Opposition in American politics is so ingrained into our bloodstream: right against left, conservative against liberal, Democrat against Republican, that we Americans do not always see a political way to solve our mutual problems. Our very real trials and travails, our family adversities, our personal highs and lows, obscure what politics really is: a way to use force to make other people do what we want them to do.
What if there was another way? What if there was a new paradigm to speak of: coercion and non-coercion?
We are so used to thinking about politics in terms of individualism versus collectivism that most of us don’t see that we can band together towards respect for each other as individuals, without recourse to the force of the state to make us get along. We may need collective action to achieve goals that are beneficial to the world, but none of us should be jettisoned as fodder in pursuit of that goal.
No one wants to see anyone starve. No one wants to see anyone go without a job. But let’s face it: we live on an earth with scarce resources. It may seem like a lofty ideal to turn over power to the state to determine who gets what, or who gets to succeed and who should fail (if the idea even could be banished), but we should be frank: the whole of human history shows this to be unwise, dangerous, even a deadly mistake. Once you grant a select few the power to determine the fate of the rest, undesirable results ensue.
That is why I believe that we need to turn to a new paradigm past the individual versus the collective, or the citizen versus the state. We need to look at the world as force and non-force; coercion versus non-coercion; love versus fear.
For if we frame our political views as opposition to the other, and invoke fear against the dreaded, then we shut off that realm of understanding that authenticates the other’s perspective. Not that there isn’t an objective reality, there most certainly is; but what is most to be feared in this world is cold-blooded hatred, and vengeance, and recrimination.
Conservatives, as they have been called, fear for the future not because they are opposed to progress, but because they are afraid of the inherent force of the state, and the tendency for its abuse. Progressives fear for the future in very basic terms: fear for not finding a job, or fear for not putting food on a child’s table, or fear for not being helped because of someone else’s profit motive.
There has to be some other way. Not a third way; not a blending of freedom and tyranny, not a blending of capitalism or socialism, but a way of approaching togetherness while respecting the rights and sanctity of each individual. This may sound very kumbaya, but I approach it with utter earnestness from a theoretical perspective.
Mutual fear is the opposite of what we humans should want. Therefore, it behooves us to understand what we all fear. If we fear the accumulation of power in the state, is that a legitimate or illegitimate fear? If we fear the inability to provide for ourselves and others, is that a legitimate or illegitimate fear?
I say both are legitimate fears, which explains the close division of the country’s electorate. I don’t believe that we should let force be the ultimate arbiter of disputes between human beings of equal inherent dignity, or the potential thereof; and we should not let our fellow human beings be left without aid, if aid be available and forthcoming.
But without letting the sentimentality of human compassion have free reign in the body politic; that is, without letting the habits of the heart inhabit the human body, and not legislated to some detached body, then our humanity will wither on the vine. Let charity, and compassion, and humanity inhabit ourselves and not be commissioned elsewhere.
Therefore, let us lead in our personal examples and not ask government to do something we ourselves would not do. Let us think not how to chastise our fellow citizens who are in want about the virtues of this system or that system of government. Rather let us demonstrate by our actions, without the use of coercion, that we are capable of living cooperatively, as is desirable by both the so-called right and left. We should never grant to an ever-dangerous third body of government the capability to force us to do right, when we are otherwise unwilling to do right on our own.
The body that is given the capability to do right also has the capability to do wrong; that kind of power may be employed selfishly and wickedly, if even it can be employed to do things generously. We must take power unto ourselves, as the most democratic possible way of approaching government, as individuals capable of self-government, and demonstrate that we are each human beings capable of love and triumph over fear.