There's a really interesting (if slightly over my head) discussion going on at Feministe, where one of the guest bloggers, Kristen, asked readers what their ideal "just world" would look like. Or, put in the way I was thinking about it - if all of the system changes we social justice activists try to create could come to pass, what would the world look like?
I was thinking about this question a few months ago when I went to Netroots Nation. Obviously, a convention full of liberals isn't going to give the best perspective on conservative policies, but I was learning about topics I didn't know very much about and trying very hard to see all sides, and I found myself running up against the wall that I just couldn't understand how Republicans wanted the world to look. I can listen to your average list of progressive policies and imagine a future where they're perfectly implemented - where there's universal health care, for instance, or policies ensuring equal pay for equal work, or better public transportation. I can't hear policies arguing for further privatizing health care, for cutting all sorts of social services, or for getting rid of protections like the minimum wage and imagine how that would play out. And maybe your average Republican has the opposite problem, I don't know.
But I think it's an important question when you're thinking about politics - what do you want the world to look like? If all of your political dreams came true (or if you could tear the whole thing down and start over), what would your priorities be? I feel like if that vision were more clearly articulated - by politicians and by voters alike - maybe it'd be a more interesting discussion than all the crazy shit Rick Perry says.
As far as I understand Republican ideals, they're of the opinion that every man should stand or fall by their own merits and flaws. You only get out of life what you earn. That's why private health-care and cuts to social security and abandoning the minimum wage make sense—that's all giving people something for nothing, at the expense of people who have earned it. As far as I'm aware, there's nothing in Republican ideals saying that you can't choose to support those who can't support themselves. You just shouldn't be forced to—it's your money, and it's up to you how you spend it and whom you choose to support. From what I understand of Europe in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, their society would look a bit like that. Back then, there was no real support for those who couldn't pay for it. However, the local landowners would be expected to look after the needs of the people who lived on their land. They'd deliver food and medicine to those who needed it etc etc. I think it probably says a lot about their ideals they they're two centuries out of date and didn't work even before the industrial revolution happened... (Of course, I'm just a very distant observer so I could be very far off the mark...)
As for me... I was thinking about this just the other day and came to a rather depressing conclusion: I wouldn't change a damned thing. It doesn't matter how much you change things, other problems will come up. They'll look different, but the root causes will be the same because human nature will be the same. There's no point in changing society without changing human nature, because society is just an expression of human nature and no matter what you do with the magic wand, society will quickly slip back to being an expression of us, the good and the bad. It's easy for me to say that, of course, being one of the people who benefits at the moment.
If I was going to change human nature, I'd make us more compassionate, more willing to tolerate difference, less focused on ourselves, able to empathise with a broader range of views, more self-confident and less scared. I don't know how our society would look then. It feels kind of like asking a fish what it thinks it would feel like to ride a bicycle. We'll get there, though. That's something I do believe in.
I guess that makes sense, but the repulican ideals just seem so... mean! Like, a dream world that necessarily includes losers whose money and resources have all been taken by the winners is just douche-y.
And of course there'd be problems with any policy or ideology or whatever, but I feel like it's nice to at least have an idea in mind of "if this worked perfectly, here's how it would go." Something to keep in mind as all of the issues come up, I guess. Having people generally be nicer would probably be a necessary place to start though, huh? XP
Oh, I agree that you've got to know where you want to get to. Otherwise, you're just aimlessly wandering around and you're never going to get anywhere. I just hold more to a doctrine of personal and individual transformation rather than large-scale social transformation. The two dovetail, of course. When you campaign for social transformation you reach out to people and change their minds. I just don't have the... whatever it is you need fight the big battles. I'm eternally grateful the the people who do, though.
In my ideal world kids aren't forced to set the path for the rest of their lives when they're thirteen, death is accepted and not feared, and everyone gets an even break. And society punished people who are anti-social arseholes instead of rewarding them with money and power. The mark of a great person is not how much money they've made but how many smiles they've made. Simple, I know, but I like simple things. Complicated things hurt my poor little brain :)
As for Republicans... Unfortunately, the only way to understand them is talk to them, listen and ask questions until you know how it all works. Fortunately, I'm exempt from doing that as I don't have to share a country with them. I've just got to put up with the Tories and the BNP...
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