We have a strange difficulty imagining beyond two options.
It makes it so much easier, you guys.
It is such an efficient image of the world but the binary poses other problems that outweigh it’s efficiency.
The main problem with this system is that it’s so simplistic as to be functionally useless, especially when talking about human beings,* but we use it to make things easier to explain and see. The problem is that it prevents us from seeing anything accurately.
Even a spectrum or grid wouldn’t be sufficient for illuminating the universe. Human behavior is also too complicated to break down into a mathematical formula, there is too much confluence of different factors. I see the usefulness of having a system and sometimes, in some contexts, it’s useful to simplify but outside of programming binary is dangerous and all too prevalent.
In politics, and when dealing with human beings,** this is particularly destructive.
We’ve admitted that there is more than one gender expression but we swear up and down that there are only “two sides” while asking “whose side are you on?”
I wish I could say this is new, but it makes me incredibly nervous as a historian when it starts back up. There is actually more than one side and the minute nuance goes out the window, bad and stupid things start happening. ***
Always the side that involves the least number of innocent people getting hurt.
Whenever I see so-called leftists doing this I get extremely angry, because apparently no one did the reading when it came to Hegel.
Hegel argued that intellectual history is essentially defined by two opposing beliefs engaged in…. a healthy debate. Ultimately the goal is for the two beliefs to reach some sort of mutual understanding where the best of both gets expressed and taken on. He used the German word to “lift up” when describing the process involved.
Which isn’t to say that these are two opposing beliefs we should have a debate about because both of these are incredibly stupid.
BOTH OF THESE ARE STUPID POSITIONS NONE OF US HAVE TO ACCEPT
“ALL WHITE PEOPLE ARE EVIL AND SHOULD DIE”
“ALL PEOPLE OF COLOR DON”T MATTER”
This would be why I don’t trust slogans. This is also not an intellectual debate, it’s just ad hominem and hasty generalizations and I don’t entertain fallacious arguments.
But America has been essentially having a certain set of debates since our founding fathers.
Essential debates like:
Would you rather have more safety or freedom?
Is citizenship for the chosen few or for everyone?
Should the central government be strong or weak?
Should we check the government’s power or assume the government has our best interests in mind?
Should we allow political parties to define our politics or is factionalism dangerous?
Which wigs are superior the curly ones made of horse hair or the curly ones made of peasant hair?***
These are actual debates we need to have, but they aren’t discussions we can have when people are yelling at each other.
Real Truth Time: I had to work super hard to give each of those two sides because theoretically, there is a whole spectrum of possible answers for those questions too.
I’m not saying that there aren’t times when this thinking isn’t useful, but among adults and when talking about human beings we have to start acknowledging that there are many possible sets of beliefs.
Good vs. Evil: Ah Nevermind, Everyone is Evil.
We’ve been running around calling anyone who opposes us even slightly, “evil” lately. It’s dangerous because all human beings are probably at least a little bit of both. I find that in any group of people, there is a small percentage that will do what is right in most circumstances, a small percentage that will do malicious things regardless and the rest pretty much just does what they are encouraged to do. Which is to say that *MOST* of us are about as evil as the culture surrounds us.
We want to say, “this person disagrees with me so they are evil.” The problem with this is that it tends to either demonize or worse, ignore essential pieces of the person. The other problem with this is that once someone is inherently evil or inherently stupid, there is nothing that can be done about it. So you feel good, “I’m not evil, I deserve a latte” but the violent agitator is still plotting violence that could have been prevented if we had educated them.
And there are also many ways to assess moral judgment. To give just one example: I DO judge girls who exchange money for sex or gifts IF THEY DON’T NEED IT, but if someone tells me she’s selling herself to feed her kids, I might nominate her for sainthood.
Also, apparently none of my “kids” can do anything wrong. Ever. Because I love them too much.
I’ve loved some pretty evil people because I love far too easily. But I also believe that tactics, like say, beating people up for funsies are wrong without concern for whether the ends justify the means. But the ends do justify the means for me if children are being saved, in some cases.
Also “evil” people have a tendency to believe they are completely morally justified in whatever their beliefs are anyway, so you have to explain things to them in a way that works within their moral universe.
