Monday, July 8, 2019

We Are Divided, BUT...

Imagine two groups, "us" and "them". Now imagine the space between them, the "margin," with people in it.  You might be in a group and recognize that some people disagree with your group and are therefore out of it (pun intended, if you like).  In politics, there are the Democrats and the Republicans. The margin between these groups does have people in it - they are people who used to belong to one group but are now searching because they have the feeling that maybe, just maybe, the other group might be better.  They haven't yet figured out that it might be better to stay out of both groups, but they are closer.

It's rare for somebody in either group to want anyone else in their own group to go into the margin. Anyone going into that space from whichever group they used to be in is rejecting their group, at least temporarily.  What I'd like to call your attention to is how many of those people between the two groups, whatever groups they are, decide to stay out of both of them.  Benny Wills labelled himself a non-labelledist when Brett Veinotte interviewed him. I'd label us "individuals" but then I label everyone an "individual" - something that can't be divided.  I admit that there are people who have been divided.  This post, however, is not about manic-depressives, schizophrenics, or people with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This post, rather, is about perfectly normal people who have been sucked into the vortex of "us vs them" thinking, and how we can find value in those we view as enemies, and possibly even extricate ourselves from the dichotomy.  I'll give you an idea of how and when I find myself in a situation where I can put these insights to work.  I hear someone say something that rubs me the wrong way.  My gut reaction is to come up with words to shut them down, but my habit is to sit on that and think instead about the specifics of our disagreement.  It often comes down to one of these things:
  • They believe something because it is commonly claimed to be true, whereas my experience tells me it isn't true.
  • They believe most people will screw things up unless they are following rules that someone else made up, whereas I believe most people will figure out the right way to do things if they are free.
  • They believe they have the truth and calling their truth into question in any way is an attempt to create problems, whereas I believe that questioning is a healthy way to engage in a cooperative search for truth.
  • One of us has strong emotions that make things look a certain way, whereas the other one sees things more as they actually are.
  • One of us sees the general applicability of an idea whereas the other one sees it as applicable only to a certain situation which may not be the situation we have.
  • They believe people are good because otherwise they get punished, whereas I believe people are good because they recognize that being good makes life better.
There are many people who stay in a group even though they completely understand the perspective of those in the "other" group.  These are some of the people who help folks in the other group get into the margin.  There are always a few "double agents" in a group who also find ways to encourage people in their own group to get into the margin.  Finally, a healthy portion of the people already in the margin are discovering (or have already discovered) that being in a group engenders disconnection and strife, and they are encouraging others, from both groups, to see value in the margin and join them.

I am marginalized, and I intend to stay marginalized.  I don't vote.  I don't respect what most people think of as "authority." I invite and encourage others to join me in finding value in questioning the mainstream narratives, in breaking laws when it's the right thing to do, in encouraging agents of the state to do the right thing instead when their job requires that they take actions to further the oppression and depredations of the state.

I invite you to figure out what, about a position you oppose, your opponents find valuable in it, and honor any goodness you see in those values.  As technology provides us with more opportunities to connect with each other, it will get easier and easier to bridge the gap that is often created, deepened, and widened, by those whose interests align with strife, conflict, and war.  We can bridge that gap and defeat their engines of misery.  Practice taking on the perspective of someone with whom you disagree, and see what common values you share with them despite whatever details are disagreeable between you.  Peace and prosperity are goals pretty much everyone shares.  We may have different, or even opposing, strategies to obtain them, but with more communication and interconnectedness, we can reconcile those strategies.  We just have to be aware of the efforts of psychopaths to derail such healing.

I don't think Kevin Roose is a psychopath who wants to derail any healing, but he did write an article called "Making a Youtube Radical" about a young man who Mr. Roose quotes as saying "You have to reach people on their level, and part of that is edgy humor, edgy memes. You have to empathize with them, and then you have to give them the space to get all these ideas out of their head."  If that's a radical, I hope Youtube keeps it up!  Mr. Cain is someone who is in the margin, wandering toward the left, wondering (good job, Caleb!) what's the best way.

He already found, (and said, in his video response to Mr. Roose's article) that it's best to focus on consensus building and cooperation, and that "compassion and empathy are our strongest traits as a species."  He's spreading the same message that motivated me to write this, and to write A Good Infection. Now, about that building consensus...

Consensus?  We don't need no stinking consensus!  Honestly, if voluntaryism catches on in a big enough way, consensus will only be valuable in small groups and it will make them highly effective.  Ultimately, it's the violence of the state that makes consensus building important.  If we stop using such an idiotic strategy (make up rules and hurt people for breaking them) to maintain social cohesion, consensus will build itself, and only around the "most bestest things."  People who work on building consensus will be recognized as demagogues.

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