January 09, 2008


Heraclitus, by way of wikipedia.

It may be that a person's choice of worldview is as much a result of temperament as rational persuasion. El Cabrero inclines to a view of the world as something in constant flux, with things colliding and combining all the time.

I don't think it's all chaos. Instead, it seems that much of the art of life consists of trying to understand the patterns of change and the array of forces and working with them.

That's probably why one of my favorite philosophers is the ancient Greek sage Heraclitus, whose enigmatic teachings only survive in fragments.

He is perhaps best known for cryptic sayings like "you can't step in the same river twice" and "the way up and the way down are the same thing."

Two of his signature statements are panta rei--all things flow--and polemos panton pater--war is the father of all things (note: my Greek is pretty pathetic). He was using the term war metaphorically. Strife would probably be a better term. He also said dike eris--strife is justice, meaning that harmony arises from the interaction and conflict of forces.

All this is another way of saying that understanding the nature of strife and how to deal with it wouldn't be a bad idea for even the most nonviolent people. Scott Ritter makes the same argument in his book Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement:

I start with the premise that life is conflict, given that I define conflict as the existence of friction created when two or more forces interact...Conflict is constant, and ongoing. Conflict is life... Accept this and you're on the path to dealing effectively with conflict.

Strife doesn't have to be violent or even nasty. It's pretty much the norm. I think the more we learn about it the less nasty it will be.

One ancient text dealing with conflict is Sun Tzu's Art of War. It has been studied for centuries not only by warriors but by people in many walks of life engaged in peaceful pursuits. About which more tomorrow.

THE MIDDLE CLASS. Speaking of ancient Greeks, El Cabrero's amigo Aristotle stressed in his Politics that republics are most stable when the middle classes make up the majority of the population. The role of unions in creating and sustaining the middle class was the subject of a recent talk by economist and columnist Paul Krugman. A major step on the road to rebuilding the middle class is restoring the right to organize by the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

SPEAKING OF LABOR, here's an item from The Nation about the anti-labor NLRB and possible ways around it.

RESPONDING TO RECESSION. As signs of a recession increase, there is more talk about some kind of economic stimulus. This new paper from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities lays out a rational approach-one that is timely, temporary and targeted to bring the most bang for the proverbial buck (in the parlance of our times). Sneak preview: more tax cuts for people who don't need them aren't going to get it.

WV MEDICAID FLAP. Some readers may remember the struggle in 2006 to restore cuts in-home care for elderly Medicaid recipients. Here's a summary of the coverage of a recent legislative audit from Lincoln Walks at Midnight.

TORTURE is the subject of this Gazette op-ed by Carli Mareneck.

WHERE'S WALLACE? The British scientist and co-discoverer of natural selection Alfred Russel Wallace, that is.


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