Showing posts with label Christian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian. Show all posts

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Freedom To Make Bad Decisions

Alternate Title: Libertarians and Puritans
I am typically a pretty concrete writer. I write about things I have done, things I am doing or the like. I am far more likely to be talk about how to pack a bag, ways to get in shape or how to improve your finances than some philosophical or political stuff. These are my strengths and the things that typically interest me so I play to them. Today we are going in a whole other direction. I posted a picture recently (probably a couple weeks or even months by the time this posts)that basically said if you don’t want people telling you what to do don’t try to tell them what to do and it brought a lot of discussion. I replied to folks in the comments section but it got me thinking.

The thing about freedom is that it isn’t just about good decisions.  In fact I would argue that it is mostly about bad ones. Also there is the thorny issue of which omnipotent power decides what exactly constitutes a good decision and what gives them the right to tell anybody else what to do.

Everywhere you go there is some darn politician or expert who wants to be able to tell people what to do. Now I like experts. I have a money person, a weight training person, a conditioning person, some tactical training people, etc. The thing is that I choose to solicit their advice and follow it if I want to, for as long as I want to. If someone wants to tell me what I HAVE TO DO that is an issue for me.

Who the hell do they think they are? Why are they so inherently superior to me that they can tell me what I have to do? If their argument was actually convincing I will probably have gone along in the first place and they wouldn’t need a regulation or a law at all. I don’t think anybody has my best interests at heart more than I do.  More to the point if I am doing something that isn’t clinically and scientifically perfect but I really enjoy it then why should they get to tell me that I can’t? It could be smoking or drinking or eating ice cream or whatever. If I want to spend my time and money on something to try and bring some enjoyment or happiness to my life it really isn’t anybodies business.

Look at the First Amendment to our Constitution, freedom of speech and religion and a bunch of other stuff. You never hear about a freedom of speech case where a nice woman said something polite to her friend. Freedom of speech is about Larry Flint offending just about everyone and the Westborough Baptist “church” spewing ignorant  hate at military funerals. These things are offensive to any reasonable person.

Not many people would like to have Larry Flint over for Sunday family dinner.  Pretty much everybody hates that “church” full of idiotic hate mongers. If 20 rough men with ax handles showed up at their next funeral protest and cracked some skulls I would be fine with that, and I don’t think I would be alone.  The thing is that the freedoms built into our governmental protect those idiots. This is a good thing. It is built on centuries of accumulated customs and philosophy which culminated in the great nation of America. Really if you want to get deeper I believe these rights come from God.

The point of freedom is that you can do what you want unless it infringes on somebody else directly. Not “well studies show” or “second order effects of” or “society” but directly. Obviously Rapist Jim’s desire to rape doesn’t allow him to infringe on Suzie’s right not to be raped. More to the point as long as I am not threatening, menacing or vulgar I can tell anybody what I think of them at any time.

 I can quit my job and start hitchhiking around the country like some 50’s beatnik. If I could physically do it I could smoke a whole carton of cigarettes in a day. I can wear my shoes on the wrong feet and tap dance in the rain. I can borrow money I know I shouldn’t for stuff I don’t need.

All of the things I talked about are stupid. Quitting my job to chain smoke cigarettes and hitchhike around the country tap dancing in the rain while running up a huge visa bill would be stupid all around. The point simply put is that it is my life and I am free to do with it what I wish, good, negligible or bad.

I can bust my hump, save like crazy, start a business, invest wisely and then make huge money or I can get a shack in the woods, have a still and some chickens and get drunk in a hammock during the summer and a recliner in the winter.  It is my life to do with what I wish.

The thing about freedom is that it doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. I am free to tell a 6’8” 400 pound biker covered in prison tattoos that black leather and motorcycles are just a sad cry for help based on impotence, homosexual tendencies and mommy issues but I doubt that would end well. I am free to tell my boss what I really think of him and after that I would be free to find a new job. I am free to eat McDonalds twice a day every day if I want, and I will become obese and probably have a heart attack at 50. I am free to blow my earnings on gambling knowing full well the odds aren’t in my favor and if I play long enough losing is a virtual certainty but I have to deal with the after affects. I am free to neglect my family and start chasing cocktail waitresses but that is going to cause issues in my marriage and likely I would be doing it from a half empty studio apartment before long.

For everything we do there is a consequence or more accurately numerous ones. There are first, second and third order affects of everything we do if you look hard enough. Take enough simple little decisions like charging a nice dinner out or hitting the gym and skipping desert and they add up to huge things. 

To say you believe in freedom except for this that and the other thing doesn’t work. Really that is just “I am right and you are wrong”. To think that everything you believe is good should be allowed and everything you think is bad should be banned is the most egotistical and idiotic political philosophy out there. My son thinks that way. He will move things or throw them to suit his desires. He will hit people or try to move them or harass them if they don’t want to/ can’t pick him up or otherwise are bothering him. Whatever he wants is right and what he doesn’t is wrong. This is ok because he is a one year old and thinks the world revolves around him. Over the next few years he will grow out of this. I expect it from him so I don’t think it is too much to ask of adults.

