Civility and Freedom

Optimists with little understanding of human nature will look forward to continuing social progress in the 21st century. The hope is that rapidly regenerating social problems are solvable by improving social policy and allocating money to social programs. The hope is that inspired politicians will be elected to office and will, by some administrative magic, do better than previously elected administrators.

However, meaningful political changes emerge slowly and are built from the bottom up rather than imposed from the top down. A civil society is built from many constructive organizations that thrive in local communities. Citizens of the 21st century can be quite sure that top-down solutions will not work and the tendency toward centralized political and economic control will need to be modified or abandoned.

The realist will recognize that "social progress" is not a progression of rational responses to problems, proceeding toward some ultimate solution for human deficiencies and aberrations. The realist recognizes an unchanging human nature expresses all its contradictions in a turbulent, often violent and recursive manner. A knowledgeable realist will assume that governments are inherently unreliable. This is axiomatic and not a critique of individual participants.

Each citizen in a free, civil society does have a responsibility to protect his or her freedom and right to life by insisting on bottom-up solutions to problems. This means that the local community decides what is in its best interests; not a distant and autocratic authority. When central authority becomes autocratic, it must be replaced. The best way to replace bad governments is to vote against politicians who formed the government. The idealist who becomes a realist needs to understand human nature.

The following list of precepts is an outline of how a free society should operate:

1. Diversity among individuals and groups is good. Local control is good. Distant control is bad. Competition is good. Monopoly is bad.

2. Rational thinking and free access to information are good. Dogmatic belief is bad. Propaganda and coercion are bad. Freedom of speech is good.

3. Religious beliefs are properties of local groups and individuals. Tolerance for different beliefs is good. Imposition of personal beliefs on others through government agencies and law is very bad.

4. Obedience to charismatic and dogmatic leaders is bad.

5. Support for equal rights is good. All claims of superiority and special privilege are bad. Equality of opportunity and equal treatment under the law is good.

6. Special rights and privileges to minority groups for any reason is bad, even if the minority group appears to be privileged or disadvantaged.

7. Some, but not unlimited redistribution of money and resources is good. Economic constraints on or punishment of successful, creative people and innovative groups is bad.

8. Private property, the protection of privacy and security of the home are all good. Violation of the sanctity of the home is bad. Government surveillance and interference in the private lives of individuals is very bad.

9. Intelligent regulation of the public behavior of citizens is good. Unregulated policing is bad.

10. Domestic activity of military forces is extremely bad, except for disaster management

11. Free and permissive education is good. Science is essential. Restricted and autocratic education is bad.

12. Restoring the natural environment is good. Harming the environment is bad.

13. Controlling population growth is good. Unregulated reproduction is bad.

14. Community support of children with generous provision of food, shelter, nurturing communities, health care and education is essential.

Humans do need rules. Police are a requirement for civility when populations exceed 150 people, since conflict-reducing group dynamics tend to fail as groups get larger. Impersonal rules are weak without conspicuous enforcement. In some jurisdictions, policemen and policing strategies have become more intelligent. There are opportunities for advances in policing strategies. One strategy is community policing which works best when combined with the intelligent restoration of true communities.

Community police integrate with their neighborhood, enlist the cooperation of good citizens, study local criminal behaviors and create preventive strategies. Heavily armed, authoritative police who tend to be secretive are to be deplored. Swat squads are a regressive step toward military control of civilian populations. Unarmed police, still found in the UK are exemplary.

The universal challenge for all societies is to achieve civility and freedom without the use of weapons. Disarmament of homes, policing agencies and military organizations is a priority. Can you imagine unarmed soldiers?

In my discussion of Universities, I argued that students and faculty are smarter and better informed than other humans and have an extra duty to provide leadership toward realizing liberal and rational humanitarian means and goals. Harvard people, for example, need to transcend in-house disputes and focus on the goal of electing a president of the country who is a well-educated, extraordinarily well-informed leader who can implement intelligent and compassionate strategies for the benefit of all. This is a difficult task.

The US has become a dominant if not dominating country with the potential to become either the worst rogue state on the planet with the most weapons of mass destruction or the most benevolent state with positive influence on the fate of the world. In doomsday, I suggested that US Presidents and their administrations often act irrationally and arbitrarily without compassion or remorse. Belligerence in government is least likely to be constrained by ordinary political processes and must be opposed by citizen’s coalitions who are committed to rational and peaceful solutions to world problems and are willing to act with courage and determination close to home.

Constructive citizen advocacy requires protection at all levels in the society, starting with the local media. Police need to protect citizens’ rights to speak, to meet and discuss and to engage in peaceful demonstrations. Some principles of monitoring government action must be clearly understood and always advocated by freedom-living citizens. You need a common understanding of the essential characteristics and tasks for a President of the USA, indeed for all leaders of all countries.

The performance of leaders must be evaluated carefully according to well-established criteria. For example you could require a President:

1. to be properly qualified by education and experience be healthy, sane and morally beyond reproach

3. to protect, advance and not threaten civil liberties

4. to transcend partisan politics and represent all citizens equitably

5. to be honest and forthright in public discourse, not deliberately deceptive and secretive

6. to form meaningful alliances with other countries and to avoid conflict

7. to support education, science, arts, and equitable economic development

8. to protect and restore natural environments

9. to avoid war and sustain the intention to seek the well-being of all citizens of planet earth.

In addition, a US president has a special duty to dismantle 10,000 hydrogen bombs that are poised and ready to kill other humans in a genocidal extravaganza that planet earth may only witness once.

Please see: Existence and the Human Mind

An Exploration in Contemporary Science and Philosophy
By Stephen J. Gislason MD