Blog: Quillette and its classification

Quillette and its classification
Quillette and its classification
Date: 2018-Jan-29 02:40:47 EST

I've spent most of my life having political views a ways outside the norm. If politics were just the way one votes and the terms and tools one uses to reason about issues, this wouldn't be isolating, but politics are also significantly about norms, taboos, and as politics gets more polarised, about news sources. In 2014, an article on Slate Star Codex did an examination of tribalism in American politics which summed it up well - politics is to some extent culture, and a polarised politics separates parts of our country from each other. Compare this to Belgium, which stopped functioning as a single country by not handling bilingualism well enough and having grown different political parties between the Dutch and French regions. I started life with a mix of conservative and libertarian ideas, was part of libertarian culture in college, represented libertarian perspectives in some debates, had an experience highlighting some incompatibilities between libertarianism and eco-activism I was also doing, and eventually broke with formal libertarianism. I drifted for a few years near it, eventually realigned my notion of the good, became Trotskyite, joined those movements, eventually found that I didn't quite believe in some of the views there, and drifted away to become a moderate non-Marxian socialist where I've stayed for .. well, I guess it's been a pretty long time.

It's left me pretty weird, and to the degree politics is culture, I don't fit into any of the tribes except the thin politics-should-have-civility-in-discourse-and-be-data-based-and-distrust-activists-of-all-kinds "referee" tribe. Which by its nature is not as warm or trusting between members; Chinese philosopher Mozi might be amused to think of a moderate version of his views would gain traction, although like a lot of philosophy the idea of people believing in principles over allies/friends/family is pretty generic. And it'd be a bit too self-congratulatory to mark the other perspectives as always disregarding principles; we might just consider it more of an active concern or foundational principle of the "referees".

In the last several months I've come to find comfort with a lot of the more vocal people of this sort; some call themselves centrists (more than a few on twitter call themselves "despicable centrists" either to laugh about or recognise that internalised ideas from other tribes have meant our lives are ones of doubt). One of the publications I read fairly regularly now is Quillette, which is a kind of contrarian soft-libertarian news/blogging platform with twitter feeds around it. The person standing in the middle of it, Claire Lehmann, has recently become prominent enough that some blue-tribe people are digging into her background. Which I think is also fine; we should be willing to investigate eveything, but I'm going to primarily judge the things I read by their voice rather than worry about the past of their author. Certainly given that anyone with any political view might look at the very wide variety of views I've had and point at a time I was diametrically opposed to whatever they are. Unsavoury views? If we're living life right, we hopefully have experimented with at least a few, or it begins to look like cowardice. And I think scrubbing our past contributes to an idea that people should be written off if they've done what they should and evolved as much as they're driven to.

I've affiliated with (and provided funding for) groups I've believed in in the past which I no longer would, sometimes because they changed and sometimes because I've changed. The Secular Student Alliance is a good example; I started to see persistent identity politics in how they run things and it soured me on them, to the point where, despite my having had friendships with some leaders in the group, I can no longer support them and hope some other group supplants them. If it happens again here, I won't be surprised but I will be disappointed. But this is one of the big patterns in my life; I join a group or society for a time, I eventually find my views incompatible with theirs, and I leave. I've learned to be a little more assertive if I can get traction in disrupting trends that would if matured lead to a split, but everything, including me in the long run, is impermanent.