Variations on an argument...
A number of comments in a couple of diaries have gotten me thinking about what I mean when I try to define where I stand on the Liberal/Conservative spectrum. I don't think it matters which comments they were, except that they gave me a jumping-off point to take a fresh look at the whole concept.
I have no idea whether I'm a Progressive, or a Liberal, or any other tag that can be used. (The internet questionnaires I've taken usually put me solidly on the left of the spectrum, but yeah - internet questionnaires.)
In any case, what I have been nibbling at in the back of my head since then is whether there is any simple statement that I can make that will actually say where I'm coming from, where I can stand to take a look at how those definitions might be re-thought. And it's brought me back to what is perhaps the only belief I hold strongly: There Is No One True Way.
There Is No One True Way.
It's my first litmus test for initial checking of any diary or comment or outside pronouncement - from a pastor, or teacher, or politician, close friend or chance met acquaintance - usually before I even look at the actual information contained in the statement. It's served me pretty well as a way to choose which information I'll check most carefully. But now I've found a place that I think it may have failed.
My OneTrueWaydar never went off when I heard the concept of the political spectrum. It's so commonly accepted as to not need to be defended, so none of my triggers came up, and it kind of slid into place without any fuss. Hmm.
Okay, what does this have to do with being a Liberal? Or a Progressive, or a Whatever?
Liberals, I thought, get to think more. And ask questions. And come to conclusions based not on authority, but on as much real data as can be found. More than Conservatives. Sometimes. It's generally a more comfortable place for me to be. So why am I running into the same problems with arguments here as I did when I used to argue with Conservatives? Okay, it could be me, but....
What if it's not a spectrum we're on?
What if it doesn't have to be? If current Conservatism is a box, squeezing in a tighter and tighter hold around its followers, then Liberalism is of necessity outside that box, even if much of it sits in its own, larger box and has many of the same problems with out-of-the-box thinking. What if, rather than seeing a spectrum, one imagines the varieties of political thought as a series of nested boxes, with each larger box tending to promote better and/or more creative thinking. Note: this scenario doesn't require someone in a larger box to reject the concepts within the smaller boxes; they must be included in the larger picture as a component of that picture.
Look at political thought as a spectrum, and you can see it as a chain of boxes, of different sizes, some interpenetrating, but mostly requiring their inhabitants to reject the concepts and thinking of any point of view not immediately adjacent to their own. It's a sure prescription for ongoing, continuous battles between various points along the chain. Looking at the boxes as nested brings up a whole new set of potential interactions between various conceptions of political reality.
Here's where I stop, for now. The implications of shifting the paradigm in this way are setting off whole bunches of small explosions inside my head. Scary, but intriguing.
Please, think about it. Try to visualize it. Tell me what you see.