Friday, April 4, 2008

So, Why a "Freedom Blog"? Who I Am and What I Am Going to Do

The hardest thing I have to do here is to begin this first entry. If I am to make this blog into a successful project, then not only do I have to explain my purpose, I also must explain myself. So let me start with the latter.

My Personal Manifesto

My name is Jacob Sulzbach. I am 53 years old, I work as an independent software developer in Lafayette, Louisiana, I am well-educated with three college degrees, and I am enamored of the idea of human freedom. I have used the internet alias "StJacques" since about 1997 when I first began to participate in online chats and forums, though I have only blogged on political matters since about September, 2004. I took my alias in memory of my late Cajun grandmother who used to refer to me as her "petit Jacques" when I was very young and I have used it when posting as a commentator on numerous news sites, forums, and blogs around the internet, so I see no reason to leave it behind now.

Since I know that so many who read political blogs do so from an Ad Hominem viewpoint, always at the ready to dismiss arguments from those whose allegiances or affiliations differ from their own, I guess I should put mine up and get this over with now, since the very sad fact I must come to grips with as I pursue this project is that we live in an Ad Hominem world. Facts and evidence, logical argumentation, and a willingness to entertain opposing points of view objectively are no longer the standards for civic and political debate in America. Today everything, sometimes the only thing, that matters in is the personal background of the individual who communicates his or her ideas. Therefore I must make an honest effort to show my own overall "profile of affiliation," so that the dismissive among us can make up their minds quickly.

If I must reach for one label, I think it is fair for me to describe myself as a Conservative, and I am a Republican. I am certainly attached to conservative ideas in matters of fiscal policy, as I abhor excessive rates of spending and taxation which strip capital of its productivity and reduce or threaten individual human freedom through the enhancement of the police power of the state. I am also an economic conservative. I recognize the demand-driven nature of capitalist economy, and I oppose government policies which seek to protect or strengthen individual businesses or economic sectors whose role in supplying commodities or services cannot be sustained through satisfaction of demand alone. I see economic inefficiency and instability following in the wake of political decisions to act in this manner, as well as a weakening of our democracy with the extension of benefits to an influential and favored few. I refer to myself as a social conservative given that I oppose the intervention of the state to advance the special interests of specific identity groups to the detriment of others, a phenomenon I distinguish from action designed to protect vulnerable groups from harm which can be legitimate. I should mention that I define social conservatism differently than those who like to include within it issues such as abortion, school prayer, immigration and other "hot button" topics, which I treat separately for their cultural content. And I am a judicial conservative in that I favor a limited scope for the power of the judiciary in civic life. I believe that extending the power to make laws to those whose role it is to enforce them is also a threat to democracy and freedom.

While I think all of the above permit me to classify myself as a conservative, there is one form of supposed conservative thought to which I do not adhere -- cultural conservatism. The very foundation of conservatism itself is based upon recognition of and respect for the rights to individual autonomy in action, economic life, and especially in thought. I see this founding principle of conservatism crumbling as some who only call themselves conservatives develop litmus tests for matters of individual conscience such as abortion, capital punishment, religious affiliation and practice, and more. This is not to say I do not have my own personal beliefs or that I fear or fail to express them, because mine are as important to me as anyone. I am both pro-life and opposed to capital punishment for reasons of my religious faith as a Roman Catholic and I assert myself in stating these beliefs openly, but I will not condemn others whose conscience has led them to a thoughtful life unlike my own. Matters of individual belief must and will be argued in society, but I hold that these should be within a civic debate outside the realm of political action wherever possible; yet I draw the line at the limit of governmental action which seeks to negate my personal beliefs as unacceptable.

