Individualism

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Silvia

Senior Member
Italian
(I'm not sure if I'm able to explain what's on my mind clearly, but at least I'll try :))

In our present Western society, individualism comes first. The needs of someone as a person come first. It was not like that in the past, since there was no room left for such a concept. Most people could not have a clear idea about their own ego, especially because, in most cases, they were not recognised as persons.

I think that, nowadays, we are witnessing an excess in this respect and that also reflects in the language, somehow, as well as in other fields (justice, family, in any social context in general). This cultural trend is destined to grow more and more, even because mass media like to appeal to individualism for their own purposes (to push products etc.) and they surely play on it.

In short, if something is good for someone but can harm someone else, where do someone's rights begin and where do they end?

I would like to have everyone's opinion about individualism in one's native country.
 
  • Benjy

    Senior Member
    English - English
    i think the french summed it up pretty well....

    ma liberté s'arrete où commence celle des autres

    my freedom ends where everyone elses begins. clumsy translation i know :s society functions because we dont let people do things that harms others. lets say tomorrow i want to kill someone. i cant? why not? i want to... drug abuse/violence all sorts of things come into this but essentially a coherent society requires sacrifice on the part of those who wish to be a part of it. i sometimes wonder if we really realise how inter-dependant we are. im sitting on a chair that someone else built in a room that someone else buit in front of a pc that someone else made (well i did put it together) i have electricity because of a plant and human bbeings working in it miles away.. etc etc. we really ought to look out for each other a little more.

    ben
     

    Silvia

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you, Benjy. Actually I'm not interested in knowing your wishes :D as I assume we have more or less the same ones. I would like to know the actual situation in other kinds of societies different from the one I live in or I know of.
     

    Benjy

    Senior Member
    English - English
    silviap said:
    Thank you, Benjy. Actually I'm not interested in knowing your wishes :D as I assume we have more or less the same ones. I would like to know the actual situation in other kinds of societies different from the one I live in or I know of.
    so hurt! retracts opinion :p i guess i didn't read the question carefully enough ;)
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    if something is good for someone but can harm someone else
    I think this whole concept is absurd, because it comes from a flawed (not just "individualistic", but plain selfish) conception of what "good" is. Something really good (the notion I refer to here is a platonician one) cannot harm anybody else, it is impossible in essence.
    As Benjy said we are all interdependant and this is not a societal rule but a natural rule, as we are part of the ecosystem and not mere users or witnesses of it.
    The notion of intérêt général (general interest/common good) is central to survival. Frank Brunner writes about it far better than myself:
    http://www.interet-general.info/article.php3?id_article=7
    (this is a non-commercial website)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Egueule makes a key point:
    The notion of something being "good" for me while being harmful to others is properly defined as selfishness. Yes, Silvia, it is growing more common in my geographic and commercial and social environments.

    Here is an interesting 'aside' to show that it is a worldwide phenomena. Decades ago, people held religion in high esteem, even if they were not believers. A church was a respected social institution. Historically it was an important element in a society...which is, in large measure, the sublimation of self-interest for a broader common good. Today, people rob churches, and clergymen are often laughed at as hypocrites. The will of the individual has eroded a social institution, with a little help from the institutions themselves.

    Once, when people went to war, they respected women and children, or civilians in general. Today terrorists kill civilians every day, and think it is fine, because it serves their individual ideological passions. This is true in Europe, the Americas, Africa....It's an international celebration of the greed and selfishness of millions of
    me's, without regard to the we's.

    Cuchu
     

    Silvia

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Cuchu, I do appreciate your interesting explanation and I agree with what you said.

    Do you think it's a temporary phenomenon or is it likely to stay?

    To me, the self as the most important value is quite noxious. I wonder if it's the most important value everywhere nowadays.
     

    Silvia

    Senior Member
    Italian
    egueule, I've read the interesting article you suggested. It just considers general interest in a cosmic idea and at biological level, making us think that cause and effect work perfectly in a perfect world and perfect nature, not considering the massive consequences of human agency.

    The excessive value of the self can lead not only to decadence of mankind, but also to self-destruction, though I don't want to sound too catastrophic :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    silviap said:
    Cuchu, I do appreciate your interesting explanation and I agree with what you said.

    Do you think it's a temporary phenomenon or is it likely to stay?

    To me, the self as the most important value is quite noxious. I wonder if it's the most important value everywhere nowadays.
    Silvia,
    I don't know. People like to be with other people (except for misanthropes)
    and there will always be social pressure from groups to individuals to act in non-destructive ways. These forums are sometimes a good example of that, and at others they exemplify the idea of the individual acting without regard for the common good.

    Cuchu
     

    Silvia

    Senior Member
    Italian
    It's true, I thought such thread could have led to such a comparison, being this a microcommunity.

    I was thinking in other terms though, such as someone's happiness is someone else's sadness. Why is your happiness more important than this other person's happiness? I'm not sure this makes sense... Just an example: If you're going to separate from your wife because you think that you'll be happier without her and she's still in love with you, you put your own self first, uncaring of other people's needs. As I said, present society taught us that your happiness comes first anything else, thus the self is on top.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    silviap said:
    It's true, I thought such thread could have led to such a comparison, being this a microcommunity.

    I was thinking in other terms though, such as someone's happiness is someone else's sadness. Why is your happiness more important than this other person's happiness? I'm not sure this makes sense... Just an example: If you're going to separate from your wife because you think that you'll be happier without her and she's still in love with you, you put your own self first, uncaring of other people's needs. As I said, present society taught us that your happiness comes first anything else, thus the self is on top.
    The example you pose is a difficult one to address. In theory, should the wife's affection and desires to remain together outweigh the husband's real or perceived need for 'happiness'?

