Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Superman No More?

Superman No More? article.

Superman has recently and famously threatened to renounce his US citizenship, because he was tired of the world seeing him as a tool of the US government.
This seems sensible to me. And frankly, a person as powerful as Superman is too big to have allegiance to only one country.
But of course is has upset many US nationalists. From the article above:
... in the end, the only truly interesting aspect of Superman’s character is his complete devotion to America. Because it’s this devotion—of which his citizenship is the anchor—that establishes all of his moral limits. Why does this demi-god not rule the earth according to his own will? The only satisfying answer is that he declines to do so because he believes in America and has chosen to be an American citizen first and a super man second.

Whuck? The only reason to not enslave mankind is because you're An American? That doesn't even make sense. For one thing, how would that stop you?  For another thing, well, how about ordinary(?) ethics? Just fellowship for your human beings? It seems that to some people being a national (American for example) is the only thing making you not be an animal. It seems to be an alien idea to some people that a person can make his own ethical choices, and not choose to be ruled and run by church or state.

A whole 'nuther story is that to me, his citizenship is about the *least* interesting aspect of Superman. The character is a fascinating study of the ethics of having supreme power, and what it does to your relationship to the world and your fellow beings.

Superman believes in, and is part of, America. Once he’s a “citizen of the universe” what, exactly, will he believe in? [...] Does he believe in British interventionism or Swiss neutrality? You see where I’m going with this: If Superman doesn’t believe in America, then he doesn’t believe in anything.

Again, whuck?!? "If you don't believe in America, then you don't believe in anything."?! Are you serious? For one thing, all other beliefs are just Nothing? Talk about arrogance. For another thing, again: how about he decides on his own beliefs? Have you not heard of thinking for yourself? Is life just a choice between authorities, to you? Wow. That must be a gray, cold, cowed kind of life.

22 comments:

Kent McManigal said...

I'm not a fan of superheroes of any sort, but...

Superman is "super" because (or only inasmuch as) he does the right thing. Aside from his "illegal alien" super-power abilities, that is. Sometimes the right thing happens to coincide with "American values" (and the values of every other good person on the planet, wherever they may live) and sometimes it doesn't.

Those blindly nationalistic "patriots" who make an issue of this would be just as blindly nationalistic, supporting everything "their country" does as if it is above reproach, had they been born in Afghanistan, Mexico, or Zimbabwe. Only they can't see that simple fact of life. They think they support America because it is chosen by God rather than because they were born here and brought up to believe the "My country, right or wrong" crap.

(And I'll just go ahead and say "Hello" to Anonymous Fanboy now, since I'm sure he won't be able to resist a plea for attention.)

NoahDavidSimon said...

"First up, I need to recap a key moment in Superman's history. In 1986, DC Comics realized that Superman was running out of steam, so they turned the character over to certified genius (and certified arrogant prick) John Byrne, one of the most talented (and boy, does he know it) comic book artists (turned writer-artist) of the past few decades. Byrne "rebooted" the whole Superman franchise, starting him over literally from the very beginning -- reducing his powers from the previous god-like levels, tying him closer to humanity, and in general making him far more accessible to readers.
In the process, Byrne made two fundamental changes to Superman's history that have tremendous relevance to the current "Superman renounces his citizenship" storyline.
In the first, Kal-El did not travel from Krypton to Earth as an infant, to be found by the Kents in Kansas. Instead, Jor-El and Lara El took their fertilized embryo, placed it in a "matrix," and launched that into space from the dying planet. That "matrix" carried the embryo to Earth, nurturing and developing the fetus until arrival -- at which point it released it at the Kent's touch. The Kents then presented the newborn infant as their own biological child -- a conveniently nasty winter gave them the cover for an unannounced "pregnancy" and "home birth." (The arrival of the baby Kal-El in the movies and in "Smallville" don't apply here.)
So, stripped of all the technobabble, Kal-El was "born" in Kansas, which makes him an American citizen.
I'm not even certain Byrne knew what he was doing when he arranged for that little legal loophole to be closed, but simply thought it made a better story, but it's done, and Superman is at least as American as, say, Barack Obama.
The second change was far more fundamental,and -- in my eyes -- a huge improvement on the character. For almost 50 years, it was made abundantly clear that, psychologically speaking, "Superman" was the "real" person and "Clark Kent" was the disguise, the carefully-constructed persona. Byrne inverted that. He noted that Superman didn't emerge until his 20's (at least), so it was rather improbable that that persona would supplant the one that had existed for a couple of decades. So, now, "Clark Kent" is the "real" person, while "Superman" is the disguise, the constructed persona.
Which is even more important in this context."