I also am at odds with many cultural conservatives for their expression of a longing for a social milieu that has long since passed which frequently results in actions perceived by many, even though not always intended, as intolerant. Using political activism to reshape the social milieu is wrong-headed regardless of whether one leans left or right, and I do not condone it among those who might agree with me otherwise any more than I would those I see as directly in opposition to me. But even more so than my rejection of the attitudes I see in cultural conservatism as essentially unconservative, I object even more strenuosly to the means cultural conservatives frequently use to push their agendas as blatantly at odds with conservative principles. Opponents of a settlement to the immigration crisis -- it is a real crisis because our laws are being rendered meaningless -- propose solutions that border on police state action of a kind unheard of in American history ("Voluntary Deportation" is a mythical proposition) and which would greatly expand the police power of the state, whose limitation is one of the primary goals of true conservatism. Many of these same anti-immigrant spokesmen also lash out against free trade, which is one of the founding principles of economic conservatism, throwing baby and bathwater out the window together. Some of the staunchest pro-life supporters, who I agree with in conscience, nonetheless speak openly of rejecting anyone from public service whose religious views are not in line with their own, thus undermining the conservative principle of respect for individual autonomy of thought and making them more similar in manner of action to their left-leaning liberal opposition than they are to real conservatives. Quite simply, I do not see cultural conservatism as true conservatism because its assumptions of human nature, its proposed solutions to current problems, and its methods of political activism either undermine or reject the founding principles of conservative thought and action. Cultural conservatism is capable of canceling any and all other forms of conservatism and until true conservatives reject it, the conservative future will be bleak.

Finally; to finish my personal profile, I am an internationalist of the first order, a trait in which I take great pride and which is closely related to the substance of what I will present in this blog. I recognize and understand that from before the time of Columbus and continuing to the present, a world economy originally centered in Western Europe, whose core moved to the United States in the twentieth century, has persistently integrated and organized the remainder of the globe into a unified capitalist economic system. This is a historical process stretching back over five hundred years which at the very least constrains, and I would argue "negates," the capabilities of nations to pursue domestic economic and social agendas in defiance of the ongoing globalization this world system imposes. And I have yet to view one argument which asserts that America, or any other society, can or should act in isolation from or in opposition to this process as reflecting anything other than an attempt to support a particular domestic social agenda that cannot be realized in the open and competitive environment of economy and ideas by which this historical process bestows the benefits of progress. But though this process of ongoing globalization is unstoppable, the nature of its impact upon human values has yet to be determined, because the rules of human communication that govern the diffusion of ideas and innovations remain in flux. This is why I believe that the true supporters of democracy and freedom must pay attention to the world at large, because its economic, social, and political problems can and will have an impact upon life in the more advanced societies, no matter what choices the latter may make in their politics. Either we deal with the rest of the world on terms that protect democracy and freedom, or the world will deal with us on terms which may not. We may try to run, but we cannot hide.

A Brief Explanation of My Purpose in This Blog

I am convinced that freedom and democracy are at risk, both here in America and in the rest of the world today. It is difficult to be brief and concise as I make my argument for the threats I see, but let me try to generalize it as simply as possible in one sentence: We in the developed world are overestimating the historical value of the victory of the western democracies in the Cold War as guaranteeing the future of democracy and human freedom in this world. And the simplest explanation I can give as to why this is so is that we have not appreciated the vulnerabilities of developing societies everywhere to radical agitation, nor have we understood the manner in which it would be supported in our own societies, a fact which links the two together into a common present and forecasts a dangerous future.

In at least some ways, the false hopes the western world entertained of a secure democratic future are already grasped in the confrontation with Middle Eastern terrorism and the many forms of Islamic fundamentalism from which it originates. Though I support the War on Terror, I am uneasy with what I see in its impact upon our national security establishment, which has developed a near exclusive geographic focus on the Middle East and South Asia as the source of threats, and has shown a tendency only to apply military and intelligence resources to protect the American way of life. There is another threat developing which I believe is serious and much closer to home; the potential unraveling of much of Latin America as a consequence of leftist political agitation and misrule. And I intend to do a lot to present this within my blog.

During the Cold War, most of America's interest in Latin American leftism focused upon Cuba, and for good reason given the behavior of the Castro regime, which worked to spread its Marxist-Leninist brand of socialism elsewhere in the region and compiled a deplorable record on human rights that remains a continuing problem for the country to this day. Cuba still warrants our attention and its people deserve our support for a future of human dignity -- and no; giving free health care while jailing political dissidents does not represent dignity -- but the central source of an intervening and subversive political force than spans international borders and threatens human freedom in Latin America has now shifted.

A Special Emphasis on the Bolivarian Left

The new center of subversion in Latin America is now in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez has supplanted Fidel Castro as the leader of the Latin American Left. And the new brand of leftism which is now spreading throughout the region, though still avowedly socialist in its goals, is no longer Marxist-Leninist in either name or character. It is now known as Bolivarianism, a name very intelligently, if dishonestly, chosen by Chavez himself.

