I was asked to expand on some of the thoughts I wrote about in my post on A Common Enemy, so here are a few more thoughts. I really appreciate people asking me about things they want to see. Thank you!
One of the things that I find really interesting in today’s society is that there seems to be a number of groups, tribes and movements which are based around things that people don’t want rather than what they do. These groups are based on banning or stopping something rather than creating an alternative.
I’m not saying that it’s bad to do this, but I worry that if people are not careful these can become movements that are based on hate rather than anything else. For example: I vote for Trump ONLY because I don’t want Hilary. I don’t want Trump, I don’t like him, but I don’t like Hilary more, and that’s the most important thing. Trump doesn’t have to be good, he just has to be better than the alternative. And if he (or anyone) does a good job of denigrating the alternative enough, then he won’t have to be particularly good at all. After a while it can seem that anything is better than the alternative.
What that can lead to is that all of the content that my group produces becomes targeted at doing nothing else but denouncing another group. So we don’t have to come up with better ideas or better solutions in order to get support from people, we just have to promise to tear down the old ones.
As a result we have a group with no alternative vision – What are we actually going to do to replace the previous structure? Somehow we believe that just being in power will allow us to change things, and any change at the moment will obviously be better simply because it’s different from what it is now. Once we are in power everything will be different. The fact that people still remain the same and the problems still remain the same isn’t because of a problem with us, it’s because of our enemies (those enemies who are sowing unrest into the ranks). Or, if things still aren’t good then it’s a result of the lingering remnants of the previous system that still influences good honest people. People like us.
Just as an aside, I sometimes wonder about the consequences of a rebellion fighting against a corrupt powerful government (think of a movie like Star Wars for example). Once the rebellion wins the fight does it automatically become a democracy or does it just become another dictatorship by a different name? As I mentioned in my previous post it’s much easier to make sacrifices in a time of war, so it’s easier to keep the war metaphor going (that this is really a war of ideas) to help us to justify any extreme actions.
Sometimes the only thing I have in common with others in my group is only that we belong to the same group. This means that I may be called on to defend it because I need to prove my loyalty to the group. I need to prove myself in how I act (wear, say, do) and eventually that loyalty becomes part of my identity too. After a long time it might get to the point that the only actual conversations I have within my group is how important the group itself is and how bad the other people are.
It can lead to this weird ‘group-think’ where I need to become more and more extremist in my group’s ideology in order to show that I’m still a functioning member of it. Therefore, if some members dye their hair green then I will dye my hair a brighter shade of green. If some members are conservative then I will become even more conservative. If some members insult certain members of society then I might suggest that we do even more, and send those people emails, or graffiti their houses, just to send them a stronger message. I would never do this on my own of course, but I will do it now because it’s extremely important to me that my tribe sees me as a fully functioning member of the group and I’m fully embracing our ideology.
Besides, instead of just talking about it, doing this stuff means we are finally doing something about all the injustice in the world. This is one way we can work together to achieve something. If we can’t work together to create something constructive, we can always work together to create something destructive. At least then we are working together to accomplish… Something?
In my experience, extremism often comes from a position of hurt. If I have been hurt in the past then I will react out of that. I have seen this happen in my own life. There are various times when I have behaved badly and I knew at the time it probably wouldn’t help anything in the long run, but at that moment I simply didn’t care.
It is usually far easier to react than to work through my emotions and deal with them. It’s especially easy if I can feel justified in blaming someone for my situation rather than realising that a whole bunch of other factors were also responsible. The fact is that I am angry and I want to express my anger over what happened to me. I need to vent in some way and I’m looking for someone or something to vent my anger on. My anger becomes my fuel. It drives my actions and makes me feel powerful so that I finally feel like I can influence the situation around me rather than just being a victim.
I can excuse my behaviour if I feel that I have been unjustly treated. It doesn’t even have to be true, just as long as I feel unjustly treated. As long as I feel my behaviour is justified then I can call whatever I do ‘justice’ even if it is really only a thinly veiled act of revenge.
Finally, it means that I don’t listen to ideas, I only listen to the people who say them and I make my judgements based on who is talking rather than what they actually say. I will believe what someone who belongs to my political or social tribe says, even if what they say is absolute rubbish, simply because disagreeing with them would be disingenuous and put me on the outside. Similarly, if what someone else says helps push my own political barrow then I might change my mind about them and decide that “they can’t be all bad if they also believe this” and I’ll be more inclined to trust their opinions on other things too.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
If I’m going to understand how the world works I need to also understand how I interact with it and I shape it into how I want it to be.
That’s something I wish I was taught at school.