Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Non-judgmentalism in Balance: Judge Values, Not Actions

My generation in the West is known for being non-judgmental. And I agree it's a good thing. The culture I was brought up in was known for its judgementalness, and freedom and truth get lost in the way. And unlike what some people thought, it wasn't just freedom to live a 'loose lifestyle' that gets lost. It's the freedom required to do the right thing that matters. For example, peer pressure against supporting marriage equality would be too great to overcome for most people in the aforementioned culture.

Non-judgmentalism has been challenged on the grounds that it doesn't make sense, since we judge in one way or another anyway. My generation is especially prone to judge against people who are racist or homophobic, for example. I think the important thing is that we should judge people's values, rather than their individual actions. Non-judgmentalism is respect for people's chosen identity and chosen course of action in life. It is to respect the dignity of others, even when they choose differently than you do. It should be applied to everyone.

However, even in this spirit, there will always be issues where worldviews clash. To avoid this is just escapism. I'd rather we just deal with that openly. In fact, dealing with values people hold and frankly saying that you agree or disagree with them is a very respectful thing, as long as the values in question are clearly actually held by your 'opponent'. This is because dealing with people based on an identity they themselves uphold is the most respectful way of dealing with people in this world. (By extension, we should not judge others' actions to imply that they hold particular values, unless they clearly do so. For example, support for marijuana legalisation may come from those with a positive attitude to recreational drug use, but it may also come from those with a general libertarian attitude. Assuming the wrong values in people is therefore too easy to do, and must be avoided.)

Saying that, for example, unwed mothers are irresponsible people is very judgemental indeed, as you don't know why someone became an unwed mother, either by choice or by circumstance. You don't know their values, you don't know their life. However, standing up for one's values in an argument is another thing altogether. If we do not do this, there will be no values left in this world. I know my own values, and I know that things as diverse as racism, discrimination against single parents, political correctness, homophobia, and 'sex positive radical feminism' will never sit well with such values. Therefore, I am prepared to take up the argument against such values when they are presented. There is no judging particular people's actions in and of themselves in doing this. I may end up criticising particular actions, but it will be because they clearly stem from values I don't agree with, and I am merely using those actions as an example.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Am I A Feminist?

After some of my recent posts, some people have asked me this question: are you a feminist?

I usually don't like labels. However, to answer this question, I think I'll have to use some. You see, there are two main types of feminism: liberal feminism and radical feminism. As with all things liberal vs radical, I support all of liberal feminism but none of radical feminism.

Liberal feminism, as with all things liberal, is about removing inequalities that are clearly identified in the system, for example unequal education opportunities for women or unequal pay for women for the same job. These inequalities are objective, and are clearly unfair. Fortunately, the work of liberal feminism is over in the West, but we always have to keep the cause up for the sake of women living outside the West.

Radical feminism, on the other hand, is all about a perceived structure to society that disfavours women and must be changed, even when there are no clearly identified inequalities. In radical feminism, people and society are analysed by looking at who has more 'privilege'. Trouble is, this is highly subjective. Thus radical feminism is a subjective ideology. I personally have a particular problem with subjective ideologies - that thing called 'conservatism' that I ran away from was just such an ideology. Conservatism is always able to justify itself, even without looking at objective results, which is often the misery of other people. Radical feminism, for me, carries the same worries. Therefore, it is something I just cannot support.

I'm sure radical feminists are well intentioned. But so are conservatives. And it doesn't mean they aren't wrong. Social engineering, especially when working with anything other than objective evidence, is dangerous.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Adaptive Politics Manifesto

Having seen the world develop in various parts of history and the way society responded to new challenges, I have come to the conclusion that adaptation to new realities is one of the most important tasks of any political ideal. If a political ideal or program is implemented maladaptively, it may end up harming its own aims. Consequently, ensuring adaptiveness in this aspect, and ensuring that there are no unjust outcomes during periods of adaptations, becomes very important.

The rest of this manifesto will address just how we can achieve these objectives.

1. Continued adaptation in policies and politics will always be necessary.

The world is always changing, and further change is inevitable. The world now is different from the world in the 1910s, which was different from the 1810s and the 1710s. There's no reason to suggest that things will look any less different in the 2110s. Technology certainly has a central role in this change, and it is only accelerating.

We also discover new things about the world every now and then. For example, just 50 years ago most people thought that being gay was a lifestyle choice, and that interracial marriage was bad for families. In light of new facts, it would be unjust not to change some pre-existing arrangements. The best example of this is the recent marriage equality movement. Whilst we may think we are civilised now, there may still be many things we don't know yet. People in the 1600s considered themselves very civilised too.

In light of the above factors, society will need to continue to adapt to new environments and newly emerged facts of life for the foreseeable future. There is no use running away from this fact. Therefore, a framework for adaptive politics, i.e. how society should best adapt to changes, is needed.

2. Adaptation must be principled, else it will become maladaptive.

When we respond to things, we must do so in a principled manner, with those principles informed by our values. Using 'maintenance of the status quo' as the ideal (a common theme of conservative politics) is therefore counterproductive. Maintaining the status quo in light of new developments may mean the introduction of blatant injustice into our culture. By conserving the literal status quo no matter the price, our pre-existing social values like justice, fairness and compassion often disintegrate.

