I've been thinking about the importance of Orthodoxy in philosophy. In particular, I've been looking at some of the philosophy inherent in Judaism and Islam and associated efforts to keep said philosophies from incorporating substantial change. There's a lot of depth to both efforts, much of it worth studying (by religious and nonreligious folk) for how to preserve meaning over long periods of time. I think I've mentioned a few websites that aim to make it easier for people to take part in those specific philosophies/religions, or at least represented groups within them - sometimes such advice is very mundane or silly, but taken as a whole, there's a lot beautiful to be said about them. As much as, in the west, agnostics/atheists such as myself depend on the results of the degradation of meaning in Christianity, liberal thought represents a great crisis for meaning in general, one which threatens a meaninglessness which may be similarly dangerous. Liberalism is not the only concievable force that can do this - it is just the only force I know of, historically, which is its own sphere of philosophy that can slip in and replace another. Less unifying types of reductions in meaning, thoughts like "It couldn't hurt if I bend the rules a bit", these lack the organising factor that liberal philosophy has. Looking specifically at what I've read about relationships between strands of Judaism (let me stress that this is a position from an outsider), I find a Modern Orthodox argument against non-Orthodox Judaism to be interesting - that to open all of Jewish law for review by "modern" ethics is to weaken its meaning, placing it as subordinate to other values. I am not convinced that other philosophies that are also principled (that is, do not bow to "but I want to!" whenever meaning and personal desire interfere) could not exist, but unless care is taken, the net effect would be to degrade meaning, and I'm willing to accept the argument that most of the time, that's what happened.
Having a consistent, beautiful value system in life takes a certain discipline, to whatever degree that value system comes from someplace else or oneself (I don't believe, even with the most carefully controlled systems of upbringing or the most studious, sincere conversions, that value systems overlap completely). One measure of meaning that's very important is the ability to both approve and disapprove of things - to lose this is to fall to nihilism (generally when I speak ill of liberalism, I am using it in a sense that emphasises it's anti-principle postmodern/nihilistic tendencies, not so much the "enlightenment liberalism" that promises new values). Another is a coherent vision for society - philosophies that do not make at least moderate effort to fit multiple people into a workable system (whatever their tolerance for individual variance/foreign elements) tend to be very small and uninteresting (to me, at least). A globally fully coherent value/justice system seems to me to be not strictly necessary, but making things reasonably globally coherent (my use of coherency is like cache-coherency, or coherency as a measure of consistency with some added nuances) is a good aim. I have an admiration for people who stand for something, especially if what they stand for is not too repugnant.
Today's protest was .. pleasant. I got there roughly on time due to my erratic sleep schedule, and it was raining. I had a pleasant conversation with a journalist over modernisation and journalism early in the first hour, and by the second hour two counter-protestors showed up (later to be joined by two more people). They made signs saying "support our troops", so I hunted down a sharpie and made a sign saying "Support" our troops == Send them to DIE??. Eventually the police made the anarchists move their sign-pile, and several of them went over to the other side of the street to argue with/distract people from the few counterprotestors (fairly effective given that there were so few counters). Eventually everyone wandered off about half an hour after things were scheduled to end. There were a few cute girls there, one of whom looked like an anarchist version of Nicole (my last girlfriend, from about two years ago). There was a call for some upcoming direct action, but because of some details, it would be unwise for me to get directly involved in this particular thing (although I don't disapprove of it and might try to find ways to support it through other means).
- Sometimes people get unreasonably indignant over sensible anti-fraud measures. In this case, a dead soldier had a fund set up to send money to his family, done through Paypal. Because someone got some tax-related details wrong when the account was set up, Paypal froze the funds for a few months out of fraud concerns, and as a result, some people suggest Paypal employees are "monsterous human beings who should have their entrails dragged through the street". Nice. Apparently a lot of people are keen to jump on that insane bandwagon, by the attached comments.
- The East Germans have been breeding gi-normous super-rabbits for North Korea (and other select markets). 25 pounds.
- The Sandanistas are back in power in Nicaragua, as Chavez remains in office in Venezuela. I am cautiously (and with moderate nuance, vis a vis their middle eastern alliances) excited about this. Chavez's mention of Jesus as "the greatest socialist in history" is reminiscent of the recent decision of America's first Muslim congressman to be sworn in on Thomas Jefferson's Quran (instead of a Christian Bible) - unexpected, tricky political maneuvering.
- I have a tough time parsing the recent Fedora Linux announcements for merging Core/Extras as anything other than "things are going to change", in that they've said so little else. That said, some of the features planned for FC7 do look exciting if they're doable by release time.