read the whole thing. it shows you how the media misled us on the actual plot here http://wizbangblog.com/content/2011/04/29/up-up-and-away-he-goes.php

Superman was merely fed up with the limits his American citizenship because he was proactive. In other words... he wanted to do the opposite of what Obama is doing

emptyspaces said...

Some of the craziest people I've met in America are the ones who seem to care the most about America, at least on the surface. They are always white people.

Alex Greene said...

That piece of retconning by John Byrne really did shackle Superman.

There was another stor,y of which I only caught a part, where Superman realised that he was indeed Kryptonian, born on Krypton, and only considered American because of some legalistic mumbo jumbo.

If Kal-El was actually legally born an American, long form birth certificate and all ... nothing stops him from standing for President.

President Superman '12. That has a ring to it. He doesn't even need to wait for the campaign train either: he can come and go wherever he wishes.

Ye Gods, I would love it if some DC Comics chap Googles Superman and comes across this comment ... :)

Alex Greene said...

I added my comment to the article:-

'Shackling Superman to America, making him an American export so to speak, limits him to the States. Nobody would read Superman titles outside the USA, any more than we read Captain America comics any more.

'Superman can believe in humanity - that strange, limited, yet undaunted species which has accepted him.

'I'd like to see more of the philosophical Superman who can fly and have bullets bounce off him, but who can't stop a hurricane storm surge from flooding a region of Bangladesh the size of Wales; and who can't just conveniently plug a volcano by ripping off the top of a nearby mountain and plugging the volcano with it.

'The best way to release Superman to the world is to show up his limits; not the things he can do, but the things he cannot.

'Like save a hundred thousand people from dying of an earthquake and tsunami that he could not foresee.

'Or change the mind of one bigot.'

Anonymous said...

Not too bad for a guy who came from Canada so long ago.

George said...

Not too bad for a guy who came from Canada.

Anonymous said...

John Byrne is definitely no genius.

Anonymous said...

'I'd like to see more of the philosophical Superman who can fly and have bullets bounce off him, but who can't stop a hurricane storm surge from flooding a region of Bangladesh the size of Wales; and who can't just conveniently plug a volcano by ripping off the top of a nearby mountain and plugging the volcano with it.

We've had that Superman before, and he's boring. I want a return to the Superman of the Silver Age when he was basically a god. Those were fun. The Curt Swan years with a bit of the edge of the Siegel & Shuster Superman thrown in.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

[I just love that "whuck?!?" word. Good one, Eo.]

A friend just sent me the link to a news article that basically reveals the following: in the ABSOLUTE anarchy and lawlessness reigning in Congo, especially -but not exclusively- the civil war area of North Kivu, the use of rape as a mass-scale weapon of war knows no limits. Everybody does it, unrestrained, routinely, and it is hard to decide whether it mostly aims at destroying the "enemy" populations through the women, or it's just that men are animals (with my sincerest apologies to our non-human brethren for the offensive comparison!!!). Granted, some parts of Africa & the muslim world are notably more primitive than the rest of the planet, but really... this makes me reconsider VERY DEEPLY the individualistic theories of Libertarianism and their pertinence.

