“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
“ In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise.
“But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies
We’ve come to a new point in life, maybe approaching something vaguely resembling maturity if not yet wisdom. A change in attitude was recently expressed in changes made to this blog’s comment policy, specifically about what is off-limits. There are certain issues that have gone beyond the realm of meaningful, worthy, and useful debate (race realism, genetic determinism, etc); sometimes entirely beyond the pale (white supremacy, eugenics, etc). That is to say there is nothing left to debate, as far as we’re concerned, not in the broad sense, if there might remain points of honest disagreement. One of those fruitless and dissatisfying areas of conflict involves false equivalency. So, on the pages of this blog, there is now a total ban on false equivalency arguments and rhetoric, although that partly comes down to interpretation and hence discernment. The point is that, no, the two sides of ‘left’ and ‘right’ are not the same, not even close. In making comparisons along these lines, tread lightly and think carefully before speaking. We’ve grown tired and bored with a certain kind of bullshit. We’ve had a thousand debates along these lines and we’ve reached our limit. We are moving on to newer and greener pastures.
The hour is later than some realize. Anyone who still doesn’t grok it by now is probably beyond being reached by fair-minded argument and open dialogue; or, anyway, it’s not our duty to enlighten their ignorance, remedy their inadequacies, or to save their lost souls. Nor will space be given to their words and time wasted in responding — life is too short. Been there, done that; and now we retire from the fray, like an old soldier joining a monastery. But for the purpose here, we will kindly offer an explanation. Part of the problem is the language itself (and we are entirely open to critique of terminology, definitions, and framing). Though an ancient and powerful metaphor, the egocentric (i.e., non-cardinal point) view of ideology as bipolar directionality along a linear spectrum is, well, simplistic. And the metaphorical frame was simplistic for a reason as a simple distinction was being made. Originally, all that it meant was literally on which side of the French king one sat, in indicating whether one was a supporter or a critic. Once the king was deposed, this seating arrangement continued in the National Assembly during the French Revolution. Then later on the distinction was applied to political factions, parties, movements, and ideologies.
To put it in basic terms, the original dualistic categorization of ‘right’ vs ‘left’ was about whether one favored or opposed naked authoritarianism as unquestioned power held with and enforced by a monopoly of violence (though articulated precursors of this distinction went back to the Axial Age, then later with the English Peasants’ Revolt and English Civil War). But, to be fair, the metaphor got muddy quite early on when the most reactionary, anti-democratic, and authoritarian of the Jacobins seized power and so the radically progressive, democratic, and anti-authoritarian Thomas Paine ended up sitting on the ‘right’ side with the Girondins who were initially part of the Jacobins (the ‘left’/’right’ divide took a while to be more clearly formulated following the revolution). As a side note, there is even more confusion in trying to apply the Western political spectrum to non-Western societies, such as Lebanon, that don’t share Western history, culture, and politics. Such things get quite messy and confused, even in the original context of meaning. Let’s not try to pretend to categorize the whole world in one of two categories, ‘right’ and ‘left’. On the other hand, at least within the Western world, let’s not dismiss these labels and what they’ve historically represented across centuries, as important meanings have been established.
Anyway, the latter position of opposition to unjust authoritarianism and/or rigid hierarchy came to be associated primarily with the core concept of egalitarianism that incorporates freedom and fairness (further related to communal principles of demos, democracy, fraternity, solidarity, class consciousness, global citizenry, commons, public, public good, public trust, and culture of trust, along with a more relational individualism); and liberty as well that, although distinct, became conflated with freedom in the English language (liberty was a legalistic concept of not being a slave in a slave-based society, whereas freedom was being a member of a free people; but, even early on, liberty had developed an alternative meaning of internal independence and autonomy). Egalitarianism was never opposed to authority in its entirety for there are other dynamic, flexible, responsive, accountable, temporary, conditional, and even anarchistic forms of authority besides the rigidly-structured and violently-enforced hierarchy of authoritarianism as monarchy, patriarchy, theocracy, feudalism, caste systems, imperialism, dictatorship, plutocracy, natural aristocracy, paternalistic liberalism, corporatism, social Darwinism, ethno-racial supremacy, law-and-order police state, etc; or even right-libertarianism. In line with such authoritarianism, we might as well throw in the the ‘liberty’-minded and ‘republican’-oriented but anti-democratic and anti-freedom Jacobinism, under Maximilian Robespierre, that led to basically a new monarchical-like empire with Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte having replaced King Louis XVI (a republic, by the way, is any government that isn’t a monarchy; most modern authoritarian regimes have not been monarchies). This is not unlike how Stalin’s personality cult replaced Emperor Nicholas II and re-created the Russian Empire with an industrialized neo-feudalism involving peasant-like ‘communist’ laborers that were put back into place after revolting. In America and France, both radical revolutions for egalitarianism were co-opted by anti-egalitarian reactionaries and authoritarians who used the demagoguery of fake egalitarian rhetoric. Are we to call that the ‘left’? Similarly, just because the business-friendly, corporatist-promoting, and individualism-fetishizing Nazis (i.e., fascists) called themselves national ‘socialists’, are we also to include them as part of the ‘left’? If so, all meaningful distinctions are moot and we should give up; but we don’t accept that.
As another side note, originally republicanism was the ‘leftist’ challenge to the ‘rightist’ defense of monarchy, in the context that all authoritarian regimes at the time were monarchies. But, with monarchy eliminated in the founding of the United States and republicanism having become normalized, many post-revolutionary conservatives and right-wingers embraced republicanism which sort of became a near meaningless word in how it describes nothing in particular (like the United States, both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were republics). Thomas Jefferson observed, “In truth, the abuses of monarchy had so much filled all the space of political contemplation, that we imagined everything republican which was not monarchy. We had not yet penetrated to the mother principle, that ‘governments are republican only in proportion as they embody the will of their people, and execute it.’ Hence, our first constitutions had really no leading principles in them” (letter written to Samuel Kercheval; Monticello, July 12, 1816). This relates to how the subversive ideal of republican federalism was originally the radical position in the American Revolution as it was the insurrectionist opposition to the monarchy of the British Empire. Then reactionary authoritarians co-opted the republican ‘Federalist’ label for themselves. This created the odd situation where the so-called Anti-Federalists were more pro-federalist than those who identified themselves as Federalists, while some of those pseudo-Federalists became nostalgic about imperialism and even monarchy. Going back centuries, there has been a continuous pattern of reactionaries co-opting the language of the ‘left’ which endlessly complicates matters (one might call them ‘Faceless Men‘). The first ‘libertarians’, for example, were French anarchist/anti-statist socialists who were part of the ‘left-wing’ workers movement that included Marxists and communists. Yet today the right-‘libertarian’ Koch brothers (one now dead) are the leading power and funding source behind a libertarian movement to replace democracy with neo-fascism.
The rightist position, no matter the language and labels co-opted within reactionary rhetoric, has emphasized a metaphorical view of the political head (or capitalist head; or religious head) as ruling over and held above or otherwise controlling and being superior to the body politic (or body economic; or Body of Christ as church body), whereas the leftist view has tended to consider the metaphorical head as merely a single part of a metaphorical whole body not to be prejudicially prioritized. So, the leftist emphasis has been on the communal, collective, systemic, holistic, and co-creative; that the parts are inseparable and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; as expressed in more modern theories of historical materialism, sociology, anthropology, ecology, integralism, intersectionality, etc (in Spiral Dynamics, presently somewhere between green, yellow, and turquoise vmemes, although earlier incorporating more from orange vmeme). As such, the detached head or any other part cannot metonymically stand in for the whole body. In democracy, like many tribal societies where the leader follows, authority represents the public will through consent of the governed toward the public good but cannot enforce anything upon the public or else it no longer is democracy (similar to the reason the Soviet Union was not ‘leftist’ precisely to the degree that it became a neo-feudal Russian Empire built on a Stalinist personality cult, not to dismiss that many Soviet citizens and officials genuinely sought to promote egalitarian leftism as communism that gave workers freedom, autonomy, and agency; similarly not to dismiss that many in the American founding generation actually did advocate and support democracy).
