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Hey, it’s Halloween, so let’s talk about something scary.

CULTS.

I’m not talking about the guys with the black robes and the sacrificial daggers and the inaccurate statue of Baphomet they’re trying to get set up in Arkansas.  We can see those folks coming a mile away, and really, aside from the occasional goat, they seem pretty harmless.

No, I’m talking about the truly insidious ones, the ones creeping around behind your back as we speak, surrounding you, converting your friends and family and if you ever actually confront them, they cunningly reveal that you’ve been a member of their cult the entire time!

It seems like I get trapped into one of these conversations a couple times a year, where someone asks me how I feel about their pet ideology and I tell them that no, I’m not a fan of it, and no, I will not join them.  Inevitably, the next tactic they employ is to ask me how I feel about their pet issues, and when I respond favorably, they triumphantly declare that I already believe all, or at least enough of the right things, so I should just make it official and call myself a whatever-ist-er.

No.

I will not join your freaky little cult.

“But you believe in equality right?”

Yes.

“Well then you’re a feminist!”

No.

“You think that the government should provide assistance to the less advantaged members of our society, right?”

Yes.

“Well then you’re a socialist!”

No.

“You think that the government shouldn’t intrude into the lives of its citizens any more than is absolutely necessary, right?”

Yes.

“Well then you’re a libertarian!”

No.

And so on, and so forth, ad infinitum, world without end.

I will not join your freaky little cult.

I do believe in equality.  I will not call myself a feminist, because there are other people who do call themselves feminists, who are in fact famous for being feminists, that take actions and espouse beliefs which I find morally reprehensible.

I find government to be a necessary evil, something we keep around because it performs tasks that the private sector cannot, but that doesn’t mean that I think the government should control everything, nor does it mean that it should control nothing.

I can go on, and someday I will finish writing The Christopia Manifesto, but I think you get the idea.

The fact that you’re so persistent in trying to acquire my support is worrisome, particularly if you seem to think that I already exist in a state of ideological correctness.  If I’m doing all the right things, what difference should it make to you or anyone else that I don’t wear the properly colored nametag in the process?

I rather doubt you’ve thought it through.  I expect you’re just trying to introduce me more thoroughly into the mysteries and divine wisdom of your freaky little cult, and if I just stop asking the wrong questions and toe the party line, when the stars align I too will be given my chance to rule.

You imagine yourself to be looking out for my best interests, I’m sure.  After all, your freaky little cult has all the answers to all the questions you’ve been asking, and your strength is as the strength of ten because your heart is pure.

Except that neither of those things is true.

Your freaky little cult has some answers, to be sure.  Almost everyone gets something right.  But almost nobody gets it all correct, and part of why you want me to join your ranks is because now I’m obliged to not listen to the other people out there who disagree with you, even when they’re right.

You want to control me.

And that is anything but pure.

I don’t really blame you.  The odds are good that you got sucked into your freaky little cult by someone else, someone you trusted, someone who convinced you that the enlightened masters could set your mind at ease and clear the shadows enshrouding your heart, if you but accept their wisdom.

Someone did to you what you’re trying to do to me, only they succeeded.

And you will fail.

The instant you come at me with a “but you’re already one of us!” or a “you do want to be on the right side of history, right?” or heaven forfend a “you’re either with us or against us!”, well, I hate to break it to you, but you, as an individual at least, and quite possibly your ideology as a whole if I judge you to be sufficiently representative, have lost me as a convert.

I will not join your freaky little cult.

People that talk about being on the “right side of history” make my skin crawl, because that’s the sort of self-imagined moral superiority that lets you shove people into camps for wrongthink or wrongskin or wrongsex and not lose a wink of sleep over it.  It’s repugnant, a level of blind fervor that will not permit the dogma to be mistaken, and if reality contradicts, reality must be ignored.

Equally disgusting are the “with us or against us” crowd, the false binary wherein only one side, whole and intact, can be correct.  The fallacy of the gray fallacy, the stance that if your opponent disagrees with you, they must be lying, even if your opponent is reality itself.

What I don’t get is why you stick with your freaky little cult.  Because I know you’ve got your own opinions on things, that you don’t fall 100% into line with the accepted ideology, and that you might even be a little uncomfortable with what some of your fellow cultists are saying.

So why not leave?

“Well,” you say, “I may not agree with everything, and I certainly don’t agree with everyone, but I think on the whole they’ve got the right idea!”

You know what you are?

You’re the opposite side of the coin from the Hitler Guy.

You know, the Hitler Guy.  That one person you run into every now and then who prefaces something truly awful with “Well, I’m not a Nazi, but I do think that they had a few good ideas.”

The Hitler Guy rejects the label because he knows it makes him look like the bigoted asshole that he is.  You, on the other hand, embrace the label, even if it means that you’re associated with bigoted assholes.

The thing is that you don’t have to be with your freaky little cult to share their goals.  Socialism and Libertarianism both want the same thing, they just radically disagree on how to get there (And they’re both utopian pipe dreams, but we’ll get to that in another post).  And if those two fundamentally divergent political philosophies can share a goal, then I’m pretty sure you can manage to share some ideas without having to drink the damned Kool-Aid.

And I bet that once you get a breath of fresh air outside of your ideological compound, once you discard the “with us or against us” attitudes, you’ll find your advocacy is more effective, reaches more people, and most importantly reaches people who aren’t already a part of your freaky little cult.

I understand that it’s tough.  That you’ve made friends in your freaky little cult, that you’ve found comfort in the warm snuggly embrace of an all-encompassing ideology.  But if your friends turn against you for leaving the fold, they were never your friends to begin with.  And you can take the good ideas with you when you go.  They won’t require you to turn them in along with your cult-approved wardrobe.  I promise.

There is, of course, a few downsides to leaving.

For one, you’ll have to learn to put up with people asking you to join their freaky little cult.

More importantly, once you get a little distance, you’ll probably have a moment where you look back and realize what a colossal tool you were being.  And I mean that in both the figurative and… literally figurative sense: Not only were you being an asshole, but you were being used.

Figuratively literal?

Whatever.

And ultimately you’ll find it way more difficult to explain your position on things to other people, when you suddenly can’t just say “Oh I’m a whatever-ist-er” and leave it at that.  You’ll have to actually discuss issues, not labels.

Horrifying, I know.

 

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