.

Yours truly,

Dr. John


 

Dear Dr. John,

I would like to retire early but I do not think I have enough money in my savings yet.  I am 45 years old and I am tired of working for a living.  Do you think there is any way that I could get my Social Security early?  It has been really hard for me these past few years as I hate my job and my work.  I am bored most of my working day.  I would rather sit home and watch football on TV.

Signed,

Would Like to Stop Working Early

———

Dear Would Like to Stop Working Early,

I know the feeling.  Many of my friends feel like you do.  However, most of them are in their seventies and like you they do not have enough in their savings to retire on.  Thus, they are still working part-time.  I have several good friends who are greeters at Walmart.  They are often bored.

I am not an expert on Social Security but I doubt that the government will give you an early out.  I think your best option would be to join the military and see if you can stay in long enough to get a good military pension.  The military has some good openings now in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq.  I doubt you would be bored over there, particularly if you asked for a combat assignment.

Yours truly,

Dr. John


Dear Dr. John,

I have a lot of aches and pains.  I still smoke and I don’t like to exercise.  My medical doctor says I am overweight, but I think he is wrong.  I am 5’ 8” inches tall and weigh 240 lbs.  Do you think that is too much weight for my height?  I am fifty three years old.  Can I lose weight without exercising or dieting?  I understand that neither of these activities are healthy and they are not much fun.

Signed,

I Want to Be Healthy

—————

Dear I Want to Be Healthy,

It is very difficult to say if you are overweight.  There are many factors that must be considered before one can render such an opinion.  Do you run or walk each day?  Do you get much activity doing housework or in the yard at home?  How many calories do you burn each day?  How much do you eat?

Many magazines in the food section of your local market will have an array of health tips and suggestions that you may want to read about losing weight and staying healthy.  My favorite book is “How to stay healthy even while you smoke and over eat and avoid exercise.”  This book has been on my shelf or years.  I have learned a great deal about health from this book.  See if you can purchase a copy from Amazon.com

I am sure it will help you as much as it has helped me.

Yours truly,

Dr. John


 

Dear Dr. John,

I have been an atheist all my life.  My last siblings died a few months ago and I have been thinking a lot now about death and dying.  I am seventy years old.  Do you think it is too late to start believing in God?  Would he accept my apologies?  Do you think I would be seen as a hypocrite by all the people I have been making fun of for years?

Signed,

Is It Time to Repent?

—————–

Dear Is It Time to Repent?

I don’t think it is ever too late to change your mind.  As you get older, it might be a good idea to hedge your bets.   As for your friends, I think I would explain to them that you had a change of heart and have finally come to your senses.  Apologize to them for all the times that you knocked their God and said what idiots they were to believe in God.  Start reading the Bible and try to remember some quotes such as:

“For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. He will strike down the non-believers.” 

Yours truly,

Dr. John


 

Dear Dr. John,

I live in a trailer park with a lot of other retirees.  Every Friday night, the guys play poker for low stakes in the community center.  This is a guy thing only.  However, one of the guys has started insisting that we let his wife play too.  I think she has been badgering him to be included.  He is a real wuss and won’t say no.  She usually comes around during the game to kibitz and look over his shoulder.  None of the other guys want to let her play but we don’t want to hurt our friend’s feelings.  What do you think we should do?

Signed,

It’s a Guy’s Thing

________________

Dear it’s a Guy’s Thing,

Look at it this way.  If you let her play, before you know it all the other wives will want to play to.  You have got to “Nip it in the bud” as Barney Fife used to say.

Here is what I think you should do.  Change your game to Thursday nights but don’t let her know.  Be sure to tell everyone that the new night is a secret for only the regulars to know about.  You can explain that this is necessary because the IRS was going to audit the game.  If that lie does not work, then simply think up another lie.  Remember “Nip it in the bud” or your guy only poker games will be a thing of the past.

Yours truly,

Dr. John


Dear Dr. John,

This is an election year and I take my voting very seriously.  I am torn between Trump and Hillary.  My friends think I am crazy and want me to support Cruz.  I don’t like Cruz because I think he is a Canadian and not really an American.  I like Hillary because she is for the common woman.  I like Trump because he is for the common man.  Should I support the common man or should I support the common woman?

Signed,

Political Dilemma

———————————

Dear Political Dilemma,

Wow, this is a tough one.  There is good and bad on both sides here.  Hillary is cuter than Trump but Trump has more money.  Hillary has held a high political office as First Lady but Trump has casinos all over the world.  Hillary will probably help us defeat ISIS but I would bet on Trump to defeat Mexico and make them pay for it.

It’s a tough call, but I would go with Hillary.  She stood by her man and you have got to give her points for loyalty.

Yours truly,

Dr. John

Well, that’s it for this week readers.  Stay tuned for more exciting “Ask Dr. John” columns to come in the next few weeks.


