Archives for posts with tag: politics

When people think of Canada, they think of hockey, needless apologizing, and Tim Horton’s coffee because associating national identity with a corporation couldn’t possibly be the worst idea ever. None of these are things I would call “values,” however. Canadian values are a funny thing. Mostly because Canada is an abstract social construct that only has the meaning humanity gives it, and as a social construct, cannot actually have values. It’s like saying money has values. Usually this is why the concept of Canadian values doesn’t come up very often. The only people silly enough to consistently ascribe values to their nation are Americans, and that’s mostly due to the fact that America has been desperately trying to anthropomorphize itself throughout its entire history.

crying eagle

Things Americans value, as depicted by this image: weeping openly, nature, and destroying their own flag

But north of the border, we do try every now and again. Our current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to dictate “shared values” that supersede any nationalistic urges, claiming that, “openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice” are what unite us, rather than any hard-line Canadian identity. It sounds nice, right? I’m not Canadian because of any geographic truth about my birth and current living locale (the traditional construct of nation being the socially agreed upon borders drawn haphazardly across the globe which demarcate which laws you are compelled to follow), but now I’m Canadian because of my patriotic adherence to this list that Trudeau made up… or had written for him. Either way, it’s essentially nonsense.

However, when most people think about Canadian values, they think of Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s “Canadian Values Test” which would forbid any incoming immigrants and refugees from entry lest they agree to certain “values;” values presumably widely contrasted to any Liberal leader’s version of them. The lunacy of pan-Canadian values aside, people were mostly in favour of broad, incredibly vague, yet still hypocritical values being enforced at the border.

border crossing

We are open, compassionate, just, and respectful people. You need to be just like us in order to come in. (Yes, I know this is the American border under Trump. We have our own hypocrisies, they’re just more difficult to find in a Google Image Search relevant to immigrants or refugees)

Why is there pressure from political organizations to promote absolute values within the citizenry? It makes no sense from a practical viewpoint. Laws are the enforceable side of values, but nobody is going to go beyond that to enforce “openness” and “respect” as laws because more often than not those spouting these platitudes are those most likely to disregard them. They’re also impossible to define. Is it respectful to respect a woman’s right to choose, or to respect the life which began at conception? Values are individualistic and subjective to the point where they are entirely meaningless on any kind of macro scale.

Politicians and their pundits aren’t actually speaking about values when they discuss values because, as discussed, that is a meaningless prospect. What they are talking about is purity. Values aren’t the thing; everyone being the same is the thing. We want a country that is untainted by foreign aspects that will defile the sanctity of our nation. We only want those who are like us. We don’t want to be infested by those… types. If this sounds like dog-whistle racism, well, who can say?

purity

Can you imagine some foreign elements contaminating this water? Society is just like that. If anything foreign is introduced, it poisons us all. It’s not racism. This metaphor is incontrovertible.

Purity has its defenders. Jonathan Haidt suggests that the divide between conservatives and liberals is predicated on their different moral foundations. Liberals predominantly adhere to a creed of reducing harm and emphasizing fairness, while conservatives focus on harm and fairness as well, but introduce respect for authority, in-group coherence, and purity into their moral baseline. This is why the harrumphing about “values” usually comes from conservative talking points.

Except coming up with something that conservatives typically agree on and deciding that must make it “moral” (a surprisingly relativistic understanding of morality, considering the accusations of relativism usually come from the conservative aisle) isn’t ethically valid. Morality is the systemic regulation of our relationship to the Other. Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas states that our individual freedom must justify itself in the face of the Other. “Morality begins when freedom, instead of being justified by itself, feels itself to be arbitrary and violent.” All alone, morality cannot exist and our actions are infinitely free, but when we come across someone new, we realize that our actions mean something in a relationship, and the ignorance of that relationship can only be exploitative. Purity is the necessary exclusion of the Other. It literally cannot be a moral foundation because it precludes the very existence of a moral relationship.

