Imperialism and Hobbes

Yes, I am bringing up Hobbes again. Since we have decided to drop bombs on Syria (again) it seems apt to point out that Hobbes would blame us all for the deaths of innocents abroad. In fact, Hobbes would also blame the Syrians themselves for whatever their dictator did. Come to think of it, in the world of Hobbes there are no innocents.

Over the past couple of days I have seen people saying that Trump voters have blood on their hands, only to be told that they, as non-voters, also have blood on their hands.

Isn’t it great to live in a world where no matter what you believe or do, you are “responsible” for the deaths of thousands and millions?

Thank you, Hobbes, for planting in our heads this ridiculous idea that just because we are born in a certain geographic region under a certain tyrant we are somehow not only subject to his whims but responsible for his sins. Thanks for giving us this preposterous idea that tyranny is legitimate as long as it is passed down successively under a set of rules laid down two hundred years ago.

Eleven Years

Source

Today marks eleven years since the shooting at Virginia Tech. Eleven years since my alma mater was rocked by what was then the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

In the past eleven years we have witnessed many more of these types of incidents. We have continued to blame guns, we have continued to blame mental illness, we have continued to blame “the system”, we have continued to blame violent media. We have blamed everything we can think of. We want to know “why”. Why do these things happen?

There isn’t really a simple answer to why these horrible incidents occur. Humans are sinful, we find ways to commit more and more heinous sins. We have been killing each other throughout history. So why the sudden uptick?

Is there really a sudden uptick? Are we really killing people now at a rate higher than any other time in history? Or is it simply more taboo? Is it simply more obvious in an age of 24 hour news and political commentary?

Governments kill millions of people. They always have been in the business of killing. They spend billions of dollars procured (by force) to invent new and more horrific ways to kill people. They spend millions more in propaganda to dehumanize those they consider “enemies.”

With so much murder being promoted by the “leaders” of the world, is it any wonder that so many in the ranks of society are more than willing to kill others for their own reasons? After all, the politicians are supposed to represent us. Doesn’t their violence simply reflect the violence of those they represent? Could it be that their “leadership” creates a world where killing other humans is perfectly acceptable as long as one can create a justification for it?

Perhaps if we want to create a peaceful society where killing people is not an option for those who feel “bullied” or neglected by others we should start at the top and stop killing people for not being a part of our “team”.

If we want to stop the indiscriminate killing of students in our high schools or colleges we should probably stop the indiscriminate killing of those who just happen to live in areas of the world ruled by jerks our government doesn’t like.

I don’t mean to downplay or dishonor the lives of the 32 killed that day in 2007. Those were innocent individuals. They had no reason to die. They should be honored, as all life should be.

All life should be honored because all life is sacred. That honoring of life should start at the top of society and work its way down through the ranks. If the leaders of this world honored life, how much more would those under that leadership value it?

Stop blaming guns, mental illness, systems, or media, start looking at your “leaders” instead.

Anarchy and Hobbes

Since I have free time now, I’ve been able to go back and re-read some of the books that influenced my political thinking. One of these books is “The World’s Great Thinkers, Man and The State”. It’s a compilation of political thought from Hobbes to Marx.

The contribution of Hobbes to this compilation comes from the second part of his work Leviathan:“Of Commonwealth”. In this treatise, Hobbes lays down the foundation on which the State is formed. Basically he argues that in order to live peaceably, natural man must come together in covenant and give up their individual rights to a sovereign who rules as their representative.

He gives a long list of rights to this sovereign, most of which are not rights which individuals have. This begs the question: “How can the sovereign representative be conferred rights which the individual man does not possess?”

The individual does not possess the right to levy taxes on his neighbors to pay for a road or the defense of his personal property. He does not possess the right to censor by force his neighbor’s thoughts and beliefs. He does not have the right to put his neighbor to death simply for disagreeing with him. How does he transfer rights which he does not have to his representation? Surely that representative should be restricted to the same limitations as those whom he represents.

Hobbes argues that natural man is in a perpetual state of war, which necessitates the formation of bodies politic to “keep (men) in awe, and to direct their actions to the common benefit.” It seems to me that he essentially gives to the sovereign the freedom to act as an exaggerated natural man, using violence and war to institute the “will of the people”.

The formation of Commonwealths does not relieve man of the problem of war, it merely elevates war. War is perpetual in the Commonwealth, as the sovereign must use violence and coercion to keep “peace” among the subjects.

Even if the original covenant was made voluntarily, as Hobbes describes it, it surely cannot be binding to future generations of those who did not personally assent to be subject to the sovereign in power. Force must be initiated to keep those subjects in line, force which is not in the rights of individuals to use.

While I concur with Hobbes that natural man is prone to violence, I disagree with the premise that natural man should bind together to give another natural man or group of natural men the authority to wage war for them. It seems predictably dangerous to do so. Concentrating the violent tendencies of natural men into one central power does nothing to end war, it just makes war a regional thing instead of a local matter between individuals.

I believe that a better state of being exists when individuals retain their own rights. Even Hobbes understands that man will cooperate in order to better his position in life. There is no reason to believe man has to centralize power into the hands of one man or group of men. Man cooperates just fine without the use of coercion or warfare.

Anarchy is not lawlessness. It is simply a lack of centralized force. Anarchy does not plunge us back into warfare as Hobbes contends. It places us back into the position we were in prior to forming commonwealths, that is, a state in which we may voluntarily cooperate and form whatever agreements we wish with our fellow men, without coercion.

From my reading, Hobbes makes a better case for why we shouldn’t form commonwealths than for why we should support them.

The Boys Came in Today

The boys came in today,

boats all came ashore,

Clamoring at the bar were they,

To tell me about the war.

 

Many were the tales they told,

Fighting for my liberty,

Fighting for our government,

Fighting for our country.

 

I listened to their stories,

About the deeds they did,

I looked them in the eyes,

and surprised them when I said,

 

“You’re fighting for your government,

Fighting for the State,

Fighting for the country,

Gee, isn’t that real great?

But this war’s not for me boys, this war’s not for me.

This war’s not for me boys, this war’s not for me.”

 

“Freedom is the default,

So is liberty,

Your government has swept in

to take it all from me.”

 

“So you’re fighting for the government,

You’re fighting for the State,

Fighting for your country,

Against those you’re told to hate.

But this war’s not for me boys, this war’s not for me,

This war’s not for me boys, this war’s not for me.”

 

2/3/2016