Sunday, November 1, 2020

maybe it’s not always good vs evil in politics

There has always been a tendency for ideological battles to be seen in simplistic good vs evil terms and that tendency seems to grow ever stronger. I suspect that the more saturated in mass media a society becomes the stronger this tendency grows, and that social media has kicked it into overdrive.

If you look back at political battles in the West they were not always seen in these terms. A century or so ago there were passionate and sometimes bitter arguments in British politics on the issue of Free Trade vs Protectionism but neither side actually believed their opponents were evil. Today every political disagreement gets reduced to good vs evil terms. We have lost the ability to see that sometimes our political/ideological opponents simply disagree with us.

There are of course some ideological struggles in which one side’s views are so extreme, so destructive or so driven by hatred that if put into practice those views would lead to evil results. The point I’m making is that we need to avoid seeing every single political disagreement in those terms.

We also need to realise that our political opponents are not necessarily wrong about everything. We may feel that in general their views are mistaken, wrong-headed, misguided, foolish and likely to lead to very poor outcomes but we need to consider the possibility that on some issues they may have a point.

It is neither healthy nor helpful for people on the Left to see everyone on the Right as being an evil white supremacist fascist. It is also neither healthy nor helpful for people on the Right to see everyone on the Left as being an evil commie Bolshevik. (At this stage I’m not interesting in re-opening the argument that left and right no longer mean anything, I’m just using those terms as they are generally used).

Most ideologies are partially valid and partially invalid. Whatever the ideology might be (liberalism, libertarianism, feminism, social conservatism, communism, fascism, etc etc) its adherents are very rarely right about everything, and very rarely wrong about everything. Some ideologies might be wrong about most things (I think feminism falls into this category) but they’re unlikely to be wrong about absolutely everything.

Even environmentalists (whom I generally despise) have not been wrong about everything. They were correct when they claimed that air pollution was a major problem and when they forced auto manufacturers to make car engines cleaner and less polluting. We now have cleaner air than we had half a century ago and that has been a definite benefit.

The Right may have been correct back in the 60s in claiming that unions had too much power, but the Left was correct in maintaining that destroying the unions would be a seriously bad idea.

We also need to consider the possibility that even when our opponents hold beliefs that we might consider to be catastrophically and bizarrely mistaken they might not necessarily believe those things because they’re evil people. In some cases they might actually be evil people, but not always.

I’m not suggesting that all ideologies and all beliefs are equal. I’m just suggesting that seeing one’s political opponents as evil or completely stupid is not always helpful.

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