Sometimes I think the biggest cleave in politics is between the Abstract Party and the Concrete Party. The Abstraction Party is largely, but not entirely, the liberal Democrats, and the Concrete Party is largely, but not entirely, the conservative Republicans.
The Abstract Party thinks, of course, in abstractions, and elevates these abstractions -- often speculative or plain fantastical -- over real-life human lives, the concrete, the real, the demonstrable, the solid. And part of what sustains the Abstract Party is their faith, a religious faith, really, that what they "know" abstractly they know with 100% surety, so if they're told by their priests (their politicians and pundits) that it's better in a the long run that some dirty farmers are bankrupted and die penniless than we allow the delta smelt to die off, then they just believe that, on faith (as it's speculative, and who has anyway of knowing what's best in the long run; in the long run, as they say, we're all dead), and simply push forward with plans that result in catastrophic ruin for real-life people because they are so damn sure their belief in a speculative abstraction trumps any of that.
As a member of the Concrete Party, that gives me great pause. I don't really possess that level of intellectual arrogance. I can't believe in speculation and abstraction enough to think that, when the rubber meets the road, I can choose obliterative poverty for an entire region of the country with the confidence that I'm doing the right thing by basically ending human lives.
The Abstract Party has done an awful lot of evil in the world. I'm going full Godwin here to note that the Nazis were a party of abstraction, fueled by the unproven belief, which they nevertheless were willing to kill for, so sure of it were they, the Jews were somehow responsible for just about every ill in Germany and that some abstract and speculative Utopia would arise if only the lands could be purged of the Jews.
Elevating, again, a belief in some dreamy abstraction over the real and inarguable suffering created by it.
You've got to be borderline crazy to do this. Seriously. I'm sure Lee Harvey Oswald had some belief he was quite sure of -- Kill Kennedy and the World Becomes A Wonderful Place -- and you have to be pretty insane to be sure enough of that proposition to kill someone you've never met and have no actual quarrel with.
At some point you'd think that the testimony of their own eyes -- seeing people suffer and die in the real world -- would shake them out of their unshakable belief in the abstract "Good" they're pushing for, but you'd be wrong.
They have a religious conviction about it. They are religious zealots-- lunatics, cultists -- who believe in Paradise on Earth and if you have the chance at Paradise on Earth human lives are small potatoes in the scheme of things.
And they tend to call this lunatic religious passion "reason" and "science." And they're quite serious about that.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
A friend of mine is fond of saying that, and if you follow the reasoning out to the logical conclusion, he's right.