Bonus Episode 2: Deepest Concerns and Individuals Lost
This blog post is a transcription of a bonus episode for the Off the Rails Podcast: A Theory in Conversation. These are one-off episodes that are either solo efforts or collaborations that may not fit into a larger episode, but something that we still want for public engagement.
In our modern political world, so often does public discourse fall somewhere on the Left or the Right of the political spectrum. Unfortunately, this is not a surprise. It is a common phenomenon that people’s moral temperament often describe where one might find them politically. On average, it is true that someone with a high degree of conscientiousness, open-mindedness, and general agree-ability will usually be socially and economically ‘liberal’ or more precisely on the Left. It is also true, that on average, someone who is more generally disagreeable, often opposed to change or has a deep relationship with tradition, and are more often orderly in their lives could be described as socially and economically ‘conservative’ or on the political Right.
What follows from this diagnosis of political temperament, appears to me, is that of values and where our concerns lie for others. Historically, the political Right in America has been for small government, individual liberty, and ‘God given’ inalienable rights. The values have traditionally stemmed from the classical liberal tradition, often associated with philosophers like John Locke or John Stuart Mill. Today, however, Republicans are but a shadow of their former glory. While they often claim to be for individual liberty, their true colors are often to be shown in gross support of religious ideology or the blind backing of corporations that directly counteract the interests of their base and the larger polis as a whole. While this piece is not an attack on corporations or capitalism, I do think that a true Republican would want to represent the Republic, and not outsider interests in order to continue to be elected for their own sake.
We can explore similar problems with the political Left. American Democrats have had a colored history, to say the least. During their original founding, they were often associated with slave owners, the Ku Klux Klan, and many other segregationist groups during the mid- to late-19th century. But since women’s suffrage, the first and second waves of feminism, the civil rights movement, and the more public discussion of gay rights, Democrats have been come to be associated with the problems and suffering of minority groups. More recently, Social Democrats especially, have turned their eye toward the LGBTQ+ community, specifically the trans-rights activists, and the intersectionality movement, where the oppressed have literally become violently opposed the the patriarchal Right and scream for equality of outcome. Not as tasty as ice cream, I’m afraid.
This is where my concern emerges, out of the end product of Left and Right identity politics. My deepest concern is for the individual; the smallest of all minorities. When the Right boasts their neo-nationalism and neo-conservatism that they are so unfortunately now associated with, they are closing off America’s rich culture of opportunity to the people who so desperately need it. I am not opposed to the approach that looks at America’s needs first, but this land has historically become what it is known for, for a reason. We are the land of liberal democracy, opportunity, freedom, multiculturalism, and many more great things that migrants and our own citizens find great meaning and value in. In turn, what the Left does is continuing to segregate us all into categories of oppression. In their critique of hierarchies, they correctly identify the problem of inequality. I would like to come back to this issue of equality in a later blog essay, but for now, let us assume that their concern is sound. With that in mind, when the Left identifies their oppressor as the patriarchy, or white men, or the structure of capitalism itself, instead of wanting to fix the problems found in our society, which seem to have been working quite well for us, they want to upend the culture entirely. Oppressed becomes oppressor; slave becomes master. Movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo ultimate goals are to reverse the roles they claim to disagree with so fervidly now.
My problem can easily be illustrated by the normal distribution (or Bell curve as some might be familiar with) of data. Speaking specifically about about how the problems of minorities or the oppressed are addressed, it is the ones who find themselves lumped in the middle of the curve whose problems would most frequently and efficiently be dealt with. If you are a trans, black, overweight, disabled, Muslim, and millennial woman, your problems are likely to take top priority, while folks at the tail ends of the distribution are likely to never be heard. This highlights my problems with the grouping and categorization of people in general. Groups don’t vote, individual persons do. Even if you fall into one of the now countless groups delineated by the intersectional Olympians, there are likely issues that you care about that will never be heard. It becomes the needs of the many over the needs of the few at that point. If the purpose to is to overturn the obviously racist hierarchical structure of society, guess what? Reversing the roles still places people at the bottom. If the purpose is to eliminate hierarchies altogether, in favor of a more egalitarian, but still ultimately utilitarian society, you have now homogenized culture, while still leaving the problem that individuals will never be heard.
If we leave individuals lost in the fog, then there may not ever be great people to rise up and create something amazing. There would be no Elon Musk, no Mark Twain, no Albert Einstein, no Marie Curie, no Mary Shelley, and no Maya Angelou. But more importantly, in a homogenized culture, there would be no clear distinction of values. Moving forward in this podcast, if my actions are off putting, try viewing me through this lens. The project that I am taking part in on my blog, and the broader conversation with Josh @theonlyoneblog, is a dedication to the individual. All topics and arguments are welcome.