It’s interesting to hear what conservatives say when they’re talking just among themselves. Same with progressives, libertarians and other groups. Despite the groups’ very different beliefs, there’s a common thread that I tend to observe.
In all of these groups, they might argue among themselves at times, but you can tell they generally come from the same set of assumptions about the world. I tend to listen to a lot of these sorts of discussions. I rarely participate, because I’m getting to the point that it’s not worth arguing. So I just listen and try to figure out what groups believe and how the social groups interact. It’s sort of like being a political sociologist without getting paid for it.
When I listen to the supporters of pretty much any political viewpoint, I can understand the logic of what they believe — if I simply accept their assumptions about the world. No matter how much I disagree with them, I can almost always understand where they’re coming from.
But the vast majority of these people are disdainful of those in other groups. They clearly don’t have any understanding of what the other groups believe or why. What’s more, they’re not really interested in what the other groups believe or why. They’re mostly interested in making fun of them or putting them down in various ways, many times viciously. Within the groups, there seems to be an air of superiority that is amazingly similar. If you removed the ideological content of what they were saying and just looked at the social content of what they were expressing, you’d be hard pressed to figure out which groups were which.
Political and social groups are like little tribes. Humans are very tribal creatures, and one of the results is that every group tends to see the world in terms of “us against them.” The truth is that there are good people and bad people (and those all in between) among every political and social group. But most people in every group judge their group by the best among themselves — and they judge other groups by the worst among them.
As a result, most people of every group see their group as the obvious “good people.” They see all the other groups as obviously “evil people.” That’s why it’s so easy for people in every group to assume that those of other groups who get power aren’t just wrong, but they’re evil — which leads to bizarro conspiracy theories, among other things.
So why does it have to be this way? It’s this way because we’re all competing to control the same big political pie. We have a system that allows one group to put together a temporary electoral coalition of 50 percent plus one and then take control of some particular office (such as the presidency or a governorship) or one house of Congress or a legislature. The only check on those people completely enforcing their will is that other groups might control a different part of the government.
So we’re stuck with groups who hate each other — each thinking that everyone else is evil — and they’re all competing for the right to set the rules for everyone else.
Is this reasonable?
I think we’d be better off if people of every group tried to understand those they disagree with. More understanding and less arrogance might lead to the conclusion that we’re never all going to agree. It might lead to the conclusion that maybe the pie should be split up instead of letting a successful majority impose its way on everyone.
There’s no reason that conservatives can’t have places where the system works according to the rules they want — and people who agree with them can move there and enjoy (or not enjoy) the system they’ve chosen. The same is true for progressives and libertarians and every other group. If a bunch of people want to get together and build a socialist utopia, why should anyone else care — as long as they buy the land and don’t force anyone else to join them?
Why should anyone care if libertarians want to build their own cities? Or Christians? Or Muslims? Or any other group that can buy land and convince people to join them?
We’re doomed to hate each other and fight one another as long as we’re all competing over who wins the right to control everyone. We need a society where different people can live under their own voluntary rules.
This won’t happen as long as we believe that everyone who disagrees with us is evil and wrong. We need to understand each other — and accept that it’s OK for others to live as they please, just as long as they don’t force us to accept their rules.