Monday, November 08, 2010

personality type theory - categorical vs. holistic thinking

Personality type reflects the extent we rely on words and the categories that words create. The Myers-Briggs system uses 4 categories. Why? The last letter represents how we make ourselves known to others. Those who rely primarily on words and the categories words create to make themselves known to others are called Judging, and extrovert their Decision Making function. Those who do not trust words and rely on a more holistic process to make themselves known to others are called Perceiving, and extrovert their Information Gathering function.

From there it seems reasonable to discuss the Decision Making and Information Gathering functions. Those who rely primarily on words and the categories words create to guide their decision-making are called Thinking. Those who rely on a more holistic process to make decisions are called Feeling.

Those who rely primarily on words and the categories words create to gather information are called Sensing. Those who rely on a more holistic process to gather information are called Intuiting.

Finally, what’s left is how we get our energy. Those who prefer words and the categories words create for their energy we call Extroverts. Those who draw their energy through a time of reflection and temporary retreat from words we call Introverts.

Thus we have four personality sphers, each with the possible letters ESTJ or INFP. ESTJs rely on words and the categories words create in each sphere, while INFPs rely on a more holistic process drawing from both words and the biological instinct.

For instance, I am INTP. I rely on a holistic process to get my energy (I), gather information (N), and make myself known to others (P). However, I rely primarily on words alone to make decisions. This is true, as I am very distrustful and skeptical of things in general, but demand a strict logical consistency of my actions.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance review

I think the following passage captures Pirsig's theme:

"A screw sticks, for example, on a side cover assembly...
"If you're experienced you'd probably apply a penetrating liquid and an impact driver at this point. But suppose you're inexperienced and you attach a self-locking plier wrench to the shank of your screwdriver and really twist it hard, a procedure you've had success with in the past, but which this time succeeds only in tearing the slot of the screw.
"Your mind was already thinking ahead to what you would do when the cover plate was off, and so it takes a little time to realize that this irritating minor annoyance of a torn screw slot isn't just irritating and minor. You're stuck...
"It's a miserable experience emotionally. You're losing time. You're incompetent. You don't know what you're doing. You should be ashamed of yourself. You should take the machine to a real mechanic who knows how to figure these things out." - Ch. 24, pg. 271 [out of 402]

Pirsig builds of this common feeling of stuckness--lost keys, test questions that we can't quite remember, computers that don't do what we are telling it, etc. The book opens on a road trip that the author is making with his son Chris, and John and Sylvia, a likable couple who also enjoy motorcycle riding. Chris is riding on the back of his father's cycle, John and Sylvia on their BMW. Pirsig knows his bike inside and out, observant of every mechanical nuance that might be a clue toward keeping the motor in top condition. John and Sylvia, however, both are "stuck" when it comes to technology (BMW cylces are known for having few mechanical problems on the road), and leave even the smallest jobs to a paid mechanic. Finally Pirsig comprehends why: "To get away from technology out into the country in the fresh air and sunshine is why they are on the motorcycle in the first place. For me to bring it back to them just at the point and place where they think they have finally escaped it just frosts both of them, tremendously." (Ch. 1, pg. 8)

Pirsig's book presents a theory about the source of John's and Sylvia's exasperation with technology and outlines the foundations for a solution. At this point I feel it necessary to issue a disclaimer. You may be thinking this book sounds like both an enjoyable and illuminating read. And for the first 100 pages you'd be right! The core of the book shifts in style, though it's not necessarily a change for the worse. My disclaimer: "This book was written for people who like to struggle with ideas." Pirsig, who also spent four years teaching rhetoric in the Montana and Illinois university systems, admits as much at this point within the book--"I suppose if I were a novelist rather than a Chautauqua orator I'd try to 'develop the characters' of John and Sylvia and Chris... That would be quite a novel, but for some reason I don't feel quite up to it." (Ch. 12, pg. 129)

Webster's defines a Chautauqua as: "a traveling show or local assembly that flourished in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that provided popular education combined with entertainment in the form of lectures, [among other activities]." This book was written precisely for those individuals who feel excited by the idea of a Chautauqua.

