The Problem of Priorities, Hierarchies, and Equitarian Rhetoric
Society seems to have things strangely backward.
Hours, if not days of the lives of people are spent on what are essentially non-issues. We can’t know what the Mueller report holds for certain yet, but most safe bets seem to suggest it will be nothing. Perhaps that is wrong, but no signs other than the outrage machine that has spun the story for two years now that it would be “the end of the Trump presidency” seem to be backing that narrative, so I’m not holding onto any hope.
YouTubers like Pewdiepie are attacked over one-time slip-ups, (well after apologizing and denouncing his own actions, changing his behavior and making steps to improve) or edgy jokes with a purpose deliberately taken out of context by the media. Comedians like Kevin Hart are talked about for weeks on end for jokes almost a decade old now, Jewish men are insinuated to be White Supremacists. People can’t stop complaining about Brie Larson and The Last Jedi.
We live in strange times, where outrage permeates our culture. We are so happy to be upset about anything and everything; so maddened, so justified in our anger, that we sometimes scarce see the world around us for all the mess kicked up by the media and the vox populi issues of the day. Meanwhile, Articles 11 & 13 (Now 15 and 17 I’m told) have passed, with little said or done about it. Brexit has been delayed, repeatedly now, allegedly unlawfully, according to some. The Yellow Vests have steadily continued rioting in France for months, but people don’t seem to care much. We have other distractions to care about.
I recently sat through the debate between Sargon of Akkad, Destiny, Hasan Piker and Nick Fuentes, perhaps an apt example of one of these very distractions. While I would describe the entire exchange as four grown men who ought to know better shit-posting at each other live on camera, there was something said by Carl that caught my ear within the first hour.
Sargon mentioned responsibility, societal responsibility, and the pressures therein to keep our society functioning, and he received push-back from Destiny regarding the liberal position on Freedom (A bit intellectually disingenuous from Destiny considering his views on other things, but a welcome argument nonetheless) which I believe is the crux of the problem we face today.
We have built societies around the idea of maximizing freedom, at the expense of responsibility. As a liberal-leaning libertarian, I cannot deny the value I so highly place on freedom, but even I must admit that the idea of duty, of responsibility, is one that does not escape me. Certainly I advocate for personal responsibility; taking up the mantle of what life gives you and making something of it, but do we also owe social or societal obligations, and if so, what are they?
This is the fundamental intersection (a word I now loathe to use) between egalitarian and utilitarian thought. What am I able to do, versus what must I do and what oughtn’t I do. The first is a stricture of rights, a statement of person-hood and individuality, an endless possibility. The second is a constraint, an acknowledgement of society and one’s place within it, navigated mostly through attention to social norms, though occasionally through subversion or revolution.
People often see these worldviews as opposed; as sides of a debate, but I disagree. The sides of the debate are progressivism versus conservatism; what must change, versus what must remain. Egalitarianism and Utilitarianism are instead the scale by which these ideas are measured.
In Utilitarianism, we have the hierarchy; the method for determining what is the greatest possible good for the most people. For any determination of good, one must rank, and to rank, you must build a list of possibilities; this necessitates a hierarchical structure (albeit a personal one) of possibilities, which each human must operate within in order to actualize their ideas into reality.
In Egalitarianism, we have equality; the slide-rule for determining how each individual is to be treated. On it, we teeter back and forth between not enough equality in Monarchy, Oligarchy, Fascism, etc. and too much equality in Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism.
Atop the pyramid of societal hierarchy, our scale of equality balances, trying to find a happy middle between freedom and responsibility. People must be free to pursue their own interests, but we must also ask if there isn’t a standard; a societal will to exercise that holds ideals in common.
Lately, I feel as though that societal will has grown sick, though perhaps it has always been that way.
Rapidly, we seem to be forgetting the lessons of our forefathers, demanding change for the sake of change, and responding violently when something we don’t like happens or we’re confronted with an uncomfortable truth. We have abandoned the values and ideals that have made us resilient in the past as we have struggled to overcome the shortcomings of the times that our fore-bearers lived in. So much so has our common focus shifted, that we are enraged over the most inconsequential things, all while our rights and freedoms are slowly stripped away, bit by bit, because we don’t care about them enough. Because there are some not only willing, but pleased as punch, to sell those freedoms up the river for a little bit of political expediency.
When you don’t value the ability to see and protect what is most important, you inevitably lose that ability. You sell your opponents the means to see-saw you right off of the scale as you trample over them in the name of radical equity, just as they do to you when they argue for dictatorship or state control of things. It’s a scary reality to live in, but it’s the one that we call home, and those on all sides of the debate need to sit down and address what we’re discussing at some point, about where the acceptable middle-ground is.
Finding that out would be a great start, rather than wasting time on any more frivolities.