Archives for category: Politics

The Left often gets labeled as the sentimental side of the political spectrum. They are the bleeding hearts, after all – shedding tears over every little injustice, naïve about the realities of the world. The Left doesn’t even really deny this, either. They will often use far-off injustices to try to shame the Right, attempting to claim an emotional universality. It’s normal to weep over the corpses of strangers on the other side of the planet, and if the world doesn’t weep with you, it’s because there just isn’t enough empathy and compassion. If the world cared a teeny bit more, then we would have that world peace that everyone keeps talking about. So really, it’s unanimous – the Left is too emotional, and the Right isn’t emotional enough. Bipartisan agreement means it must be true, right?

Karl Rove, the Deputy Chief of Staff during the Bush Jr. years and one of the architects of the Iraq war, famously quipped, “Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said, We will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said, We must understand our enemies.” Now, it might be argued that the liberals here are more emotional because they are presumably caring about the terrorists and want a more compassionate response, whereas the badass conservatives are leaping into action to solve the problem. But like… even on its face, the liberals are being painted here as the more cautious and cerebral of the two groups, no? Regardless of the motivation, they want to spend some time thinking on it. The impulsive action is in most other cases derided as the more emotional of the two actions described by Rove. Our gut reaction is the emotional reaction, and particularly in heated situations, the more rational thing to do is slow down, breathe, and try to understand the situation before saying or doing anything.

Pictured: a typical leftist bear throwing a tantrum

The Right does this often. Don’t try to understand why crime happens, be tough on crime! Don’t bother figuring out the root causes of addiction, force the addict into treatment! The more cynical leftist might argue that the Right is suggesting these paths after Machiavellian deliberation, recognizing that capitalism requires an under-class, and freeing people from the bondage of trauma and poverty would free up the working class more broadly, lowering the profit margins of the wealthy. I think the simpler and more likely answer is that the Right is being driven by its emotions, and coming up with action movie policies based on horror movie fears. Crime is scary! Addicts are scary! We need to get rid of them fast before they get us! While it may appear that the Right is often angry at these things they’re actively choosing not to understand (anger obviously doesn’t count as an emotion, but more on that later), that anger is an obvious mask for the underlying fear of the bogeyman driving their political agenda.

Frankly, that is probably enough evidence that the Right is more emotional than the Left, but it actually goes much deeper than that. Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist who helped found the Moral Foundation Theory, which articulates that human beings have moral beliefs embedded in us that drive our moral perspectives. They are care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. While the list fluctuates, we’ll stick with this version. According to Haidt, the Left prioritizes care/harm and fairness/cheating to the detriment of the others while the Right will accept them all about equally. We’re not going to explore the validity of Moral Foundation Theory today, but I think it’s safe enough to accept it on its own terms for our purposes in this article. The Right has a wider degree of moral options than the Left.

In order for this to be moral, she needs to be loyal to him as the patriarch of the family, otherwise this image is a sinful mess.

The thing about morals though, is that they’re emotionally driven. We are angry at injustice. We feel contempt for the socially disruptive. We are disgusted by the flagrant. There is no pool of objective morality that we draw from whenever we see some moral violation; we have an emotional response that we then define as moral based on our cultural upbringing. That’s how even though morality can shift quite radically across cultures, there is enough truth to the Moral Foundations Theory that some version of each appear pretty abundantly across the world – again, we’re not getting into the problems of the theory, and generalities are enough for today. All humans have basically the same emotions; therefore, all humans have basically the same bases for their morality (however it may develop within a local framework). The emotions line up quite nicely: love with care, fear/anger at harm, attachment with loyalty, indignation at cheating, reverence for authority, and disgust at degradation. Haidt is actually quite explicit in this as he develops the theory.

