This is part 2 of a series that began with Understanding Frame Shifts Part 1: Sexual Orientation.
It’s tough being a reasonable, moderate person. Communists call you a fascist, and fascists call you a communist. People simply respond more strongly to emotionally-charged sentiments:
William Wallace: They can take our lives, but they can never take our freedom!
Stewie: “And… and… Let’s not forget the tax they levied on properties that are in abutment of church lands. So, yeah, let’s do it.”
This is part of a broader problem in American discourse though. The problem is often not only do two people disagree about a position or fact, they often aren’t even truly having the same discussion. The winner tends to be the person who can impose their discussion, and therefore mental framework, on the other. In Part 1’s focus on same-sex marriage, the relevant framework is “orientation is genetic.”
The danger here is best expressed as the tautology that it is: those who can reliably “win” arguments through imposition of their entire world view will never risk discussing the issues and will stick with imposing their entire world view on others. This is the ideological core of identity politics: voters don’t elect statesmen who settle issues through discussion and compromise; they elect politicians bent on forcing everyone to comply with (or at least acquiesce to) the entirety of their worldview. To the average voter, it seems the most reliable way to ensure “his voice is heard” is to vote for someone as much like himself as possible; this assures that not only do they agree on issues, but the cultural background, assumptions, etc are all in-line and accounted for as well. Similar demographic identifiers serve as shorthand for “this guy probably represents my point of view pretty well, and since my point of view knows what’s best for me, he’ll vote for what’s in my best interest too.” In this way, modern politics is not that far removed from pre-modern warfare; groups of people so dissimilar they can’t even communicate rallying around their respective flags, drums, bagpipes, etc, to do battle with the enemy they don’t understand. Maybe they were dangerous, maybe not, but one party is certain to be safe if they’re the only ones left!
The net effect of the system functioning in this manner is that discussions are driven away from the facts of the issues themselves and instead focuses on which group is “winning” by exerting its dominance. In this conflict, moderates are not potential bridge-builders but rather an untrustworthy lot who are suspiciously familiar with the other side and uncomfortably likely to defect if the other side seems to grow too strong. Further, under winner-take-all systems, this boils down each side of every issue attaching to one of two parties in order to create a political parity. While it preserves a sort of balance, it also solidifies the political process as a war between two camps which each have an all-encompassing worldview they seek to impose on each other. It is for this reason that one cannot vote for decreased defense spending without also voting for government-funded abortions. In a saner, functioning political system, such issues could be considered independently, but identity politics creates packaged belief systems and is not amenable to a la carte consideration.
A good example of this phenomenon involves the increasingly painful intersection of religion, political correctness, and the US military. The immediate issue I want to discuss is that of prayer at official functions. In a nutshell, it is standard to have a chaplain say a blessing at official awards ceremonies, promotions, graduations, and other large gatherings conducted routinely in the course of military life.
There are a few main trains of thought about this practice. The standard justification is that the prayer is non-denominational and not explicitly Christian, since no explicit reference to Jesus is made. Now I can understand how, from a devout Christian perspective, a prayer stripped of certain explicit statements has obviously been “neutralized.” The assumption being made is that all prayer is essentially the same in format, tone, and usage, except for a few faith-specific words. But one must be incredibly ignorant of the range of religious traditions in the world to believe that such a prayer is in any way “neutral,” as if it has been turned into a fill-in-the-blank problem that is accessible and appropriate for all other faiths. The prayer is still very much Christian, and to anyone who says that the prayers are all to the same God, I would counter with an offer to play a muezzin‘s call to prayer, since, you know, it is a call to worship the same God. I suspect most would pass.
The other main argument against prayer at what are essentially administrative functions is that placing prayer at such a function is an error of category. It is no more appropriate to include a prayer at an awards ceremony than it would be to read last week’s football scores or hold a brief lecture on photosynthesis.
Clearly, I believe the correct thing to do would be to change policy from having prayer at official functions to not having prayer at official functions. So why wouldn’t I bother trying to advocate such a change? Let’s refer to this handy continuum:
Refer back to the beginning of this post where I explained why no one likes moderates. In a system where issues could be considered independently, socio-political change would resemble industry Best-Practices benchmarking, where newly-proven ideas are integrated industry-wide under competitive pressure to produce and perform. Instead, every issue is viewed as part of a broader power struggle. It is difficult to persuade conservative Christians to concede that prayer at official functions is inappropriate, because they fear that would grant credibility and influence to the extreme left which recently led the Army to label (and then un-label) certain religious groups as “Hate Groups.” In the face of the federal government (most notably the Department of Defense) leading the way on recognizing same-sex partnerships for purposes of benefits, and thereby helping the proverbial camel’s nose into the tent on the issue of same-sex marriage legalization on a state-by-state basis, it is extremely difficult to convince said conservative Christians that, while there is a vicious ideological war afoot, the moderates who cringe at the inappropriateness of prayer at official functions aren’t to be lumped in with one’s ideological archenemies.
Why This Is Important:
First and foremost, it is important to understand how identity politics influences political discourse, and how the framework of discourse in many ways pre-determines the outcome. Consider: would you rather debate as a “pro-choice” candidate or an “infanticide-advocate?” Conversely, would you rather debate as a “pro-life” candidate, or a “forced-birther?” (my new favorite Newspeak term.)
Second, understand that the discourse in a democracy will rarely be deciding between “what is right and what is wrong,” or “what is optimal and what is sub-optimal;” it will be the majority talking about “Things I like and things I don’t like.” After all, the slogan of democracy is, “get you rvoice heard!,” not, “hey, let’s sit down and talk this through.”
Third, in light of the structure of discourse and the tendency to gravitate towards “things I like,” understand that labels utilized in the political arena are more than mere academic classifications; they serve as unit flags for armies to rally around or to march against. Given the importance of decentralized action and memes in neoreaction theory, an even better analogy would be that of antibodies; authorities identify and mark targets for destruction and individuals carry out decentralized demonization, silencing, and ostracism with minimal further guidance.
Fourth, to expand on the plight of moderates using the antibody analogy, moderates are cursed by their similarity to the targets of the ideological immune system. They are silenced and marginalized by the extremes of either end. More than once I have considered the declining middle class, the gridlock of the federal government, and the insanity of politically correct official beliefs that few people actually believe as a symptom of a societal auto-immune disease, where we have managed to corrupt either ourselves or our maintenance systems to such a degree that we fall under attack from the systems designed to protect us. (I’m a big fan of nature analogies; I have yet to see anyone write about suicide through the lens of macro-level societal apoptosis, but I wish someone with actual credentials would. In the mean time, I’ll let that linger on my to-write list.)
Finally: In discussion with one set of extremists, moderates spend a lot of time atoning for the sins of the extremists on the opposite side. This is yet one more reason moderates are generally suppressed. It is also why neoreaction comes across as somewhat stark and forbidding; there is a distinct lack of apology on the part of those holding moderate beliefs. It sounds somewhat paradoxical to say one is “extreme and passionate about being moderate,” but when one is living in a world twisted to the point that the most popular analogy for dealing with it is the Red Pill reference, such strange statements begin to make sense.