Theoretically, there are infinite moral universes.*
Do you see my point? The human condition is complicated and just to make the point that this particular form of binary is responsible for the dehumanization that leads to war, here is some propaganda. Some wars are justified, but let’s make sure they are justified before we start engaging in them. World War II is what I would consider a justifiable war, and the propaganda from that era is still hysterical to me.
My point with this one is that they are using the war to promote certain behavior. You either abstain from sex OR YOU ARE LITERALLY HITLER’S GIRLFRIEND. Which means that if you sleep with someone, they are Hitler. This must have made things very confusing in the 40s.
Not that there weren’t rape torture camps in A LOT of Communist eras but this is an obvious oversimplification of Communism. But it is easy to understand and make people outraged about. Nothing makes the men outraged quite like the idea that you are coming for their women. And actually, yeah, this is a pretty common feature of war, which might be why I’m not super cool with the warlike behavior. ****
It makes it incredibly easy to communicate and forms bonds when we say “us” vs. “them” but I’m guessing that getting rid of Hitler is going to take some kind of force that’s a little different from Malaria. Also, the Malaria isn’t sentient.
So how the hell are we supposed to solve these two complex problems if this is the level of analysis we operate under?
Race: I don’t Trust People who Think There are Only Two
What about race? We talk about that in a binary, don’t we? You are either white or not white and we are always in opposition. The reality of the situation is and has always been more complex.
Most of the people we call white now were not white two generations ago.
And poor white people have always existed in this nebulous space of sort of not whiteness. Why the hell do you think the KKK was always raging against the Catholics?
And there are people of color who don’t want to be defined that way and biracial and multiracial people. And lighter skinned people of all races and some groups are treated differently at different times.
Seriously, call your grandparents and ask them about their racism, you’ll be surprised at who they hate. Just kidding, I’ll save you some time, it’s the damn Italians.
You can’t even apply the same rules regionally. Racism in the Bay Area looks different from racism in the Central Valley and don’t even get me started on how different race looks in the South or Mid-West from from the East.
Many native americans resent being lumped into one group because they had a culture before we got here and they weren’t all friends.
The folks in my neighborhood are some of the most racially skin tolerant people I’ve ever met, but they hate Russian immigrants. Because Nativism is a whole different thing we’d have to combat differently too.
And if we took the current system and applied it to a different time or place our heads would spin. I’m looking forward to the day when the time machine is built (just kidding, I’m told we don’t have the energy source but I have a growth mindset about the whole thing) so I can have the history version of the Magic School Bus and take you guys to explain American racism to the Romans.
Ok, I admit it, I’d use the time machine as a re-education camp, but this time no one would get raped and everyone would be fed and it would mostly be televised. THIS WOULD BE AN AMAZING SHOW AND YOU GUYS SHOULD LET ME DO IT.
A girl can dream.
The reason this is all so confusing is that racism is an incredibly stupid and absurd system.
The truth is much more complex and we should let the truth stand because the truth reminds us that these are silly rules that we’ve made up.
Back in the day, race mixing was considered Communism and wasn’t just sort of looked down upon, it was actually dangerous. Also the Irish weren’t even considered white in this era.
Also, back in my day, we called each other dirty Communists as an insult. I graduated from college in 2010.
My point here is that, the best way to dismantle this system is not to propagate it, but to mock it for it’s absolute absurdity. Things have changed dramatically over the last 20 years even, and yet, it feels like the more things change the more they stay the same.
And guess which sides hate the Jews? Whenever I start seeing this stuff, I also get nervous. The one on the left is from last year. People will use whatever rhetoric they feel they need to promote their hate. One of these is from 1939 (and yes, that’s an AMERICAN poster), the other is from last year (ALSO AMERICAN).
So try to ignore this line of reasoning wherever it happens.
It is a historical level of bullshit.
*I’m supposed to tell you that you are a magical, unique snowflake or something like that.
**I promised my tech bro friends, who I LOVE so much, that I’d stay in my lane if they stay in theirs
***See 2016 election on ALL sides
****I have an addiction to smartassery but also, it’s always the ones with the least amount of lice. There was a serious pest infestation problem with the wigs.
*****Do I sometimes pick the most triggering option possible? Allegedly. Do I seriously want to prevent rapes? Obvi.