 

 

The Worlds First Un-Blog: How we can solve all of the worlds problems!

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I woke up this morning and told Karen that while she was at church, I was going to write an un-blog.  She looked puzzled and wanted to know if that meant I was not going to write a blog.  I said “Of course, I am going to write a blog but it will be an un-blog.”  “Well,” she said, “What is an un-blog?” I replied that it was like an un-birthday party. I actually did not have the slightest clue what it was or could be but I knew that today I was going to invent an un-blog.  With no templates, I would have to invent it as I went along.  I did not bother to Google “un-blog”, so you will forgive me if I reinvent the wheel.  (Actually after I finished this “un-blog”,  I did Google the term to see if I was a “Johnny come lately” or had really invented something new.)

There are several reasons that I come to the point in my blogging where I now know that I need to write an un-blog.  First of all, many of you are probably tired of my advice, admonitions, critiques, complaints, exhortations, etc. about the state of the world and its many problems.  This week alone, I found over five million problems that needed solving in the pages of CNN, MSN, FOX and BBC news.  My best guess is that the number of problems we face in the world has steadily escalated since I was born.  Thus, despite my efforts and other bloggers like me, the number of problems just seems to keep growing exponentially.

Well, being the strategic planner that I like to think I am, I took out my handy “world problem solving software.” I programmed it to prioritize the “greatest” problems this week that I could solve with my exorbitant ego and unlimited resources of advice and solutions.  I must have had low batteries because my screen suddenly went blank and it started flashing “I quit, I quit, I quit.”  Perhaps it was a virus or some type of Trojan?  I immediately turned it off.  This has now created a dilemma.  How can I pick the single most important world problem to solve, if my software is malfunctioning? Would my many followers (considerably less than George Takei) accept me simply choosing a great big humongous problem and solving if for them and the rest of the world?

No! This would not be fair to you my faithful readers and followers.  You will only accept me going after the biggest baddest problems out there selected scientifically and with great forethought.  You expect me to solve these incredible problems with shrewd insight and analytic ability.  You want me to provide solutions that would make Solomon humble.  You expect me to solve only the most critical problems facing the world.  Simple selection would never do for my followers.  Knowing these facts, I felt lost and confused.  With millions of problems out there and my software on the blink, I was like Garry Kasparov trying to win against Big Blue Computer.  I am only human; the stress is unbearable at times.  Thousands of followers, (well maybe a few hundred) depending on my blog each week for advice and succor!

In truth again (Never trust anyone who says “in truth” or “trust me”) I could not select a single problem this week to tackle.  I am weary of solving all of the problems in the world. The burden has become too great.  Simply perusing my blogs, you will note the number of critical world and USA problems that I have already solved this past year.  To make matters worse, to date, I have not received one penny for my efforts or even an invitation to the White House.  I have not been knighted or given the Profiles in Courage award either. Perhaps, I missed the phone calls from Obama and the Queen.  I must remember to check my voice mail more often or at least my text messages.

It is very frustrating.  No matter how altruistic I am, I crave some simple recognition.  It is a lot like being a superhero but no one knows it.  What is the point of having super-powers if no one is there to applaud idealize and worship you?  I can accept that a few of my miraculous ideas and solutions might have been slightly off mark, but I cannot accept that all of them were.  Furthermore, please go to my first blog site where I have posted over 600 blogs dealing with various and assorted issues affecting the world.  See if some of these blogs don’t bring tears to your eyes or joy to your heart.  (You can find them at www.timeparables.blogspot.com)  All of these issues has led me this week to create the world’s first “un-blog.”

It is my considered but humble opinion that in an un-blog, I (the Blogger) should not solve any problems.  A typical blogger writes their blog either to solve problems or to give opinions and advice. It is not fair, that you the reader (The Bloggee) get all this free advice and give nothing in return.  It is only right that in an “un-blog”, you the reader and faithful follower, should be the ones to solve the problems and give me advice.  It is time to pony up.  How many of my blogs have you commented on?  How many have you disagreed with?  What have you taken a stand on?  What has stopped you from being an “un-blogger?”  It is your turn to pay me back for all the solutions and advice I have so freely and graciously given to you.  Think of your world without my blog.  As the walrus said in “Alice in Wonderland”:

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“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

I would love to hear your take on “What are the biggest problems the world faces.”  I would really like to hear what you think.  (See my questions below.)  Send me an email persico.john@gmail.com or post your replies in the comments section.  Speak out.  Today is your chance to be an un-blogger.  It is your golden opportunity to help solve the many problems facing the world or to at least offer some advice on what you think those problems are.  Perhaps, your brilliance and erudition might be discovered on my blog and you will be invited to the White House.  (Please do not hold your breath.)  If you do get invited, please, please take me along. 

