Anyone who’s bothered to read at least a few of the bios that are floating around for me on websites knows that I came to the world of political writing from the world of literary publishing. They also know that is a largely left-leaning land, so it wasn’t necessarily very comfortable for me. But, I did manage, and was successful at either keeping my conservative views hidden from colleagues, or simply didn’t push the conservative agenda on those who were aware of how I really thought.
When I jumped to conservative political writing, it was mostly a welcome change. I was content for a long while, until I started to recognize the fact that I was rapidly surrounding myself with people who either intentionally or inadvertently were surrounding themselves (and me) with like-minded writers and readers. We’ve all heard talk about the political “echo chamber,” and both left and right are guilty of placing themselves in those cocoons.
It’s not my most mortal fear out there, but it is near the top. It’s not just a physical one, either.
In the past several months, I’ve been dealing with issues from feeling closed in intellectually, which is bluntly unacceptable for me. I am not comfortable with crowd thinking on important matters. Sure, I’ve asked people for their input on small things, but even those times, it’s more about breaking a block – getting input simply to get my own thoughts rolling. Occasionally I’ll simply recognize brilliance when I see it, but usually I take what I’m offered and work on from there.
While I’m not personally experiencing a sea change in myself, things are changing. I’ve always been a fiscal conservative with libertarian or left leanings on social issues. My philosophy has already been distilled by others to “less government, more fun” – it’s mostly fitting, so I don’t mess with it. What that means in practice is that while I can manage to navigate through a gathering of conservative thinkers (even if they are more socially conservative than I am), I still can feel at home in an ostensibly leftist gathering discussing the arts, or philosophy. My severe attitude of absolute personal freedom and privacy when it comes to the most intimate portions of our lives does not fly well with many conservatives, and that’s just fine with me.
Lately, it’s not just fine with many of them.
Another thing that doesn’t work so well is the fact that I base a great deal of my own thinking on psychology and sociology, as opposed to political science. I do not forget the human element, and often sway to the human response over the political one. In simple terms, that means that I do not like to approach anything without at least attempting to place myself in the shoes of the opposition. The highly partisan politicking we’re seeing now doesn’t leave room for empathy, which is a terrible thing.
Beyond losing the ability to critically assess opposing views, there is a very dangerous psychological result waiting on the horizon. Radical partisanship is not entirely unlike raw power – we have all heard the adage about its relationship to corruption. In the case of radical partisanship, it is the road to inhumanity – complete loss of empathy. Pop culture offered us the result of that in “Dexter.” Yes, I am suggesting that holding fast to one’s own opinions, and failing to even recognize the opposition as being worthy of existing will lead to a generation of sociopaths capable of severe amounts of violence against others.
And I was losing myself in that mire.
Now, I don’t care if I draw fire from both sides. I’m capable of circular firing and diplomacy – whichever is appropriate. Obviously, I’m not going to attempt to engage in diplomacy with those who lower themselves to base insults.
I’m not arrogant enough to think that I will cause anyone to choose the same path I am – somewhere down the middle, taking the time to listen to both sides.
I am arrogant enough to bother writing about it, in the general hope that it will resonate with at least a few out there.
No matter what, I am done with living in the echo chamber. Beyond being deafening, it is hateful. Hatred is not just expressing an extreme distaste for another – it is also summarily dismissing a person simply for their beliefs. I’d argue that the epitome of self-hatred is stunting one’s own growth by summarily dismissing ideas simply because we dislike their sources.
Yes, it would be easier to just follow. I never did take the easy route anyway.