Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Even moderation should be used in moderation.
Extremism is the antithesis of liberty.

A reader (perhaps rightfully) takes me to task to my previous posting on "Dr."* Jordan Peterson.  He argues that many of Peterson's positions are very similar to that I've  expressed in this blog. And that is probably true. Initially I was very enthused of his videos, but the more I watched him the more I sensed there was something wrong here.  He takes a good thing and takes it a little too far.

He became the darling of the alt-right which is something that is beyond right-wing thinking but really a form of neo-nazism. That alone should have been alarming. He should have denounced the alt-right and neo-nazisn more fully.  However, he was earning quite a lot of money at this gig, and apparently didn't want to rock the boat.

In short, he became a victim of his own success. 

While I believe in all that "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" nonsense, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Yes, we should hold peoples' feet to the fire and get them to get off their ass and go back to work, instead of sitting around collecting welfare. Ideas like "guaranteed annual income" stick in my craw for that reason. Paying people not to work only results and people lounging around and finding trouble, much as we've seen over the last 12 months.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. When you oppress people too much, they will rise up and kill you, quite literally. We cannot return to a Dickensian England, with the poor put into work houses until they can work off their debts. People would literally riot in the streets, or at least do it more than they already are.

Not only that, it is a simple matter of economics. When wealth is concentrated too much in the hands of too few people, an economy can suffer. The booming post-war economy of the United States was fueled by a large, prosperous, middle-class, who could afford to buy the new gadgets of the mid-century, such as the television and the chrome-plated land-barges being sold by Detroit.

When the people building products on the assembly line can't afford to buy the products coming off the assembly line, the assembly line will eventually grind to a halt.  It's in Mr Bezos's best interest to make sure we still have enough money left over to buy more of the crap that he sells on Amazon. Otherwise his business will suffer as well.  Either that, or he'll have to cut prices so much to shave margins so we can afford the goods, that he'll end up making less money.  The system will balance itself out, either way.

But beyond that, there's something very disturbing about this new right-wing movement. Right-wing movements have always been sort of buttressed by hate. Whether it is Barry Goldwater shouting about "extremism in the name of liberty" back in the 1960s, or George Wallace standing in the doorway of the schoolhouse. Right-wing thinking has always been associated with racism, fascism, antisemitism, and neo-nazism.  And by the way, "extremism in the name of liberty" extinguishes liberty.  And today, many are pursuing that philosophy, arguing that the Constitution can only be saved by shredding it, Democracy saved only by abolishing it.

In the past, conservatives have gone out of their way to distance themselves from these extremists. And for the most part they had done a pretty good job of it. They had successfully argued that one could be conservative without being hateful. George Bush even had a phrase for it, "a kinder, gentler nation."

That phrase didn't come out of left field - if you'll pardon the pun - but was a response to criticism by people on the left that somehow Republicans had lost their heart somewhere along the way, considering ketchup to be a vegetable for purposes of school lunch subsidies, for example.  It just came across as unnecessary cruelty, like much of what Trump has done as of late.  You can advance a conservative agenda without being a bully.

Now some on the right to try to make the argument that people on the left are just as racist and evil as people on the far-right. And to some extent, they are correct. If you dive into some of these left-wing discussion groups, the talk turns very nasty and violent very quickly. But just as the alt-right doesn't represent mainstream conservative views, the antifa and anarchists and left-wing communist organizations don't represent main-stream Democratic views, either.

Some conservatives argue that some Democratic policies are inadvertently racist or patronizing toward minorities. By offering minorities only handouts, they're implicitly stating that minorities are not capable of competing fairly in the marketplace.  And maybe there's a nugget of truth in that characterization of Democrats. Maybe you could argue that welfare and handouts and food stamps are an example of a condescending Big Brother paternalistic government that is treating minorities differently because they are subconsciously thought of as inferior.

Maybe that is true. However, I would much rather have somebody throw a free school lunch in my face than somebody throwing a punch in my face. And therein lies the difference. Maybe Democrats are condescending toward minorities by giving them free things, but that's better than lynching them, isn't it?

Now, don't try to be contrary and argue that Democrats are the ones that supported slavery and Republicans supported abolition. Because that was a hundred and fifty years ago and both parties have switched sides as we all know.  We're all adults here and know the score as to which party harbors the most racists.

Unfortunately, the Republican party is the new face of the far-right, and for too long it has relied on hate and prejudice to get out the vote. This is blowing up in their face with the last final dying gasps of the Trump Administration.  It's gotten people out to the polls, but not in the way they wanted.

The GOP could score big in midterm elections if they moved more toward the center. However, it seems that they are stuck in the hate mode, at least based on the attack ads I'm seeing broadcast here in Georgia for the upcoming Senate election. While the ads for the Democrats were largely positive, stating hope for the future, the Republican ads play ominous music and show unflattering photos of the candidates and directly misquote them. They play a quote of Jon Ossoff saying we need to fund the police and then claim he saying we need to defund the police.  With the close-captioning on, you really notice this whopper.  This is basically lying to my face and I will have none of it.

They're trying to play the guilt-by-association game, putting pictures of Bernie Sanders with his hair askew next to Jon Ossoff, or pictures of Barack Obama's controversial Minister next to Raphael Warnock. They're claiming that both Warnock and Ossoff have a far-left agenda, which really isn't true. And even if it was, two Senators could hardly change the policies of the United States of America by themselves.  They're lying again, and I will have none of it.

Maybe this resonates with the shit-yeah redneck demographic, who doesn't really understand how government works.  Unfortunately, it drives away thinking people. And that is how Trump lost Georgia this time around. There are more and more urban and suburban people moving to Georgia, which is becoming more of a technology hub and attracting people with advanced degrees. These people actually think and aren't easily swayed by emotional arguments. The GOP, embracing bullshit, is driving these people away.  The results of the November election prove that some people split their ticket - voting for Biden for President, and for Republicans down-ballot.  Election fraud, indeed!

It's funny, but I get a lot of flak from people regarding my opinions, on both sides of the spectrum. Someone will read one of my postings about personal responsibility, and think "Yeah he's one of us, Conservative!" And then I post something attacking Trump's idiocy or that doesn't align with their worldview and they feel betrayed.

The same is true with the left. I'll post something attacking Trump Republicans and they'll think "Shit yeah, this guy's one of us!" And then I'll post something about personal and fiscal responsibility and they feel betrayed as well.

That's the problem with being in the middle of the road, you get run over.

*  * *

* Tucker Carlson has thrown down the gauntlet.  From now on, anyone who is not an M.D. gets their "Doctor" in quotes!  No exceptions!  Not even for right-wing darlings. Especially not for right-wing darlings!