Thursday, January 11, 2018

Partisan Corrosion

The great temptation of partisanship is, if you will forgive the geek-y analogy, the temptation Boromir faced about the One Ring: the reliance on using evil tools in the name of good.  Rather than seeking to restrain our destructive impulses and use good faith, partisans who succumb to temptation hope to marshal destructive impulses on their own behalf and embrace targeted bad faith (as long as that bad faith is on their side).  So, in a time of vulgarity and hysteria, the partisan might double down on those tactics in order to advance his or her own cause.

We live in an era of righteousness porn--of fantasies of inflicting pain on others because you find them deplorable.  Righteousness porn prioritizes retribution over forgiveness, and slaughter over reconciliation.  As such, it cultivates intellectual sterility and moral narcissism.  Why bother to learn from others or to recognize them in their own particularity--when you can merely harm them and feel good about it?

Righteousness porn is a common friend of identity-politics tribalism.  The premise of identity politics--whatever group it favors--is that it is right and just to disparage and harm others because of some characteristic, such as skin color or sex.  Instead of seeking to minimize harm, identity politics instead chooses to direct it.

As Michael Sandel has written, a politics denuded of a concept of the good is one that will degenerate into a tabloid soap opera. To escape the soap opera is to refuse to play by its vacuous rules--to insist instead on intellectual and moral seriousness.

The cure for identity politics is not to reserve it for some favored caste.  Instead, the cure is to toss it into the steaming pit atop Mount Doom.  The cure for vice is striving after virtue.  To combat evil, we must come to understand the good.  The moment of great civic peril is precisely when we most need principle, prudence, and sympathy.

No comments:

Post a Comment