Weekly Rochester Events #332: Dividing America's Largests and Bests
Thursday, May 19, 2005I started thinking about how "conservative" and "liberal" really do nothing to describe the political landscape in America today. Traditionally, they refer to the kinds of laws desired: conservatives favoring those in the past, and liberals favoring changes to something new. However, both sides defy that definition, and worse, it's become a pair of arbitrary opposites that describe either a proud kinship or identification of the stupid enemy — depending on who's what. From that, I wondered how things are really divided up.
On Thursday I went to Monty's Krown (875 Monroe Ave.) to see the show there. By the time I arrived, some argument took place and The Raven Society left. Around that time, The Mathematicians showed up and immediately felt the bad vibe. I talked with them a little bit and they said that this was a bit of a throw-away show since nobody was there to see them and, being from the Glens Falls area, this was the last stop on the tour prior to a 5-hour drive home. In actuality, there was myself and a couple other people they knew who were there to see them.
I guess they went and discussed it. In the interim I was talking with Shannon (who, by the way, disappeared in a rush after the show ... what did I do this time?) and I saw the three band members walk in — confidently, matching stride with one another, in a very determined, deliberate manner. I smiled a bit at that sight and indeed my thought was right: they had decided to play. And what a show. Their nerdy, high-energy, hip-hop/synth-pop style blew everyone away. Afterward, I heard from at least two people that they liked the band.
But wait wait ... let me get back to the the political landscape thing. I guess the first division concerns the value of an individual in the eyes of the government and in the eyes of society. On the one side is that everyone should be treated equally and on the other is that they should not. There are a number of ways that this equality or inequality can manifest itself, and that's a whole other spectrum: should it include influence on government representatives? and what of food, shelter, clothing, and health care?
I'd like to call the group on the side of equality citizenists (co-opting the term from the civil rights movement somewhat appropriately) where under citizenism, each person who is a citizen of the country gets equal treatment and representation. On the other side is the contributists who base the value of a citizen on their contribution to society.
In my opinion, I'm more of a citizenist because contributism blows with prevailing winds: at present the value of a citizen is their monetary worth — observe, for instance, how much more influence a rich business person has in our representative government versus a non-businessperson who has no money. I guess my citizenist ideal is in line with my belief that we should assess the value of one's ideas instead of the perceived value of the person.
On Friday I went to the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Inside Deep Throat. While it was not not about the making of Deep Throat, it was more about the impact the film had on society and the repercussions from it. Apparently it got banned in a number of theaters under "obscentity" laws. The Commission on Obscenity and Pornography had been conducting scientific and medical experiments to determine the negative effects of pornography. When, in 1970, it concluded that pornography had no harmful effects, Nixon buried it. (It wasn't until a new "study" in 1986 under the Meese Commission did away with the science and medical tests to conclude that was not only harmful, but the cause of all sorts of society's ills.) All told, the story behind the porno is way more interesting than the story of a women whose clit is in her throat.
On the political landscape, this tends to divide people into those who believe the state of society is the accumulation of the behavior of each individual versus those who believe society is a tangible result for which a person's actions are either contribute to it or destroy it. It's a rather subtle difference, but one that has notable consequences. The former group believe that society is simply a metaphoric barometer, so changing society is really the process of changing fundamental beliefs of individuals. To the latter group, society is the goal and changing it involves coercing changes in specific behaviors to elicit the desired shift in society's cumulative behavior.
So, I guess I'll call the former group social accumulists in that the incremental changes of many individuals accumulates into a total that represents all of society. For the latter, I'll dub them social steerists in that their goal is to steer society in a particular direction with direct influence.
Saturday I was back at the Dryden Theatre to see Paths of Glory. In it, a colonel is coerced into initiating a battle which was a gamble (that is, impossible to win) but would bring glory to the general who conceived it. It's a very hard film to watch because the absurdity of war is terrifyingly believable. The value of human lives is diminished in light of a greater cause, and by extension, that value can be further diminished in certain circumstances — so far that the balance of justice itself gets skewed.
And it's all believable.
So finally, I'll conclude with one more division of the political landscape. This one's a bit simpler. On the one side are people who believe the government is the servant of the people, and on the other, the people are the servants of the government. I'm kind of at a loss for this one. After digging through all the -ism's (again) I came up with a few related ones from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (1992, Houghton Mifflin; 1994, INSO Corporation.) Think of it as boosting your word capital: they're 50 cents each. See how many you can use every day!
None of these quite fit. So, I give up. I guess I'll tip my hand and call people who believe the government is the servant of the people Americans. The others will be told what they are.
I guess that makes me a social accumulist, citizenist, constitutionalist, egalitarian, liberalist, anarchist American.
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