These theories about the need to abolish organized government for everyone's benefit are flawed in the very principle. Because the instant people start governing themselves, there will be need to get organized (starting with a citizen's militia against bandits)... which is the seed of Government! There needs to be some HQ for the troops, gather and distribute the equipment, finance the whole thing, gather the money contributions from the citizens... Otherwise put: centralized administration. Easy to see where this is leading! It's already quite hard to keep in working order such a noble and vital system as volunteer firefighter brigades!
The very source of our species' fantastic power over the whole planet (for better and for worse), and us being the only ones deciding of our fates save for the occasional bee sting or shark attack (while there are still some sharks left), is our capacity to get organized at a scale limited only by the exponentially increased weight of red tape with altitude.

Besides, in a lawless world, the strong eat the weak, the big swallow the small, and the lone wolf with no family goes hungry. So, there's no discussing it, the enjoyable safety of the US (save for the occasional terrorist brain fart) is in greatest part due to it being a BIG superpower. With a BIG army and BIG nukes, something they didn't have on December 7, 1941.
The unmitigated libertarian theory is a utopia.
Don't get me wrong, I really like utopists. But I wouldn't ask them to manage my Destiny. You've got to know your friends' limitations.

[Cont'd]

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

My own view, is that the best (or least bad) possible social system, and ALSO the most realistic one to envision in today's real and perfectible world, would be one where governments remain, but with full transparency of functioning, and full accountability of decisions. This, for instance, would have made Bush/Cheney's lie-based Iraq campaign impossible, or at worst, the deterrent of being prosecuted for that literal crime would have stopped them cold in their tracks.
The USA are, I admit, rather advanced in that domain. A LOT of Government documents are public access by law. (For instance, did you know that all NASA space data, photos, etc. are public domain by definition?) But the system remains largely crooked. For instance, the big banks do whatever they please in complete opacity, and when too many debts have been voodooed into stock market assets, the citizens are forced to pay while the CEOs and traders keep granting themselves millions in bonuses. Not one of them was held accountable. Perhaps the key to Obama's demise in 2012...

My wonderful theory's biggest flaw (but a very temporary one, I'm sure): just WHO, pray tell, would ensure that complete transparency and accountability? A class of judges à la Dredd, immediately likely to abuse THEIR power in totalitarianism or mafia-like bribery? Or the mass of the people, who are so notoriously conned by propaganda since way before Hitler and Lenin? Democracy, "rule by the people", was invented in ancient Athens. That "gifted child of Civilization" was short-lived. Why? How? Simple. Some sneaky opportunists quickly grasped that by lying to the people with some slick fancy talk, it was a brief matter of time before they could establish and lead... a military dictatorship! A fascist regime. Precisely what happened for Athens. R.I.P. Solon...

The basis of a TRUE civilization? The power of knowledge. All forms of knowledge. Freedom of information, of expression, and very importantly, ensuring proper education for all, gratuitous and mandatory. There's no quicker and greater weakness than ignorance. Look at women in islamist countries: the Talibans will sooner kill them "with extreme prejudice" than let them go to school and learn to read.

The EDUCATED greater number is more/most likely to think straight and act decently. After that... well, there comes a moment when intellectually able adults need to be left to act as adults, make their own choices, and assume the consequences of their own potential mistakes! Even if it means the death of Krypton, lord Jor-El. Can't appoint anyone to hold Humankind's hand forever. For example, I just know that deep down, most of these insufferably arrogant and loud Americans are good people. VERY good people. But easily conned. Too much early-tought reflex bowing to "the infallibility of religion", and to that second religion which is immoderate patriotism. A whole damn INDUSTRY of manic money-making mass-manipulation got built on those very slight flaws. They mean well. But they're too trusting.
The wise human doubts everything, even if temporarily... including him/herself! Remember Dr Gregory House signing himself into a psychiatric hospital when he saw that he couldn't trust himself anymore. We should all have such self-honesty, in an ideal world.