The rest of the book is more an autobiography of the author's journey through Western thought than a novel, although it retains many literary elements. Pirsig's insights continued to surprise me through the whole 373 pages. His main concern is the question "What values does scientific thinking teach us?" He comes to doubt society's commonly-accepted viewpoint that science teaches only morally-neutral, objective analysis.

Pirsig is not satisfied with this answer because for him, science is a means to Truth rather than a means to utilitarian application. Utilitarian application may satisfy most, but Pirsig invested too much in the pursuit of deeper Truth to stop there. To him, the near universal acceptance of utilitarian application as a validation of science, at the expense of the pursuit of a single absolute truth, becomes a ghost that haunts his whole way of thinking. "Great minds struggle to cure diseases so that people may live longer, but only madmen ask why. One lives longer in order that he may live longer. There is no other purpose. That is what the ghost says." (Ch. 7, pg. 85)

The problem, as he sees it, is that there are infinite possible applications of science, and indeed an infinite number of truths that experimentation can prove. We treat scientific knowledge as an end worthy in itself, but there is no ultimate completeness to be found there. "It is science itself that is leading mankind from single absolute truths to multiple, indeterminate, relative ones... Science itself is producing the indeterminacy of thought and values that rational knowledge is supposed to eliminate." (Ch. 10, pg. 108)

Science, when its end is only technology and no longer a meditation on Truth, becomes every bit as subjective as musical taste or religious belief. We use science to extend lifespans and rearrange the elements of the earth into any number of products for physical comfort or electronically-produced amusement in the same way that one prefers Beethoven over Mozart, or Catholicism over Baptists.

To avoid facing this inconsistency, Western thought has petrified, insisting that Classicism and Romanticism are mutually exclusive spheres rather than two approaches toward the same end. There's the "hard" sectors of science and business, which are ruled by objectivity, and then everything else--the arts, volunteer work, religion. In fact these spheres are different, but it is wrong to think think they have nothing to do with each other, and that the "hard" sphere should be controlled only by objective analysis. Classicism develops out of our social predisposition to use language--to learn the accepted name of things and conform to one's cultural grouping. Romanticism comes from humanity's evolutionary, biological need to experiment and experience until arriving at the behavior that feels most right. It is the interaction of these competing worlds that created and has the ability to expand humanity's consciousness. Pirsig is exploring this fundamental duality of consciousness through the lens of Western philosophical thought, using motorcycle maintenance to explain the Classical mode of dividing and classifying knowledge, and Zen, the Romantic holistic approach.

This book is for those who enjoy wrestling with these sort of ideas. In one of the more revealing autobiographical segments, Pirsig employs a quote from Albert Einstein describing an angel who expels the egoists and utilitarians from the Temple of Science. All that remain, "those who have found favor with the angel," are those whose "finely tempered nature longs to escape from his noisy cramped surroundings into the silence of the mountains where the eye ranges freely through the still pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity." (Ch. 10, pg. 104) For these, I could not recommend ZAMM highly enough.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Personality Theory

Jungian Personality-Type theory -

4 spheres of personality -
1st - how you think, how you "recharge" yourself - ENERGY
2nd - how you get information - INFO
3rd - how you make decisions - DECISIONS
4th - how you schedule your time/interact with others - TIME

Are you more comfortable with:

atomized world as created by language and symbols --- Sustained by the drive to share in society, to obey society's rules, to fit in, to conform
continually flowing world of senses and concepts --- sustained by the drive to experiment, to experience all possible variations, to fully know everything around you.
Extrovert ENERGY Introvert
Sensing INFO iNtuition
Thinking DECISIONS Feeling
Judging TIME Perceiving

For more info on specific types, I really liked the descriptions on this site Plenty of good ones out there though, (others have free tests)

Consciousness arises from these two competing energies. They go by many names. Music theory calls it Repetition vs. Variation; literary critics - Society vs. Nature; Ayn Rand referred to it as Integration vs. Differentiation; also, stoicism vs. hedonism; conformity vs. independence; words vs. instinct.