    I think we need a different example, less open to supposition and interpretation.
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    Thank you Silvia for this thread! I'm at odds with those pundits who believe that economic individualism and political individualism in the form of democracy have ceased to advance together. Anthropologically, I subscribe to the Homo Economicus theory. I think this conception of the human being fits well into a Marxist or capitalist framework (or anything in between or beyond them). Capitalism, that is more than an economic theory, has grabbed our imagination (with the only exception of Fidel, the only politician I trust, and I'm not kidding) in the design and construction of a more just and humane society. It emphasizes competition over cooperation, among other things. Its rugged individualism promises us, paradoxically, a better collective existence. The jury is still out on this one and a friend told me that they don't plan to come back with a veredict. In the meantime, this shared ideological framework across the West and the East is guiding our daily activities.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    silviap said:
    I know, I never claimed it was easy ;)
    Well, if you choose to pursue this particular example, we need to establish a more complete theoretical framework, prior to making judgements.

    Example:

    Spouse # 1:
    Unhappy, loves Spouse #2, but is unwilling to make accommodations or engage in compromise. Wants immediate gratification.

    Spouse #2
    Unhappy, because Spouse #1 is unhappy and wants to end relationship.
    Loves Spouse #1. Has yet to find ways to satisfy Spouse #1's need/desire for immediate gratification...perhaps because this is impossible for more than a few hours!

    Conjugal unit= dysfunctional

    Solutions: ????

    "selfish" (?) happiness for #1 is defined by departure, in search of some
    theoretical improvement in gratification, without regard to #2's interests

    "selfish" (?) happiness for #2 is to maintain the status quo, despite the unhappiness this causes #1

    In this scenario, both parties are selfish, or at best, unrealistic.
     

    Silvia

    Senior Member
    Italian
    vic_us, let me point out that the original idea of socialism/communism didn't put the self first. And no matter how hard someone might try, they would never convince me that individualism can ever lead us to a better collective existence.
     

    Benjy

    Senior Member
    English - English
    silviap said:
    vic_us, let me point out that the original idea of socialism/communism didn't put the self first. And no matter how hard someone might try, they would never convince me that individualism can ever lead us to a better collective existence.
    hmm.. i wouldn't be so hasty. almost every technological advancent in recent times was probably done by someone whose (at least partial) motivation was making ends meet. communism/socailism seems to kill that by saying it doesn't matter how hard you work you will never improve your social condition. it levels everyone off, usually down to the poverty line. its a great idea in theory.. but the truth is at the base, human beings are just too selfish for such a system to ever work, and so i'd have to agree capitalism, or self agrandissement is at the moment ensuring our "quality of life". I guess i had never looked at it from tht point of view...
     

    Douglas

    Senior Member
    USA ENGLISH
    silviap said:
    (I'm not sure if I'm able to explain what's on my mind clearly, but at least I'll try :))

    In our present Western society, individualism comes first. The needs of someone as a person come first. It was not like that in the past, since there was no room left for such a concept. Most people could not have a clear idea about their own ego, especially because, in most cases, they were not recognised as persons.

    I think that, nowadays, we are witnessing an excess in this respect and that also reflects in the language, somehow, as well as in other fields (justice, family, in any social context in general). This cultural trend is destined to grow more and more, even because mass media like to appeal to individualism for their own purposes (to push products etc.) and they surely play on it.

    In short, if something is good for someone but can harm someone else, where do someone's rights begin and where do they end?

    I would like to have everyone's opinion about individualism in one's native country.
    "Les chiens aboient et les caravanes passent." This is what I think whether individualism exists or not.

    Regards,

    Doug
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Now that the political theories are on the table...let's see where 'controlled' capitalism~socialism works best, at least in purely economic terms. In the countries with lots of natural resources, and some well developed industry. These are the same countries in which uncontrolled capitalism flourishes! Most poor countries remain poor, regardless of the ideology in force.
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    silviap said:
    vic_us, let me point out that the original idea of socialism/communism didn't put the self first. And no matter how hard someone might try, they would never convince me that individualism can ever lead us to a better collective existence.
    I have no problem with the individual or the collective. I have problems with individualistic and collectivist theories. They are reductionistic in nature. But how do you keep them in balance? I believe in a continuum between those two extremes and currently we are moving toward individualism. Globalization is the new theoretical construct that makes this trend sort of universal. People are buying into it across cultures. Humanity is always switching back and forth on ideas of society and social control that we believe will make things better for everyone or for a particular group (the latter is generally the case). Soon will be fighting another war to prove that our position is right and that the other folks are so wrong. We'll then start our march toward the other extreme.

    By the way, time will prove that Marxism isn't dead. It's just taking a well-deserved nap!
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    People are buying into it across cultures.
    Yeah what amazes me is how so-called individualism can be so uniform.
    I don't believe the self is the problem, rather competitiveness, indifference and what Guy Debord called the Spectacle.
    Phoneyness, pretense and emptiness.
    I believe in the self. I (as in my self addressing your selves) like original, individualistic people. Stop equating individualistic to selfish, they are not synonyms.
     

    Silvia

    Senior Member
    Italian
    egueule, here's the MW definition of individualism, WR definition (especially #2)

    Now, the MW definition of selfishness, as you can see the difference is subtle and inbetween the lines... selfishness implies a stronger bad connotation, but it's just in the choice of words to me.

    They both define the same thing, but the latter has a point of view with it.

    Forgive me for the following example, but I can't think of a better one right now: it's like saying American Indian and Redskin, they are synonyms, but the latter has a bad connotation to it.
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    silviap said:
    egueule, here's the MW definition of individualism, WR definition (especially #2)

    Now, the MW definition of selfishness, as you can see the difference is subtle and inbetween the lines... selfishness implies a stronger bad connotation, but it's just in the choice of words to me.

    They both define the same thing, but the latter has a point of view with it.

    Forgive me for the following example, but I can't think of a better one right now: it's like saying American Indian and Redskin, they are synonyms, but the latter has a bad connotation to it.
    I don't find the difference subtle at all. The "without regard for others" makes a world of difference. Our world.
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    Going back to the macrosociological approach. I believe that the capitalist countries of the First World have no moral authority to explain economic failures or successes of countries in the Third World.

