In almost any question, no matter how complex, there is an axis, hinge, fulcrum, upon and around which the entire question revolves. Discovering that point is often produced after concentrated immersion in the problem in all its facets, but the discovery itself is experienced as an intuitive flash…. what Zen Buddhists call “satori“. In their discipline they make use of riddles called “Koans” to trigger such insights.
Koan: a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment. Merriam-Webster
Here is a sample koan:
A monk asked Zhàozhōu, “Does a dog have Buddha nature or not?” Zhaozhou said, “Wú”.
Margaret Thatcher, of all people, once delivered herself of a koan, which, in my opinion, if meditated upon sufficiently, explains much of what we are living through today with the triumphant “Conservative Revolution” that she and Reagan led and also gives valuable insights in how to resist and perhaps even reverse that revolution.
Here is Maggie’s koan
“Who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families.” Margaret Thatcher – 1987
In my view, this “koan” encloses all the contradictions and even the agenda of the Thatcher/Reagan, Conservative Revolution, the political, social and economic wasteland that we inhabit today.
Let’s get into our lotus position and have a closer look at this thing, let us in the words of the immortal Spike Milligan, “scrutinize it with an intense scrute“.
First question, “who is society”?
a. The totality of social relationships among humans.b. A group of humans broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture.c. The institutions and culture of a distinct self-perpetuating group. The Free Dictionary
In other words: anyone who actively participates in the affairs of a community within the larger community, be it a church, mosque or temple, or someone who canvases for a political party or a charity… or simply anyone who takes the trouble to pick up a piece of litter, that he/she didn’t drop on the sidewalk and walks over to a public wastebasket and throws it away. That is society… Maggie said it doesn’t exist… If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
Who are the “individual men and women” that Lady Thatcher mentions?
Knowing her a little, I would think that she was referring to what I would now call “Piketty individuals”, one-percenters like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or the Koch brothers, people whose activities are constrained by little more than the laws of physics… I think Lady Thatcher would prefer that other, lesser, “individuals” be of the “Bowling Alone” variety; sitting by themselves on their soft sofas in a dark living room watching endless TV series, while eating popcorn and guzzling super-size, sugary drinks.
And the families?
Again, knowing her, I imagine that she was thinking of “Piketty” families:
The book argues that the world today is returning towards “patrimonial capitalism”, in which much of the economy is dominated by inherited wealth: Their power is increasing, creating an oligarchy. Piketty cites novels by Honoré de Balzac, Jane Austen and Henry James to describe the rigid class structure based on accumulated capital that existed in England and France in the early 1800s. Wikipedia
I certainly don’t imagine she was thinking about couples with a high school education both working 60 hour weeks, weekends included, at minimum wages, whose children are being raised by a TV set, going to sub-standard, tax-starved public schools and without medical care.
And strangely enough, this is where the sado-libertarian ideology that Thatcher-Reagan represent has exposed a vulnerable flank in its defenses… religious conservatives… yes the, “every sperm is sacred“, crowd. The new Pope has said that our economic system is “inhuman”, more anti-Thatcher than that is hard to imagine.
Respect for the person means not only guaranteeing their political and civil rights, the pope said, but also “offering each person the possibility of having effective access to the essential means of sustenance: food, water, shelter, health care, education and the possibility of forming and supporting a family.”(…) “There cannot be true peace and harmony if we do not work for a society that is more just and marked by solidarity, if we don’t overcome selfishness, individualism and special interests at every level,” he said. Catholic News Service
Maggie would turn in her grave reading the above.
With that in mind, the Christian pro-life movement should be pressed to define what sort of society would be “human” enough to allow families to bring endless children into it and more importantly, how such a society could be achieved.
Progressives should hold Christians’ feet to the fire on this question. “OK, agreed, so no more abortion, so no more contraceptives, then where is the tax money coming from to pay for the nurseries, the schools, the universities, the hospitals, etc for all these humans?” “Can a system organized like ours do all this and if not, how could it be organized to be ‘human’ or are you OK with a system that the Pope defines as inhuman?” The Ayn Rand crowd couldn’t care less about this, but certainly any person raised in the Abrahamic traditions would be discomfited by these questions.
In my opinion this is the “sound of one hand clapping” moment for progressives.
Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com.
Photo via US State Department