So if morals are emotionally driven, and the Right is driven by a wider set of morals, then the Right is inherently driven more by emotion. This makes a lot of sense. If you consider all the attempts to justify the existence of the LGBT community by the Left using facts and logic, they very rarely make any kind of impact on the Right. That’s because it’s not facts or logic driving the Right’s perspective: it’s disgust. They see LGBT people as degrading society. Same with drugs, same with sex work; pretty much all the things we might consider vice, the Right thinks is gross. That’s why they don’t want to find ways to live with these things, like through tolerance or harm reduction, they just want to get rid of them. If you saw a spider next to your plate at dinner time, you wouldn’t want to find a way to live harmoniously with that spider while you ate your meal, you would need to get rid of it. That’s the attitude the Right takes toward human beings with lifestyles alien to their own. It’s disgust. It’s emotional. It’s not driven by reason.

Maybe it would be more appealing if we knew for a fact that the spider identified as the gender it was assigned at birth

Same thing with authority. The Left isn’t actually against the idea of authority. Mikhail Bakunin, one of the founders of modern anarchism and thus not a huge proponent of authority as it is traditionally understood, said, “When it is a question of boots, I refer the matter to the authority of the cobbler; when it is a question of houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or engineer. For each special area of knowledge I speak to the appropriate expert. But I allow neither the cobbler nor the architect nor the scientist to impose upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and verification.” It’s the difference between Anthony Fauci and Donald Trump during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Americans on the Left listened to Fauci because he had decades of experience in public health and immunology. Fauci himself as a person was irrelevant – it could have been anyone saying what he was saying; the experience and expertise were what mattered. The Right listened to Donald Trump because he was their leader, a moral trait he leaned into hard. Whenever he got anything wrong, it was forgiven because emotional reverence supersedes worldly concerns. Not to say that Anthony Fauci is infallible, or that the experts can’t get it wrong, it’s just that the motivation for the Left to respect an authority isn’t as emotionally driven as it is for the Right. The Left doesn’t have the same moral component to their respect for authority, therefore they also lack the emotional component.

So, if the Right is far and away more emotional than the Left, why does the myth of their stoic resolve win in almost every instance? Why is there bipartisan agreement that the Left is a bunch of whiny babies? I don’t have a concrete answer, but my personal theory is that emotions have a branding problem. When we think of emotions, we think of a woman crying or throwing a hissy fit. We don’t think of a manly anger (likely masking a fear), or a righteous indignation, or a social disgust – we think of girly girls who can’t handle a hard reality. The perceived stoicism of the Right is driven by essentially an anti-feminist hyper-masculinity that demands a numbness to the things the Left might care about. When men get angry enough to punch a wall, that’s not being emotional – that’s being tough. When the Right thinks two dudes holding hands is gross, that’s not emotional, that’s Godly. The Right can’t be emotional because emotions are for girls, and the Left has already claimed feminism. The Left embraces this divide because it’s like, “Heck yeah! Emotions! We’re girly feminists who cry sometimes and that’s empowering!”

This must be that Critical Race Theory that everyone keeps talking about

So how do we rectify a situation where the political ideology that is actually the more rational denies that categorization in favour of leaning into the Bleeding Heart narrative? How do we convince another political ideology that has severed itself from any perception of emotional “weakness” that most of its talking points are actually based on those same emotions they’re trying to hide from? We need to be honest about our emotions, and have a greater understanding of how emotions are infused into many areas of our lives that we might not fully understand. And also, that it’s okay to have emotions! You can think gay sex is gross – I promise you, you won’t be canceled. Just don’t have gay sex! It’s easier than you think! But it becomes a lot harder to justify moral impositions on society when we know that those morals are only grounded in our wholly subjective emotional responses. If I think salmon is gross, how monstrous would I be to make sure no one is ever allowed to eat salmon again? As for the bizarre hypocrisy of the Left? I dunno man, the Left is just weird.

