A liberal looks at authoritarians

Anyone might want structure in their lives, rules so that they know their place in society. It makes people feel secure. They don’t want freeloaders. I look at the Brexit voters who want to bring back hanging and feel incomprehending repulsion, but as authoritarians have put Trump in power and enthusiastically buy newspapers calling MPs voting against the government “Traitors”, I need to understand. I cannot just talk to my own kind.

I know they are blindly wrong. Abortion is a clear instance. No-one would wish for more abortions, but the “pro-life” side wants to prevent them only by rules affecting abortion clinics and pregnant women. These only prevent legal abortions, we say, the rate of abortion is high where abortions are illegal. Legality only makes abortions safer for the woman. I wonder if the disapproval of sex and relationships education and contraception comes from a dislike of the thought of people taking pleasure in sex without risks. I know that using a woman as an incubator against her will is abominable, and that women in abusive relationships may not have control of their own reproduction except by abortion. I wonder at the lack of empathy of anyone who would not let a woman carrying an abnormal foetus, such as one without a brain, have it removed. I am aware of “pro-life” women who have abortions, and the intellectual gymnastics they indulge to argue the rules they senselessly would impose on others should not apply to them.

Equal marriage: people are different, with different gifts, desires and values. Most human variation is completely harmless, even beneficial. Feminine men make excellent pastors and carers. I can understand the need for rules to benefit society, but not the desire for rules for the sake of them. If you make all conform, you break people.

Most horrible is the majority of Leave voters’ desire to bring back hanging. They want people killed! Whether as retribution or deterrence, if the state kills, the people are in a measure responsible. Again I would refer to consequences- the law of evidence was restricted in cases of capital murder, by judges queasy about killing, and juries might not want the responsibility- but I suppose if they thought about it the supporters of hanging might seek to counter these problems with more rules. Juries must do their duty.

These social issues matter in themselves, and because they drive “values voters” to vote for governments that impose austerity, reduce health care for those who cannot pay for it themselves, let infrastructure decay and dismantle welfare. They blame the poor for their poverty and call the accumulation of the rich a reasonable reward for hard work. We see people as good, deserving nurturing encouragement, they would encourage by fear of failure. They would make children’s learning about expressing themselves in speech and writing a matter of rules and technical jargon, rather than exploratory play; fitting in and conforming, not self-expression.

Authoritarians are emotional about rule-making. They can understand banning abortion, but not regulations against pollution, which they remove in the name of “freedom” and (illusory) jobs. They are pessimistic about common action for the common good, so oppose action on climate catastrophe and plastic pollution.

There must be a synthesis, rather than division, where one sees the other as fomenting anarchy leading to chaos, or as regimentation destroying freedom. Even Christians divide, emphasising Love or Wrath. Theories of spiritual growth or human maturity seeing reliance on rules giving way to a more mystic understanding of humanity, the value of the human heart, and the way we progress place the onus on liberals to guide authoritarians to a better way, but each side looks at the other in mostly incomprehending pity and revulsion, each feeling their side needs to rule for the benefit of the others as well as ourselves.

Change can increase fear and anger, which make people authoritarian, reaching for clear solutions, though those will fail. We drift further apart. It is for the liberals to bridge the gap.

11 thoughts on “A liberal looks at authoritarians

  1. I dislike this post. It’s strange. Next, please. First, your eternal optimism: “It is for the liberals to bridge the gap.” Then, the bridge too far: “[Y]ou want to mass-murder babies and promote eugenic depopulation.” I find the juxtaposition grotesque, and stared at it for several minutes last night and again today.

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    • That comment on “babies” (he meant foetuses) was actually someone else’s comment. I tend not to censor people’s comments: I feel that is a reflection on him, and the fact that it is rebarbative may alienate people. Anyway. Happy new year. The next will come after I sober up from last night’s highly enjoyable party: country pub with small dance floor and friendly locals, but the mix of Tia Maria and Bailey’s after midnight was ill-advised. Still, I looked at last night’s drunk-text this morning and thought it was OK.

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