Although market capitalism encourages people to follow their immediate self-interest, everyone's first experience with society comes from profoundly un-self-interested acts--the sharing of language. It is a lesson the child's mind is quite eager to learn. We want society's affirmation--we want to be seen as good by those who are important to us. We quickly learn that to share, there are rules we must learn and follow. We must learn certain words, and learn when to say them, and in what tone to speak. We must learn the standards of modesty, we must conform. But the other force, the biological energy within us, encourages experience rather than obedience. This drive tells us to seek out all possible variations, to know and experience a thing to its bottom. Animals too experiment. They will try an action again and again and again until they master it to an exceptional degree. To this, humans add language, rules and constraints. The strain of our biological drive to experiment against our social desire to share and fit in, is what creates our consciousness.

How do these energies play out in our lives? My theory is that left to ourselves, we are all non-conformist INFPs, but upon first feeling part of a group that we want to be a part of, all start out as ESTJs. The change from INFP to ESTJ is often (but not always) seen in children around the age 5-7, as kids go from being curious about everything and largely self-centered, to being strict enforcers of rules and focused more on pleasing others (friends or authorities).

Life in society then is a (not necessarily linear) journey starting from the conforming side of the conforming-independent spectrum, then learning to think for oneself (analogous to leaving Plato's cave and seeing the sunlight), and then possibly returning to society in an effort to implement a certain insight, (going back into the cave). In this interpretation then, there would be not 16, but potentially (3^4) 81 personality types. The INFP letters would all be the same, but each ESTJ letter could be either a "starting" E (or S or T or J) - meaning an extrovert who has not yet learned introspection - or a "returning" E (one who has).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No market for a playwright

If Shakespeare were an American, would he write music, using his words to cash in on albums and concerts? I would say he could be a better Woody Allen, but alas he was Catholic and not a Jew. Would he write for TV, could he make top writer for The Simpsons?

Or would he have been a modern Van Gogh, quietly writing plays while supported by a brother? It takes a culture to produce a Shakespeare, and America is a market instead.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Shack review

The Shack is not great literature, so it will not change anyone's mind. However, it does contain great theology. If you are already religious and are looking for a way to express Christianity free from its corruption by power, The Shack is worth checking out!

Some good passages-

Expressing the biggest mistake within mainstream Protestantism:
pg. 66 - Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book.

pg. 123 - "Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promote it... Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you."
"Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong use to make others conform to what they want."
"Isn't it helpful in keeping people from fighting endlessly or getting hurt?"
"Sometimes," Papa continued. "But in a selfish world it is also used to inflict great harm."
"But don't you use it to restrain evil?"
"We carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems even while we seek to free you from them."

pg. 189 - "People are tenacious when it comes to the treasure of their imaginary independence. They hoard and hold their sickness with a firm grip. They find their identity and worth in their brokenness and guard it with every ounce of strength they have. No wonder grace has such little attraction. In that sense you have tried to lock the door of your heart from the inside."

pg. 182 - Again Jesus stopped. "Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormos, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans, and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I ahve followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved."
"Does that mean," asked Mack, "that all roads will lead to you?"
"Not at all," smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. "Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

#1 on my list of most important Americans - Noam Chomsky

The man has done it all. From helping drive behaviorism out of psychology in the 1950's, to standing up for populist and third-party politics, Chomsky is an intellectual and democratic hero.

Excerpts from his book, What We Say Goes: Conversations on US Power in a Changing World. (2007)


Imagery over Issues
pg. 53 - 54
When I was driving home the other day and listening to NPR—my masochist streak—they happened to have a long segment on Barack Obama. It was very favorable, really enthusiastic. Here is a new star rising in the political firmament. I was listening to see if the report would say anything about his position on issues—any issue. Nothing. It was just about his image. I think they maybe have had a couple words about him being in favor of doing something about climate. What are his positions? It just doesn't matter. You read the articles. It's the same. He gives hope. He looks right into your eyes when you talk to him. That's what's considered significant. Not “Should we control our own resources? Should we nationalize our resources? Should we have water for people? Should we have health care systems? Should we stop carrying out aggression?” No. That's not mentioned. Because our electoral system, our political system, has been driven to such a low level that issues are completely marginalized.