Imagine if the Nazis won the second World War. They lay claim to several African countries, in addition to the European ones they had already blitzed the krieg out of, and planted the Nazi flag in perpetuity. Adolf Hitler, not one to give up power easily, decides to leave the rule of the Nazi party to his children, and his children’s children. The Nazis govern over a solid percentage of the globe, and while those similar enough to an Aryan complexion do okay, the Indigenous populations, racialized populations, and of course the remaining Jews and gypsies are relegated to ghettos to continue to wallow in poverty and oppression. While the direct influence of the Nazi party might wane over time, the influence of its imperialism, genocide, and white supremacy would linger, infecting the cultures of its descendants. Now let’s imagine the great-granddaughter of Adolf, Elizabeth Hitler, was the head of the Nazi party, and she died as a sweet, old woman. Not in a bunker in glorious suicide, but of old age, mere days after performing her duties in on-going Nazi ceremonies.

Artist’s rendition

Would it be appropriate to disparage the good name of Elizabeth Hitler upon her death? Her family mourns her, as all families do, and by all accounts, she was a graceful, dignified Nazi who performed her duties well. In our universe, even making reference to the name Hitler or Nazi is a slur. Those most ideologically similar to the Nazis even reject the term, preferring Western Chauvinists or other such nonsense, to avoid the negative connotation of the Nazi party and their unequivocally evil deeds. Elizabeth Hitler could and should never shed the shame of her surname, so long as the legacy of the Nazi party remained legitimate. And yet the Windsors bear no similar shame.

Am I falling into the Godwin trap? We have collectively agreed that a Nazi comparison is ill-equipped to win arguments because so few tragedies bear commonality to the systematic genocide of six million Jews. If only there were a comparable genocide meted out against a demographic the British Crown considered sub-human, my argument would be saved! Given that I’m a white man whose ancestors settled in a land that wasn’t always bustling with white folks, I think there just might be something there.

It doesn’t count as genocide if you remember it as a gift!

According to some estimates, between 1492 and 1900, approximately 175 million Indigenous people were killed by colonial forces in the Western hemisphere. While the Spanish and Portuguese are certainly responsible for their fair share, I think given the massive Indigenous genocide, it’s fair to make a comparison between the British Empire and the Nazis. Now, it’s hard to say how many the Nazis would have killed if they had 400 years to get all the genocides out of their system, but it’s also hard to say how many the British would have killed if they had the industrial tools the relatively modern Nazi party had at their disposal too. If systematic genocide is the prerequisite for a Nazi comparison, the House of Windsor ought morally to be an equivalent slur to the House of Hitler.

I’m hoping my comparisons have conveyed that there is never an inappropriate time to disparage a royal, since the term “royal” ought to be an insult in and of itself. Monarchy apologists really should be finding euphemisms to hide their ideology similar to our wily “Western Chauvinists”. In addition, while any time is a good time to disrespect the Queen, her death makes it even more appropriate to get nasty about the monarchy because death is the only form of accountability available under a monarchic system.

I’m not a monarchist! I’m a Windsor Enjoyer

Donald Trump infamously stated that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes. Given he could instigate a failed coup and not lose any votes, I think he’s probably right. Then Ron DeSantis would throw a hand grenade into a school bus just to ride on his coattails. The thing is, Trump doesn’t need to lose votes when his supporters are the minority; Trump lost the election, despite all of the hullabaloo. In a Monarchy, the Queen could shoot someone on the London equivalent of Fifth Avenue, her popularity could plummet to zero, and she would still remain in power. That’s the reality of a dictatorship. The only way to get rid of a monarch is either through a violent coup or revolution, or to wait for them to die on their own.

Death is the only opportunity for change in a monarchy outside of the guillotine… which I guess is also death. It’s even illegal in the UK to imagine getting rid of the Queen, which, while practically irrelevant for the entirety of the Queen’s life, is now back to being relevant as those publicly questioning the legitimacy of King Charles are being arrested for it. While I doubt the republican repression will last, its enforcement during this vulnerable transition of power is telling.

Charles is an old guy. He won’t be king for as long as Elizabeth. When he dies, I hope many more of us will find it in our hearts to be a bit more rude over it. And keep being rude over it, until the legitimacy of the British Empire and its symbols get the recognition they deserve.