To get back to the metaphor of the ‘head’ and ‘body’, we can also consider it non-metaphorically. The idea of the ‘head’ ruling the ‘body’ was an old scientific theory of human biology that lingers in folk scientific understandings of folk psychology about the egoic individuality — the brain (or some part of the brain; e.g., pineal gland) as the seat of the self, soul, or consciousness. Yet modern science has, instead, found that neurons exist in other parts of the body (gut, heart, etc), that multiple links operate between brain and other areas (e.g., gut-brain axis), and that neurocognition is more embodied and diffuse than previously recognized, not to mention a bio-electromagnetic field that extends several feet beyond the physical body. The rightist conviction in separation and division, an ideology of the atomistic individual self, atomistic body, atomistic material world, atomistic private property, atomistic nuclear family, atomistic worker-cog, atomistic consumer-citizen, atomistic God, atomistic relationship to God, and atomistic authority figures (an often regressive blue-orange vmeme alliance of the New Right and MAGA, but sometimes shifting toward an orange-green alliance such as Russel Kirk’s unconscious postmodernism, Karl Rove’s social constructivism, Donald Trump’s post-truth, and Jordan Peterson’s self-loathing pluralism) is far less scientifically plausible and morally compelling than it was when early scientific thought (e.g., Newtonian physics) had yet to be challenged by later scientific research, knowledge, and theory.
There is an understandable attraction to visually simplistic metaphors that capture the imagination. And there is inspiration to be taken from the wing metaphor, since two wings are part of a single bird, often used as a symbol of nobility and natural freedom, such as the bald eagle being the primary symbol of the United States. As elegant and inspiring as it might be to think of society like a great feathered creature requiring a linked pair of wings moving in balanced unison to gain lift and soar through the sky, it becomes readily apparent where the metaphor of a ‘left’ wing of egalitarianism (i.e., non-rigidly non-hierarchical authority) and a ‘right’ wing of authoritarianism (i.e., rigidly hierarchical authority) fails us. In the world we actually live in, a small ‘right’ wing ruling elite controls both ruling parties and has come to dominate all of society through plutocratic and kleptocratic, corporatocratic and oligarchic capitalist realism (fungible wealth of ‘capital’ etymologically as head; related to ‘cattle’ and ‘chattel’; hence, chattel slavery was part of early capitalism and still is). The metaphor in question would only describe reality if a stunted ‘right’ wing had somehow become bloated and cancerous, grown a monstrous demonic mouth-hole with razor-like teeth, began beating to death the massive but paralyzed ‘left’ wing, futilely struggled to detach itself from the body, and then sado-masochistcally attempted to devour the rest of the bird. The metaphor breaks down a bit at that point. Hence, the problem with false equivalency between ‘left’ and ‘right’. I hope that clears things up.
We are well into a new century and the older generations that held power since the Cold War, too many with minds locked into backlash, are finally retiring, turning senile, and dying off. As a society, it is time for the rest of us to move on. Although silenced and suppressed, disenfranchised and demoralized, the vast majority of Americans already agree on basic values, aspirations, and demands (a 60-90% supermajority of the population, depending on the particular issue; in some cases, 90+%). That a hyped-up and over-promoted minority in the ruling elite and on the far right fringe disagrees is irrelevant. Even most Americans supposedly on the political ‘right’ to varying degrees agree with ‘leftist’ and liberal positions on many key policies; albeit a diverse and pluralistic supermajority. So, the many average Americans on the so-called ‘right’ are not enemies and one might argue they’re not even really on the ‘right’, despite false polarization pushed by corporate media and corporatist parties to manipulate and control us, divide and disempower us. Though many have been indoctrinated to believe the ‘left’ is their enemy, we invite them to consciously join the moral (super-)majority they might already belong to without knowing it. This is what leftists, in opposition to false consciousness, refer to as class consciousness and other forms of group consciousness or shared consciousness; the impulse behind intersectional politics that, if imperfectly, poses a worldview where the oppressed majority could feel unity and solidarity amidst overlapping disadvantages, rather than the splintering division of competing identity politics (whites vs minorities, one minority group vs another, men vs women, LGBTQ vs cis-heterosexuality, able-bodied vs persons with disabilities, Americans vs foreigners, WASPs vs ethnic-Americans, Christians vs everyone else, and on and on); and, in our reactionary society, this also applies to left vs right and liberal vs conservative, and hence the reason we’ve emphasized the public as a supermajority with the potential of unified solidarity.
To put some numbers to it, John Sides has a decent 2014 article, Why most conservatives are secretly liberals. He reports that, “almost 30 percent of Americans are “consistent liberals” — people who call themselves liberals and have liberal politics. Only 15 percent are “consistent conservatives” — people who call themselves conservative and have conservative politics. Nearly 30 percent are people who identify as conservative but actually express liberal views. The United States appears to be a center-right nation in name only” (with another 25% that is some combination of independent, indifferent, apathetic, frustrated, cynical, confused, uninformed, misinformed, contrarian, and trollish; i.e., crazification factor). In referencing Ideology in America by Christopher Ellis and James Stimson, Sides points out how this disjuncture has been longstanding: “When identifying themselves in a word, Americans choose “conservative” far more than “liberal.” In fact they have done so for 70 years, and increasingly so since the early 1960s. […] On average, liberal responses were more common than conservative responses. This has been true in nearly every year since 1956, even as the relative liberalism of the public has trended up and down. For decades now there has been a consistent discrepancy between what Ellis and Stimson call symbolic ideology (how we label ourselves) and operational ideology (what we really think about the size of government).”
Here in this blog, our mission is to defend the broad and majoritarian ‘leftism’ (i.e., pro-egalitarianism) of this inclusionary big tent movement; and that is why we are making important and necessary distinctions. The reason the political right opposes majoritarianism is because, consciously or unconsciously, they realize they are a very small minority; that is to say they not only oppose majoritarianism but also oppose the supermajority itself, and particularly oppose the supermajority developing group consciousness of being a supermajority. Whatever one wants to call it and by whichever metaphor one wants to frame it, this is the same difference that makes a difference. We the free People are the demos of democracy. After asserting the founders and framers had failed to create and protect a free society, an aging Thomas Jefferson asked where was to be found republicanism (as he defined it: democratic, popular, direct, and majoritarian self-governance; if he was hypocritical in his racism and sexism) and he answered: “Not in our constitution certainly, but merely in the spirit of our people.” The American public, the American majority is the rampart upon which democracy must be defended, the line that we cannot back down from, the ground that can never be ceded for it would be a mortal wound, collective soul death. There is no compromise on this point. We face an existential crisis, a moment of do or die. Here we stand or separately we will hang, to echo one famous founder. We are quickly running out of opportunities to avoid the worst and, in knowing history, we realize the worst can get quite bad — not to mention that each iteration of the worst is likely to be worse than the last.
