Blog: On the outside of windows

On the outside of windows
On the outside of windows
Date: 2018-Dec-06 20:25:20 EST

One of the things I've been thinking about since our last election is the long term effects of something we've been doing for a long time as a nation - our politics is a construct of the center, with various institutions from government to news media designed with filters on both ends for expression of politics, where we regularly ignore (even if we usually don't silence) views on the outside of that. It's not just directional - it's also anti-populist. And I think it's probably necessary to a certain extent - if we're to be a society that learns how to handle flame correctly rather than one that keeps touching and burning itself on hot stoves, we probably need some way to at least focus on some subset of discourse that's out there. And so we have. And in theory it's not terrible because people still usually keep freedom of expression (so long as we value that, which I'm worried we're not so much) so people on the outside can still holler. They just do it .. over there.

The problem is there's another mechanism of democracy - the way we handle not getting our way is knowing that our ideas got a fair shot in the battlefield of ideas, and we were not convincing enough to build consensus around them. And the way for people to actually accept not getting their way depends on that feeling that we, as holders of opinions, actually had that fair shot. Which the first idea has some friction with.

The issue then is when the non-center-stage-ness that comes from the first is strong enough, the people on the outside lose vestedness in society, and things like "tear it all down" or even overt violence stop looking so unpalatable. And this can be very dangerous, when there are still people who believe in the healing power of crystals, that vaccines cause cancer, that abortion is murder, that their god wants societies to be arranged certain ways, and so on, exist in sufficient numbers. I think it came to a head because of tactical errors - neither political party was aware of this tension or the results of breaking it, and our last presidential cycle pushed much harder than usual, but the tension was lurking.

It's a problem that admits no ready solution, particularly when a number of the people outside the windows wanted things that were and are impossible; the only way to satisfy some of them is to lie to them, and that creates debts that increase the damage further. Some groups were also presumably left outside the windows without need. I don't know if a society would be viable without some amount of attentional filter, and many views cannot be compatibly tested with others (or even at all - power tests ideologies and finds many wanting).