do the evolution
Continuing the discussion Chris began earlier, Scott asks:
Erik, in Chris’ opening salvo, he mentions his general disdain for the current political parties and the role they play in US politics as one driving factor in his inability to land on one side of the fence over the other. To what degree does a dissatisfaction with our current political institutions drive your own unique perspective and lack of obvious affiliation? What is the nature of that dissatisfaction and how do you see it playing out on the larger field of political discourse?
I suspect dissatisfaction with political institutions is more or less a state of nature. When you’re on the winning team (for a while) you must guard your advantage jealously; when you’re on the losing team you must suffer defeat after humiliating defeat. When you remain an independent you possess the cold comfort of being neither winner nor loser, and share less of the spoils but also less of the suffering. Always there are gripes to be had.
I suppose my larger dissatisfaction is less political and more cultural. I’m mostly socially liberal. I’m pro-life, but I’m also pro gay-marriage, very comfortable in most socially liberal settings, have many liberal friends, and so forth. Still, social liberals also tend to be very socially liberal, much like socially conservatives tend to be very conservative, and this can be alienating. Absolutism can be alienating, and we live in a culture, for better or worse, that caters to absolutism, regardless of the vast swath of moderates and independents out there.
This can even go back to Freddie’s post on feminists and babies. I think the so-called socially conservative idea that one parent should work and the other stay home is a really good one, but one that many liberals tend to frown upon, even look at with disdain. Personally, I think that women are biologically more attuned to being the stay-at-home parent simply because they have a closer physical bond to an infant, especially if they choose to breast-feed. But I take the larger view that either parent is equally capable to stay home with the kids while they’re young, as long as one does.
Actually, becoming a parent throws a lot of these things into focus, or forces one to refocus at least. For instance, I’m a family-values type, but I don’t think that family values are important politically, nor do I think my sense of family values is quite the standard version. I think people need to be in charge of their own family’s moral compass and not rely on the artificial bulwark of the state to provide it for them. But I do think that a family is an essential social unit. I think marriage is very important. And I think spending time with your family, and teaching your children to be good little people is paramount. Society cracks and stumbles when parents begin neglecting their childrens’ moral (and intellectual) foundation.
Coming into the role of parent has caused me to reevaluate my own role in society. No longer am I any of the things I was before I became a father. I no longer possess the same kind of freedom I possessed hitherto. (A similar but far less drastic transition comes with marriage, I might add.)
As a child I moved around a great deal. The pursuit of higher education and then employment and then the right house in the right neighborhood dragged my father and our family from city to city and then neighborhood to neighborhood most of my childhood. All of it, really. This meant that I was continually changing schools – I attended a new school between kindergarten and first grade; then third to fourth to fifth to sixth to seventh grade – each year a new school (and half the year home-schooled in fourth grade). Then on to high school in ninth. My school to grade ratio was far too high.
This has really forcefully influenced my thoughts on localism and community and education, and has helped me to form an affinity for much of the front porcher movement, as well as place a check on my own ambition (and perhaps it has influenced my more mercurial side as well). Unlike the professors over at FPR, I doubt very much that I will ever move from this place to attain a higher degree – even though I often feel compelled to, or at least to talk about it – then move again to find a job, all the while dragging about my family. I doubt I will ever write about “losing my sense of place” as though it were something I didn’t myself choose to abandon. Perhaps I would make different choices if I not had a child, or had my own childhood been one “rooted” in place and family, instead of nomadic and academic, had I remained ignorant of the turmoil such a lifestyle requires.
In any case, all these cultural and political veins seem to hold some kernel of truth or other, some direction worth pursuing, but none of them holds a monopoly on the truth.
I consider my own blogging to be that of a student rather than a teacher; my own opining to never be something to be taken as set in stone, but rather as a fleshing out of thoughts and ideas – even when I come across as very certain, very possessed of the truth. I rush in, like a fool, and later I go shuffling out, chastened for my enthusiasm. I haven’t settled on answers yet, only a plethora of good and bad ideas.
Politics is simply a way to traverse culture, a language by which we discuss its vagaries. Ideology is a shabby explanation of how we speak that language, and sometimes a clue as to why we’ve chosen one argument over another. I’m content being “ideologically dexterous” because I can’t really see another, better course. To describe myself as a “left conservative” or a “progressive conservative” or a moderate or whatever – it’s all weak tea. Ideology itself seems doomed to extremism or close-mindedness. And yet, because we have no better way to navigate our discourse or to play for power or to make decisions or to speak our minds and get our points across, or to be changed by the arguments of others, because we are bound to our culture by the process that is politics, we have little choice. We have only so many languages to speak.