pg. 24 - From Washington's perspective, any democracy that emerges has to be one subordinated to U.S. interests. The United States wants Lebanon to become a commercial and financial center run for the wealthy. One of the reasons that Hezbollah became so powerful is that the Lebanese government did essentially nothing for poorer Shiites in south Beirut and south Lebanon. Hezbollah's prestige comes not just from leading the guerrilla forces that drove Israel out of Lebanon in 2000, but form providing social services--health, education, financial aid. For many Lebanese, Hezbollah is the government. As with other Islamic fundamentalist movements, that's the basis for its enormous popular support. You don't want to have nonstate actors, especially military ones, inside a state, but unless the fundamental problems are dealt with, that's going to happen. It's almost inevitable. In fact, the United States and Israel substantially helped create Islamic fundamentalist extremism by destroying secular nationalism. If you destroy secular nationalism, people aren't going to just say, "Okay, cut my throat." They're going to turn somewhere else. And that somewhere else has been extremist religious fanaticism.


Leaving not an option
pg. 28 – The United States has a real dilemma. All the talk about withdrawal strategies is essentially worthless unless we face a fundamental point: the United States cannot easily withdraw from Iraq. It cannot leave Iraq as a sovereign independent state. “Cannot” is too strong, but it would be an immense defeat, nothing like Vietnam. The analogies are worthless. In the case of Vietnam, they could destroy the country, walk out, and basically win the war. Those were their major objectives: killing a “virus” that might “infect” others by independent development, maybe undermining the U.S. Position in much of Asia if the “infection” spread. They didn't achieve the maximal objectives in Vietnam, but they achieved the main ones. You can't do that in Iraq. It's much too valuable. Not only in itself—Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world, and very accessible ones—but because of its position right in the center of the world's main energy-producing regions. Iraq borders Iran and Saudi Arabia. It would be a night-mare for them to leave Iraq to its own population, which would, of course, have a Shiite majority and would tighten its relations with Iran, as it's already begun doing.

pg. 27 – You have to give Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz credit. They have created a Shiite-dominated state in Iraq that has close links to Iran and may turn out to be another religious fundamentalist state. They created it—it wasn't there before. Whatever they thought they were doing, that's what they achieved.


pg. 5 - Howard Zinn, in his speech "The Problem Is Civil Obedience," says civil disobedience is "not our problem. ... Our problem is civil obedience," people taking orders and not questioning. How do we confront that?
Howard is quite right. Obedience and subordination to power are the major problem, not just here but everywhere. It's much more important here because the state is so powerful, so it matters more here than in Luxembourg, for example. But it's the same problem.
We have models as to how to confront it. First of all, we have plenty of models from our own history. We also have examples from other parts of the hemisphere. For example, Bolivia and Haiti had democratic elections of a kind that we can't even conceive of in the United States. In Bolivia, were the candidates both rich guys who went to Yale and joined the Skull and Bones Society and ran on much the same program because they're supported by the same corporations? No. The people of Bolivia elected someone from their own ranks, Evo Morales. That's democracy. In Haiti, if Jean-Bertrand Aristide had not been expelled from the Caribbean by the United States in early 2004, it's very likely that he would have won reelection in Haiti. In Haiti and Bolivia, people act in ways that enable them to participate in the democratic system. Here, we don't. That's real obedience. The kind of disobedience that's needed is to re-created a functioning democracy. It's not a very radical idea.


pg. 2 - 4 - Eighteen Pakistani civilians were killed in a U.S. missile attack on Pakistan in January 2006. The New York Times, in an editorial, commented, "Those strikes were legitimately aimed at top fugitive leaders of Al Qaeda."
That's because the New York Times agrees, and always has, that the United States should be an outlaw state. That's not surprising. The United States has the right to use violence where it chooses, no matter what happens. If we hit the wrong people, we might say, "Sorry, we hit the wrong people." But there should be no limits on the right of the United States to use force.

