Of Colin Rand Kaepernick, Robert E. Lee and Francis Scott Key, the Uncivil Civil War and More on this Day Set Aside to Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Muhammad Ali

Today, January 17, 2022, is a day set aside to honor two famous Americans of African descent, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Muhammad Ali.  One wonders how Dr. King would view today’s America.  I think it is almost as different as possible from what he hoped it would be.  Ali might have been less surprised and more sanguine.  Perhaps some reality checks are in order, unpleasant reality checks for everyone involved, and I believe Colin Rand Kaepernick is a viable vehicle for such introspection.  He is a strange symbol for many concepts, a number of them incoherently inconsistent with others.  In essence, like Ali, although to a much lesser extent, he is someone who has been forced to choose between professional and financial success and his conscience.  Unlike Ali, he was not the best that ever was at his athletic endevors, he may have become a great quarterback or merely been eventually cast aside as mediocre, but cast aside he was, not by the United States government as was the case with Ali, put by the owners of the National Football League, bowing to pressure from jingoist elements in our society that worship symbols, much as fascists do, without really understanding them.  Unfortunately, that pretty much defines the disparate competing elements working to sunder us, to polarize us to lead us once again into violent civil strife as once again, families are torn asunder based on narratives that have little to do with reality. 

It is certainly not only right wing, empire loving pseudo-conservatives to blame.  For example, the claim by Cancel Culture “Woke” warriors that meritocracy is racist and sexist is a huge insult to minorities of all races, nationalities and genders.  It is amazing how blatantly unaware of their condescension those privileged pseudo liberals are.  Real liberals and real progressives know better and all we ask is that as Martin Luther King, Jr. hoped, we not be judged by anything other than our character and abilities (“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”).

Meritocracy would seem to have been what would have most benefitted Mr. Kaepernick, but meritocracy not delimited by required political correctness, a social disease that impacts autocratic infected activists in both major parties, none of whom adequately represent either the political right (denominated Paleolithic, fascist, racist and extreme or radical by its opponents in the Democratic Party) or the political left (denominated Communist, socialist and extreme or radical by its opponents in the Republican Party).  Interestingly, the sane are not necessarily found in the apathetic center or among those who identify as independent due to lack of interest, but rather, are scattered among the populist fringes, left as well as right, who realize that for a very long time, perhaps forever, we have all been manipulated, used and abused for the benefit of the very few who rule us all as though they owned the One Ring of which JRR Tolkien wrote.

Colin Rand Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco Forty-Niners of the National Football League is famous, or infamous (depending on your perspective) for refusing to honor the playing of the United States’ national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”, at the start of a professional football game in which he played.  His example was subsequently followed by other professional and university football players of African descent, and then by athletes and sympathizers of diverse races.  The related symbolic protests further polarized an already divided nation and Mr. Kaepernick has evidently been “blackballed” from playing in the National Football League, although at some point, perhaps his skill had so deteriorated that having placed him on an NFL team roster would have been a mere token gesture.

But what was Mr. Kaepernick’s point?

Apparently, the catalyst was the following line from the third stanza in the poem written by Francis Scott Key in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812, and subsequently incorporated into the tune of a British bar song that in 1931 became the national anthem of the United States: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave”.  According to British historian Robin Blackburn, the phrase referred to the many thousands of African descended slaves who flocked to the British during the War of 1812, where their status as slaves was not recognized by the British, including a number who took service with the British against their American masters in the Corps of Colonial Marines.  According to Wikipedia and other more reliable sources[1], Francis Scott Key, when he wrote those verses in 1814, was a slaveholding lawyer from an old Maryland plantation family who, thanks to that system of human bondage had grown rich and powerful.  When he wrote the poem that would, in 1931, become the national anthem proclaiming our nation “the land of the free,” Key, like the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, not only profited from slaves but harbored racist conceptions of American citizenship and human potential. Africans in America, he said, were: “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” 

While Key was composing the line “O’er the land of the free,” it is likely that black slaves were trying to reach British ships in Baltimore Harbor. They knew that they were far more likely to find freedom and liberty under the Union Jack than they were under the “Star-Spangled Banner.”  Key subsequently used his political office as the district attorney for the City of Washington from 1833 to 1840 to defend slavery, attacking the abolitionist movement in several high-profile cases.  Key sought to crack down on the free speech of abolitionists he believed were riling things up in the city and prosecuted a New York doctor living in Georgetown for possessing abolitionist pamphlets.  In the resulting case, U.S. v. Reuben Crandall, Key made national headlines by asking whether the property rights of slaveholders outweighed the free speech rights of those arguing for slavery’s abolishment, hoping to silence abolitionists who he charged wished to “associate and amalgamate with the Negro.”  Though Crandall’s offense was nothing more than possessing abolitionist literature, Key felt that abolitionists’ free speech rights were so dangerous that he sought, unsuccessfully, to have Crandall hanged.  Hmmm, that does sound quite a bit like the Democratic Party’s Cancel Culture attitude towards those who oppose compulsory vaccination during the current Covid Crisis.  Mr. Key, was, of course, a member of his era’s Democratic Party.

American history is full of irony and hypocrisy but today, none is more blatant than that engaged in today by so called “woke” pseudo progressives waving the Cancel Culture flag.  It is not surprising given the pathetic state of education in the United States.  This week a “woke” reporter ridiculed a Congressional candidate’s reference to a debate between Abraham Lincoln and former slave and civic leader Frederick Douglas asserting that “the” debate was with Illinois politician Stephen Douglas, as if there had only been one debate between the late president and anyone named Douglas.  In fact, there was a huge debate in the White House between Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglas and other Black leaders (then referred to as Negroes) concerning Lincoln’s postwar plan to deport all Americans of African descent from the re-United States, Lincoln noting that it was obvious the two races could never live together.  Frederick Douglass did not agree.  Neither, much later, did Martin Luther King, Jr.  Ali’s position on the issue, may have been more complex.  Unfortunately, not many people realize that, although opposed to slavery, Abraham Lincoln was an avowed racist.  How sad that Americans of African descent today look upon him as their very own hero.

The sad reality is that almost everything taught in the United States concerning its un-civil Civil War is utterly distorted, most especially the claim that the “Union” invaded the States in Secession to “free the slaves”.  Nothing could have been further from the truth as then President Lincoln made clear in his first inaugural address when he said …. 

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that–

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause–as cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution–to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause “shall be delivered up” their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

How in good conscience then, can the claim be made that the Civil War was initiated in order to secure freedom from the odious institution of slavery for the millions of enslaved Americans of African descent then held as property not only in the South, but throughout the United States of America?  Well, as easily as Jefferson’s claim that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ….” is held as a sacred pillar of American democracy; and as easily as the Confederate Stars and Bars are despised while the Stars and Stripes, which flew over a nation that enforced slavery not only during the Civil War but for the entire period from 1776 until 1866; and as much as the anthem “Dixie” is reviled while Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner, including the lines “No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave” are glorified.  They are useful lies used not only to maintain most Americans of African Descent in political bondage, but to assure that most of us are also subjected to sugar coated governmental tyranny.  Colin Kaepernick was apparently, less ignorant than most when, on that fateful Sunday, he elected to kneel as Mr. Key’s ditty was played before the adoring football crowd in a now ubiquitous Pentagon funded pregame ritual honoring the ongoing murder of millions by a politicized American military machine.