Time for Questions: 

What are the biggest problems you face in your life?  What are your solutions?  What do you think we should do to save the world?  How can we deal with apathy and those that do not care?  Where do we start?  Should we have major political changes in our constitution?  How could we get these?  What would you like to see changed in the world or even just in your home town?  What does Persico mean “Life is just beginning?”

Life is just beginning.

I finally broke down and looked up “Un-blog” on Google.  Here is what I found.

  1. un- blog – definition and meaning – Wordnik

https://www.wordnik.com/words/un-%20blog

Sorry, no example sentences found. Related Words. Log in or sign up to add your own related words. Wordmap. (beta). Word visualization. Comments. Log in or …

I think this means that there are no definitions.  I can thus claim the distinction of being the first “un-blogger” on the internet.  Or perhaps my readers and faithful followers who have answered my questions should be the first to receive this distinction.

Here is my definition of an “un-blog.”

“A blog site where the readers post opinions and solve problems and the blogger simply listens and does not weigh in with advice or solutions.  A place of introspection rather than extrospection.” 

Gandhi’s Seventh Social Sin: Politics Without Principle

We need to start off this discussion of Gandhi’s Seventh Social sin with a review of the definition of the term “Principle.”  There are many who would argue that politics today has too many principles.  Each side whether Democrat or Republican is firmly ensconced in their philosophical party principles which leave no room for discussion never mind negotiation.  A firm conviction that we cannot negotiate on “principle” has led us to some of the worst political situations we have seen in the long history of the USA.  We have always had “party” politics and there have always been back-room negotiations and political logrolling but never in our history have we seen the type of standoffs that seem to characterize Washington politics today.  Could these political standoffs be caused by rigid adherence to Party Principles?  Is Gandhi off-base with his Seventh Social Sin?  Do we need less principle in politics and not more?  Let us look at what the term “Principle” means by reviewing three different definitions or perspectives. 

Here are three different views of the term Principle

  1. A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.  – Online Dictionary
  2.  A basic truth, law, or assumption – The Free Dictionary
  3. A principle is something primary that helps in explaining phenomena. A principle can be some existing factor in nature (principles of nature and being, or it can be a logical proposition or judgment (principles of reason) that is a starting point of a valid argumentation. The principles of reason cannot be proven, since in order to prove anything you need to have a starting point, and a starting point is a principle.  – http://www.hyoomik.com/phi205/arche.htm#arche2

Here are some examples for the third definition.  These are: “Principles of Reason.”  I add these so we can be more concrete in our discussion and less theoretical, if that is possible given the nature of the discussion.  Nevertheless, perhaps these examples can help us think more clearly concerning the concept of principles. 

  • The principle of non-contradiction: the same thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. The same proposition cannot be both true and false.
  • The principle of excluded middle: Either a thing is or it is not, there is no third possibility.
  • The principle of the reason of being.  Every being has a reason of its existence either in itself or in something else.
  • The principle of finality: Every agent acts for an end.
  • The principle of causality: Every effect has a cause.
  • The principle of identity: Every being is that which it is.  Each being is separated in its existence from other beings.

We have two issues raised by Gandhi’s Seventh Social sin that I think we must answer. 

First, does politics really need principles?  What purpose do they serve and why are they needed?

Second, can you have too many principles in politics and how do we determine if that is the case?

To answer the first set of questions, let us see what the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence has to say about Gandhi’s interpretation of this sin:

Politics Without Principles:  Gandhi said those who firmly believe in nonviolence should never stand for elections, but they should elect representatives who are willing to understand and practice the philosophy. Gandhi said an elected representative is one on whom you have bestowed your power of attorney. Such a person should be allowed to wield authority only as long as s/he enjoys your confidence. When politicians indulge in power games, they act without principles. To remain in power at all cost is unethical. Gandhi said when politicians (or anyone else, for that matter) give up the pursuit of Truth they, or in the case of parties, would be doomed. Partisan politics, lobbying, bribing, and other forms of malpractice that are so rampant in politics today is also unprincipled.  Politics has earned the reputation of being dirty.  It is so because we made it dirty. We create power groups to lobby for our cause and are willing to do anything to achieve our goals.  Not many among human beings have learned how to resist temptation, so who is to blame for the mess we find ourselves in?

In this interpretation, Gandhi implies that the “Evil” of politics comes about because of the lack of ethics that characterizes much political gamesmanship.  We would have to assume that the need for principles reflected by Gandhi’s ideas is connected to the need for a higher standard of behavior then what we most often see in our politicians.  Thus, politicians are unprincipled and unethical if they engage in lobbying, power games and other manipulative endeavors.  However, Gandhi does not clearly describe what an ethical political principle would be. We have to assume that most politics as practiced today would be considered as unprincipled by Gandhi.  Yet he does not provide us with a clear set of ethical political principles.   I conclude my answer to the question: Why are principles needed? as follows:  To provide a clear ethical path for political behavior and to help guide politicians in their search for truth.  

