That which tears us apart

I published a short piece on Facebook recently. I post there maybe once every 3 months because I have largely abandoned it as a social network. But this piece elicited a comment from a friend who leans left (I think would be fair to say), and it got me thinking.

TRUTH

When truth is relative, everything is meaningless. If everything is meaningless, nothing has purpose. If nothing has purpose everything will be deconstructed to the smallest constituent part that appeals to the individual. That is, “to each their own”, which is now commonly accepted as a valid argument. (And if you were honest, you probably believe it too.)

If it is a case of each having their own, culture ceases to exist. Nature abhors a vacuum so culture is being replaced by explicit rules which each make sense individually/ independently. But since things don’t exist independently, but rather are connected, things will collapse under the weight of contradictions and illogic that will emerge when individuals attempt to claim that their right to something trumps someone else’s right to something else.

I have a right to express myself, you have a right to be safe. Who wins?

The baby had a right to life. You have the right to decide what is good for your body. Who wins?

This future can be termed ‘chaos’, and that is the future we are creating.

And the people who are most guilty, are the ones allowing it to happen through silence and selfish fears.

His final comment was that he was not as cynical as I am, because I think the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

I am well aware that, as people age, they all tend to think the world is worse off than it was ‘in their day’; so, I am doubly cautious to think through my arguments to ensure that reason prevails. I also realised that simply thinking the worst wasn’t helpful, but that I needed to (a) identify the problem and (b) formulate a solution.

This piece is that attempt.


Our Society is being torn apart. Politics are becoming viciously bipartisan. Dialogue is replaced with invective. Debates are replaced with de-platforming. And this divide is becoming a schism between left and right that will eventually become too big to cross.

We need to agree on some basic rules of the game, for without that, we are doomed to the tyrannical whims of whoever is victorious.

I will be painting with a broad brush, because I am going to divide the population into two large binary groups – left and right – but give that I am dealing with a big issue at the grandest socio-cultural level and given that the population is politically organised around those two binary poles it is a legitimate demarcation.

Our individual responses to our environment are shaped by a myriad of factors, psychological bias, personality, experience, environment, intellect and so forth. Most of that is probably sub-conscious and so we end up with a ‘pre-disposition’ that makes us more ‘left’ or more ‘right’ in our socio-political orientation.

People who are biased towards a conservative, right-leaning view of the world share certain views and certain traits, and likewise those on the left. We are not always cognisant of how we arrived at these views, we often don’t explore them analytically from first principles and they tend to just get reinforced though confirmation bias to the point where we have a view of the world that is largely unexamined.

Socrates observed centuries ago that “the unexamined life is not worth living”, yet here we are doing just that. And, sadly, not only is our view of the world unexamined, we seem to actively resist our worldview being challenged.

People on the left of the political spectrum tend to share a big five personality trait called ‘high in openness’ and people on the right tend to exhibit a trait called ‘high in orderliness’.

Broadly speaking that means folks on the left are more comfortable with change, with chaos and with exploring new territories. People on the right are typically more pragmatic, more organised and more disciplined.

People on the left would be more suited to starting companies and people on the right would be better at running them. It stands to reason that if you don’t start companies, there is nothing to run; and if you don’t run them properly there is no point in starting them only to fall over soon.

We need to live in a world where there is a constant, creative tension between the forces of chaos (where creativity and innovation and growth lives) and the forces of order (where preservation, safety and sustained survival lives).

If we fail to get this balance right, one of the two sides (left/right) will emerge the winner, and that does not bode well. Society functions best when there is a natural tension between the two opposing forces; when two opposing views are forced to co-exist, it tends to curb the excesses of both sides through a process of compromise.

Both sides want to ‘win’ but if the victory is permanent, you end up with fascist state or a dictatorship.

My hypothesis is that the Left and the Right only have to agree on ONE thing, and that will allow us to continue to co-exist peacefully and will allow society to not only survive but prosper.

Freedom is a sacred right. And the corollary that any curtailment of these freedoms should be treated with circumspection.

voltaire freedom

At one point we have all argued for one of these freedoms.

  • Free to be.
  • Free to speak.
  • Free to think.
  • Free to decide.
  • Free to associate.
  • Free to marry.
  • Free to object.
  • Free to support.
  • Free to resist.
  • Free to wear.

And then, often without a second thought and without noticing the staggering irony, we have argued for reasons why someone else’s freedoms should be curtailed. Because freedom is scary. And we all have different ideas about freedom and how to respond to it and how others should respond to it.

There are two contemporaneous public debates in Australia) which illustrate how both the left and the right succumb to illogic to advance their own cause on other levels.

Legalisation of Marijuana

Progressive politicians are inclined to want to legalise weed and the conservatives object. The left argue that people should be free to smoke weed if they want, and the right say it will have health and social impacts that will destroy our social fabric. The leftists want to explore change because the war against drugs is clearly not working, and the rightists want to preserve the status quo.

Left argues for freedom of choice and the Right argues against it.

