Monday, June 04, 2012

The Ethical Atheist Politician: The Hypothetical Campaign - Opening Remarks

I spent the past two weeks putting a hypothetical ethical atheist politician's campaign into its social context.

Today I would like to start that hypothetical political campaign.

It will start with a press conference - one in which members of the press will be given an opportunity to ask questions. The text of my opening

Let the pseudo-campaign begin.

My name is Alonzo Fyfe, and I am running for the office of .

You are going to find that my campaign is unusually blunt and direct. I am not particularly good at stage shows. I want to discuss the issues. We may live in a society that gives political office to those who speak in vague generalities surrounded by flags, bands, and lots of eye candy. I will have to take my chances. I do not fit comfortably into that style of politics.

Being blunt and direct, a political campaign boils down to this: If you give me power, I will use it to make good things happen. That, at its heart, is the political bargain.

What good things?

Good . . . for whom?

Good for the candidate? Good for the people who have wads of free cash to use to put the candidate in office, who can contribute to the candidate's worthy causes, or who can offer the candidate lucrative contracts after that candidate leaves office?

Every candidate speaks about making good things happen. What makes my candidacy any different?

Let me tell you how I think of these things.

Let us assume that we - all of us here, and our families - crashes on an island. The flight was lost. Nobody knows where we are. There is no hope of rescue.

What matters?

Clean water. Food. Shelter - depending on the climate. Medical care for the sick and injured. Security from threats outside the camp such as wild animals and natural disasters - hurricanes, volcanoes, wildfires and the like. And security within. Is the person next to you going to be allowed to use you - to harm you or the quality of your life - for his or her own pleasure?

These are the things that matter first.

We also need information.

Where can we find clean water? What plants are edible? What plants have the nutrition we need? How can we make the things that will help the sick and injured? What threats are out there? What threats are coming that we do not know about yet? Who, among us, is a threat? How can we reduce that threat?

In addition to all of the things I mentioned above, another thing we need is information. We need to learn the facts about this site that we crashed at. Some facts are more important than others. Those facts relevant to that which threatens all of us have the highest priority.

These are the things that matter first.

These are the good things that I am talking about when I talk about making good things happen.

There are seven billion of us crash-landed on this remote island - this pale blue dot of inhabitable real-estate in the Milky Way galaxy called Earth. There is no hope of rescue. Nobody knows we are here - or, if they do, they're not offering any help. We are on our own.

A lot of people do not have clean water.

A lot of people do not have enough food. Many who have enough food do not have the foods they need for good health.

Some people have too much food.

We have a boatload of sick and injured people to care for.

I did say, "seven billion people" have crash-landed on this planet.

All of us count. No subset of us is the mere property of another, to be used up and discarded like some tool one finds in the garage. We are all here together.

Give me power, and I will make good things happen. That is the political bargain.

One possible way to make good things happen is to make bad things happen to other people. If that is the kind of leader that you want then, I will admit, I am not going to be the leader that you want. We share this community with others, and the last thing we need is a bunch of warring factions fighting each other trying to get away with enriching themselves at the expense of others.

At the same time, an not so naïve that I think that everybody else has the same virtue. There are people out there supporting leaders who promise them power and wealth regardless of who they must hurt in the process. There are people here, in fact, who would prefer a leader like that. Those leaders promise their supporters the spoils of war - the plunder that they can harvest from other people, or at least permission to disregard their safety and well-being. Those people exist. In fact, they are far too common. I will oppose them where I can. However, I will not be one of them.

All of this sounds fine in principle. The devil, as they say, is in the details. Over the course of this campaign, we are going to look at some of the details and at the principles that inform those details. We have quite some time between now and the day of the election - more than enough time to discuss details.

The first of those details that I will look at next is the principle of freedom.

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