Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On the problem of being for the People whilst simultaneously not liking or trusting people very much

In the course of a post responding to one of mine, which I won't go into the main gist of which so as not to get too circle-jerky with, anyway, putting aside the immediate context, which you can find there, Raven has this larger point, which I thought important enough to highlight:

There is something deliciously erotic (pun most definitely intended) about believing that we and we alone are intelligent, while those who think differently are helpless dupes. And it really isn't a bad thing, all in all, to reinforce ourselves and our fellow thinkers that what we believe is right. That's a good thing and an important thing in the activist community.

But I've found something thrilling and exciting in communicating with people who hold different ideas about politics. I don't want this to come off all self-righteous and full of self-praise, because that really isn't the point. Instead, I want to focus on the value I've found in deciding that people who hold political beliefs opposed to my own have well-thought-out reasons for their beliefs.

I had a co-worker who considered himself to be a conservative just to the right of Genghis Kahn. He understood that I was a pinko commie. Yet there were so many issues upon which we agreed. His explanation was that we each were so far outside the traditional boundaries that we had come full circle and met on the far side of the moon.

His thoughts thrilled and excited me. I loved the fact that we both were thinking and drawing conclusions about the realities we faced. Some of our conclusions were opposite, but our thinking processes were similar and useful and stimulating. One thing we had in common was that we had a basic fundamental belief in the intelligence capabilities of our fellow human beings. We mistrusted stereotypes. We mistrusted politicians. We trusted our fellow human beings to be able to think, reason, and see through the bullshit.

Honestly, I do not think I could bear believing that the world was full of idiots. That's a form of pessimism even my depressed soul cannot embrace.


Specifically, I wanted to focus on that last bit:

One thing we had in common was that we had a basic fundamental belief in the intelligence capabilities of our fellow human beings. We mistrusted stereotypes. We mistrusted politicians. We trusted our fellow human beings to be able to think, reason, and see through the bullshit.

Honestly, I do not think I could bear believing that the world was full of idiots. That's a form of pessimism even my depressed soul cannot embrace.


This is key. It's not just "pessimism" that's the problem with believing that the vast majority of people are idiots, "sheeple" (bleah), default to petty cruelty and ignorance, etc. It's not even all that much of a problem for anyone but you and your immediate circle if you're just some jaundiced dude or dudette with a lantern and a sardonic wit. Hell, the world probably needs a few of those, for balance's sake.

No, the problem is when you have the "people are mostly idiots" stance combined with a deep, passionate, burning commitment to CHANGING THE WORLD.

Because, here's how it plays out:

Whatever you come up with, ultimately, it's going to be profoundly anti-democratic (small "d" obviously). Why?

If you think people are basically idiots and also want to change the world, what's the obvious next step? Well, certainly don't put change in the hands of the "idiots," obviously. Clearly we need either

1) a select few, oh, carefully chosen, we won't make the mistakes of last time, who know what's best for everyone

2) an infallible Ideology, which is above the influence of any one flawed human or group of humans.

Of course, some flawed human or humans will still have to be the ones to interpret, implement, and enforce the social contract implied by the Ideology; see 1).

lather, rinse, repeat.

4 comments:

RhianWren said...

On the 'far side of the moon' thing, I totally agree.

I have long held the theory that often apparent opposites have much in common, and that there is value in looking at others points of view.

I spend a lot of time around people that are rather extreme in their views, and I find that the extreme political fundamentalist left is just as horrifying as the extreme religious fundamentalist right, in its soul consuming narrow minded-ness.

I have also discovered that many of my friends on the 'far right' hold similar views to myself on the 'far left'.
Marketing and management tools that I use, get derided by my far-left peers, until I call them 'activism' and 'team work', and all of a sudden its ok, even though its precisely the same thing with a different name.

I've learned not to judge someone by their label, but their actions. Chances are the label is inaccurate, meaningless, or I misunderstand what it means, so why bother?

Getting to know someone is more interesting anyway.

Deoridhe said...

I think this was the aspect of how and why the US government was formed as it was that fascinated me. It was really Calvenism vs. Rousseau - are people fundamentally evil, or fundamentally good? And so you have electoral colleges (the ignorant masses need to be guided) and states rights (people should be able to have an immediate say in their environment).

belledame222 said...

Hey, welcome, Rhianwren.

Daisy said...

Your title reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.-- H. L. Mencken