I was a bystander to an internet conversation that Alan Jacobs opened thus:
A word to the people whose political views I despise: I don’t want you to lose your job, and I do want you to be able to enjoy a meal at a restaurant in peace. I just hope you change your mind about a few things — a few extremely important things.
To my surprise at least, others jumped in to disagree, or perhaps I should be more explicit: they disagreed that, e.g., Sarah Sanders should be able to dine out unmolested (because she’s “simply lying to the American People – each and every day”).
One of them brought me up short on my reflexive support of Jacobs with an argument that I’d characterize as “this is ‘literally Hitler’ in the 20s and 30s” and which I found pretty plausible. (If that kind of argument never gives you a “Niemöller moment,” if you always blow it off as “Godwin’s law,” there’s something wrong with you.)
I’m deliberately providing no hyperlinks. The ethos of the platform where the discussion occurred seems to run counter to intense controversy, so I try (not always successfully) to take my obnoxious stuff elsewhere, and Jacobs, too, seems to have dropped out and posted this instead:
Now, a question for people who support confronting and challenging politicians at restaurants and other public places. What is your goal? Is it simply punitive, or do you believe that by doing that kind of thing you can change a politician’s mind? …
And no sooner had I read that from my RSS feed than I tabbed over to this from Caitlin Johnstone, also in my RSS feed, who probably is further to the Left than Jacobs is to the Right:
A radical change in human behavior away from its patterns … will necessarily involve a drastic transformation in humanity’s relationship with thought. I’ve been saying this over and over again in different ways for a long time now, and yet I still get criticisms saying that I have useful insights but I don’t provide any plan of action.
The transformation in human consciousness is the plan of action. I really don’t know how to say it any clearer than that. And I will go so far as to say that that it is the only plan of action which will pull us out of our destructive patterns and into a healthy state of collaboration with each other …
I understand the criticism, though. When people read about [big, entrenched problems] … they don’t want to hear a bunch of stuff about mass ego death and spiritual enlightenment, they want to hear about nationwide demonstrations or organizing the working class or forming a new political party or cryptocurrencies or ending the Federal Reserve, or something along those lines depending on where they believe the problem is localized. In general, they want a fairy tale about people coming together to effect drastic, sweeping changes and turn the status quo on its head, which they will do because something something reasons, cough cough.
Seriously, why do people think revolution happens? Why do they believe their ideas have a chance of winning out over the existing paradigm? …
It doesn’t seem like many proponents of revolution and change have really thought about this very much. They have a good idea, and they can envision a world in which that idea is implemented, but getting from the idea to its manifestation seems like it’s often a jumbled mess in a lot of dissidents’ minds, not unlike the “Phase 1: Collect underpants / Phase 2: ??? / Phase 3: Profit” model of the Underpants Gnomes from South Park. Most dissident voices I see are primarily interested in Phase 1, and to a much lesser extent in Phase 3. Phase 2 is what I’m interested in, and in my opinion it necessarily involves a drastic shift in human consciousness. …
She might disagree, but her “transformation in humanity’s relationship with thought” and mocking of “turn the status quo on its head, which they will do because something something reasons, cough cough” seems clearly to amount to “we need to change people’s minds first.”
That’s utterly congruent with Jacobs and seems like a refreshingly conservative way of being progressive.
We should all, whatever our political discontents, try to focus on Phase 2.
And, focusing on Phase 2, the objection “this is ‘literally Hitler’ in the 20s and 30s” proves too much, because if we are absolutely convinced of that, we should be doing something more than fecklessly disrupting Goëbbels’ lunch.
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Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.