Politics isn’t the only thing that divides people. Even in a world without politics, we would find some way to disagree with each other, and this is fine, natural and expected, We are not just separated by our political opinions but deep-seated cultural values that tragically might not be possible to bridge.
First, we have our inherent differences in values, appearing to be biological, that we seem to have evolved to accommodate a kind of division of labour where some of us will take risks, break boundaries and promote equality, and others of us will consolidate and protect through tradition and established institutions. Opposing kinds of won’t get along most of the time, and chances are they were never meant to.
Then there are the more explicitly cultural things that, if not completely at odds, will require more than a firm handshake to bridge. These are the traditions, habits, and mindsets that correspond to nationhood. Statehood is a spook, but it wouldn’t have any purchase with people unless it disguised as something real – there is such a thing as a French culture, which one discovers as soon as one tries to get decent food there.
As an optimist, I hold hope that humanity might reach a zenith where people’s cultural differences would not forge deep dividing lines, but merely represent diverse features we can share with each other. You’d have one culture over here, and another there, and we could jump together from time to time and show each other what we have produced, and perhaps learn from each other.
However, the best we might be able to achieve is to leave each other alone. There is a satisfaction to be had in that – a decentralized peace where we hate each other from a distance, but never escalating into violence and absolutism.
If we managed to relegate our political opinions to a minor part of our worldview, we will have accomplished something magical as a species. It would show that we are fundamentally at peace.
Peace is the foundation to come before all considerations. It has to be. Before you can even begin to talk about culture, the relationship of the sexes, the effect of video games on the psyche, whatever it might be, we first must get along with each other in one particular sense – respecting each others’ bodies and property. Such a step would mean the accomplishment of real tolerance, not the fake tolerance of progressive political correctness.
In the real world, tolerance means accepting that people have fundamentally different ideas about how the world works, there’s not much you can do about it, and you’d probably cause havoc if you tried. Contrary to progressive tolerance, which is essentially the right to agree with progressives, true tolerance means doing right by the kinds of people you detest to your core.
You can’t always agree with people, nor even get along that well, but there’s something beautiful you can do for that person, no matter what: leave them alone. If you consider the culture war the game, so to speak, that’s the rule. You do pretty much what you like except violate their rights. It’s not much to ask, but many find it rather difficult.
In fact, our whole system depends on it. The state cannot survive but by threatening us. In return for siphoning off our money, hard-earned or not, it tells us what to do and blows people up. It pits man against man, turning what would only amount to a lively debate to class warfare.
The stakes in the culture war are raised to the nth degree when government aggression puts pretty much everything up for grabs. The winner-takes-all approach of politics means that someone is going to lose out. The bolshier of activists thrive in such a situation because they’re the ones who have the stones to say, “Well it sure as hell ain’t gonna be us.” A thicker line gets drawn between the two extremes, and the moderates are pushed outward.
People who are otherwise normal and sober people in daily life insist this must be the case, and that they must win. The state has turned everyone into cultural imperialists. Everyone, that is, except for the true liberals – we may very well hate you, but we shall do right by you.
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