DEMOCRACY, ILLUSIONS, WHAT CAN BE DONE
by Ted Honderich
The debate in the Oxford Union on 29 January 2010 was on the motion "This House believes that in politics, money talks loudest". Ted Honderich's speech in support of the motion was followed by those of Stuart Wheeler, known for his contribution of £5,000,000 to the Conservative Party, and of Hugo Rifkind, a columnist for The Times and The Spectator. The motion was opposed by Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute, Lord Oakeshott the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, and Dr. Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon. In the vote at the end, the motion was carried. The debate took place the evening of the day when Tony Blair appeared to defend himself in the Chilcott inquiry into the Iraq war.
My Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen, all members of this university, and any members of its Conservative and New Labour clubs capable of a brief period of mental concentration.
What is our subject?
The motion before us is that in politics, money talks loudest. That has two parts, one explicit and one implicit. There is the explicit proposition of fact, that money does talk loudest, and there is the implication of it. The implication is that money's talking loudest in politics raises a question of rightness, or indeed isn't right.
I know talking openly of what is right or wrong is unusual in this time in England, and may seem curious, perhaps moralistic, maybe innocent or immature, anyway not familiar.
Cant, in particular cant by our democratic politicians, is the dismal order of the day, along with the brazen policy that the response to a question is not an answer but an evasion of it by way of a prepared little speech on something else. The cant and the evasion have reduced the clarity and hence the intelligence of public discussion, indeed brought it to its lowest state in 50 years. A society in decline since 1979 has declined further.
Instead of speaking of right and wrong, of what ought not to happen, the political class declares or intones the cant that this or that is 'unacceptable'. The essential thing they are saying, if not the only thing, has to be that this or that is wrong. They are indeed saying what we must not do. It is useful to them to be inexplict instead, however. If you actually say plainly that something is wrong, or right, you are more expected to produce a reason, an argument, something clear-headed..
Let us look openly at money in politics, and what is to be said of it -- and what can be done about it.
So, starting with the first and factual question raised by the motion, what are the things, all other things, that according to the motion money talks louder than them in politics?
One answer that rushes to mind is truth. It is not only the first victim of war, but a first victim of a kind of peace, of money in a kind of politics.
A second thing that money talks louder than, certainly connected, is the logic of ordinary intelligence. That consists in clarity, which at best is analysis, of course along with relevance, and then consistency and also validity in argument, and then completeness, not leaving things out.
Truth and the logic of ordinary intelligence aren't all that comes to mind as the things that money talks louder than. In fact you can't be truthful and logical in the ordinary way, and also without humanity. Truth and logic bring along some humanity with them. But anyway another thing you might think money talks louder than in politics is humanity -- humanity being what is right, as you will be hearing.
What are the facts of money, the facts of what may talk louder than truth and intelligence and humanity in our politics?
Cant, which I have on my mind in this debating chamber, since it is the anteroom to the House of Commons, is not the only thing in need of being avoided these days. Being simple-minded, which our political class is, is also to be avoided. One way of being simple-minded about the motion in front of us is to think the part that is the factual proposition can be settled just by some figures. It can't be settled that way, useful as some general figures are.
Of course it is true that the economically best-off tenth of population in Britain and America have something like 70% of the wealth, and the worst-off tenth has as good as none. As for income, the best off tenth has about 30% or 40%, and the worst-off 2% or 3%. That means that the poorest have nothing to spend on politics, indeed no time left to engage in it after getting their 2 or 3%, and the very richest have a lot. You can for yourself fill in percentages of wealth and income, by the way, for the eight deciles in between the richest and the poorest.
I say, without hesitation, on the basis of these figures, and without fear of any economist or student of the dismal science in this house, the dismal science that never gets around to quantifying what is fundamental, that the richest have more of something else than the poorest. They have more than 1000 times the political influence and power of the poorest. Remember that the poorest have as good as no wealth. 70 times zero is infinitely more than 70 times 1.
What does the 1000 times more political influence and power do?
It involves a lot more than getting questions asked for cash in the House of Commons or other corruption. It involves more than the fact of lobbying, even on an American scale. It involves more than industries and interests infesting the regulation of themselves. There is a larger general fact. What the 1000 times more political influence and power does is to do more than anything else to make and maintain what can mildly be called a certain convention of thought and feeling in a society.
That convention is mainly a successful pretence about what is necessary and what is possible. It consists in illusions upon illusions. About war, classes, the economy, public services, private profit and the profitization of things, taxation, banks, competition, cooperation, foreign ownership, utilities, health, education, politics itself, ideologies and religions, terrorism. As of this day, in what is called the great recession, there is the illusion about the need to reduce public spending rather than reduce private profiting.