Note that this does not preclude one from responding to certain things using traditionalist or even 'reactionary' principles. But the application of the principle must be consistent, rather than shying away from the new development and pretending that it does not exist.

3. Adaptation methods can be progressive or reactionary. Both have their value, and both can be dangerous too.

Two main categories of ways to respond to new challenges, which can be equally principled (or not), are progressive ways and reactionary ways. Progressive ways aim to invent new solutions, and reactionary ways aim to bring society back to its original principles. Therefore, both can be valid. However, both can be dangerous too. Fascism came from reactionary impulses, and eugenics came from progressive impulses. Both were classic cases of each form of impulse 'overreaching'.

4. No adaptation method is perfect from the start. All adaptation attempts have to learn from plenty of previous mistakes, often horrible mistakes.

Especially in the beginning, attempts at responding to new developments often overshoot in either, or even both, of the directions described above. Therefore, they are maladaptive at least to a significant degree. Although the mistakes made are rarely as big as fascism and eugenics, they often include a huge amount of injustice, often necessitating official apologies from future administrations. Examples include forced adoptions during the post-war era, racist immigration policies in the 20th century, attempts to provide 'treatment' for gay and lesbian individuals, and segregation in the American south.

It is often only with trial and error that we gather the evidence to rule out maladaptive and unjust practices. For example, we now know that curative therapy for gay people is ineffective and harmful, but in the past people thought they were doing these 'ill' individuals a service. We now know that forced adoptions, and the associated practice of secretive adoptions was a tragedy, but similarly in the 1950s the experts thought that was a good thing to do. Therefore, adaptation taking time to perfect is an inevitable thing.

5. Therefore, the most efficient and painless and the only just way for adaptation to happen is with maximal freedom of conscience.

In light of the above, any response (or lack of response, for example refusal to legislate for marriage equality) society has collectively made in response to new developments may be severely unjust and harmful, especially in the earlier phase of the response. Therefore, such collective decisions must not be forcibly applied to any individual, consistent with the 'do no harm' idea. The decision to be part of a response or not must be voluntary. Therefore, maximal freedom of conscience must be granted to every adult citizen in a society.

A model of 'free market of ideas' also allows ideas to be experimented on in parallel and selected through competition, thus increasing the speed in which a response becomes adaptive, and hastening the awareness and removal of any unjust aspects. Of course, such a market also functions best when proper debate, without requirements for political correctness and with respect of all parties, can occur in society. Therefore, this should be encouraged.

6. Maximal freedom of conscience comprises of a balance of negative and positive freedoms.

The provision of this maximal freedom of conscience must include a balance of negative and positive freedoms. Negative freedoms are freedoms that occur when the government does not interfere against them, and positive freedoms are freedoms that can only be guaranteed with suitable intervention, for example anti-discrimination laws and economic safety nets.

The concept of 'positive freedom' is required, because otherwise we would have a tyranny of the rich and powerful. Poor individuals could essentially become slave-like in their existence and forced to conform to whatever demand from the rich just for survival. The rich and powerful will then be able to shut out the voices of the poor in any debate. However, a strong concept of 'negative freedom' is also required, as it guarantees that people will not be required to go along with a practice just because it has been collectively determined as 'good'.

This is a rough rule that can be used to assess this balance I have proposed: governments should only be able to intervene and thus take away some 'negative freedom' when it will result in the net gain of 'positive freedom' or at least no net loss of freedom overall in society, and the redistribution is just, i.e. from a party having more freedom to a party having less freedom, with the result of the distribution not reversing this relationship. This rule can be used to justify welfare programs and anti-discrimination laws, whilst limiting the ability of the government to tax excessively or run forced adoption programs again.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Promoting the Abstinence Message Again Part 3: A Matter of Definition

by TaraElla

Regarding my last two posts on abstinence, a few people have asked me what does 'abstinence until marriage or similar commitment' mean.

'Abstinence until marriage or similar commitment' is basically the same as the more traditional 'abstinence until marriage', merely a more inclusive form of it. It takes into account that some people may want to make the same kind of permanent commitment marriage entails, without wanting actually to identifying their relationship as a marriage. This is what I mean bt a 'similar commitment'. Of course, people who are only casually dating or otherwise not committed to 'forever' does not fall into this definition.

I believe it's important to specify this inclusive language, even though it makes for less of a 'slogan', so we don't delegitimise non-marriage relationships which are otherwise as committed and as permanent. I totally support the tradition of marriage, but for the sake of stable families, it is commitment, rather than whether that commitment is called a 'marriage', that is important. Also, once we start to think that only marriage counts as commitment, it would inevitably bring on the question of what is a legitimate marriage. From there, it would be a slippery slope down to ideas like 'a marriage isn't really a marriage unless it's registered with the government', or even 'a marriage not recognised by the church is not really a marriage'. This is clearly anti-freedom, and we should not go anywhere near there, I believe.