The Left holds to certain values: that we’re fundamentally equal, that peace is natural, our nature inclines toward cooperative community, that we each start out innocent, that justice and human wellbeing are prime values, and that the basics: health, education and decent treatment, are rights.
Further, the Left holds that we design our societies and our morality, that truth is always modified by discovery, and following from decent treatment, any suffering at the hands of other humans is a moral wrong. The Left holds that we are a diverse bunch, with an ideal in mutual trust and tolerance.
Right wingers hold many of the opposites: that we are born naturally and usefully unequal, that our nature inclines us to competition and that war is natural, that health, wellbeing and decent treatment are nice if you can get them but are never guaranteed, only won by success at competition, which in a good nation you have freedom to try for; further that we are God-designed, and our morality is therefore fixed. That in a dangerous world suffering is an enduring historical reality, and empathy (perhaps altruism) is a waste. The Right holds that truth is never changing.
The Right claims not to have ideology
There are other differences. The Left, for example, is more flexible with its ideas, and sometimes adopts ideology, such as social contracts, for the basis of society, and it trusts in reason. The Right claims not to be ideological, saying that it deals with facts. Another difference: if you could divide the world into two types of people, those who concern themselves with good vs. bad, and those who concern themselves with strong vs. weak, then the Left would be the first type and the Right would be the second.
Many of the Right’s beliefs congeal around strength. The Right’s loathing of the idea of social equality stems from its conviction that since we cannot all be strong, we can only equalize at our lowest common denominator, the weakest. The Right’s endorsing torture comes from this preoccupation with being strong. The Right despises democracy, which it characterizes as majority rule by the less fit and the weak. In the Right’s ideology, a civil society is where bloodthirsty competition is sublimated into money and business, but winners and losers are a fixture. The Right’s best leader is a strong person, not necessarily a morally good one, because, they claim, history shows the strong have survived. Most of the Right’s social judgments are derived from what works, not from what is good.
The Right’s values do not include tolerance. Not tolerance of diverse people, nor changing social ideas, nor relativism nor evolving truths. They are dogmatic about this; their basic values are backward-looking to fixed principles, often drawn from the Bible. The Bible is not a happy document, it describes strife, wars, treachery, murder, mayhem and pestilence; and it states clearly which are good and bad types of people. In the Bible’s world, a person’s best shot is faith, not reason, and the faith has to be strong and unwavering, and these things are not open for debate. In all, the Right upholds tradition, and opposes change.
And so to the present, and the recent political victory to the Democrats. The election was not a landslide victory, and we still face the Right’s presence, and all their ideology, which is still strong. By way of image, the ship of state has been listing to the right since Reagan’s inauguration, 1980, and it has been sailing tipped. So over twenty-eight years, the ballast has shifted. If the Left wants change now, will it happen through our being tolerant and good natured with the way things are?
Fog on rock
Unlikely. It will take a solid shove. The Right has a solidness, a density, and an enduring position is this nation. It’s power derives from knowing dogmatically what it wants and what it doesn’t, what it favors and what it opposes – these translate directly into political will.
The Left has no such will. It is still not sure what is good. It has taught itself for decades to be nonjudgmental. The Left is not ready to make value decisions yet, because it wants to hear from everybody. It is not ready to declare priorities, for fear of neglecting somebody.
Learning to survive on that right-tipped ship, the Left has started to live that way: it has begun to adopt the money-consciousness and competitive materialism which is the Right’s strong hand, and now Lefties find themselves justifying both sides. So the Left’s political skills are a confusion. It is hesitant. Against the Right’s certainty, the Left has no more power than fog against rock.
Making a judgment is not wrong when you see harmful government policy. But you don’t become an agent of change just by being analytical, or universally accepting. There is no correct New Age tolerance for wiretapping, no good Zen of foreclosures. The first step is to look around, decide what is nonsense, and say so.
Here is some nonsense: The Right’s dictum, that might makes right. Here is some more: the conservative belief that inequality and injustice are in the nature of things, when the evidence shows that inequality is not inevitable since some of this planet’s societies are egalitarian, and that only some people are unjust, so injustice is not fixed in our nature. Here is some more, but the first part is a political reality: it works out that two of the basic values in democracy, freedom and equality, are always naturally opposed. An equal mix is good, but of the two, the Right presses for more freedom, the Left for more equality. Now the nonsense: Libertarians, being very conservative, press solely for freedom, so that in America, already the most unequal of advanced nations, they will just make social inequality worse. (Libertarians subscribe to ‘natural law,’ which predates the Bible).
The Right’s corkscrew logic is everywhere, and not hard to find. Here is some more nonsense: if everybody does what they want, the nation will prosper. Finally, one that is a current national policy: In this day and age, America is the biggest producer of food in the world. As the government admits, the economy is bad, many Americans are going hungry. But we are sending our surplus food overseas.
Virtue of intolerance
Does it work to be polite, cautious, making suggestions? That way, we will wait for changes. The sun rises and expires.
If you see the good, but cannot reach it, then where’s the virtue in being tolerant?
Reaching the good takes more than intelligence, more than hopeful concern. We are up against religious dogmatics. We are up against the flame throwers on Right radio. It will take a solid shove. We have done it before. Welcome back the Left’s adversarial culture of the 60s. Not so polite, but it got change. Intolerance sometimes works wonders.
It’s time to get snotty.