Mr. Kaepernick’s protest involved rare coherence amidst our current politicohistoric incoherence, although perhaps the adjective “current” is misplaced.  It is interesting to note that neither George Washington nor Thomas Jefferson nor Francis Scott Key nor any of the “founding fathers” (other than perhaps Benjamin Franklin) ever did as much for Americans of African descent as did Robert E. Lee after his surrender at Appomattox Court House, but he is the one on whom the purportedly “woke” have focused their disdain.  So, Mr. Kaepernick may certainly have had a more than valid point, assuming he is not among the myriads of Americans of African descent who support the Democratic Party: the party of the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan, the party of segregation and of the Clinton-Biden welfare and penal reform acts that have destroyed most of the current generation of American Black males.  The party that uses and abuses Americans of African descent to stay in power by doing all it can to generate anti-Black sentiment by keeping the issue of racism festering and profitably alive and holding out the worst among American Blacks (think George Floyd) rather than people like Mr. Kaepernick, Dr. King or Muhammad Ali as the persons who Americans of African descent should eulogize and emulate.

As I think today of Dr. King and Muhammad Ali, and yes, of Colin Kaepernick and even George Floyd, I grieve for the reality that Americans of African descent will never be truly free until they discard the emotional, social and political shackles that bind them to the worst among us, until they again develop real leaders, men Like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X, rather than Democratic Party overseers in the Congressional Black Caucus.  The Democratic Party is currently seeking to politically enslave Hispanics and immigrants (groups of which I am a member) the way it has way too many Blacks.  Hopefully it will not succeed.  Certainly not today’s authoritarian, antilibertarian, pro-Cancel Culture Democratic Party so alien from the party of Dennis Kucinich and James Webb and Tulsi Gabbard.

Mr. Kaepernick’s protest and his willingness to sacrifice a professional career ought to be more than merely symbolic.  Indeed, merely symbolic actions tend to delay rather than to accelerate the required changes they seek to promote.  With respect to racism and xenophobia and misogyny, change require a coming together rather than a drifting apart and those changes can neither be imposed nor legislated, they cannot be attained by fictionalizing history or by deceptive journalism, they cannot be attained by ridiculing those who need to be converted.  They can only be attained when empathy replaces apathy and when transparent, honest and competent leadership replaces the snake pit of oligarchic elites who rule and ruin us all now, whether we are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, male or female.  And that won’t happen as long as members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious and other societal groups continue to be deluded into voting as a block without holding their leaders accountable for failing to meet commitments essential to us all in attaining justice, equity, equality and a real opportunity to not only pursue but attain happiness.  It won’t happen unless we rededicate ourselves with the courage of Muhammad Ali to the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Something to seriously consider as we head father and farther away from Dr. King’s dream.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

[1] On which the following information is based.

An Introspective Analysis of Sociopolitical and Economic Perspectives as the Year Morphs from 2021 to 2022

Or perhaps, merely another much too lengthy diatribe!

On a very personal, intimate level, 2021 was a success for me.  I survived somehow.  The same was probably true for many people, perhaps for most, despite all the obstacles put in play in order for those in power to maintain their unfettered control.  They count on that; keep us at least barely satisfied with our lots and frightened by manufactured crises and we’ll grumble but stay in line.  But in 2021, they almost went too far, all too recklessly skating on thin ice.  Unfortunately for us, to them that means they did a great job.  The ice seemingly held.  Their prime tools this time around were:

  • The generation of hysteria over the January 6 political protests, characterized as an insurrection on the scale of the Civil War and terrorism akin to the attacks on September 11, 2001 and even, to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1946.  To some extent such comparisons are valid, they all distort reality, ignoring the reasons such events took place and in their stead, manufacturing fictional noble causes; and
  • The Covid 19 pandemic and its related isolation and economic constraints, especially the false preventive efficiency attributed to purported vaccines and the ostracism that those opposed to vaccinations should be made to suffer.

Each of those tools were amplified thanks to the subservient corporate media and Internet platforms which managed to polarize us more than ever, permitting those who rule us to massively enrich and empower themselves while we were kept busy snapping at each other, a polarized population being, ironically, a docile population as far as those who control us are concerned, easy to confuse and manipulate.  An allegory for 2021 might have been a large pack of dogs viciously biting their own tails as each ran around in futile circles while their handlers guffawed.

While it gets tiring (as in the case of quixotic tilting at windmills), for many years I have sought to clarify what real progressives and leftists are about, what they definitively do not embrace, and that the Democratic Party is neither liberal nor progressive nor leftist (even though too many who share those perspectives are perpetually trapped there, spinning their wheels furiously in the futile aspiration of attaining “change from within”).  As the year turns from 2021 to 2022, I will once again masochistically share certain premises important to my personal political philosophy, a blend between democratic socialism and libertarianism, knowing that, assuming my views are not censored, they will be trolled and distorted and then, as deformed, ridiculed by the zombie-like-walking-silly (i.e., the purportedly “Woke” cancel culture groupies). 

Here goes:; …, one more time!!!

First of all, the foundation.  My sociopolitical and economic perspectives are premised on the realization that every human being is both an individual and a member of a concentric series of collectives varying from personal relationships with other individuals to membership in the human species as a whole.  Among them are the diverse levels of the State which, for good or ill, is used as a tool to hold our individualistic nature in check.  As a result of such dual nature, conflicts requiring resolution arise.  Such conflicts should, when possible, be reconciled so that the demands of both natures are met but when they cannot be reconciled, I believe the collective interest must prevail:  Libertarians believe the converse.  The corrupt believe something else and that third perspective, incoherent and counterproductive, is currently the One Ring that rules us all.  The producers of the old television series “Star Trek” put my collectivist perspective well when they had its most popular fictional figure, the Vulcan Spock, state “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.  That is even more true, of course, when it involves needs of the many and whims of the privileged few.

Second, on the importance of an open mind willing to listen as well as to pontificate and thus, to grow and improve.  The one thing I most admired about the late Ross Perot during his independent candidacy for the presidency of the United States was his defense of his willingness to change his position on diverse issues.  The corporate media and most politicians consider that anathema, wishy washy and a sign of hypocrisy and in many cases, they’re right.  But Mr. Perot wisely noted that only a fool, and a selfish one at that, is unwilling to admit when he’s wrong, and to seek to correct related errors.  Notwithstanding my current strongly held views (they’ve been drastically different in the past), I’ve always felt that an open mind leads to growth (and transition), thus my sociopolitical and economic perspectives are also premised on the reality that almost all political and economic interactions involve pragmatic collectivist “conventions” (as described below) rather than objectively verifiable “truths”.  That is the foundation for the “scientific method” of inquiry, a continuing process and work in progress changing with the context and evolving as time and experience change prior realities, as true for the social as for the physical sciences.  Interestingly, that was a fundamental premise in Marxist-Hegel influenced ideology involving dialectics.  “Conventions” are social constructs created and enforced though our collective natures but impacted in their development by our individuality, as in Galileo and Newton and Einstein revolutionizing previously held beliefs.  They are, in essence, a pragmatic solution to the improbability of proving absolute truths predicated on the realization that “faith alone” does not constitute proof.  They involve a collectivist agreement to treat something as true, because it works, for so long as it continues to function, something on which both mathematics and physics are premised.  But conventions can be easily distorted and manipulated by those who control the mechanisms through which we exchange information, especially through the tools made available to them by behavioral psychology.  Consequently, reality can become almost impossible to accurately discern, especially since it is so readily manipulated by those who have cornered the market on power.

