Just as arguments between married couples are often not really about the particular issue that triggered them but rather about some deeper concept, so too are the conflicts between the political left and right.
The Cousins’ Wars by Kevin Phillips points out that the Glorious Revolution in England, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War, all, were fought over the same basic issues. In a way, those wars can be thought of as WWI, WWII, and WWIII.
Today’s culture war between left and right is WWIV, once again being fought over more or less the same concepts. The campus SJW left is merely the location on the ideological map of the current front lines.
And we’re STILL not talking about the underlying concepts themselves.
For example, How To Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics in the Wall Street Journal points out that humans are tribal. We evolved to form into groups which then compete with other groups for political power and scarce resources. The first things we humans throw under the bus when we feel our own tribe is threatened are truth and reason. We develop irrational commitments to the dearly-held values and principles of our tribes. That single fact alone accounts for a great deal of the partisan rancor we see today. The article goes on to make some great recommendations each of us can use to work around the problems created by this innate aspect of fundamental human nature.
But tribalism is a human trait, common to everyone, equally. It’s not a left trait or a right trait. The same goes for the flaws of reason, and all the many other “natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Obviously, The more people who understand this the better, but it’s not where the real argument is.
The number of things that are truly unique to left and right is actually quite small. It is those things over which we fight our culture wars, but about which we refuse to talk.
Rather, we seem to have a deep, strong, visceral, primal, resistance to bringing them out from under the covers and subjecting them to the light of day. It seems as if we like keeping them under the covers because that way we never have to look honestly at ourselves in the mirror and see clearly what we really are. It’s easier if we just keep pretending that the other side is evil and our side is good, and fight on as oblivious but happy warriors.
Unless and until we shine the light of day on the real, underlying, issues we’re going to keep on fighting this very same world war again and again, into versions five, six, seven, and onward.
Given the realities of human nature as we currently know them, which include the fact that heaven, or its secular equivalent of some sort of Platonic utopia, is not possible here on earth, what is our best chance for answering yes to “Can we all get along?” What, practically speaking, given reality, actually CAN be achieved, or at least striven for?
If we are intellectually honest, the answer to those questions, I propose, and strongly believe, have already been proved. Chief among the bottom-line things that divide us are
|Left, Liberal/Progressive||Right, Conservative,|
|Outcome-based, Positive liberty (i.e., freedom to), and similar interpretations of equality, justice, and fairness||Process-based negative liberty (i.e., freedom from), and similar interpretations of equality, justice, and fairness|
|Epistemic confidence||Epistemic humility|
Collectively each side of the above table could be thought of as the Telos of left and right, respectively. .
But we cannot, do not, and will not talk about those things because if we do then one side might actually win and the other side might actually lose, once and for all.
And neither side wants to run the risk that it might be the one that loses.
So we keep the real issues hidden and happily continue to argue about the argument.
It’s the Catch-22 that prevents us from bridging the divide and making real, actual, progress.