Saturday, October 15, 2011

Meeting In The "Middle"

A number of debates I've had recently with friends have centered around notions of what our "default" inclination is "politically." Ironically, we all have pretty much the same values and priorities now, and generally are hesitant to side with any movement or party or faction of This World.

The truth is, though, sometimes we have to side with something. But I think people may legitimately disagree on what is the lesser evil. I think Catholics have different “default” inclinations. My “default” inclination is, in fact, to err on the side of the Right when such a compromise much be made. Yet many of my (Catholic) friends actually have a “default” that is very much Liberal.

I'll admit: I've always voted Republican in the US, even if holding my nose while doing it. If I must choose between the Right and the Left, my inclination is still to see the Right as the lesser evil. My personality is just naturally "conservative" that way.

However, as I think is a big part of this whole "Renegade Trads" thing, I'm finding that I have “met in the middle” with a variety of people. Or perhaps “middle” is not the best way to describe it (because the position we ultimately hold is not so much moderate or centrism, as an attempt to always stay “transcendent” or “above” politics, yet not in an escapist sense, etc). So many debates I get in now are less about what the good looks like, and more about which evil is lesser. Less about the final destination, and more about which direction it makes more sense to arrive at it from.

Some people are “coming from the Right,” others are “coming from the Left.” Hopefully we’ll all meet in the “middle” (or whatever you want to call it). But I wouldn’t look down on the authoritarian and repressive tendencies of “coming from the Right” without equal criticism of the tendency towards naïveté of “coming from the Left.” And I wouldn't condemn the atheism and secularism that is more explicit on the Left without recognizing that the Right often co-opts God and notions of the transcendent for agendas that are completely secular and materialist.

Certainly, I'd no longer be inclined towards the simplistic "Catholic Answers" view that its a sin to vote Democratic (or for any pro-choice politician). Really I think political questions are not so straightforward now. I'll always err on the side of pro-life politicians personally, but I think voting for someone else can be legitimate as long as you're not voting for them because of their pro-choice position, and as long as you sincerely believe the situation is such that their position on abortion will be inconsequential in terms of actually affecting the current status quo.

It is no better to “sympathize with” Marxism than with Fascism. They’re both bad, but the fact that for most people one or the other is going to tug our heartstrings a little bit more on the level of pure appeal-to-emotion is not something to be making value judgments on. A concern with Equality or Freedom is no more noble a “political” concern than a concern with Order. Both are necessary values, neither should be sacrificed for the other, and having a “default” priority for one or the other (as long as we do eventually reach the correct synthesis) is not better or worse.

Likewise, there is ultimately no real conflict between people being good and people feeling good, between meaningfulness and happiness. But inasmuch as this false dichotomy can play out in the fallen sinful world, I'm more inclined to preserve meaningfulness and objective goodness over feeling good, over subjective pleasure and happiness. Others are more inclined to sympathize with a "sacrifice" working in the other direction, which is very much against my personal instinct on these questions.

Similarly, I recently had a discussion about whether there has been a sort of moral improvement of humanity along the lines of the Progressive narrative which would say that, yes, as technology and science has progressed, so have attitudes and philosophies and institutions. I very much disagreed; there is nothing new under the sun since Christ in this regard, and while there may be a cycle of more or less pious or idealistic periods, I think if anything evil has simply gotten more globalized and industrialized rather than things being any "better" nowadays (So we've gotten rid of official slavery; the global economy is based on structurally exploiting whole sections of the Third World! So we in the First World pride ourselves on a certain type of individualist empathy and non-bigotry, on being "nice people" basically; but then we live decadently and allow millions of infants to be slaughtered in the womb each year!)

However, as long as we all "meet in the middle" I think what direction we're "coming from" in these regards, whether our personality is naturally inclined to be liberal or conservative as its "default" sympathy...doesn't really matter. The perspectives are complementary.

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