Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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Screwing With The Source Code

I don’t want to be a philosopher.

For one thing, I have no chance at succeeding at it, and for another, it takes away from my pursuing other intellectual interests – like reading American history.

Yet it seems that this is what is required to defend things that should not need defending. Things that should be obvious, baseline givens in daily life, are now being questioned.

The things to which I refer are the principles and shared understandings upon which society stands.

It is not a bad thing to understand something fully. However, no one has the time or intellectual capacity to fully understand everything. For instance, there are an awful lot of people who do not understand the functioning principles of an internal combustion engine, hydraulic brake system, the engineering that went to the production of radial tires, or even how to go about changing a tire, let alone rebuild an engine. Yet, these people can and do drive cars and derive immense benefit from being able to quickly and safely transport themselves from point A to point B.

Imagine if, before one could drive, mastery of all of these technologies and more, were first required.

In my professional life (no, WWTFT doesn’t pay anything!), I am a computer guy. In computer science, like any science, we build on the work done by others. There are numerous libraries of code, some specialized and some “standard” that have stood the test of time, and allow programmers to rapidly build new systems using tried and true components. This is true all the way down to the base assembly language routines upon which everything rests.

To be sure, understanding the principles of moving bits between registers, and arcana like AND, NAND, OR, NOR, XOR at the microcode level, can be fun and fulfilling, and possibly make one a better programmer, but there are an awful lot of programmers out there who don’t worry about such things. They take it on faith that the years of experience and practice that Intel put into their chip designs, will work in expected ways, time after time. At the next level up, the C programmer doesn’t worry that strcmp is going to behave differently today than it did yesterday. Higher up the scale the Java programmer doesn’t have to worry about allocating and freeing up computer memory, because that language is written at a level up from that of C. The Python programmer gets a whole host of built in functions and utilities that allow him to achieve in a few lines of code, what would require pages of logic in C. Here is a simple example. Below is the code to convert a sequence of words into uppercase, using C.

 int main()
     int i = 0;
     char c;
     char str[] = “What Would The Founders Think?”;
       putchar (toupper(str[i]));

Here it is in Python:

“What Would The Founders Think?”.upper()

In the first example, every character in every word is individually examined and converted to upper case. In the second, it isn’t even necessary to make a variable for the string of characters. Python can just operate on it using the upper() method of the implicit character string. Behind the scenes, though, the same sort of operation is taking place.

It is questionable whether it is even possible to write a modern application without relying upon the work of countless other people. It’s certainly not practical, economical, or prudent.

Now think about the hipster sitting in Starbucks, happily ensconced in front of his MacBook Air, and what level of baseline computer science knowledge he has. And so it goes.

It all boils down to what one can safely believe in and trust. This is as true for morality and principle as it is in any scientific discipline.

Not every ancient was a philosopher, just like not every Macbook Air user is a computer scientist. Some people are interested in delving into the why of things which, thankfully, are perfectly obvious. But delving into deep philosophical questions isn’t for everyone, just as fully understanding the biological ramifications of Adenosine Triphosphate isn’t necessary to enjoy a steak (I’ll have mine medium rare).

It is one thing to develop an interest in the why of things, and another to start disassembling things without having undergone the rigor involved to achieve that understanding. Fortunately there aren’t a lot of people who decide to take up brain surgery as a part time hobby to be enjoyed in their garage, with the neighbor’s children.

Yet, this is precisely what is happening to society. Core building blocks of society are being disassembled, rewritten and redefined, all without the slightest thought to the ramifications and consequences of doing so.

It used to be that one did not have to question biology. It is pretty evident that human beings are produced by males and females. Homosexuality is not a biological strategy for the continuation of the species. Seems pretty obvious.

Similarly, it has been shown, for centuries upon centuries, and even proven in recent sociological studies, that a traditional family provides the best mechanism for producing successful, well-adjusted, and productive members of society. Again, our parents and grandparents did not need sociological research to confirm this.

