A fascinating bit of irony occurred in Everybody’s Column recently.
First, religious people denying that conflict is inherent among people
of differing religious belief systems. Then, religious people of
differing belief systems conflicted over the use of the word “bishop.”
Things that make you go hmmmm.
But then it occurred to me that atheists are often in conflict with other atheists. Religion doesn't even play a part. Why, conflict might be caused by something having nothing at all to do with a belief in a higher being; like, say, we all have our own ideas of what's right. Hmmmm, I "went."
When you look at Europe, Canada, and parts of, say, California, you can see this sort of “libertarianism” at work. The desire is to create one, vast college campus at the End of History, where it’s against the rules to be mean to anybody, you have to recycle, and there are strict rules on parking, but otherwise you can do anything that floats your boat. Government is there to make sure you don’t OD in the dorm but have access to an abortion at the clinic. There’s actually much to recommend this worldview and I don’t mean to be overly dismissive. But libertarians shouldn’t complain anymore when they’re called “sophomoric.”
Should a pro-life pharmacist be obliged to dispense morning-after pills? Must a doctor's religious beliefs be set aside when informing a patient of his options? I've always tended to come down on the side of conscience in these matters, but now that a Minnesota Target employee has carried the concept to its "logical" extreme, I'm not so sure.
I'm a reporter who covers Target for the Star Tribune and the other day, I got a call from someone who said that an employee at the Target store downtown refused to run his bacon through a scanning machine. He was mighty upset, arguing that the cashier had "no right to work as a cashier at Target" if she wasn't prepared to swipe his groceries.
But he was a little vague on the details, so I decided to check it out myself. At the Target store on E. Lake Street, a cashier wearing a hijab looked uncomfortable when I showed up at the cash register with a frozen pepperoni pizza. She immediately called for help, and another employee rang up the pizza and placed it in the basket.
I asked her if it was because she was Muslim, and she nodded her head. "I can't even touch it," she said.
Somali cab-drivers at Minneapolis International refuse fares who have alcohol in their luggage or who are accompanied by dogs. And what if I worked at Blockbuster and refused to check out copies of "An Inconvenient Truth" because it's labeled as a documentary and I can't bear to support that lie? It's all getting way too complicated.
I have an intrinsic desire to collect and flood my house with nuggets of joy (not Natasha's phrase), but that doesn't explain everyone. Often people own books and DVDs for reasons of identity and self-expression; that is why iTunes outcompeted Rhapsody, even though the latter in some ways offered a better deal. Ownership, especially of the non-digital kind, also allows you to lend out, to send to friends, and to show off. The ownership puzzle is related to the "why do we buy mostly new music" puzzle.
It makes the most sense to own songs and CDs, if only because the desire to hear them is more spontaneous, and renting them is harder. The costs of renting are falling, but the costs of personal storage are falling too, as houses become larger. The mail isn't getting much quicker, but the demand for immediacy is growing. Ownership remains robust.
There is a personal satisfaction to ownership but there's also the philosophical justification. After all, we humans have to work to survive and if we can't keep what we've worked for, then aren't we, in effect, slaves? Now, don't take that last statement too far. I'm not saying we shouldn't pay taxes, for example. But we should certainly agree amongst ourselves how much taxation is justified.
Ownership seems such a basic concept of human existence, but to some, evidently, it isn't.
A ban was initiated at the Hilltop Children's Center in Seattle. According to an article in the winter 2006-07 issue of "Rethinking Schools" magazine, the teachers at the private school wanted their students to learn that private property ownership is evil.
According to the article, the students had been building an elaborate "Legotown," but it was accidentally demolished. The teachers decided its destruction was an opportunity to explore "the inequities of private ownership." According to the teachers, "Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation."
The children were allegedly incorporating into Legotown "their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys." These assumptions "mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society -- a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive."
They claimed as their role shaping the children's "social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity ... from a perspective of social justice.
The teachers at Hilltop are teaching these tiny tots that their lives are insignificant -- everyone else matters more. At the same time, I suspect, the staff praises every burp and every fart in an effort to bolster the self-esteem of their young charges.
But the message here is clear. Whatever you accomplish for yourself through your own intelligence and hard work is selfish and meaningless. Why? Because we wish it to be and besides, it's unfair to those who can't won't do better. How do you think the kids of Hilltop will come out of this experience?
Sorry, but I can't see a party made up of mushy moderates whose only ideology is "just getting along" ever accomplishing much of anything. In fact, if they ever did become a political threat, then we'd probably be in trouble.
The Democrats are taking out after the banking industry over easy credit.