This convention is a subjection of most of a people, more effective than an army. Illusions work better than an army and police on motorbikes. Owning newspapers and paying for ordinary advertisements in them is part of the convention. So is a government broadcasting service. A compliant church despite a brave Archbishop is another part. There is no need for conspiracy, although there is some of that, in order to make the whole thing intentional.
The general fact of convention, of the illusions, by the way, brings to mind the other part of the political cant about the 'unacceptable'. Our dim but not too dim political class, when they intone the word 'unacceptable', don't only mean that something is wrong. They also mean that it is on the way to somehow unthinkable. Of course the unclear ambiguity of the utterance helps to save them from being challenged either about something's being wrong or its being or its being believed necessary or impossible by all the relevant persons.
Let us leave our politicians and the illusions and think a little, which you're allowed to do in a university, even in a debate. Let us think a little first by asking what can best be said for democracy. What can best be tried on in its justification? The best hope must be that it is a better decision-procedure for a society than any other, for a particular reason. That reason, in plain English, is that two heads are better than one, and more better are than two. What is in heads, of course, according to this argument, is different and compensating kinds of knowledge, different experiences of a society, different wants.
But the argument only works if what is in the heads gets equal and free expression. In our hierarchic democracies, as you have heard, there is nothing of the sort. There is nothing remotely like equal and free expression. So there can be no reasonable assumption at all that our democracies are right about anything at all -- social goods, or profitization against cooperation, or terrorism, or our own terrorist war.
So put aside the fiction, indeed the illusion, of a democratic guarantee of good policies. So how should we go about judging the actual result of money talking loudest in our democracy? How should we set about thinking about that outcome? What principle or other method should we use? Our political class, having spent its earlier time in this Oxford Union rather than being educated, never says or even asks how you should you go about judging the outcome.
Should we do it by the viciousness of the tradition of conservatism, New Labour wholly and absolutely within it? Conservatism is no more a political tradition of self-interest than any other, of course. It is the politics, however, that has no principle of right and wrong at all to support its self-interest.
Should you judge the result of money in our politics by the mess of liberalism, the collection of stuff of the Liberal Democrats? Liberalism has better impulses than conservatism, but it is without a real principle to give content to its better impulses. It is without a will to act on those impulses, including its decency in opposing a terrorist war.
Should you judge the result of money in politics by the principle of the Utilitarians, that what is right is what produces the greatest total of happiness, well-being or satisfaction -- no matter how it is shared out? Even if the biggest total rests on some people, a class at the bottom, having lives that are really nasty, British and short? Should you throw psychoanalysis and neuroscience into the plan, as they now say at the London School of Economics, in order to make people happier without changing the world that was making them unhappy?
Maybe you should try instead a principle of judgement heard of in Cambridge sometimes these days? That is the philosopher Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative. It tells you to treat everybody not only as a means but also as an end. It's all about respect. Its clearest upshot, so far as I can contemplate, is that you should nod decently to the fellow in the street when you don't buy a copy of The Big Issue.
So, I repeat, how should we go about judging the result of money talking loudest in our politics?
What sums up what is right, to come to the answer resting on the whole authority of human nature, what sums up what is right on any subject anywhere, is the Principle of Humanity. It is the attitude to the effect that what is right is what according to the best judgement and information is the rational means to a certain end -- getting and keeping people out of bad lives.
Bad lives are defined not in terms of any malleable and self-serving generalization, let alone cant, but in terms of deprivation of the great human goods, denial of the fundamental desires of human nature. There are six of those according to one way of counting. A decent length of life, bodily well-being, freedom and power, respect and self-respect, goods of relationship, the goods of culture.
What our hierarchic democracy issues in, by way of money talking loudest, is a standing violation of the Principle of Humanity. I refer to denials of every great human good, every denial aided by suppression of truth and evasion of logic. If you're not pushy or a pusher, you live less long for a start. You have less consciousness. Then there are those other things. Pain, constraint, weakness, disdain, self-disdain. Your children don't learn. You read Murdoch newspapers that stop you from escaping the stupidity owed to your ignorance.
I came here 50 years ago from Canada. England was better. Canada seemed to have only the recommendation of being Australia with snow. About as good as the recommendation of Australia. Canada with sand. England was better. The National Health Service, the font of a language, more confident philosophy. I've stayed too long, though. And it is past the time for jokes.
