Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Jerry Brown Paradox

Perhaps a first. A positive posting, about Democrat CA Governor Jerry Brown, using a story from leftwing Brit "news" service Reuters.

Governor Brown signed a bill prohibiting governments in California from banning male circumcision. Zealots in SF and Santa Monica had ballot measures up to do that.  A "human rights" and "children's rights" issue. And with no exception for religion, of course. Would criminalize a central Jewish (and even Muslim) rite.

In short, Mr. Brown used the power of the State to prohibit the State from exercising power where it has no right to in the first place.

I am calling this The Jerry Brown Paradox and (naively) hoping for its wide application to many other laws, regulations and policies.

When America lost its mind in one of its period fits of utopianism and it constitutionalized Prohibition, it at least left a clear exception for religions. Without wine, Catholicism cannot function. No wine, no Mass. No Mass, no Catholicism. Contemporary liberal utopians are less flexible than the fundamentalist Womens Christian Temperance League was. If our contemporary do-gooders were up to re-enacting prohibition now (though they have substituted tobacco for alcohol) , they'd just tell the Christians to stop trying to escape equality. Which is, as we know, the virtue of virtues.

The Obama administration wants to force health services at Catholic colleges to provide birth control and abortion counseling; States with gay adoption force the closure of religious agencies who won't do it, and in Canada, no parent can be informed or ask for an exemption when grade school kids are educated in the evils of heterosexism and homophobia and encouraged to question gender roles.

When the victim becomes the tyrant. Such an old story.

‎"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

—C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock


Anonymous said...

I think ex cathedra should state a principle.

Does he mean that do-gooders who try to keep people off crack and meth are making hell on earth, with a corrective idea of justice that, btw, derives from Plato.

Or are alcohol and tobacco to be allow'd because they are less harmful than crack and meth? Should driving impair'd on alcohol be legalized in order to roll back the nanny state? And for the same reason, no mention be made of fetal alcohol syndrome?

Doors must open outward on public buildings because of nanny state regulations vs fire traps. (Apparently a key event was the death of every child in a big elementary school in America: pressing against the doors from inside prevented their opening inward; nobody escaped.)

As for befindlichkeit I am not an opponent of 'substances' simply in every way. In my opinion, the objection to alcohol in "our culture" is that it isn't contextualized in ritual (in contrast to e.g. peyote), except in the Mass, where mood (befindlichkeit) isn't to be alter'd -- maybe because "religion isn't about feelings" and if the communicant felt different after mass (received in one or two kinds) then the message would be that in fact religion is about feelings. (AmerInds should perhaps use dandelion buttons or some other non-substance instead of peyote in order that communio with the ancestors leave routine experience unchanged in every way. Thus AmerInd spirituality would not be about feelings.)

In any case, the building of saloons outside mines and factories was hardly less harmful than meth labs.

And like it or not, Prohibition was one of the most successful experiments in 'social engineering.' The per capita consumption of alcohol plummeted during these years. The damage to life and limb (car accidents etc) and psyche (family rancour) was greatly diminish'd. Having to repair to a special (sacred) locale (speak-easies) in order to drink substances seems a move in the right direction.

Another matter of principle: if law mayn't prohibit male circumcision, is American law 'nanny state' when it prohibits female circumcision?

Or is female circumcision a valid matter for nanny state intrusion vs 'tradition' because it is so damaging?

I'm not sure that male circumcision can I(it shouldn't) endure only by appeal to cultural 'tradition' formally consider'd: it's an establish'd custom in Islam, Judaism, and some Christian-western cultures, therefore it must be protected. Circumcision wasn't innovated by Egypt's innovative pharaoh from Cush, and by yhwh with Abraham as a formalism. Regression to ancestral formalism in legal-constitutional matters would be a worse decay of the west than conquest by emergent Islam.

I mean, if formalism for the ancestors must prevail, we must remove the Bible, Augustine, Aquinas etc from Catholic Christianity, and we must remove Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Montesquieu, the Federalist, Lincoln, etc from American law and constitutionality. The worst aspects of American law -- e.g., lawyering with reckless regard for substantive considerations -- could well continue with formalism.

The conversion of our Celtic and Anglo-Saxon, Viking etc ancestors from mumbo-jumbo to Islam would have been good. Not as good as conversion to the innovation call'd Christianity, but still much better than pagan mumbo-jumbo. Should be easy, after all, to use the Old Testament to sublate neo-Islam, shouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

Prohibition would have been mores successful still had the spin doctors not succeeded in portraying the pre-Prohibition institution of alcohol as such as "enjoyment." Prohibitionists were thus seen as intruders against good times when they sought to close saloons outside the gates of mines and factories.

Balance in journalism never included weighing real malnutrition of children against the joy of going to a saloon after work to spend too much of a paycheck on alcohol that certainly wasn't culturally situated as 'a glass of wine over dinner with friends' or peyote mysticism among AmerInds of the southwest.

Recently there was a plebiscite in Canada's Northwest Territories whether to impose Prohibition. The measure was voted down. Believe me: the motive really wasn't to intrude on joy and impose dour Scots Calvinism. Pure 'nanny state' attempt to improve public health. ... Speaking of historicism and context, could Ex Cathedra go to the context of a First Nations reserve and make fine speeches mocking prohibition and celebrating 'a glass of wine over dinner with friends'?

Really I think that if the institution of alcohol really had been the proverbial "enjoying a glass of wine over dinner with friends" (in an unpickwickian sense), prohibition could never have 'made sense.'

C.S. Lewis could have made a far stronger argument against Platonic justice as correction and healing, and in preference to old-fashion'd justice as retribution and punishment had he gone after Commmunist and National Socialist [not 'fascist'] totalitarians, whose 'nanny state' regulations try'd to liquidate individuality, theistic religion, etc. Burgess(?) made an argument against therapeutic healing of evil in "A Clockwork Orange," I think. ...

Besides, if one wants freedom to do whatever, then surely Nietzschean gelassenheit is one's best avenue. The nanny state under Nietzschean enlightenment won't intervene to 'contain wastelands' etc but will give laisser-faire to contemptibility (e.g. a preference for ancestral formalist traditionalism rather than Aquinas, say). Nietzsche makes fun of pickwickian cigar smokers, and considers alcohol one of Europe's diseases (second only to anonymous Christianity; sc Christian idealism freed from Christian dogma). But really if one wishes to smoke a cigar in a Greek temple or during mass at church or in Yosemite national park, in order to convey to one's neighbours that this is what living in Heideggerian "thoughtfulness"* means to one, well, go ahead.

*a befindkichkeit explain'd to me c.1978.

Anonymous said...

BTW, strictly speaking, an exemption for sacramental wine was not exactly necessary, was it? I mean, isn't dispensation granted for the use of grape juice for RC masses as necessary (for a priest in recovery; for certain population groups especially plagued by alcoholism)?

Apparently, ordinary grape juice contains some slight amount of alcohol (as does alcohol-free beer). Accordingly, if Methodist clerics were real priests, their words would transubstantiate the Welch's?

This reality perhaps helps remind that alcohol is somehow important for the mysteries. And rather than scoffing at "puritans," we should consider wherefore the tremendous unpickwickian harm done by alcohol (in contrast to peyote, say) has been accepted, possibly even intended, for the (Japh) sake of what purposes?

Anonymous said...

& this: how astonishing that any agricultural effort was devoted to producing wine and beer during the era of food scarcity, which persisted at least until the invention of the seed-drill in early modern England. ... Recalls the shock that food was burn'd on altars to the gods when children were severely malnourish'd, even starving. How to craft priests willing to do this? ...

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