Be Pragmatic, But Not Too Much
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I’m a huge fan of pragmatism. It’s one of my few fundamental values. I think that people make a lot of mistakes by proposing naive solutions to problems based on emotional desires. They often sound good, and it would be amazing if justice could be achieved as easily as some people want it to happen. But the ideas that some of us want to use for progress are often idealistic and unrealistic. The world doesn’t work the way that we often want it to work.
In my opinion, a clear example of this is the common reaction of progressives on social media to Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I think that popular propositions in every political party are often naive and not even a little pragmatic. Not all people with the same political label think the same way, of course. However, conservatives seem to believe that more military will stop terrorism, and that abortion is murder. Libertarians appear to think that the minimum wage oppresses poor people and illegal workers, gun control is immoral, and that social welfare and social healthcare programs create a harmful “nanny state.” I’m not a political scientist. But I disagree with these positions, and I don’t think that any of them are pragmatic.
Like I said, I also have problems with the popular reaction from hardcore progressives to Neo-Nazi protests. Obviously, the Nazi ideology is fucking stupid and wrong. Duh! It’s aggravating and sometimes hilarious to me that progressives stopped assuming that you’re not a Nazi or a white supremacist unless you openly denounce them. If you even mention Nazis, then the authoritarian progressives, or the evangelical left, as Michael Malice calls them, seem to instantly call you a white supremacist or a Nazi. (Malice is a brilliant political commentator, journalist, ghost writer, and author of Dear Reader, a satirical book that also shows the true darkness of North Korea.) It’s as if these people are incapable of understanding nuance. Like Dave Smith, a libertarian comedian, says, everyone to the right of Bernie Sanders in political thought is labelled as a white supremacist or a Nazi.
This seems like common sense to me, but people who don’t want to punch Nazis are not automatically Alt-Right, white supremacist Nazis. Authoritarian progressives appear to believe that spreading hate and fear about literally anyone who disagrees with them will solve the problem of Nazis. That is so fucking stupid that it’s hard to even decide where to begin criticizing it. Historically and sociobiologically speaking, acting this way does little more than enhance xenophobia, and increase chances of violence between Nazis and the evangelical left. This kind of thinking ads fuel to the fire of civil war rhetoric, and it seems to mostly just antagonize Nazis even more.
Apparently, there are only about 10 000 Neo-Nazis in the United States. So people probably shouldn’t buy the mainstream media’s perception of them; that they’re roaming the streets, attacking people at random, and trying to overthrow the government. Some people even claim that Donald Trump is conspiring with his Nazi and white supremacist buddies to make America a Nazi state. This is just ridiculous. Trump is Jewish, and so are his children. He may be a racist, sexist, bigoted asshole who is not qualified to be the president. But I seriously doubt that he’s a Nazi, or even a white supremacist. Neo-Nazis have fucked up beliefs, but they have waaaaay less power and influence than the picture that the news paints.
I think that all this prevalent alarmist outrage is unwarranted. The mainstream media makes it seem a lot worse than it is by highlighting it. They are financially motivated to make the world seem more violent than it is. If it bleeds, it leads, right? In my opinion, people should be punished for their actions rather than their thoughts and speech. Nazi views are reprehensible, but probably, most Nazis don’t go around trying to physically harm black and Jewish people. Freedom of speech is supposed to allow us to discuss uncomfortable issues. Nazis have a legal right to protest as long as they don’t harm anyone, and authoritarian progressives have the same privilege to counter-protest. If Nazis hurt people, they should be arrested to say the least. But so should anyone in the evangelical left if they go to protests and start punching Nazis. There are punishments for crimes, regardless of your beliefs. I don’t think that anyone should be persecuted for what they think or say, regardless of how disgusting they sound.
I learned the hard way that it’s basically pointless to talk to authoritarian progressives about these issues. I brought up similar points. I talked about how, while people in ANTIFA likely have good intentions, some of them are also using terrorist and fascist tactics. Sometimes without being provoked, they attack anyone who even has conservative viewpoints, let alone more extreme ones than that. So there IS violence of both sides of this civil war rhetoric.
I realized recently that it’s a mistake to raise these types of nuanced points on social media with the evangelical left. I’m not saying “Oh, poor me with my “white priviledge.” But I was literally told that I’m just as bad as a Nazi. Why? I’m not an activist and don’t want to be one, and I don’t think that everyone has to agree with progressives. I also believe that they’re oversimplifying situations and acting like children, and I don’t think that there needs to be a revolution and that everyone needs to take sides in some sort of cosmic struggle. I’ve pointed this out as well: if you’re a child who was unlucky enough to be born to Neo-Nazi parents, and you see people promoting hate and violence toward your ideology all over the internet, it will just increase your animosity toward the other side. It will go a long way to helping create more Nazis. But Neo-Nazis are probably unlikely to see what the evangelical left post anyway. Does anyone really think that they pay a lot of attention to what authoritarian progressives say about them on Twitter and Facebook?
I’m certainly not saying that I have better alternative solutions. I just think that this kind of behaviour is stupid and dangerous. Like the comedian, Bill Burr, said recently, “Is there a Nazi in your sandwich?…Everyone needs to just calm down….Instead of going to Nazi protests to punch them, why doesn’t everyone just stay home, don’t record it on the news, and the Nazis will go and protest to fucking no one?”
This whole issue made me think about pragmatism in terms of the Nazis in WWII. You know, the people who engaged in mass genocide and all kinds of other terrible shit? Contemplating how they apparently operated made me realize the limits of pragmatism, even though it’s one of my few fundamental values.
Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, with a huge Youtube following. According to him and others, the biggest predictors of success are a high I. Q. and conscientiousness. I’m not a historian, and no one objectively knows how Hitler and the Nazis thought. But I’ve heard from many historians and other academics that they were highly intelligent, organized, and determined to succeed. Although, Dan Carlin, who runs my favourite history podcast, but is not a historian, thinks that their ideology caused them to make a lot of strategic mistakes. But in some ways, maybe Hitler and his minions fit the profile of having high chances of accomplishing their evil goals. They ultimately failed. However, they used their intelligence and conscientiousness to make a hell of a lot of progress in their intentions to exterminate Jews and conquer the world. They killed millions of people for insane reasons, and took over many countries, leading to World War 2.
That’s why to me, Hitler and the Nazis show the limits of pragmatism. That philosophical framework obviously didn’t make them do anything. But pragmatism isn’t necessarily a completely admirable virtue, because it can be used for the most nefarious purposes.
These are all very broad and complex topics, but my main argument is this: People are ideologically attached to their political views. Many of these ways of thinking sound good on paper, but they probably wouldn’t work. Nuance is extremely important. Maybe I’m naive too. However, like I often say, I believe that the more we talk to each other, regardless of how challenging that sometimes is, the more we can actually solve problems. It might help lessen our tribal nature, and perhaps even prevent violence. We should be pragmatic about ways to solve political issues. But there are limits to pragmatism. I think that it’s almost always good to be pragmatic, but this way of thinking can be effectively used by the most evil people. In my opinion, we should talk to each other to try to at least agree to disagree, but always remember that there is more to life than pragmatism. If people can try to find a balance between valuing others’ emotions and attempting to effectively fix problems, perhaps the world could be a slightly better place.
Originally published at mindgasms.theblogpress.com on December 19, 2017.