Earlier today Blair, a man who managed this democracy into a terrorist war, the Iraq war, insulting the decency that remains in this democracy, appeared before a weak committee, a wretched committee of old boys neither capable of questioning him effectively nor willing to. Not a court. Not Nuremberg. Blair sought today, by the audacity of a shyster-lawyer unconstrained by a judge, his policy in the House of Commons, to blunt the truth that he is a war criminal, a criminal against humanity. Old Germans around Nuremberg can feel less bad tonight about the German past. They can say that Nuremberg happened.
In Blair's wholly intentional killing of innocents in and after the war, wholly intentional since wholly foreseeable, and in his wholly intentional causing of fear that is also sillily supposed to be the stuff of only terrorism, and in just about everything else of his New Labour, Blair has been and is a creature of money talking. He has been a creature who listens to it talking, goes to ask for more, and pays for it.
What should we do? What should be done about all the denials of the great goods, about taking from people what we all desire? What should be done about the monstrous selfishness?
Truth and logic is all we have to rely on, some say. We have to try that, keep at it. But surely it can't be the only hope. It can't be. That would be too terrible.
Mass civil disobedience is an answer. Maybe the real stuff, not a march of half a million or a million against a war where the marchers go home for tea after the marching rather than stay there in the street. Boycott of the market, that pretended necessity that is viciousness. Mass civil disobedience, even when not so persistent, has been working well in quite a few places in the last couple of decades. It was part of what brought down a wall, ended an empire. It has changed governments.
Revolution doesn't seem to be an answer.The epoch of revolution seems to be over -- because according to the best information and judgement it isn't a rational means to the end of the Principle of Humanity. That revolution isn't rational and so is wrong, of course, is the work not only of the revolutionaries but of those who defeat it. Indeed they are more at fault.
But here is some imagining for you. The British army has some tanks in London doesn't it? Pimlico, I think. Some colonel of the British army might remember something in this day of the bankers and the profitizers, the illusions, this day of Blair being his own judge. The colonel might remember the greatest words in English politics and morals, spoken by another colonel of the British Army. Thomas Rainsborough, 17th Century, at the time of English civil war:
"For really I think the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he....".
Our Pimlico colonel could take his tank to Parliament Square, when Parliament is sitting, and park it there for a while, holding up the traffic. Long enough for the telly to get on the scene, and ask him what he is doing. He could say what he is doing, and then he could go back to the barracks in Pimlico to take his medicine for civil and other disobedience.
It would make our wretched politicians think, as by God they should, to the best of their ability. It might make them think that in our politics money talks too much, and has now dragged down England lower than ever before.
Relevant T.H. books: After the Terror (Edinburgh University Press), On Political Means and Social Ends (Edinburgh University Press), Terrorism for Humanity: Inquiries in Political Philosophy (Pluto Press), Conservatism Revisited: Burke, Bush, Nozick, Blair? (Pluto Press), Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War: Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7... (Continuum), in the United States titled Right and Wrong, and Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7... (Seven Stories Press).
PHILOSOPHY OF TED HONDERICH
The Royal Institute of Philosophy is pleased to announce a day celebrating the three interdependent parts of the philosophy of Ted Honderich, Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at University College London -- on Consciousness and the Mind -- the Actualism Theory, Determinism/Explanationism and Freedom, and Right and Wrong Including Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War. Among his many books are Actual Consciousness and the forthcoming precis-book Your Being Conscious Is What? Where?; A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience and Life-Hopes and the precis-book How Free Are You?; After the Terror and also Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War: Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7.... He is also the author of many journal articles and the editor of The Oxford Companion to Philosophy and the lectures of Philosophers of Our Times.
Five speakers will take one or more of the three topics and he will make responses.
Prof. Noam Chomsky. MIT, (via Skype), ‘Unconscious Mentality: Some Speculations’
Prof. Gregg D. Caruso, SUNY, ‘Origination, Moral Responsibility, Punishment, and Life-Hopes: Ted Honderich on Determinism and Freedom’
Prof. Tim Crane, Cambridge, ‘What is Actually in Consciousness? Comment on Ted Honderich’s Actual Consciousness’
Prof. Paul Gilbert, Hull, ‘Ted Honderich and Terrorism’
Prof. Paul Snowdon, University College London, ‘Ted Honderich on Consciousness’
Prof. Anthony O’Hear, Honorary Director of the Royal Institute and Professor at the University of Buckingham will preside.
