The Happy Slave

This is my surrender to the Powers that Be, who wish we all were just happy little slaves, tooling along without a care in the world, doing what our better-educated masters tell us to do, not daring to step out of line. I'm so bad at surrender...

Location: Indianapolis, United States

I'm an old-fashioned Get-out-of-my-face-atarian. So long as the gubmint left me alone, I had no problems with it. Gubmint wants to run my life, so I'm doing something about it. (Not just blogging, either.)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Are you in a political party or a political religion?

The next time you start to make a political point or express a political attitude, consider the following question: Are you expressing your adherence to a political party or your adherence to a political religion? I have had some idea of the existence of political religions for some time, but I didn't know that someone else had already figured out that these monsters exist. I look around at the "left" and the "right", and I do not see political theories or philosophies, I see political religions.

Politics has become a religion in the USA, and I do not mean that religion has come to dominate politics. I mean that politics has taken the place of religion, on both the "left" and the "right". Most "right"-leaning politics has co-opted many of the symbols of Christianity, but the reality is that these are merely used as a way to cloak the underlying political religion in an aura of respectability for the intended target audience. The "left" political religion doesn't use the explicit language of a specific faith, which might make it all the more dangerous, especially to its own "worshippers", since they are more easily able to delude themselves into believing that they are operating under "reason" and not "dogma".

But that's not the point of this essay, the point is to ask us all to examine ourselves and figure out if we are doing politics or worshipping at the altars of competing political religions. Thus, I have dug up some traits that seem to be considered indicative of a political religion. Does your political group adhere to them, do you? This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, nor is it a "safe checklist". A group can still be a political religion even if it doesn't adhere to each and every trait on the list.

I see the two major parties (Democrat and Republican) in the USA strongly adopting all of these traits. Likewise, I see most self-identified Democrats and Republicans as adhering to all of them. All of the "right" and "left" pretty much lives in this territory, full time. However, as I've hinted before, this absolves the "third parties" and "independents" of nothing. More than a few Libertarians are well-described by the traits of a political religion, as are at least some elements of authority within the Libertarian party as a formal organization. The same is true of "third parties" like the Greens and the majority of explicitly "left", "right", "racial", and other such parties. In essence, it's like political religion is a contagious mental illness--nobody is immune. Thus, the best defense is to be aware of the symptoms and try to clean out the infection when we see signs of it in ourselves.

The traits are as follows:

  • Sharp distinction of a group deemed not like us and demonization of the not like us. The definition of the “not like us” depends on agreeing with specific political beliefs, membership in an “enemy” political party, or agreement with a specific set of social goals.
  • A strong, hierarchical organization (e.g., county parties report to state parties, which report to the national committee. Authority flows downward from the national committee and the local parties are expected to toe the line.)
  • A coherent belief system that is supposed to be reflected in all aspects of life. One is expected to adhere to a specific set of social assumptions to be a “true” member of the party. There is a strong emphasis on purity of beliefs.
  • The ultimate aim is to completely transform the country into a “better place”, be that a “haven of tolerance”, the “New Jerusalem”, or any other idealized state of existence.
  • Members and followers believe that their ideology is “natural” or inherently “obvious”, thus anyone who does not accept the ideology must be “blind”, “evil”, “deluded”, or “misled”.
  • Unwillingness to accept possibility that ones own party is in risk of becoming or actualy might already be a political religion.
  • Genuine desire on the part of members and followers to convert others to “the cause”.
  • Willingness to place ends over means. It would be acceptable, for example to greatly restrict freedom of speech in order to foster greater “tolerance” or promote greater “security”.
  • Belief that the goals of the party will inevitably triump. Anyone who opposes the ideology merely opposes the great weight of “history”, the “inevitable progress of humanity”, the “will of God for our county”, or some similar immutable force.