LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Defining political systems not always cut and dried

Recently, one of your letter writers questioned the definition of “liberal” [“Some questions for the history teacher,” Aug. 25], so, I decided to go to Webster’s Dictionary to see what I might find out.

“Liberal” is generally defined as someone who values change or an idea that embodies change. “Conservative” is defined as someone who supports the status quo or ideas that uphold it. It appears that one can hold both positions in the same mind: for instance, one can be liberal on human issues but conservative on financial ones. The terms are not necessarily exclusive of each other in one person’s philosophy of life. End of story.

Humans are diverse thinkers, but fearmongering tends to make them lock themselves into cages of inflexibility. Personally, I think what it comes down to is this: Are you a person who loves order, or are you a person comfortable with chaos; can you roll with life, or do you want to control it?

Again, we all have our personal tolerances for the degree to which we tolerate things on either side of that question.

Now, some short thoughts on the “isms.” All of them take on the color of the populations that subscribe to them. That is why Russian communism is not Chinese Communism which is not North Korean communism which is not Cuban communism, which is not North Vietnamese communism, etc.

One wonders if Marx would recognize his philosophy after Lenin and Trotsky got done with it and would they recognize it after the true master, Stalin, changed it in to a very lethal Stalinism. I believe it is on a new and worse course with Putin; he’s looking for his own “ism” and is a very smart man. Russian communism in 2015 does not even give lip service to socialism anymore. Communism and Fascism, of all the “isms,” are the fastest creators of dictators.

One has got to love Fascism, which is defined in Webster as philosophy that exalts nation, and often race, backed by an autocratic and often militarized government. Deeper consideration would add that Fascism also controls the economic sector. Read Hitler and his industrialist cohorts.

Again, Spanish fascism was not Italian fascism and they were defiantly not German fascism or Japanese fascism. All “isms” are changed by the culture they inhabit. By the way, does this “ism” look at all familiar in 2015?

Socialism as a working society probably does not exist outside of the most primitive cultures, where everything is shared, and even there, some form of norm probably exists so that a member of the tribe has to contribute something. Usually, the harmony of the group is the goal; in other words, everyone eats something because a hungry person could destabilize the group.

We have now reached the great god of all “isms” in America, Capitalism. Pure Capitalism has no god but profit. People forget we lived it at the turn of the century, and look where it got us: the Great Depression. We have been working our way back to it since the ’80s when greed was retooled and the market made consumers, not workers, the new gods.

Labor lost out to consumers because we have sold our souls to gadgets and a credit-based existence. The market creates gadgets, gadgets make slaves of people, and credit buries them.

Socialism gave Capitalism its soul with the labor movement. The labor movement is dead, and we let it happen. The market has fragmented us, and it makes us thank it for doing so.

Last but not least, and maybe the most rational, we have Democratic Socialism, which is what a lot of the European countries practice. It is the melding of capitalism and socialism and was the answer to the legacy of Fascism and the total destruction of World War II.

All that was left after the war in some countries (especially Scandinavia) were widows and children, so, a new idea was called for, and for the most part, it has worked. I personally interpret it to mean that without health and education, a person cannot fully access life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In conclusion, if your letter writer needs definitions, he should, at very least, go to Webster. If he wants more than definitions, read all he can from all sources, even the uncomfortable ones, and take time and quiet to think. He might be surprised to find a new world — or not.

Patricia Kaminsky

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