This event is free and open to everyone, but places are limited and no reservations can be taken. You are advised to arrive in good time to be sure of a seat
TED'S POWERPOINT / AUDIENCE HANDOUT
CONSCIOUSNESS -- THE ACTUALISM THEORY
This, if it is a workplace rather than a final theory or a so-called one, is indubitably a long way from those two main fairy tales still told or remembered --
(1) Consciousness is just objectively or scientifically physical stuff in your head, soggy grey matter as Colin McGinn contemplated, anyway only neural networks, however generally functionally-related within themselves or to other things.
(2) Consciousness is ghostly stuff, as in the old, old Greek theory of mind-brain dualism, to go on misappropriating that term for there being two things with one not physical and somewhere above the other. Or the entirely similar ghostly stuff in the abstract functionalism of very much cognitive science, tied to the more than chancey proposition of multiple or variable realization -- that exactly and precisely the same thought or hope or whatever can go with different brain states.
We do not have to wait for an Einstein of consciousness. We do not have to be pessimistic about solving the problem right now.
There is something we can start with. That is a rich figurative database on consciousness in the primary ordinary sense, derivable from the language of philosophers, scientists and others. About 40 items, including their taking being conscious in this sense as being the having of something, its being there, its being open, its being transparent in the sense of being clear straight-off, its not being deduced, inferred, constructed or posited from something else, its being given, its being right there, its somehow existing, being what gives rise to philosophical talk of content or object, its being present, its being presented, its being what McGinn speaks of as vividly naked, and so on.
The database can be summed up as initially adequately identifying primary ordinary consciousness as being something's being actual, as being actual consciousness.Patently this consciousness is not all of the mental or the mind, where the latter is what includes more than consciousness in this sense, say what enables me right now to do what is different, think for a moment of my age.
The figurative database, with some significant help, including contemplation of various shortcomings of existing theories of consciousness and thus the assembling of certain criteria for a good one, leads somewhere, as in many different cases in the history of science. To an entirely literal theory -- in this case Actualism.
The theory consists in answers as to (i) what is actual in the three different sides of consciousness -- perceptual, cognitive, affective -- and (ii) what being actual is. Of course it is a dualism in the sense that any sane theory is -- it makes a difference between consciousness and the rest of what there is.
In perceptual consciousness, what is actual is subjective physical worlds out there, stages of them, often rooms. Worlds no more myriad in number than piles of things in science. Their being actual is exactly their being subjectively physical. In cognitive and affective consciousness, what is actual is representations-with-attitude, in here, cranial. Their being actual is their being differently subjectively physical.
So, without any leap to theory or hurry to generality about any of the physical, but pedestrianly -- here is a comparative table of summation. It shows the genus of all physicality, consisting of two species and then two sub-species of the second species. Thus samenesses and differences between three things.
/ / \
/ / \
In short, perceptual consciousness does indeed consist in certain dependent worlds out there, not representations of any kind whatever, whatever registration-without-representation there may be of the objective physical world on a perceiver. Cognitive and affective consciousness, however, are representations-with-attitude in here -- the attitudes having to do respectively with truth or with good.
None of ancient or contemporary ghostly stuff in this story. Or sense data or 'mental paint', or the vagueness of 'content', or something discernible but transparent, or a theatre of the mind with a spotlight, let alone the behaviourism from which Chomsky awakened several whole professions and their fans, or physical functionalism on its own as against being a possible component in theory. Or in this story of perceptual consciousness itself any vulnerability to the tired objections from illusion and hallucination. Or any representions elsewhere in the wider category of the mental. Nor in Actualism is there the elusiveness of talk of phenomenality, let alone the circularity of so much thinking on consciousness, such as it consisting in what it's like to be something. Or my own old Union Theory of interdependent effects. Or Galen Strawson's breathtaking revival of the aspectual theory of panpsychism. Nor entities of the all-inclusive, blanketing and flattening previous contemporary externalisms -- meanings or individuators or whatever, theories seemingly advanced of all of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness -- those of Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge, Andy Clark, and Alva Noe.
