A Post NOT About piano technique: Obama’s historic victory

November 7th, 2008

After Barack Obama’s historic win on Tuesday, I sent the following email to everyone on my list, not realizing what a response I would get:

Dear friends,

After 8 long years of Bush – a fresh start! Entrenched interests stand in the way, but Obama’s victory brings a chance for the US to finally join with the world community to take on pressing challenges on climate change, human rights, and peace.

After years, even decades of distrust, let’s seize this moment of unity, reconciliation and hope to send a message of warm congratulations and invitation to work together to the new President and the American people.

We’ve built a huge wall near the White House in Washington DC where the number of signatures on our message and personal messages from around the world will grow over the next several hours. We’ve also asked Obama to personally receive our petition from a group of Avaaz members. Let’s get to 1 million signers and messages to Obama! Sign on at the link below and forward this email to others:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/million_messages_to_obama/98.php/?cl_tf_sign=1

This is a time for celebration of democracy, but already the sharks are circling – oil companies, war contractors, conservative lobbyists, and the powerful neo-con clique that brought us the war in Iraq are furiously lobbying to dim the prospects for change. Obama has promised national unity, and these interests will ask a high price for that unity.

Let’s act quickly to make sure the people of the world are heard as Obama makes crucial choices in the coming days on how to live up to his campaign promises to secure a strong global treaty on climate change, ban torture and close Guantanamo prison, withdraw are fully from Iraq, and double aid to make global poverty history. Rarely has a US President been more likely to listen to us.

We’ll make the point that on most of the pressing issues faced by Obama and the American people – from the financial crisis to climate change — we need to work together as one world to achieve change. Sign below and forward this message on:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/million_messages_to_obama/98.php/?cl_tf_sign=1

With hope,

Ricken, Brett, Alice, Iain, Paula, Paul, Graziela, Pascal, Milena, Graziela and the whole Avaaz team.

PS – Send us a picture of yourself for our wall – email it to obamawall@avaaz.org

PPS – Here’s a link to a report on Avaaz’s past campaigning –

http://www.avaaz.org/en/report_back_2/

PPS – And here’s a list of 10 of Obama’s campaign promises that

concern the world – you can find his full platform here

http://www.barackobama.com/issues/

:

· Reduce the US’s carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and play a strong positive role in negotiating a binding global treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol.

· Withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months and keep no permanent bases in the country.

· Establish a clear goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons across the globe

· Close the Guantanamo Bay detention center

· Double US aid to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015 and accelerate the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculoses and Malaria

· Open diplomatic talks with countries like Iran and Syria, to pursue peaceful resolution of tensions

· De-politicize military intelligence to avoid ever repeating the kind of manipulation that led the US into Iraq

· Launch a major diplomatic effort to stop the killings in Darfur

· Only negotiate new trade agreements that contain labor and environmental protections

· Invest $150 billion over ten years to support renewable energy and get 1 million plug-in electric cars on the road by 2015

The next day, this was in my inbox:

Alan Fraser, is this really from you?

If not you need to stop it.

If so, see my response below.

To borrow an immortal phrase from Joe the Biden, “Is this a Joke?” Where was the chapter on climate change in your video . . . or redistribution of poverty?

It’s pretty easy to claim the high moral ground when you’ve got no opposition. Do you care to go man to man with someone with a brain and knows how to use it?

Speaking as someone who’s gotten a great deal out of your video, you’re like many others these days: when it comes to politics you have no idea what you’re doing.

Please save further bilge such as this for committed marxists friends of yours!!

In disgust, R. E.

So I wrote this answer:

Dear Ron,

Yes it really is me!

And yes I don’t know much about politics. I live in Serbia, and although I heartily supported Kostunica, the “freedom figher” who replaced Milosevic, in the end he was hardly any better and certainly could do virtually nothing to clean up a government mostly run by the Serbian mafia…

However, if you didn’t experience Obama’s acceptance speech as a great moment in history, even if I know virtually nothing about politics, I do allow myself the indulgence of holding an opinion diametrically opposed to yours!

It remains to be seen how much of this glory will translate into real improvement, but I think our chances are far greater with Obama and the Democrats than with 4 more years of Republican thievery and lies…

As far as I can humbly perceive, Obama has an excellent mind and excellent intentions. In other words he does indeed “have a brain and knows how to use it” – this already puts him way out in front of everyone else.

Respectfully,

Alan Fraser, author of The Craft of Piano Playing and political amateur!

And received the following huge explanatory email, which has many interesting ideas in it (whether you agree or not, I believe it is worth following this because we need to be informed about the underlying issues now facing us):

Dear Alan,

I appreciate your temperate tone in response to my email, which to say the least, was vitriolic. Thank you for that. And I shall try to respond in kind. It was fair of you to refer to your view as an “indulgence” given the way I responded, but I wouldn’t ever call it that. I’d say you are exercising your rights a free man. I do feel that you have engaged me on these issues though, so here goes.

I know very little of the history of Serbia. What I have observed elsewhere is the repeated replacing of one despot with another. So I’m sorry to hear that you supported someone who turned out that way.