people interacting

In order for me to interact morally with you, I need a “you” to interact with

Unfortunately, politicians bring up values to pander to immoral standards of social purity because they don’t want to talk about the stuff that actually matters: policy decisions. The more we’re all talking about abstract, unfounded notions of pan-national values, the less we’re talking about taxes, environmental policy, and the housing crisis. I don’t have to promise something that you can call me out on when I fail to deliver; I just need to stroke your underlying xenophobic fears, and I’ll get elected. All I need is the right kind of rhetoric. If my polling numbers go down, I can just ramp up the rhetoric because rhetoric doesn’t require any kind of meaningful follow through.

So. What have we learned. Purity is the opposite of morality. Macro-level values are meaningless. And if anyone ever brings up these things in a political debate, it’s because they really don’t want to be talking about the concrete things they’re actually planning on doing. Also they’re probably a smidge racist.

They say that if you’re not a socialist at 20 you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative at 30 then you have no brain. Now this quotation may have originated as derision against naive republicans by the more sober and rational monarchists, but now that democracy is pretty much universally understood as the undeniably greater alternative, our current incarnation of this maxim must be the definitely true version. That being the case, now that I’m over 30, I must concede that justice is a worthless cause and self-interest is the highest virtue. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m stupid enough to deny the supremacy of inherited, incestuous leadership! …I mean, conservatism!

So here it is. My conservative conversion expressed through the medium of cute animal pictures. Eight of them.

1.

23941_orig

I believe that anti-white rhetoric has a censoring effect on my speech, but I never quite make the leap to believing that anti-black, anti-women, and anti-LGBT rhetoric might have the same impact

2.

129bf5ac0e846765860d6acfda166792--plaid-tartan-tie

Communism can never work because centralized power is intrinsically corrupting and destructive, unless it resides within the corporate executive office, in which case centralized power is the bedrock of civilization itself

3.

catsdogs

You might think it is disingenuous that I equate anti-fascists with fascists, but it makes a lot more sense when you remember that I also equate refugees with terrorists and war criminals

4.

07e5a31b271f7dc58284c6fbfeeb2aad--king-charles-spaniels-cavalier-king-charles

I absolutely loathe the permissive, liberal, welfare culture that surrounds me, but I refuse to welcome the statistically more conservative, community-oriented, and traditionalist immigrant groups because of their “culture”

5.

b3aa9e6408d079dc47a8b2ac883094bd--military-police-police-dogs

Let’s convince those abroad of the supremacy of our values by murdering their families. If that doesn’t work, it can only be because they reject our values

6.

9bf03351048d78802cdc11d6233cc768--corgi-funny-corgi-puppies

I vehemently support law and order policies, but not corporate regulations. Rules are for people, not businesses. If you put arsenic in my drink, I will revel in your lethal injection, but if your company dumps toxic chemicals into the river that feeds into my reservoir, I will support you 100%

7.

82548950

I claim to be devoted to my neighbours, but I believe that my personal views should supersede the collective view when deciding the community’s future. If there is any attempt to include me in communal responsibility, I will call it theft. I actually reject the very notion of society because I enjoy pretending that I transcend any kind of real participation within it

8.

CS13875439

I choose to ignore the entire scientific community simply to spite liberals

9.

redwing-cherokee-nuke

For some reason I am ominously comfortable with a nuclear holocaust. Like, I’m sure you get by now that this is a parody, and to be perfectly honest I think that tradition and community-values are important to keep around, and that the conversations surrounding trade and globalization are nuanced and complex, but like, what the fuck is the deal with being just TOTALLY FINE with world-ending catastrophes?

I know that last one wasn’t a cute animal picture. I only promised you eight.