    From a historical perspective, this is what happened. They first amassed as much wealth as they could by all means available, legal or illegal, ethical or unethical, who cared! Once they were sure they had gained such economic power and therefore political clout, they came up with this great concept of free market, and they set up the rules of the game. "All countries have to follow the sacred principles of the free market. There's only one exception to this rule. If we, the capitalist countries of the First World, feel that we are losing ground, we can manipulate the so-called laws of the free market until we regain power. But if you, the developing world, mess up with this perfect system, we'll make sure that you pay a high price." The United States, for instance, has used the CIA to induce political changes in countries that were veering to the left. The capitalist countries also have the World Bank and other financial institutions that work more in the open but have the same agenda: maintain the status quo or make sure that the rich countries they faithfully represent get richer at the expense of poorer countries.

    I like the illustration of the developed countries and the cake. "Now we are all in the business of baking cakes. By the way, 9 of 10 slices of each cake we bake in this world will be ours. You should be grateful that you got one slice, ok? Make sure you enjoy it because you're not getting any more cake. And if you break our balls we'll take everything away. So don't piss us off! Are we clear?"
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Interesting. What country does have the 'moral authority to explain economic failures or success..."? Who might grant that authority? According to which set of moral principals?

    We certainly agree that the capitalist countries of the so-called First World do not have it. The logic, however, begins and ends with itself. Tautologically speaking, the poorest of the so-called third world countries has no more, and no less authority.

    I totally disagree with the opening statements of your second paragraph.
    From a historical perspective, and not through the filter of the values of this year, countries acted more or less in accord with the legal and ethical values prevalent in the times in which they took certain actions. From today's perspective, many of those actions are reprehensible, but at the time they were not.

    Most ancient cultures were violent and rapacious towards their neighbors. From a revisionist perspective that makes them bad. Their actions were very much in keeping with the prevalent moral values of their respective times.

    The superimposition of a current set of moral values on a past culture may be useful in making us feel morally superior to our ancestors, or the ancestors of our current enemies, but it does nothing to help us gain insight to history, as it actually occurred, in its own time.

    Let's take the very blatant example of slavery. In the year, let us say,
    1750, it was widely practiced in the wealthier and in the poorer nations of the world. Both rich and poor accepted it as ethical, moral, and legal.
    We see it as a vile and immoral practice today. Does that make all nations that practiced it 250 years ago vile and immoral in their historical context?

    Morality evolves. Some aspects of it...the incest taboo for example, are more enduring than others. You may judge this moral evolution to be good or bad, fortunate or unfortunate, but no amount of revisionism will make it cease.





    vic_us said:
    Going back to the macrosociological approach. I believe that the capitalist countries of the First World have no moral authority to explain economic failures or successes of countries in the Third World.

    From a historical perspective, this is what happened. They first amassed as much wealth as they could by all means available, legal or illegal, ethical or unethical, who cared! Once they were sure they had gained such economic power and therefore political clout, they came up with this great concept of free market, and they set up the rules of the game. "All countries have to follow the sacred principles of the free market. There's only one exception to this rule. If we, the capitalist countries of the First World, feel that we are losing ground, we can manipulate the so-called laws of the free market until we regain power. But if you, the developing world, mess up with this perfect system, we'll make sure that you pay a high price." The United States, for instance, has used the CIA to induce political changes in countries that were veering to the left. The capitalist countries also have the World Bank and other financial institutions that work more in the open but have the same agenda: maintain the status quo or make sure that the rich countries they faithfully represent get richer at the expense of poorer countries.

    I like the illustration of the developed countries and the cake. "Now we are all in the business of baking cakes. By the way, 9 of 10 slices of each cake we bake in this world will be ours. You should be grateful that you got one slice, ok? Make sure you enjoy it because you're not getting any more cake. And if you break our balls we'll take everything away. So don't piss us off! Are we clear?"
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    So how far back in time can or should we go in order to have a relevant discussion about ethics and morality related to the actions of a country or a group of countries? 1 year, 10 years, 100 years?

    Let's talk about something very fresh as is the case of the invasion of Iraq by the US. Bush decides to invade Iraq arguing that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction and that it was imminent they would use them against the US. He argued that this preemptive attack had to happen in order to ensure the safety of the US. Then he came up with the need to sow the seed of democracy and all the other bullshit. The US invaded Iraq, a sovereign country, and killed thousands of innocent Iraqis in the process. Up to now, no WMD were found. We now know that the US needed an excuse not even a reason to proceed. The ultimate goal is now apparent: To establish a center of military and intelligence operations in the heart of Asia. That is the reason the US won't leave Iraq ever. The concerns about triggering a civil war if they leave are simply laughable.

    The interesting thing is that the discussion in the US has shifted from "why we got in" to "how we get out." We accept the invasion of Iraq as a historical fact that can't be reversed. Therefore, the discussion about the legality or illegality of this invasion in terms of international law is now considered irrelevant, pointless, and a waste of time.

    Bottom line? The US used its formidable militar power to gain militar and intelligence clout in a key region of the world. In order to reach its goal the US government lied to the entire world and to all US citizens and broke all international laws by striking preemptively against a sovereign country that didn't pose a imminent risk to its security. But because we can't change history, some argue that we should stop revisiting this issue and move on.

    Revisionism isn't about rewriting history or changing history. It's looking at the same historical facts from another perspective and giving it another meaning. It has to do with understanding that things are not the way they are by chance or destiny. It has to do with understanding that countries use their power to advance their agenda. Using an architectural metaphor, 49 floors need to be built in order to build your penthouse on the 50th floor. You might not want to remember how you accomplished the project (exploiting workers, bribing inspectors, etc. etc.) but that's another story.

    History can be looked at from the North or the South, the West or the East. The powerful countries of this world would like to convince us that there's only way of reading and interpreting history: theirs. Luckily, they can't use their miitary might to shovel this idea down our throat.