[Cont'd]

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

My view of the optimal (if not ideal) evolution for the USA, the West in general, and later the entire world (hopefully)? Keep pursuing knowledge, KEEP LEARNING, reading, observing, analyzing, THINKING out what you assimilate... and forever stop taking rolemodels like some insecure young child. Shun them all, cast them in the cold darkness of their sorry pathetic megalomaniacal insignificance, all these fell-good gurus of politics, religion, fashion and "trendiness" that stuff you with nonsense! Boycott Gilderoy Lockhart.

And, to apply what I'm preaching, I beseech you, do not ever praise my name! Anything even *I* say, think it over, and decide whether you like it and agree with it, REGARDLESS of which much-trusted or admired person said it. Spread the ideas and discuss them. The personal glory is completely futile.

The arab proverb says, "take the wisdom, even from the mouth of the madman".

Now, educating the populations to thrive for permanently increased knowledge, and teaching them to think for themselves like truly mature adults? I think THAT is a possibly reasonable project. All it would take, is the proper philanthropic organism to establish it internationally with no hidden selfish agenda.
Which immediately excludes, by definition, all religious-type organizations. They're NEVER neutral. They have their own personal "brand of God" to promote, publicize and market, as an official and absolute priority.
As a believer myself, I'm certain God / Allah / Yahveh / Brahma / Buddha / Satan / Flying Spaghetti Monster / Whatever does NOT, EVER, need Clergies. Only people of goodwill, who will teach others not by preaching and gesticulating, but by example.

The only priest who ever so slightly got me interested in my own born religion, did not do so by the countless hours of Catechism he -and others- gave us in school. He did so with the living example of his SPIRIT. A saint, filled to the tips of his scarce hair with God's Love.
I guess it's lucky for me that I didn't end up with one of those seemingly ubiquitous pedophile clerics, eh? I hear they're routine occurrence even in Pakistani koranic schools. "The land of the Pure", my rump!

[Concluded next]

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Do not be a hermit, unless your only goal in life is absolute peace and quiet (which is legitimate too, after all). But think for yourselves, and let your sacred fight be focused on spreading that same freedom among others. Doesn't matter if they think opposite to you. If they hold the same belief in freedom through knowledge, they're your everlasting allies.
Quoth Voltaire: "I couldn't disagree more with what you say, but I'm willing to die for your right to say it." Freedom of learning is inseparable from freedom of speech.
No matter how many "fine citizens" would dream of seeing you silenced.

Blasphemy should be an official constitutional right, be it only so that we can freely criticize the Clergies and call their BS without any theoretical claimed untouchability granted to them by the alibi of God. My grandfather's good name, even if absolutely certain, is never proof that I did not murder Jeanne Smith in Deepinaharta, TX on Feb 29th 2009, at 2:27 AM, turn right at the town's North exit, under that old willow tree. And since my grandfather walks no more among us, gratuitously declaring that he used to sleep around isn't going to harm HIM, only my own fragile pride. Same goes for JFK, Napoleon Bonaparte, Gilgamesh, Cleopatra, Muhammad ElQurayshi or Jesus BenJoseph. Ideas are more important than the memory of people, no matter how worshipped.

I believe I have the bases of the ideal Constitution all written down on my draft. Anybody want to found a country with me? Preferably, bring some vast lands with you, we could use the independant territory and the space. ;-)

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

@ NoahDavidSimon:

Very interesting post you made there. You pointed at something I had always noticed, but without ever thinking of discussing it: Clark Kent is the real persona of Superman, while Batman is the real persona of Bruce Wayne. Batman wouldn't mind it much if he had to let Bruce Wayne just officially die. Wayne is just another convenient informant, like Matches Malone, but in the upper-class spheres where the biggest sharks sometimes hunt.

Isn't it ironic? DC made friggin' Lex Luthor President (at the same sinister period as George Walker Texas Ranger IRL, "coincidentally"), but never envisioned Superman in the Office.
Well, never in the MODERN period. They DID write a Golden Age "fiction" story titled "What if Superman became President?"
Which mentioned PRECISELY that one obstacle as a conclusion : "just a pretty dream", because of Kal-El not being born in the USA.
But neither was Schwarzenegger... ;-)

It had its fun moments, mind you. Like Pres. Superman shielding his own bodyguards from the bullets of a wannabe assassin. :-P

Kent McManigal said...

