In Friday’s post a writer from Spiked in the U.K mentioned Jean Jacques Rousseau along with some other philosophers – absent any full context – to add some weight to the nearly substance free proposition we were freer during the Enlightenment – which can cover 1637 to the early 1800s depending on the historian. Currently the freedoms exemplified by the Enlightenment are under siege – well, they always are. Actual threats to democracy and liberty are reality dependent. Thus the strained efforts by far right Cons in the U.S. and Europe to manufacture existential threats the way Hostess turns out Twinkies. I’ve posted on Rousseau before and this is largely a repeat so those regular readers who are hungry might want to head out to lunch and skip today’s post.
Jean Jacques Rousseau thought judgments should be based on feelings rather than reason. The masses constituted a general will and the individual should be subordinate to the will of the people. While we might find that a scary notion Rousseau believed that people were born with a natural spirit of goodness. Thus subjecting oneself to the general will was also natural and good. Simultaneously he believed civilized society – big structured civilizations – with all their influences – books, newspapers and formal education( no TV or net yet) were interfering with man’s ability to channel his natural abilities. The individual thus succumbs to civilizations influences and becomes alienated from their true selves. There are remnants of those feelings alive and well in books and movies about getting away and finding one’s true self. In thoughts that were prescient of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall – “We don’t need no thought control, No dark sarcasm in the classroom, Teachers leave them kids alone” – Rousseau thought education should be less about discipline and instilling the habit of self-repression and more about sympathy, experience and love. When it came time to pass laws he believed in participatory democracy ( modern western democracies are representative democracies). The people could enact laws and ways of being ruled as they wished. If everyone voted to be ruled by a queen or a group of senators, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the people’s will had been expressed. If the people all voted to burn someone as a witch, that was OK because the wishes of the majority – people naturally blessed with goodness – had come to a decision which represented the majority. Rousseau did see the possibility of hasty decisions such as witch burning and thought that could be remedied by the election of special legislators who would use their innate goodness in combination with specialized knowledge and wisdom to dissuade the majority from acting in hast. That point of view would be what we call the rule of men, as compared to the rule of law. If everyone did not live up to their innate goodness – including the mediating legislators – more witches get burned. This Rousseauian view of democracy ( majority rules) – was in some ways the opposite of John Locke’s view of democracy in which individual rights would preclude violating the rights of alleged witches, pirates or anyone else regardless of the will of the majority of society. Dissidents, the eccentric, those believed to be a threat to the culture and funny hat aficionados would have little recourse to address unfounded accusations and paranoia. Rousseau would have a democracy – for how long is debatable – for in that democracy the individual would have no rights per se. In modern times both the far left and the fascists have espoused something like the Rousseau model in claiming to represent the will of the masses. In a Rousseauian model the people could in fact vote themselves into tyranny. There is some degree of misinterpretation of Rousseau in seeing his philosophy entirely in terms of mob rule. Rousseau’s model for democracy did assume that individuals would be acting out of a goodness with which nature had provided every person. A slim and marginal foundation for a democratic republic, but if humanity survives long enough maybe we’ll evolve to the degree where Rousseauian ideals become reality. Rather than dismissing Rousseau as dangerous the better picture might be he was either naive, had an intellectual blind spot, a delusional faith in mankind or a combination of the three. For those that bemoan the trait of cynicism in humanity and it’s coarsening on civilization , Rousseau was an example of someone who lacked a healthy reasonable level of cynicism about his fellow human beings. James Madison espoused that healthy cynicism when he warned of the tyranny of a temporary majority worked up by some hot button issue of the day. The right-wing conservative Heritage Foundation espouses the dark side of Rousseauian thinking in this twisted editorial, Prop. 8: Not trusting the voters
Oddly enough, this very aspect of Judge Walker’s Prop 8 decision most troubles some commentators, including those who favor same-sex marriage as a policy. In his zeal to sweep aside California voters’ amendment of their state constitution and promote social change, Walker questions not only the law but the rationality of millions of Californians who advocated or voted for it.
The Right’s problem here is the total disregard for Jeffersonian democracy in which we have a balance between the will of the majority and the Lockeian respect for individual rights. If millions of people vote against basic rights afforded under our Constitution they are all wrong and yes a single judge is right. If a mob wants to trample over an individual’s rights, the Right backs that tenet in principle. Under the Heritage Foundation’s view, liberals could gain a majority and outlaw conservatism because they find right-wing ideology the antithesis of democracy. Regardless of the majority, that too would be unconstitutional, as morally reprehensible as many people find modern conservatism. Judge Walker’s decision was guided by the U.S. Constitution, Judge Walker’s decision to overturn Prop 8 is factual, well-reasoned, and powerful.
I count—in his opinion today—seven citations to Justice Kennedy’s 1996 opinion in Romer v. Evans (striking down an anti-gay Colorado ballot initiative) and eight citations to his 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas (striking down Texas’ gay-sodomy law). In a stunning decision this afternoon, finding California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative banning gay marriage unconstitutional, Walker trod heavily on the path Kennedy has blazed on gay rights: “[I]t would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse,” quotes Walker. “‘[M]oral disapproval, without any other asserted state interest,’ has never been a rational basis for legislation,” cites Walker.* “Animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate,” Walker notes, with a jerk of the thumb at Kennedy.
We have laws that properly restrain individual rights. You may not exercise an individual right to knock down senior citizens and take their Social Security checks. There is some moral arguments involved, but ultimately protecting people against violence and thief is about protecting real and substantial individual rights to go about one’s business. The arguments that one person’s gayness is a threat have ranged from deranged to silly.
The effects of child abuse can last a lifetime, Childhood abuse, adversity may shorten life, weaken immune response among the elderly
The emotional pains we suffer in childhood can lead to weakened immune systems later in life, according to a new study.
Based on this new research, the amount of this immune impairment even enhances that caused by the stress of caregiving later in life.
“What happens in childhood really matters when it comes to your immune response in the latter part of your life,” explained Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University. She explained her work at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Diego.
The study showed that for some children who experienced serious abuse or adverse experiences as kids, the long-term effect might be a lifespan shortened by seven to 15 years.