    (¡Qué manera de perder el tiempo escribiendo esto para que en el mejor de los casos 1 sola persona lo lea! ¡Con todas las cosas que tengo que hacer!)
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    (¡Qué manera de perder el tiempo escribiendo esto para que en el mejor de los casos 1 sola persona lo lea! ¡Con todas las cosas que tengo que hacer!)
    Well Vic I read what you wrote, found it interesting and relevant - and I am sure I won't be the only one.:) Even though we all have millions of other things to do also!
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    egueule said:
    Well Vic I read what you wrote, found it interesting and relevant - and I am sure I won't be the only one.:) Even though we all have millions of other things to do also!
    Ay egueule, ¡sos un ángel! (no se si sos una nena o un nene así que uso la palabra ángel porque dicen que los ángeles no tienen sexo):)
     

    beatrizg

    Senior Member
    Colombia, Spanish
    vic_us said:
    (?Qué manera de perder el tiempo escribiendo esto para que en el mejor de los casos 1 sola persona lo lea! ?Con todas las cosas que tengo que hacer!)
    Si sirve de algo, aqui en Grecia tambien estamos leyendo.
    Yo y otros de mi barrio.
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    beatrizg said:
    Si sirve de algo, aqui en Grecia tambien estamos leyendo.
    Yo y otros de mi barrio.
    Another angel to my rescue! But in this case I know that the angel is a girl and she's very pretty! :)
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    This is offtopic (but cultural, so...)
    Did you know that original "angels" were not represented as winged human beings, but as winged cattle? The word kerub means "ox" in Hebrew, the Jews having probably borrowed Egyptian deities.
     

    Neru

    Senior Member
    UK - Inglés
    vic_us said:
    Ay egueule, ¡sos un ángel! (no se si sos una nena o un nene así que uso la palabra ángel porque dicen que los ángeles no tienen sexo):)
    Pues yo no soy ningún ángel, simplemente otra persona que ha leído tu mensaje y que está de acuerdo con mucho de lo que has escrito.
    Saludos desde Inglaterra.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    How far back in time should we go? Well, for a start, why not go back a few hours, to when you posted this:


    Going back to the macrosociological approach. I believe that the capitalist countries of the First World have no moral authority to explain economic failures or successes of countries in the Third World.
    It was answered, and you have chosen to ignore the comments, which rebutted your initial premise. Thus you jump from the macrosociological approach [que altisonante la frase!] replete with asseverations about moral authority, the rights of nations to pass judgement, ethics, and the slicing of cakes, to mere current events. Why bother with the past when the present offers such a rich mine of tainted ore?

    Yes, let's have a relevant discussion about ethics and morality. Whose ethics? Whose morality? Who defines good and bad? What's the yardstick? International law sounds like a likely starting point...It was, after all, invented, and selectively (oh, so very selectively) enforced by the same powers you have so roundly condemned for their own absolute lack of moral standing.

    So let's see if I have understood... The bad guys created a self-serving set of rules and institutions..which we should disparage and mistrust and see right through, because they are just mechanisms to preserve or increase power and wealth. That sounds pretty plausible to me. I can even offer lots of examples to help support this line of thinking.

    But now, the bad guys are not acting in accord with the rules set by their own institutions! So, having been declared immoral for creating the institutions, and the institutions having been deemed fradulent and phoney...nothing but instuments of oppression and capitalist greed, we now take these self-same immoral institutions and use them and their edicts of right and wrong, legal and illegal, to batter the negligble morals of their own creators. Hah! circular reasoning at its most powerful.

    Leaving that puzzle in our wake, lets embark on the quest for truth again.
    But before we totally leave this preamble to gather dust, pray tell, who are the good guys? The ones with wealth and power are bad, so we have been instructed. Does it logically follow that poor nations such as the Sudan, or those with low per capita incomes such as Indonesia, are paragons of virtue? Or are they just poor, and in more than one instance barbaric?
    Wrong seems easy to define; we have our conscience and intuition to guide us...but what constitutes "right"?

    An average student of history, even one bereft of the requisite skills to spell macrosociopunditry, could probably cite dozens upon dozens of examples of poor nations, whose best known attributes are corruption both in government and economic affairs, often times with a brutal military in the mix. Have we got any "good" countries left, since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet before the onslaught of a poor, yet powerful force?

    The description of GWB and the Iraqi events stands well as stated.
    It would be interesting apply someone's moral and ethical yardsticks to the regime--note I didn't say sovereign nation, for that's a legalistic concept created by the bad guys for their own nefarious purposes--that ran that geography before it was commandeered by the Republican National Committe, or whoever is really in charge.
    Let's move along:
    We accept the invasion of Iraq as a historical fact that can't be reversed.
    True. It happened. The invasion happened. It is a historical fact...and no...not even the best revisionist historian can reverse it. All they can do is apply spin. Some spin in favor, and some spin against. Nonetheless, it happened, and 'can't be reversed'. We are in total accord on this point.

    Therefore, the discussion about the legality or illegality of this invasion in terms of international law is now considered irrelevant, pointless, and a waste of time.
    Oh really? I beg to differ. I think a discussion about the legality or lack of same is more than a little useful.
    I can't imagine why anyone would choose to declare it irrelevant, or pointless. But please, let's not try to apply the self-serving body of statutory articles created by the bad guys, of the bad guys, and for the bad guys. An ethical condemnation will do quite nicely, thank you.
    Governments of some very large, very rich, very powerful nations [they must be bad guys, right?] have condemned the invasion and occupation. So if even other bad guys don't care for the stench, it must be a pretty stinky matter.

    Lastly, for you, desocupado lector, must have far more important things to do, between piropazos, let us end on yet another point of solid agreement:
    understanding that countries use their power to advance their agenda.
    Given that countries [here one assumes that countries=regimes, governments, political and economic structures] are composed of individuals, and these do seem to have agendas, then it's rather natural to expect that they would use their respective powers in pursuit of such agendas.

    Yes, it's been a pleasure for me as well. Thanks.
    C-


    vic_us said:
    So how far back in time can or should we go in order to have a relevant discussion about ethics and morality related to the actions of a country or a group of countries? 1 year, 10 years, 100 years?

    Let's talk about something very fresh as is the case of the invasion of Iraq by the US. Bush decides to invade Iraq arguing that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction and that it was imminent they would use them against the US. He argued that this preemptive attack had to happen in order to ensure the safety of the US. Then he came up with the need to sow the seed of democracy and all the other bullshit. The US invaded Iraq, a sovereign country, and killed thousands of innocent Iraqis in the process. Up to now, no WMD were found. We now know that the US needed an excuse not even a reason to proceed. The ultimate goal is now apparent: To establish a center of military and intelligence operations in the heart of Asia. That is the reason the US won't leave Iraq ever. The concerns about triggering a civil war if they leave are simply laughable.