Third; on democracy, liberty, pluralism and human rights.  In the segment of our planet which, for political purposes, we have arbitrarily denominated the “West” (an illusory concept in a revolving globe), we claim to base our society on “participatory, representative democracy” limited by “human rights”.  Unfortunately, neither exist nor have ever existed, not even as conventions. 

Democracy has a meaning, government by a majority, but the meaning has been utterly distorted by insisting that it also includes liberty and pluralism, concepts utterly at odds with majority rule.  Liberty is that within us which no one can require us to change, no matter what, and pluralism is the opposite of majority rule, it is the right of minorities to establish their own rules.  Even if the term “democracy” was given its logical meaning, limited to majority rule, it has rarely if ever functioned because massive participation is required to attain a majority.  Majority means more than half, not of those willing to participate, but of everyone impacted.  At best we sometimes attain majorities of those who participate, which is not a real majority, and most often we attain mere pluralities, i.e., the largest single number although the combination of those opposed is larger.  An example is a field of three candidates where the “victor” receives 35% of the vote and those utterly opposed to the perspectives of the victor divide the remaining 65% of the vote (the majority), with one candidate receiving 33% of the vote and the other, 32%.  As a consequence, for example, in the United States, because of political abstention, majorities are rarely if ever attained.  Those abstaining frequently do so because the political system enshrined by law gives collectives in the form of political parties a virtual monopoly on selecting candidates and platforms, none of which appeal to them.  Consequently, power is held by those opposed by the disunited majority of abstainers and the opposition party or parties.  The illusion of democracy (its orchestrated verisimilitude), is used by the tiny groups who long ago consolidated real power, what today is referred to as the “Deep State”, to infuse their use of the monopoly of force embodied in the State with apparent legitimacy in order to “persuade” (more accurately “force”) us to comply with their personal objectives, to our collective detriment.  Consequences include:

  • Futile armed conflicts where we and our families do the suffering, and they profit, and related expenditures on maintaining standing armies equipped with the latest technological toys
  • Abuse of the concept of intellectual property to generate long term, counter-competitive monopolies and force us to pay for inferior products, with the holders of such rights rarely being those who developed the intellectual property;
  • Monopolistic control, frequently through government action, over the economy, means of communication, transportation, etc.

Human rights involve a similar illusory construct, a pabulum enunciated based on truths purportedly so obvious that the the need for proof is disdained (e.g., the Declaration of Independence’s “We hold these truths to be self-evident”, penned by slaveholder Thomas Jefferson), an argument ironically based on assertions by empiricist John Locke who wrote that all individuals are equal in the sense that they are born with certain self-obvious (and thus exempt from requirements of proof) “inalienable” natural rights” (i.e., rights that are God-given and can never be taken or even given away, among which are “life, liberty and property”).  Other empiricist philosophers including David Hume subsequently demolished such argument noting that nothing was too self-obvious to do away with the need for proof, and then illustrating why that was so.  Instead, Hume argued (as previously addressed) that absolute truth being impossible to prove, humans utilize the concept of “conventions”, agreements to treat certain postulates as true because doing so is convenient until proved otherwise. 

My sociopolitical and economic perspectives with respect to the concept of so-called rights are premised on the more realistic belief that the illusory concept of rights should become a reality, while recognizing that while we tend to worship the concept of rights, as we do our religions, both are merely collective constructs which we honor most in the breach.  That is because, while rights are purportedly inherent rather than granted and thus necessarily unconditional, all interactions involving such concept are in fact conditional (many such conditions being not only reasonable but necessary) and thus none are inherent, much though we may wish they were.  They are all merely conditional promises by the State and now the international community, thus, rather than inherent, they are promises of grants from above, either to refrain from acting or promising to act, if certain conditions are met, and if such inaction or actions are convenient at any given time.  While the so-called “first generation rights” involved restrictions on action by the State that cost nothing[1], all subsequent generations of rights are not only costly, but require action not only by the State but by everyone and sometimes more recently, by nature and the universe itself.  While laudable, none can, in fact, be guaranteed.  “Guarantees” (another illusory concept) of what we call rights is impossible, which is why all rights are violated more frequently than they are respected.  That is especially true as the concept of rights is expanded to positive actions such as decent housing, decent wages, access to healthcare, access to education, a healthy sustainable environment and peace.  Consequently, purported “rights” are merely aspirational deceptions; mere sociopolitical and economic goals that should be governmental priorities but which are usually ignored resulting in popular discontent and in the loss of faith in communal governing structures. That they are embodied at the pinnacle of constitutions does not make them any more real.

Fourth, on constitutions.  So, about constitutions, the highest level norms of the land … Unless they’re not.  In the best sense, constitutions are the collective conventions we use to try and reconcile opposing concepts by prioritizing them in different context so as to derive the best each has to offer.  They do so by establishing organs for collective governance and detailing the broad outlines of how they are supposed to operate, limiting the authority of majorities, and establishing priorities on which the governed are entitled to rely, if they meet designated conditions.  However, notwithstanding consistent use of purported “guarantees”, they in fact guarantee nothing, they couldn’t even if their authors truly hoped they would.  Even worse, once constitutions are used to centralize power, it becomes almost impossible to compel its appropriate exercise through constitutional means.  As in the case of religions and sacred texts, constitutional guarantees too often become extraneous in practice. Being merely social constructs, constitutions, per se, are neither inherently good nor inherently bad.  Indeed, rather than being the crystallization of norms insisted upon by the populace, i.e., norms percolating from below, they are almost always constructs imposed from above designed to maintain economic elites in power through deception with illusory promises of democracy, rarely if ever kept.

Constitutions are poorly understood, even by academics and jurists, too often because they are drenched in propaganda.  Thus, in the purportedly liberal “West”, many assert that without “division of powers”, a national charter cannot properly be denominated a constitution, the same is purportedly true about a constitution that does not specifically “guarantee” human rights.  To use an appropriate albeit anachronistic term, “balderdash”!  Division of Powers was an eighteenth century concept designed to avoid authoritarian government by dividing political power into three purportedly coequal branches (executive, legislative and judicial) and insisting that no single person or institution could exercise more than one.  Several additional branches have emerged over the centuries, most importantly the power of constitutional review, the power to regulate elections and the power to police against governmental corruption but in many countries (e.g., the United States), they are all subsumed among the three traditional branches.

