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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Down with this sort of thing

It might not seem like it, but we're heading for a post-ideological state.

I t's been said so many times it's a cliché: politics is like a religion. But in fact, it's not just a metaphor. It is a religion. Religion is power politics. Liberalism and conservatism are religions. We're just too caught up in them to notice.

Some political commentators think it's time for a purge. They want to throw out of the Republican party, as one guy put it, all the ones who “won't fight hard to defund people who are killing babies, think it's cool to diss the flag at football games, are happy about non-submissive conservatives being silenced by liberal tech companies, write stuff no one reads, and have strong opinions about Star Trek.”

Wait--wait--wait a minute. How did Star Trek get in there? It's one of the few bits of entertain­ment that you humans have invented that ever tries to escape this cesspool we call politics. It was the only show that was ever remotely watchable. The only one that ever mentioned tachyons, which are more interesting than Strzok, Manafort, Cohen, Podesta, and Stormy put together.

Throwing people out of the Party is neither possible nor desirable. Doing so would ensure that conservatism eventually becomes a boutique party. It's the same mindset of the Magazine That Must Not Be Named, the one that threw Ann Coulter under the bus, defenestrated Derbyshire, besmirched the Birchers, lambasted the libertarians, and traduced the Trump supporters. And now, lo and behold, there's almost nobody left to read it.

If this keeps up, the same will happen to conservatism. In the end there'll just be one guy and his dog. Then it'll be an epic battle of man v dog to see which one remains.

Politics = religion

Both politics and religion provide a sense of purpose, a direction of right and wrong, and the benefits of tribal membership. Both are based on fear of the future: fear of damnation or fear of tyranny. Beneath it all is fear of the crowd: what if people actually believe those other guys? What if our side loses? Religion and politics can be peaceful, or they can lead to fanaticism and bloodshed because they're identical. Feminism, conservatism, communism, socialism, social justice activism, LGBTQ activism, all of 'em are religions. They tell you what to do and you take it on faith or you get purged for heresy.

Way back in the 16th century, Europeans tried that. It lasted until the mid-17th. The Protestants and Catholics staked out diametrically opposed positions and proceeded to slaughter their fellow Europeans. They had the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the German Peasants' War, the French Wars of Religion, and worked up to the big one: the Thirty Years War (1618–1648). To make a long and complicated story short, neither side won. Over time, war became the sport of kings, and eventually people got woke and figured out they were being chumps.

The region we now call Germany was hardest hit by the Thirty Years War, losing a quarter of their population. Even today they see it as the worst catastrophe, or maybe the second-worst, ever to have struck them. It's no coincidence that they've rejected traditional religion more than most.

We talk about the Peace of Westphalia, a series of treaties that ended it, and how they created the modern nation-state, but those treaties were merely extensions of the Peace of Augsburg some 93 years earlier, where it was decided that each country and its ruler were entitled to select whichever religion their country should follow.

Those treaties helped, but the killing really only stopped because people began to devaluate religion. The extremists didn't win. People just grew tired of religion, and invented secular political parties instead. Today we think European religion is stunted and dying, but it's not. It metamorphosed into secular ideologies.


Societies always evolve in such a way as to reduce the amount of fear among the inhabitants. When religion began to cause more fear than it resolved, Europe essentially did away with religion. Now ideology causes fear, and we're heading for the post-ideological state.

The result will be the same: people will have to dissociate themselves from all politics. That's the only way today's conflict can be resolved. We'll have to discuss issues in their particularity instead of relying on ideology. And guess what? Society is facing bigger problems. Politics prevent us from mentioning what they are, and they're unlikely to get solved until we do.

As for another purge, I'm opposed to this sort of thing. Go ahead, nail your 95 theses to the door. Nail Jonah Goldberg, Bill Crystal, and Mitt Romney to the proverbial door too. It'll make no difference. The only way it will stop is when people get sick to death of politics.

And guess what: that's exactly the future world that Star Trek predicts. Oh, and one more thing: keep ragging on Star Trek and you'll be sorry. We'll start yapping about Doctor Who instead. Come to think of it, that one where Clara changed into a Zygon had some good dialogue about the futility of war. But snarking on Mister Spock—that's blasphemy.

aug 28 2018, 4:04 am. last edited sep 02 2018, 6:52 am

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