    The interesting thing is that the discussion in the US has shifted from "why we got in" to "how we get out." We accept the invasion of Iraq as a historical fact that can't be reversed. Therefore, the discussion about the legality or illegality of this invasion in terms of international law is now considered irrelevant, pointless, and a waste of time.

    Bottom line? The US used its formidable militar power to gain militar and intelligence clout in a key region of the world. In order to reach its goal the US government lied to the entire world and to all US citizens and broke all international laws by striking preemptively against a sovereign country that didn't pose a imminent risk to its security. But because we can't change history, some argue that we should stop revisiting this issue and move on.

    Revisionism isn't about rewriting history or changing history. It's looking at the same historical facts from another perspective and giving it another meaning. It has to do with understanding that things are not the way they are by chance or destiny. It has to do with understanding that countries use their power to advance their agenda. Using an architectural metaphor, 49 floors need to be built in order to build your penthouse on the 50th floor. You might not want to remember how you accomplished the project (exploiting workers, bribing inspectors, etc. etc.) but that's another story.

    History can be looked at from the North or the South, the West or the East. The powerful countries of this world would like to convince us that there's only way of reading and interpreting history: theirs. Luckily, they can't use their miitary might to shovel this idea down our throat.

    (¡Qué manera de perder el tiempo escribiendo esto para que en el mejor de los casos 1 sola persona lo lea! ¡Con todas las cosas que tengo que hacer!)
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    cuchuflete said:
    Interesting. What country does have the 'moral authority to explain economic failures or success..."? Who might grant that authority? According to which set of moral principals?

    We certainly agree that the capitalist countries of the so-called First World do not have it. The logic, however, begins and ends with itself. Tautologically speaking, the poorest of the so-called third world countries has no more, and no less authority.
    Actually I was responding to a previous statement you had made but I didn't want to make it personal because I've heard the same argument many times.

    cuchuflete said:
    Now that the political theories are on the table...let's see where 'controlled' capitalism~socialism works best, at least in purely economic terms. In the countries with lots of natural resources, and some well developed industry. These are the same countries in which uncontrolled capitalism flourishes! Most poor countries remain poor, regardless of the ideology in force.
    Actually I agree with your last statement. However, we might disagree in explaining why this happens. I don't think countries consciously choose to remain poor. I don't think either that their predicament can be explained by the fact that they might be lead by corrupt politicians. Countries don't exist in a vaccuum. There are part of a worldwide political and economic network. As I stated above, I believe that this network doesn't operate randomly. Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't see many drastic changes in the standings of countries in terms of wealth. The ones at the top remain at the top and the ones at the bottom remain at the bottom. What I actually see is that the gap between poor and rich countries is getting bigger and bigger.

    It's like the myth of the "self-made man." Many people believe that anyone in the US (the model of success for most countries) can rise from rags to riches. But if you happen to live in a society where racism, sexism, ageism, etc. are well and alive and, most importantly, that their ongoing and unchecked operation over a long period of time has yielded an accumulative structural effect, your chances to succeed are severely compromised. (You might have noticed that most of the pictures that appear on the cover of books that deal with successful people are of white males)

    This is why I believe in the notion of Affirmative Action. Although this policy was poorly designed and implemented, it has one great value: It has allowed us to understand that 300 years of slavery in the US have created an uneven field in terms of opportunities. White America has built its wealth drawing upon institutionalized slavery. Too many generations of black people were enslaved and provided White-owned industries with free labor for hundreds of years. The US eventually implemented Affirmative Action policies in different environments (education, business,etc.). But now white people are calling foul play and want this reverse discrimination to end! By the way, do people need to be reminded that Affirmative Action was enacted as recent as 1965! So apparently some folks believe that 40 years of attempts to level the field are more than enough, and that it's time to go back to business as usual.

    Well, I think that this example could be applied to the international arena. I'm not saying that Argentina, for instance, shouldn't be held accountable for bad management or political corruption. What I'm saying is that we need to zoom out and get the bigger picture. In the late seventies, many countries in Latin America became faithful followers of the neo-liberal movement. Through the eighties and nineties, countries like Argentina went to the extreme of adhering to the letter and not just to the spirit of the free market ideology. The consequences are apparent. Of course, the same economists who applauded what Cavallo and company were doing while things were going north (especially the money!) were the first ones to say that the problem wasn't the model in itself but its application when things started going south. How convenient, uh?

    Just for the record, I think that nothing will change. I don't expect any voluntary redistribution of wealth by the richest countries in the world or even a slight change in the power structure that will level the field. Apparently some of us are so religious that we don't want to contradict the Lord when he said, "You will always have the poor among you."
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    vic_us said:
    I don't think countries consciously choose to remain poor. I don't think either that their predicament can be explained by the fact that they might be lead by corrupt politicians.
    We agree fully on that point, and on the rest of your paragraph. Where we may not fully agree, however, is on the importance of local politicians and economic powers in screwing up an economy. Please note that I am not talking about corruption, but ineptitude.

    A salient example is Argentina. In the early part of the last century it had one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world. It was, in that time period, a First World country. That was true not only in economic terms, but in regard to literacy, and culture in general. What followed has been tragic.

    Two years ago, an Argentine friend wrote me a lengthy diatribe, blaming the collapse of the local economy on a plot by the CIA. Now that the economy is rebounding somewhat, she chooses not to attribute the growth to the same sinister force. Today, her attention is directed to the 'Brazilian threat'.

    Speaking of Brazil, it's one of the very few poor nations which has become a major international economic force. Despite the horrible income distribution disparities it suffers, as a totality, it is headed towards First World status. This may be one of the very few exceptions that helps prove your proposed 'rule' of the status quo persisting.