This is why, in this blog, we are not going to portray or allow the portrayal of both sides as equal or equivalent. We are not going to treat fascism, theocracy, and bigotry as equally valid as anti-fascism, secularism, and tolerance. We are not going to pretend that those opposed to some authoritarianism in favor of other, often worse, authoritarianism are the same as those who oppose all authoritarianism on principle. Social domination and social democracy aren’t merely two reasonable options of how to govern society. Either there is freedom or not. And any liberty that denies democracy is just another name for slavery. Also, to get at a specific point, no, the comparably rare violence, typically property damage, of recent leftists defending egalitarianism, countering injustice, standing up to oppression, protesting wrongdoing, and fighting authoritarianism is no where near the same as the widespread commonality of right-wing terrorism, hate crimes, violent oppression, police statism, and war-mongering. If you don’t understand what is at stake, we won’t be bothered to give you the time of day. If you’re still going on about false equivalence, you have fallen into an evil mindset, a psychotic fantasy that disconnects you from real world suffering of others.
To cite actual United States data from the past decade (2012-2021), right-wing non-Islamic extremists have committed 75% of extremist-related killings, “including white supremacy, anti-government extremism of several types, right-wing conspiracy theory adherents and toxic masculinity adherents”; and the next largest group is that of right-wing Islamic extremists at 20%; while left-wing extremists are falsely portrayed at 4%, but that includes black nationalists who are typically right-wingers in terms of advocating socially conservative ethno-nationalism and fundamentalism (e.g., Nation of Islam); which leaves only anarchists, both left-anarchists and right-anarchists, who have committed no extremist-related killings in decades (Anti-Defamation League, Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2021). Notably, there is absolutely no violent deaths from left-wing Christians and Muslims, multicultural advocates, pro-government and pro-democracy types, left-wing conspiracy theory adherents, and toxic femininity adherents. So, basically, 100% of recent deaths by extremism are attributed to one sector or another of the religious and socio-political right. With that in mind, fuck off about “spiritual violence“, in rationalizing moral cowardice, while people in the real world are suffering and dying from physical violence, usually coming exclusively from one side.
Nonetheless, intelligent and informed distinctions will be made, rather than overly simplistic black/white judgements. Yes, the transparitisan stranglehold of both main (right-wing) parties unfortunately pushes a forced and false choice of two greater evil varieties of right-wing authoritarianism of corporatocratic capitalist realism, if one side prefers milder paternalism and the other outright oligarchy (“Stragedy? Is ‘stragedy’ the right word to describe how the DNC corporate Democrats strategically connive to set it up that they always ‘have to’ concede to Republican demands?” queries National Notice). But, even in that, there are finer distinctions to be made, other differences that also do make a difference and so we won’t tolerate false equivalency with that either. For example, some politicians are undeniably and irrefutably more dangerous than others; and the pattern does largely fall along partisan lines, which does somewhat support that there really are greater evils in the world, not that we should tolerate the lesser evils that end up making the greater evils more likely and justified (e.g., pseudo-liberal media elites using the propaganda model of perception management as social control and acting as boundary-defenders and gatekeepers who give covering fire for the political right to push the Overton window further right). And, for all the devious corruption of the Clinton Foundation, there simply is no extensive left-wing equivalent to the right-wing Shadow Network. Still, the fact remains that most Americans are to the left of the DNC elite. Heck, a surprisingly large swath of Republican voters are to the left of the DNC elite, on issues from economics to environmentalism. The Biden administration is morally questionable and anything to the right of that is morally unacceptable, beyond the bounds — that far right and no further and even that is too far right. As a society, we have to have norms and standards. Most Americans have come to an agreement on this and now it’s time we Americans recognize our status as citizenry, take collective responsibility, demand consent of the governed, and enforce our moral majority, albeit a pluralistic majority.
In conclusion, let us be clear in stating our purpose, in declaring where we stand. Most importantly, we in this blog will always side with the underdog. Absolutely fucking always! If you are not on the side of the underdog, you are our mortal enemy and we will treat you as such. But when right-wingers are oppressed or their rights infringed, we will defend them just the same; and we will always defend everyone’s right to free speech, if not always giving them a platform to freely promote that speech in this personal and private blog. We are devoted to a fierce compassion, emphasis on both ‘fierce’ and ‘compassion’. The greatest condemnation will be reserved for moral cowards. As the pacifist Mahatma Gandhi declared with no equivocation, moral cowardice is worse than violence and death. “There is hope for a violent man to be some day non-violent,” Gandhi argued, “but there is none for a coward.” Yet, obviously, non-violence and non-aggression is always preferable and will be sought as a first option (even second and third option). And self-chosen self-sacrifice can be noble, as Gandhi held up as the highest ideal, if victimhood identity politics of romanticized martyrdom can be dysfunctional. Still, the point remains that Gandhi brooked no false equivalency between the violence of aggression and the violence of self-defense, between spiritual violence and physical violence — neither will we.
We must hold to moral courage in all ways, particularly in defense of what is morally right, to not back down from a fight, to not avoid uncomfortable conflict. Within this protected space, there will be no tolerance of intolerance — that will not be an issue of debate. Any and all reactionary rhetoric and authoritarian views are simply forbidden, even when used by those who identify as ‘leftist’, liberal, Democratic, independent, or whatever else. We will no longer play that game. This is the end of the age of bullshit. Yet, in relationship to those who have been pulled into the dark side of reactionary fear and fantasies, we will always be willing to welcome them back into the fold of moral society and respectable politics, if and when they are ready. We understand that the Fox News effect, the Mercer media machine, and the corporate propaganda model of the news has virulently afflicted millions of Americans with a reactionary mind virus that causes psychotic disconnecton from reality and generally maladaptive behavior, false identities and confused thought processes, even pulling more than a few ‘leftists’ into misleading and harmful rhetoric.
That saddens us, but there appears to be little we can do to save those others from that horrible fate, if they do not recognize the trap they are in and if they refuse all help. They will have to take the first step out of their own darkness. Until then, we will strive too hold this space of light and truth with the door always open to those of shared moral concern for freedom and fairness. We will do so to the best of our ability, however imperfect and inadequate that may seem under the oppressive circumstances of the greater problems we are all immersed in. That is the necessity for holding a basic standard for allowable participation here in these pages. This blog is a small refuge from a world gone mad. We can’t pretend to be ideological physicians offering promises of an antidote to the mind plague, but we can offer a brief respite, a sanitarium of fresh air and sunlight. Please respect these intentons. But also join your voice with ours, if you feel inspired. At times like these, we need to support each other in speaking out and in giving voice. Whatever might actually be ‘left’ and ‘right’, egalitarianism is the center, the beating heart. Anyone who denies this is a dangerous extremist not to be trusted or tolerated, an enemy of the people. Egalitarianism is not merely a word, not an abstract ideal, not yet another ideology. As an archaic moral impulse, this moral vision does matter. We are all egalitarians now, if many of us don’t yet realize it. We always have been egalitarians, at the core of our shared human nature.
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4/29/21 – This post was written at the beginning of the month and we’ve had the past several weeks to mull it over. We remain basically satisfied with it, as it turned out better than expected. It was something that has been on our mind for a long time and it needed to be said. We had immense satisfaction once the piece was completed. But, as always, our thoughts never really end. We did revise the post slightly, although it was mainly minor corrections of errors and changes in wording. Besides polishing it up, there is some additional commentary rumbling around in our braincase. We’ll just tack it on here at the end. We are overly self-conscious of our audience, real and prospective. In this case, there was no negative response and, if anything, mostly agreement or apparent neutrality. Then again, maybe some were too concerned about our own potential response to leave a more critical comment. We’re certainly not seeking to suppress and silence dissent. There are no doubt thousands of alternative and challenging views one could express without falling foul of this blog’s new false equivalency ban.