There is this belief that the centre possesses the highest moral value. The Golden Mean of Aristotle suggests that the ethical character exists between two extremes. Between cowardice and rashness is bravery; between stinginess and prodigality is liberality. When applied to politics, the spectrum appears as a horseshoe with the Right and Left extremes meeting near the bottom, allegedly indistinguishable from one another, and the glorious yet humble centrists take their position at the pinnacle of enlightened political thought.

13493486_f1024

It kind of looks like seating arrangements with the head of the table being really conspicuously obvious. Whoever came up with Horseshoe Theory must have been a centrist.

Of course this is incredibly patronizing to those without liberal viewpoints, but it’s also patently absurd. It’s the “both sides” rhetoric which equivocates fighting Nazis with being Nazis. The truth does not lie between two extremes of an argument. It’s like going to a court case, and assuming that justice exists somewhere in the middle between the positions of the defense and the prosecution, without listening to either side.

Not listening is key to political centrism. It’s telling victims that, while I recognize that there is bad shit going on, I understand your situation better than you, and I will judge you harshly for your response to violence that I do not have to endure. It’s telling those who victimize others that, while I recognize that what you’re doing is socially destructive, I respect your right to do so within the written law. Centrism is the perpetuation of the status quo even if the status quo is harmful to certain groups and privileges others, which means, by its very nature, centrism benefits the socially destructive simply by its passive allowance of their flourishing.

Centrists assume that any dialogue is productive. It suggests that groups who want to secure basic freedoms can solve their differences amiably over tea with others who believe those groups to be subhuman. I’m not saying that dialogue can’t solve the issue, but the type of conversation matters more than simply having a conversation. To be politically centrist is to avoid productive debate, despite conventional wisdom, because they insist that the louder and illegitimate voices have an equal seat at the table, despite the silencing effect that this has on others. Marginalized voices must be given a microphone in order to be heard above the din, and certain arguments are unjustifiable in productive dialogue, like the supremacy of one group over another, and those arguments must be quashed or ignored if we’re going to actually make any progress. White supremacy, for example, cannot be debated because it is not grounded on a debatable foundation.

Despite the language we use to understand politics as a spectrum, it’s far more complex and nuanced than a horseshoe or even a linear framework. It seems asinine to perceive climate science as a position on the political spectrum, but it is. Believing that black people should be murdered less too finds its place on the political spectrum. If someone believes that gay people shouldn’t be able to marry, we consider them right wing, but if they murder someone because they’re gay, are they are more right wing? Is murder on the political spectrum? That’s like saying a Muslim who commits a terrorist act is more Muslim than one who doesn’t. If someone believes that workers should own the means of production, we call that left wing. What about the difference between those who want to achieve it through revolution compared to those who wish to achieve it through incremental reform? Is one more left than the other? The belief is the same, the methodology is different. We consider revolution more extreme, and therefore somehow “more left”, but the basic political beliefs are identical. Political methodology should not impact political position. If we were in Eastern Germany during its Communist phase, and someone set off a car bomb because they wanted liberal democracy, would they be considered more centrist than someone who only handed out pamphlets? Jean-Jacques Rousseau would never be considered a centrist during his time, even if what he was fighting for are the values of centrists today. We have the term Overton Window to describe acceptable social discourse (ie. centrist values) which can shift depending on the surrounding culture, which means that centrism is essentially arbitrary. Politics is issue specific, and that’s why we have racist Gay Rights activists and fiscal conservatives who think pot should be legal. There isn’t really a defined spectrum, just a mainstream with the “extreme” political views falling on the outside of that. Centrism is only pop-politics.

To self-describe as centrist is nothing more than virtue signalling. It’s buying into the myth of the spectrum simply because it puts you in a flattering light. Centrists get to claim the moral high ground because of the perceived golden hue of the mean, even if what they advocate is otherwise morally bankrupt. Claiming a label that identifies you as socially responsible unlike those types is choosing to remain ignorant because the destruction going on around you does not affect you personally. Listen to the arguments, research the data, and see if “both sides” truly have equal merit.