Yet, there is a movement to redefine terms like family and marriage, to mean things that are decidedly not what they have traditionally meant.

Again, it is not a bad thing to understand the core of things, but it does take time and impedes progress if one constantly has to re-invent the wheel. Imagine if you had to engage in a dissertation about why the internal combustion engine works to prevent it being summarily ripped from your vehicle and supplanted with a hamster wheel.

This is precisely the position in which believers in traditional societal values find themselves.

It’s ludicrous and disastrous for society.

It isn’t bad enough that traditional values are under attack. It is not a matter of live and let live. It is no longer an option to hold on to traditional and religiously founded beliefs. One must conform or be labeled a bigot, denier, xenophobe, neanderthal, homophobe, racist, or be told to “check one’s privilege.” The choice of how to live one’s life and of what to believe is being removed in favor of what the new arbiters say is the right path. The same people that argue against traditional beliefs as antiquated and out-dated, hypocritically say they are the the “right side of history!”

Robert P. George explains in his book, Conscience and Its Enemies,

There is, in my opinion, — no chance — of persuading champions of sexual liberation (and it should be clear by now that this is the cause they serve) that they should respect, or permit the law to respect, the conscience rights of those with whom they disagree. Look at it from their point of view. Why should we permit “full equality” to be trumped by bigotry? Why should we respect religions and religious institutions that are “incubators of homophobia?” Bigotry, religiously based or not, must be smashed and eradicated. The law should not give it recognitions or lend it any standing or dignity.

Conversely, George points out that protecting traditional marriage is not about criminalizing anything or fostering the hate intrinsic to those on the other side of the question.

Just as compassion for same-sex-attracted people does not require redefining marriage, neither does preserving the conjugal view mean making them scapegoats for its erosion. It certainly isn’t about legalizing (or criminalizing) anything. In all fifty of the United States two men or women can have a wedding (if they happen to believe in same-sex marriage) and share a domestic life. Their employers and religious communities care legally free to recognize their unions. At issue here is whether governments will effectively coerce many other actors in the public square to do the same. And also at issue is whether government will expand. Robust support for marital norms serves children, spouses, and hence our whole economy, especially the poor. Family breakdown thrusts the state into roles for which it is ill-suited: parent and discipliner to the orphaned and neglected, and arbiter of disputes over custody and paternity.

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us spending time defending things that should not require defending. Here are some other examples of things we shouldn’t have to argue about:

  • A human being is entitled to defend himself, his family, and his property.
  • A human being is entitled to choose how and what to worship.
  • The purpose of good government is ensure that those rights are protected.
  • A country, like the people in it, is entitled to protect itself and its citizens.
  • A country is entitled to secure its borders.
  • A country is entitled to make its own laws and prevent other countries from subjecting its citizens, within its borders, to their laws.
  • Sound like common sense? It should. But to an increasing number of people, all of these things are in question.

I don’t want to be a philosopher and neither do most people. I have no desire to write assembly language code merely to prove to someone their Apple MacBook Air runs because of it. Thankfully I don’t have to go back 25 years and dig out my X86 Assembly book. But, I now have to argue and defend what everyone should already know by default. Sigh.


1 Jeff Edelman { 11.24.14 at 9:18 pm }

In the end it won’t matter what these people say or do. It won’t matter what their intentions, or their motives or their faults are or were. It won’t matter that they had the loudest, most powerful voices — media, judges, politicians, professors, even preachers. The end, where all of time will funnel down to an infinitesimal, finite point, there will be what matters. The Law. The law as it has always been. True. Pure. Unchanging. Uninfluenced. It does and it will rule, and for most it will be cruel.


2 Curtice Mang { 12.13.14 at 4:17 pm }


From top to bottom, this is excellent! For not wanting to be a philosopher, you did a pretty darn good job.


Martin Reply:

Thanks Curtice. You are too kind.


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