Most powerfully, one could simply and directly challenge the entire framing of the post and that would be more than welcome. To be honest, we don’t much like the framing either. But until something better comes along, that framing is our shared cultural inheritance from these past centuries of modern ideological thought as the end result of the more than two millennia of prior change, as initiated by the collapse of the Bronze Age bicameral mind and its replacement with Axial Age Jaynesian consciousness. One doesn’t so easily toss aside the foundation of one’s civilization, even when it’s imperfect. Much else is built upon it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t point out the cracks, particularly in order repair them. And, meanwhile, nothing is stopping anyone from attempting to design and construct a new foundation. Following the precautionary principle and the words of Franz Kafka, we shouldn’t wantonly destroy what already exists before we have something better to replace it with. Furthermore, as Carl Jung wisely advised, even if it seems madness, it might be serving a purpose of preventing something far worse.
So, here we are. Even our own stance of critical judgment is not intended as mere attack. The political right does not represent the dark, evil, and demonic polar extreme of Manichaean dualism. As such, the entire right-wing is not our collective enemy. Only those who act as our enemy are our enemy. In the above post, we went so far as to suggest that most people portrayed and/or self-identified as ‘rightists’ (of whatever kind) are not even really ‘rightist’ in the conventional, traditional, and historical sense of Western social, economic, and political thought. That is a major point, if not the primary focus of this post, but maybe it should’ve been given greater emphasis. It further supports and explains why equivalence is false. It’s not merely that the ‘right’ is the minority of Americans and other Westerners. Even on the so-called ‘right’, the actual hardcore ‘right-wing’ is a minority. It’s that minority within a minority that is fully embracing and expressing the extremes of the reactionary mind, nostalgic backlash, historical revisionism, xenophobic bigotry, violent hatred, dogmatic closedmindedness, social domination, and the Dark Tetrad (authoritarianism, narcissism, Machiavellianism, sadism); particularly as expressed among the Double Highs (high right-wing authoritarianism and high social dominance orientation), the worst of the worse.
As we like to endlessly repeat, the public mind has gone far left (in terms of social liberalism, economics, environmentalism, etc), if the public imagination remains suppressed and stunted. Most people today are far left of liberals from a century ago. And most people a century ago were far left compared to the liberals a century before that. When the left and right labels were first used, the ‘right’ defended theocracy, monarchy, aristocracy, imperialism, slavery, patriarchy, and worse (e.g., genocide); meanwhile, the original ‘left’ was a bit mixed or confused on issues like democracy, universal suffrage, rights of commoners, etc. So, even the oldest ‘left’ is, by today’s standards, too right-wing extreme to be acceptable and respectable to most present right-wingers. Of course during the colonial and early modern revolutionary periods, Americans had become the most left-leaning population in the West. They had grown accustomed to a social norm of free and open access to land and natural resources (practically, an informal commons), a wealthier lifestyle that increased socioeconomic mobility, and semi-autonomous self-governance because of a distant imperial capitol and weak military force.
This is why the United States is the only country in the world specifically founded on documents that espoused liberal principles and many of them still radical to this day. Right from the beginning, the US started far left of the rest of the world, particularly left of the British Empire; and even the French Revolution didn’t have any voices or leaders as radically leftist as Thomas Paine (well, not until Paine himself showed up in France after fleeing persecution in England). The original rightist ideology of the French was simply unacceptable in being too far right even to most early American conservatives. For Anglo-American thought, this was the initial point of confusion. It’s not only that all of us Americans are now liberals for we always were. That is what makes American society stand out. What goes for American conservatism is simply a variety of Western liberalism, if heavily revised and distorted by the reactionary mind. It’s precisely because there is no native tradition of a genuine American traditionalism that the ‘rightist’ ideologies that took its place are so radically modern and sometimes postmodern, in desperately and impossibly attempting to distinguish itself as something else.
This is hard for Americans to see because liberalism frames everything and so is taken for granted. Even American ‘conservatives’ occasionally admit this state of affairs in claiming they are the real and original ‘classical liberals‘, a false but telling argument. This first became apparent to us in being confronted by the Continental European view of Domenico Losurdo presented in his counter-history of liberalism, which we initially disagreed with but eventually came around to. Maybe this is more apparent within Catholic tradition that maintains a living memory of old school traditionalism, not to mention a historical memory of premodern and pre-Protestant ancien regime — Father Brent Shelton wrote: “To be clear, the term ‘Liberal’ is used here in its philosophical sense to refer to a constitutional order which protects the rights of individuals, specifically, the rights to “life, liberty and property”, and is philosophically opposed to Conservatism, which prefers either rule by landed aristocracy, or rule by an imperial bureaucracy. In the USA, both the Republican and Democratic parties are philosophically Liberal, emphasizing competing aspects of Liberalism, although modern electoral polemics have altered the term in the popular imagination.”
Original and actual Western ‘conservatism’ as traditionalism is so far outside the bounds of American social norms as to not even be acknowledged in mainstream media and politics, not even for sake of historical context, much less discussed and defended in public debate. Yet it’s always lurking as a typically unspoken and ever threatening authoritarianism in the American reactionary mind, regularly re-emerging as a demagogic return of the repressed (e.g., Donald Trump’s MAGA). It’s precisely this hidden nature that makes it so dangerous because its not part of any respectable and stable Old World cultural tradition that could redirect it toward the public good (e.g., Scandinavian conservatives supporting social democracy). This is the reason so many American conservatives, while preaching liberal rhetoric of libertarianism and laissez-faire, are ever ready to shore up neo-imperialism as neo-conservatism, neo-colonialism as neo-liberalism, and neo-feudalism as neo-fascism.
American conservatives have no traditional roots to ground and stabilize the reactionary forces that possess them. They can never honestly speak about what are their true intentions and agendas, since these disreputable impulses aren’t established within a shared consciousness of ideological understanding and traditional meaning. American political thought was born abruptly in the modern world, not having had the slow shift out of the ancien regime as happened in much of Europe. Even the Euopean enclosure movement took centuries to complete in finally and fully ending the feudal commons and the laws that went with them. The reactionary is bad enough in Europe, as attested to by the modern nostalgic revisionism of ethno-nationalism and fascism. But only in the US has the reactionary taken hold as a new kind of absolutely anti-conservative and anti-traditional capitalist realism, social Darwinism, hyper-individualism, materialistic consumerism, and market fetishism.
In how early European conservatism is the shadow of American ‘conservative’-minded liberalism, American reactionary ‘conservatism’ as regressive liberalism is the shadow of American liberalism as progressive radicalism. This is what makes false equivalency so misleading and dangerous. This often leads to another minority group of reactionary extremists (typically Democrats or ‘independents’) that, in portraying everyone else as extremists, pretends to be ‘moderate’ and ‘centrist’. That is related to how the American ruling elite has always included bourgeois semi-liberals and pseudo-liberals, (Cold War McCarthyists, Blue Dogs, Clinton Democrats, etc), holding to anti-leftist rhetoric while punching left and pushing hard right. Such is the need for a strong left that, without quibbling and in-fighting, pushes back hard. And so all the more reason we shouldn’t tolerate false equivalency in the slightest. Yet even the most adamant of leftists need to recognize that none of us is immune to the reactionary in a society that has become overwhelmed with inequality and injustice, division and conflict, anxiety and fear. It’s never just about those other people, the ‘basket of deplorables’. The reactionary shadow falls upon us all and so we all have much collective shadow work to do in processing deep wounds of transgenerational trauma.
