Unforgivable Opinions 3 - Politics Are Useless

For the next installment of Unforgivable Opinions I would like to focus on politics, or more specifically political ideology, tribalism and groupthink. The majority of this can be seen as a direct follow up to my earlier essay on identity, of which I consider the political labels people give to themselves and others a subset.

The genesis of this essay came about when my sister a few weekends back asked me, slightly puzzled, whether or not I was liberal. To which I told her, “No.” She then asked if I was conservative, to which I again said, “No.” She then asked me, “So, are you just saying, ‘fuck everybody’?” To which I admitted she was much closer to the truth. My sister’s humor aside, this exchange highlights a situation I repeatedly find myself in where speaking to others with a political bent (my sister is a self-described liberal) they are unsure of where to place me. When I speak to liberals, they tend to see me as conservative and vice-versa, this even happens when I attempt to explicate directly that I am an apolitical person.

I routinely encounter politically aligned people who are unable to believe that a person could fall outside of the false dichotomy of left vs right in American politics. This should not be a surprise given that political ideologies themselves stand more for obfuscated thought and easily controlled large groups than they do for any real diametrically opposed core tenets and values. In America, the major differences between the ideological schools are predominantly superficial. This is brought to light by an examination of their espoused fundamental principles:

Conservatism alleges it is against expansive government while for fiscal limitations, and the preservation of personal liberties. Yet, as a movement it has wed itself to a position of blindly backing the enforcement arms of said limited government, namely the police and military, as their expansion continues to overrun both individual rights and any notion of fiscal budgeting. Furthermore, conservative’s blind allegiance to untethered capitalism only helps the advent of multinational corporations that can be more tyrannical, controlling, and ultimately mutilating of a population than any one government and are not even limited by national borders. This doesn’t even touch upon areas where typical conservatives are all too eager to encroach on the rights of their neighbors if it is upsetting to their squeamish puritan sensibilities like abortion or the ability for one to have fluidity in their sexuality and gender. If you blindly champion the weapons of the behemoths who run the courts, the legislature, the executive branch, the markets, and your access to capital, food, water, shelter, and safety and then believe your rights and freedoms are sacrosanct and inalienable all under the banner of conservatism then you are as glibly foolish as pigs who would praise the farmer that fattens them before slaughter.

Liberalism seeks to advance social equality or equity and looks to wage war against forces in society and government that are allegedly sexist, racist, heteronormative, transphobic, elitist, ageist, body-shaming and/or downright evil. Yet the solution that liberalism continues to push to achieve social equity is more incursion of these exogenous systems – namely government – into the lives of people to “assist” them. I squirm when I hear people say we need to overturn and defund the “racist” police in order to give more power and resources to social workers and psychiatrists – who are little more than agents of the same government and healthcare institutions that they continue to call “racist.” And yet how many people proudly claim that the system is toxic but then demand its extensions in a different form – to use an analogy liberals claim that they are lactose intolerant but then demand a different flavor of ice cream.

If either of these groups were indeed for their purported core beliefs, then they would be unceasingly allegiant to them rather than continuing to place themselves and their adherents in ridiculously contradictory positions. [1]

I find it hard to believe that the obvious contradictions that people are meant to uncritically subscribe to are about anything more than control. As John Taylor Gatto pointed out, if your goal is to control people you cannot urge individuals to agree and take marching orders only for sensible actions – you must condition them to accepting anything presented to them. The easiest manner in which to do this is by having them nod their heads, adhere in agreement to, and make proud displays of non-sensical beliefs.

An even bolder tactic would be to use adherence to these non-sensical beliefs as a litmus test for belonging to a political group. And indeed, this has shown itself to be the case, evidenced by the accelerating polarization between the left and the right (erosion of the middle) and the increase of in-group uniformity of beliefs in American politics.[2] We have witnessed political ideologues command a “with us or against us” approach – this is an ever-escalating demand for purity which looks for conformity and drives out anyone who is unwilling to agree to the most extreme of views on either side. Critical thinking devolves to the point that both democrats and republicans believe they are warriors fighting a Manichean battle of universal good versus evil when in reality they are sitting slack-jawed while scrolling through a social media feed and writing glib comments of unoriginal thoughts and recycled opinions pre-approved by the other members in their camp.

Given the immense amount of ideological contortion that people are coerced into it is hard to argue that the supposed principles and ideals a party will wear on its sleeve are little more than a honeypot meant to entice people into the front door of a larger group and then used to ensnare and hold them hostage.

I view political parties largely as formed for their own benefit, specifically the benefit of their establishment, and completely misaligned with the actual needs and wants of their constituents. This is the reason for the rise in rebellious and alleged populist arms on both sides manifesting in the dovetail pairing of Trump and Bernie Sanders – both of whose actual effectiveness or even authenticity at attempts to upend the establishment are dubious at best. The purported politics of this nation are all for show – it is a combination of sport and theater that Americans can engorge themselves in as a thinly veiled form of escapism. The end result is disgusting: just this year I have seen team blue cheer and claim political victory because a red-state’s power grid collapsed causing death for dozens and hardship for thousands; I have seen team red gloat over economic inflation and fuel shortages as a way to besmirch the blue president’s administration. Americans are high-fiving over the crumbling of their own country.

Perhaps the saddest part is that all of the political gridlock and football is just superficial. It is a bit beyond the scope of this essay but as Andrew Bacevich points out, though the common narrative is that government is dysfunctional and gridlocked it still seems remarkably efficient in starting new wars and conflicts, creating a massive surveillance state through intelligence agencies and technology companies, bailing out major corporations and keeping the S&P 500 afloat. Why is it that government works nimbly, swiftly, and resolutely in some areas but not in others? This is again beyond the scope of this diatribe, so I will digress.[3]

Politics in America between the left and the right is about control and blind obedience. The reasons why people follow these political camps are complex and multifaceted including aspects of weak character, mimetics, and conditioning to uncritically accept information from early childhood by school, social media, the media and so on. All of which are in-depth topics and would be ill-treated in a brief rant like this.  The main point I would hope to get across is that politics are not about their beliefs or ideals and whenever someone proudly wears their ideological team’s name on their sleeve as a badge of honor or attacks their supposed opposition while remaining uncritical of their own tribe then that person is telling you little more than just how blindly obedient, uncreative, weak-natured, and dependent they really are.

[1] On an even more meta level both camps seem to be placed in inherently impossible contradiction of urging for both a belief in human nature and a belief in laws and rules.  

[2] https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2019/12/17/in-a-politically-polarized-era-sharp-divides-in-both-partisan-coalitions/

[3] Mike Lofgren makes an excellent case for all this here