"Because the instant people start governing themselves, there will be need to get organized (starting with a citizen's militia against bandits)... which is the seed of Government!"

Organization is fine; it is the "legally" imposed and enforced monopoly on force- government can "legally" kill you for unapproved actions, but you can't "legally" defend yourself from it- that makes externally-imposed government ("The State") illegitimate.

Speaking of Utopian... government has had thousands of years to find a way to do what its advocates have claimed to be its purpose(s). And it has utterly failed every single time. But they still think there is some magic formula that can make it work "next time"? That is Utopian!

Or, perhaps advocates of government are not being honest about why they continue to support such a system. Perhaps the justifications used have nothing to do with why they really advocate The State, and maybe government is fulfilling the true purpose they desire.

eolake said...

Yeah, "whuck?" is famously from 30Rock. There's another: "Charles WhatNow?!"

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

I myself coined "Yallonzee" (written phonetically here). You know how Dora the Explorer always says "Vamonos, let's go"? Well, this is a portmanteau of the lebanese equivalent, merging the arabic and french versions.

But back to our customary serious nonsense. ;-)
[In several parts, so just move on from one episode to the next.]

I've always felt that the death penalty was gross abuse of power, be it only because it is irreversible in case a mistake/abuse happens. And we all know how astronomically inert the System can be when it comes to admitting it made a mistake.

But it's not, by far, the only grave problem. The "Institution" has (or more aptly, GAVE ITSELF) immense power over the citizens, and often arbitrarily, in many ways. But the thing is, Kent, this is nothing more than a "natural", predictable extension of the milleniae-old "Chief system", where small-scale clan/tribe/village organization leads to appointing (or yielding to?) someone who will take the decisions, or have the final word in them.

And there's no escaping it: however you address the issue, there needs to be some level of organization, and then there will be abuses, or mistakes, or both.
Let's see, what are our known options for social systems? (For the sake of simplicity, let's leave aside openly-assumed dictatorship. We're trying to ADVANCE here.)

- One Chief. Ein Reich, ein Führer, ein Kaiser, ein König, ein Pope Ratzinger, whatever. To spare time and hop to the conclusion, "power corrupts". Which is confirmed 99% of times, give or take a few cattle heads.

- Layers of power and decision. This is pretty much the "broken" system in the Democratic West. Leads to dilution of responsibilities, and mindless bureaucracy... at best!

- "Absolute" democracy. Everybody's voice has equal weight in taking the decisions. Think "village council, yakkity-yak". Well, most of the times, the mass doesn't think very well, does it? When everyone can speak to all (and let's face it, THAT part is rather irrefutable in an open system with freedom), populism is right behind the door, with knowledge of crowd behavior making one lord and master via their manipulating skills. The HIGHLY oppressive theocratic regime in Iran, or the Communist totalitarian system in the USSR (to name but a few), came out directly from popular revolutions which were originally the vast majority simply taking hold of their legitimate freedom before skipping onto the cliché'ed bana peel.

- Pure individualism, everyone for himself. This classically means anarchy, law of the jungle, and let's not forget "divided we fall". Zero organization is pragmatic suicide. Nobody dares f*** with the USA, no matter how much entire nations hate their imperialistic guts, because your federal taxes have financed the world's most dissuasive thermonuclear arsenal. Which comes rather handy at times, let's be frank. Cultist crazy clubs of cackling cranky crackpots may still attack you, but an official State will never EVER dare to. Probably not even that schizo-paranoid Ahmadinejad, Allah willing.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

- Another option, is to declare that we can freely organize ourselves with no central Government and its accursed occult nature, but that people who do not want to follow the group are free to do so (or "to not do so"? Whatever, that's semantics).
Every time there's some disagreement, the group will fragment. Every time the disagreement concerns an important issue, the separation will be lasting. Still not ideal...

