Pyrrho:Progressive Coalition

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First, some things we "know": We need a new message. Lack of message is lack of having our ideas in order... so we really need ideas that we can put words to. These ideas need to explain the world as a story (aka "a narrative") which says who the actors are and where we are in the plot. What is the plot? Since it's geopolitical history, the story should span thousands of years, and the players should be types of people, epitomized by individuals, but also understood as recurring types of people fighting recurring struggles and some stories about how they win or lose.

Following these thoughts about our needs from messages to concepts to condensed concepts to overarching stories has led me to a glaring oversight in our vision of the world. And that is the nature of the progressive/liberal/Democratic coalition. I intend to present the skeleton of what is and what must be...



Whacko Liberals and Sellout Pragmatists

I am a programmer, which is a type of logician, and my education is as a philosopher, which is a type of logician. Philosophies are world views... sometimes over a smaller focussed domain like "Philosophy of Set Theory", sometimes over a large unwieldy domain like "Philosophy of Politics", or most broadly, a general worldview used by individuals to understand the world they live in, to help guide their life decisions.

EVERYONE has a philosophy, if they don't know it, one can be attributed to them by their actions. That one you attribute to people, this is their "actual" philosophy. Studied this way eveyone has an actual philosophy, and those of us with other philosophical statements actually risk being automatic hypocrites as one can't help but notice that their ideal philosophy they cherish does not coincide with their actual philosophy shown by their actions.

But then... people are not perfect, and one actually needs two philosophies if they want to improve. Why? You need to have ideals you have not yet achieved in order to change, that is what you are working for. So it's not vital that your actual philosophy is the same as your ideal philosophy. I'll assume you can see the danger of "allowing" people to have two philosophies, it's like allowing lies because "we all do"... but that's just it... we don't allow lies. I know a way to resolve this honestly.

Dogma

Dogmatic people think they know the answer already, they have no justification for an actual philosophy different from their professed ideal philosophy just excuses.

Pragmatic and Ideal

We want progress. The solution to a dishonest actual philosophy which is hidden like Jim Baker's rules of thumb for finding willing adulterers, is to make this philosophy honest. State it AND the ideal philosophy.

That is: everyone should consciously have two philosophies, one pragmatic and one ideal. It is important to have both because it's not just a matter of having pragmatic beliefs mixed with ideal beliefs. It is important to let each of these types of philosophy be themselves... fully idealistic, fully pragmatic. We have to understand they will conflict... they WILL conflict. We don't run from the conflict... we live off the conflict. When you have these two philosophies inside you debating issues, you can steer yourself. Each side of the "argument" needs to be fully vested in itself.

If you find you are much more pragmatic than idealistic, as a practical matter it's impossible of me to expect you to cultivate two complete philosophies which don't agree with one another. I know this might lead you to internal stress, which I don't advise. But that's where the coalition comes in.

Incremental Progressives and Fighting Progressives

For my whole life and longer there has been a very unhealthy relationship on the left between pragmatic concerns and idealistic concerns. It is easily put in terms I've introduced above... but let me explain the animosity between the two philosophies.

Pragmatists have a problem appreciating the fighting nature of idealist impulses (even within themselves) and Idealists have a problem appreciating that incremental progress is acceptable and good. Each faction within the progressive schools of philosophy tends to distrust the other as nearly a traitor.

  • Pragmatists accuse idealists of being a traitor to reality... they'd rather declare their emnity to regressive society and fight than make "real" progress.
  • Idealists accuse pragmatists of being cop outs, sell outs, of only paying lip service to the shared ideals.

Two Philosophies

So let me explain why both are needed. First, by visual metaphor. When you have two philosophies represented in a group, say a school of philosophy or a political party, these two will contradict at some points. These contradictions, oddly enough, are -connections- as well. Two things which are separated are also connected by the space between them. These arguments between the two philosophies are like threads in a spiders web. As the issues of reality blow through the group, these threads catch them... where the two philosophies have no conflict... the issues fly through as if invisible, as if they don't exist, because we don't have the eyes to see them or the fingers to touch them.

Too abstract? It's simple. Consider broad American politics for a quick example... all our issues we discuss are the areas the parties take contradictory stands. Contradiction on abortion... lots of talk about abortion... contradiction on social services, lots of talk about abortion. Where the philosophies contradict they capture issues and emotions. Where they agree, nothing. To get progress on electoral reform, we have to think up something relative to it for the Republicans to say no to. No one will think about it if everything you say seems obvious because "everyone agrees". I used to be suprised so little happens in areas where people agree there are problems, but I now know it is the dynamic between alternate philosophies that generates all actions.

Back To Progressives

But if the philosophies are full oppositions for one another, antipodes, it's not clear progress will be made at all... only that the relationship through contradictions will raise some issues and ignore others.

To ensure progress what you want are two philosophies that are not fundamental antipodes but two which differ on principles which are not directly antagonistic to one another, just different. That is, you don't want two philosophies which are negations of one another (like, Pro-war vs. Pro-peace), you want different ideals that just happen to take different perspectives on the world, such as idealism and pragmatism. Each of these may lead you in different direction not because they are opposites, but just because they are different approaches, like specialized tools. Opposite philosophies produce crossfire, but skew philosophies produce tension... crossfire kills the middle ground, tension crosses it with a web to capture the important issues.

Why These Two

Why pragmatism and progressive idealism?

  • because pragmatism is essentially about having an honest "actual" philosophy. You admit you compromise because of what appears to be the real case.
  • because we already have these two factions in our progressive coalition. Each pragmatist has some idealism, each idealist some pragmatism, and yet they antagonize each other. We must learn that we NEED each other, not just to have a larger coalition, but so that we can capture vision and rhetoric on the issues which are important to us. These important issues are reflected in the natural tension between idealism and pragmatism.
  • because pragmatism is reality-based
  • because progressivism is inherently idealistic and optimistic

Natural Pragmatists Do This

Natural Idealists Do This

Natural Philosophers Do This

Help tie the two together...

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