Self-Defeating Government & The US Bill of Rights

Self-Defeating Government & The US Bill of Rights

A government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Or a government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists?

People shouldn’t self-defeat; from this principle arises Something Deeperism:
Literal beliefs and doubts about True Goodness just confuse our paltry human feelings/thoughts/actions: what we need for our own feeling/thinking/acting to mean anything to us is to center ourselves around the Light of True Goodness shining through each conscious moment, a Light we can relate our ideas and feelings to it meaningfully, though of course (the Light being infinitely bright and our feelings, ideas, and actions being woefully limited) not perfectly/literally/definitively/1:1. [a longer discussion of Something Deeperism is contained in two square bracket asides at the end of this essay; for anyone who’s not already heard all about it so many times they can’t even stand to talk to me anymore.]

Governments shouldn’t self-defeat; from that principle arises a little commentary about recent US obsessions with a couple amendments, that lately seem to overshadow the whole constitution, leaving us all rather in the cold dank dark.

Free speech is there why? So that we can meaningfully discuss ideas with one another, and not have to fear persecution for our ideas. What is unlimited campaign spending there for? To bludgeon the electorate with images and soundbites scientifically and artistically crafted to get us to vote a certain way, think a certain way, believe a certain way, feel a certain way. The constant ad cycle riles us up, hardens our positions, and—because thought dies in equal proportion as incensed certainty rises—turns off our critical thinking, as well as our ability to meaningfully engage with others. How is that helping free speech accomplish its goals of allowing us to meaningfully discuss ideas with one another, free from persecution? It’s not. It is working against that goal. Setting a cap on campaign spending and a moratorium on political ads (for say three weeks prior to election day) would not silence anyone’s voice. The campaigns would still be getting their ideas out there much much much more than any of the rest of us. And it would have many salutary effects: decrease the power lobbyists have over the legislative process; give politicians more time to actually focus on ideas and governing, and decrease the corruption riddling their beings (caused in no small part by their attachment to lobbyists and their money); turn down the fever of the electorate and allow them to think more carefully and relate more meaningfully to their fellows; and even reduce the amount of idea-based persecution within our society, which is artificially high at the moment due largely to the sickness within our democracy, a sickness grown of many errors, including the erosion of trust in our government–caused partly by the influence of lobbyists on elections and politicians–and the inflammatory ad-cycles themselves.

But how exactly would this work? Since even if you tell a campaign, they can only spend X amount of money, there’d be all these other boosters who’d run ads for the candidate. And they could also run ads that agreed with all the candidates platforms and their style but stopped short of naming the candidate–right? Money is power. Build a think tank to give your ideas an intellectual veneer and to scientifically craft talking points candidates and advertisers can use for free. Buy ad time. Pay for lobbyists that both constantly remind candidates that they are beholden to your money for their election and to help candidates draft legislation the way you want it. What do we do? Because monied-interests inevitably twists the rules to their self-entrenching advantages. How to push back on that? Huge wealth disparities are not good for democracy. A wealth tax and an inheritance, oh, pardon me I mean A DEATH OOOH SCARY AND GRISLY SEE HOW WORDS WORK TO MANIPULATE OUR PERSPECTIVES? tax could both keep money from concentrating too awful much and fund things like critical thinking programs in schools and anti-ads–ads that teach critical thinking skills. To return to the worry about people outside a campaign funding ads that basically supported the campaign: what to do?

Let’s read the Second Amendment.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

What does that even mean? Because the states in the union need to be able to protect themselves, they should be allowed to keep a well regulated militia? And so the federal government should not restrict the rights of people in the state militia to have weapons? That’s how it was read for a very long time, before the NRA began it’s push for an interpretation that changed the reading to mean something more along the lines of: the federal government can’t infringe any citizens right to bear arms.

Let’s let both of those interpretations evolve to their logical extremes. In the former, things are a little weird, because California could conceivable stock up nuclear weapons and point them at Nevada. But the latter interpretation is even weirder: not only can state weaponry grow unchecked, private citizens can have any weapons they want, and they can form private militias with whatever weapons they want–even if the States they live in are opposed to allowing private militias patrolling the streets with loaded machine guns. Taken to the logical conclusion, any reading that forbids government oversight over how people and groups of people arm themselves effectively cedes the government’s status as the primary arbiter of violence. What use is “you can have machine guns, tanks, what not – you just can’t use them”? People use the weapons they have, and, if everyone is allowed to run about with any weapon, chaos ensues. Gangs and rich private militias rule the streets; the government is too weak to defend itself; the warlords buy the government completely off; the whole point of gathering together to form a government is undermined.

The amendment made some sense when it was created, but that sense has been lost. When it was created, the various states were more like little countries than they are now, and so they had reason to want their own armies to be able to stand up to the federal government, and therefore it wasn’t completely unreasonable to demand that the federal government not interfere with their militias, which were made mostly of private citizens with their own weapons. The available weapons were relatively weak and inaccurate single-load muskets and single-load cannons. That’s not very much how things are now; but it made a reading along the lines of the former interpretation reasonable-enough. The latter interpretation never made any sense–the whole point of government is keeping chaos and mayhem low so people can focus on things besides fighting to the death.

