Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The vortex of distrust

One of the major problems of our time is whether or not to trust each other with our own fate. That distrust is the root of great evil.

Ideally, we have a Constitutional Republic, which means that the citizens rule the nation by voting. We vote for our representatives in government, whom we expect to fulfill our instructions to the seat of government. These representatives get together and draft new laws (or modify old ones) that apply equally to all citizens. We have to trust that we will make the right choices, and that they will honor our will.However, they are constrained to operate within a system of limitations- limitations that are decided by a Supermajority vote. In this way, we enforce that trust, preserving the rights of the minority, no matter which ideology is in power at the time. Thus, to change the rules of play, it requires the consent of an overwhelming majority of the nation.

Thats the idealized version.

The problem is, we are trusting those representatives less and less, and they, in their turn, are growing distrustful of us.We no longer have faith in their actions, and that, it seems to me, is a reflection of the lack of trust we have in the people who elect them. How many times did we hear the 47% comment during the election? How many people took that statement (out of context, I must add) and used it to dismiss some portion of the voting bloc? Not just on one side, either; Republicans reflected on the remark and decided that those people were bought and paid for, not acting in the best interest of the nation, and therefore not to be trusted to run the country, while Democrats took affront, and decided that anyone who thought the former was some kind of conniving bastard, willing to write off the 47% of the populace who 'didn't matter', who should not be trusted to run the nation. Its not a vote of mistrust in our lawmakers only (though it is that) but its a mistrust of the people that select them. Common ground cannot be found, because the populace, at the urging of the very servants we elect, increasingly distrusts the motives of the opposition.

Its getting even deeper than that these days, though. People are starting to doubt the very humanity of their political opposites. Vitriol is running high, civic discourse is harder to find than ever, and the anonymity of the internet makes it all very easy to run at the mouth and froth at the brain, with no social repercussions (I should know, I'm doing it right now).

The Internet Debate adage known as Godwin's law states that as the length of an internet argument grows, the likelihood of someone being compared to the Nazis approaches 1. Well, lets get this out of the way.

I don't think it was the gun registration that turned the corner on evil in Nazi Germany. I don't think it was the forcible service, or the Gestapo. I don't think it was national health service or the standardization of schools. In many ways, I don't even think it was the twisted psyche of Adolf Hitler, or his ability to move crowds and inspire fear or loyalty that did it. None of those things, excepting Hitler, are an evil of their own- they are the result of mistrust in people to take care of themselves. Eventually, they became a deep enough mistrust that people could safely dismiss the humanity of others. Jews, Gypsies, racial minorities, political dissidents- they were not to be trusted, they weren't one of us, they might as well not be human... and eventually, when urged by a horribly twisted and evil philosophical leader, they were purged.

I never really understood how a people, an entire culture, could turn so vicious, so vile, and act in such despicable ways. I always saw things like this in history books and assumed they were evil from the start- Hitler, Stalin, the mass murderers in Rwanda- I had to assume they were evil, because I had no framework for how a culture could condone the acts of madmen so fully. Now I am beginning to see it.

I am beginning to see it in the immigration policies of the right, the xenophobia and homophobia. Little whispers that grow to a roar, saying they are not to be trusted, they are not real people, they are not like us. I see it in the agenda politics of the left, the social controls, gun control, thought control. Fall in line, do as you are told, we will take care of you, you can't be trusted to take care of yourself.

Its not like they are real people... Read that, and let the chill sink in. Who is thinking that about you? Who have you thought that about? The rich, the poor, outsiders, insiders, big business, welfare recipients, immigrants, hicks, flyover bumpkins, coastal elites. The 1%, the 47%, crazy gun nuts, unthinking sheeple, Rethuglicans, Democraps. Muslims, Jews, atheists, bible-thumpers, single mothers, gays, abortion doctors, global warming deniers, the NRA, gun-banners. We are learning, in the back of our minds, to dismiss their humanity, and once that happens, all manner of atrocities can be unleashed. After all, its not like they are real people. They practically aren't even human, and they're not to be trusted...

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