Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Try Everything: Hegelian dialectic, Shakira, and American politics in the Age of Trump

Sometimes it's good to take a step back from the day-to-day craziness of 2018 politics and think big. Instead of asking what we should think about the latest insane think Trump just did, or whether the Democrats have a shot at taking back the House, we could ask: How does human history work? 

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said - paraphrasing an 1853 sermon by the abolitionist minister Theodore Parker  - 

 The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

That's a nice thought - especially in 2018 - but is it true? Is there a "direction" to history or is it just "one damn thing after another?" And if history is "bending" towards justice or freedom, how exactly does that happen?

This may sound like pointless philosophical speculation, but it's not. Or, at least, it's not pointless. Because whether you are conscious of it or not you have your own "story" about how human history works, and you use it every day to help you know what to think every time you see a new piece of news about Trump, the stock market, the war in Syria, of the Democrats' chances in November.

I don't know for sure, but my guess is that your story goes something like this:
  • In history there are good guys (people like me) and bad guys (the people who don't like people like me). 
  • Politics is about the good guys and the bad guys fighting
  • When the good guys win, that's good, and when the bad guys win, that's bad. 
Every day, when you scroll through social media or listen to the news your brain is trying to fit different pieces of the news into your "story," to tell you who the good guys are and who the bad guys are and whether you should feel good or bad when a candidate wins or looses. Whether things are getting better or worse.  This story is simple and intuitive. And it might even be right. But it's not the only story that makes sense.