Monday, July 25, 2011

The political spectrum and tribes

I have been doing some reading about the Oslo bomber/shooter Anders Brievik and one thing that jumped out at me is the way that people react to the terms 'left wing' or 'right wing'.  Brievik is obviously a deranged sociopath, nobody is arguing that, but he has been regularly termed a right wing extremist in news articles and I found an interesting debate about that terminology.  As usual the debate is cluttered with reams of name calling and hyperbole but some powerful points emerged from the noise:  Firstly, people really view left wing and right wing in tribal terms and have very little understanding of the functional differences between various governments and groups.  Many of the posts in that link were arguing about whether or not the Nazis were left wing or right wing extremists as each side tried to make the other responsible for evil behaviour in the past.  Second, people seem desperate to characterize the other team as being evil rather than having different priorities.  All these lunatics seem desperate to convince themselves that their viewpoint is rational and everybody else is a self serving jackass whose ill conceived political notions are responsible for every extremist government and violent episode in all history.

Brievik's actions in Norway are evil.  Preventing these sorts of episodes in future is definitely a priority but figuring out which of the two political tribes is responsible for his actions is ridiculous and unhelpful.  Pinning blame on one side or the other will accomplish nothing at all; we need to focus on how we can usefully prevent people like him from managing to be so incredibly destructive next time.  Certainly anybody who decides to kill a bunch of people can do so as there is no realistic way of keeping homemade explosives and hunting rifles out of the hands of the populace.  We can however to make sure we find these lunatics before they actually do much damage and attempt to prevent them being as 'successful' as Brievik was.

There is no such thing as a political line that accurately represents everything from Socialism to Communism to Fascism.  Looking at failed governments and trying to place the guilt for them on other groups is pointless and inaccurate.  Communism was a government type that is laughable in theory and in practice is a failed version of totalitarianism. It is not extreme Socialism.  The same argument is true for Fascism and Libertarian philosophy. What we can and must do if we want to have useful debate on political topics and develop good policies is to focus on facts rather than blame and avoid oversimplified models that aren't useful for anything.   What is true is that there are laws that make things better for the people and ones that don't, expenditures that are worth it and ones that are not and policies that do what they are supposed to and ones that do not.  When we focus on the details and the facts rather than the tribal bickering we will be on our way to building a better society for all.

1 comment:

  1. We all know that it was WoW raiding that drove Breivik to his actions anyway, right?

    I think the reason Breivik is a right wing extremist is that some of the right wing thinkers who he referenced in his manifesto said that he was essentially right in his thinking, just wrong in his methods.

    I'm totally with you that from a policy perspective we should look at making good decisions rather than making left or right decisions.

    The examination of Breivik's ideology, though, has more purpose than political finger-pointing. It's also to bring attention to the fact that presenting immigration as a form of genocide against white people may have consequences on the way people treat one another.