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An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 180 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.
Which is Worse: War or "Everything Else"?
An Integrated Perspective
For Pollitt, and for me, Ron Paul is a “blighted tree” with a few cherries.
In my recent Integral World political articles I have discussed what I refer to as an “integrated perspective” to consider political issues that have no easy answer, such as how to most effectively deal with one's dissatisfaction with Obama without helping a Republican alternative that one may feel is an even worse option (see for example my Integral World articles Challenging Obama in the Primaries (Benjamin, 2011a) and Humanistic Psychology, Progressive Politics, and the “Occupations” (Benjamin, 2011b)). In the present article I continue along this same “integrated” theme, with a focus upon what a number of Progressives advocate as a better alternative than Obama—namely Ron Paul.
However, the bottom line for me is the weighing of Paul's opposition to war against the extremes of his Libertarian philosophy that would result in massive government domestic cuts to a great many human service programs. To decide upon a course of action in this dilemma, admittedly a purely philosophical one as there is virtually no chance that Paul will be the Republican presidential candidate, requires a perspective that sees things as they are on both sides of the issue, without minimizing the deep disappointments that one may feel towards the “winner.” This is my goal in this article, to work through two alternatives, neither one of which I like, to come up with an integrated perspective that is able to include both the negative and positive aspects in my choices and to choose one of these alternatives over the other.
There seems to be a steady controversy in some Progressive and Occupy circles in regard to the relative degree of the evil of war compared to “everything else” (see for example the comments on many of the articles on the Common Dreams website at www.commondreams.org). This controversy is currently playing itself out in the Republican primary bid of Ron Paul, as an alternative to the deep disappointments that many Progressives feel toward Obama, which I certainly share (Benjamin, 2011a). However, for most of these Progressives who advocate Ron Paul as the only candidate who is opposed to Obama's war escalations and targeted assassinations by drones with the unintended killing of many innocent civilians including children, there are no blind spots to the extreme disregard that Paul has for anything resembling compassion for people in need of human services.
Paul's disregard of and advocacy to significantly reduce or eliminate human service programs includes the dismantling of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and programs for children in poverty, the elderly, and people with mental disturbances. Rather, the argument as I understand it, speaks to the primary evil of Obama's war escalations, drone attacks, and targeted assassinations in a growing number of countries, fueling overwhelming universal hatred of the United States and the making of numerous additional terrorists. The Progressives who are willing to sacrifice all the domestic damage that Ron Paul would do are choosing their poison, and they believe that Paul's non-military ideals, regardless of his reasons, is worth putting up with the extremes of his Libertarian principles.
I find myself going back and forth in this philosophical dilemma of which is worse: war or “everything else”? At times, as repugnant as all of Paul's extreme capitalist ideas are to me, I find myself becoming increasingly sympathetic to the viewpoint of the Progressives who believe that Obama is actually a worse evil. It certainly can be argued that it is a worse evil to kill unintended innocent civilians including children with the pressing of a computer button thousands of miles away, ordered by the President of the United States without any safeguards or democratic process in making numerous assassination decisions. But then again the evils of a Ron Paul presidency is not to be discounted. Katha Pollitt (2012) in a recent article in The Nation describes these evils impactfully:
In a Ron Paul America, there would be no environmental protection, no Social Security, no Medicaid or Medicare, no help for the poor, no public education, no civil rights laws, no anti-discrimination law, no Americans with Disabilities Act, no laws insuring the safety of food or drugs or consumer products, no workers' rights....In Ron Paul's America, if you weren't prudent enough or wealthy enough to buy private insurance—and the exact policy of what's ailing you now—you find a charity or die.
Of course this is all pure philosophy, as the chance of an election featuring Obama vs. Paul is virtually nonexistent. But the philosophical implications of this controversy are worth considering to me, if for no other reason than to openly voice my deep feeling of disgust at the murderous actions of our war president who received the Nobel Peace Prize. But what is even more disgusting to me is that I will probably feel the necessity of voting for Obama again, based upon the Republican alternative I will have in November—which appears more and more likely to be Romney. I've been criticized for my “conservative” Progressive stance of being too “realistic” and not going third party (see Swift, 2012), but this is what feels right to me.
As much as I advocate for humanistic Progressive political ideals (see Benjamin, 2011b), when it comes to voting, I just cannot see contributing to something that I believe is even worse than Obama, even it if would spur on a Progressive backlash that is very much needed, as some Progressives urge (see the comments on many of the Common Dreams articles at the above website). The resulting damage to the country and the world and to human beings in need is just too much for me to fathom, and I therefore accept the title of “Conservative Progressive.”
But getting back to the philosophical Obama vs. Paul dilemma and which is worse: war or “everything else,” Katha Pollitt expresses this conflict eloquently, and her conclusion is one that I must agree with:
I, too, would love to see the end of the “war on drugs,” and our other wars. I, too, am shocked by the curtailment of our civil liberties in pursuit of the “war on terror,” most recently the provision of the NDAA permitting the indefinite detention, without charge, of US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism. But these are a handful of cherries on a blighted tree.
For Pollitt, and for me, Ron Paul is a “blighted tree” with a few cherries. Admittedly the cherries are very tempting, as the evil of war and drone assassinations and the killing of innocent children is an unspeakable evil, and it cannot be denied that Ron Paul is the only candidate in either major party that speaks out against these evils. But I have to conclude that “everything else” is a worse evil. I believe that it is more “progressive” to work toward mobilizing grass roots movements such as Code Pink (www.codepink.org) to promote opposition to Obama's military escalations and drone attack assassinations and unintended killings of innocent people that are creating universal hatred of the United States and creating many more terrorists.
Admittedly this feels like a losing battle to me, as Obama is able to argue that he is curtailing military expenditures, and saving American lives and reducing costs by using drones. But I have no good choices, and at this point in time I choose to do what I can to work towards peace while avoiding what I believe is the worst evil: “everything else.”
Benjamin, E. (2011a). Challenging Obama in the Primaries: An Integrated Perspective. Retrieved January 15, 2012, from www.integralworld.net
Benjamin, E. (2011b). Humanistic Psychology, Progressive Politics, and the “Occupations”. Retrieved January 15, 2012, from www.integralworld.net
Pollitt, K. (2012). Ron Paul's Strange Bedfellows. The Nation, Jan. 23, 10.
Swift, K. (2012). Challenge Obama? Challenge the Whole Ballot! La Voz de Esperanza, 24(10), 3.