America has become a nation of debt, dependent on credit cards for everything from gasoline to groceries, which is why the Senate Banking Committee sessions examining the credit card industry and its practices are so important.
Several Democratic members of the committee are proposing legislation to require companies to provide more details to consumers on how long it will take them to pay off their debts if they make minimum monthly payments. They also are attempting to curb the solicitations of college students
Perhaps, as an earlier post suggests, Americans have become too stupid to resist credit when its available. Or maybe, we just want what we want -- now. But isn't it interesting how we always want to blame the provider of something deemed to be bad by society instead of the consumer?
It's primarily (but not exclusively) a trait of the left. Banks are responsible for their customers' credit abuse, oil companies take the hit for our polluting the environment with their products and cigarette companies must pay because some of us like to burn one. Of course, the right which would outlaw abortion, would then punish doctor who performed one but let the woman who paid for it get off scot-free.
We'll go along with almost anything our power-hungry politicians suggest as long as it's someone else being punished for our irresponsible behavior. And after all, there are a lot more of us voting than there are of them. I blame the government, it's certainly not our fault.
A tour bus of US senior citizens defended themselves against a group of alleged muggers, sending two of them fleeing and killing a third in the Atlantic coast city of Limon, Costa Rica police said on Thursday.
One of the tourists - a retired member of the US military - put assailant Warner Segura in a head lock and broke his clavicle after the 20-year-old and two other men armed with a knife and gun held up their tour bus Wednesday, said Luis Hernandez, the police chief of Limon, 130 kilometers (80 miles) east of San Jose.
The two other men fled when the 12 senior citizens started defending themselves. The tourists then drove Segura to the Red Cross where the man was declared dead.
Well done. The necessity to take our welfare into our own hands may be the sole, enduring legacy of 9/11 (think Flight 93.) If that's all that survives, we're still better off.
Basic Description As in previous studies conducted in 1987, 1994 and 1999, this extremely partisan Republican group’s politics are driven by a belief in the free enterprise system and social values that reflect a conservative agenda. Enterprisers are also the strongest backers of an assertive foreign policy, which includes nearly unanimous support for the war in Iraq and strong support for such anti-terrorism efforts as the Patriot Act.
Defining Values Assertive on foreign policy and patriotic; anti-regulation and pro-business; very little support for government help to the poor; strong belief that individuals are responsible for their own well being. Conservative on social issues such as gay marriage, but not much more religious than the nation as a whole. Very satisfied with personal financial situation.
Who They Are Predominantly white (91%), male (76%) and financially well-off (62% have household incomes of at least $50,000, compared with 40% nationwide). Nearly half (46%) have a college degree, and 77% are married. Nearly a quarter (23%) are themselves military veterans. Only 10% are under age 30.
Ayn Rand is one of the most controversial writers in modern American literature, known for her tireless advocacy of the right to selfishness and her hatred of big government. She has been derided and loved in equal measure and her books have sold millions of copies, attracting followers as diverse as banker Alan Greenspan, President Ronald Reagan and architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
She's also one of the most misunderstood and misquoted philosophers ever.
Her most famous book, Atlas Shrugged, has long been a target of Hollywood producers and attracted such big names as Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch and Sharon Stone. But each project collapsed in the face of turning a 1,200-page philosophical novel into a watchable movie.
Now that is to change. The latest attempt to film Atlas Shrugged is set to star Angelina Jolie in the role of Rand's railroad heiress heroine Dagny Taggart. Unlike past efforts, this one seems likely to succeed. A two-hour screenplay is almost complete and filming is to start this year with release in 2008. It is being written by Randall Wallace, who wrote the Mel Gibson epic Braveheart, and is backed by Lion's Gate Entertainment.
Atlas Shrugged is one of the most controversial books in modern literature. It is a passionate defence of Rand's belief that the world is best served when individuals act entirely in their own rational self-interest. Or, to put it more bluntly, they act selfishly. Rand, who died in 1982, founded the objectivist school of philosophy and still has millions of followers. Atlas Shrugged and another novel The Fountainhead promote her views. In financial circles Atlas Shrugged has been dubbed 'the bible of selfishness'.
But its popularity is undeniable. It has sold six million copies since it was published in 1957 with its grim prediction of an apocalyptic future in which America's elite thinkers, industrialists and artists go on strike and disappear. 'When people see this movie, her ideas will reach even more people than all of her books,' said Lester Hunt, a philosophy professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and member of the Ayn Rand Society.
I hope it happens and I hope it's good. It will be a tremendously difficult project to convey Rand's theme accurately and I'm suspicious of Hollywood's ability to do that. If you haven't read Atlas Shrugged since high school or if you've never read it at all, I encourage you to rectify that situation now.