Many many moons ago, long before I came to the DK, long before I even owned a personal computer, I used to dig into some disturbing stuff. I did it as an act of self preservation, I did it to understand certain segments or factions in society, sometimes to even understand hidden constructs, those little brick walls that we run into. Vestigial remnants of institutional prejudices, that lie just beneath the surface of our language and our images, reminding us in a million different ways, what is out, who is other, and what is in, and who is part of the dominant cultural paradigm.
It was a hell of an education, in how the world works, and the little hidden things that make it tick.
When I started on that journey, I was very angry, frustrated, and unhappy. I was desperately trying to understand why the world, and society sucked so bad. Because none of that suckage could ever be from me. I don't suck...
And you know, I was half right. Most of the time, it wasn't me, it wasn't just me, there were things in the world, people, constructs, etc., that warranted justifiable anger, because these things and people were screwed up. But there were other times, when my reactions to these screwed up things failed to make a positive impact. And in those cases, it was me.
Obvious examples of things that piss me off: groups that had a lot in common with the WBC.
People or groups that promoted racism, or sexism, or religious bigotry, or hate of any kind.
But the biggest lesson I had to learn, that I sometimes still have to re-learn from time to time, is not to allow myself to mirror their hatred. That being justifiably angry about the way the world is, in some respects, not necessarily an excuse to take my frustrations out on others.
I can be angry, but I don't need to vent my spleen on people who disagree with me. Or at least when I do express anger, to be specific about the fact that I am angry, and what I am angry about, and who I feel anger at.
Over time it became more important to understand their ways, then it was to just be angry about the end results. It wasn't that the product of the hate or bigotry wasn't important, because it is profoundly important. But the only way to really diffuse it was to understand it, acknowledge it, and take it apart in a most technical fashion.
Anger is not technical nor is it precise. Rage even less so.
And, when being technical, when allowing for these individuals to be just as human as I am, I found that through shared humanity we did have things in common.
That is a very uncomfortable revelation. Because when you decree a person is a monster, you are saying that they are "other". That there is no common ground, no shared humanity between you and this evil space alien. Because whatever it is that they do or stand for is so disgusting, so bad, that you and they could never be friends or share anything in common.
But when you acknowledge humanity in the monstrous, you embrace fallibility, especially your own faults, whatever they may be.
This is the difference between embracing a toxic dualism as opposed to a spectrum.
It makes it harder to remain angry, when you realize that human traits, fall on a spectrum.
It's more difficult to establish an orthodoxy when you embrace this. It gives you a more nuanced view of things. And that can make you vulnerable to attacks as well.
Suddenly a line in the sand is more like an equator and less like the Berlin Wall. You start thinking in terms of Venn Diagrams, instead of Black Lists. And this can make others very uncomfortable irregardless of their position.
If I were to make a Venn Diagram with 2 categories, Liberal and Conservative, what would go in the middle where these items overlap?
I am sure there is more, but I think this is a big start. With few exceptions, the biggest problems between the people who inhabit these two categories, is that even though they have lots of activities in common, there is little agreement about how to regulate or protect those activities. They also have disagreements on how resources should be allocated, and who should benefit. But one thing remains throughout all that disagreement.
The most important item that should be on that first list: Human Being.
Even though it pains me to admit it about some individuals, I still have to accept that they are indeed human. Even people who have personally wronged me or who might want to take my rights away. They are still human beings.
The problem we face now is that our press and our government kowtows to extremists, glorifying them publicly, making it very difficult to remember how to find that common ground, keeping many factions and groups at each others' throats. But that's another diary entry.
What I am looking at is how different factions define themselves within one movement. For example: this site:
I know for a fact, that there are many aspects of my personal politics that do not match up with the political views of others, on this site. Individual differences suddenly become very important when you discover that the Liberal side of that Venn Diagram, contains within it, it's own, internal, Venn Diagram. Terms like Liberal, Progressive, and Democrat all have specific definitions and a variety of interpretations.
I see this playing out all around me in various topics.
I am going to use "Liberal" as the umbrella term.
The most common qualifications of Liberalism:
Interfaith friendly [which includes those of no faith at all]
I am sure there is more, but lets just start with these.
Most people who self-identify as Liberal, or Democrat, or Progressive embrace many if not all of these things, including the first list provided above this one. It's a pretty good set of basic characteristics/positions.
But sometimes individual experiences, or beliefs or upbringing can put a twist on how a person wants to achieve these goals or how they define these subjects. And it seems odd to me, that so many people can hold most if not all of these basic ideas in common, even if interpretation varies, and still be so goddamned mean to each other.
What an individual gains in feeling momentarily superior, insulting one another over these interpretations, cannot compare to the loss of community cohesion in the long run.
Instead of loading our side down with ideological loyalty oaths, we have set the standard much higher---shared humanity. It's much harder to accept independent humans on their own terms than it is, to accept and embrace someone who has paid lip service to support all the same things you say you believe in, on your terms.
It is more difficult to tolerate the presence of a person who actively disagrees with you, than it is to dog-pile on that person, to either force verbal compliance or engineer an absence. Because to tolerate disagreement is to acknowledge the uncomfortable fact that someone out there, may at some time, have a better answer than yours. Or worse, you may have to some day acknowledge that you were wrong.
Personally, I believe that disagreement enriches a community. The reason that 2 heads are better than one, is because you are benefiting from at least 2 perspectives, rather than being stuck in a rut with only one poor person trying to come up with all of the answers. In this place, we have thousands of perspectives to explore. They are not going to be in agreement with each other. They will be as individual as the people who express them. This is very valuable for so many reasons, many more than what is expressed here.
Even when someone says something you despise, it is the opportunity to hone your argument, to be more precise, to adjust your approach, not to destroy or to be cruel, but to deliver an idea so neatly packaged, that arguments fall to the wayside.
And when someone is simply angry for the sake of being angry, it's okay to tolerate that too. Sometimes people have to get that out of their system first, so that they can move on to a more intellectual approach. Anger can be a fuel for passionate debate, but too much of it can be toxic.
The anger, and the righteous indignation, the disgust, all of those things are important drivers. But they are supposed to be fuel for better ideas, and not simply Greek Fire to be flung at whomever thwarts you today.
Be Passionate, but do try to practice benevolence whenever you have the power to do so.
Each user on this site is a human being with a life, with feelings and experiences, and we should respect that, even if it is not always reciprocated.