That reminds me of the Puritans who fled England because they were persecuted and ultimately came to America, where they promptly persecuted anyone who didn’t believe exactly what they did. I find the comparison between the modern religious right and the pilgrims to be striking. They have strong beliefs and think they should be able to force you to have the same beliefs. Moreover they think they have the right to punish you if you do not have those beliefs. At least the pilgrims went to a new place to force everybody to act like them (though they did it because they were persecuted back home) unlike the religious right who think they can make everyone act like them wherever they are. 

My family is very socially conservative. This is for a lot of reasons but it boils down to us believing it is the right way to live. Other than the various sects that say we can’t have booze and have to do other wacky things we live a lifestyle that meshes quite well with conservative republican/ Christian standards. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that we choose to live this way; we don’t do it because somebody told us to or wants to compel us.

I have realized recently that I can’t even call myself a Republican with a straight face anymore even though I may (or may not) vote for them. There are probably some republicans who are not fascists or puritans but they have been keeping a low profile for awhile now. Is it too much to ask for a candidate who isn’t a shameless whore to big business (crony capitalism, not free markets) or an evangelical who wants to force me to live by his particular religious code?

I just don’t see why anybody has the right to tell me what to do with my own life, money and body and by logical extension I don’t get to tell them what to do with theirs. When it comes to some religious issues I do not see why it is any different. I’m certainly not going to live under Islamic law and someone who is a Buddhist or an atheist shouldn’t have to live under a set of rules they don’t agree with. Also I tend to think that religious issues get sorted out elsewhere.

I have a live and let live philosophy about other people’s beliefs and ways of life. This extends from whacky religious nut jobs and vegans all the way people into weird sex stuff, drug users and the like.  To paraphrase Commander Zero “I don’t really care if people have gay orgies while snorting a mountain of cocaine on top of rocket launchers as long as they do it on their own land and kids are not involved.”  It doesn’t mean that I approve of it, just that it is none of my business and as such I stay out of it. We all have to bite our tongues now and then but we get to do what we want, seems like a fair trade off to me. Also life is short and if a person thinks something will make them happy then I wish them the best.

In closing the freedom to make bad decisions is something I firmly believe in.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review Deep Winter By Thomas Shelly

I have been reading a lot of fiction lately. Almost all preparedness/ survival type stuff. Usually I would allocate far less time and money toward such a thing but right now it is an enjoyable combination of entertainment and escapism. Probably a waste of money butt is about the only healthy way I can treat myself a little bit right now.

I have been working pretty rapidly through the available titles. Amazon pointed me toward Deep Winter. I looked at the reviews and 2/3rds of them were 4 and 5 (out of 5 possible) and 1/3rd were ones. I remembered a buddy had read the series and while he didn’t rant and rave about how great they are he also didn’t say they sucked. I took a chance, the Kindle edition was only 5 bucks so worst case I wasn’t out much. I am very glad I took the chance.

The broad plot is that a massive earthquake devastates the Pacific Northwest in January. The main characters are a family living in Spokane, Washington. This event proceeds or maybe causes larger national and international events to play out. The book follows the main characters, their friends, family and neighbors as well as a variety of regional and international events through the first month or so of the event. I will go into a bit more detail below and will try to keep spoilers to a minimum.

[It has previously occurred to me that it would be bitterly ironic, given all of the survivalist planning and thought about ideal locations, if the inland Pacific Northwest was hammered a massive disaster.  I am sure it would be big fun in forums and comment sections of blogs. Some folks would never hear the end of it.]

The Good:
Lots of good, too much to remember or list. Overall this is probably the most realistic preparedness book I have read in a long time. Probably one of the most realistic ones I have ever read. The plot was certainly plausible and that is always a good start. To a certain degree it doesn’t matter what the event is (Lucifer’s Hammer, the Road, Zombie anything, etc) as it is people dealing with after affects that is the interesting part but starting realistic is a plus.

The main characters were prepared but not increadably so. Some characters had valuable skills but well within the normal range for people, especially in that area. The ridiculous almost cliché Navy Seal sniper/ diesel mechanic/ organic farmer/ trauma surgeon did not make an appearance. While I enjoy The Survivalist as much as the next guy this was a breath of fresh air.

I appreciated that there was enough violence to show some lessons (hint- post armed guards in discrete locations) and spice things up now and then but not so much that it read like a first person shooter video game. This also let the book put more energy into other areas like primitive cooking, improvisation to do without modern conveniences and equipment. These are areas which are so often minimized or entirely neglected in other books.

The benefits of forging relationships with local cops and power brokers were mentioned. There wasn’t blatant cronyism or bribery or anything like that, just basic human relationship stuff. It goes without saying that a conversation with a cop that starts with “Hi Bob, how is the family?” and “Everyone is good, sorry we missed you at the lodge last weekend” tends to end on an equally positive note.