    Well, I think that this example could be applied to the international arena. I'm not saying that Argentina, for instance, shouldn't be held accountable for bad management or political corruption. What I'm saying is that we need to zoom out and get the bigger picture. In the late seventies, many countries in Latin America became faithful followers of the neo-liberal movement. Through the eighties and nineties, countries like Argentina went to the extreme of adhering to the letter and not just to the spirit of the free market ideology. The consequences are apparent. Of course, the same economists who applauded what Cavallo and company were doing while things were going north (especially the money!) were the first ones to say that the problem wasn't the model in itself but its application when things started going south. How convenient, uh?
    I agree with the general thrust of your remarks, but you paint with a very broad brush. The so-called 'neo' policies worked well for a long time in Chile. They did so because they reduced inept governmental medling in the economy---most generals are not very good at economic management!
    Domingo Cavallo and his monetary and fiscal policies rescued Argentina from a seemingly endless inflationary spiral. That was good, but insufficient to correct all the rest of what was going on, both at the federal and provincial level.

    I think you may want to check your data for capital flight during Cavallo's term...In fact, there were major capital inflows once inflation came under control. As to how much of that capital belonged to local citizens, and which way their money went, we can only speculate. But if international investors were putting money into Argentina, and local citizens were shipping theirs abroad, please don't blame any international conspiracy for the latter!

    A final thought...at least some economic thinkers in the First World see tremendous benefit in helping third world countries to become, first, self-sufficient, and second, wealthy. Why? Because, in typical intelligent humanly self-interested fashion, they see the growth of potential markets!
    If the poor countries remain poor, or grow more so, how will they buy goods and services from the well-to-do nations? Might there be just a touch of mutual self-interest available?

    saludos,
    Cuchu
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    Wasn't this thread about individualism? I think we completely lost our focus! I wanted to answer other things you said but this cut and paste is driving nuts so I'll only deal with your last message.

    cuchuflete said:
    We agree fully on that point, and on the rest of your paragraph. Where we may not fully agree, however, is on the importance of local politicians and economic powers in screwing up an economy. Please note that I am not talking about corruption, but ineptitude.
    Yes, you need two to tango: the international financial corporations and the local finance officials, who curiously had, have or will eventually have intimate ties with the same international financial corporations. Public officials who develop and implement economic policy in our developing countries are either technocrats trained in Chicago or Harvard or belong to an aristocratic family. One of the most notorious and nefarious finance ministers Argentina had during the 70's was Alfredo Martinez de Hoz, a member of Buenos Aires' high society.

    cuchuflete said:
    A salient example is Argentina. In the early part of the last century it had one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world. It was, in that time period, a First World country. That was true not only in economic terms, but in regard to literacy, and culture in general. What followed has been tragic.

    Two years ago, an Argentine friend wrote me a lengthy diatribe, blaming the collapse of the local economy on a plot by the CIA. Now that the economy is rebounding somewhat, she chooses not to attribute the growth to the same sinister force. Today, her attention is directed to the 'Brazilian threat'.
    Do you know why Argentina's economy is rebounding? Because we defaulted on our loan!Three years ago Argentina defaulted to private lenders and underwent a drastic currency devaluation. Now we are on the verge of making a deal to swap $81.8 billion in outstanding debt for $41.8 billion in new debt. So next time you are about to complain about your credit card debt, think of us, ok?

    cuchuflete said:
    Speaking of Brazil, it's one of the very few poor nations which has become a major international economic force. Despite the horrible income distribution disparities it suffers, as a totality, it is headed towards First World status. This may be one of the very few exceptions that helps prove your proposed 'rule' of the status quo persisting.
    We also had a president whose name was Carlitos Menem who stated that Argentina already belonged to the First World. Next thing, we went bankrupt! The First World is like an exclusive country club. On the one hand, they tell you that if you do this and that you'll be become a full member. So people in our countries watch American TV series and movies, and dream about reaching that lifestyle. What the board of directors of the country club fail to tell you is that they are not accepting new membership applications! The dangling carrot trick stopped working, my dear! People in the developing world are just asking for one simple thing: "We are dying from hunger! Just let us eat out of your garbage cans!"

    cuchuflete said:
    I agree with the general thrust of your remarks, but you paint with a very broad brush. The so-called 'neo' policies worked well for a long time in Chile. They did so because they reduced inept governmental medling in the economy---most generals are not very good at economic management!
    Domingo Cavallo and his monetary and fiscal policies rescued Argentina from a seemingly endless inflationary spiral. That was good, but insufficient to correct all the rest of what was going on, both at the federal and provincial level.
    Ah, voodoo economics! While things were going fine, the IMF and the World Bank had PowerPoint presentations on the so-called Argentine miracle. They would show them everywhere, and especially to other developing countries. "If Argentina could pull this miracle, you can too! Just follow our directions!" The exact same things you just said appear on the brand new PowerPoint presentations developed by the IMF and the World Bank. It seems that the old presentations have been lost. They allege that a virus destroyed the documents. ¡Pero qué lástima! ¿no?

    cuchuflete said:
    I think you may want to check your data for capital flight during Cavallo's term...In fact, there were major capital inflows once inflation came under control. As to how much of that capital belonged to local citizens, and which way their money went, we can only speculate. But if international investors were putting money into Argentina, and local citizens were shipping theirs abroad, please don't blame any international conspiracy for the latter!

    A final thought...at least some economic thinkers in the First World see tremendous benefit in helping third world countries to become, first, self-sufficient, and second, wealthy. Why? Because, in typical intelligent humanly self-interested fashion, they see the growth of potential markets!
    If the poor countries remain poor, or grow more so, how will they buy goods and services from the well-to-do nations? Might there be just a touch of mutual self-interest available?
    Capitals have no conscience or heart! They just want the largest return on their investment. Some countries are paying their debts at the expense of the well-being of their citizens. They are paying usurious interest rates. The future of several generations has been mortgaged. ¡Suerte puta que le dicen!
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    vic_us said:
    Wasn't this thread about individualism? I think we completely lost our focus!
    It still is about individualism, in an indirect way. We have detoured through morality, ethics, international conspiracies, and a few other canyons and caverns, but the underlying thread is that of human motivation and behaviour, at both the individual and collective level.