Division of Functions is a slightly similar albeit vastly different concept which recognizes, in essence, that government power comes in three flavors, but does not prohibit their comingling in one person or institution.  The fusion of all three flavors in one person or entity has historically been referred to as “dictatorship” but has not been universally or historically been seen as a negative, rather, it is a highly efficient form of government most useful in emergencies.  Even dictatorships with power vested in a single person (e.g., Saudi Arabia) honor Division of Functions with power administratively delegated to subordinates.

While most parliamentary (Westminster) systems claim to honor the doctrine of Division of Powers, none do so as the legislative and executive functions both stem from the parliament, from which the executive is selected and serves at the pleasure of the parliamentary majority, and in some cases, the ultimate judicial power as well as the power of constitutional review is also vested in parliament.  The United Kingdom is an example as is Israel although neither have formal constitutions embodied in a supreme written charter.  Presidential systems such as that established by the United States Constitution of 1787-89 give lip service to the doctrine of Separation of Powers but through huge loopholes denominated “checks and balances” and the power to issue administrative “decrees” create more of an incoherent hybrid system which in practice centralizes power in the executive.

Neither Division of Powers, Division of Functions or dictatorship have anything to do with “democracy”, in the sense of universal participatory government by the majority, which deals only with how those who govern are selected.  Adolf Hitler’s Nazis were initially empowered through democratic elections while the Union led by Abraham Lincoln was not, he having been a minority president.  Of course, both were dictators.  Indeed, most governments identify themselves as democracies insisting that opponents who also identify as democracies are doing so dishonestly.  Interestingly, the major blocs in conflict all have a point.  Actually, several.  First of all, there is no truly democratic constitution anywhere so they’re all half-right.  But the issue that divides involves a misinterpretation which, as previously indicated, in the “West”, merges the conflicting concepts of liberty and majority rule.  Thus, to “Western” constitutional scholars, the constitutions of, for example, socialist states lack libertarian guarantees and are thus not “democratic.  Conversely and more accurately, constitutional scholars in such states stress that they in fact have far greater participation by their citizens in elections, usually in excess of 90%, and that real majorities of all eligible voters are required, although such participation is compelled.  Western scholars reply that candidates in socialist states are pre-vetted, but socialist scholars argue that political parties in the West serve the same function.  Apparently, the only sure thing is that electoral systems everywhere serve to deprive the electorate of a meaningful voice in candidate selection, hence my assertion that democracy does not exist anywhere.  Nonetheless, notwithstanding the fact that in practice there are no truly democratic constitutions, or libertarian constitutions, or pluralistic constitutions, or equitable constitutions, or constitutions that “guarantee” human rights, they are still essential as the means through which such opposing concepts are prioritized, even in a dysfunctional fashion; the organic nature of government is established; and, the manner in which those charged with the power to govern are, at least formally, selected.

Depressing realities, I know.  Real progressives and leftists recognize that, as in the case of the illusory concept of rights, the concept of constitutions involves a structure potentially useful in reconciling conflicting interests and thus useful, indeed necessary, to attain progressive and leftist sociopolitical and economic goals.  Unfortunately, constitutions are more than anything works of art with beautiful platitudes, such as “constituent power” and sources of constitutional authority based on the People or the Nation and the “consent of the governed” and “representative government”, but little else.  Of course, constitutions could serve extremely useful, pragmatic functions, … theoretically.  Progressives and leftists recognize that the concepts of majority rule, liberty and minority rights are antagonistic and contradictory and thus difficult to implement concurrently, but that they are all desirable and thus require real supreme norms in the form of constitutions to provide a mechanism to prioritize such concepts in specific instances as a means of resolving their inherent contradictions, and that such mechanisms involve development and implementation of policies, policies that should evolve over time to reflect changing circumstances and that may differ based on geographical values and cultural traditions. 

Fifth, on policies.

Personally, I see immense values in two conflicting political schools of thought, democratic socialism and libertarianism, something I believe characterizes real leftists and real progressives. Based on a synthesis of such perspectives, there are a number of policies that I personally currently support which I believe should be implemented through the collective we refer to as the State under the mechanisms we refer to as government.  These include, among others: free education at all levels; free healthcare; free insurance against unavoidable risks; equality of opportunity; freedom from discrimination based on gender, race, religion or ethnicity; a guaranteed minimum income adequate to meet basic needs to food, clothing and shelter; freedom of expression, even if one is wrong; equal rights to political participation; protection of personal integrity from assault; a functional system of justice and conflict resolution; and, elimination of corruption at any level.  Unfortunately, the Democratic Party, while seemingly supporting them, manipulates the foregoing in a manner that, rather than leading to their implementation, polarizes us all through use of ridicule, virtue shaming and coercion, all in a quest for political dominance.

Notwithstanding claims by the Democratic Party and the corporate media, real progressives and leftists do not support censorship, whether by governments or by private monopolies, nor do we support divisive identity politics or cancel culture.  We reject attempts to fictionalize history more than it already is by destroying monuments just as we have always opposed book burnings.  We certainly do not support impunity on any level, including the impunity now enjoyed by purported journalists spewing propaganda instead of news, and impunity enjoyed by government officials at any level, including the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, the military or the police.  While we believe that we should be free to act, we also believe that we must all be held responsible for the consequences of our actions.  We do not believe that corrective reactions to illegal conduct should be punitive but rather, that they should be restorative, corrective  and no more harmful to the violator than necessary, and that once the corrective actions demanded have been met, the violator must be fully and unconditionally restored to full status as a member of the collective involved.

Sixth, on the realization that not all solutions involve State action.  As a real progressives and leftist, I seek to reconcile libertarian and collective goals prioritizing non-State intervention, recognizing that most conflict resolution should not involve the coercive power of the State.  Thus many serious and troubling issues will not have generic solutions but must be left to specific individual and collective interaction.  Such issues include medical decisions involving our own bodies such as abortion and vaccination against pandemic diseases where no answer seems right for everyone; issues such as most aspects of consensual sexual practices or use of intoxicants and recreational drugs; issues involving consensual intimate associations among mentally competent adults; issues involving child rearing and education.  Those issues should be addressed either individually or by non-governmental collectives such as families, religions, philosophies and other voluntary groupings.

Seventh, on the importance of tolerance and empathy.  As a real progressives and leftist, I recognize that the foregoing all involve a permanent experiment and a permanent state of transition all too frequently unsettling and uncomfortable and that as in the case of evolution in nature, our individual and collective interactions sometimes result in negative aberrations that require correction but that transition is essential in a non-static setting such as that in which the human milieu exists.  I believe that much of the foregoing does not reflect perspectives exclusive to the left and to progressives but is shared among people of good faith with varying perspectives.  I believe that the vast majority of people everywhere share common goals, we want to be happy, healthy and secure, and to make our own decisions without being subjected to ridicule and slander.  To be free to say and do what we want while understanding that our liberty and autonomy has boundaries when it negatively impacts others.  That were it not for successful efforts to divide and polarize us, most of us are opposed to calcifying permanent authoritarian and totalitarian solutions, especially given the non-absolute and transitory nature of collective conventions.  Collective conventions only work when there is adequate communication, transparency and honesty in an empathic setting based on mutual respect, respect for the rights of others to hold and express contrary opinions. 