I found the characterization of how the military would respond in this sort of a situation to be pretty plausible. They didn’t take peoples guns away or force them en mass into “shelters” or anything like that. They were a definite force for order, if a little heavy handed at times.  While I will keep my thoughts on this to myself I do have one observation. Folks who think local cops and soldiers are going to do all this crazy stuff probably don’t know a lot of cops or soldiers.  Sorry I got sidetracked, I will get back to the topic at hand.
I found the way that the situation in terms of security and supply availability deteriorated was very plausible. While you never know exactly what will happen the way it went seemed realistic. It didn’t turn into mad max overnight but they didn’t keep going to stores, which were getting resupplied, for weeks either.
Also the author would randomly use parentheses to mention something loosely related to what was being discussed or whatever popped into his head. I appreciate that because it is something I do.

The Bad:
First I want to address the criticisms I was in the Amazon reviews section. Some folks criticized the main characters for being some sort of religious whacko’s, the father for dominating the family and some other such things. They even threw the phrase “Christian Identity” around which is as far as I can tell, the Aryan Nations better spoken cousin. (That part was totally unfounded in anything I got out of the book.) Also editing errors or poor editing quality was mentioned.

The main characters are part of the “reborn” Christian community which seems to need to mention that they are Christian and discuss their faith out of context and to random people at a far higher ratio than most other folks. They prayed occasionally and mentioned the bible now and then and talked about some religious stuff occasionally. Sure the main character jumped onto his religious soap box now and then but it wasn’t too bad, I just skipped a paragraph or two. It was sort of like being at a banquet or party and talking to a random guy who has to mention that he is born again as a Christian, etc, etc even if the current topic of conversation is BBQing or college football. In my opinion it did not detract from the book. As to the family being too paternally dominated or something I would say there is a range of normal family decision making patterns and theirs doesn’t fall outside of it. Preparedness was sort of more the dad’s thing and thus he probably took the lead a bit more.

 I didn’t find poor editing to be an issue. Sometimes you see self published books in this arena that have text which repeats like it was copied and pasted but never deleted or systemic punctuation issues, poor grammar, etc. I didn’t see any of that lack of quality proof reading in this book. Could the book have benefited from the kind of very skilled editor that a large publisher would have, of course. It would have tightened things up a bit and cut out some fluff. However it did not detract from the overall quality of the book.

Onto my observations:
I found the action to be quite unrealistic. While I truly appreciated that the main characters weren’t some sort of super commando’s that didn’t save it. The book seemed to give them the standard ‘main character’ advantage but did so by making the bad guys universally idiotic and unlucky. Like the kind of idiots who couldn’t rob a 711 successfully if you handed them a pistol and a ski mask then gave them a ride to the 711.
Also I found the action to be overly simplistic. I will make up a similar scene to illustrate this point. “I heard a gunshot and grabbed my rifle. I walked around the house to see what was going on. I saw a guy with a gun in the bushes and shot him.”   First of all in real gunfights people miss. Professionals who do this for a living miss shots regularly. They miss them because they are moving and the other person is probably moving also. They miss because they are in sub optimal firing positions as they take cover. They miss because they can’t clearly see the target or because it is dark. Without reading it again just to look I would say the main characters didn’t seem to miss a shot. Also nobody got wounded or escaped/ broke contact. The bad guys were either killed or captured. While it wasn’t a big overall piece of the book I found it to be way too neat, simple and lopsidedly positive for the main characters. This didn’t really detract significantly from the overall book because that stuff wasn’t a significant part of it.

Their security was sloppy pretty consistently. That is not the authors background (I don’t think) which is cool but they could have done things more consistently. Having guards some nights and not others is a stupid plan. Sort of like carrying a concealed weapon but only on odd numbered days. The real lucky theme of the fights they had was definitely repeated in that they suffered no consequences for their significant security gaps.
The topic of how the main characters expect other people to treat private property vs. how they treat it came up briefly a couple times. It wasn’t blatantly hypocritical so that was good. This has come up in a couple books recently and I am starting to think the central issue may be in my head. I have some thinking to do on that one and will likely write about it later.

Two other things kind of annoyed me. First the main characters really liked using FRS radios. They had the push to talk ones with ear buds and were all on them, constantly, throughout the entire book. Also for reasons I am completely not clear on they said “affirm”. Not affirmative or acknowledged or WILCO but affirm. It was sort of like somebody without an insight to the military was trying to use military language to sound cool. Also in my experience they slightly exaggerated the capabilities and utility of those radios.

Secondly they talked about food a lot. Not food storage or food production or those issues but they were always talking in detail about something that was being cooked or eaten. The book could be slightly changed and called “Eating your way through the Apocalypse”. The format was kind of a recollection/ journal by day thing which worked well throughout except the ratio of the book which was made up of a detailed account of breakfast, then snack and beverages, then lunch, then dinner, then desert could have been a bit smaller. I really don’t care what they are eating for every single meal. It didn’t teach any lessons or provoke any thought or add to the story line.

The Ugly:
Nothing comes to mind. To be honest I was reaching pretty hard for the bad.

Overall Assessment: I really enjoyed this book and think you would also. It also provoked some ideas and thought on a couple subjects. The kindle edition was only five bucks and totally worth it for a long, well written book. I definitely got a lot for my entertainment dollars and that was just on the first read. The paperback was pretty expensive at almost 40 bucks on Amazon, likely because it is one of those very short run type books. I am planning to read the second book in the series next week and am really looking forward to it.
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