Saturday, 12 February 2005


I grew up surrounded by the notion that liberality was well intended but beset by a proclivity for naiveté. The criminal can't be trusted, therefore the law must be harsh. The rogue state has no honor, hence all negotiation must be done while carrying a big stick. Any soft-heartedness will be taken advantage of; welfare only fosters dependency; and it's every man for himself in this dog eat dog world.

I've been happy to acknowledge considerable truth in all of those statements. Yet I hold steadfastly to the belief that giving oneself over to hard-heartedness amounts to capitulation to the darkness within, and must be resisted else we become as undesirable as that about which we are avoiding being naive. What good is it to avoid being fooled by evil, if in the process we become evil. By all means, let's avoid being fooled, but let us also act with compassion.

Why, that sounds like compassionate conservatism! (I know that real compassionate conservatives exist, but in government they are rare, and perhaps never proclaim the mantle.)

But naiveté is not exclusively a liberal tendency. In fact the whole equation in terms of who is getting duped, and who is arguing for realistic analysis has been turned completely on its head in the last several years. It often comes down to who one thinks is deserving of trust. Ideology is a terrible barometer for such a measurement.

The untrustworthy among us are only too happy to adopt whatever ideology is most likely to advance them personally. As our country has increasingly swung to the right that face of convenience has become increasingly a "conservative" one. Not that the "liberal" face is not still used by duplicitous frauds where that is the one that works. Frauds deserve to be unmasked regardless of their putative political stands.

Checks and balances remain our constant friend in the struggle to have truth prevail, and anyone should be wary of those who see them as a nuisance. Exposing the truth is job one, deciding on how to respond to it requires thoughtful deliberation. It is far better for a group of interests who disagree over methods to hammer out a compromise with the aim for a shared vision, than for those who agree about a method to ram through their agenda when they have not agreed on what vision they are serving.

Let's presume for the moment that the vast majority of our current leaders are motivated primarily by a genuine desire to spread freedom, foster self-improvement among our citizens, and to serve justice with compassion. I know it's a stretch, but consider that if it's not a majority, there are certainly some for whom that is true. Now let's revisit the question of naiveté.

When one believes after a campaign of shock and awe which litters the land with ordnance laden with depleted uranium, that the citizens whose despotic leaders have thus been deposed will universally welcome the foreign victors as liberators, who is being naive?

When one believes that by lifting regulations which limit the full breadth of options for industry, free market forces will be sufficient to assure corporate responsibility in the stewardship of our environment, the fair treatment of its employees, and the safety of its customers, who is being naive?

When one believes that prosecutors and law enforcement, unburdened by rules which disqualify valid but misobtained evidence, or limit interrogation techniques, won't frequently abuse that new power, who is being naive?

It's not that we shouldn't work toward the removal of despots, and allow markets sufficient freedom to promote innovation, and give law enforcement reasonable tools to deal with unscrupulous criminals; it's that we can't give carte blanche to the despot removers, the free-marketeers, and the prosecutors and police merely because they've signed up to work in those professions. There's a balance to be struck, and to steal a phrase from George himself, "it's hard work" to reach it, and that work is never done.

Now that I've engaged this little fantasy that our administration is purely motivated, but simply too naive in its trust for what are presumed to be the forces for good in the world, let me say that I'm deeply skeptical. There are simply too many instances where before and after statements don't line up, and that which seems disingenuous at best, seems likelier to be outright deception. Sure there are good people within the administration, and there are many others who justify what they know or suspect to be falsehoods as necessary tools toward a greater end. But at the end of the day I can't reconcile the behavior I've seen reported with anything other than something being deeply rotten. But if I'm wrong and it's not rotten then it is disturbingly naive.

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