While in many cases for diverse reasons we all reach incorrect conclusions on important issues involving how we attain shared goals, it is very rare for anyone to alter wrongly held views because they are being scorned.  All scorn and ridicule do is discourage people from openly and honestly sharing their beliefs making effective dialogue improbable.  A great deal of the current social and political polarization is caused by lack of empathy and comprehension of the perspectives of others.  We are too insistent on being heard while being unprepared to listen with open minds and in that, too easily manipulated by those for whom our confusion and polarization are all too useful tools.

In conclusion, sort of

So, … a bit too long (I know) and perhaps easily forgotten amidst the onslaught of truly fake news from every direction and the opiates with which we are distracted from taking meaningful corrective action, opiates that not only include organized religion but also sports and television and action movies and videogames and our pets and our pet peeves and other distractions, I leave you all with this somewhat inappropriate and certain to be unappreciated gift, sort of like underwear and handkerchiefs at Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza, etc.: useful, but not all that much fun.

Things to consider as our artificial calendar once more turns after another very unpleasant and non-productive year.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

[1] Freedom of expression, religion, assembly, etc., the so called political rights.  Noteworthy, the right to political participation was not among such rights (see, for example, the United States Constitution in its original version and the Bill of Rights), despite the American Revolution having purportedly been fought because of “taxation without representation”.

Personal Reflections on the Political Events in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021 was a day after which incoherence and hypocrisy ran rampant and political protest became anathema, at least for the corporate media, the Democratic Party, traditionalist Republicans and for a vocal segment (probably a minority), of the American citizenry.  Most Americans are probably confused given that the United States is a nation born of political protest, articulately if hypocritically crystalized in the Declaration of Independence and in the writings of all the “founding fathers”.  Being mistaken (possibly) has become synonymous, according to the Democratic Party, traditionalist Republicans and the corporate media, with lying, but only when done by others.  Conversely, lying, when engaged in by the Democratic Party, traditionalist Republicans and the corporate media, merely involves misinterpretations.

January 6, 2021 must be seen in context to understand why it occurred. 

  • First, the country was in the midst of rioting, arson and looting justified by the Democratic Party and corporate media as an appropriate response to police misconduct. 
  • Second, electoral safeguards in jurisdictions under Democratic Party control had been minimized, purportedly due to the Covid 19 pandemic, facilitating electoral fraud in a manner unacceptable in most of the world (i.e., eliminating voter identification requirements, mass mailing of ballots and permitting people other than the voter to turn in ballots). 
  • Third, the corporate media and the principal social media platforms had adopted an aggressive political posture interpreted by many, perhaps most, as indicative of a political bias, which culminated in depriving one of the principal candidates of access to the public, a practice traditionally criticized in the United States when engaged in by other countries as autocratic and antidemocratic. 
  • Fourth, for four years the Democratic Party and corporate media had been delegitimizing the 2016 elections as fraudulent on a massive, 24/7 basis, and justifying active “resistance” to the government that assumed office in January of 2017.

The 2020 elections were anomalous in that early in-person results veered in one direction only to be reversed at the last minute when “mail-in ballots” more susceptible to manipulation appeared, in some cases, under questionable circumstances.  Allegations of irregularities were virtually ignored, dismissed on procedural grounds, in contrast to the massive four year-long investigations of foreign meddling in the 2016 elections, and persons who honestly believed that the elections had involved electoral fraud where accused of lying, i.e., of knowing that no electoral fraud had been involved but intending to reverse the results by making knowingly false claims.  Indeed, anyone who failed to accept the results was branded a traitor, an insurrectionist and a political opportunist who needed to be permanently deprived of the right to participate in future electoral activities.  The Democratic Party, on assuming power, immediately initiated related criminal proceedings and Congressional investigations which have resulted in criminal referrals.

The contrast in positions concerning the legitimacy of and appropriate reaction to the 2016 and 2020 elections is startling.  The massive, organized resistance to the 2016 elections was deemed not only legitimate but necessary while corresponding attitudes with respect to the 2020 elections were deemed criminal.  It is now treason to believe that elections won by the Democratic Party are not legitimate based on perceived electoral fraud, or at least to act on that belief by active protest.  It is politically incorrect, racist and xenophobic to believe that safeguards against electoral fraud are necessary although the same safeguards with respect to “vaccination” are existentially necessary.  Interestingly, right now, the Republic of Kazakhstan is mired in political violence with real insurrectionist taking over and destroying government buildings and engaging in arson, looting and mayhem, activities the same Democratic Party led United States government that is prosecuting January 6, 2021 “insurrectionists” finds a legitimate exercise of democratic rights.

I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat and frankly, like more and more citizens, abhor both major political parties, but I am certain that electoral fraud is always present to some degree in democratic elections everywhere, not just in the United States.  I “know” that there was immense bias against the electoral aspirations of Republicans, and especially Mr. Trump, in both the corporate media and by the owners and operators of all major social media platforms and indeed, active intervention precluding dissemination of accurate information that negatively impacted Democratic Party electoral prospects, and that such activities dwarfed any “meddling” by anyone in the 2016 elections.  Because of the absence of any meaningful investigations into electoral irregularities in the 2020 elections, neither I nor anyone else has the ability to positively determine whether active electoral fraud was sufficient to impact the results, but am certain that corporate and social media “meddling” was a major factor.  Consequently, for me, January 6 is and will henceforth be a day for reflection on how utterly manipulated the United States citizenry is on political matters, how blatantly hypocritical the corporate media, Democratic Party and traditionalist Republicans are with respect to the electoral process, and how little they think of our cognitive abilities as they hammer us with incoherent and contradictory narratives.

I do not believe that the January 6, 2021 protests in front of the United States Capitol were anything to which the founding fathers would have been opposed, or that they involved treason or insurrection.  They were legitimate political protests at the appropriate place which, based on the relaxed standards for protests accepted in conjunction with Black Lives Matter riots, got out of hand, albeit without the arson, murder and mass looting that characterized the latter.  Most participants, those that were not outside or government provocateurs, were patriotic Americans exercising what they perceived to be their patriotic duty, and in that sense, perhaps the most important civil right is the right to me mistaken in their conclusions.  If mistakes are to be criminalized as treason and as grounds for the loss of political rights, then let it be done across the board.  That would politically ostracize virtually the entire political leadership of the United States. 

Probably not a bad thing.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Uncomfortable Reflections on the Demise of Clan Cuomo

I loved Mario Cuomo, one of my professors during the Watergate Era, as ethical as he was objective and honest and at the time, apparently apolitical although an emerging leader in the New York City Democratic Party.  He pointed out to us that what Richard Nixon was being tarred and feathered for was no different to the conduct of his predecessors throughout the twentieth century, but that notwithstanding that reality, it was past time for meaningful reform.  Every one of his classes was a lesson in ethics, although the topic was much more mundane, “legal research and writing”.

His sons were as different as possible from their father.  The odious and formerly mighty second generation Cuomo Clan appears to have fallen.  That is my translation of an article that appeared on Sunday, December 5, 2021 in Aljazeera entitled “CNN fires Chris Cuomo over role in brother’s harassment scandal: Veteran news anchor fired for helping defend brother”.  I prefer foreign sources with respect to news about the United States since the United States corporate media is, and perhaps always has been, completely unreliable.  But the news has even spread to the corporate media which, for so long did what it could to obfuscate it.

