Bad Company Part I: Libertarians vs. Socialists

In the vein of common goals, Dr. Scott Rodin has written a wonderful article about a conservative, evangelical Republican’s take on why we must address climate change now.

His post is very insightful – getting to the root of why people, myself included, often have negative knee-jerk reactions to ideas that the should endorse.

Rodin speaks about the problem of “us vs. them” and the extreme power of subconscious associations.

As a conservative evangelical Republican, for many years he laughed at environmentalism because he associated it with people who he felt did not share his values. The loudest champions of environmentalism were, after all, big government liberals, atheists, nature-worshippers, and Democrats. He couldn’t possibly espouse a view that they also held – right?

I find myself frequently in this same boat. I’ll find myself reacting with instant disgust or suspicion to an idea solely because of who proposed it; even if it would help to make a better world, if it is proposed by someone who I perceive as somehow different from myself, I am likely to view it in a very negative light.

Let’s look at some of these differences, and how they blind us to our common goals:

Bad Company Part I: Big Government vs. Small Government

One remarkable thing I learned during the era of Occupy Wall Street was how much Libertarians and socialists have in common. When they were on the ground speaking and working side-by-side, they described almost identical visions of the future. Soon, a very happy camaraderie was formed.

Why, then, do these groups react to each other with revilement, disgust, and suspicion?

The idea seems to come down, essentially, to a difference in tactics. Both parties want a world where the individual is free. To socialists, that means that the individual has the resources they need to pursue happiness; to Libertarians, that means that the individual is not weighed down by laws that prevent them from pursuing happiness.

They’re both right.

At the end of the day, their disagreements come down to disagreements over tactics.

Libertarians believe that government, when entrusted with power, will always become corrupt; they advocate individual power and responsibility as the only way to prevent this from happening.

Socialists believe that profit interests, when entrusted with power, will always become corrupt; they advocate social responsibility and governing power as the only way to prevent that from happening.

Why can’t we have both?

Both sides seek to protect the people from those who would curtail their freedom – but they disagree about who is the bigger threat.

So why don’t they come to the table and talk to each other more? Why not compare notes and statistics? Why not find compromises that appease the fears of both?

The answer largely comes down to what Dr. Rodin discussed: the deep-seated psychological problem of “us vs. them.”

There is a certain image of the Libertarian. In the minds of non-Libertarians, Libertarians are most frequently white men, often wealthy, who are afraid of losing their money and power and don’t understand the larger threats to society. In the minds of non-Libertarians, Libertarians are inherently violent and dangerous; they love guns and will find any excuse to be angry at other groups. In the minds of non-Libertarians, Libertarians are delusional; they believe, against all evidence, that poverty stems purely from laziness and that capitalism always produces good results.

To listen to anything a Libertarian says, then, would be to place oneself in bad company.

There is a certain image of the socialist. In the minds of non-socialists, socialists are most frequently young people who are too young to understand how the world really works. Often, they are poor and desire “free handouts,” or wealthy and delusionally self-righteous. In the minds of non-socialists, socialists are inherently dangerous: they talk of violent revolution, and would blindly place power in the hands of a deeply flawed government. In the minds of non-socialists, socialists are delusional: they believe, against all evidence, that government is ethical and wise.

To listen to anything a socialist says, then, would be to place oneself in bad company.

And yet, any socialist or Libertarian will tell you that these stereotypes are far from true.

So why do we give them such power over us?

Love is What is Needed

This is an era of apocalyptic prophecies. We are told from many sides that the end is nigh; that things are bad, that they will get worse, that we must be poised to enter the final battle.

The problem is this: that we cannot seem to agree on what it is that we are fighting.

In America, we hear two prevailing narratives:

That our demise comes at the hands of godlessness and socialism, at the hands of sexual immorality and atheists without conscience who refuse to recognize the authority of God, at the hands of the lazy poor and parasitic immigrants who drain our coffers.

Or, we hear that our demise comes at the hands of religion and capitalism, of those who in self-righteousness would blame and fear the Other, of those who would blindly cling to what they are told are God’s edicts, of those who see profit as a moral virtue and poverty as a moral vice.

Ingenious, isn’t it, how neatly those two stances turn us against each other?

Both sides will argue that they have morality. Both sides will argue that they have love. Both sides will argue that it is the other’s LACK of love that creates all of our problems.

If both sides were acting out of love, neither one would need to argue it.

