The most insightful and quotable commentary I heard last week was made by Greg Gutfeld of Fox News.
If you follow American politics, you can’t have missed the three-way feud sparked between Nancy Pelosi (speaker of the house), a group of far-left democrats known now as “The Squad” and President Trump.
Trump routinely makes a comment deliberately intended to spark a media furore that he will be able to spin to his advantage. In this case, he tweeted that the squad should do something that sounded very much like, but wasn’t, “go back to where they came from”.
The extended commentary was more important than that initial click-bait. When pressed, President Trump insisted that members of congress should love the USA. It’s simple—they should love their country, or they should not be in congress. The Squad’s various criticisms of the USA are, in his view, disloyal and unpatriotic.
A number of media commentators argued that President Trump was being hypocritical because he also has spoken very critically of government – especially in when he was still a candidate.
Then Greg Gutfeld said this:
There is a difference in the criticism. Trump’s criticism is predicated on what he perceives harms America. Their criticism is predicated on what America harms.
It’s a perspective as valid here as on the other side of the Pacific, and got me thinking. In many situations, both sides of politics agree on the problems. Sensible doctors, however, don’t argue about symptoms, they argue about causes. Without agreement over the cause, there can be no agreement on the cure. The useful question is, “what is the source of harm?”
For instance, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC, one of the Squad) testified to the house oversight and reform committee about the terrible conditions at America’s southern border. There are children who have been detained and are without guardians. There are cramped and unsanitary living conditions. There are many problems at the border with Mexico. But earlier this month, Republican Vice President Mike Pence also visited the border and saw the same things, “The facts are, we have a crisis on our southern border that is being driven by human traffickers who are exploiting loopholes in American law to entice vulnerable families to make the long and dangerous journey north”.
So, both sides agree that the border has a problem, but Republicans believe the holes in the border are the cause of the developing humanitarian crisis; they want to fix the border to solve the problem. The left see the border itself as the problem, and hence their solution is to destroy it. The following quotation from AOC reveals her mindset:
No one is illegal. That term is derogatory because it dehumanizes people. You can say any other forms of ‘coming in without regulations’ or so forth but the use of ‘illegal’ is disrespectful, and I ask my colleagues to try in so many ways not to dehumanize our immigrant neighbours who are trying to come in for a safe haven.
The same dichotomy is equally active in Australia. Most agree that the drowning of immigrants at sea is a bad thing, and no-one wants over-crowded detention centres. But the Liberals responded by fixing our border protection, whereas Labor respond by destroying it.
You’ll see this everywhere, if you look for it.
Most people agree that poverty is bad and wealth is good. Candidate Trump was strongly critical of those who were harming the US economy. He believes that capitalism is the solution, and has since enacted policies to deregulate, decrease tax and approve capital projects. These have decreased unemployment to the lowest levels since the 1960s, and increased GDP growth a whole point higher than the previous administration thought was even possible. In contrast, rather than being a force that reduces poverty, the Squad see capitalism as the cause of poverty, so their solution is to destroy it.
Most people agree that educational standards in Australia are falling. For decades, the prevailing view has been that our students need emotional support and equality. Educators try to protect their students from feelings of inadequacy and judgement and the stress of high expectations that result from an ambitious curriculum. An alternate view is that growth, including emotional resilience, is only achieved through exposure to challenges rather than protection from them. Same problem, opposite solution.
Most people agree that violence against women is bad. Feminists preach that a type of masculinity is the problem and that men should be more like women. Others observe that emasculated men are more likely to be violent, not less, and believe that men should simply be better men. One group wants to fix men, the other wants to destroy them.
Most people agree that taking addictive drugs is unhealthy and high risk. Some argue for increased restrictions where others argue for destroying restrictions.
Most people agree that the environment should be looked after. Some seek to innovate and cultivate, others seek to depopulate.
Most people agree that children should be raised by families who want them. Some seek to fix the adoption system, while others seek to destroy unborn children.
You may legitimately, rationally, take either side on all these issues. My point is that when you find yourself nodding along to someone who is describing problems, don’t assume that you must agree with them on the cure.
The abundance of destructive solutions is also a symptom. It’s symptomatic of a post-modernist worldview, which denies inherent value or meaning and consequently interprets any structure in society only as a conduit for oppression.
The West and its borders. Christianity, capitalism, curriculum. Family. Sobriety. Humanity itself. Are these the source of the world’s problems? Are these doing harm? Or are these the things that we are doing harm to?
Nick Kastelein is a Christian and a conservative who grew up and lives in Adelaide where he works for an engineering consultancy.
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