|We often package ideas the way shippers package freight|
photo by Albert E. Theberge, NOAA via Wikimedia Commons
Well meaning or otherwise, honest or shady, the emphasis on "connections" and "consistency" led to an acceptance of package politics by the Left. By commission or by acquiescence, we created a political environment in which participants could wrap up their opinions, beliefs and positions in a single imagined whole.
The fusing of political opinions into a whole, the pressure to conform in matters large and small, would have developed without the acceptance of rhetoric about "connections" and "consistency" by the Left. Developments in mass media, and even more, the developments of social media, all exert pressure to conform, and to accept a pre-selected set of political positions. Nor can we blame pressure to conform in politics on the development of social media: George Orwell wrote about the absurdity of attempts to reconcile Marxist idealism with Stalin's actual foreign policies.
Whatever the genesis of political packaging, it does a number of real harms. When we consider an idea, we ought first consider its truth: whether the claims underlying the idea arise logically out of information based on evidence. If instead we ask ourselves whether other people on our "side" accept the idea, whether it fits into the package we and others have constructed, we don't evaluate it, we don't think. We do not do the essential work of politics in his or any other century: we do not look for ways of living together.
|By GorillaWarfare, via Wikimedia Commons|
Since people on all sides do this, we all lose the ability to persuade one another. When we define our politics as seamless edifices, we cannot allow anyone challenge any of our beliefs lest the whole structure come tumbling down. We react to any challenge with the greater anger, perhaps, because we ourselves see, all too clearly, the cracks in the structures we have built. When we refuse to compromise on anything, our politics solidifies comes to suffer from a literal form of sclerosis. Ideas and positions fuse together like a hot bearing finally seizing, and we lose the ability to adapt to basic reality.