To Lump or not to Lump

2002-10-12 17:59:00

Larry writes:
JJ, you wrote:

"The second group is the far right. This group includes some Fundamentalist Christians, patriot groups, tax protesters, strong Constitutionalists, Aryan Nations, Identity Movements, Militia groups and some Libertarians. Libertarians have beliefs on both sides of the isle and some view tyrannies with a mixture of views from both of the extremes."

and also:

"(1) Understand where the other person is coming from in his thinking. (2) Understand how the other group defines their terms. (3) Use your terms, not from your minority viewpoint, but attempt to discuss in terms the other group understands."

I find it very difficult to understand how you chose to lump Libertarians with groups like Identity and Aryan Nations.

It should have been obvious that the only way they were lumped together is because they both have views far right of center. I think we are all aware that Libertarians do not teach racism or violent overthrow.

It is true that this sort of organization of left/right groups probably fits the general stereotypes of many people. But does it truly reflect reality? Are we limited to this one-dimensional picture of left/right, or can we sometimes "think outside the box"?

I was hoping it was obvious that I was not stereotyping, but speaking as a general rule there are certain groups considered right and others left. Some on the left do not want to admit they are on the left, but most on the right or far right will be happy to state that is where they are. I've heard a number say something like "Rush Limbaugh is a liberal compared to me."

I have had discussions with a number of Aryan Nations people and sympathizers; I have read their literature and when discussing tyranny in government and America there is little difference in the disagreements that come up when compared to a good argument with a Libertarian or Patriot. About the only significant difference is that the Aryan is eager for some armed conflict or race war to take place.

I speak not in black and white, but in general principles and by general rules. From my experience I see these three groups and there is great difficulty in each communicating their point of view to the other.

Libertarians advocate equal rights for all human beings regardless of their skin color, religion, or country of national origin. Can you say that Aryan Nations or Identity advocate that? Or do in they fact advocate just the opposite?

I hope I made it clear that I was only referring to the fact that they both have views on the far right. I also pointed out in my last post that some of my views are far from center, but that does not make me a racist or a militant.

There is one other point I would like to make in regards to the way you have characterized this issue. You gave a picture of several different ways that different groups might understand the word "tyranny." Those on the left might see certain issues as important, and those on the right would see it with an entirely different perspective. There is definitely some real truth in that picture. There are lots of people - perhaps the majority - who have one, and only working definition of a word.

Let me ask you a question. When you attempt to find the meaning of a passage in the Old Testament is it your assumption that there is one and only one definition that fits a particular Hebrew word in every case? Or is it true that often you have to look at the use and context of the word in the passage in conjunction with a fair amount of intuition to arrive at a meaning that you think the original author might have intended?

Is there an underlying principle here? Might not that principle be that words in any reasonably advanced language often stand for more than one concept? As it is we have to learn several thousand words and some tricky ways that the same word is often used to mean very different things. But if every word could stand for only one concept, then we would probably have to learn hundreds of thousands of different words in order to communicate.

There is a certain efficiency in letting words stand for multiple concepts, but it creates great potential for miscommunication.

I agree with what you said here. If you think otherwise you have not been understanding me.

Generally the more a person has read and studied in different areas the more meanings and concepts they have learned to associate with a word. For example if we take Travis who is one of the more outspoken Libertarians on the list, it should be clear from what he has written that he has multiple concepts that he uses the word "tyranny" for. And it is equally clear that he is not confused as to which one he means at any given time, and is quite capable of making it clear which he means by the context of his statements. Or he just plain tells you, "I mean this."

I'm not sure that he has made it clear about writing in the multiple concepts thing. Outside of talking about my definition he seemed to be using one concept of the word, in my opinion. I may have missed something.

Multiple definitions used in one argument are a sign that the conversation is drifting in and out of any main point or theme and is confusing.

It is equally clear that his thinking and definitions of "tyranny" are in no way related to how an Aryan Nation supporter would use that term. I think it is important to acknowledge that. Otherwise your "broad brush" creates as much illusion in one way as it creates clarity in another.

Why then do Aryans argue (and write) about tyranny in very similar words and concepts as I have been challenged with during this past week or so? Have you ever argued with an Aryan nation's member? I have.

Let me stress again that if one sees tyranny in a similar light to the Aryans, this does not mean that he agrees with their destructive beliefs on the militant right.

My general take on your post was that the intent was to be conciliatory. I think you have made the reasonable point that various groups of people have different "working definitions" and they don't often realize that their definition is radically different from that held by others (or think that only theirs is valid!). You have made the important observation that we need to try to discover other people's definition as the first step of effective communication.

These are all important points that I agree with without reservation.

The points I have attempted to make are not meant to be a rebuttal. They were meant to bring the discussion to a new level of awareness (a principle of discovery) and to point out where some thinking might be limiting.

To end, it is impossible for me to overstate how important I believe it is to define your terms clearly. As you have pointed out most miscommunication comes from people using the same word, but meaning different things. If you do that then I think your chances of communicating with all people of good will, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum, is greatly improved.

I am looking forward to your continued teaching on how there is safety in the majority. I have your definition of "tyranny" clearly in mind and fully intend to apply it to that teaching. :)

Good points Larry and I am working on the next installment now. I hope you'll like it.

Relax and be at peace. Thus will you make right decision. In the light of eternity, these little happenings (and how small they are when looked at in the right light and - dare I say it? - with a sense of humor!) disappear. Go forward with fresh courage. DK