6.30.2003

So the American Supreme Court (SCOTUS) just struck down laws criminalizing sodomy. Is this democracy? As much as I personally applaud the decision, it raises a question of democracy.

As a Canadian, this is largely a theoretical question, though our own Supreme Court has similar features. Several states have had referendums enshrining marriage as a heterosexual question. The people chose explicitly to do so. I won't go into whether I agree with it or not (that should be evident form the above). Imagine if the SCOTUS declares marriage not to be the domain of the heterosexual somewhere down the line, is that democracy? Even if I personally think it is the right thing to do, is it right to overturn the will of the people? Many states have already passed laws giving near-equivalence staus for homosexuals. It seems to be an inexorable, slow to be sure, but unstoppable march towards full equality. The American Constitution explicitly allows for this kind of decision and it does not seem out of bounds in overturning the state in, what it feels is, a federal and constitutional jurisdiction.

But, reduced to simpler terms, it is a group of nine who overrode the will of millions. Fine and dandy when one agrees with them but perhaps less palatable when a desicion comes down in direct opposition to one's beliefs, as this decision surely must for wide swatches of the American populace. Looking back at slavery, it took a long time for a great many people to realize that it was wrong and the work is still incomplete and leaves a legacy that burdens American society to this day. Abortion is another issue that has been decided by the SCOTUS and not by the people. The topic generates a great deal of acrimony and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Clearly, from a personal point of view I would not have wanted either of these decided alone by the people. The tyranny of the masses is a frightening thing for any self-respecting elitist but the masses cause unrest and it is always unwise to rouse them beyond the usual distemper.

It is a difficult point to argue that people would have eventually come to their own conclusions about slavery. Money and self-interest have always been known to master moral obligation and to quell a disturbed conscience. Justification and rationalization flow easily in these cases and their owners are more than willing to overlook any flaws in the foundation for their rationale. Clearly, a force from above is required to impel such societal change even if it is to the detriment of democracy. Then, the question that follows is: how to defend against the potential for oligarchy? The cultural norms are not being set by the community but rather by a group that does not always conform to the majority view. Rights and responsibilites are determined by the culture and one of government's duties is to elucidate and enforce those rights.

The American recourse is the Constitutional amendment. SCOTUS must obey the Constitution and, if brought into force, an amendment would overturn SCOTUS. It seems highly unlikely to me that this is a plausible outcome. Even should one occur it would be a matter of decades, perhaps even a century, before it was overturned, one that would read like the liquid paper scarring of the prohibition and its dismantling.

The beauty of the American Constitution constantly amazes but demands as much from its populace at it gives. SCOTUS functions as an accelerator of societal change, the "educated elite" handing down "superior theories of culture" based on "well-measured reasoning". It is oligarchy in a democracy, a taste of benevolent tyranny that society would seem to accept in the long term. Or perhaps it simply enforces conclusions that people would like to assume they would have eventually reached themselves.

6.26.2003

I went camping this weekend. It was amazing. I had been looking forward to it for weeks in advance. I laughed and got tired and got bit by bugs and all sorts of things that are expected to happen while in the great outdoors. But now I'm back in my regular world of wake/drive/work/drive/sleep. It seems so bizarre how my future becomes my past through this strange filter of present. I used to be able to enjoy the present and I did on the trip but now it feels like a part of me was left behind on that camping trip, stuck in the past and waiting to leap into the next future pleasure.

The rest of my life feels like filler and it's really tough work to not make it feel that way. The little energy I have left at the end of the workday is so precious and I loathe spending it on anything whatsoever. Hoarding it doesn't seem to build it up, though. It gets dissipated somehow in the invisible spaces between the day's regimented stages. Evaporating, leaking, trickling down some unseen drain. Gone and leaving me empty.

Tedium punctuated with fleeting instants of satisfaction. Life in the twenty-first century.

Are we spoiled with an over-abundance of free time? Does my brain feel unsatisfied at the lack of struggle I face daily? Would I be happier trying to eke out a survival existence? Subsistence farming has left the western world long ago and now the hours are filled with a blank void. Money, fame, sex; cheap validation is being sold to us daily by the media in an attempt to pry $ from our tight grip. The sugar melts quickly and leaves a bitter residue.

Better a return to night fires and mosquitoes than a world of hollow dragons building a hoard upon which to die.

6.03.2003

It's funny how instinct rules us. I wonder how much of my day is spent simply reacting to my enviorment in a manner that is hardcoded in my reptilian brain.

If I see a pretty girl, my head turns. My brain makes me feel good when I look at her. If I concentrate, I can override it but it requires an exertion of will, however slight it may be. If I hear a loud noise, my hands fly up to protect my head and I leap away. Bright flashes shut my eyes tight. And while it hasn't happened to me in a long, long time, if attacked, I would fight (perhaps flight?).

How ruled are we by our instincts? How much do we truly differ from our supposed "animal" compatriots? Sex, food, sleep, defecate; we are slaves to instinct and our higher order brains seem to me to be a refined cover for our desires to indulge our instincts. I like money but only because it enables me to indulge my instincts. Endorphins flow, blood rushes, pleasant times. Alcohol subverts our natural instincts, drugs give us altered states. Is it any wonder people seek refuge in them? It is a time when our instincts come out from beneath our polished selves and society allows us to shed our official veneer and let go the primal rages that storm beneath the surface.

How could I believe I am anything other than a fancy monkey? I write this in a moment of clarity, when I have appeased my instincts sufficiently that they leave me a few moments to myself and I can think upon whatever I desire. Soon enough, they will return and I will march to their beat. Sex, food, sleep, defecate.