Israel Folau’s view on SSM

The Leftist label his view homophobic, and the Rightists claim he should be free to express his views on same sex marriage, because those views happen to align with their desire to maintain the social fabric as it is.

The Right argues for freedom of expression, and the Left argues against it.

(In these examples, the debate can be framed differently, e.g instead of discussion SSM as a freedom of speech issue, you can frame it, say, as a freedom of association issue; in which case the left argues for and the right against. The essential point remains: neither side is logically consistent.)

It is only natural that we want to put boundaries around freedoms, often more than necessary, especially for personality types who lean towards nurturing and caring.

Boundaries offer protection, but boundaries are also limitations.

But the only boundary that freedom should have is the boundary that denies/impacts or affects another person’s freedom. The limit of your freedom is denying another person’s freedom.

I have already demonstrated that both sides of the divide are prone to logical inconsistencies, but it would be remiss of me not to point out that the people on the Left of the political spectrum make vastly more logically inconsistent arguments than those on the right.

One of the great ironies of our generation is clearly demonstrated by the shift that has occurred is University of Berkley (California). The university was once rightly seen as a driving force for freedom of speech and self-expression has now become the most virulent, hot bed of de-platforming that exists in the US. No conservative voice can and will be heard on that Campus that once prided itself on the birthplace of free speech rights.

The typical approach is to claim the violation of another “right”.

For example: You are not free to choose to own a firearm because it impacts my ‘right’ to feel safe.

Freedoms cannot and should not be traded off against ‘rights’.

And if you insist, then the right to ‘freedom’ must always trump any other right, for freedom is the only foundation that allows for the flourishing of individuals and societies. The right to be free is easily tested and universally understood.

Freedom is the most objective ‘right’ that we have. Most other rights are mired in subjectivity and easily claimed but difficult to delineated. Everyone can be equally free, or free in the same way, but how do you circumscribe the individual claim to ‘safety’ or ‘fairness’ etc?

Adam Perkins argues that freedom of speech is of scientific importance.

A common objection is to argue that you are not free to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre. The point being that there are limits to freedom of speech. The boundary is then practically drawn at ‘hate speech’. It sounds fair enough, but in practice the boundary keeps shrinking because the definition of what constitutes ‘hate’ is constantly being refined and becoming smaller and smaller. Now, the mere disagreement with someone constitutes hate.

So, if the choice is to suffer a few false alarm evacuations of the theatre, in exchange for me to keep my freedom to facepalm the idiot who yelled fire just for fun, then so be it. It is a small inconvenience to preserve a much greater privilege.

That is the nature of freedom; it requires a price to be paid, sacrifices in fact, which include inconvenience, failure, fear and most importantly having to deal with being wrong and being forced to change your mind or at least acceptance of defeat.

The Left have some appealing arguments reflecting noble intentions.

They want to care and protect. They want to give workers a living wage. They want to help the helpless. The want to protect the marginalised. That is all good and well and our society needs that impetus. However, given free rein, this propensity to protect the weak results in the left creating a market for weakness; that is in order to live a meaningful life, they need victims and in absence of victims they will keep redefining victimhood until everyone is a victim somehow.

When everyone is a victim and when everyone is indebted to the class of people who are helping the victims, you have a baked-in political (voter) base, but on the flip-side you have a self-perpetuating weakness premised on maintaining your victimhood.

When your survival depends on finding a class of victimhood that provides access to protection and free resources, human ingenuity will respond accordingly.

Whilst the Left have noble intentions, there are unintended and debilitating consequences which they don’t see or don’t value or don’t seem to understand.

People on the right of the spectrum (follow link for full list) view the people on the left as suffering from intellectual delusions, evidenced by beliefs such as these:

  • Words are violence
  • Free speech is not important
  • Hate speech is whatever “I” define it as
  • Gender is a social construct – anyone can identify as any gender whenever they want to
  • Biology plays no part in determining who is male and female, society does
    Islam is a religion of peace
  • Criticism of any aspect of Islam is Islamophobia

Now the list is probably partly meant to be provocative, but in fact, it is not without justification and also makes a very important (meta?) point: The left used to be pro-science and pro-free speech. Based on current social justice issues, they have not only abandoned biological realism and other factually observable facts and historical truths in favour of their ideologies, they are actively acknowledging it and promoting an anti-scientific view of the world.

Jordan B Peterson has found recent fame (and fortune) for very articulately defending freedom of speech, because as he rightly argues, freedom of speech is irrevocably linked to freedom of thought and if you lose the ability to think what you want, then you have lost yourself, your community your society and civilisation in the process.

Many things we disagree on can be attributed to differences in perspective. For some, Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter, and for others he was a terrorist. And they’d both be right because he used terrorism to attain freedom for his people. That is the problem with labels and using labels to govern public discourse.

Whilst both sides are guilty of it, the Left is more so by an order of magnitude. Simply think of the labels that exist in the media today: homophobe, fascist, racist, Islamaphobe, feminist, misogynist etc. These are left-wing insults. Can you even name the equivalent right-wing slur easily?

