Much of the political and philosophical debate around policies, ideas, practices and even the use of language surrounds values - in other words, what is someone declaring is more important than something else. While it may seem obvious what "commonsense values" may be, they are not - indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find universality about values across major civilisations around the world. What is the chief value of Islamists? Arguably it is submission during life and pursuit of death (and the believed afterlife). What is the chief value of an environmentalist? Arguably it can be other species, or even simply matter. What is the chief value of a Marxist? The so called "working class". The values actually believed in may not be expressed explicitly, but they do guide philosophy and speak volumes about how philosophers and politicians (indeed everyone) see the relationships between human beings and the universe.
Without going into a long, and potentially turgid explanation of values and philosophy, I'll state what my highest value is - human life. Sounds self evident, but in valuing life I am rejecting the worshipping of an after life as an end in itself, or that human beings should be sacrificed for other species, or indeed that human beings should be sacrificed at all. Human beings have a rational faculty which they must use to survive and to prosper and be happy. In order that they can use this they must have the freedom to apply their minds and its greatest tool, their bodies to the universe. However, the initiation of force is the denial of reason and the denial of another person's rational faculty. That is why I reject the use of force, except in self defence.
So coming from that, I believe that government and more importantly, societal values should respect reason and as a corollary of that, individual adult autonomy and freedom, and reject violence except to defend that. Human beings should be able to interact voluntarily, and can choose what they do together or for each other, or in exchange. From that human beings can maximise their own life and the lives of those they care for.
There are plenty of people and philosophies out there that reject this, in fact none of the political parties in the NZ Parliament accept this, although ACT come closest in its rhetoric (and in the last three years has said the least that is inconsistent with this). So this post, and the series to follow over the next week or so will be focusing on the battles of values which i see as being most pernicious to confront in the 21st century.
I see them as being:
- Christian fundamentalism;
- Nihilism (or rather a lack of values at all);
I hesitated to add the last two. Nationalism/racism and Marxism are less of a problem in the 21st century compared to the 20th, but they are still a problem, infect minds with an evasion of thought and reason, and both are harbingers of bigotry. Nationalism is bigotry by location and origins, Marxism bigotry of property ownership. So they both need to be covered, imagine if US politics was devoid of the politics of nationalism and Marxism - what would the Democratic Party do without Marxism?
The most urgent battle is against Islamism - because Islamists are waging war against us, against Western civilisation. Unfortunately environmentalists along with Marxists are appeasing it and Christian fundamentalists want to replace Islamo-fascism with their own. The others are, by and large, not waging an orchestrated campaign of war.