towards a new philosophy of radical kindness
Derek Van Gorder
LEFT / RIGHT RELATIONS AND MORALS
I have only been researching, thinking and writing on this for about 4 months (though in fact unknowingly preparing for years, through prior interests). This rough sketch is based on newly-arriving scientific theories around evolution, popularized by various public intellectuals today, some 19th century philosophy that appears to match up with the new ideas, and my own thought. Current events motivate me to share it in this crude description, even though I have much more writing to do. It goes something like this:
Left and Right are not only socially constructed political groups in any given society. They are two halves of an old evolutionary puzzle. Lefts and Rights can be expected to exhibit divergent average interest / behavior preferences stemming from innate, harmonious social / moral animal instincts, which are of course expressed differently through varying individuals-- and in the modern world, trend differently over our varying social-rational constructions (culture, city, state, nation), depending on its shape and collective preferences that develop over time.
It seems self-evident that at core the Right is driven by nature to maintain order and protect the social group (e.g. to guard against unfriendly attackers). Whereas the Left's primary moral instinct is to provide care for the unfortunate / help those in need. Both necessary for any social group of our early ancestors to survive and thrive in nature-- but it isn't much of a leap to assume this expresses right through our modern societies as well. This is strangely common knowledge today (conservatives and liberals are "different") but biological explanations are not discussed in public for a number of reasons I will get into later. In addition to their main tasks, the Right and Left, ideally, keep each other in check-- humans are imperfect, like all creatures, and a bifurcated "checks and balances" approach to keeping instincts in line to achieve social harmony seems plausible (I see evidence for this is in Jonathan Haidt's work). For example: the Right may keep the Left from over-spending crucial resources. The Left may keep the Right from pursuing unnecessary war. And do not think of these categories so simplistically-- each person has the full range of social instincts, from guarding to care. Only the intensity of their inclinations vary not slightly, guiding attention to where it may be most needed in the community.
Don't be too quick to interpret this as "destruction of illusion of individuality." Each person, who uses Reason, may grow to understand much knowledge, including much knowledge of the other perspective. Thinking any of the above "is our nature" is not a prescription or rule; in personal, practical terms, it would mainly suggest to me advice for how better to be aware of one's emotions, and use one's Reason. No reason, in my view, to question people have free will (though I prefer the term Will) like many materialists do so strangely today. Every individual varies uniquely, and cannot be described fully by any such group. The group is a trend, an average, a tendency for two halves of a whole-- but very much still observable and clear in our societies today, I claim.
This may simply be a re-phrasing of the existing theories as I am no expert. But I don't believe most thinkers on the issue really grasp the immediate social / political implications of this if it is true, which seems very likely.
Why do we take it as normal that Left and Right fight rudely today? In the present moment relations are at an all-time low, but oppositional party politics are not new in our history. I think that is easily explained by another piece of common knowledge: there is something deeply unnatural about our modern civilization and its direction.
In a more natural world, Left and Right might compete for political ideas, in more harmony and common agreement. But in our modern, technologically complex (highly artificial / constructed) world, flows of material have in many places pulled Left and Right apart into urban and rural isolation. Creating over much time a "culture war" which grew wider with each passing decade, as technology advanced, and technological instinct-appeal grew in sophistication, essentially vacuuming up most of the Lefts from rural areas. I'd presume this would make the rural areas trend impoverished, and the urban areas trend neurotic over time.
News and Social Media now show us in far too much detail this existent, latent, cultural sickness-- the private thoughts of two long-lost twins suddenly revealed to each other-- fueling both to fear and hate each other, when more ideally they should have fundamentally cooperated, cohabitated, and were presumably quite fond of each other. Through media technology, our natural survival instincts are being leveraged against us, telling us we need to fight when rather we should talk. In fact I believe it is accurate to suggest the entire news media system can be thought of as a giant emotional feedback-loop machine. Being familiar with political discourse in the news over the last half century, and video production in my own life, I can safely say modern news and discourse has no informative or educational purpose; it merely captures instinctual reactions. And ironically, as the emotional feedback loop grows in intensity, those who attempt to engage in discourse are ejected out of the culture for being "controversial" (most noticeably unfairly in the case of simply using incorrect ideological terms). New intellectual venues online are restoring discourse as a solution to this, but at present too many people listen only to their ideology (or rather demographic!). Most Americans today who consider themselves "political" rather indulge in a fake utopian vision which either keeps them trapped in a place they dislike (stasis, cultural decay over time), eventually leading to unstable times, when-- if survival is not being provided for by the overall state mechanisms-- people may run towards that fake utopia without much self-awareness (discord, revolt).
Today, too many people respond with fear or hatred to the simple suggestion that each side is worthy of the other's respect. This is clear evidence of widespread ideological capture. Everybody has an Other, Right and Left, in fact they have many Others.