Long may he reign

Post-Script: I do not give a single fuck if any of you Windsor-Enjoyers out there point out that different Houses of Lords had different surnames throughout the British Empire. I’m trying to keep my metaphors simple. Chill your balls.

The Queen is dead. Long live the King. The monarchy must endure because reasons.

The Queen is fondly eulogized by continents of people because she was symbolically connected to so many of them. Not for anything in particular she did; she is remembered for her grace, dignity, etc. all the things that can’t actually be pointed to. She’s a celebrity, famous for being famous. Like if Paris Hilton had a colonial empire, but for whatever reason, was mourned like Robin Williams.

You might gather by my tone that I am a republican, in the European sense of the word, with no apparent shame in demeaning the recently deceased. But this is no ordinary death, it is the death of a dictator. An autocrat by any other name would smell as sweet. I would be just as sardonic over the death of Vladimir Putin, I assure you. However, for the sake of argument, let’s say she was just a sweet old lady, and all those stories about racism are irrelevant. A benevolent Queen, a loving shepherd tending to her flock.

Don’t worry baby, you know I always treat you right!

There are a surprising number of people who want to believe in the benevolent dictator. The millions of Trump supporters hoping to overthrow democracy to install their glorious leader see him as benevolent to their interests, at least, apathetic to the interests of everyone else. But even on the left, there exists among some the wish for a politician who could get into power and just ram through environmental protections irrespective of lobbyist interference or whiny pipeline apologists. The world is dying, and the efficiency of a single-minded focus to overrule the profit-driven oil and gas industries and enforce measures to ensure our existential survival is quite seductive. And honestly pretty logical too, since accommodating the bad faith actors and those with suicidal profit motives may mean we don’t make it as a species given our limited timeframe. A benevolent dictator also means we don’t have to worry about these problems because we’ve got absolute power taking care of things for us – it’s the allure of a kind and caring god, answering our prayers, and abdicating us of any responsibility.

The problem with autocracy is that there’s just one ruler with absolute power. And despite millennia of precedent, we won’t assume that absolute power is going to corrupt our benevolent dictator because benevolence is right there in the name. Our hypothetical framework does not extend to advisors, sycophants, and other surrounding officials, however. Even a dictator with good intentions is still open to corrupting influences, especially if our ruler is siloed away in some government office or palace or whatever era you want to place our hypothetical. People are going to seek to gain from that absolute power, and it’s beyond even the naivety of those who believe in benevolent dictators to suggest that they will all bear equal levels of benevolence to our ruler. With an institution of absolute power, coups are inevitable, and benevolence does not provide immunity from harm.

Caesar counts as a benevolent dictator, right?

Let’s indulge that naivety and suggest that our wise ruler is incorruptible, impervious to influence, and their aristocrats or children don’t think to overthrow them. Our autocrat, however close to a god their champions want them to be, is not omniscient. Benevolence is a mere disposition, and while there requires a degree of wisdom to impose philanthropic decrees, being one person limits our dictator in what they can possibly be philanthropic about. Our environmental autocrat from earlier may have spent their life studying environmental engineering to determine what practical solutions are necessary to reverse climate change, but ultimately that means that they’re pretty ignorant in a lot of other areas. What do they know of labour relations, racial equity, First Nations sovereignty, prison and police reform (or abolition), and all those other things our leftist dreamers might want from a benevolent dictator? No matter how benevolent or wise, it’s impossible for one person to know enough about everything to be benevolent toward every facet of society.

Along similar lines, our ruler is going to come from a certain location that is going to influence the way they see the world. Our dictator will necessarily come from a culture, and from this, will necessarily have an in-group. This doesn’t imply that our dictator will be malevolent toward the out-group, we’ve established our parameters forcing them otherwise, but it does imply they will have biases and blind spots. That’s why people love Trump: he shares and reinforces their biases, so they’re not worried about a tyranny with him at the helm, blind spots be damned. But even our benevolent dictator won’t be able to act on things alien to them, leaving the out-group at a disadvantage in reaping the benefits of their lord’s benevolence.