I am obviously not a fan of the Cuomo brothers, in fact, I’ve despised them since many of us believed that their early misconduct and lack of ethics caused their father, one of my heroes, to decide not to run for the presidency in 1992, giving us Bill Clinton instead, a man much more similar to them in every way than was their father Mario.  I am also certainly not in favor of sexual abuse of any kind.  Still, there are aspects to the reactions to the Cuomo scandals that I find troubling.  My own included.

Unlike Bill Clinton and (according to Tara Reade) Joe Biden and others, Andrew Cuomo was not married when he engaged in the pseudo-sexual activities that laid him low and, as a human being, was seemingly free to seek mutually agreeable intimate interactions.  The problem is that when one attains substantial success, potential intimate interactions too often involve imbalances of power that make mutuality difficult to discern, and that is now frowned upon although evolutionary theory, as enforced by nature, suggests that sexual interactions that favor the more powerful are not only healthy but essential for biological progress.  But we have, as a society (or as groups of societies) diverged from the path of survival of the fittest enforced by nature, we have diverged in many, perhaps most ways, believing that we are morally superior to nature and thus know better. 

I cannot deny that I frequently feel the same way.  Nature’s dictates are now anathema in many ways.  For example, when it comes to dealing with those who suffer physical or mental impairments, it is unthinkable to cast them aside hoping for their demise as do other biological entities and even our recent ancestors.  Indeed, the age restrictions we place on sexual activity contradict not only our own history but evolutionary mechanisms: i.e., nature sets the onset of menses in women and ejaculatory capacity in men but we disagree with the logical conclusions such physical changes imply.  That was not always the case.  The allegedly virgin Mary was purportedly impregnated by an agent of the divine before she attained her first dozen years, an event we still incongruously celebrate at this time of year.  We also refuse to recognize nature’s indicia of adulthood by depriving our young of equal rights as to most things before they attain an age that recent society has arbitrarily set, but set in a clearly incoherent manner.  Young men and now young women are old enough to die for their countries but not to either consume alcohol or to vote.  How logical are our social deviations from nature’s suggestions? 

We are an incoherent species! 

Consider the reality that nouveaux-puritanical-sexual-mores are now most espoused among those who believe themselves most environmentally conscious and most attuned to nature.  Odd dichotomies we seem unwilling to study lest the contradictions involved make us uncomfortable.  They certainly make me uncomfortable.  I am completed committed to concepts of equity, equality and justice that we as humans have created and made priorities but which are utterly irrelevant to nature.  But I am also very drawn to nature’s inherent wisdom.  Thus, I have no answers, and I know I have no answers.  But I do not ignore the questions raised.  I have plenty of questions.  Unfortunately, modern society has devolved into competing camps of know-it-alls unwilling to consider competing perspectives, all opponents being vile and evil.

Given that, at least indirectly, Andrew Cuomo´s dilemma is a topic of this article, it is appropriate to consider our current confusion about all matters sexual, a legacy of all three major Abrahamic Religions.  The obvious consequences of our incoherent, contradictory and polarized sexual mores (so confusing that they do not actually qualify any more as social mores) are that, today, interactions between genders have become morally divorced from nature’s dictates but not from nature’s instincts, leaving us confused and polarized.  As the purportedly “woke” tear down social institutions leaving us without replacements (perhaps a necessary evolutionary phase in the social subsystem with which we replace nature’s tendencies), some of us need to carefully and objectively analyze the situation and suggest functioning alternatives in place of platitudes.  But today, anyone making such suggestions is likely to be deemed an abomination.  Science fiction author Robert Heinlein did so in his latter novels but I admit that while I found his libertarian leaning social premises and suggested postulates logical, I concurrently found them emotionally troubling.  They made me feel as though I’d become a biological oxymoron; kind of like the character Vinnie Barbarino in the old “Welcome Back Kotter” sitcom when he would lament: “I’m so confused!!!!”  I feel that way too.

But enough about Andrew and the unnatural evolution of current sexual “mores”, more frequently acknowledged in their violation than in their acquiescence.  Turning to Chris, his unpardonable socio-civic sin was daring to seek to defend his brother.  I despise Chris Cuomo finding him to be a dishonest hypocrite and worthless human being (except perhaps, for his willingness to put himself at some sort of risk to defend his brother).  Defense of a family member, until recently a sacred attribute of brotherhood (and sisterhood, and parenthood, etc.), has now been declared anathema if it clashes with newly imposed elitist mores which at least so far, seem as dysfunctional as those initially discussed above.  Interfamily dysfunctionality is not new, it is always present in civil wars and family strife, but it has not previously been generally accepted as a requirement, at least outside of totalitarian societies where the state trumped everything (no allusion to the former president intended) and tattle-on-your-family was the rule (think, perhaps, of Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany).  Is that really what we want today for ourselves and for our children?  For our relationships with our friends?

There is a great deal of pleasure in seeing the fall of those who have attained the heights unfairly, in unmerited fashion, who have attained social and civic heights by abusing family ties and then pontificating to us, something that seems a rule of nature among descendants of men and woman who have scaled the heights and attained success on their own, fighting and scratching to climb every wrung of the socio-civic-economic ladder.  That is most glaringly the story of the Kennedy Clan in recent history, but also of the Cuomos.  Still, while their fall may be appropriate, sometimes the reasons for their fall are not justified.  Society rarely cares.  There is satisfaction in finally getting them, of having them suffer their due, of tripping them up on their high wire acts, of ending their manipulating of “the system” to attain de facto impunity, who cares how.  The beloved “Al Capone gambit”,

But perhaps we should care. 

Perhaps we have to care if we really want to replace the transformational “law of the jungle” system that nature has bequeathed us with a just world, one where equity is probable and equality attainable.

Something we ought to at least contemplate.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Superiority Isms

How different are American Exceptionalism (think both Barack Obama and Donald Trump), Black Power, Gray Power, Feminism, Transgenderism, Nationalism, Chosen People-ism or Only True Religion-ism from White Supremacism?  They all involve group elitism without regard to individual effort.  It seems obvious, as an empirical fact, that members of different groups either enjoy disproportionate benefits or suffer disproportionate detriments because, whether voluntarily or through accidents of birth, they find themselves members of such groups, and that as a memeplex, the group as a whole usually strives to improve its posture, whether through fair means or foul.  Sometimes groups, especially in societies characterized by ethnic transitions (such as flow-of-diverse-immigrant-group societies), pass through stages were, originating at society’s nadir they eventually attain its summit, but even within such societies, some groups, usually because of racial or caste differences, remain immobile.  When the latter occurs, the reality is that everyone suffers to some extent.

It instinctively strikes me that we are either all inherently equal, albeit individually capable of improving, or we’re not, and that if any group has a “right” to consider itself “inherently” superior to any other, all “inherent” groups (equality being at least somewhat relevant) are entitled to the same right?  That they may all be wrong seems irrelevant from a progressive perspective where liberty and freedom of opinion, belief and expression are sacred and censorship is anathema.  But as in the case of the term “liberal”, the term “progressive” is losing any real meaning, having been usurped by political movements with no interest at all in the premises involved.  Of course, that is also true of the terms “conservative” and “democratic”.  The age of “relative truth” is destroying language as well as integrity.

