More recently, I have understood something about myself and about current discourse that I really want to discuss. Group dynamics and how people communicate are important ideas to me, not just for myself, but for the world at large. The more ways to communicate we have, the less we seem to understand one another. It is quite remarkable how, in my lifetime, I have seen both pre internet and the internet era and how different that is. But this isn’t about digital communication for me. This is about reaching people and actually communicating. Communicating doesn’t just involve being able to listen to someone. Listening isn’t simply remembering what people say. It may seem tedious but I think understanding the different value systems and thought processes of different groups is a great first step to communicating. This is why I think discourse is so awful at the moment. I think that the establishment and those who are more well off, do not understand the mindset of the right wing in the country. I think the right wing radicals understand both the liberal establishment and in general, what appeals to Americans intrinsically. They however, don’t really understand the left wing. The establishment doesn’t understand either the left or the right wing. The left might have some idea about how the right wing argues and how disingenuous they are, but I think too often, we forget that they actually do have a world view and principles guiding them. Despite the chaos, there is some foundation behind the ways in which each of these groups communicate but also what lens they see the world through. First of all, let me summarize what I think the three different lenses are:
Left Wing: The current systems are not meeting human needs and are destroying people’s lives. Because we have taken time to understand and learn we understand solutions that are possible. The problem is that everyone else who isn’t in the left will always fight back. If people understood what actual socialism is and not believe buzzwords they would be socialists. The systems of power are intrisically unfair and immoral. All people should be given an equal opportunity to thrive. However, while we believe in personal responsibility, we also understand that sometimes, there are outside forces that are outside of our control that may limit our ability to reach our potential and sometimes even our basic human needs. War is usually a racket as it is never fought for the right reasons. Treating all people with dignity is very important and racism and discrimination are stupid and irrational. If the government is here, it should help mitigate societal inequities. We would prefer there not to be, because we think hierarchies that cannot be justified are wrong. We value diversity of people and diversity of thought. This however, means that we are not all exactly the same and therefore the left is a varied group of different ideologies and thoughts. We might not all agree on the strategies to get where we want to be but we all want a more equitable and healthy society. We value education.
The right wing: Objective morality is very important to the right. Our sense of right and wrong are dictated to us from tradition and from our respect for family and authority. The sense of certainty and stability are very important to us. Religion and hierarchy are important because it helps us live our lives as best as we can. Our morality is very important and is not to be taken lightly. Responsibility is always personal and we believe that the value of hard work can overcome societal oppression. We reject the idea that the environment can be a major hindrance to personal growth and gain. The value of liberty is central to us, because it allows all individuals to achieve whatever they set their mind to. We dislike intellectuals because they cannot be trusted. Intellectuals can very easily be corrupted and having money and power means you can change the arc of history. Respect for authority and the family unit are paramount to a healthy society. Diversity is not acceptable because it challenges our judeo-christian ethical system. Change for change’s sake is no good. The challenge to order is unacceptable and whatever we can do to resolve it is acceptable. Our moral system is just and because of that, the men and women we deem moral leaders, are all that is required for me to trust them with using whatever tactics we deem necessary to win. The left wing are an existential threat to morality and to our country. They are enemies and cannot be trusted to argue in good faith. Because of this there is no reason for us to treat them as equals. Winning is the morally right thing for us.
Establishment: My life was very good until recently when nobody could seem to get along. I am able to be courteous with my friends who are very diverse in their thought processes. Order and good government are important and because of this, I am uncomfortable with the rising tide of leftist radicals and their opposites the alt-right. What are they complaining about? Things are great right now. They seem to be going off for no reasons. However, the attempts by the left to change the government completely are unacceptable. Why can’t we just take it slow? It isn’t as serious as they think it is. They are clearly just listening to too much fake news or are getting objectively false information. I cannot believe that anyone’s lives are that awful. And why are both sides attacking us? We are trying to help them too can’t they see? It’s like they are children gaaaaaaaaah. Also why is the media so hated? That is so rude!! Can’t they understand nobody will listen if they feel attacked? Both sides are such children and so awful. At least the right isn’t trying to tax me though. Order and liberal values are very important. Responsible government and responsible intellectual and open debate are the most important things. Use your words guys. You can’t win through violence or mean rhetoric.
Part 1 end
Before I continue, I would like to point out one of the most difficult thing about discussing any really important ideas or values, which is that it often gets personal. Regardless of what we may think, our perception of ourselves does seep into discussions about politics and society. Because of this, it is useful to understand the differences in experiences and worldviews. I believe wholeheartedly in these things:
- True democracy requires open discussion and understanding. It requires knowledge and planning.
- If ideas and worldviews are not allowed to compete on even footing you cannot have a true middle ground.
- Not every argument or worldview is valid without figuring out whether their perceptions, value systems, and arguments adhere to the real world. In other words, the world is often shades of grey but the changes in society can sometimes prompt us to understand when certain solutions that have been acceptable previously might not be valid. Black and white thinking is normally questionable but I do think context matters.
- It is useful to understand when someone is incapable of being reached. This is tough but we need to.