To label something negatively and then make a case for why that label represents a great wrong is a serious logical fallacy of course, because the label is not the argument. In psychological terms, this is a smart strategy, using ‘framing’ to set up a persuasive argument. It may be persuasive and on the surface it may be appealing (and may persuade the masses) but it does not make it true or right.

The counter argument has always been an appeal to reason; arguing by presenting facts, but when the opposition does not acknowledge reality/facts/ logic but instead claims feelings and intentions and the like as arbiters of truth (a natural outflow of their moral relativism) then it is almost impossible to win the debate.

Winning a debate presupposes mutual acceptance of the rules of logic, but if one party has abandoned those (which post-modernism has done by definition) then debates have no purpose other than grandstanding or virtue-signalling or at best an exercise in futility.

The Left have control of mainstream media, arts & culture and also, by virtue of concentration of a handful of people in one wealthy suburb, also of social media.

Real conversations are becoming impossible. The Right are creating their own platforms (like Gab and Infogalactic for instance) and the Left are ‘de-platforming’ anyone who ‘violates community standards (defined by them of course). Both sides of the debate end up in an echo chamber of their own making.

The natural cross-fertilisation of ideas and the robust stress-testing of policies and solutions are not happening. We are all talking at each other.

If things continue, then the Left will win. They have the advantage of owing the current communications infrastructure (dictating conversation standards) and they offer the twin incentives of protection and support of the excluded, marginalised, poor and any type of victim, wrapped in a blanket of decadence and worldly delights.

The right offers a message of discipline, order, independence, truth, reality, justice, accountability and personal freedom. But membership of this tribe demands sacrifice and acceptance of responsibility – not half as attractive as membership to the leftie tribe.

The left is the benevolent mother. The right is the demanding father. Any thinking person would easily see that you need both for an optimally functioning family, but that is not happening.

Our only potential hope is that if our survival instincts kick in across the majority of people, and our better instincts prevail, creating a civilisation wide backlash against the insidiousness the dependency mindset that would otherwise prevail.

Arguably, the growth of some the right-wing parties in Europe (and Trump in America of course) suggests that it may well happen. There are two scenarios that can play out.

The current resurgence of rightist parties across Europe may simply be the proverbial chook running around with a head already chopped off. The Left will simply continue to dominate and continue to hold on to the power structures and eventually rule unopposed, or if this not the dead cat’s bounce, the Right will return to power.

#Scenario 1. Eat the seed.

The Left wins the arms race and take control of the keys to civilisation. That world won’t last, for as explained earlier, without the presence of the tyrannically father to impose order, nothing gets built and sooner or later people start eating the seed corn. We have seen that in every Communist, Socialist state and plays out in every African country that finds independence impossible to manage.

#2. Right to rule

It is not a dead cat bounce, bur a real resurgence. This right-wing resurgence will lead to rightist re-claiming power and control. Given how fast and how far and how deep the left-induced malaise runs, the environment may lead to all the undesirable elements of right-wing ideologies will be allowed to surface and flourish.

Either outcome would be as disastrous as a society functioning within a Leftist worldview.

The third option is that we all agree to embrace FREEDOM. But when I look at the sinful nature of human beings, our innate tendencies and the historical trajectory of modernisation, then I don’t see how we would get to that point where we are brave enough to embrace freedom, and the concomitant responsibilities that it entails. It seems to me that it is too late, and our arc has been drawn.

I have no basis for this cynical view other than personal observation and an accumulation of anecdotal instances that support this view. But then again, my interpretation of what is happening in the world is also subject to personal biases like everyone else, so I don’t know for sure.

Freedom is scary. It asks much from its believers. Ultimately, maybe it asked to much and we succumbed to comfortable lap of the ideology than feels like a mother’s embrace, rather than respond to the call of the tyrannical father.

And that is the best explanation I have and that is the reason I am despondent about the future.


FOOTNOTE

Some readers may identify this argument above as fundamentally Libertarian. And in some respect it is. Libertarianism is often thought of as “right-wing” doctrine. This, however, is mistaken for especially on social—rather than economic—issues, libertarianism tends to be “left-wing”. It opposes laws that restrict consensual and private sexual relationships between adults (e.g., gay sex, extra-marital sex, and deviant sex), laws that restrict drug use, laws that impose religious views or practices on individuals, and compulsory military service. I think Libertarianism is too simple to explain all of the complex reality that is life, but I do believe that the claim to freedom as being fundamental is being correct (as a basis) for a functioning civil society. Personally, am strongly in favour of free markets (capitalism), but I have doubts about the (for instance) benefits of ‘free trade’. But I have resolved this apparent incongruence by taking a view that each individual, or freely associating groups of people (a country) are free to choose whether they want to trade freely or not.

I am anti-abortion and I am anti-euthanasia, and on the surface those seem to go against the freedom to choose. But in my mind, both of these positions rely on the foundational idea (premise) that freedom presupposes life. Only living beings can potentially be free, and by taking a life, whether it us an unborn life or your own, amounts to the ultimate destruction of freedom – the freedom to be – and no one has the freedom to deny anyone that freedom – not even yourself.

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