essays, Uncategorized

A plea for depoliticization

After thinking on this much over the past few days and weeks, I want to suggest that depoliticization of the truth itself is something worth pursuing.

This is because we live in an era in which alternative “facts” can be dredged up for any debate. Take the issue of Coronavirus. Do we believe that there is a deadly disease out there and that it can be contracted through air, that wearing masks is helpful, that a vaccine will be smart or necessary? Alternately, do we believe that the virus is some form of concocted conspiracy, that masks are not helpful or even are harmful, that the vaccine is the real danger? Do we believe that the truth is being kept from the public? Data can be found to support either position; which data we are drawn to has to do with whether we are inclined to believe authority, or whether we are more drawn to “outsiders,” skeptics, and renegades. (Remember, there are many instances throughout history of the latter group being proved correct; think Galileo; think Einstein; think Bernie Sanders, Michael Moore, and the many others who voiced opposition to the Iraq War in the time when it was not easy to do so.)

What does depoliticization of the truth mean? Quite simply, it means acknowledging that I may be incorrect. Sure, all the data I see seems to support my side, and my side feels true to me. However, I acknowledge that the other side would answer these questions in the exact same way; they, too, have the data in their corner; they, too, feel in the right.

With a debate like pro life versus pro choice, for instance, I can acknowledge that on the one hand, it seems self-evident to me that a woman should have the right to dominion over her own body; and on the other hand that people who oppose this right are sincere in their beliefs and cause. While I do not share their belief, I understand that they believe each time an abortion takes place, so does a murder. Their religion or other belief system tells them this; in a sense, their life experience affirms it, in just the way my life experience affirms the belief I hold.

On the issue of Coronavirus, depoliticization means I take the precautions advised me, such as wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings, and frequently washing my hands. At the same time, I remain open to the possibility that I am in some respect being fooled, or at the very least that there are nefarious forces at play; after all, in the above-mentioned Iraq War example, a surveillance state was constructed that remains with us twenty years after 9/11, and nearly everyone would agree at this point that the American public was lied to about WMDs. Why not something parallel today? Certainly we should see something fishy going on with all the censorship, such as the elimination of the Plandemic documentary? After 9/11, too, freedoms were sacrificed in the name of security; with hindsight, one wonders whether there could have been a more nuanced way of proceeding in that moment.

With depoliticization, I want to suggest that we simply foreground the fact that in final regard, every human being who holds a political position remains a human being. That is, they are limited, fallible, and have at their disposal only their experience, preconditions, biases, personal wounds, failings, and drives, and in a sense, what they see is what they get—their lens confirms their reality. With understanding of this dynamic, we remain sensitive and compassionate as we converse about different views, thus destigmatizing and healing some of the bottled-up rage that people have when they feel their views are stifled. Through the lens of frameworks like Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, everyone just wants to be heard; failing that, we lose out on the opportunity of arriving at a less oppositional, more inclusive “truth.”

Another benefit to depoliticization is that it admits of larger coalition building. For instance, I mention censorship above, and it seems to me that with censorship, conservatives are happy to accept censorship when it occurs to liberals, and vice versa. I am not of the opinion that the Plandemic documentary is absolute truth; in fact, I have not even seen it. However, I believe that when something like this is unceremoniously removed from a platform, and people do not object because it opposes their view, what is unanimously strengthened is that platform’s power; in this way, liberals’ and conservatives’ mutual silence with respect to the other “side’s” censorship has the net effect of granting power over speech to a select few companies. Are the companies “good”? Are they “evil”? I don’t think those are the important questions; I simply wonder whether it is advisable for a few hands to have so much power over what can be said.

Lastly, I want to offer that depoliticization is, of course, a state of mind and a process rather than an absolute. Of course we will still have political positions, biases, beliefs; we are only human. What I am suggesting is that through suspension of disbelief, we can arrive at more nuanced truths than if we close ourselves off to alternatives and insist on being “right” or “wrong.” In a world beyond black and white thinking, everyone can be both right and wrong, because all views are limited; this intentional humility with respect to perspective-taking places the focus on how we can be there for one another emotionally, how we can help one another process thoughts and feelings in general, which after all are responses to larger forces that are always mysterious and never resolved.

I hope you do not feel that the above post is “right” or “wrong,” good or bad; instead, I hope that you are able to sit with the experience you may have had while reading it, and all the feelings that experience entailed. Sitting in this way with ourselves, and with one another, I truly believe, is the route to a more complete, less divided, less toxic future.

With love,

Jackson

5/16/20

 

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