I'm a big Van Vogt fan, and I've read The Anarchistic Colossus, which sounds quite close to a fully organized, world-scale libertarian society if I'm not mistaken. (Kent? Any remarks about that?) Yet even there, it is possible to divert the System for one's own interests, which is precisely the plot of the novel. So it's NOT perfect nor flawless. Perfection is NOT of this world, plain and simple.

I still see no better version of a "lesser evil" than stratified levels of organization, with mandatory and complete transparency + accountability to keep abuses in check as much as can humanly be hoped to ever accomplish. All tyrannies fear Truth as their worst enemy. Because they know the results.
[They also abhor humor, so I'd say freedom of speech and satire (including blasphemy on religions) automatically becomes a good thing to establish.]

This wouldn't ensure that, for instance, the gang pulling GWB's strings will get condemned for such a crime as arbitrarily launching GW2 (Gulf War 2, a.k.a. the war of George Walker the 2nd), but when we can immediately expose and punish corruption and incompetence, things are bound to evolve, hopefully even improve, much faster than they do today.

But what kind of impeccable, flawlessly ethical, yet as powerful as necessary, justice system would enforce that, and stick to its duties?
I've seen Judge Dredd, the movie (a rather excellent adaptation, IMHO). There's always a temptation for some to divert/corrupt the tools of power, originally intended to simply MANAGE.
What we'd really need, is to raise the masses to an intellectual level where they are sufficiently responsible to make their own decisions, individual and collective, with a reliable level of sense, logic, reason, integrity, ethics. This would be achieved by an "ideal" enough education program, rid of the clutter and propaganda. For one, laicity should be mandatory in the Constitution. Religion is a totally personal belief, and while completely free and legitimate at the individual level, I see many societies (most notably, in the USA) where it relentlessly barges in on the political scene like the Nazi stormtrooper divisions stomp-parading in the middle of 1941 Paris. Just look at the damn $1 bill: "In God we trust" actually means "we follow Religion in a very official and admitted manner". Who the f*** died and made YOU Moses?

When was the last time God gave us directions in person? Muhammad said it was via visitations from Angel Gabriel. Which he was the only one to see, my, that's convenient. Jesus simply spoke in the complete form of a human (and he spoke quite well, way better than many of today's "Christians", but that's not the point). Moses? Assuming the old guy HIMSELF was not a coalescence of legends and historical figures (many suggest bannished monotheistic Pharaoh Akhenaton, forcefully exiled with his partisans), he was typically alone listening to physics-defying phenomenons endowed with a voice. Or maybe he had eaten too many dried desert mushrooms, that's another possibility. Read Exodus: even when the Cloud of Yahve's Presence was permanently near the Hebrews' camp, they kept doing one HUGE foolish disobedience sin after another... like, dude, WTF?

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

I don't always agree fully with Hawking, but we tend to meet on one point: after the Original Instant of the Universe, God (assuming He exists) has been supremely discreet and non-intrusive. If we were supposed to all follow one single exclusive paramountly strict cult and set of laws of He Who Is So Jealous (Leviticus), He'd bother and settle the planetary mess straight once and for all, I don't know, like, say, with a giant bearded face Appearing right next to the full moon saying "I am your God, biatch!", now THAT would leave little room for doubt. Instead, what do we get? Mostly exalted mortals tirelessly explaining how God secretly Spoke to them when they were alone, or in dream, or through the most convenient medium of "inspiration"... And, amazingly, they never agree between themselves on a single Teaching, so your guess is as good as mine as to which is THE Genuine Oracle. (I vote for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.) :-P

Speaking of which... I was just reading an analysis on the late (but not beloved :-P) Osama BinLaden. HIS main goal, was to establish [his own view of] religion as the replacement of politics worldwide... preferably with humble himself as the new Caliph. Which is near-identical to the new Muhammad. "Caliph" literally means "heir of the Prophet", endowed with directly-granted Divine authority over all of Creation. Hence these recent saudi fatwas declaring that any demonstrating against the monarchy's regime is against Islam, de facto making it a crime of blasphemy/heresy/apostasy deserving immediate death. Allah be praised, Order from Above, God save the King of Saud, mazel tov!
I wish Americans, in their great majority, would realize that by feeling insecure and trusting religion (through mentally unstable zealots) to decide how they should act and think, they're simply allowing a similar (if less primitive) theocratic system to tyrannize them. Obama was criticized for many things, but I salute him for taking his distance with that whacko priest the media mentioned. His booze-repented predecessor should've been that rational...