Indeed, what is more ironic than an amendment intended to protect states’ rights being used by a section of the federal government to strip a state’s ability to control violence within its communities? Picture NYC with people carrying loaded weapons on the subways. This destroys order; this destroys NYC. Do you want to seal yourself up in a little metal room full of people carrying pistols? And New York State has no right to protect its citizens and itself? And this abrogation of states’ rights based upon an amendment about how a state’s right to maintain a militia should not be abridged by the federal government???

If an amendment allows for no reading that is not–when taken to it’s logical conclusion–compatible with the rule of law, that amendment should be taken with a grain of salt. It should be given the least self-defeating interpretation possible, and handled with extreme caution. This is the situation with the Second Amendment, and as technology improves that will be more and more the case. Yes, it would be good to change it, but we shouldn’t have to to avoid turning the US into a gangland fire: laws are there to help govern better: if an interpretation of a law undermine’s one of government’s primary functions–such as maintaining order by removing the ability of non-government actors to behave with a violence that rivals the local authorities–that interpretation has just proven itself self-defeating and thus wrong.

Strange literalisms, pumped up on lobbyists money: that is the problem here. If an interpretation of an amendment leads to national self-defeat, that interpretation should be avoided.

Well, there’s also the side-effect of a push to fill the court with judges who will overturn Roe v Wade. But I don’t understand: the beef with Roe v Wade is federal interference in local laws, and forcing NY to let people walk around with pistols is federal interference in local laws. The impetus behind overturning Roe v Wade is avoiding the deaths of unborn children, but gun violence is killing futures of all stages of development.

Everyone agrees that the SC was right to declare separate but equal unconditional, but with abortion, gun control, and political advertising, there are large factions that think the SC should stop acting like a king, twisting the Constitution to his dogmatic will. Maybe the SC should be demoted – they can be the final word in the courts, but if Congress votes and the president signs (or finds his veto overruled) the ruling can be overturned. How often could an SC ruling or the overturn of one be challenged? Once in the first four months of every new House. As it stands now, the SC has more power than wisdom and the SC justice selection process is damaging the larger political process. Also, term limits.

But it seems that no matter how we organize power, the abortion debate will continue to harm the larger political debate until a compromise is found.
Maybe leave it up to the States but if they outlaw abortions they have to pay for transfers to artificial wombs and all related expenses before and after the birth?
I see no perfect solution.
Both sides have a point: neither rights for unborn fetuses, not rights of women over their own bodies are crazy ideas.

Author: Dr. Brian Stormun, Professor of Hey Cool it! Just thinking about the shapes of the moments! If passionate intensity were a wise council, polar bears would rule the world and rutting wild boars would be the foremost authorities on God’s Truth!

See notes on Something Deeperism below (I mean, if you want to hear more about it – you’ve probably had enough by now)

[Can we relate our ideas and feelings meaningfully to a Light shining through each conscious moment? For all we know we can! And examples of clear-eyed kindness (both as little happy accidents within our own putrid selves, and as more sustained accomplishments in holy people like the Buddha and other storied Love-firsters) exist to point the way.]
[Can’t we know literal things about the True Good? Like that it literally exists, and maybe further details like Jesus is the Son of God, and all this is blessedly assured to me via divine revelations mediated by the holy fire of the Holy Spirit and sanctioned by the holy seal of the Holy Father?? No, we can’t have literal knowledge of such notions. Our ideas and feelings don’t even know what any of that means in a literal sense – they are limited and faulty, whilst the True Good — for it to be of any use in our quest to be able to believe in, understand, care about, and follow our own thoughts — would have to be unlimited and faultless. Second, even if God literally appeared to us and explained the literal Truth of Reality, while simultaneously allowing us to experience that Truth, our ideas and feelings are still not tools wide, deep, clear, reliable, or fathomable enough to really understand the Truth of Reality. But in our normal daytoday lives, we’d still have to rely on our ideas and feelings to remember, understand, and apply the lessons learned from God. Either doubting or believing literal notions about the True Good exceed human capabilities. We know poetically that there is a True Good, and we relate this poetic knowledge to other religious and philosophical ideas, but they too are held only poetically. And the poetic knowledge we need to know most fundamentally — again, for own feelings/thoughts/actions to be meaningful to us — is that we should be aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, joyful, and kind; and centered around the the Light within that alone knows that and in what way it is True to say “we are all in this together”. That’s the point of Something Deeperism: not to get us to throw out our various poetic notions about Reality, but to remind us that we don’t literally understand ideas about Reality (but can only have literal grasp of literal concepts, which fit only in reality — in a self-declared set of unproven and unprovable assumptions there only to help us organize our thoughts and actions within those mere assumptions [ie: we don’t know if “London” exists for Real, or, if it did, in what sense it would be “Real”, but we don’t need to know that to fly into London, hang out, make friends, etc; same with science, math, etc — their relationship to a Reality is unfathomable, but they are still coherent, usable, and beautiful]); and to also remind us what our most fundamental poetic insight must be if our thought is to matter to us (and therefore be usable to us; and to be able to inhabit our own feeling/thinking/acting and travel with our own ideas to our own conclusions). Human thought is a thing of degrees, so none of us are ever a 100% failed Something Deeperist or a 100% successful Something Deeperist. Something Deeperist isn’t about 100% Good or 100% Bad, but about gently pushing towards the Good — towards keeping first things first: journeying deeper and deeper into and flowing more and more cleanly off of a whole-being insight into why Loving Kindness is the Way.]

Comments are closed.