building on the whole ‘pope’s round hole’ spiel. . ..
1) Everybody remember the Judean Peoples’ Front, from Life of Brian? (as recent republican squabbling shows, this is not a disease of just the left, although we are much better at it). Compare that to the PC trend of asking would-be feminists, “are you a White Feminist?” – while the same PC activists asking it totally leave racists and women-haters alone. I’m trying to think of how to solve this Judean-Peoples’-Front problem so that both right-wing and left-wing loonies can stop bickering, stop burning out after too many personal attacks, stop feeling back-stabbed and butt-hurt over tiny tiny differences, and get on with their various revolutions. Actually that’s probably going to accelerate the end of the world, but fuck it, let’s make things interesting.
My solution is based on last week’s discussion of HISTORICAL SQUARE PEGS and THE POPE’s ROUND HOLE . . . where I said that everyone’s ideology is NOT a logical party platform, rather it’s a grab-bag of dozens of random, often contradictory positions, beliefs, taboos, and policies. We go along with it because we’ve been told it’s ‘a thing’ and it seems to be popular, and then we work backwards to rationalize connections between the individual beliefs. (i.e. ‘Democrat’ is an ideology, but the individual ‘planks’ or ‘beliefs’ are like, anti-death-penalty, pro-recycling, pro-abortion, pro-welfare, pro-tax, anti-gun, etc.)
This is because ideologies are like languages, they ‘inherit’ tons of spelling and grammar contradictions and exceptions and randomness just by historical accident. . . .like how English has four different sounds for the letter ‘a’, and tons of weird grammar (the plural of fish is NOT ‘fishes’) , just because English is a combination of half-a-dozen incompatible European languages thrown in a blender a thousand years ago. If an ESL student asks “Why do you have an ‘e’ at the end of ‘have’ if you don’t pronounce it?”, There’s no explanation and no point, as Miller says, in looking for one.
Same with ideologies! If you were working from scratch, you’d never put anti-death penalty and pro-abortion together. And what does pro-recycling have to do with anti-gun? Can’t we just recycle all the people we murder and execute?
Here’s a mental exercise in the form of an online game . . . if you’re a web programmer reading this, help me make this a real thing;
A screen, with all the hot issues of the day on it. Just a list and nothing but.
You click a button, and the words ‘pro-‘ or ‘anti-‘ randomly pop into existence before all the issues.
As a player, your job is to construct some logical, if totally batshit, ideology that CONNECTS TOGETHER all the totally random political ‘planks’ into an internally consistent ‘platform’. It’s surprisingly easy. And it helps encourage lateral thinking, at the same time it helps us see how random our own personal ideologies are. Well, maybe that’s overselling it. It helps us see how random our OPPONENTS’ ideologies are.
Perhaps people in trouble could click to get ‘hints’ in the form of the inspirational-yet-vague abstractions that politicians and religious leaders have always used; words like ‘because god said’ or ‘freedom of choice’ or ‘jobs’ or ‘defense’ or ‘diversity’.
As a ‘reward’ for completing the game, they get to make a NAME for their new, batshit political party, and post the screen-shot for other users’ amusement and/or scoffing. People could ‘join’ the parties, as a way to reward users with the most funny / creative / logical new ideologies.
That’s not my solution to the J.P.F. problem, though. That’s just by way of explaining what i think the roots of the problem ARE; for any ideology – any -ism, any religion, any party . . .the boundaries are super vague and this leads to feelings of betrayal and butthurt when person A who is a self-described “XXX-ist” meets person B, who is also a self-described “XXX-ist”. . . but then A discovers that B only shares 50% of her specific issues. This classic mistake is because A doesn’t realize that an ideology is made up of literally dozens of individual policies or beliefs. And because many of those are contradictory, even the most hardcore member of the ideology can hold more than , say, 2/3 of the individual beliefs. It’s naiive and counterproductive to think having the same ideology means that the other fool agrees with you what specific things need to be protested, in what order of priority, and how they need to be protested.
The reason people DO assume that, is that ideologies are ASSUMED to be logically deduced from unassailable first principles.- an assumption always encouraged by leaders. If individual activists really realized that their shit was just a random hodge-podge, then they’d stop assuming that everyone else claiming the same ideology must therefore agree with them. And when I put it like that, it’s harder for me to be mad at people instigating the bickering.