Americans ELECTING a self-admitted bigot (in 2004, I mean!!!) is ample confirmation that the majority isn't always sensible.
There can and will be no ideal system as long as its molecular base component, PEOPLE, remain seriously flawed. Especially when we are so attached to putting God's authority above that of humans, that any mad cult guru becomes virtually untouchable as long as the whacko doesn't go Waco.

The way I see my own role here, is that I have the power (equivalent to that of any of you individuals) to teach the world, and make it aware, that salvation can only come from Knowledge and the true independance, the authentic core freedom, the self-reliance, that is born of it. Ignorance is weakness, even if you're one billion Chinese, Hindus, or worldwide muslims speaking in one common voice. The very nanosecond I see someone "obliviating" their own ignorance, or claiming infallibility Descended from Religion (same difference!), I know the problem is there to last. Do I bloody know everything, or even just "everything I *NEED* to know"? Hell no. But by sieving out all the ancient catastrophic mistakes, I dare consider that my advice on how to reason sensibly, on your own, WITH KNOWLEDGE, is way closer to the right direction.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Because, the way I see it, one of the lest bad systems in many instances, as testified by History, has often been the "enlightened tyrant", ruling with absolute power but driven by a desire to push people forward, promote knowledge, educate... including by force when the idjits are content with being crass ignorants. Which is rather frequent. School is mandatory in France until age 16. This means that France fulfils one major criterium of truly civilized countries. (In theory, the same law exists in Lebanon, but the streets are filled with professional child beggars, in broad daylight.) }:-(
Look at Gaddhafi: "I have read and understood the Koran, therefore I am now all-knowing". His exact words! How many pathetic people comfort themselves with that very same thought? "I pick something which I very strongly believe is flawless: Patriotism, Religion, a Great Charismatic Thinker. I hold on to the naive, childish, magical thinking typical of prehistoric societies, that by believing in it strongly enough I'll make it real, I-wanna-I-wanna-I-wanna! And then I follow it blindly, hence forever vanquishing the fear, the Dark Unknown of indecision, and conveniently also the need to make my own decisions like a grown-up, with the immediate risk of making dramatic mistakes."

(Partial digression time: the two major elements I believe in for properly raising a child into a proper adult, are knowledge, and admitting your mistakes.)
Maybe the reason why God stays behind the scenes is that the only way to be infallible, to make no mistakes, is to do nothing at all? :-p

In a nutshell, for a reasonably good Regime, we absolutely need to grow up. Become mature adults. And mature adults accept their natural, unavoidable, imperfection. They accept to forever keep learning, instead of seeking the childish immediate christmas present from Santa that'll make everything rosy-perfect for ever and ever.
I am not my Brother's keeper. But nobody f***ing is mine, either. Freedom, liberty, is an innate sacred right which we must forever struggle to keep deserving.
Lest we become like those islamist women that make us ROTFL when they demonstrate demanding "the freedom to wear a burqa and marry a polygamist".
The only freedom people should NOT be given, is that of giving up their freedom. But this begins with Knowledge. Not by letting some charismatic bedouin old fart who's read the Holy Book tell you what you should believe and do.

Knowledge, by DEFINITION, isn't perfect. After you learn, you need to think, to learn to wield that fickle power. But this is precisely what makes it the perfect method: its Plato-stated intrinsic awareness and admittance of its own imperfection. It's the only method that's being truly honest and straightforward with you.
It's optimal.