The Centrist right now is, in many ways, a useless group. I mean no disrespect, because I do think that occasionally the values they uphold can be useful, but at the moment they seem unable to read the actual reality of the situation. Centrists benefit from the status quo and because of this they will often resist any major changes. But the really remarkable thing is that, our current batch of centrists have attached their own sort of morality on it and even made it a part of their identity. Similarly to the New Democrats, they seem to place a high moral virtue, on being polite, encouraging debate, and encouraging compromise. They cannot fathom how it is possible that when people have such different value systems that they might, not actually want to spend the extra mental energy on discussion. They take their own experiences and think most people have the same experience. In this way, they are more conservative than the current right wing. I use conservative here, as meaning, resistant to change in order to protect the system as is. The current right wing is actively encouraging regressing the culture back to some idealized 1950’s and are okay with using rapid government power to do so. They couch their talk in long term conservative values but understand that the importance of moral clarity is more important to their base then actual consistentcy. The left wants to destroy what they see as an oppressive system in order to help as many people as humanly possible. They do not trust centrists as allies because in most cases, they have turned on them when they needed them. They understand that the centrists depend on the status quo and because of that they can never actually work with them. Order is more important to centrists than justice. They depend on the system as is. This means they feel like the world is falling right now. They are not stupid and understand that many people are very unhappy. They understand that any solution would seriously challenge their lifestyle. They understand that they are not all where they are, exclusively on merit. They rely on the lies they tell themselves to get through the day. American Exceptionalism is more important to them than I think, to the alt right. They cannot live with the idea that America currently, is grossly awful for most, but that precisely because of that, they are where they are.
To be continued.
Much of the problems of discourse I believe comes from a fundamental misunderstanding between the right and left. However, I do believe the right understands the left and the center much better than the left understands the right. I say this while there is a plethora of literature critiquing and chronicling the rise of the right since the 70’s. There is so much information out there and it is comforting to the liberal sensibilities and to those who seek to understand their opponents. However, the answer as the core of the misunderstanding is possibly the most simple out of all. The nuances of the real world of politics can be very off putting to many people and not everyone has the time and energy required to keep up. The right understands this but it isn’t simply about just lying and being deceitful. If really it were about proving them wrong and crushing their arguments the right wouldn’t have been able to do what they did. At the core of the right are two central understandings, first that ordinary folks are more likely to respond to narratives that are suitably comforting but also that animate them. The central Western narratives alongside religion is a guiding principle that gives the right a sense of drive and purpose. This cannot be underestimated. The right have been very successful in making their principles very clear to every American. Whether or not it creates actual change is besides the point. Furthermore, they understand that moral courage and fortitude are appealing and can keep people grounded in turbulent times. This means that that gives them a sense of grounding that means they will resist any competing narratives or correctives. This means that their axioms and ideas are resistant to any other definitions of truth or objective that anyone else might have. Sam Harris might have been distressed at how Jordan Peterson defined truth but Peterson does understand the conservative mind better than Sam does. It is really sad that Peterson is able to get away with things like this. The resistance to opposing ideas and narratives means that the loyalty is fairly absolute. What we on the left see as dogmatic, the right sees as moral and praiseworthy. The right doesn’t care about the same things the left does but by appealing to what the liberals like and what the left likes they try to engage in bad faith. They don’t need to prove their points because the moment they speak they already won. They know the loyalty of their side is fairly irreversible but that the audience they gain doesn’t need to join them for them to effect them. They can demoralize the opposition by continuing to appear and never seem to stop lying and being deceitful. They can use whatever tactics they want and know that as long as they appeal to some great liberal principles they will get an audience. The principled ones will be useful for the right because they will always team up with the right to chastise any perceieved shutting down of the right. They appeal to the love of debate and ideas and use cultural capitalism as a means to an end. Everything the right does is connected to their perceived moral clarity and vision. This is why often the right are the ones who censor their own more often than the left does. You don’t ever hear about left wingers getting removed from conservative outlets. But the right demands to be allowed to challenge the left and liberals wherever they want. They refuse to play by the rules that they want the left to play by. This is how they win. In other words, the left cannot beat the right by sticking to liberal principles. This isn’t because liberalism is inherently useless or evil. It isn’t even because we must always respond to the right. It is only because the right has chosen to put their own perceived moral purity over the common good. This is inherently authoritarian. Of course, the centrist is more willing to play along because their status and power is more important than human rights or any particular principle. The principles of the left may seem to be broken by the Democratic Party all the time, but really what infuriates the voters are how they seem to always abandon the people for high minded compromises and principles. The Centrist and establishment left do care about the liberal concepts of government and this is why they don’t bend them for themselves. This is why the concept of the only adults in the room is such self-congratulatory bullshit. It is simply the establishment patting themselves on the back for perceived maturity and vision. Of course, often this ends up backfiring on the people. It also leads to the left and the centrist left looking weak and unable to govern. In fact, the sticking to principles actually is why they fail. They are playing a game in which the opposing side isn’t playing by the same rules. This means the right can look strong and principled, but also win. They look better regardless of how awful they are. The left then, by choosing to play by a set of rules are handicapping themselves. You can’t beat the right if they refuse to play. The right cares enough about their principles and policy goals to flout any conceivable norms to get it. The left would be wise to do the same. Our policy goals and principles are better and if it means being perceived as dangerous so be it. The right always is able to be dangerous but also somehow get legitimate status in discourse. I say, we don’t need permission to be better than the right because we are. They are unable to win without cheating so I say throw out the old game and show the right that the left cares more about human beings than the right. The left would also be wise to purge those who choose their own perceived money and status above their constiutents. This adds to the perception of the leftist parties being weak and unprincipled. The sad part is, these parts of the parties have been dominant for a while. Winning elections is secondary to getting the best policies. Do you think the transformation will happen overnight? Nope but the right showed that even when they had no power they had the backing and money to do whatever they wanted. Their ideas cannot survive without injecting them with sterioids. I say deprive them of the oxygen and change the conversation.