22 thoughts on ““In the Spirit of Our People””
I appreciate your rigor in argument and your passion in presenting it. Unless I overlooked it, however, there is one piece of the great picture missing: that is–money. Washington D.C. that is, the political and bureaucratic (I don’t use the latter term pejoritively, in this case) machinery, is awash with taxpayer and corporate money (via donations and gifts from others, including lobbyists) which corrupts everyone and everything it touches. Then there is the power that many captains and generals of politics weild through granting or withholding perquisites and favors. I could go on but it probably would be tendentious.
I’m glad you responded well to this post. You seem to have accepted it in the passionate spirit it was offered. That was what I was worried about, as I knew how it might be perceived. I didn’t want it to come across as merely harsh, critical, and dismissive. I don’t support any form of “cancel culture” where the powerful silence the powerless. But, on a personal level, I’ve slowly come to realize I need to develop discernment and learn to better apply it. As has been said, just because you are invited to a fight doesn’t mean you have to join in every time. That is to say pick one’s battles wisely. And I’ve come to realize through self-awareness that I’m a sensitive soul. Conflict does not roll off me like water off a duck’s back. So, I need to be particularly discerning about what I allow into my personal space and my mental space. With that intention, I’m setting boundaries for my own sanity.
About the missing piece of money, you are absolutely correct. And it’s funny you should mention that. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks immersed in researching the New Right shadow network that sucks up at least hundreds of millions of dollars every year, although surely an extreme underestimation. I’m not sure anyone quite knows how much money flows by various less observed channels within the American Empire, the deep state, and the inverted totalitarian systems of plutocracy, nepotism, and cronyism. I sometimes wonder if the hidden and obscured or simply unaccounted flows of wealth and resources, privatized commons and material gains are immensely greater than what is measured in the formal economy accoording to the GDP.
Consider some examples. When natural resources on public lands are sold to corporations at below market costs, the loss of potential revenue that was given away is never recorded as part of the official budget — it’s simply a hidden gift of public wealth from one set of plutocrats to another. Some of this theft is sort of out in the open, such as how individual industries get trillions of dollars of subsidies every year. But why is the oil industry that makes massive profits from natural resources on public lands also getting public subsidies on top of that? This isn’t dark money and it’s entirely legal, if morally corrupt and politically evil. Meanwhile, social democracies like Iceland entirely fund public infrastructure and public services through their own natural resources. Yet the plutocrats keep telling us we don’t have enough money for such nice things, as they continually give away the public’s resources and wealth.
This money angle meshes with my mood here, as it was on my mind as I wrote the above post. It’s why the ‘right’ wing and ‘left’ wing simply are not comparable. There is the issue that the party machines are big money operations, but both of them serve the same basic corporate interests and often push similar agendas. The DNC elites, obviously, are not meaningfully ‘leftist’, if by that we mean being in favor of egalitarianism while opposed to corporatocracy, plutocracy, etc. There is no ‘left’ wing equivalent of big money and dark money that is covertly promoting a highly organized movement of wealthy and powerful secularists, liberal Christians, social democrats, democratic socialists, labor unionists, anarchosyndicalists, anti-fascists, etc. It’s absurdly amusing to even imagine such a thing.
There is a specific component that was on my mind. I kept wondering how is it that a ‘leftist’ majority can exist while most Americans don’t realize it exists and that they are part of it. I came across a quote from Paul Weyrich, the single most important religious right leader and new right mastermind. At the 1980 launching of the Moral Majority organization, he openly and brazenly admitted to a cheering crowd that the religious right was not a majority and could never win any elections without voter suppression. Consider abortion that became the piviotal issue of the culture wars and a political football for campaigning. Throughout all of Christian history, abortion had mostly been a non-issue and, specifically in the early-to-mid 20th century, most American Christians weren’t opposed to women having access to safe abortions. Even most conservative evangelicals were fine with abortion at the time and often supported Planned Parenthood.
The Moral Majority was invented. But it wasn’t enough to merely declare a lie to be true and then repeat it, although that was part of the strategy. The New Right used demagogues, propagandists, advertisers, lobbyists, pollsters, media operatives, corporate spokesman, PR representatives, and perception hackers to change how the American public understood and identified with ideological labels as highly manipulated group identities (Wirthlin effect) for the purpose of behavior modification and social control. They were at the same time promoting actual forms of power to gain control of the government itself, but key to holding onto this power was to totally mind-fuck the American people and it worked. To create the shadow network that would make all of that possible required a lot of money, from the religious right Coors family that bought Reagan the presidency to the religious right Mercer family that bought Trump the presidency.
This is why I’ve given up on certain debates. As far as I’m concerned, they are now non-debates. I don’t mind anyone being critical of ‘leftists’ and ‘leftism’ or even the entire metaphorical way of dividing the population. As any longtime reader of my blog would know, I regularly criticize the poltical ‘left’ or what goes for it, along with criticizing the mainstream frames of thought that so thoroughly dominate the American mind. But I’m no longer in the mood for anti-‘leftist’ crap, including when those who are otherwise egalitarian-minded end up being pulled into the reactionary mind virus and so repeat reactionary rhetoric. Egalitarians are easily manipulated along these lines because equivalency, false or real, appeals to the egalitarian ethos. We want to treat everyone equally, but that is problematic and even dangerous in a severely and extremely unequal society.
That is part of the problem of the wing metaphor of the political spectrum. I wish we could come up with a more accurate and compelling metaphor to capture the meaningful and necessary distinction of not only egalitarianism but also more systemic, holistic, and integral thought. Suggestions are welcome. I’ve been complaining about that metaphor for a long time, but I’m reluctant to casually toss it aside until something better comes along. It’s similar to why I’ve been reluctant to give up on the ‘liberal’ label, even though a half century of propaganda turned it into a slur. Most ‘liberals’ are lower class, not part of a “liberal elite”. As ‘leftist’ originally most basically meant egalitarian, so ‘liberal’ going back centuries just meant generosity of spirit (kindness, compassion, forgiveness, etc). To lose those words is to allow those meanings to lose valence and relevance, as historical amnesia further sets in. I have an almost ‘conservative’-like impulse to protect the past.
Here is the main thing. I don’t want to be a hater. Nor do I want to be angry all the time. But I’m passionate and hyper-sensitive. I wear my emotions on my sleeves and I bare my soul to the world. Maybe it’s because of my New Agey upbriginging combined with being a hardcore INFP. I’m just uber-idealistic and morally demanding. I’ve never had tolerance for those who commit oppression that causes suffering but also no tolerance toward those who support it, rationalize it away, or remain silent (particularly while personally benefiting from it).
I never have been able to grasp the lack of urgency. There is no later. Justice delayed is justice denied. And so far we’ve had justice delayed continuously for centuries, since the settling of the colonies and the founding of the country. How much longer do we have to wait? And how much worse does it have to get before we take it seriously? For God’s sake, we are in the middle of mass refugee crises from anthropogenc clmate change and earth’s fifth mass extinction. What the fuck! But I’ve been railing against all that for as long as I can remember.
