Friday, February 21, 2014

Defining the Abstract

We spend a great deal of time in our country (way too much in my opinion) in arguing over what things mean.  How exactly do you define the abstract?  What does it mean when people say "they just want freedom" when talking about people from other nations?  Do they define freedom the same way you do?
We can't agree on what freedom means in this country, yet people want to define it for someone who has no concept for government like ours.  They have never lived in a "free" society.  President Bush famously (or infamously depending on how you look at it)
"And my deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must drive to expand the reach of freedom.”
Go and talk to the average person who lives in Europe and ask them if they are "free" and have "freedom".  The answer you are very likely to get is yes.  Yet, you ask a person who is on the right in this country if they do the answer is very likely to be no.  Most European countries are set up as Socialist Democracies.  A very ugly concept to the view of many in this country.
The Arab spring didn't happen because of the overwhelming desire for freedom.  It started over the price of bread.  In Egypt and Palestine they have gone to the polls and voted in the likes of Hamas and The Muslim Brotherhood.  While you do have to take into account that many of these elections are likely rigged, but sorry to burst your bubble, many people willingly voted these people into office.
While that sometimes is mind-boggling, one has to remember that both of these terrorist organizations also have an arm to them that aren't at all terrorist, but work as a charitable organization.  They help the unemployed feed their families, they help with goods and services that many of the poor in those areas simply cannot afford to get on their own.  When you have close to 70% unemployment in the Palestinian Territories, you are going have a great deal of need.  These organizations go in and fill those needs.  It allows them to do their terrorist activities with a wink and nod from the population, they aren't going to bite the hand that feeds them.  For many, this isn't just a saying, but a literal thing for them.  They are dependent on these people for their livelihoods and for those of their children.  It is far more complicated than many in this country dare to even try to understand.
The world is a very complicated place.  It is very easy to sit in the cheap seats, which believe me the U.S. are the cheap seats, and make statements about what others want and need.   When you live in the U.S. you have safety nets in place (we can argue the right and wrong of these at another time).  No matter how poor you are in this country, you are still richer than approximately 70% of the rest of the world.  This isn't about bashing poor people in this country, but just about perspective.
I saw this posted by Kira Davis on her Facebook page yesterday:
I make it a general rule not to argue about the Constitution or the principles of freedom with non-Americans. Not because of anything biased or personal, but just because being an immigrant myself I know that the way the rest of the world views freedom is far, far different than how Americans view freedom - yes, even the lefties. You can't debate someone who has a fundamentally different understanding of what it means to be a free citizen and what a "right" is.
Decades ago we saw people in the streets in China demanding more "freedoms".  The government crackdown was harsh and immediate.  But, in those preceding decades, the government of China has loosened some of the restrictions.  The citizens are getting more freedom over their lives from an economic perspective.  There are more jobs.  There is more autonomy.  They are allowing more and more people to drive cars.  I look at that country and am horrified at how little freedom those people have, yet they are feeling more comfortable with the changes the government is making.  It is about perspective.  I don't get to define what freedom means to the average Chinese citizen. I wouldn't want to live there, but that doesn't mean that many of the people who do aren't satisfied with their lives.
Emerging markets growth will also dramatically redistribute the bourgeois around the world. For instance, as our Rapid-Growth Markets Forecast explores, the number of households in Mexico with annual disposable incomes over US$50,000 is expected to reach 7.1 million by 2020, and 9.4 million in Brazil. For both countries this is an increase of over 50%.
Nevertheless, China’s and India’s contributions will be substantial.
Today, China has around 150 million people earning between US$10 and US$100 per day. As long as China continues to grow, and necessary economic reforms are made, we expect as many as 500 million Chinese could enter the global middle class over the next decade.
By 2030 around one billion people in China could be middle class — as much as 70% of its projected population.
To them, this may mean "freedom".  You can't say that it does or it does not.  But many have said over the years the reasons that the communist government of China made economic reforms to help its citizens, is because it wanted to keep mass unrest from happening.  This likely will allow them to control the country for a longer period of time.  Are the people stupid for going along with it?  Some will say yes, others will say no.  That will depend on your perspective.  Many in this country look at this a model of how government should work.  The heavy hand of government to guide economic policies that help all.  That is their idea of freedom.
We can talk all we want about what people in foreign lands want and or need.  We are doing so from our perspective, not from theirs.  We have not lived their lives in those places.  We don't get to define what their lives should be, what their hopes and desires should be.  We also can do the same about people in this country.  We have plenty of people in this country who define freedom in ways that I don't.
When you make broad statements about what abstract concepts mean, just remember that just because you define it a certain way that doesn't mean that others do the same way.  When you talk about how everyone just wants freedom, just remember what they view as freedom won't necessarily match up with you think it means.
Tony Blair believes in "freedom" heck President Bush even gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and he is a socialist.
"We are a left of centre party, pursuing economic prosperity and social justice as partners and not as opposites"

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