The Times and other liberal media outlets are exercised about domestric surveillance and invasions of privacy. Why doesn't that concern for law extend to the international arena?
Actually, the media are very concerned, just like James Traub, with violations of international law: when some enemy does it. So the policy is completely consistent. It should never be called a double standard. It's a single standard of subordination to power. Surveillance is bothersome to people in power. They don't like it. Powerful people don't want to have their e-mails read by Big Brother, so, yes, they're kind of annoyed by surveillance. On the other hand, a gross violation of international law--they the Nurmeberg Tribunal called "the supreme international crime" that "contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole"--for example, the invasion of Iraq, that's just fine.
There is an interesting and important book, which naturally has hardly been reviewed, by two internaional law specialists, Howard Friel and Richard Falk, called The Record of the Paper. It happens to focus on the New York Times and its attitude toward international law, but onlu because of the paper's importance. The rest of the press is the same. Falk and Friel point out that the practice has been consistent: if an enemy can be accused of violating international law, it's a huge outrafe. But when the United States does something, it's as if it didn't happen. To take one example, they point out that in the seventy editorials on Iraq from September 11, 2001, to March 21, 2003, the invasion of Iraq, the words UN Charter and international law never appeared. That's typical of a newspaper that believes the United States should be an outlaw state.

Pg. 76 - Could you talk about the use of the passive voice in reporting on crimes of states?
That's a standard device, to write in the passive. So you have “People were killed,” not “We killed them.” Or “They died,” not “We murdered them, we tortured them.” In fact, there is more that you can say about the Chilean coup. The coup took place on September 11, 1973, which is often called the first 9/11 in South America. If you want to really think of what it was like, let's take a look at our 9/11 and imagine if it was on the same scale as the one in Chile in 1973, the one we were instrumental in perpetrating. To make a sensible analogy, you have to use per capita equivalent numbers because the United States is a much bigger country. So let's imagine that on September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda had bombed the White House, killed the president instituted a military coup, killed 50,000 to 100,000 people, tortured 700,000, established a terror center in Washington that instigated or supported comparable military coups elsewhere in the hemisphere, murdered and assassinated people they didn't like all over the world. Suppose they brought in a bunch of economists—let's call the Kandahar Boys—who wrecked the economy, were greatly revered, and then went home to collect their Nobel Prizes. Let's suppose that had happened. Would it have changed the world? Everyone says our September 11 changed the world. But this isn't hypothetical. That's what happened on September 11, 1973.


pg. 165 - It's usually called a "drug war" in the U.S. press. It has very little to do with reducing drug use in the United States and is known to have no effect on it. It's basically chemical warfare carried out against campesinos, Afro-Colombians, indigenous people, destroying their crops, driving them off the land and into the urban slums, leading to a lot of deaths. Colombia has one of the largest displaced-persons populations in the world.Alfredo Molano, Dispossessed: Chronlicles of the Desterrados of Colombia, trans. Daniel Bland (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005), see foreword by Aviva Chomsky. The government effectively clears land for mining, hydroelectric plants, export-oriented agribusiness, ranching, mineral extraction. It's also destroying the biodiversity of one of the richest areas of the world.
You were there.
I took hours of testimonies from poor peasants whose lives had been destroyed, whose lands had been destroyed, whose children were dying, and who were being driven away. It's chemical warfare. It also happens to destroy coca, but the government's own studies show that if there were really any interest in cutting back drug use in the United States, by far the most cost-effective means is prevention and treatment. Police measures are far more expensive and less effective. Still more ineffective and costly is border interdiction. And by far the least effective and most costly is out-of-country operations, like eradicating crops, which means chemical warfare.


pg. 186-187 - In your book Perilous Power, which you wrote with Gilbert Achcar, you say, "Educating the American public is the main thing to be done." You write books, give lectures, and do interviews like this. That's your effort in terms of education. What about a broader initiative in terms of education the U.S. public? Do you have any suggestions?

Just the obvious one. Individuals can't do it. It doesn't make any sense. People have to do it locally. That's exactly the importance of labor unions. They did defend workers' rights, but beyond that they were very influential in workers' education. I remember this from childhood, when my family--seamstresses, shop boys, unemployed working-class Jewish immigrants--were members of labor unions. That's where there were workers' education centers, cultural centers, cultural events, newspapers. In the early part of the twentieth century, there were all sorts of labor newspapers that reached hundreds of thousands of people. That was a source of popular education. Unions have been under bitter business and government attack, partly for that reason. But it's possible to reconstruct popular education in all kinds of ways, in fact to influence even the schools. But it's going to have to be done by lots of people, just as in every other case.