As I indicated above, I personally believe that we are all “inherently” equal and that “inherency-supremacists” of any ilk seeking to preserve their advantage by depriving competing groups of the capacity for upward mobility are wrong, and further, that such beliefs make collectivist goals such as those purportedly espoused by universalist religions such as Christianity much more difficult.  But I also acknowledge that as individuals, and even groups, we can make decisions that improve us and permit us to excel over others. 

That is certainly how I feel about my education and my experiences as an educator, as an entrepreneur, as a constitutional scholar and as a civic activist.  Many, perhaps most people have accomplishments that justify a belief that they have improved over the attributes with which they were endowed at birth.  Sometimes those improvements are earned while at other times they were merely the luck of the draw, and sometimes the equality we should have enjoyed at birth was diluted by ethnic, racial, gender, socioeconomic and religious factors which make it unfairly difficult for us to succeed in comparison with those more fortunate.  And sometimes those entropic attributes are unfairly spread among a group.  When that occurs, society as a whole is worse off, especially if those handicaps and negative prejudices are not eliminated.  We all suffer when some of us fail, for whatever reason, to attain our highest potential (the ancient Greek’s concept of justice).

It strikes me that despite superficial similarities, there is a huge difference between the conception that a group is inherently inferior and the reality that because of education, socioeconomic factors or inherited cultural self-discipline, some groups really do enjoy justifiable superior benefits at birth, making success among their members more likely.  But does the answer to the resulting inequality and inequity require a handicapper general such as the one Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., posited in his dystopic novel Harrison Bergeron?  Given that every single member of society benefits when each individual attains his or her full potential, isn’t the answer in the direction of improving everyone’s lot rather than tearing everyone down to the lowest possible denominator (as the purportedly “woke” seem Hell bent on doing[1])?  And if we do what the “woke” demand, will elitism disappear, increase, or become individualized (we refer to the latter, when not used in a pejorative sense as “meritocracy”, or at least we used to when truth and language had meaning).

The difference between the “isms” initially referenced and a meritocracy is in the statically inherent nature of the benefits or detriments we attribute to groups.  Where the potential for upward mobility is not the rule, society stagnates, fragments more and more, and tends to degenerate into a polarized cast system.  That may be where we find ourselves today.  But how can this situation be remedied.  Is the solution a dictate under force of law from those who consider themselves morally superior, or is it a wave of enlightened self-interest based on examples percolating from below, an evolutionary, social rather than legal, norm, one that changes souls as well as minds rather than mandating conduct and thus becomes self-actuating rather than imposed?  One purports to work immediately but usually fails and the other requires patience and understanding rather than ridicule and punishment and takes a while.

The truth is that none of us can guarantee an answer although most of us recognize the problem, at least in some aspects.  Those less experienced and less patient believe that we can tear down the society we’ve inherited over many millennia and start anew with a clean slate on which we can draw our version of perfection.  That solution is of course, totalitarian and tends to the dystopic rather than the utopic but it is proposed in the name of democracy and liberty.  Many just prefer to do nothing and see what happens, a solution Albert Einstein, by analogy, once referred to as the definition of insanity.  Perhaps nature’s evolution through trial and error provides the best option, after all, notwithstanding the opinion of the purportedly woke, humans are also nature’s children.

If evolution through experimentation and trial and error is the most promising path to attaining equity and justice and the greater good, then the tension between liberty and inherent fundamental rights and collectivist goals needs to be respected.  Intolerance with respect to contrary opinions may be the worst supremacism of all and it’s a slippery slope down which we’ve been sliding for centuries. 

Something to ponder on as we stray further and further from common goals while seeking universal solutions, if not universal truths.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

[1] The fascination of the purportedly woke with cinema dealing with zombie and vampire revolutions may provide interesting insights.  I prefer the latter and disdain the former which may something about me as well.

On the Massive Difference between Leftist Sounding Rhetoric and Real Leftist Ideals

This morning, I posted a comment on an op-ed article in RT News entitled “America’s most anxious city revealed by data. It should have been painfully obvious” to the effect that “Conflating … Democrats with the left is a mistake. Showboating, virtue signaling, hypocritical and inept idiots do not represent the real left, which is about solving problems rather than exacerbating them”. Two negative responses to that observation led to the following expression of my perspectives on point.  The responses, and I quote, were: “Dream on. Nice attempt to strip the Left of all of its natural stink and decay in order to leave nothing but a fictitious sweet smelling rose. It’s like an abused wife telling someone about only the good aspects of her abusive husband”; and, “Should I believe my eyes or you?”

Sooo, this is my answer which I believe to be important:

People who claim to share leftist values include many who consider themselves liberal or progressives and articulate goals shared by “real leftists” but way too many, including almost all of the ones who call the Democratic Party their home, differ drastically in their conduct and methodology from those of us on the “real left”, most of whom owe allegiance to no political party at present.  Too many of the former seem to be involved in political and civic activities for show, to demonstrate their virtue rather than to get anything done.  To them demonstrations and ridicule and comradery seem the real goals.  They are extremely counterproductive.  Indeed, it seems their only use is to polarize and divide us for the benefit of the elites who run the Deep State and who are the primary obstacles to attaining the world real leftists strive to achieve. 

The real left is not about using rhetorical devices to win arguments, or to win arguments at all.  We are about laying the groundwork to lead by example, to educate by example, to keep our minds open to the views of others and to thereby both continue to grow and learn and to thereby understand the views of those who oppose our goals even when such opposition is against their best interests. The real left, including real democratic socialists, understand that the manner in which the tensions between our individual and collective natures are perceived is what separates us from other honestly held philosophies, most specifically libertarians with whom we probably share many values.  We believe that conflicts between the individual and the collectives of which the individual is a part should, whenever possible and to the extent possible, be reconciled, but that when reconciliation is not possible, as Star Trek’s Spock lectured us, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.  Libertarians hold the opposite perspective.  But we true leftist are not out to destroy individuality and individual rights any more than libertarians are anarchists, and we can usually work things out because we both resort to reason and persuasion rather than ridicule and government imposed compulsions which almost always pave the way to authoritarianism at best and totalitarianism at worst.  Neither of us believes that the two major parties have our interests at heart thus we both tend to be populist, i.e., we reject governmental institutions and traditions that provide only the illusion of democracy, or of liberty, or of equality, or of equity or of justice, and would prefer to do away with political parties altogether and instead concentrate on the qualities and nature of candidates, to vote in favor of that in which we believe rather than against “greater evils”.  We share with libertarians much more than that which divides us.

