We’re trained to think in dualities: left and right, black and white, good and evil. It’s natural, but if you want to know how well that kind of thinking works out, just ask the Manicheans! (Hint: You can’t. They’re all dead.)
Those of us who don’t fit easily into one camp may feel forced into another, even if it doesn’t feel quite like home. You say you’re with them, simply to not be labeled an enemy. It’s happened to me. It’s probably happened to you too. And nowhere is it more likely to happen than in the realm of politics.
It’s a two party system, right? If you don’t support the Republicans, you’re helping the Democrats by default, and vice versa. On the more extreme ends of the spectrum, you’re either a communist or a fascist.
But what if you’re not a communist or a fascist? What if you think people should be able to choose what to do with their own money, and at the same time don’t see a problem with gay marriage? What if you’re against endless war, but still think citizens should be allowed to carry guns?
You might be tempted to call yourself a centrist, somewhere in the middle between the two extremes of left-wing and right-wing authoritarianism. But it doesn’t take much thought to realize that this doesn’t make much sense. Peaceful cooperation isn’t the middle ground between Stalin and Hitler. It falls on a completely different axis.
The old political spectrum is broken. Not only does it fail to describe the views of many people around the world, it presents us with a false choice and tries to trick us into picking a side. A more honest description of politics would run not from left to right, but from top to bottom. A progression from authoritarianism—a system where someone else gets to impose their values on you, whatever those values may be—to freedom, where we get to choose our own paths in life.
This new spectrum reveals the problems with the various “Isms” we’re told we have to choose between. We don’t have to get closer to Stalin to get further away from Hitler. We don’t have to get closer to Donald Trump to get further away from Barack Obama. The kind of reactionary politics we’re seeing all over the world today is largely a result of being against a particular ideology, and responding by running to its supposed opposite. This is a mistake.
It’s not enough to be against something bad. We have to be for something good. What that good looks like can vary from individual to individual, but there are certain universal human values we should all be able to agree on. Wealth is better than poverty. Happiness is better than misery. Peace is better than war. Life is better than death. Freedom is better than slavery.
We can argue about how we achieve these ends, but the important thing is that we understand each other enough to know when we’re working towards the same goals, and recognize those who want to go in the opposite direction.
Over the course of The Deadly Isms video series, we hope to show that The Deadly Isms—fascism, communism, totalitarianism, and so many others—invariably fail to help mankind progress towards a healthier, happier, and more enlightened state, and that voluntary cooperation, coupled with mutual respect, is the only proven way forward.