In this blog, I will have a lot to say about the Bolivarian Left, a term I use in its expansive sense to include Chavez and his allies throughout Latin America, even though many of these would prefer different names for themselves more suited to their respective national identities. And just to keep informed readers in tune with other popular discussions, a portion of what I call the Bolivarian Left is sometimes referred to in Latin America as the "Populist" Left. But I want to introduce the Bolivarians in the briefest terms here, just to set the table for what is to come, by distinguishing them from earlier Marxist-Leninists. To note the common ideas and practices carried forward among the Bolivarian Left from Castro and other predecessors, the Bolivarians still avowedly strive for the building of a socialist world order, they have a trans-national agenda and organize across international boundaries, they espouse an ideology of opposition to the developed capitalist societies of the U.S. and Western Europe, and they communicate among each other in a more honest and open fashion than they do with the as yet "unconverted." The similarities do not go much farther than these. It is the distinctions which are more prominent.

When contrasted with their rigidly dogmatic Marxist-Leninist predecessors in Latin America, the Bolivarian Left is more malleable in that it accepts the institutional structure of western-style democracy in its form, if not in practice; more successful at political mobilization of the poor into genuine mass movements whose true popular nature does not have to be invented in a propaganda ministry; and far more adaptable in accommodating its ideological program to the respective political cultures of individual nations, rather than imposing a strict one-size-fits-all ideology whose outlines are written in Havana. In Venezuela, Chavistas present themselves as the embodiment of South American independence in the tradition of Simon Bolivar; in Bolivia Evo Morales and his MAS party (Movimiento al Socialismo) lean heavily upon a racially-oriented program of supporting a resurgence of the originarios, which largely refers to the indigenous Aymaran Andean peoples who populate the western region of the country; in Ecuador Rafael Correa also promotes the indigenous Andean heritage of much of the population, but mixes in an attachment to a mystical Roman Catholicism; in Nicaragua and El Salvador respectively the former Sandinistas and FMLN present themselves as democratically-evolved movements arising out of historic guerrilla insurgencies; and in Mexico most supporters of the extra-constitutional Otra Campaña (the Other Campaign), which include a somewhat chaotic and constantly-changing mix of leftist political organizations and party factions, openly profess support for Chavez and his program. All of these organized political movements have received either overt or covert aid from Chavez totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and in spite of all claims to the contrary, the evidence of the covert aid is extensive and reliable as I will present in coming posts.

With the exception of some very recent evidence suggesting that the Bolivarian Left is organizing militias in southern Peru, only in Colombia, which is the one nation whose people have rejected Chavismo forcefully, has the Bolivarian Left resorted to guerrilla-style terror, though even here its form is different. The FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) guerrillas, originally the Castro-supported military wing of the Colombian Communist Party from the 1960's, have come to ensconce themselves within the largely unpopulated southeastern portion of the country where they have abandoned their historic fight to present an open challenge to the Colombian military and have instead evolved into a somewhat loosely-organized coca-growing and narcotics-trafficking operation that defends itself through kidnapping and extortion. In all of this, the Bolivarian Left has demonstrated that its greatest strength is its adaptability, which makes it a more serious challenge to democracy and freedom -- and yes; they are a true challenge to both -- than the Latin American leftism of the past. I will have much more to say in what follows in subsequent posts.

How I Will Proceed

I only briefly want to mention that I will be following several different tacts in what I post in this blog. I will include my own original commentary, as this blog presents, though I am certain these entries will not constitute the majority of what I post. I also intend to make great use of the abundant information now circulating in the blogosphere on these issues and events. There are numerous American and Latin American bloggers who have done most excellent work in presenting reliable information and I will try to keep track of what they disseminate. A number of the Latin American bloggers, such as Gustavo Coronel, Martha Colmenares, and Aleksander Boyd, have been outright heroes in my opinion, so I will include reviews of their work and sites in which they post to give everyone a better idea of who they are and how they are bringing this vital information to light. I also intend to post translations of news items and more which will help to include Spanish-language sources in the discussion I present here, so that barriers of language do not prevent the dissemination of vital knowledge in English.

I encourage anyone who may have information for me to feel free to contact me at stjacquesonline@gmail.com, an e-mail link for which you will see at the far right of the horizontal navbar underneath the header image near the top of the page.

StJacques

1 comment:

amieres said...

Thanks for your effort. I wish you consistency and clarity in this endeavour.
I like your style of writing.