For the second set of questions (see above) we are dealing with a different issue.  If we accept that some political principles (unknown what they are) may be needed, then we must ask if too many of these principles might indeed be injurious to the political process.  I have already noted that we are frustrated today with politicians who are taking oaths to standby their party principles and thus gridlocking the entire political process.  Does this mean, we already have too many principles or do we have too many of the wrong principles?  To answer this question, let us take as an example a key principle that the Republican Party has stood for and see how our system of political ethics might be played out using this principle as a guide.

It is well known that many of our elected officials have taken an oath not to increase taxes under any conditions.  The Norquist Pledge as it has been called was taken by “95% of Republican Congressional representatives.”   Many would argue that this is a bedrock principle of the Republican Party.  However, is it really a principle?  Is it a fundamental truth?  Looking at the three definitions for a principle that started this blog, does the Tax Pledge meet the requirements of a “Principle?”  If so, what evidence is there to link truth to the assumed outcome that we expect to be attained by a rigid adherence to this principle?  Will not increasing taxes always benefit the public good? Is it always best for the common people if taxes are decreased?  Will we all benefit by having fewer taxes?  A fundamental principle should have some fundamental truths or facts to support it otherwise what is the point of the principle?  Either a principle is true or it is a hypothesis.  If it is true, the results should be self-evident.  If the principle is merely a hypothesis, than good logic suggests that we should not be too certain of its validity until more evidence exists to either prove or disprove the principle. 

The logic of my argument so far seems to move me towards the suggestion that “Not allowing any tax increases” does not constitute a valid ethical principle.  I see no evidence that the greater good is always served by this principle.  Perhaps there are other party principles that might be less amenable to my critique since I simply selected one of the “principles” we hear most about and are most familiar with.  No doubt “too many” of these so called “party” principles would wreak havoc with our political system.  IN fact, we see this happening already.  I suggest we should call these unsubstantiated or principles either as false principles or hypothetical principles.  This would give more credibility to Gandhi’s Seventh Social sin.  Unfortunately, it still does not answer the question as to what a set of Ethical Political Principles might look like.  The following principles are one set that has some merit.   It includes eight principles that were taken from a paper by John L. Perkins titled:  Humanism and Morality.     

Non-maleficence: Do not harm yourself or other people. 
Beneficence: Help yourself and other people. 
Autonomy: Allow rational individuals to make free and informed choices. 
Justice: Treat people fairly: treat equals equally, unequal’s unequally. 
Utility: Maximize the ratio of benefits to harm for all people. 
Fidelity: Keep your promises and agreements 
Honesty: Do not lie, defraud, deceive or mislead. 
Privacy: Respect personal privacy and confidentiality.

You can see from looking at these principles that our problem is still not solved.  Some of these principles conflict with others and life is still not simple.  The Principle of Fidelity suggests that the Norquist Pledgers are doing the right thing.  However, you may also notice that this principle may be in conflict with one or more other principles on our list.  For instance, what if allowing a tax increase actually maximizes the ratio of benefits to all people?  Thus, the principle of keeping your Norquist Oath is in direct opposition to a principle that says to do no harm to others.  Very confusing!  Alas, life is never simple and no moral or ethical code can be found that does not have both contradictions and complexities that make conduct difficult.  This latter fact makes a strong case for holding any principle as a hypothesis and not allowing ourselves to be overly strident in its interpretation.  

In conclusion, I must admit to finding this Seventh Sin of Gandhi’s to be a very difficult one to follow and to provide any kind of a prescription for.  I discovered many authors who argued that an ethical or moral code for politicians is impossible and even counterproductive.  I also found many who argued that the need for a moral code for politicians is as important as for any other field of endeavor.  I lean towards trusting Gandhi in support of this Sin.  He has proven to be wise and insightful in almost all of the beliefs that are associated with his life.  Perhaps, I will see more clearly the argument for this Seventh Social Sin as I grow in wisdom.  For now, I am content to accept that our politicians need:

  1.  Moral guidance and moral principles to conduct politics with.
  2. The ability to search for truth as a fundamental principle underlying all other principles
  3. The acceptance and recognition that they may be wrong and being too exclusive of other options is a recipe for ineffective government and politics.  

Time for Questions:

What do you think? Do our politicians need a moral code or set of principles?  Do they already have too many principles? How strongly should they adhere to their principles? Should they be willing to compromise on these principles?  Is not allowing a tax increase really a principle?   Should they stand firm on this principle regardless of the outcomes?  When should we be willing to compromise our own principles? 

Life is just beginning.

 

 

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