In my view, the great divide in politics is individualism vs collectivism, and the central issue is a man’s right to his life. The indispensable corollary to a man’s right to his life is his right to property. In a free society, a man acquires property by exchanging his work or goods for the work or goods of another man, in a mutually agreed and unforced trade. In a free society an individual’s rights end where another’s begins. He is not allowed to use force or fraud to obtain a value.

The basis for this is not a governmental decree, or a gift from god. It derives from man’s nature as a being of volitional consciousness. He has no automatic knowledge. He must first decide to use his mind. He must, to remain alive, by his own mental work, discover what is true or false. Then he uses that knowledge, to guide the course of his life, benefiting when he’s right, experiencing setbacks when he’s not, all the while self correcting, and refining his knowledge by integrating the newly acquired with the old. Such is the way a man produces things of value. Your DVD for instance, has been a tremendous value to me, (and if you give me a chance I will illustrate shortly

how I’m consistent with regard to your property rights).

So to obtain a value from someone by force, implied use of force, or fraud is anti-mind. In effect it is saying “I know your mind, if I left you free to use it, would not agree to this, my argument therefore is this gun”,(or this threat, or this rubber check, etc.) It’s in effect saying, “If you use your mind, it will cost you your life”

And since the mind is a man’s means of survival, to be anti-mind is to be anti-life.

Provided he doesn’t violate the rights of another, a man with no right to the dispose of the fruits of his labor, is a slave.

You mentioned the Serbian mafia. Would it be correct to describe their regime as institutionalized gang rule? And would it be safe to say that the initiation use of force or the threat of its use, was their principle means of persuasion?

So what would a proper government do? It would protect individual rights in 3 ways-from outside invaders (military), from internal violations of individual rights (police) and by providing a system of courts for adjudicating matters in dispute. It would have a legal monopoly on the use of force, but be restrained in using it only against those who initiate force against others. That’s the principle behind limited government, consented to by the people.

A government that INITIATES the use of force becomes mankind’s greatest enemy. A government that expropriates private property is in effect making property out of its citizens.

Hopefully you can infer how many of the recent actions of my government I have been supportive of. I am not blind to the abuses of power it has committed. Nor am I blind to what my government and my country represent historically compared to everything else that came before it.

People say America was built on the backs of slaves. Of course there was slavery, and it was a despicable chapter in our history. But there was opposition to it from the outset. Remember the 3/5ths compromise? That was instituted by the northern states to weaken the southern ones. It stated that if the southern states were not going to treat their slaves as full human beings that they would only be counted as 3/5ths of a person for the purposes of representation in congress. It took “four score and seven years” and several hundred thousand lives to settle that one, but the bottom line is that the US, and individual liberty, and its concurrent explosion of prosperity, drove slavery out of the civilized world. It is a triumph of the good. It is something to be proud of.

I say that, to be ashamed of that history is to completely drop the context. It’s to ignore the kinds of governments that preceded ours, and the fact that in Philadelphia in the late part of the 18th century, men who didn’t all agree, put their lives on the line for ideas borne of reason and rationality, not of power lust, mysticism and despotism, and created a government that protected the people, not the other way around. And with all the contradictions and inconsistencies, it created an example to the rest of the world of what was possible to a free man.

If you want to see slavery, it’s still around, and so are the political systems that led to, and further it. They are collectivistic. They hold that “rights” of the group supersedes the rights of the individual. They hold that there is only so much wealth, and that anyone who acquires a lot of it must have taken it from someone else, therefore it must be redistributed. But it’s self- evident that there’s vastly more wealth now than in the middle ages. So where is the source of that wealth? I say it’s the individual acting and creating freely, when he’s left to deal with others in free exchange. (But to get to the bottom of it Alan, what is the source of the lie about the source of wealth? I believe that lies in other

branches of philosophy which are outside this particular discussion.)

But no matter how romantic the appeal to “justice”, to vindicate the masses, the “voice of the people” invariably becomes one man who leads one pressure group, . . and the gang wars go on.

It’s also very important to distinguish between people who produce or EARN wealth, and those who acquire it through government loans, subsidies, or other legal distortions of the free market. The latter are people engaging in “legal plunder” which always ends in ruin for everyone. Redistribution of wealth, in practice, has always been redistribution

of poverty.

I’ve been on Obama’s website, I’ve heard his books on tape, I’ve listened to a lot of his speeches. I don’t traffic in republican national comittee talking points. I respectfully say to you there’s nothing new here. It’s retreaded Marxism, and exploitation of class envy. It’s been tried, and tried, and it’s resulted in misery and mass murder. Throughout history the apologists for these outrages have claimed that it wasn’t the fault of the “plan”, it was people who didn’t implement it correctly, as in Zimbabwe or Cambodia or North Korea or Venezuela, Soviet Russia, or Red China. They say that the ideal still exists, of a classless society, it’s just that they used the wrong means to achieve those ends. Alan, there’s only one goal of a person who seeks power over other people, and whether they get there or not is determined by time, and the grace of the victims, but in those cases I cited above, the gulags, the political prisoners, the economic ruin- those means ARE the ends.