I do not know exactly what danger lies at the end of that journey, but I know it is one that I do not wish us to face if we do not have to. Therefore, though this is still all early theory, I venture a personal resolution I have committed to, and recommend to others, that will be most effective in avoiding catastrophes:
Show kindness to all, and make yourself strong.
You will need these skills either A) to prevent catastrophe by embracing the other side and re-engaging in discourse. Or B) navigating and surviving either a cultural or physical landscape as the two sides break apart the country. Certainly there's no reason not to try it!
I ask you: look at yourself, and look at your belief system, granted to you by society or others. And if you claim you are without one: look again-- are you really? Then imagine away what you find-- an effective method is to just try listening closely to smart, well-meaning people from the other side, so that you can compare one worldview to another and see the differences. If all this is new to you-- and I do apologize for potentially smashing your worldview if you are still reading-- here are some quick recommendations from the so-called Intellectual Dark Web to get you started:
Lefts, listen to Jordan Peterson hold forth on human nature / psychology, spirituality, it's cracking stuff. Rights, listen to Eric & Bret Weinstein, and see if you can puzzle out why so many Lefts might be more inclined to the scientific approach. Note: you don't have to fundamentally agree with anybody anymore. I absorbed the views of all 3 of them into my thoughts here, but I fundamentally disagree with all of them (especially Peterson, more on that elsewhere).
(Oh, fellow liberals: note how the two smartest scientific/political thinkers of your generation remain "toxic and unmentionable!" in your mainstream and partisan news. Welcome! You're no longer in the Matrix).
Now that you've been shaken up a little, see if you can remove any previous political beliefs that you do not need for the moment-- the point is for you to be able to see the human in the Other. So that they can be friends and not scary threats like the media has told you. If you get there, and don't reject me and millions of others now as crazy, I think you will find a bit of new truth that I strongly wish to re-teach to all:
At core, we are all human. We want to be kind to others; we want to love, to protect strongly, to help ourselves and help others; and to make all stronger, so that they may protect others in turn.
I ask all who read this to tell others that they love and respect not only their own group but their political opposition. Agree or disagree, we're all in this together. We need to heal ourselves, and heal others, as soon as we can manage. And only then can we reach a better world, where all our ideas might thrive.
Embracing our instincts doesn't mean we need to follow them completely-- and no scientist or thinker can tell you what to do or what to ask for in society. It's all up to you.
I know this may sound strange and frightening, but do not worry. Even if my theory isn't totally correct, and the danger is not great, or already is now passing, surely all can benefit from better kindness and strength. For if in prematurely avoiding terrible danger, we bypass crushing inaction, I don't see how there's any downside to that. Let us all pledge not to rush to revolt, but to each do our own thinking, to become wiser and kinder, and put everything we have into re-shaping our current, materially-rich world into something we all love. This cannot and must not be some form of "egalitarian revolution of the people"-- rather, we all must develop the humility to let others who outrank us in any particular skill contribute to the bettering of all, and develop a healthy love for competing with each other, for actively try for the best from ourselves and our opponents. The primary starting place for this is discourse.
To reassure newcomers from the Machine-Left, who may be particularly dazed right now:
I promise I have your best interests at heart, though it may not seem like it, and surely there are hundreds of other Lefts like me right now "waking up" across the country. With my new theory and philosophy, I am developing a series of moral heuristics (problem-solving tools). I see many other people smarter than I working on such tools today, with the new knowledge available. If we all talk, and talk kindly, as friends, and compare our own morals and theories, I strongly believe we can optimize Left and Right goals for the benefit of all. None will necessarily have to give up their passions, their prized cultures or interests-- only change perhaps one or two of their perspectives.
Besides: kindness and openness to others is I believe is its own reward, as my life has improved so much since I embraced it. What a strange and horrible age we live in now, where this is a controversial statement! Much rethinking of my past 10 years I have done already.
And so I inflict this blessing and curse upon you!
If you have any platform with many followers, please share, and feel free to speak what you think of my theory above. And please contact me if you are able to bring me to the attention of others, for I do not have many to speak to. In the meantime, I will use my heuristics to generate "moral language" to try to point out where all sides now go wrong. My goal is kindness, but because there is so much fear, it may seem like I wish to fight, but it is only to heal. After a few important scoldings, I will turn to more kinder words for all, and I recommend for everyone to focus on kindness first. I believe we all must look at our own actions these last few years and see if we cannot find something to apologize for; and to look at the other side and see if there is not something we can forgive.
Thank you so much for reading to the end! I'm sure you are a kind, strong person, and I trust you to think for yourself whether I am wrong on the above or not, without evidence yet, for it is only my theory (thought many similar ones now abound). Nobody can ever be 100% certain-- only driven to share what they are confident they believe.If this