Thursday, April 03, 2008
Another Useless Formula
There's been this idea floating around on BeliefNet -- and not just BeliefNet, I can assure you -- that any political dispute is kind of like a clothesline, strung between two terminals. If one accepts this abstraction as an accurate schema of ideological differences, then it naturally follows that any opinion located at or near one of the terminals of a political disagreement is "extreme," while "reasonable" people, who seek to avoid extremes, actively seek to adopt a more "moderate" point of view.
People who lean heavily on this analogy -- for it is an analogy of what goes on in the real world, rather than a map of the real world itself -- tend to assume that the "moderate" position in any political argument is necessarily the "right" position, and that "extremists" are, by definition, "wrong."
This overworked and weakly conceived approach to politics attempts to deal with reality by ignoring several discomforting aspects of it, such as:
*People do not always deal with each other in good faith, and frequently lie;
*There are some issues for which no middle position exists (i.e., no one can be "a little bit" preganant);
*Some people will do anything for money and a good fuck.
So I would challenge the "moderates" and "reasonable people" who are reading this -- the ones who feel that if only "extremists" would sit down with one another and talk things over in the presence of cooler heads, that everything could be ironed out, to say where the "moderate" position is in these debates:
1. Iraq. In 2002, during the Senate debate over giving the president authorization to use military force, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice lied about the Iraqi "threat" incessantly. It's no exaggeration to say that everything they said during the runup to the war was a lie. Opposed to them was Senator Byrd of West Virginia, who filibustered against the Authorization by constantly countering with the truth, starting with the truth that Bush would use the Authorization as a carte blanche to launch a unilateral, pre-emptive war of choice, even though he lied through his teeth and kept protesting that war would only be one of a number of options at his disposal.
I suppose the "moderate" position in this debate would be one in which tolerating certain amount of lying (the "moderate" amount) is the ideal and the objective, provided the lies are not outrageous whoppers, but rather the sorts of lies that a majority of "moderate" and "reasonable" Americans feels comfortable believing.
Sort of like the lie that Saddam Hussein possesses vast stores of weapons-grade anthrax, for instance. A "moderate" person could believe that about Saddam. Just look at his face, or maybe I should say, the face he used to have.
2. Slavery. It's either legal, or it's not. There's no middle position. Even if the laws governing the legality of slavery place extreme restrictions on it, as long as its legal under even very limited circumstances, it's not illegal. I suppose the "moderate" position on this issue would be to allow "just a little bit" of it. That of course, ignores the fact that the enslavement of one human being, any time, anywhere, is a crime against the entire human race. It also ignores the reality of the issue -- either we have this "peculiar institution" or we don't. There's no room for a "moderate" stance.
3. The majority of us now want universal, single-payer health care. The insurance companies, HMO's, pharmaceuticals companies, etc., want to keep things just as they are, because they're making a lot of money, and they're greedy bastards.
I suppose the "moderate" position on this issue would be to allow them to be greedy bastards within limits, so long as not too many people go broke paying insurance companies and statin drug manufacturers their protection money.
I don't know where this assumption that "middle" is synonymous with "right" came from, but I sure wish it would go away. Maybe it'll disappear along with the Bush administration at the end of the year.