As we enter the Quadrennial Season of Hate I have thought to explore possible remedies and preventatives. After all that a large number of persons who don't even know me and whom I have never met should wield such control over my soul, that my last moments on earth whenever they may be could consist of my being angry at something I saw on TV or Facebook, should be utterly unacceptable, and yet I have accepted that state of affairs for years. From my point of view I cannot be sure that any alleged importance of keeping up on current events is worth a single sin against charity. I don't know Obama. I don't know Gingrich. I don't know Romney. The only contact I will have with any of them is no contact at all. I will be moving a lever, or touching a screen, or punching a hole next to one of their names.
But in fact a closer look shows that I am not only or even mostly angry at the people in power or seeking it. I am angry at Republicans or "conservatives". I know there are people who equally believe that "liberals", "progressives" and Democrats are really evil. Why I heard Rush Limbaugh say just two days ago (or a voice on the radio sounding a lot like the guy who has been called "Rush Limbaugh") that it's not that conservatives hate America its just that they hate what liberals and progressives have done to it.
If I substituted "Catholics" for that any of those named groups Bill Donahue would be all over me. If I substituted "blacks" I would be de-friended en masse. Such an exercise of course shows that this is all bigotry. Yet many of us seem to embrace it. Something has become so ingrained in us that we we don't even realize we are talking in generalities which seem to require a hateful and violent conclusion were the usual rules of logical discourse followed.
If I do believe that Obama is a secret socialist bent on establishing a dictatorship then it would seem that there is more justification for shooting him, than there was for attacking Iraq, or is for attacking Iran. If I believe that Republicans are vile people who, if allowed to rule, would seek to control our every move, rob us of our civil liberties, send our children to be ripped apart physically and mentally while killing other children all in order to remain in power, then it would seem we should start taking out Republicans. Likewise if liberals are traitors, or demonic, then we should start getting rid of them as well. Does it not logically follow? We are dangers to one another.
We try to get out of this usage by saying of course there are exceptions, or we don't mean individuals for many of them are deceived, or we don't justify violence even though it is true that liberals are demonic and socialistic and conservatives are fascistic and death dealing. This is nonsense. You use a collective noun, attribute properties to the members of that collective, and then try to say that you weren't saying it about a particular member of that collective. That is just lazy reasoning or outright lying.
I do not know which comes first-- the anger or the generalization. I have begun to notice that when people get angry they start to speak in generalizations not out of laziness but because something in the anger makes us perceive the world in such universal terms, "Why am the only one who..." "Why does everybody say...." "Why doesn't anybody care...."
The fact however that many of us do have this visceral reaction leads me to believe that something else is going on. What that something else is I am not quite sure. I just know that in anger I am less rational, in anger I am more easily manipulated, and in anger I can perpetuate hurt and anger. So why would any of us-- those of us who are of the party of Roe v. Wade (Republicans) or of the party of Jim Crow (Democrats)-- want to put ourselves in that position? Sure I like the warm feeling of anger but in the end it is really unpleasant and destructive and allows me to be controlled by the people who can keep me in that state.
Many years ago I was staying at a Benedictine Monastery guesthouse and there was a gentleman there who was on a retreat of sorts, to pray over his particular besetting sin-- racism. In other words he was a racist, he had racist inclinations and yet he knew it was wrong (or a spiritual advisor or priest or someone had told him it was wrong and he was willing to accept their assessment). I was highly impressed at the notion that a person could have instinctive (and perhaps socially reinforced for years) fears and hatreds and try to do something about it, even to the point of asking an infinite power to give them aid. This is an act of reason. It is trying to change one's instinctive and received view of the world so that it comports with the truth, rather that trying argue that one's instinctive view of the world is true. It may not have even been that active. It may have been an attempt to let the truth about the world work on his view of the world.
But there is also a converse to this. People want to be part of a group. Candidates vie to be considered conservative. They accuse one another or commentators accuse them of violating conservative principles. Who makes these rules and drafts these principles by the way? And yet the mere power of the word "conservative" or "liberal" or "progressive" is enough that people want to be considered one. This is psychotic. No actually it's more Stalinist or something. It's allows people to set up mental show trials, it has people looking over their shoulders wondering whether they will be exiled from Progressivism because they are opposed to third trimester elective abortions.
We have to find something better to do with our time. Like love one another.
This identity politics problem needs to be countered. It makes no sense for me to be saying "No. That is really a conservative principle," or "Progressives don't believe that." This is lazy speech. If it conveys any information, and I am not sure that it does, it is based on a notion that there is such a thing as a liberal or conservative and that it is important that this noun be part of the predicate attached to my particular "I".
Who makes up this stuff? And why would someone spend so much time and money wanting to convince us it is important. I can't help but be a bit suspicious. Nevertheless this is about remedies for the anger not getting angry about the people who use anger to manipulate me.
Is it not a little disturbing that serious polls and surveys which are trying to ferret out the truth about the world actually will ask people to self-identify themselves as "liberal" "conservative" or various degrees of not, not very and very whatever? Do people self identify as such in daily life or do they self-identify only when asked. Do we view ourselves in these terms? It's weird. Are we so ensconced and controlled by words?
Saul Kripke in his "Naming and Necessity" came up with an interesting way of approaching the problem. In discussing "identity" Kripke met the objection that in English usage "identity" is a relation between names not objects Kripke wrote:
"If anyone ever inclines to this particular account of identity, let's suppose we gave him his account. Suppose identity were a relation in English between the names. I shall introduce an artificial relation called 'schmidentity' (not a word of English) which I now stipulate to hold between an object and itself. "
There is it is. If some says well you are not being a true conservative because true conservatives hold a, b and c, whereas you hold a, d and e. You may reply, "Conservatism? Schmervatism! I hereby posit a political viewpoint which consists of what I accept as true and good at this moment and I will call it Schmervatism. There. Let's discuss whether Schermvatism is true, false or problematical."
One of the dark areas of the human psyche is this division in the U.S. between capitalism and socialism (or communism) which appear sometimes to be the only two choices of economic system. No if the world were actually divided between only two possible economic systems, capitalism and socialism then of course attacking capitalism would be logically tend to upholding its only alternative. That is not capitalism you are talking about! Posit what you think would be a just proper good and true economic system and call it Schmapitalism or Schmocialism whichever you prefer.
This is part of my new ideology Schmogressivism. I am a Schmogressive. With the emphasis on "Schmo."