That is why I want to shift my own mentality, but Lord Oh Lord do I struggle, as do so many others. I’m seeking out some semblance of sanity in an insane world, a small plot of peace and calm, a respite from the storm. It’s why I’ve increasingly come to ignore the news media and, instead, to focus on my blogging. But the greater world, of course, is always invading. The whole false equivalency thing represents so much of what I despise about how this society operates. And when it shows up in my blog, it really sets me off. I have zero desire to argue about it any more. I’m plain tired, deep in my soul. The best compromise, so it seems, is to simply forbid it.
The point of the new comment policy is simply to prevent conflict before it happens. For any commenter who tries to play the false equivalency card, I can helpfully refer to the rules of this blog and, if it’s egregious, I can delete the comment without any needed drama. That will prevent bad feelings from erupting into open conflict and it will save me a lot of time and stress. I’m all in favor of simple solutions and direct responses. Then, knowing what is expected and allowed here, others can choose to accordingly participate or not. But that still leaves plenty of room for enjoyable and worthy discussion, even some debate and disagreement.
Just taking a small slice of this comment to respond to–I believe my father was INFP; i am INTJ. We clashed in our perspectives. I saw him as taking on the suffering of the world, and , over time as I matured, took on only such sufferings close to me that I could possibly, positively affect. In our extreme moments, he saw me as lacking empathy; I saw him as caring more for suffering humanity than his own family. Neither was correct. Just before retirement I got myself “qualified” to administer and interpret the MBTI, The 4-day workshop was enlightening. Part of the exercises was to group ourselves according to one’s ‘tendency’ vs. its psychological opposite, e.g., F vs, T. We were given an example from life to reach a group conclusion (I won’t go into detail). We ended up yelling at each other: “Heartless/Mindless”. Who was right and who was wrong? No one, and no group. It’s just how we perceive the world and ourselves in it. Can such things be taught early in life so we can at least tolerate, even respect, a different view? I think so, but if there are ideologues administering and teaching in our schools, this seems not possible.
I laughed at your description of your father. I sympathize and commiserate. Oh yeah, taking on the suffering of the world. It really does amuse me because I know it so well. INFPs can sometimes tend toward the melodramatic. Dominant Fi, particularly combined with iNtuition, is the most passionately idealistic and morally absolutist of the function-attitudes. It is purified zealotry. I’m reminded of the discussion in an INFP forum where many INFPs agreed that Osama bin Laden was probably an INFP.
As an INFP, it’s hard to not feel the suffering of the world as it simply becomes part of one’s visceral sense of reality. It’s a default state, not typically a conscious choice. And you were probably right about your father, in a sense, caring more about the world than his own family. But, of course, most INFPs probably would not think of it that way. Still, it’s a fair judgment to make and I wouldn’t attempt to defend against the charge. It’s just the nature of an INFP, unless there is a further balance of psychological development. I cannot claim such balance, much less psychological maturity.
That said, like you, my father represented an opposing psychological profile as he is an ENTJ. A dominant Fi type’s aspirational is Te, as a dominant Te type’s aspirational is Fi. It’s partly the Te that gives me such an edginess. My dominant Fi does not face the world and so the judging function that is used to relate to the world is more likely to be Te. This is magnified in my experence because dominant Te was modeled for me by a male authority figure. I’m way more intellectually combative (with rigor in my arguments) than most INFPs because of being trained through sparring with my father who was an army officer, factory manager, and professor.
In the end, I basically agree with your take on it. Idealistically, we should seek to tolerate and respect differences, at least to the degree that a fundamental moral issue is not at stake (my INFP qualification). It would be nice if society taught such things in public education and did so from a young age. Instead, we are forced to fend for ourselves in mucking through self-development, but we really need is shared social development as an entire society.
If you don’t mind my asking, what made you think of the missing money component? Was there something specifically about this post that made that stand out to you as starkly relevant in ommission? Or was it on your mind for other reasons? It’s perfectly fine if you go on, tendentious or otherwise. Please add anything of interest, assuming it seems significant enough to be shared. Do you think money is becoming a bigger problem than it’s been or has somehow changed?
In the past, I wrote more posts about economic topics. The issue of high inequality has long interested me. That is closely related to what you speak of. And it is part of what I wrote above. Most Americans are opposed to high inequality. But because the political and media elite rarely speak honestly about it, few Americans realize how vast has become the disparity. It is much higher than Americans claim should be allowed. One of the many ways the majority is kept suppressed.
The American public is kept economically ignorant. And that goes along with what I said about how the economy opeates, particularly the unofficial economy and unaccounted budget. If not for the high inequality, there could not be the concentrated wealth that imakes possible monopolized power and that incentivizes corrupt politics. The key part, however, is that it is kept hidden and the public kept unaware or at least confused, divided, anxious, and paralyzed.
Yet most Americans realize something is severely wrong, specifically about money in politics, even as the same power structure induces a cynical apathy about the state of affairs. It doesn’t matter what the majority thinks if the majority is politically disenfranchized and perceives itself as powerless to change anything. This is why it’s been necessary for the American public to be among the most propagandized populations. The ruling elite realize the actual majority poses a threat, if ghere ever developed a social awareness of that majority status.
I’d argue that such things as false equivalency rhetoric are among the main tools of social control through mind control, what some call perception management. Besides muddying the water, false equivalency as lesser evilism normalizes the whole sea of corruption and violence (both sides do it) we are drowning in and so the public doesn’t recognize that there is a shore we could swim to. As long as a transpartisan ruling elite controls the frame of debate and thought, they can enforce ideological realism that asserts there is no real or potential alternative.
Here is the part that really pisses me off. Another form of false equivalency suggests that Black Lives Matters protests are equal to police brutality and right-wing terrorism, hate crimes, etc. Much of the violence at BLM protess and many who incited riots were not those on the political left. We know that police have attacked innocent peaceful protesters. We know that counter-protesters, saboteurs, and troublemakers have started trouble at BLM protests, even killing people. Then entire protests are called violent and the entire BLM movement is held accountable. Both sides do it and therefore BLM is illegitimate.
That is what I cannot tolerate. Even as there are some actual left-wingers who have at times been involved in unnecessary and indefensible violence, the number of such people is a fraction of what is seen among the police and right-wingers. The data from numerous sources shows this to be the case. Besides, there is a vast difference between violence that erupts during the act of anti-authoritarians protesting authoritarian violence and the authoritarian violence that made such protests necessary in the first place. To falsely equate the two is darkly cynical or sadly misguided.
That is why I threw in the quote by Mahatma Gandhi. By nature and by principle, I’m a pacifist. Most of us would rather live in a world where authoritarian violence didn’t exist, but that isn’t the world we live in. Yet for how bad violence is, including how violence creeps into all sides as conflict worsens, there are many many things far worse than violence or even death and one of those is moral cowardice. We would not find ourselves in a state of such violent authoritarianism if not for such vast moral cowardice that has continued over our shared history, a moral cowardice that has become built into our culture and internalized into our psyches.
We’ve lost the sense of what is worth fighting for. That is why I’ve come around to invoking the historical precedence of the American Revolution, the English Civil War, and the English Peasants’ Revolt; among much else. If often incohately articulated, there is a powerful egalitarian impulse running like a thread across the centuries. Yes, some things are worth fighting for, even killing and dying for. If peaceful reform from within the system can be achieved through pacifist actions, even martyrdom, then so be it. But if not, we must do whatever it takes to end the avoidable cruelty of vast oppression and suffering.