Of course there are questions about Actualism. Say Chomsky's implied and unsettling one about whether we can have an adequate conception of the physical at all despite science not having provided one since about as far back as Newton. And of course questions about the relation of consciousness to the rest of the mental, thus the relation of Actualism to mentalism in a very general sense -- or in Chomsky's particular sense. A question too of whether Actualism will defeat the fortress of intentionality or aboutness as the nature of all consciousness, standing since the mediaevals and Brentano in the 19th Century, so newly fortified by Tim Crane. And is Actualism the very nerve or strength of Searle's lovely and celebrated Chinese Room argument against computerism about consciousness?
conscousness, consciousness in the primary ordinary sense, actual
consciousness, the right subject of consciousness? There isn't one right
subject. But this is the necessary
one. All others depend on the primary ordinary sense. They depend on a hold on
DETERMINISM / EXPLANATIONISM AND FREEDOM
An old and doubted and condescended-to story is true. All apatio-temporaral events or happenings or states of whatever exent or duration, without exception, as distinct from anything else, say merely logically, conceptally, linguistically, mathematically, or theoretically connected items or stages, maybe bits of Quantum Theory, are effects or lawful correlates. Each has a fundamental explanation. I.e. each is such that if or given a particular causal or other lawful circumstance or set of conditions, whatever else were also happening, the event or whatever would still have occurred. Causation and lawful connection in sum, no mystery or problem, is as plain as that strong or whatever-else conditional statement.
Explanationism, as I myself am now more inclined to call it, in order to avoid the misleading heavy connotations of 'determinism', shared with 'fatalism', is at least a reasonable assumption, in fact the gravamen of naturalism and empiricism. Despite our supposed revealing personal 'could-have-done-otherwise' experiences of having decided or acted. Also despite wonderful interpretations of the mathematics of Quantum Theory, rightly spoken of as weird etc, about as hopeless as Schodinger's cat, which, according to that thought-experiment, is both alive and dead until it is observed.
Also, in the absence of real chance in roulette wheels or levitating spoons at breakfast or any such wonders etc, it is necessary, if we turn to the brain or whatever, to suppose either that there isn't indeterminism down below in or around it, or that if there is, it doesn't translate upward to where it would count.
The historical doctrines of traditional Compatibilism and Incompatibilism about determinism and freedom have been falsified, demonstrably so. I claim a little old credit. Hume was wrong in taking our freedom as we understand it to be consistent with causation. Kant was wrong in taking our freedom as we understand it to be inconsistent with causation.
This is the case simply since in our conceiving, as distinct from fact, there is both incompatible freedom (origination, free will, lawless and unexplainable control and responsibility) and also compatible freedom (voluntariness -- choice and action according to desire, embraced desires, etc, and thus quite unfated). There is not one idea --which of course would have to be either inconsistent or not with something else.
There is a related but alternative true-enough story called Attitudinism.
The real problem of determinism has been that of accomodating ourselves to the frustration of certain attitudes -- at bottom certain desires, stuff of Affective Consciousness. We run up against a conviction owed to reflecting on our own past lives. That conviction is that an attitude akin to the one tied to Indeterminism, that way of holding yourself lawlessly morally responsible, has some or other basis despite the truth of determinism. We need to look for a radical escape here, get out of cart tracks that have never got anywhere, be nearly as brave as the daredevil interpreters of the mathematics of Quantum Theory, bu with our feet on earth, find a solution as radical here as Actualism is with the problem of perceptual consciousness. An escape from dismay and intransigence about our lives into affirmation.
More particularly, such astute students as Bob Kane of free will or origination or inexplicable responsibility have in fact allowed that in wanting it, we are in fact wanting something you can say is real, a certain human standing. We are wanting to be above nature or at least above the rest of nature.
We won't get this elevation, according to me, in more cogitation about funny powers, new randomness, God's gift, neuroscience having shown the mind is after the brain then turning out to show it's before it, or what is to me the absurd argument that for determinism there is no sense in which we are in control when we decide to cross the street because we aren't in control of a train of past causes. See Wikipedia. We need something that will have to be very different.
The Actualism theory of consciousness provides this uniquely, as well as truth to our irrepressible conviction of subjectivity -- as follows.
Each of us has the stages of a subjective physical world dependent on us as well as dependent on the objective physical world. To be rhetorical, each of us is a god, however petty. Still more seriously, really and absolutely seriously, each of us is lawful unity of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness that is also an individuality and a personal identity. That reality known to you, you could say lived in, and no inner entity, no such self, no spook, is the referent of your 'I', your use of the first-person pronoun.
Surely a case of a little concentrated thought about one's self doing the trick?
There is a morality to which we are all committed, by two things, the first being its accord with the fact of our Affective Consciousness. More particularly with the fact of the great goods of our lives, the objects of what I count as our six great desires. Which great goods issue in each of us making and being certain of a moral judgements about each of us as distinct from anyone else having them, a seeming moral personal necessity. I have a claim to food, to be able to sleep....
