21 August 2009

Thought (?) For the Day

Like a glutton for punishment I read Cal Thomas's columns regularly, and sometimes I'm rewarded with gems like this bit from his newest effort:

I have a suggestion. Unlike Obama's 'Yes We Can' slogan of the last campaign, how about 'Yes You Can'? The rebuilding of the country can begin when more of 'we the people' realize that real power lies within each of us and not in Washington.

Thomas's aversion to anything that might hint at collectivism is practically pathological. I had thought that "Yes We Can" was one of the more innocuous political slogans, but Thomas hears it as a hymn of dependence upon The State. And check out how he puts scare quotes around the opening words of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. One wonders whether he really thinks there is, or ought to be, such a thing as "the people," or if his soi-disant conservatism is so much like Margaret Thatcher's that he, too, believes that there's no such thing as society, only individuals and families.

If Thomas believes that "Yes We Can" is an inappropriate slogan for the United States, I have to wonder why he thinks this nation even exists, or why any nation exists. His own suggestion from the current column, which is that government exists "to protect us from foreign dictators and domestic charlatans who would injure or destroy our liberties," doesn't really answer the fundamental question. If collective endeavor is so terrible a thought, if even the suggestion of it is a threat to individual freedom, why do we bother forming states instead of each building our own little fortress in the wilderness? The best answer I can offer from my efforts to get inside the "conservative" mind is that we may as well have a certain minimalist kind of government so that worse forms of government don't fill the vacuum. But why is there even a vacuum if we're all so self-reliant, or should be? My guess is that government, for rugged individualists like Thomas, is what should be there to block other powers that exist in the state of nature from imposing their will on individuals or denying them "the opportunity to advance toward the highest levels of achievement consistent with their skills and persistence." Those are Thomas's words in quotes. As long as the best and brightest can always maximize their winnings, the world is fair, and every other person's portion is also fair. The notion that what's fair is what's needful to each and all as human beings rather than the just desserts for individuals is alien to the point of heresy to pious Cal. In other words, any alternative to the perpetual competition for existence that we know euphemistically as the "state of nature" or to its essential law of "compete or die" is painfully unacceptable to Thomas's hypersensitive animal perceptions. Even hearing the idea proposed makes him feel like a caged beast. It's got to be rough for him living in America today and staying enough in touch with even our rudimentary civilization to deliver his newspaper columns. The poor man ought to go live in the woods where he might lope about as free as the other woodland life, ironically protected by the federal government, and never have to worry about other people again -- except fetuses, of course.

No comments: