Actually Seeing Eachother

I’m not shy about my politics. I definitely stand to the left of the average Democrat. I’m clear and passionate about what I believe it will take for humanity to make a just transition to an economy that is good for people and the planet. But even with all this passion and conviction I understand that the only way to make my vision a reality is to include those who don’t see the world as I do.

David Brooks just wrote a phenomenal column on “how to fix politics.” People on my side of the political argument often get appalled when I quote him. And that is precisely the problem.

He cites research that says we’re pretty good at tending our inner-ring relationships — our family and friends.  And we’re pretty good at tending to outer-ring relationships - hundreds of Facebook acquaintances, fellow progressives, TED and Harley fans.

But we spend less time with middle-ring township relationships and this is where we become skilled at deliberation. It is where we have to deal with people who may have political opinions we find abhorrent. Moving online and off the neighborhood has made us worse at public deliberation. We find it easier to ignore inconvenient viewpoints and facts.

It becomes very easy to demonize and vilify anyone that does not fit your particular fundamentalism. This is how we dehumanize one another. I see it happen in progressive spaces all of the time.

Like Paul Graham, Brooks points at the problems that come up when we bind too much of our identity to our politics -

Once politics becomes your ethnic and moral identity, it becomes impossible to compromise, because compromise becomes dishonor. If you put politics at the center of identity, you end up asking the state to eclipse every social authority but itself.

This idea of being grounded “in place,” of being connected to the people around us, is one that we understand and romanticize. But we too often reduce it back to a limited take of politics. We want to organize those relationships in order to serve our politics. I see NOTHING wrong with that! It’s the only way we win. But it has to be done in the context of relationship, and relationship ALWAYS implies the willingness to be changed by the other. Which is the opposite of fundamentalism.

I am interested in creating and participating in spaces that tend to this middle-ring. I want us to to turn towards each other.