The second thing, which must cut against this self-interest, is our minimal rationality, just the fact of our having reasons, including moral reasons necessarily as general as any other reasons. So we are committed, despite our disregarding it, anyway most of us, to a certain morality of good consequences for all by our individual human nature. This is a kind of moral truth, the fundamental moral truth.
More fully, we all desire (1) the great good of going on existing, including a personal world going on longer. (2) We want a kind of existence that has to do with our bodies -- not to be in pain, etc. (3) We want particular freedoms and powers. We do not want to be coerced by various personal circumstances arranged by others, subjected to compulsion, bullied, unable to run our own lives, weakened. (4) We want goods of relationship to those around us, closer and wider relationship. (5) Also respect and self-respect. (6) And the goods of culture, starting with being able to read.. All of us want at least some of the latter cutural goods. Many of us want the practice and reassurance of a religion, or the custom of a people, or a homeland, a real rather than a pretended one.
A bad life is to be defined in terms of the deprivation of the six great goods.
The Principle of Humanity then is simply that the right or justified thing as distinct from others -- the right intention, action, practice, punishment, struggle, institution, government, body of law, society, or possible world -- is the one that according to the best judgement and information is the rational means in the sense of being effective and not self-defeating with respect to the end of getting and keeping people in general out of the bad lives -- in well-being instead.
Of course a consequentialism as against the veils and paint-jobs over and on self-concern in which most morality consists. And of course not the nonsense that the end justifies the means, by the way, but the truth that the end and the means justify the means.
To the Principle of Humanity are attached certain policies, several fundamental ones having to do with redistribution of the means to well-being, starting with redistribution from possessors who in fact would not be significantly affected by the transfers. Another having to do with the necessity of escape from restraining conventionality in expression, societally-based constraint against moral truth. Less academic 'balance', less parliamentary language, less moderateness, less respect, less of a lot more.
The Principle of Humanity preceded but is consonant with and takes some support from recent humanitarian causes including armed interventions and pretences of them. It is the principle of the Left in politics when the Left is true to itself. The principle is superior to a slurry of attitudes in politics, international relations and conflict. E.g. talk, cant, ideology etc of deserts, equality, legality, our oligarchic and not merely hierarchic democracy, free enterprise, OK omissions as against terrible acts with just the same effects, moniedness in our societies, spurious sectional freedoms, 'our values', loosenesses about 'the just war', political traditions such as conservatism, liberalism, economism, etc.
All that is a mess, part of our own lower form of life. It raises the question of what to do.
With respect to terrorism as tolerably defined, the moral law that is the Principle of Humanity issues explicitly and arguably, for just one example, in a moral right for the Palestinians in what is known as their terrorism against neo-Zionism as distinct from Zionism. It issues of course in such a right as is also unfailingly claimed inexplicitly but in effect exactly by neo-Zionism itself, entirely wrongly, in its terrorism against the Palestinians, in its taking of the last one fifth of the land or liberty of the indigenous people of Palestine. A terrorism arguably different, by the way, from that of Zionism itself in 1948.
The Principle of Humanity also condemns terrorist war, including our war on Iraq, and certainly the war criminals and mass murderers Blair and Bush. It is respectable in not respecting wretched little evasions. In eschewing the pretence of fact, even by courts, the Principle of Humanity condemns the ongoing ethnic cleansing of neo-Zionism and the attack on and invasion of Gaza in 2015 by its army, arguably terrorist war at least more to be condemned than any concerted action of Palestinians at any time.
With respect to Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq, what is necessary for us is not only to act against barbarism and primitivism but to keep in mind our own civilized recent killing of a million or so more people than the barbarians.
Such a proper orientation, rational moral insecurity, denial of self-sanctification, must issue in real negotiation, negotiation that will give up on things -- negotiation mindful of our Sykes-Picot self-interested drawing of lines in the sand after World War 1, and all our subsequent exploitation and toleration of exploitation of peoples, and our ideology and our realpolitik and our terrorist air war in destruction of the society of Libya, and letting refugees/migrants drown in the Mediterranean, children among them, getting only the attention of photographers.
Only an inane political class, notably in England the morally stupid leaders of the party called New Labour, joining into the affective consciousness of Conservatism only minimally cognitive, only those speechifying violators of the tradition of democratic socialism, and in America uneducated and perhaps ineducable and hence unawakened but dreaming members of the Democratic Party -- only these could pretend otherwise, that there is nothing to be said on and for the other side.
The few signal exceptions in politics at this moment are of course the English and American Corbyn and Sanders. There is some hope there.
12 February 2016