The Escalation from Polarization to War

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War is not the macho fantasy of insecure conservative men. It is the reality of children being burned alive.

Reasonable people have long lamented the increasing polarization of politics, an escalation from disagreement to outright division largely fueled by a few extremists who refuse to accept diversity, and the masses of gullible idiots who buy into the latest outrage on their “side”. It can be seen in the botched reconstruction after the Civil War, the mass exodus of racist white southerners from the Democratic party during the civil rights movement, the “pro-life” movement which was manufactured for political gain and has done more to harm and kill than to protect life, and so on.

Our current problems have their roots in an ancient and ongoing struggle with our own animal natures. But this phenomenon of bitter polarization, with different “facts” on both sides and no room for compromise, is far more extreme and dangerous in the modern world of social media and nuclear bombs.

Today I read one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen all year, even counting Trump’s offer to destroy the career of a Democratic politician for opposing the practice of “civil asset forfeiture” (police stealing private property from citizens who haven’t been convicted of a crime). The article is so disturbing that I will not link to it, because I don’t want to have any part in spreading it further. Instead, I’ll address a few quotes and talk about the overall issues with it.

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Life > Profit

capitalism-religionI have formerly framed the left vs right spectrum of politics as socialism vs capitalism, or collectivism vs individualism. But as I was pondering the fundamental differences between the far left and the far right, I thought of a different pair of words that might be more accurate: inclusive vs exclusive.

I don’t mean that people on the left never have problems with tribalism; I’m not talking about the people at all. What I’m talking about is the philosophies that form the basis of these different models of government. If we go back to the origins of socialism, we find that it was conceived as a social movement in which the tension between the elite ruling class and the workers reaches a breaking point, where the much more numerous working class overthrows the elite and implements a classless economic system characterized by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production.

Let’s examine that definition a bit. Social ownership is not the same as state ownership–in fact, the two are almost opposites. Since socialism was meant to involve the destruction of a state ruled by the elite, the citizens would be the ones owning things. Instead of having a privately-owned company that earns profits for rich shareholders, you’d have a publicly owned company that earns profits for the local citizens. The people are the shareholders of a socialist economy. The “democratic control” part is equally important, because entrusting management of a socially owned economy to a handful of elites would recreate the problem of capitalism. Socialism calls for decisions and management to be handled by the people themselves, and no state involvement is necessary, which is why socialist anarchists exist.

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A Two-Dimensional Political Spectrum

politicsWhen discussing politics in America, there’s a lot of talk about left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative, and so on. Most of these distinctions have some meaning but fail to accurately represent reality. Some people have mapped political views along two separate scales in a sort of Cartesian graph, which makes a lot of sense (one source is the Political Compass). I’m going to explain such a graph in my own words, with a few tweaks to hopefully make it more clear what the graph means to me, who I oppose, and why.

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