Where did the civil rights movement come from? It didn't happen because Martin Luther King said, "Let's have a civil rights movement." He was riding the wave of popular activism. And the same with Lyndon Johnson's progressive measures, which were not insignificant. He played a role in them, but a wave of popular activism demanded them. It's the same with anything else. Did Betty Friedan say, "Let's have women's rights," and all of a sudden we had women's rights? No. It's a long struggle. That's what education is.


Free market globalization
pg. 82 – There have been major struggles over the issue of water privatization in Bolivia, particularly in Cochabamba, where there was a big uprising that forced out Bechtel and the consortium that was privatizing the water. That was a good example of real globalization. Part of the reason the people of Cochabamba could succeed was that they were able to quickly contact activists around the world to coordinate demonstrations at Bechtel offices. One protest in particular happened to coincide with a big demonstration in Washington against the World Bank and IMF policies. That gave the struggle in Bolivia international publicity. That's real globalization by people, so therefore it's called antiglobalization. But it worked.

Vietnam "war"
pg. 4 - 5Martin Luther King Jr., in his April 4, 1967, Riverside Church speech, said, "Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war." Is that true?

You see that anywhere you look. It's obviously true in the United State. But was the United State "at war" in 1967? King suggests it was. It's an odd sense of being at war. The United States was attacking another country--in fact, it was attacking all of Indochina--but had not been attacked by anybody. So what's the war? it was just plain, outright aggression.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Contradiction in Today's Republican Leadership

Society needs both conservative and progressive voices. We need both traditions and change, both productivity and equality, both “what works” and “how it should be.” For politics to be healthy, conservatives should identify and draw attention to contradictions in progressive programs, and progressives should do the same for conservative programs. Lazy political discourse between progressives and conservatives leads to corruption and inefficiency.

So anyway, here goes:

The libertarian strain is what gives today's Republicans their intellectual depth.  Economic freedom is one of the primary adversaries to the vast dehumanizing social forces that democratic socialism easily stumbles into. Freedom is more than just economics though. Freedom is the use of creativity, the use of imagination.  Children instinctively know this, but as adults we seem to forget.  

Creative freedom is incompatible with the militant paranoia that sadly defines the Republican party today.  When today's Republican leadership use the word 'freedom', it is a dead word.  It is hypocritical to talk about freedom while refusing to accept a rational level of uncertainty regarding one's security.  The exercise of our freedom implies a certain level of uncertainty. 

Creativity feeds off of the new.  And as adults we know that the new is dangerous in the 'real' world.  The new is risky, and our financial futures contain enough risk as is.  That is the reality of adults, and there is some truth to it.  But not to the extent that current Republican leaders would have us believe.  Is the 'risk' of being a victim of terrorism really worth perpetual war?  Is the 'risk' of being a victim of a serial killing really worth never talking to strangers?  Is the 'risk' that marijuana poses to our youth really worth the criminalization of criminalization of a normally harmless, non-violent activity?

You cannot exercise freedom without accepting a rational level of uncertainty regarding your security.  People have trusted in the common humanity of strangers for millennia.  All the major religions encourage it.  But we are told to give up the new, to stop exercising our freedom, in the name of security.  We as citizens are to be contented to simply have the freedom provided to us by military sacrifice.  Freedom is a thing for us to be proud and thankful for, but only rarely to be exercised.  That is the contradiction behind today's Republican leadership.  They paint themselves as the protectors of freedom, but their freedom is an abstraction, a buzzword.  Freedom is like any other ability--it shrivels when not exercised.  Unexercised freedom becomes small and withered, a meaningless freedom. 

This corruption of freedom, this 'baby-sitter freedom' we are told to accept, is the Achilles heal of today's Republican leadership.  Freedom is not maintained by the paranoid elimination of every conceivable threat to one's security.  A toleration for a reasonable amount of uncertainty, and a trust in the humanity of others, is an essential part of exercising our freedom.  Just as it was for Jesus, just as it was for Muhammad, just as it was for Buddha.  Liberals should hammer this point relentlessly.