    Do you know why Argentina's economy is rebounding? Because we defaulted on our loan!Three years ago Argentina defaulted to private lenders and underwent a drastic currency devaluation. Now we are on the verge of making a deal to swap $81.8 billion in outstanding debt for $41.8 billion in new debt. So next time you are about to complain about your credit card debt, think of us, ok?
    Yes, I read the economic press. And I think a little bit about, among other things, a nation that borrows to such an extent that it cannot afford both debt service and food. That tells me that there is a thirst for political power in the nation, more or less equal to the egotistism and lust for power among bankers who make the loans. It's not a pretty picture of humanity in either the borrowing or lending nations. And, most important, it doesn't work! Eventually there is a crash or default, and the people of the borrowing nation suffer, as do the taxpayers of the lender natioins, whose governments always seem to bail out the banks.

    Ah, voodoo economics! While things were going fine, the IMF and the World Bank had PowerPoint presentations on the so-called Argentine miracle. They would show them everywhere, and especially to other developing countries. "If Argentina could pull this miracle, you can too! Just follow our directions!" The exact same things you just said appear on the brand new PowerPoint presentations developed by the IMF and the World Bank. It seems that the old presentations have been lost. They allege that a virus destroyed the documents. ¡Pero qué lástima! ¿no?

    Your diatribe against the world bank and IMF and lost presentations make for good diversions. Here's a fact. Chile enjoyed substantial and sustained prosperity by going to free market economics. The entire structure of the economy was changed, for the better, and the Chilean people continue to benefit from those changes. The military stopped trying to control the economy...which they had screwed up totally.
    Videla and his crew of thugs, in addition to their atrocities against the people, ruined the economy. I worked in Argentina in 1976, and people were buying bricks and boards with every spare coin they had, because inflation was so high that they had no hope keeping money in any financial instrument. Cavallo did stop that inflation. You cannot re-write that part
    of history, no matter how convenient it is to your arguments to ignore it, forget it, or distort it by shifting the focus to things that happened years later, under a different regime.

    Sometimes it's useful to look really hard at the facts before formulating an ideological posture, rather than first adopting the ideology, and then selecting the facts that best support the rhetoric, and leaving the others aside, as if they did not exist. There is more than one way to 'lose a presentation'.

    Capitals have no conscience or heart! They just want the largest return on their investment.
    Absolutely correct! If you don't care for that rather obvious fact, please offer an alternative that does not require a totalitarian regime to implement it. Would you care to move to Cuba?

    Some countries are paying their debts at the expense of the well-being of their citizens.
    Again, you are absolutely correct.

    This statement is neither instructive nor useful without the history of the borrowing. It's a bellowed lament that tries to imply that the lenders are at fault.

    Who did the borrowing that causes the onerous debt service costs? Why did they do it? Why not ask a few Argentine provincial governors? Or, while you're at it, ask the past and present governors of California. The patterns have much in common.


    They are paying usurious interest rates. The future of several generations has been mortgaged.
    "usurious" is sure to raise the emotional level of the listener. Were the contracted rates usurious at the time of the loan? Who agreed to the terms? When you lend to someone with a lousy credit history, do you charge the same rate you require of your most reliable borrower? If you do, you will be a bankrupt lender very quickly. This isn't ideology or philosophy or ethics or morality or law. It's arithmetic!

    To rebut or dispute facts and logic with contrasting facts and logic is one thing. To debate against emotional accusations and unsubstantiated claims is quite another.

    When things go badly in a nation, it's common for those in power to try to divert attention by starting a war they think they can win. But then the facts come inconveniently into play, and the Almirante Belgrano goes down into the cold waters of the Atlantic. So it is with arguments about economics. One may appear to 'win' at first, by demonizing the enemy with shouts of 'usurious interest rates', 'mortgaging the future of a nation',
    and on and on and on. Such yelling about injustice is always made from the moral high ground on which the aggrieved habitually make camp.

    Reality doesn't take sides in political arguments.
    It cares not what labels partisan speech applies. And it doesn't go away.

    saludos,
    Cuchu
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    I'm going to be away for a couple of days but I'm looking forward to respondind to several things you said. But I want to at least shortly reflect on one thing you said, a very important thing that would explain why you and I are going to continue arguing and counterarguing ad finitum...

    cuchuflete said:
    Reality doesn't take sides in political arguments.
    It cares not what labels partisan speech applies. And it doesn't go away.saludos,
    Cuchu
    Reality isn't discovered; it's constructed. This is one of the tenets of social constructivism. Reality doesn't take sides in political arguments. Why? Because it can't. It's our political arguments, that is our political "stories" or constructions of reality, the ones that take sides. However, it would be nice if an objective reality existed so I could end this conversation (please note that I'm not chatting, ¡Dios nos libre y guarde!) by shoveling it down your throat!:) I know, I know... You'll keep trying!
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    vic_us said:
    I'm going to be away for a couple of days but I'm looking forward to respondind to several things you said.:) I know, I know... You'll keep trying!
    Have a fine trip to wherever. I too, am leaving for a few days. I look forward to resuming the discussion when we both return. It's fun.

    I'll keep trying...for sure...I'll pester you until you finally address--directly for a change--any of the points I make. I ask you to define your moral yardstick, and you reply by raising seventeen other issues. I may need a team of basset hounds to find the original point of debate!!

    Your skills as a debater are very good. I say this seriously. Here I am, armed with nothing but a few little facts, and you are rallying the crowds with rhetorical flourishes!

