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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Apples to Oranges-

In 1973 I was sent to Germany by the United States Army. I lived there two years, in one of the largest colonies of foreign-based Americans in the world. A thing called by some a "third culture." People from one culture living in another culture, trying to maintain their old culture while living from day to day. To make the mix more interesting, I also lived among the largest population of Turkish born people in Germany. The experience was interesting, but far from a pure exposure to the German people.

I traveled a bit, though not as much as my present self sometimes would have liked. I was in a socialist country. I had the prejudices of a capitalist American, and yet what I saw was a working economy and a nation of relatively happy people. The country as a whole was tidier than the United States, but then again it was a lot smaller, and socialist. They had great public transportation. I saw no particularly poor neighborhoods. As a place to live, it seemed to be not too bad.

Recent politics in the United States has raised the specter of socialism once again. Having seen a socialist state up close, I find I cannot respond to the fear mongering. I am unable to make real comparisons. Germany is in a different part of the world from the United States. It is smaller. It has a very different history. Is socialism working there? Perhaps. They muddle through, at least. Just like most of us Americans.

Fear mongers seem to capitalize on apples to oranges comparisons. Because this apple is not like an orange, we should be afraid. If that orange can not be more like an apple, it must be cast out. Ultimately, it is presented that overcoming the fear will require compliance on our part with the fear mongers program. If we don't get on board, the apples will gain supremacy. Or, the oranges will come to dominate and apples will become powerless.

Too many fear mongers are willing to use misrepresentation to achieve their lofty purposes. Re-purposing a photo to drive an emotional response, to manipulate the audience. Things like that. Organizations with high ideals and worthy goals too often jump into the pool of deception. It is common enough that I would encourage you to doubt that shocking and gut wrenching image presented by just about any group, even one you support.

Through the course of my many years of eclectic studies, I have learned about tools of manipulation. I learned enough that a philosophy professor once recommended I become a political speech writer, a course I chose not to follow. Subtle things, such as camera angles or the choice of the very low volume background music, can have a large impact on how a presentation is received. Manipulation is everywhere.

Reacting in fear, especially fear generated by something someone else tells you or shows you, will lead to the greatest loss of freedom. The freedom to act out of your own thoughts and feelings, according to your own experiences in the context of your own life.

I promote the increase of individual liberty in this world, for all people. It won't make the world safer. It might just do the opposite. I don't know. Free people are free to think and feel as they choose, and act accordingly. That might not be particularly safe, but I choose the dangers of freedom over the safety of excessive control.

Granted, reasonable regulation is necessary. Choosing to support well thought out regulation is an act of personal liberty, and on the whole a good thing. However, allowing fear to drive support is not a good thing at all.

Think. Think past fear. Make sure your choices are your  choices.

Choose wisely. Choose well.

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