Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kindness, Compassion, and Socialism. . . . .

I have been missing my father a lot over the holiday period and reflecting on our many times together and our important conversations. We were probably closer than any father and son I have ever known and the hole that he has left in my life is immeasurable. He taught me a lot over the years and I hope I taught him too. Perhaps the most important lesson he taught me was what matters more than anything in life is kindness and compassion. All the rest is secondary to these most basic things. And though I have not always been able to practice this, it has been fundamental to my worldview.

It is the basic issues of kindness and compassion that have inspired my commitment to Socialism. When I was quite young I read Albert Einstein’s ethical defense of socialism and, despite years of studying Marxism and Politics, I think socialism requires no other defense regardless of what the right-wing, and even some on the extreme left, say. I will always believe that the ideal of socialism is a morally correct path and that a cooperative society, in which everyone has access to housing, healthcare, and education, is the ethical ideal. Ironically I have had numerous arguments with people on the left who have claimed, largely thanks to the work of Engels, that socialism is not a moral position and requires no ethical approach. The position is to me quite patently absurd for the simple reason that facts are not instructive. It doesn’t matter what ‘rational’ discourse that one has, in the absence of ethical principles, such discourse means nothing. One could have all the facts about human behavior or the physical world and these would mean nothing without our ethical beliefs to guide them. With this in mind I have stymied a number of self-styled Marxists in this argument by asking the simple question: if I could convince you with a rational argument that capitalism is a more effective or is a ‘natural’ or ‘inevitable’ system, would you abandon your commitment to socialism? Of course, when they are being honest, the sheepish reply is always no.

And experience has taught me that those people who try to abstract the principles of human society and attempt to defend greed, competition, and self-interest with some theoretical notion of what people ‘inherently’ are by nature, are really just trying to defend their own twisted desires. 

In the end, only kindness and compassion matter in all things, whether it is the big political questions or the small daily problems.

I miss my dad, but I will try not to forget his most important lesson. 

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