Love was the foremost message of Christ; for the sake of Love he broke Old Testament laws, choosing to spend embrace the “sinners” who were of sincere heart rather than the religious authorities who ultimately had him put to death for blasphemy.

Love was the foremost message of Karl Marx; just as Christ advocated to meet the needs of the many through individual Love, Marx advocated to meet the needs of the many through an economic system.

Both spoke against hostility, greed, and exploitation. Both warned of the grave moral perils posed by wealth; Christ said “it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” Could this have anything to do with the modern phenomena we see, where the comparatively wealthy so frequently hoard personal wealth while scapegoating the poor?

The followers of Christ and Marx, in other words, should be on pretty much the same page.

So why aren’t they?

It is for each individual to answer the question of why love has not prevailed in their life.

Perhaps it is enough for us to remember that, no matter who your role model is or what your income level is, you have the same highest calling.

Hall of Spirits

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Brian Dell

In the beginning, there were the Heavens and the Earth.

In the beginning, there were humans and the land.

Our ancestors learned, slowly, to speak, and to make art with their marvelous opposable thumbs. They coexisted intimately with the land they lived on, depending on it for food, for water, for every aspect of survival. They spent each day drenched in wind and sun, in rain, in the shade of trees or the shimmering mirages of heat rising from the ground.

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Balkhovitin / CC_SA_3.0

There is no culture that did not develop religion during this time.

There is no culture that did not develop a symbolic way to speak to the land, to the forces of nature, to the dead.

There is no culture that did not commune with these entities outside themselves, with the personifications of abstract concepts and other things unseen by eyes and ears.

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SuperJew / CC3.0

The neanderthals – a different species of human sharing a common ancestor with our own – buried their dead in graves, with flowers.

The first humans in every region of the world left the marks of their religion – in cave art, in monuments which serve no strictly survivalist purpose.

We have always been a race of dreamers.

Will our differing dreams bring us together, or push us apart?

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Jordiferrer / CC3.0

What if we could promise you a world…

What if we could promise you a world where…

People know all of their neighbors and trust them, even though they live in a big city.

Farm plots and forests are intermingled with skyscrapers and cutting-edge technology.

Education meets the needs of the job market, while also encouraging dreamers and frontier-pushers.

You trust the judgement of the average human being.

What would you do to bring such a place into reality?

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Why We’re Here

Violence is a cycle. Always. A person who is harmed seeks to do harm in return; and after they have done it, somebody will
seek to hurt them back.

The cycle continues.

It is in every “I am justified in demonizing them, they are evil.” It is in every “You can’t blame me, they started it.” It is in every “It was necessary to eliminate the threat.”

Satellite: Suomi-NPP Sensor: VIIRS Date: 9 April 2015 Description:  Data from six orbits of the Suomi-NPP spacecraft have been assembled  into this perspective composite of southern Africa and the surrounding oceans.  Tropical Cyclone Joalane is seen over the Indian Ocean. Data used:   The image was constructed from six orbits of surface reflectance (rhos)   data using the 671, 551, and 443 nm bands for red, green, and blue   respectively. Projection:  near-sided perspective projection from 8300 kilometers above 50 South by 40 East Projection details:  mapproject -Rd -JG40/-50/2.3/0/0/0/60/60/150 Image created by: Norman Kuring

It is in every argument that ends in hostility; it is in every clash of politics and values. It is in everything that makes our lives hell.

The hardest thing in the world is to break that cycle. We are animals, designed for an environment where survival depended on striking at the enemy as hard as he strikes at you.

Which is why we still have violence, even though everyone agrees that it’s a bad thing.

Recognizing this common thread in everything that holds us back from our potential; recognizing its manifestation within ourselves, within our everyday lives; recognizing the violence we do in response to what has been done to us; recognizing the effects of that violence which we do on ourselves.

That is what this place is about.

Violence is not determined by blood and guts and gore; the word itself stems from “violation.” It is about an assault on something; a strike against its being, its essence, its right to exist.

It is in the outrage you feel at yourself for being who you are. About the outrage you feel at others for being who they are. It is in the outrage you have at those who propagate beliefs or values different from your own. It is about the rage that others have at you, that has infected you with self-hatred.

Stopping the cycle is the hardest thing in the world. It is also the most important.

We all say we want a better world.

Let’s go make one.

"Breaking the cycle of violence is the most important thing we can do. It is also the most difficult."