Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We definitely come from different planets

I caught this quote as I was checking through a few of my favorite news sites and feeds:
I have over the past couple of months been watching DVDs of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show I missed completely in its run of 1987 to 1994; and I confess myself amazed that so many conservatives are fond of it. Its messages are unabashedly liberal ones of the early post-Cold War era – peace, tolerance, due process, progress (as opposed to skepticism about human perfectibility).
What I find fascinating among movement conservatives is that they seem so pessimistic about humanity that they cannot fathom the notion that digging on such concepts as peace, tolerance, due process and progress and having some skepticism about human perfectibility are far from mutually exclusive. Speaking only for myself, I find both quite compatible, and I'm more in the radical lefty camp. Maybe it was all that exposure to the existentialist writings of people like Sartre or Fanon when I was an undergraduate, where the conversation on "human nature" for lack of a better term was decidedly neutral. Like a lot of existentialists and existentialist-influenced individuals, I tend to share that neutrality. I don't see members of my species as perfectible, nor as inherently evil, but merely as a mixed back that simply is. One thing else that I learned from those early influences on my thinking was simply that the lack of peace, tolerance, and due process coincide with a great deal of violence; and we each make choices with our words and deeds that will influence the extent to which there might be peace and tolerance or violence in its myriad forms (interpersonal, organizational, structural) practically with every breath we take.

Phenomena such as conflict, misunderstandings, and general fuck-ups are going to happen as long as our species exists. However, perceiving those happenings from a value system that places primacy on peace (or nonviolence), tolerance, and due process increase the odds of handling them with hopefully minimal damage, or even with all parties involved better for the experience. Coming at the same situations from a vantage point that already expects the worst strikes me as something that would lead to some nasty self-fulfilling prophecies.

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