Culture war,  Democracy,  Do Something!

Which Way Out?

By Paul M

Consider this an experiment. I’d like to try and keep the comments below this ATL focused on the topic. So tomorrow I’ll put up another post, by Jurek. Go there to respond to him and to continue the usual debates and until then, put them under Libby T’s last post. But come back here if you are interested in this conversation.

Like everybody else in the world, we here are very good at identifying the world’s problems. Like everybody else, we’re not so good at solutions. So here’s a question: What practical steps could we take to make things better? The emphasis is on we and practical. If they’re political moves, they need to be things that politicians of goodwill and reasonable courage, in today’s environment, can be motivated to do. Politics, as they say, is the art of the possible. However, I’m more interested in, and more hopeful of, things that individuals can do without waiting for our leaders to catch up.

To kick things off I offer these:

One: Arguments with other people about their disastrous ideologies gets you nowhere but tied up in knots. We would do much better to identify, articulate, concentrate on, live by and advocate for the values that we believe in. My list begins with tolerance, pluralism, democracy, integration, community (on both local and national levels) and pride in one’s own culture & history. I’ll add that durable societies know their limits: Tolerating the intolerant is foolish, pluralists should be able to recognize and reject entryists, pride should include the confidence to see flaws and admit errors—and also the sense to know when to stop apologizing.

Two: Speak up. Some of us (me included) need to be more willing to simply say no to bad ideas, rather than keeping our heads down for a quiet life. Not just here, among the like minded, but out there where it counts. If you think trans-women aren’t women, there’s real value in saying so. If think the idea of structural racism is overblown and used as a weapon, be prepared to say that. There’s a snowball effect: The more people open their mouths, the more other people will too.

Three: Be less cynical. Cynicism is tempting, easy and often fun. I’m too often guilty of it myself. But it’s also corrosive to automatically assume the worst of everyone. If cynicism is your usual mode it takes an effort of will to start giving people the benefit of the doubt, but the world’s a much better place for it. It doesn’t mean switching off your critical faculties but it does require being open to goodwill where it exists even—especially—in people whose politics aren’t yours. Consider positive explanations for what other people say and do before you assume a negative one. I’m not telling you to be a Pollyanna. Use your brain, discriminatingly but generously.

I’ll stop there. These are very small ideas, I’d like bigger ones that would make more difference. Bring your thoughts and park them below.