Hello folks – time for some full-strength politics once again!
It is such a strange moment right now – I’d really like to be able to link directly to my most passionate friends on the right, middle and left and ask them to give this one a listen and a think, but I don’t want to accidentally set up a petrie dish for a grudge match (social media’s new favourite trick). So instead let me just ask all my pals to try this one on with an open mind. And as fraught as these times are, trust me folks – despite our high emotions, it simply isn’t true that practically everyone is a despotic, demonic, unprincipled, ignorant, intolerant, insufferable immoral maniac nowadays – some people are still centrists!
My apologies to one and all, of course – but then, I also trust that any with humour still intact will appreciate the irresistibility of that one (and the necessity of the chuckle). ;o)
There really are a lot of objective reasons for our widespread feelings of frustration right now – but it seems as if we hear less objective thinking or fair minded discussion than ever. I am (still and always) opposed to tribalist thinking, and pointless (always ruler-serving) conflict – and at this point it feels like tribalism needs to be defined clearly. What I mean is any set of ideas which makes a person think aggressive categorical unfairness is helpful.
That old maxim “Never explain as malice, that which can be explained as stupidity” isn’t important because it gets people off the hook – but because it gets us out of our heads and into the world – which truly is both stupid and evil – but so outstanding in the stupid department, that to ever rule it out is reckless.
Hearing vicious arguments between two people who haven’t even got good command of their own points, and show even less simple respect for reason or compassion is really not anything new. For a lot of people in the middle, tribal politics has always looked like that – that’s why it’s such a huge turn-off. You can tell right away that neither side is quite sane – or else why would they so often allow themselves to be represented by such fools?
But though this extreme mode of discussion isn’t new, it has never before been so horrifically dominant. Even coming to the defence of someone for trying to be fair, can get someone attacked with quite extraordinary vitriol.
I think a big problem is that we simplify too far – and start taking broad categories to be useful, instead of questioning the specific content. We really like the big horse, and don’t ever stop to wonder about why it is so big, has spears sticking out of it, and keeps coughing like a few dozen hardcore soldiers.
Now – I will let the episode speak for itself. I sincerely hope you find a few useful ideas in there someplace. If you find yourself wondering where I found some of the data which goes with my ideas, there are a few really interesting reading, listening and viewing sources below.
Cheers folks – and thank you very much as always for the thoughtful ears.
If you think I’m being too strong against war, here’s Jacobin’s bracing take on US policy in the Ukraine (not where I got my ideas, just another source)
In case you think I’m simply wrong about police in America killing far more white than black people, this is the best public record I’ve found.
Here’s an (oddly wry and charming) stoic intellectual on the truly awful questions of excess death and race.
Charles Ekokotu offers a highly illuminating Nigerian take on many topical issues which vex us:
I was especially taken by this piece comparing tribalism near and far.
If you are losing sleep over the white supremacist hordes – here’s a revealing piece from the Guardian (no gossip-rag) about how the dominant faction is not only utterly pathetic, but also less than 250 guys – nation-wide.
Finally I must mention Glenn Lowry – with whom I differ politically, but I sincerely admire for engaging with many crucial questions around these matters in an especially probing, wide-seeking, data and compassion together sort of way. Well worth listening to not only for his interesting guests, but his combination of bright humour, fine insight and playfully skeptical intelligence – and never better than when he’s chatting with his also brilliant friend, the hilarious, principled and insightful linguist John McWhorter.