At the very least, we can end the bullshit. What is more horrific than a violent authoritarian elite ruling over our society and over our bodies is the “spiritual violence” of allowing our minds and souls to be ruled, to enforce the rule over ourselves by passively submitting or, worse, becoming complicit. Then it becomes a rot of corruption from within. The danger of false equivalency is not merely political but the moral harm it does to our shared culture and psyche. We need to be inspired by a sense of moral urgency.
I saw nothing wrong with your post. It was complete in itself. The ‘tendentious’ remark was directed at myself. As I age I tend to use fewer words and chide myself when I “do go on.” That’s all.
That is fine. I didn’t interpret it as a judgment or any such thing. I was genuinely curious about your viewpoint and what motivated your comment. As one who is prone to going on and on and on, I’ve never criticized anyone for lengthy comments, as long as they are somewhat on topic. You may chide yourself for such things, but I won’t. If anything, I’ll chide people for making drive-by comments that are so short as to be opaque and mystifying.
In my book, over-explaining is next to impossible. Many INFPs tend to be excessively verbose or, if one prefers, ‘loquacious’. We fall in love with language and are drawn into communicating, particularly writing as introverts. It’s because Ne is our preferred way of relating to the world and Ne cannot be constrained to a few words, as it is an explosive force that goes in every direction. It’s the very essence of my writing style in this blog.
” I can take much more disagreement when I know where someone is coming from and, in being self-aware…”
I perceive that maybe 20% of the people I have met are self-aware and possibly you and I perceive this.
“what is going on in your heart, soul, and mind is more important than your actual words. One of the main things words are good for is pointing toward what is beyond words. ” Yes. The trouble with words is they are abstractions.
Well, self-awareness is a rarity. And it’s imperfect even for the best of us. If nothing else, it’s good to have enough self-awareness to have an inkling about where one lacks self-awareness, similar to having enough knowledge to know what one doesn’t know. That is the closest I get to wisdom.
Words, words, words — yeah, they can be thought of as abstractions. But as an INFP, that feels so utterly dissatisfying. INFPs want communication and dialogue, want to be heard by others and to hear others. Even a disembodied written word can say so much more than any dictionary could ever indicate. Language is a living thing.
Well, as a writer of poems, short fiction, and blog articles I can hardly be opposed to using words. It’s just the more I use them the more inadequate they seem to express or capture the idea or vision that’s in my head.
I get that. I want language to be able to mean more, to convey and express something more deeply. But I regularly have my doubts, at least in my own capacity. And I sense there is something particularly inadequate about how those of us with WEIRD bias use language, specifically that sense of abstraction and disconnection. My INFP longing for language having greater significance comes out strongest in direct, personal dialogue.
The online world can be frustrating for me because most people are even more reticient than they would be in person when face-to-face. Trying to get people to more personally express themselves on the internet can be like pulling teeth. People love to post selfies or a picture of what they ate for lunch. But about what they care about and what motivates them, typically there is silence. This can be even stronger for intellectual types. I’ve interacted with some people online for years before the individual would divulge the simplest of personal details.
It might partly be the abstract and disembodied nature of the written word seen on a screen that lacks all social cues, tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures. It filters out not only the humanity of others but one’s own humanity as well. My tendency has been to overcompensate by stating the personal in the clearest of terms. I want people to know where I’m coming from to leave no room for doubt, uncertainty, or speculation. Hence, my wordy writing style. To dominant Fi, a lack outward signs to work with is not entirely an obstacle.
You and I might be moving in different directions. You speak of using words more sparingly as you age. But I might be doing more of the opposite. I was much more skeptical toward language when younger, even to the point of not reading or writing beyond the minimal for an entire year at one point as a monk-like vow to connect more to embodied and sensory experience in the world. I’m not sure it did much good, but it was an experiment. It’s as I’ve grown older that I’ve begun to trust language more and what it might do.
I hadn’t thought too much about that, until you mentioned your own reasons. It might even be part of the change of attitude expressed in this post. It relates to my embracing some more religious language in recent posts about egalitarianism, in spite of my lack of religiosity. It’s the language of religion that is so powerful, as Thomas Paine also found useful in communicating. I appreciate the confidence and lack of quibbling heard in the voices of, for example, the preachers during the English Peasants’ Revolt. They got to the point with moral force and some nice turns of phrase.
Maybe that is at the base of my mood. In something like my new comment policy, it’s about renegotiating the conditions of my dialogue with the world. It’s not only a desire to be discerning about what I discuss but, more importantly, how I communicate. If I allow reactionary rhetoric into this blog, the temptation persists for me being pulled into the rhetorical worldview as a mental trap. Language is extremely powerful. It might also be tricksy, but I accept that, at least on my own terms.
Our dialogue here has been fruitful. This is the kind of thing I enjoy. It’s helped me to think out loud about what has been bubbling below the surface for a while. This is what language, at its best, is capable of. Through words, less clear thoughts and feelings can be given more clear form.
As an INFP, I’m a lover of psychological understanding. To hear someone express and explain themselves is material for my auxiliary Ne to gather info and then deliver it to my dominant Fi. I love, absolutely freaking love, to hear people talk about themselves, their views, their lives, their dreams, on and on. My dominant Fi is constantly looking to probe into people’s souls, not that everyone likes the idea of having their soul probed.
Once I have a sense of a person, I’m much more relaxed around them and a thousand times more sympathetically understanding and forgiving. It makes me a bit anxious when I’m dealing with a stranger on the internet and haven’t yet sized them up. My dominant Fi is all about determining and discerning the essence of things and of people. I need to know the heart of a person to know their character and worth, their strengths and flaws.
That can be the thing with such ‘bullshit’ rhetoric. It triggers my INFP spidey sense. It’s easy for me to sense when language is being used deceptively, whether toward me or toward themselves. I demand psychological honesty. I can take much more disagreement when I know where someone is coming from and, in being self-aware, they are being upfront about who they are. But as an INFP, my dominant Fi has a high standard of self-awareness and self-honesty.
I realize I’m probably too often being harshly unfair to people. But to my dominant Fi, what is going on in your heart, soul, and mind is more important than your actual words. One of the main things words are good for is pointing toward what is beyond words. If I can but glimmer the real essence of a person behind what they say, it brings upon a profound sense of satisfaction. So, when I ask other people questions, it’s my voracious INFP nature wanting to connect more deeply.
I only look at this occassionaly but i wonder if this was directed at me. I did put some ‘left/right equvalency’ but only in the tactics/strategy used. But sometimes these tactics can turn into forms of e2quivalency as shown by history (soviet union, china, france long ago, even usa, israrel…) I even object to alot of mainstream democrats and large NGO/environmental groups when they adopt marketing practices used by corporate america, RNC, etc. , I was at some BLM protests and my impression was they were ijnfiltrated by provacateurs. But some BLM protestors on ‘extremist’ side used rhetoric that could be taken to endorse that.
Political dialogue tends to get reduced to the most common denominator –often slogans–that draws the biggest crowd. Its somehwat effective. Maybe people who like nuance or need it should find other ways to contribute–i’m likely one. . (its sort of the same issue with lists—eg when do yiou argue with ‘trolls’ or just end it. The infighting within ‘leftist/progressive groups’ and also scientists ) at times can get just as heated as between them and the’ right wing ‘ /anti-science crowd.
Nope. I didn’t have you in mind. In fact, I don’t clearly remember this coming up with your comments. But let me be clear. As I said, it’s about discernment, not moral absolutism. I’ll take comments on a case by case basis. And I’ll judge as much by intent and context as by merely the words themselves. Still, I want my position to be without confusion and question. There are some topics and rhetoric about which I have come to have zero interest in and tolerance toward. But it depends on my mood in the moment. And so it’s probably not wise to see how far one can push the bounds of my tolerance. One either generally resonates with the values and views of this blog or not. This is a place for friendly dialogue, not heated debate or contrarian quibbling.
So, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. This doesn’t change the general tone of the blog. I had one recent altercation of a long-time commenter I banned precisely for the false equivalency issue. And banning is not something I do often, as it only comes up as an issue every few years. But she wouldn’t back off from that position and she was testing my tolerance when I was in no mood for bullshit. She was making strong statements without backing them with facts, even declaring things in absolute ignorance while being critical through false equivalency. It finally pushed me over the edge. I decided I was going to set down clear rules to avoid that kind of altercation in the future. I simply won’t allow it to get that far. From now on, if something like that comes up, I will point to the comment policy and establish boundaries right from the start.
About your experience with BLM protests, I must admit that I’m not much of a joiner of organized politics, movements, and actions. But I have dabbled in that kind of thing in the past. This is a college town and so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Yet, as an introvert, I quickly got irritated by it all. Though I’m not one to complain about political correctness, some activists were fucking over the top with all kinds of oppressive rules about language, identity, and being an ‘ally’. I just don’t give a fuck about that shit. What I do care about is that there are people being oppressed and hurt in the world. I’m with you in finding slogans and such to be less than optimal, even if simplification of messaging is necessary at times. And I understand there are extremists on all sides. I have no problem in criticizing people who are being problematic, counter-productive, or plain harmful. But still pointing out a few idiots doesn’t justify false equivalence.
My purpose here is not to be an activist in movement politics, much less a leader to inspire crowds. Nor am I ready to start a revolution. I’ll let others start the revolution and, if it seems worthy, maybe I’ll join in. But until then, my realm of political influence is words by speaking truth to power as best as I know how, for whatever it is worth. And if that is not enough, I accept full blame for my failures and inadequacies. I’m not morally superior to anyone. This is just a blog, but it’s my blog. I’m a nobody. I work as a cashier in a parking ramp. My opinion holds no authority beyond the truth I seek to give voice to. All I know is that some things matter a lot to me and, about those things, I will hold my ground. It might not matter much in the big picture. I don’t know. It is what I can do in my small corner of the world.
I do want to reassure you. I don’t see you and I having any major issues. You have to understand the situation with that other person had developed over years. Our personalities rubbed each other the wrong way. And we regularly seemed to be miscommunicating, talking past each other, or something. It would get real irritating sometimes and I had told her that multiple times in the past. Plus, she has an aggressve style and was often nitpicking, but I wasn’t interested in that way of relating. And she is a New Age fundamentalist with an anti-intellectual bent. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the New Age movement that a certain kind of New Agey dogmatism can be so personally irksome. Anyway, the point is that it wasn’t any single thing nor was my response knee-jerk. It was a long time coming.
The false equivalency issue was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. Still, it solidified in my mind why I just couldn’t take it any more. She wouldn’t back off about it. In her first comment, she used a personal anecdote of an immigrant from Lebanon who claimed that left-wingers had burned down his business in Lebanon. And so she was using this to show that left-wingers use violence too. First off, neither she nor I knows jack shit about Lebanon or the actual context of what happened in that situation. But out of curiosity, I did some cursory research. It appears that left-wing ideological labels in Lebanon were a Cold War overlay. The real divisive conflict has had to do with sectarianism of religion and ethnicity that probably went back centuries or millennia, although colonialism exacerbated it as probably did WWI and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
I tried to bring that discussion back to the meaningful context of the United States and the Western world more generally, which was the focus of the post. But even when I showed that there was no evidence that leftists were responsible for much violence, she sort of conceded that only then to start ranting about ‘spiritual violence’ and whatnot. So, if you’ve had mean thoughts and used harsh language, your ‘spiritual violence’ is equivalent to right-wingers killing people, plotting terrorism, committing hate crimes, and inciting riots. The absurdity of it all was just too much for me. Still, even then, I wouldn’t have banned her. And I really don’t like banning anyone, which is why it only comes up every few years or so. I probably would’ve been fine with it all, if she had simply shown some intellectual humility by admitting she didn’t actually know anything about Lebanon or at least somehow softened her anti-leftist accusation. Instead, she persisted with the false equivalency rhetoric.
What pissed me off further is that she is one of these New Agey types who hates labels. That is the attraction of false equivalency rhetoric. She is a genuine egalitarian and so pretty extreme left-wing in her ideological views, but she couldn’t admit this. There is a certain type of person who, as a leftist, feels a strong desire to deny being a leftist and attack leftists. That way, they can portray themselves as ideologically independent and morally superior. It’s an attitude that is typical of middle class whites who grew up in relative privilege of taking superficial egalitarianism as a default, the kind of person who has never had to personally deal with extreme poverty, racial profiling, school-to-prison pipeline, militarized policing, police brutality, right-wing hate crimes, etc. It’s all intellectual masturbation and language games to them. The spiritual version of this kind of person can be the worse because their abstract beliefs and ideals disconnect them from the lived experience of others while they can pretend to be compassionate.
Yet at the same time, I get the idealism and I particularly have a soft place in my heart for all the New Age talk as it brings up fond memories from my childhood. What is leftism without idealism? Take that away and all that would be left is cynicism. I don’t even necessarily mind the psychological tendency of conflict avoidence that gets turned into an ideology. At worst, that can lead to what Matma Gandhi called moral cowardice, but I wouldn’t dismiss the pacifist impulse as obviously neither did Gandhi. The difference is that Gandhi actually put his life on the line to challenge violent oppression, almost being killed once and later finally assassinated. The middle class whites turning conflict avoidance into an ideal are doing so to avoid any real risk to their comfortable privilege. They aren’t offering themselves as martyrs or sacrificing all that they have. Their commitment to their principles is surface deep. I’ll accept criticism of occasional violence of leftists when these critics are willing to prove their pacifism is sincere by dying in putting themselves in between leftist victims and violent authoritarians. Until then, they can shut the fuck up.
It’s not that I’m morally superior, of course. That is the whole point. I’m particularly not going to get high and mighty toward the victims of authoritarian violence, toward those who are willing to put their lives on the line and become the targets of ire, scapegoating, and endless bullshit. I’m in no position to judge them. Sure, I’d love to live in a peaceful world and I don’t support violence, even when committed by leftists. But let’s get fucking real and quit the bullshit games. No, both sides are not equal — a thousand times NO! It’s taken me a long time to get to this point of total intolerance toward reactionary rhetoric. I used to go out of my way to debate race realists and all kinds of crazy people, partly out of plain curiosity. I wanted to understand where these people were coming from. But I’ve increasingly realized it’s pointless. So, to then have to deal with leftists attacking leftists is just more than I want to deal with at this point in my life. If that is what someone wants to do, they can do so elsewhere.
I’ve noticed that, since this post and your one comment above, you have not left any further comments in posts following this. You apparently and effectively banned yourself from my blog, I guess, or rather you banned my blog from your experience. I was curious about this. We’ve had some conflict and tension in the past, as our styles can grate a bit in how they differ. And, in once incident, I did get irritated enough to give you a warning.
But I honestly don’t recall you ever having made an argument expressing or defending false equivalency. I didn’t realize this was an issue between us. Do you really support the left and right being equivalent in all meaningful and significant ways? If you ever return here, I’d love to hear your view on the matter. Even though I don’t want to debate false equivalency itself, it would be nice to hear you explain why you decided to stop commenting.