Archive for April 2017
This is the third post is a series, Some Thoughts on Politics.
Having established what is important, and then what is changeable, we still aren’t in a position to move forward politically until we ask a final question: what do we have leverage over? Much political talk feels a bit like a bunch of people sitting in their living room watching football having heated arguments about what the coaches on their favored team should do. No matter how well one analyzes the problem, no matter how persuasive the argument, the person on the field who is calling the plays and making player substitutions is completely unaware. Worse still, if you somehow got on the field and offered your expertise, you would likely be hauled off before they heard a word.
This is the second post is a series, Some Thoughts on Politics.
In my last post I argued that the first dimension we need to assess when thinking about political action is What is Important? The next essential dimension is What is changeable?
No matter its importance, political action toward a thing that is not changeable is futile. Of course, this too is not a binary. It’s probable better to talk about the relative difficulty of change rather than a simple yes/no. It is important to see the difference between low hanging fruit and high hanging fruit, between things that will require tremendous resources and those that won’t, between things that can be accomplished relatively quickly and those that will take years to achieve. It’s also important not to conflate difficult to do with impossible to do.
This is the first post is a series, Some Thoughts on Politics.
Often in political arguments, we rely on binaries. But life is rarely so simple that things can fit comfortably into binary categories without a tremendous loss of clarity. In particular, I want to talk about a series of dimensions along which we have to take positions on when we talk about politics. We have to take positions, but it that doesn’t mean we have to be explicit about it. But we ought to be. Being explicit about it will improve the likelihood that those we are talking with will understand us. Asking others to be explicit about it will increase the chances we’ll understand where they are coming from. If we are to argue, better we argue about our actual disagreements. Better still to argue about our most fundamental disagreements. Besides that, it’s good to be explicit so that our own thinking is clearer, and we are less likely to make mistakes because we haven’t fully thought things through.
The first dimension we should think about when talking about political action is what is important. “Important: yes or no” is a terrible way to do that. The question is always a relative one.
I keep having the same thoughts pop up as I participate in or watch various conversations about politics. I also think that trying to offer frameworks for understanding things differently in the middle of arguments is generally worthless. So I thought instead I could try to spell them out here. They will end up being somewhat abstract, precisely because I do not want to tie them to the controversies of the day, or of last week, etc. I hope they will be read in the spirit in which they are written–not proclamations, but provocations. I may be wrong. And surely nothing I am saying here hasn’t been said before or better by someone else. But hopefully some people will find them useful, which is about the best you can hope for in most conversations. I will plan on linking to them all here. They won’t add up to a theory or anything like that, although I hope writing them will bring me closer to one. I always like reading comments from readers, but I’m especially curious what you think about this, even if your thoughts, like mine, are fluid and difficult to articulate.