The greatest American liberty

The greatest American liberty is to be left alone to do and say as one pleases (ending at (just the) tip of the other’s nose).

You can call this religious liberty or freedom of speech or any other sociopolitical semantic construction you desire. What many of the conservatives in the room seem to be forgetting of late is that this live and let die policy demands that you don’t get upset by what you see if you insist on being a voyeur and spying on your neighbors.

Exponentially worse than the linguistic decision to allow literally (because of such rampant misuse) to also be defined as figuratively, is the application of law to enforce ‘religious’ liberty. Liberty is based on what one can be forced to do or kept from doing (or, rather, the absence of that force). It is not (in any way) based on what one can be asked to tolerate, to accept, to understand, to learn about, or to accept as fully human. Religious liberty (or liberty of any legally enforceable kind) is unrelated to what one may or may not agree with (despite deeply held beliefs). Otherwise my religious liberty invalidates your capitalism and willingness to destroy the planet.

Given that so many of those ‘deeply held beliefs’ are based on modern interpretations of ancient, translated writing  (mythologic, figurative, and often marked by extreme poetic license) the claim becomes even more tenuous. Social reality is based on consensual construction and shared meaning. Liberty is not, and cannot, be based on the attempt to force shared meaning, especially such culturally specific (in this case evangelical) meaning. The inability to accept that meaning is constructed or the inability to believe that history did not happen the way one wants to believe it did is not a basis upon which to insist that others blindly follow the path of ignorance. One is entitled, in America, to be ignorant and useless. One is not empowered to insist that the government protect that ignorance or force it upon others.

Concerning the drift: the separation of evangelicalism

At what point does American evangelicalism become recognized as a wholly separate religion, as different from early Christianity (even post-Nicean Roman Christianity) as early Christianity was from Second Temple Judaism?

Perhaps this is not a new idea, but here are some brief elaborations of the point as they have become prominent in current news trends:

  • “Traditional” identity politics
  • Young Earth creationism
  • Prosperity Theology
  • Biblical ‘literalism’
  • Millenarianism
  • Theocratic ambitions
  • Martial inclinations


It is not that there is not a certain basis for these teachings and practices within the Bible or the history of Christianity but rather their confluence that sets evangelicalism apart. The Bible maintains a number of “traditional” marriages that are not between one man and one woman (Abraham relationship with Hagar comes to mind, or, more pointedly, Jacob marrying sisters Leah and Rachel, or Solomon’s 700 wives plus the 300 concubines). Opposition to marriage equality is thus not based on Biblical tradition as such, but an interpretation thereof. Prosperity theology seems to directly contradict Biblical references to camels and needles or upsetting the moneylenders. Millenarianism and Young Earth creationism both stem from a certain literal interpretation of what historically been understood as figurative passages (in the books of Revelation and Genesis respectively). The martial inclinations and theocratic ambitions are not unique to modern evangelicals – the Holy Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Conquistadors provide some historical analogs. Of course those historical incidents have their own significant deviation from the red letters.

What seems relevant, then, is the efficacy or validity of such historical/theological appeals. If what qualifies as an abomination is selectively applied, if who qualifies as a neighbor is not universally extended, appeals to “God is Love” seem misplaced and may explain their ineffectiveness. Christianity broke from Judaism in, among other things, a selective application of scripture and law. Is this not a manifestation of the same?

This is idea is already given weight in the way that modern polls and surveys are conducted. Routinely, evangelicals are separated from Roman Catholics and “mainline/mainstream” Protestants. This is likely not even a devision that evangelicals would themselves protest (as it is a common enough belief that they are not of the same faith as Catholics). What would seem contentious about this claim, really, seems to boil down to a single issue – who retains the name “Christian”?

Powering Down: towards equalization

Knowledge only becomes power in the absence of power.


Power, as exercised through force be it violence, coercion, ideology, money, or influence, is not an exercise in ignorance, is not without knowledge. But the truism ‘knowledge is power’ is false so far as it concerns the pursuit of knowledge as such, knowledge in the form of science or philosophy or education for education’s sake (and not the sake of employment, etc.). Consider this: scientists overwhelmingly know that the globe is warming, that the climate is changing, that the oceans are acidifying, that more are more species are going extinct. This knowledge has not, in any real sense, given them the power to change policy to actually do something about it.

Knowledge should directly translate to power and thus education to empowerment but at present it does not. And changing an ‘ought’ to an ‘is’ is no small matter.