It might be argued that our benevolent dictator would delegate in arenas where they lack the expertise or background to be effective rulers. However, that leads us back to our original problem: we can’t extend benevolence indefinitely, nor can we assume that our autocrat would have the wisdom to appoint appropriate delegates to the right position. Sycophants gonna sycophant, after all. If we allow other factors to determine how these people become appointed, then our dictator is no longer such, and the hypothetical fails.

I’m sure giving a German absolute power has no possibility of backfiring!

Let’s indulge in comatose levels of naivety and suggest that everything up until this point is irrelevant, and our dictator is righteous enough to avoid influence, knowledgeable enough to implement policy across all fields, and is connected to their people enough to avoid bias and blind spots. An omnipotent leader who is all-good, all-knowing, and ever-present across their realm. I’ve essentially described God, not-so-subtly alluding to the fictitious nature of our hypothetical dictator. However, even if all of these things were miraculously true, our divine dictator has one fatal flaw: mortality. Even Jesus Christ died on the cross, leaving His rule to the fallible.

Constructing an institution of absolute power means that even if such a fantasy as a benevolent dictator came to life like Geppetto’s marionette, they too would then die, leaving in place a vacuum which would need to be filled. Monarchs typically leave their power to their progeny, just as the British kingdom will inevitably pass to Elizabeth’s children once Charles kicks the bucket. Can you imagine if the next in line was Jeffrey Epstein’s buddy Andrew rather than William? Queen Elizabeth could have been the best fucking monarch the world had ever seen, but it means nothing if her successor pisses it all away.

Who would want a King that couldn’t sweat?

I like to think of the great Shah Akbar, the third Mughal ruler of India. He unified the subcontinent, was loved by non-Muslims and Muslims alike for his fair accommodation to diversity, and invested in art and culture to create a peaceful, prosperous land. He was succeeded by his son, Jahangir, who was fine, but the cracks began to form as he had to stave off his own son who attempted a coup against him. He had similar interests in art and culture to his father, but he didn’t have the same authority. Next up was a non-coup son, who became Shah Jahan. He started being a bit more militaristic, expanding the empire – up to you whether you think it’s still benevolent to violently seize and annex new territory. He’s the guy who commissioned the Taj Mahal for his favourite dead wife, so he left behind some pretty architecture at least, but it does seem like we’re starting to lose track of the citizenry here.

The next son is Aurangzeb, who basically ignored his father’s wishes of who would succeed next, and took leadership by force, imprisoning his father in the process. He was very militaristic, and expanded the Mughal empire to its largest point. Aurangzeb was a strict Muslim, and demolished a bunch of Hindu temples during his reign, abandoning all pretenses of tolerance once proudly exhibited by his great-grandfather. His militarism drove the empire to bankruptcy, and he didn’t name a successor so his sons fought it out amongst themselves: a civil war that effectively cemented the downfall of the Mughal dynasty.

He has a bird! What could possibly go wrong?

When looking at those with power, we must keep in mind the institutions that legitimize them. The Queen no longer governs in the traditional sense, ruling now only symbolically, but still: a symbol of what? What does her elegance and grace mean to the people of India or Palestine, to the Indigenous peoples of British colonies? Hell, what does it mean to the working classes of England who derive no benefit from, or indeed are actively harmed by, an institution of incestuous nepotism? We’ve romanticized Kings and Queens, knights and princesses, to the point where the fiction feels more real than the reality. The best kind of power is the one that is diffused as thinly as possible among those who are impacted by its influence. Pretending a dictator can be benevolent ignores the tyranny inherent in the institution.

The nicest thing one can say about Queen Elizabeth is that she existed as a benign tumor. The cancer remained dormant. How long do we have to wait before it begins to metastasize? Even if we want a god to save us from ourselves, such a thing is impossible. God is dead; the Queen is dead. Maybe we should start taking responsibility.