Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Names, Meaning and Value

"Dem dat's fighten words" is a common colloqualism. Words have meanings. And meanings define values. These are the things that life is "made of". And this is why there is so much diversity in the world. I couldn't live without diversity. Life would be dull and colorless. I just "react" to those who think their meanings are ultimate and absolute, because they de-value the diversity that makes life valuable.

Last night my grand-daughter was here. She is almost 3. She is confident and very "dramatic". I love to engage her. But, last night I was not cognizant of "where she was" and she ended up crying.why and how did this happen?

I began to point to others of her family members and give them different "names". I pointed to myself and said 'Mommy". She started out with "correcting me", but started to look befuddled and then began to cry. I recognized this as an indication that I was "confusing her world". She had names that defined people and they were defined by the roles that they signified. I was asking for her to think beyond her capabilities. So, of course, we brought comfort to her.

The challenge to educators is to expand, enlarge and encourage growth in the intellectual realm. Educators exist in many areas of our world, not just in the academic. Educators seek to bring understanding and and expansion of knowledge, so that others can grow beyond their narrow definitions and narrow and limiting worldviews.

When someone asks "what is of ultimate value", the answer will depend upon how the person has been educated. Those indoctrinated into Christian faith will have different responses depending on their understanding of faith and how broad their exposure to Christian experience is. I find that religion, for the most part, does define one's life in narrow ways.

Conventional morality is about what 'tradition' says is "correct". But, is tradition right, necessarily? Or is tradition only an aspect to a cultural ideal or norm? What is of greatest value? God, humanity, life on this planet, the environment, healthcare, growth in knowledge? The answer will depend on one's highest values in life. Religious tradition defines the highest value on an understanding of faith, while education values knowledge, and scientific endeavor values medicine and other research opportunities.

Our country does not define another's life for them, as we believe that though the individual is a social animal, he is also an independent moral agent, that must decide for himself. The individual is given opportunities by the social contexts he exposes himself to and then is free to decide what is of ultimate value and importance. There is no "right and wrong" answer, as values are about clarity of purpose and vision for one's life.

This is why the value of our country in protecting freedom is of ultimate value to and for me. I value freedom because it means that the individual does not have to confine himself to another's definition of what constitutes "greatest value". Freedom means that the individual is guarunteed justice, because the individual is a reponsible moral agent that can determine his own course.

Usually "war" transpires when others are protecting their own values. Fear of another's intrusion upon the values most held dear become self-protective walls. But, how do we engage those whose worlds are so confining and defined, that they will not engage. Diversity is not a cultural value. In fact, diversity is the very name to be destroyed.

In our world climate, Obama seems to be making attempts to change the world through diplomatic efforts. This is a noble cause, but I question how diversity can be maintained when the "absolutist laws of Sharia" will not allow such diversity. Whenever one labels another's difference with "Satan", then one cannot be rationally engaged. Religion does not allow for rational engagement because it is based on emotional connection to cultural identification in behavoiral terms, as well as a specified view of "God". This is not change that will come to the radical through diplomatic engagement. And this is why it is necessary that leaders of countries are rationally engaged with affirming difference. We have done this in the past, but with devastating consequences. And in our world climate, where the enemy is not readily identified, how do we protect the values of freedom and diversity? Do we engage countries that are dictatorial? Can we trust these?

I personally "fear" what Obama is doing, as I do not trust those who hold absolute power. And leaders who identify with those who hold absolute power are also, IMO, also untrustworthy, because those who do not hold the value of freedom and justice for all, which is a holding to the "balance of power", do not hold to the values of a liberal democracy....or a Repreentative Republic. These are those that use position to bring change, but at a costs to those under them. And this is why there has been much discussion about the "czars" that are independently appointed by this administration.

Obama has African roots and he maintains that equality is a global issue, not just a national one. This is disturbing to me because national interests (The Constitution) is the pledge of the President to uphold the values determined by our Founders. Can a globalist do this and remain true and trustworthy to "his people".

This is my concern, as words have meaning, but we must question what meaning is made when we hear those that hold values that are in opposition to ours. Then, we can be more educated about how to engage the public for the public good.

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