Instead, force is power. Force, like knowledge, is currently unequally distributed. Force, unlike knowledge, is not well suited to equal distribution. The solution is not to give everyone nuclear launch codes or even their own gun but instead to reduce the individual and collective capacity for violence across the board. And then to move from a power economy based on force to one more adapted to knowledge – a ‘commodity’ (not that I like to think of it as such) far more suited to equal distribution if efforts were made and resources made available (combined with a completely revised philosophy of education and its purpose).
As an interesting digression, one might be compelled to speculate as to whether human technological advancement has actually hindered our biological evolution. Technology, in a significant majority of contemporary cases, is created to solve social needs and problems created by previous technologies not biological needs. What biological purpose do guns serve? Certainly, as a ranged weapon, they extend the lethality of the human body in hunting and the pursuit of food. But the capacity of firearms to hunt actually exceeds the human need. It might be noted here that the current human population of earth is only supported through advancements in technology (agriculture, etc). But that begs the question of the current human population vs. overpopulation/the carrying capacity of the planet for human life. Is 7.2 billion sustainable? Or the projected 10? Sustainable for whom? For what? And in what sense? One might also question modern medicine. Certainly medical and hygienic advances have extended the length and raised the quality of human life. But much medical advancement has been in areas that industrialization, pollution, and technological advancement have directly caused.

What evolutionary benefit has technology offered vs what they have hindered? (“so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”)

I think it is fair to say that media are the extensions of man and we have become over-extended. Our reach has exceeded our (and the planet’s, and our fellow living creatures’) capacity to adapt. Our rate of (technologically enhanced) change is matched only by those species that have coevolved with us – maize, rats, toy dog breeds, superbugs. Perhaps future of the Anthopocene will be humans living in disinfected bio-enclosures (both terrestrial and orbiting) with our HFCS and miniature pugs while superbugs and rats enter an evolutionary arms race for who will dominate the hot sweltering open air.


This circles back to the original thought. Power as force and the capacity for force needs to be reduced and eliminated. The concept of political empowerment and enfranchisement should not focus on extending the individual and collective capacity for force to more and more people but on reducing that capacity overall. The capacity for annihilation should not be possessed, desired, or sought (“I suppose I could part with one doomsday device and still be feared.”). Moreover, incidental or accidental annihilation (antibiotics have created superbugs and carbon emissions are driving climate change) needs to be better understood and equally avoided. Through knowledge and the power that it would convey in the absence of force.

a brief thought on ethics and the inanimate/unhuman

My thoughts on justice revolve around juxtaposition: rights as justified by force vs. responsibilities demanded by ethics.

Rights are not innate or inherent. Whether basic rights, expanded rights, universal rights, they must all be backed by and maintained through force. Rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be taken away, can be limited. Thus justice based on rights can only be guaranteed by force. In the expansion of rights beyond the human (beyond the privileged human), it becomes easier to understand justice that is based on responsibilities instead. An animal cannot, at present in our society, insist on its ethical treatment alone but does so through advocates who demand a responsibility to animals. Similarly, we must accept a responsibility to our environment, the land, the oceans, the living, the inanimate.

This is not presently the case – consider the rare examples of shark attacks (#notallsharks) and the mass slaughter of sharks for their fins. Consider the human responsibility for changing the moleculelar make up of the atmosphere, the salinity and acidification of the oceans. This brings us into more complicated territory because, while the living creatures of the oceans, of the planet certainly care about such things as a habitable environment, can it be said that the ocean cares? Do mountain ranges have demands that need to be heard?

The question is not what rights and privileges do we have because we can force others to give them to us (human rights exist only in the mind if they are not backed up by threats of or actual violence and that is equally how they are threatened and removed). The question is what responsibilities do we have to the 10,000 things. Our responsibilities to the inanimate are difficult for me to articulate without becoming biocentric. This is because I am unable to think as the inanimate think (thinking already being the wrong word, words already being the wrong form of communication, communication already limiting understand, etc. etc.)

Yet even to begin down the process of responsibilities to the planet for the sake of the living is to begin heading in the right direction. Perhaps one day we will come to understand the will of the wind. Such a conversation would be awesome to behold.

Noise is a maxim that cannot be universalized.



Disruption for disruption’s sake? Could a politics truly be borne of this? It would seem that such a politics would be anarchy in the pejorative rather than political/philosophical sense. Childish even. What can a noise politics be then? Is it a move that must be restricted? Only certain individuals and groups can perform noise? But how is that different from any other power dynamic? Surely that is just disruptive in the sense of the capitalist/silicone valley buzzword bandwagoning. But what is a politics that cannot be universalized? It skirts Bateman’s Chaos Ethics, but does adhere to them? Is there a noise ethic? An ethics that denies/defies signal, sense, stability? What would such an ethics be? Or such a politics? Is it possible for a politics to be continually shifting? Would that allow for its nonuniversalizability? The fact that the vast majority do not have the time, energy, or initiative to maintain such a complicated, multifaceted politics? Would there be justification in that? Those who have the time and inclination towards noise may perform it? But that does not guarantee progressive moves. There can be regressive noise, fascist noise (Hitler’s damn loud speakers). Is that a risk worth taking? Understanding that disruption is neutral and not to be taken for granted? Perhaps.