People who advocate such political schemes are looters in matter. Even the doctrine of collectivism is intellectually parasitic. If thinking people didn’t take it upon themselves to create a value, how would there ever be anything to loot?

You live in Europe. Do you know the history of the Weimar republic? They had their conservatives and liberals too. The liberals wanted economic control, and the conservatives wanted intellectual control. And along came a charismatic demagogue who said “let’s have total control”. The germans had been prepared philosophically, steeped in

the ethics of duty and self sacrifice, and a hatred for reason, went for it. Hitler told them what he was going to do. It didn’t arouse a controversy. Lust for control of others was “priced in” to the monolithic philosophic cultural atmosphere of the time.

Obama and his ilk have said they want to take from the rich to “give back” to the middle class.

Let me tell you how that would affect me. I haven’t made more than 20,000 a year for some time. I live very sparsely. I don’t begrudge the rich their estates and their yachts, provided they earned their riches honestly. Their wealth is what allows me to live on what I live on! Take that from them, and yes I might see a short term benefit, from some dole from the government, but ultimately life will become more expensive for me! If wealth is outlawed, only outlaws will have wealth.

And while I’m on the subject of my own finances, this gets me to your DVD. I love your project. It’s made an enormous difference for me. I am finding that passages that I’ve struggled with for decades are suddenly, (and I mean on the first try!!) easy, thanks to your insights. I wanted to share it with a friend. And I thought long and hard about whether to just send him a copy of mine. But I valued your work and your right to it enough to buy another copy for him. I try to walk the walk too. But I’m not trying to impress you with my self sacrifice. It was an act of self defense and self esteem. I want

people like you to continue to produce things of great value (self-defense) and I believe that I’ll be able to afford them (self-esteem.)

If you’ll excuse me, right now I’m feeling overwhelmed by an torrent of ideology (and ideologues) that I believe is inimical to my freedom and the future of liberty in general. Your video has been a real bright spot for me for several months and has revived my playing in very surprising and enjoyable ways. So when I received that kind of political message I lashed out. I apologize for that. I don’t know you. (And noticed on re reading it that it was actually a forwarded letter!)

I have to mention this. Obama has tried impute racist motives to anyone who disagrees with him. I find this reprehensible. Especially with regard to McCain. But I want to state this unequivocally. There are many black conservatives in this country, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Ward Connerly, Clarence Thomas, Larry Elder, to name a few, and I would have been proud to have any of those men as my president. It’s what’s between a man’s ears that counts for me, and by all the sources I referred to earlier, all his own words, Obama fails to meet my standards very badly.

And lest I not mention Bush (both of them actually) I blame him (W) most for this turn of events. People have such a visceral hatred of the man, much of it with good cause, they were willing to do almost anything to rid themselves of any remnant of him . . . and they have, (done almost anything). I will be committing myself to rebuilding a legitimate pro individual rights conservative movement, and many of today’s so called conservatives wont be welcome. (FYI, McCain won’t make the first cut) I would ask you to consider the issue of private property as an indispensable component of liberty, and whether or not Obama’s stated convictions on the subject are anything to celebrate. I would also ask you to review the list of goals in that email you forwarded to me, goals that had as their theme the evil that is the United States. Please consider, no matter how emotionally appealing, whether they actually serve the cause of individual rights.

I hope I haven’t overtaxed your courtesy.

Take care,

R. E.

Finally this is the answer I sent back to Ron – this is not a political blog but for me, this is truly an historical, pivotal moment in modern history and I don’t want to behave as if it didn’t happen!

Hello Ron,

Thank you for being so generous with your time and sending me this wonderful email. I haven’t read Obama’s books, I didn’t know the things you tell me about him. I am surprised to hear them. If it’s really as you say, then yes, we face the danger of swinging to the other extreme.

I agree with you about private property. And interestingly, what you say about the society’s power being in the strength of the individual was one of Moshe Feldenkrais’s core beliefs and one of the key foundations of and motivations for the development of his whole method. So obviously I am with you on that one.

What I thought Obama meant was that he would redress the wrongs of the rich not doing their part, of their being able to earn millions and pay only pennies in income tax on all that while normal Joe Blows like you and me bit the bullet. And I sincerely hope he does mean that, and not what you interpret his words to mean.

I earned far less than 20,000 a year for almost two decades in order to develop the ideas of my approach. I do appreciate a great deal your buying a second DVD for your friend instead of copying it. That helps pay me for 20 years of sacrifice, and I am grateful for your real, practical support.

There is something about Obama that makes me suspect you are wrong about him. The man radiates integrity. The man who made that acceptance speech on Tuesday night didn’t resemble in any remote way the type of communist who wants to substitute one type of thievery with another. His ideals may seem utopian but for me they are realistic because they arise from a place of human truth within him. The better person in each of us resonates to his words – he inspires in the best sense of the word.

I think Barack Obama was not elected because he is black, nor because he is a closet socialist, nor because the other side was just too awful. I think he was elected because he is a great man, and I am hopeful that the quality of greatness in him will guide his presidency and ennoble us all in the process. And I think this is a realistic hope, not a fantasy!

In sincere respect,

Alan

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