Saturday, October 27, 2012

Explaining Centrism/Moderation

I once wrote about how I reached the conclusion, after much study, that
....there's no lastingly viable political system. In the long run, nothing works. Nothing has ever worked. Nothing ever will work. Every system is corruptible, and in the end all but a tiny minority gets screwed. Fortunately, things inevitably churn. Discontentment peaks, corrupt, unviable systems are overturned, and a fresh new corrupt, unviable system replaces it. The ending of Animal Farm is not a tale of failure. On contrary, it's humanity's sole saving grace that the pigs in charge are periodically replaced by slightly less entrenched pigs. That's really the best we can hope for. Blame Eve for eating that apple.
This doesn't make me a nihilist, however. I prefer certain specific policies over others. But I'm unable to get starry-eyed, in a general way, about either pole of a political spectrum. I don't buy in. Toward the negative, there's stuff to be disgusted by (the debt ceiling business really rocked my world), but there's little to be thrilled by in any political realm.

I'm not being cynical, just realistic. Governance is a grind, not a thrill. It's a never-ending series of drastic compromises squelching idealism and favoring competent steady-handedness. The ideal government is one where capable people work to more or less get stuff done within the deliberately tight confines of power. It's important, but dull. So if you find yourself just absolutely loving one segment or another, you're responding to mere charisma. Choosing's fine, but partisan zealotry strikes me as uncalled for.

I'm just not tribal-minded. Close observation of liberals and conservatives makes it clear that policy isn't what drives people to choose one side or the other. It's a more primal dynamic. It's about us-and-them. Conservatives are those kinds of people. Liberals are these kinds of people. Take a deep sniff, and decide which feels most like home. Hey, welcome to the party! And, geez, don't you just hate those other guys?

No, I don't. Because I'm not a "joiner". My values are consciously chosen and personal rather than osmotic and tribal. So when I see some ham-fisted right-wing windbag raging on TV about how Obama's destroying the country, I smirk and change the channel. And when I see some sanctimonious liberal putz raging about how Mitt Romney will destroy the country, I smirk and change the channel. The coded language is never tuned to my ear, because, again, I'm not tribal. It all shoots right by me.

The American public divides neatly into demographic categories. You may deem yourself unique, but the greater corpocracy knows better. You have a tribe, and you will be absorbed into it. The psychology behind it all is terribly advanced, and even I sometimes feel a tug or two.

Yet I haven't been absorbed. So, in both food and politics, I can feel very lonely. It's an outcast's life to exist in a society of tribal zealots (Bud drinkers, Sam Adams drinkers, and Stella drinkers...all infatuated by swill), with everyone but me sung to by soothing voices.

6 comments:

bobjbkln said...

You've made a classic error here comparing the far right conservative position as the opposite equivalent of the center left liberal position. The reality is Obama has been president for four years and despite all attempt by the Tea Party Republicans, he has not destroyed the country. On the other hand Romney promises to do so, just think about the fact that there will probably be three Supreme Court appointments in the next term and on his website Romney says that he will appoint people in the mold of Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts (three of whom are among the most right wing members of the court in the past century). And then look at your beer choices Bud and Stella, extremely mass manufactured conglomerate swill vs. very middle of the road semi-microbrew Sam Adams. Even trying to distinguish between Stella and Bud shows this false opposites fallacy. The real opposites are Rochefort Trappistes 6 or even Rogue Stone IPA

Jim Leff said...

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"You've made a classic error here comparing the far right conservative position as the opposite equivalent of the center left liberal position"
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No.

I don't love the far right, center right, center left, or far left. None of those positions feels like "home" to me, for reasons I explained. Nor do Libertarianism, Socialism, Anarchism, Libertarian Socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, Communism, Fascism, or anything else you want to suggest. None work. All are destined to inequity and corruption. And, even at it's best, governance is a grind, not a soccer game. There are no messiahs to root for; just, hopefully, competence.

In terms of specific policies, I do have my preferences. But because my preferences are consciously chosen and personal rather than osmotic and tribal, so they don't fit any mold. What's more, even if things went precisely my way, my statement above (nothing works) would still apply! So I don't get excited (i.e. "partisan") about any of it. I make my choices, and hope that, if they're implemented, the grind of governance might proceed just a little bit less awfully.

All that said, horrendous decisions can be made, and need to be called out. That's where I can get passionate. One example was the debt ceiling brouhaha, which harmed the country in incalculable ways. I do hold a grudge on that. But I'm not making anything like the comparison you suggest.

bobjbkln said...

«But I'm not making anything like the comparison you suggest.»

But you did:


So when I see some ham-fisted right-wing windbag raging on TV about how Obama's destroying the country, I smirk and change the channel. And when I see some sanctimonious liberal putz raging about how Mitt Romney will destroy the country, I smirk and change the channel

Jim Leff said...

Would it have helped if I'd listed many, many more examples of political messaging and stances which fail to please me?

bobjbkln said...

Perhaps. But I would be more convinced if you gave a better explanation of why you described someone as a sanctimonious liberal putz just because he believes that a President Romney could be disastrous for this country

Jim Leff said...

I didn't say that.

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