Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Politics of Outrage

We live in an age in which expressing "thoughts and prayers" after a mass shooting is something that the left side of the political spectrum preemptively mocks as an example of callousness. If you're not doing something the theory goes (by which is meant, angrily advocating for gun control) it's a sign that you actively want people to be murdered. Indeed, among some people, there seems to be a contest for who can express the most extreme outrage on social media and the most complete contempt for those in disagreement.  Often the first way that I hear the news about a tragic event is that I see people in my social media feed viciously laying into their political opponents for not wanting to bother to prevent such crimes.

This gets me down rather more than perhaps it should.

Contrary to what such people might like to imagine, it's not because I think deep down in places I don't talk about at parties that they're right. Indeed, there's little as reassuring to one's convictions as the complete ignorance about guns and gun crime of many of the people who are most loudly in favor of gun control.

Rather, what's depressing about it is that it shows how intractable our political divide is. Increasingly, people want to believe that those on the other side of an issue don't just differ because they have different ideas of what will achieve the common good. People want instead to believe that the other side actively wants evil. The other side wants people to die, and they want it because they're nihilistic sickos who just get a kick out of that kind of thing.

Needless to say, it's impossible to work with people on crafting policy when they think your primary motivation is that people be senselessly killed. Why would you work with a psycho who wants to see people murdered, or compromise with him, or listen to anything he says about the topic. The only thing to do against that kind of evil opposition is hope for their total defeat, and to work for that total defeat by screaming loudly about the issue as much as possible.

One would hope that personal ties would allow people to bridge the ideological gap, to see that the people on the other side are humans not monsters. But of course, it is precisely this ability to bridge the gap which the "other side are monsters" way of thinking seems to attack.

And that's why the loud proclamations of outrage get me down. Never much of an outrage peddler, the experience of getting to know people of many different viewpoints over the years I've been writing here has tended to make me more and more hesitant to lash out at the other side of the ideological divide as if it were made up of faceless people meaning mischief. Indeed, aside from just being busy, and my general despair over the state of US politics and culture, one of the reasons that I write a lot less than I used to is that I am much less inclined than I was fourteen years ago to think that the other side is just one solid argument away from caving. Most people believe what they believe for reasons of disposition or experience which they are deeply attached to, and thus unlikely to change. That's why increasingly I only try to understand why people who disagree with me think the way that they do, and don't really attempt to change their minds, except perhaps to make explain why people might think differently.  I think that this change has been good for me, and I wish it was the common approach that people took. But to be honest, there's not even much interest in hearing that these days.

1 comment:

Foxfier said...

Me, too.


It makes me wonder if some folks are actually rising to the level of a sin against charity-- because the "I'm offended!" response is so prevalent that it starts to be something to actively target, because it's an announcement that you're going to be attacked, viciously, by someone who laughs at the very idea that you have any right to NOT be attacked. There's a chance it will be physical.

I don't like what it's doing to people.