Real leftists despise the United States Democratic Party because of its dishonesty and hypocrisy in espousing our views while doing everything possible to obstruct their realization.  Republican policies all too frequently oppose the policies we espouse, but do so honestly, so that we both know where we stand.  However, lately, traditionalist Republicans like the Bush Family and their followers, have, like the Democratic Party, become tools of the Deep State’s anti-Kantian philosophy espousing the economic benefits of perpetual war.  Real leftists and libertarians are non-interventionist-pacifists but if legitimate defense is required, we expect to engage on the front lines ourselves rather than sending other people’s fathers and sons and mothers and daughters off to do the dirty work.

Unfortunately, the faux-woke, self-aggrandizing, attention seeking, unproductive but very loud and very active people who claim to be leftist and liberal and progressive, apparently having a great deal of free time in which to riot and loot and burn and ridicule and put others down, are likely to succeed in preventing implementation adoption and popular acceptance of the goals they claim are theirs, and only theirs.  Goals which real leftists really treasure such as a real end to racism and xenophobia and misogyny because we have convinced people, in their hearts and in their souls, that we are all brothers and sisters and that, as Martin Luther King, Jr., frequently and passionately expressed “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.  Goals such as real equity, equality of opportunity and justice, where impunity and corruption are anathema.  The real left seeks to persuade through example and illustration and realizes that a great deal of patience is required, we know that actions, for good or ill, speak louder than words or pictures or slogans.  We understand that real change is not attained without popular support and certainly that it is not attained through abuse of the government monopoly on the use of force through imposition of coercive sanctions that only alienate and divide.

Thus, the worst enemies of real leftist are not those who do not share our goals and values but those who claim that they do but who by their conduct make them impossible to attain.

Something to consider.


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com

Wither Go We: A diatribe

Identity politics, the purportedly “woke”, the destruction of historical monuments, the illusory #MeToo movement, all addressing real problems but apparently making them worse, continue unabated and uncontrolled.  Reality seems illusory and illusions reality as slogans by those most responsible for the ills of which they complain flood our senses.  Authoritarianism in the name of liberty and censorship in the name of freedom of expression are as omnipresent as are demands to eliminate safeguards against electoral fraud in the name of free elections.  It’s as though all that is required of great poetry is rhythmic sounds without meaning or context and all that is required of transcendental philosophy is that it be confusing.  That seems to be world in which we find ourselves, one where cognitively dissonant entertainment (some labeled news) seeks to mold us into something, but perhaps no one is sure just what.

Perhaps we need some articulate parables and metaphors to clear our minds.  Perhaps a contrast of opposites can bring us together, at least briefly, at least for an instant.  Perhaps something as negatively perceived as cancer can help.  Cancer is not necessarily a negative concept, rather, it involves an anomaly growing in an uncontrollable manner within an incompatible host.  As with so many processes that we as humans denominate “diseases”, cancer is merely an independent biochemical process seeking its own destiny, although when it attains victory over its hosts, its own self-destruction is assured.  In that sense, a metaphorical cancer seems to have evolved in our species.

Or perhaps it’s not really metaphorical.  Perhaps it’s been growing for a long time.  Perhaps it’s always been among us but is now making itself much more manifest, secure in the conviction that its time has come.  Perhaps a societal cancer, one composed of memes rather than genes, has reached the point in its growth where it is impelled to destroy that which we’ve been without concern for what we’ll become.  Its goals would seem subject to differing interpretations depending on whether one viewed as malign or benign.  In one sense, one might perceive it as a lemming-like compulsion to species suicide but in another, as a necessary evolutive climax; back towards nature’s testing, questing formulae of trial and error and perhaps, back towards survival of the fittest; or else towards extinction, which is what happens to evolution’s failures. 

The cancer within our society manifests as a complex of chaotically contrarian groups, each furiously seeking change but unable to agree as to who or what we should become.  It feels like an instinctive compulsion away from something but not necessarily towards anything.  Perhaps, many within its vocal subgroups (where clamor and uproar seem to amplify their numbers and their impact) don’t really care about consequences, the urge towards species suicide being much too strong among them; their self-hate as strong as their disdain for tradition.  And perhaps such self-hate is justified. 

Some such subgroups have a clear perspective of the aberrations we desperately need to discard in our societal and social makeup in order to attain the ideals we’ve created, aberrations such as elitism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, inequity, inequality, injustice.  Some even have cogent ideas about how to attain such goal but too few have the talent necessary to attain the better world for which they aspire through voluntary means and instead, seek to use the purported monopoly the legal use of force enjoyed (but all too often abused) by government to force compliance with their perspectives, rendering them as destructive to popular welfare as are the concepts they believe that they oppose.  Thus, much of the evolutionary cancer that infects us, for good or ill, seems delusional and generates popular resistance. A sort of counterrevolution led by our societal white cells under multicolored populist banners.

The metaphor of cancer is relevant because cancer, as a medical malady, may be misunderstood.  Perhaps it is nature’s way of forcing us to return to an evolutionary process that we’ve insisted on stalling (if not abandoning), misdirecting it through artificial means which our cognitive breakthroughs have made possible; an aberration accomplished through invention of counterintuitive (at least to nature) ethics and morals that reject the fundamental premises involved in survival of the fittest and which place our human wisdom above that of nature.  It would seem an abomination for those who insist on protecting the environment to eventually come to the conclusion that those deemed most evil among us, villains such as Hitler and his Nazis, agreed with them, but we’re protected against such heresy by a beneficent logical incoherence.  One to which we turn as we struggle with concepts such as good and evil, concepts as alien to nature and perhaps even to nature’s god (if one exists) as they were to those members of our species whose values and conclusions we’ve purportedly rejected, at least superficially, albeit perhaps hypocritically.  A beneficent logical incoherence whose postulates have become so powerful a part of who we claim to be that failing to abide by them is anathema.  Postulates such as the sanctity of life, the importance of honesty, the inhumanity of brutality, and of course, concepts such as equity and equality and justice.

As a species, we are an amalgam of incoherently complex contradictions and perceptions, inconsistency, inconstancy and hypocrisy being the rule rather than the exception.  It’s a wonder we’ve survived, at least until now.  In the future, the forces of evolutionary and social entropy may impose a convergence of our most treasured spiritual values with those of nature and render us once again no more but no less than animals, mere cogs in nature’s unplanned plans, reacting rather than planning, thinking and aspiring.  Herded rather than herding.  Perhaps that’s why so many within the metaphorical societal cancer with which I began this diatribe only sense the need to destroy who and what we’ve been without a firm and coherent idea of who or what we should or will become.  And perhaps its nature’s will that they prevail. 

Perhaps trying to make sense of and alleviate our current polarization is a counterproductive exercise and we should just sit back and let the experience flow over us, slumbering into the future while forgetting the past until neither is relevant and only a brief now exists.  Perhaps that’s the most logical way to face our own extinction, letting bygones be bygones, releasing our inhibitions as we fade away in shades of gray.  The favorite color of the stones we’re destined to join in our planet’s journey towards eternity and humanity’s demise.  It’s been an interesting ride but perhaps all things really must end and who are we to think otherwise. 

On the other hand, perhaps as a species we really are special, and unique, and perhaps there’s a purpose to our lives, and perhaps values are real and truth exists, and perhaps there’s a reason for what we experience, and perhaps its’s even a benevolent reason.  After all, at the crossroads of infinity and eternity, anything and everything is possible.


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.