The more ‘correct’ a country tries to be – and the more laws it passes to micromanage the minutia of it’s citizens’ behaviour – the less tolerant it becomes.
The list of things that are ‘illegal’ now is growing at an alarming rate. We call it ‘political correctness gone mad’ but it’s more insidious than that.
It starts off as a seemingly inoffensive way to make it clear what behaviour is safe/approved/responsible/acceptable etc and what is not. What it is doing however is suggesting that people need only look to the state to know what behaviour is ok. It creates a dependence while reinforcing the authority the state feels it has to regulate in this way.
One’s conduct in life is no longer about personal judgement and taking conscious responsibility or accountability for one’s actions. It’s become instead a transaction between individuals and the state when it should instead be about people in a community agreeing what conduct is appropriate in an evolving and organic way.
It’s a very capitalist ideal don’t you think? – this increase in prizing and encouraging individualism. It’s part of the core philosophy. In capitalism you don’t need anyone else, you just need money. To function in life you only need the means to exchange for goods and services and to do so better than your competitors (everyone else).
This is of course a falsehood. A false economy if you will. In ‘real’ reality we do need other people. We are social animals, we depend on each other and are stronger together then apart. That is not to say that individuals don’t have rights and identity and purpose themselves but rather that we should not deny our social and communal nature. Our success and all our greatest achievements are all collaborative, building with or on the work of others.
In it’s essence the basic capitalist philosophy (especially libertarianism) flies in direct opposition to this fact – suggesting that the individual is primary and deserves the complete freedom to act in whatever way they see fit (obviously within the law and without harming others etc etc) especially in relation to the market. The individual should have no encumbrance to operating in the market in whatever way they see fit and should most certainly have no obligation to others or be expected to be reliant or indebted to any other and so on.
Sounds great when you’re in a (relatively) wealthy, (relatively) functioning economy and are equipped to identify, seize and capitalise on opportunities. Here comes the ‘but’.
It only kinda works if you look at the top part of the capitalist pyramid. If you live in a rich western industrialised economy and are doing ok then it seems to hold true.. But this is a false horizon because all you see it the top 10% of the iceberg above water. The rest of the worlds population must be kept submerged in order for you to float up. Someone always has to be the ballast for there to be a peak to shine in the sun. That is what capitalism requires, it demands it, and doesn’t work any other way.
Its only by ignoring the vast majority of the word’s people who are poor and held down below the surface that we at the pristine white peak can believe that we have a great system that allows us to be our best and not need anyone else – hence it’s a self fulfilling prophecy yet every white moderately-educated right-leaning libertarian American I’ve come across all seem to think like this. Fiercely individualistic, they feel strongly that they have a right to earn what they can and keep what they earn because they did it alone and that they don’t need anyone else. The extent to which they do accept they need others is not a contradiction because then they have money to facilitate this.
They cannot see the problem because they are unlikely or unwilling to follow the thought trail far enough down. They don’t want to pay for a state (but they want to be serviced by it) they don’t want to care about others around the world because they genuinely don’t see how they are connected (despite needing them in order to have what they do). They can’t understand that they are rich and born into a country that is rich off the back of other countries. They truly believe that everyone has the same starting point in life and that the world is a meritocracy that rewards these that work hardest or have the greatest talent. To be honest they don’t want to believe anything else so they choose not to look too hard or question too deep.
The kinds of things I say make them angry and defensive because I suspect on some level they know something is wrong or maybe just because they detect that the implication is that they are selfish and self-centered.
Makes me think of a tree frog that tells itself it only needs the tree it gets it’s food from and doesn’t need to care what happens to bees – not seeing that it’s tree can only exist if it’s pollinated by these very bees.
Anyway, this isn’t a rant against libertarians, as the reality of the system they think is so great is out there to observe if they ever have the courage to do so honestly, but instead I wanted to point out that to the rest of us we shouldn’t be seduced by this individualistic philosophy. It’s hard to argue against when it’s framed in the usual way, but we all know deep down that we crave love and acceptance and that the mot valuable things in our lives are almost always our relationships, our friends our family, our children etc. this stuff is more primal and more truthfully who we are than any economic system, and regardless of what we say in public we never question it in our hearts.
It’s important to recognise that the counties we live in are tangled up in this capitalist set of values and will continue to want to pass laws telling us how we should behave and that one by one they will encourage us to look not to each other or into ourselves for guidance on what is right or wrong but to the state. And it doesn’t take much imagination to know what lies down that road, does it?
We need to retain our sense of self, trust in our ability to learn and know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, share and interact with our community and participate in meaningful ways – in a mindset of tolerance and good humour. We do not need the state to tell us who we are, what is right, how to act or what to think.
We did not grant them this authority. They claim it but I never gave it, so sooner or later this will become an issue.
We need to reclaim our power as individuals bound together in communities. We should never look to a state to tell us the difference between right and wrong.
There is a place for laws and justice in society to be sure, but there is also a line. Legislation is a blunt instrument, and many things are best left for us to negotiate and decide amongst ourselves without letting the state get it’s grubby hands into it.