    The amusing thing in this, Vic, is that we agree fundamentally on most of the points you make.

    saludos,
    Cuchu
    Department of anti-neorevisionisthighfallutinbalderdash, S.A.R.L.
     

    beatrizg

    Senior Member
    Colombia, Spanish
    Para los fieles seguidores de este thread la discusion ha sido hasta el momento fascinante. Estaremos esperando su regreso.
    Lamento que no haya una voz colombiana que pueda debatir sobre politica internacional/politica antidrogas.
    Buen viaje queridos Vic y Cuchu.
    Buen descanso.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    beatrizg said:
    Para los fieles seguidores de este thread la discusion ha sido hasta el momento fascinante. Estaremos esperando su regreso.
    Lamento que no haya una voz colombiana que pueda debatir sobre politica internacional/politica antidrogas.
    Buen viaje queridos Vic y Cuchu.
    Buen descanso.
    Estimada Beatriz,
    Eres Colombiana y tienes voz.
    y sesos:)
    abrazos,
    Qxu
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    Allow me to digress for a moment. I just came across this wonderful cartoon that perfectly illustrates the notion of retrospective interpretation. It has been defined as a form of reconstitution of individual character or identity. You sort of redefine a person's image within a particular social stereotype, category or group. I think that the layman explanation would be that in our daily conversations we assume that the other person doesn't have access to our unspoken thoughts. According to this theory, we convey those innermost thoughts through body language and nonverbal gestures. Why do I bring this up? (Do we always have to explain our motives?) There's no retrospective interpretation in this medium but somehow we can reach the same conclusions! I think we are a bunch of gifted peopel!

    PS: If the attachment doesn't work, I won't give it another try.

    GRACIAS BENJY! You don't need to unzip the document. Just scroll down a couple of posts and you'll find it.
     

    Attachments

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    Hi, if anyone was able to open the attachment and knows how to cut and paste the cartoon without unzipping it, I would appreciate the help. I can't even open it to see if it worked!
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    I tried, I failed, I got frustrated, and I ended up feeling like one of the guys in the cartoon (yes, that one!)... Please do it for me!
     

    Lancel0t

    Senior Member
    Philippines - Filipino/English
    vic_us said:
    (¡Qué manera de perder el tiempo escribiendo esto para que en el mejor de los casos 1 sola persona lo lea! ¡Con todas las cosas que tengo que hacer!)
    - I read your post and I completely agree with it. Sad to say that those things don't only happen in a certain part of the globe rather than it is happening everywhere. :(
     

    vic_us

    Banned
    Argentina-Spanish
    Cuchu: I also enjoy debating with you. Actually, if you were a woman and a bit prettier (in that order), I would consider asking you out on a date. ;) But let's get serious and talk about one of your favorite Latin American countries: Chile.

    cuchuflete said:
    Your diatribe against the world bank and IMF and lost presentations make for good diversions. Here's a fact. Chile enjoyed substantial and sustained prosperity by going to free market economics. The entire structure of the economy was changed, for the better, and the Chilean people continue to benefit from those changes. The military stopped trying to control the economy...which they had screwed up totally.
    First, let's set the record right. It was a military government and not a democratically-elected one that in 1973 instituted free markets in Chile. There's an interesting article written in 1982 by someone who also adheres to free market economics and makes that point.

    http://www.fee.org/vnews.php?nid=1141

    The introductory paragraphs of this article are telling because they describe the conundrum of achieving economic freedom at the expense of political freedom. You can find some cases of benign despots in the books of history. But this is not the case of Pinocho. During his 17-year military reign, he oversaw the killing of at least 3,000 Chileans. More than 30,000 Chileans have testified that they were tortured or detained by the military government. Ah, let's not forget either that the bloody military coup that brought him to power was backed and financed by the CIA. (It's interesting to note that 30 years later the US continues to use the same undemocratic methods to sow the seed of democracy with a slight difference: they ditched the secrecy)

    But who cares about this minutiae! As you and many other say, "Chile enjoyed substantial and sustained prosperity by going to free market economics. Aren't they better off now than with Allende? Don't they currently have a democratic government? Yes, we all know that people died, people were tortured, many disappeared. Well, what can I say? Shit happens in Chile and elsewhere! You can't change the past. So stop whinning you Marxist bastard and move on before something similar happens to you!" So, I'll move on to my second point.

    Second, we are all equal but some of us are more equal than others. How many Latin American countries besides Chile have a free trade agreement with the US? As The Beatles would say, much can be accomplished with a little help from your friends!

    Third, Chile wasn't the only country that embraced free market economics. Does that mean that they were the only ones that had apt and incorrupt politicians? Does that explain Chile's apparent success? When it comes to capitalist recipes, First World countries love success stories but hate failure stories. I think we need to patiently compare the stories of all the countries that embraced this economic ideology during the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's and understand what went right and what went wrong, and why. To select one success story at the expense of the other disastrous stories, and to place squarely the blame on inept leadership is not enough. Let's look at all the variables. Just for the record, I would rather have the First World identify corruption as the cause of our predicament than ineptitude. There's no dignity in being a moron!

    Fourth, and what I'm going to say might sound or actually be irrational. I'm also aware that I'll be stepping on people's toes. You, and many pundits, want us to look up to Chile as a model of success in implementing free market economics. In many discussions this request has come up. Well, some Argentines might have problems with this. During the Malvinas War, the Chilean government (and I didn't see our brothers and sisters who live on the other side of the Andes take to the streets to protest), betrayed us big time by siding with the Brits. Many young people died in this stupid war. Don't get me wrong: I blame our enlightened military leadership for this fiasco. ¡Son una manga de hijos de puta! But when something like this happens, you appreciate any support you get from others. We all remember when Lady Thatcher thanked her old friend Pinocho for being an ally during the Malvinas War and for "bringing democracy to Chile." (sic) "I know how much we owed to you for your help," she said. "The information you gave us, communications, and also the refuge you gave to any of our armed forces who were able, if they were shipwrecked, to make their way to Chile." The wounds have started to heal but some are still open and infected. Sometimes I think I moved on but there's a low-key deep-seated feeling that won't go away. As I said before, this might be irrational. I also know that we shouldn't allow feelings to interfere with fine and objective reasoning, especially in this forum! But as you might have already noticed, I do it all the time! Second nature they call it...
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    . I also know that we shouldn't allow feelings to interfere with fine and objective reasoning, especially in this forum! But as you might have already noticed, I do it all the time! Second nature they call it...
    :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

    P.s. Cuchuflete and Vic, you are having the most interesting conversation. What a shame none of this is really about individualism any more... or is it?
     
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