As regular readers of the 'koggy goodness may know, I am a Sociologist. My job (in one way or another) is to look at the behaviours of human groups, in order to discover patterns. My particular branch of Sociology, Symbolic Interaction, primarily looks at the understanding and negotiation of individual, and therefore by extension collective, reality through the negotiation of symbols that convey meaning: words, gestures, dress, what have you.
Why am I telling you this? I'm glad you asked.
For some time, I have been dismayed at the level of generalization people are willing to undertake to describe fellow citizens whose ideology is different from theirs. A typical example, particularly in responses to posts, is "That's the problem with liberals". I've been guilty of it myself, at times - that annoys me even more. (As may be evident, this post has arisen from a recent discussion on this site.)
To describe the characteristics of a group by the activities of certain members is folly. To generalize, for example, that all men are muderers and rapists is insulting and inaccurate. According to new feminist writings I have become familiar with, so is assuming that all women are nurturing and kind. There are kind, supportive, nurturing men, and there are violent women. The minority they may be, but they exist.
The items presented here are opinion, and they should be understood as such. I often agree with what others have written here, but I sometimes disagree. I truly enjoy someone with a different viewpoint discussing their opposing views rationally. I have learned from things that people have told me, as I have also been guilty of reacting viscerally to a perceived insult. We are all human, after all.
What is missed in the grand scheme of things is that those of us who are characterized as liberals do not have the same opinions on every topic. We on the 'left' side of the world are not 'all' anything, nor are we immune from criticism because we feel we have the moral high ground. To use just one, perhaps inappropriate example: I am strongly opposed to rioting at global economic summits - it accomplishes nothing, and encourages the view that those involved are unreasonable. The conclusion that 'lefties' are unreasonable leads to 'righties' not making any attempt to reason with them.
Painting everyone with the same brush just provides us with excuses to ignore others we disagree with. That is irresponsible and intellectually lazy. If we, regardless of which 'wing' we identify with, do what we do every day to make the world resemble our individual ideas of a 'better place', then we can agree that we share good intentions, if we differ on methods.
Extremism of any sort is unacceptable to all of us, and we are all shocked and angered when terrible acts are perpetrated - all we do is differ as to the ultimate cause of the event - America's imperialism, the evils of Capitalism, permissive society, deviation from Biblical prophecy, not washing your hands after using the bathroom, or whatever.
Whether Canada is in Afghanistan legitimately or not, we're there, and the people who are there are doing the job they have been hired to do. Whether we agree with the reasons or the rationale is less relevant than agreeing that these people do a difficult and dangerous job because we ask them to, and we need to be thankful for that. And then stop there, and help them as best we can to fulfill their job descriptions.Deciding what is moral and what is not is not the job of any individual or single group.
Morality is negotiated collectively, and in the past, all too often decided by force. No one viewpoint should have the power to decide right and wrong.
Humanity has great potential, but it needs to lose the adversarial ADD and focus on what's important - seeing everyone as an individual with something to contribute, not as a representative of a group you hate because they say the world was created last Wednesday, and you're sure it was Thursday. Perceiving yourself as a victim of 'unreasonable belief X' doesn't accomplish anything either. What does accomplish things is education - learn to understand the opposing viewpoints, and you can build an effective argument. Understand objections, and you can present evidence to the contrary. Reasonable, rational discourse will always compare favorably to blind, unwavering faith in any form - be it patriotism or religion. By screaming, you confirm the worst thoughts about 'your' group. By talking, you confound expectation. That's always fun.
Polarizing the world according to 'us' and 'them' gets us nowhere - we spend more time fighting each other than fighting with the world's problems. As anyone familiar with optics can tell you, polarization splits things apart, it doesn't bring them together.