Is it any wonder that places most messy, effed-up, unruly... are those where poverty and uneducation run rampant?
Gnôthi seaûton. Know thyself. Freedom cannot come easy. Not with a One Book, not with a Best Flag & Country, not with a Genius Guide Person. "Judge ideas, not people." And preach my ideas, not my name's reference. I don't give a cockroach's anus about being praised for my contribution to Humankind, only the actual result matters.
"Pride... definitely my favorite sin!" -- (Satan, masterfully played by Al Pacino, The Devil's Advocate)

We CAN impose the betterment of the System from the inside. This is one of the absolutely truly goddamn awesome things about a country like the USA. The fundamentals of the System are on our side, they were designed by worthy Founding Fathers, let's use them. Let's hold inept elects accountable for not doing their job, for neglecting education and health care accessible to all, and for knowingly making themselves indebted to private group interests.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Ultimately, yes, it's quite possible that a truly advanced world population will need nothing more than a Libertarian anarchistic colossus of a System. But this will come as a natural (r)evolution. It will be a sign that we have (majorly) succeeded in Advancing. It won't be the means.

Sorry, my friends, while we ARE in the 3rd Millenium, and it does in part resemble our Fifties Sci-Fi daydreams, we're still not living in the Golden Age. We need to make do with that frustration, and act pragmatically. Maybe things will be better in one of our next incarnations. If we wage the appropriate struggle today, realistically.

P.S.: I must assure you, we also need URGENTLY to deal with the whole Environment issue: pollution resources, climate... Because we'll be seeing in THIS lifetime the first severe consequences of the catastrophe. Katrina was one of the first obvious warnings.

Time is running short. Doing the RATIONAL right thing is now, or never. In 5 to 15 years, oil will become really scarce for our current consumption rate. And extracting more fossil fuels will only worsen the climatic dereliction.
But I bet States will do it anyway!

(Heh...) My great-grandfather owned a family house on the island Île de Ré. He sold it after reading about the sinking of Atlantis, and also checking the local archives. He said it wasn't a lasing place to inhabit. Some 100 years later, the local property values skyrocketed because of speculation and tourism... but the growingly damaging storms have already started eating away at the island. We've got a choice, between the immediate profit which we see, and may very well BE there for us... and ensuring our long-term future, leading to the survival of our entire Species. This goes both for environment, for daily life, and for politics. If we let the same old farts manipulate, exploit and play us with the same dusty old methods, we're done for. Now, more than EVER before, not even WW2, "the times they are changing". My parents and I are the first generation, in the history of this planet, to be witness to the human population literally doubling. Again literally, things are exponentially accelerating. Remember Alice trying to keep up with the Red Queen: only by swallowing our naive pride to do what's rationally right, can we avoid becoming the new Dinosaurs. That is, a funny sitcom watched by the species that will undoubtedly be our successor one of these days. I can picture their glee the day they GO IN PERSON to outer space to bring down one of our satellites, after worshiping for milleniae the most unstable ones, fallen from the Skies, like so many deities.

Kent McManigal said...

Pascal- organization does not require a State. You speak of organizing a group that then fragments, but I don't see this as a negative thing. Groups do it all the time. They form for a particular purpose, break up when that purpose is complete, reform a different way, etc. It is fluid.

The current status quo is like getting a group together to paint a fence and then demanding that the group must now never break up, and even the children yet to be born must, under threat of death, belong to the group. It's silly.

A better way exists, and I have signed on: Covenant of Unanimous Consent

I have not read The Anarchistic Colossus, but now I want to. So many books, so little time.

God is imaginary, so I don't worry too much about that. Now if only those who won't admit that God is imaginary would stop trying to impose their own view of their delusions on the rest of us by force of "law". Sigh.

About your "enlightened tyrant"- at least a monarch believed he owned all the land, and therefore felt an obligation to not destroy everything. I suppose that's one good thing that can be said about that system.

Speaking of "Patriotism"...