We’ve just had another intractable disagreement in our most recent comment-thread (with, of course, our resident Clintonian gadfly). The dispute is, in microcosm, the same that is pulling America, and indeed all of the West, to pieces.
As I have said many times before, so much depends on axioms, and on what words mean.
We read a sentence like this:
And while there may be “millions of aroused American patriots” enraged at social change, there are millions more American patriots who believe in diversity, inclusiveness, Obamacare, a return to balance on the Supreme Court after thirty years of right wing control, and the other things which will drive Clinton voters to the polls.
Consider “diversity”. (“Inclusiveness” is just another word for the same thing, as is “multiculturalism”.) Here we see the axiom that more of it is always better, despite that assertion’s being completely at odds with our empirical experience (ever-increasing racial and ethnic tensions everywhere in the West, the need for increasingly totalitarian “hate-speech” laws, and the enormous cost of the burgeoning “diversity-management” industry being obvious examples), at odds with any careful examination of what makes cultures and societies happy and cohesive (see here and here), and sharply at odds with all the lessons of history — which teach us again and again that, sooner or later, Diversity + Proximity = War.
Where one person says “diversity” and “inclusivity”, then, another reads: “open borders, demographic displacement, Balkanization, cultural deliquescence, worsening social tension, more intervention to manage that tension, and of course the steady accumulation of new Democratic voters and clients of the ever-expanding managerial state.”
Where one person says:
Others are angry because ordering chicken at a Roy Rogers on the turnpike is frustrating when the counterman lacks English skills (although – who knows? – he could be the Syrian refugee whose son starts Apple Computer).
… another sees a nest of hidden axioms, namely that (a) all people from anywhere are exactly fungible, (b) that a randomly chosen illiterate immigrant from anywhere on earth stands a robustly non-zero chance of siring the next Steve Jobs, and that (c) this prospect is both so likely and so attractive that it justifies, in terms of the policy interests of American citizens, flinging open the borders to thousands, or perhaps millions, of profoundly alien and unvettable immigrants on the chance that the offspring of one of them may someday sell us a better phone. Moreover, so incommensurable are the axioms here that where one person will read what I’ve just written and see in it the traditional human virtues: love of home and country, love of peace and harmonious order, love of one’s culture and heritage, a grateful sense of obligation to those who built it all for us, and love of the generations yet unborn for whom all of these treasures are to be cherished, preserved and protected — another will read it and see only “hate”, and fear of change. (Implicit in that is yet another hidden axiom, namely that change — which is of course inevitable — is also innately and self-justifyingly good, and so should not be questioned or resisted.)
Where one person sees “thirty years of right-wing control” of the Supreme Court, another sees a wholesale abandonment of Constitutional rigor, the usurpation of the public will in order to advance the destruction of States’ rights and the traditional moral order, and the discovery of mysterious and ever-unfolding “emanations” from Constitutional clauses and amendments whose original purposes were clear, limited, and clearly limited.
And so on.
These are not petty differences, and they are not, by their nature, amenable to compromise. (Existential questions are like that. If I see that you are about to drive us over a cliff, and you say there is no cliff, what is our compromise?) We are at a point of such outright and deepening hostility between two fundamentally incompatible visions of America, the American tradition, the role of government, the moral order, the right to association, the meaning of the Constitution — in the simplest terms, of what is good and right and sacred — that the best we can really hope for now is some kind of divorce. It is the great tragedy of our age that the geographical interpenetration of these hostile camps makes this almost impossible. We cannot live together — we cannot agree on the most basic principles of society and government, or of rights and truths and responsibilities — and we cannot get away from each other. How much suffering we might avoid in the months and years to come, if only we could.
Finally, to make matters worse, let’s go “meta”: while one person sees the moral and axiomatic fault-lines I’ve described above, and recognizes that the tectonic strain is reaching the point of catastrophic release — another thinks that his candidate will simply win the coming election, we’ll all have a good laugh at the fools who lost, and things will “get back to normal”.
Place your bets.