Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chickens and Eagles

I never thought I'd say it: Fox News — Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, et al — are right. 

About what? 

They're right that there is a culture war in America.

They are also wrong — about a lot of things — but particularly, they're wrong about who this war is between. They think it's between the "left" and the "right." The truth is, the left and right are not at war, they are in a symbiotic relationship. They orbit one another like a dual-star system, each defining the other's orbit. If one of them ever disappeared the other would not know what it is, because they only know themselves in reference to each other. Eventually gravity will pull them together and this new left-right entity will immediately start looking for another pole to create a new binary system with. This is the life cycle of dualistic systems.

The real culture war is between this left-right dualism and a third option, an alternative (not an opposite) to dualism. This alternative is ethical wholism. There is a war between dualism and wholism.

There are a bunch of problems with this, however. First of all, when it comes to war, wholists are like vegetarians at a barbeque. We don't like the war language and energy, especially the various social "wars" that dualists seem to love. We're also not big on "cliquing up." We're wholists and we believe our clique is everyone. 

But neither of these is our biggest problem, the one that will do us in if we don't recognize and address it. It is that many of us think we're liberals. This is a little like the eagle who thought he was a chicken, but before we get to that, I want to address the first two problems first.

We have a problem with the dualistic language and energy of war. I understand that and we can take possession of the language if we're engaged. But instead, we poo-poo the whole notion. All that war talk is for crazies on the fringe of both the left and the right. But just because we don't like the language dualists use to describe a reality doesn't mean the reality isn't real. If hordes invade your country the fact that you haven't declared war doesn't mean you don't have to deal with the invasion.

Call it a war, a struggle or simply a clash, but there is a contest going on in America and around the world. It's a real struggle between ideas and for hearts and minds. We have no right to sit on the sidelines and excuse ourselves from the struggle because we don't like the language. Yet this is largely what we're doing. We don't develop or stand up for our ideas and we don't advocate for them. As a result America is becoming more and more dualistic. The dualists are shaping our country and our future because we've ceded the ground.

The second problem is an extension of the first: As long as we deny that there's a struggle we won't see any reason to pull together, to unite as a group, and to learn to articulate our ideas and our vision of the future.

Which brings us back to the eagle who thinks he's a chicken. Most "liberals" I know are either dualistic or deflated. The dualists are a quixotic bunch passionately fighting but not really expecting to win their war against the windmills of ignorance and reactionary thinking. The deflated can't even muster a defense of their beliefs and keep them more out of habit than passion.

I say many of these people aren't liberals at all. They've just fallen for the old dualist trick that if you're attacked by someone you must take up the opposite of that position. Conservatives attack and we take up the position of liberals.

So, if you think of yourself as a liberal, take a close look at your feathers. Ask yourself if the coop and even the barnyard have always felt a little too small for you. Do you find yourself looking up at the sky longingly? If so, you might be a wholist.

I'll leave you with that thought and the question: What does it mean to be a wholist?

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