So, my idea is, why not abandon ideologies altogether, and just get together around specific issues?
Well, because then people would get back to dumb inter-group petty fights over HOW TO TACKLE the specific issue. “You want gun manufacturers to use high-tech-fingerprint-activated triggers? But. . .but i thought you were FOR gun control! You traitor! Everyone knows that the ONLY way to get gun control is by lawsuits!”
So, ok, let’s get together around specific solutions to specific issues. This would not only cut down on pointless infighting, but also it would increase the number of people in your group. Think about it- not only would you benefit from people NOT dropping out of activism because they’re disgusted by infighting, but you’d ALSO get a bunch of people from OUTSIDE your normal group who agree with you on this one issue, but never came to meetings before, because they didn’t agree with the rest of your ideology. And by establishing trust with THOSE people, maybe, heaven forbid, they’d come to your OTHER protests (even if they didn’t give a shit, just because a) they trust you now they’ve worked with you, and b) because you trust them and agreed to (sigh!) help with THEIR other boring issues).
Plus and also, since these new groups I’m proposing are based on very specific, limited real-world changes, there would be no time wasted on general cliche rhetoric, no more discussion of saving the whole world or who is more oppressed than whom, no (eeughh) ‘theory’. If you’re going to some meeting to change a specific law by a specific means, you don’t have to agree on anything else or argue about which issue to tackle first and then deal with all the butthurt people who thought THEIR shit should be first, etc. You don’t have to fight about what the inevitable post-revolution paradise should look like – you’re at a fuckin’ meeting about rent control. It’s a way of taking everything back down to earth.
So how to accomplish this?
I’d like to see a REAL social network. Here’s how that would work. “Signing up” would consist of 4 steps.
first, choose from a nigh-infinite list of specific issues, or invent your own (which other users could then see).
And then, choose from a sub-menu of specific ways to solve those issues.
Third, you’d choose how much of a shit you gave (i.e. enough to do a hashtag once a day, enough to go to a physical meeting, or a demo, or get arrested, or ‘anything goes’).
Finally, it would ask how far you’d be willing to travel to meet new activist friends.
And once you were signed up, it would let you know how many people within xxx miles of you gave a shit about your issues.
Put another way, the default expectation is that NOBODY AGREES WITH YOU.
If you are a feminist, or a muslim, or an anarchist, or a racial justice activist, or an oath-keeper, a Patriot, an anti-immigration nut, whatever whatever. It’s not gonna connect you to other people in that ideology – it’ll connect you to people of ANY ideology who agree with you on how to solve one specific issue. No more bullshit assumptions. No more, “How DARE you call yourself a feminist when you haven’t done ANY anti-female-genital-mutilation tweets in the past month! You’re just a white supremacist!!!”
Maybe an additional good side-effect is that, if someone is really off-the-charts pure, and they THINK “Well, most people from My Group secretly agree with me – my 10 online friends all say so! –they agree with us but they’re too scared of The Man to say so! That’s why they need a Vanguard of people to lead them to the CorrectThinking!” . . . maybe joining this social network and finding out that they have zero friends within 100 miles will be a reality check. Then they search for , say, more moderate groups (on the same issue) in their area and find like 500 people. And then they’re like, “Hmm. Either everyone is more brainwashed than I thought, or my constant purity-testing of those around me is actually hurting my ability to accomplish anything.”
Who am I kidding? They’ll decide everyone is just brainwashed. But still, having those people NOT at your meetings is STILL an improvement!
It could be a nice fiction story – some activist hackers putting together this kind of social networking site in order to make it easier to do demonstrations, but in the end it turns out that the real impact of their site was NOT making more demos, the real impact was getting rid of ideologies, and ‘theories’ , and bullshit assumptions, and replacing them with individual issues, and down-to-earth policy changes. Like in the best case scenario, in the future, instead of people trying to pigeon-hole themselves into the top 3 or 4 ideologies, an then being super mad that their group didn’t totally agree with them, . . . everyone would have totally random lists of issues with elaborate fantastical personal ideologies that tied together these random positions. and people might even compete to have the most elaborate or weird – although internally consistent – rationalizations.
Just like the online game above!1 comment