"Incarnated into flesh for ceremonial purposes, for artistic purposes, so that the sufferings of the soul would be reflected, in the end, with suffering of the body"
A question that I like to pose to people: How much of our political ideal is decided on our ideas of what is possible versus what is desirable? I think making this a deliberate junction helps people think more carefully about these matters - too often I have heard people dismiss ideas they don't like by saying they're unworkable rather than the more honest "I don't like it". Admittedly, "workable" has hooks that could fit in here - in political philosophy it is often used for two semidistinct meanings, that a system fits with human nature, or that a system produces results and operates in ways acceptable from the perspective of some value system. Still, when the matter has no element of feasibility-in-itself to its judgement, I think it's better to say "I don't like it", as it is much more clear. I believe this division is useful...
I've been thinking of Plato's Noble Lie and how it relates to the Hindu caste system - would that system, restored to full functionality, much resemble what Plato had in mind? (I should note that by my value system, the notion of using Noble Lies in the sphere of philosophy/government is a harm beyond comparison - that said, there are times in everyday life when white lies and not being forthright are appropriate - that is, when other moral values come into play).
Important principle of governance: people, harmed by a system rather than by an easily personified group or actual person, are far more likely to dissent, even if the result is exactly the same. Possible conclusion: Make instruments of society that must harm some segment of society (rectifying inequity, adapting to shortages, etc) feel as if they're as close to "forces of nature" as possible - hard to see like a SEP (HHGTTG) field. I'm not entirely satisfied with this conclusion though - it seems dishonest on some level, and a politically sophisticated society (which I also see as a societal good) would ideally rather learn to fix the basic fallacy of thought that leads to this ("They're *supposed* to be greedy without a care for society! They're corporations!", etc). To create change, even that aiming for society's interests, when is it acceptable to use tricks that comprimise intellectual integrity that will nontheless help society? If we accept some such things, intellectuals will see through these noble lies, and there will be a cost, but can society be fixed without such tools?
Slightly related, a quick googling of Noble Lie brought up this entry in something I haven't bumped into before - Skepticwiki. It looks kind of spiffy, although it's not particularly well-written or careful.
The most recent MEJ did an analysis of Islamic theocratic movements and reform in various movements, from legitimisation of violence to not and changes on how much pluralism they are willing to accept. My first instinct is to be deeply concerned about changes that would lead such movements to accept pluralism and dismiss violence. This is for two primary reasons:
- I am not convinced they will ever give up their desire for religious rule, and that this shift towards legitimisation of democratic means will simply make them a new competitor
- I am concerned that people who care more about procedural democracy than libralism will break solidarity with their struggle against theocracy if that theocracy were implemented/maintained through democratic means.
- The notion of "the pale", or "the realm of democratic consideration" may, carefully placed into common popular consciousness, be a safeguard against this. The need for guardians of the pale, either as a political body or for sufficiently broad consensus among most parts of society, remains an issue for this idea.
That same article linked to Fareed Zakaria's Rise of Illiberal Democracy, which is an excellent survey of some of the issues involved (even if I disagree with some of the large conclusions - I believe leaders like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Pervez Musharraf, and Fidel Castro, among others, have done more good for their nations than could have been accomplished with a more democratic system).
(P.S. Nawaz Sharif, an even worse figure than Bhutto in Pakistani politics and the man whose coup against Musharraf's military head role fortunately became a countercoup that forced him into exile in Saudi Arabia, is unfortunately back in Pakistan, playing politics again. This is, I think, a disaster)