Political Disagreements are Disagreements about Ourselves

Here’s the cool (but frustrating) thing I found after studying politics: at the core of it, almost all disagreements stem from one simple thing — we, as a collective species, have not yet agreed on the definition of being human. We do not know true human nature, and we do not know our place in the vast cosmos.

This is where I get slightly technical. There are many types of political theories; communism, welfare socialism, centrism, populism, this-ism, that-ism. Wikipedia lists a total of about 200 different political theories, but the most common political theories that the general public are familiar with are probably conservatism and liberalism. Even if you don’t understand the technicalities of politics, I’m sure you know what it means when somebody is a ‘Conservative’ or a ‘Liberal’.

These theories are central to political science. This is because these theories aren’t just theories, they form the basis of every political decision, and in turn affect our lives. A conservative politician believes in the theory of conservatism, and this belief requires him to therefore reject any proposals that would grant gay rights. The beliefs of conservatism orders to him a set of principles he cannot betray.

Now, every political theory is required to fulfill some academic qualifications for it to be called a theory. To put it very simply, they must have have a set of values they prescribe to ( What do you care about? e.g: individual freedom/ equality/ traditions/ religious virtues/ etc) and complex definitions of each. Then, they must also have a proposal of how the government can be structured to complement the good values while destroying dangerous vices. At the end, they will reach a theoretical conclusion about the ‘true’ nature of human societies & how the government must be structured.

Still following?

If you are, you’ve made it to the fun part. In order to justify what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ values are (because, who truly knows?), political theorists must first and foremost define Human Nature. What makes us human? Are we inherently bad or good? Are we by nature selfish or capable of compassion? Are we all equal? Are some people born truly more intelligent/ more talented than the rest? The answers to these questions will reveal which values are to be kept and which are to be forgotten. So, if you think all humans are born with the desire to steal (and that stealing is bad), you must then value honesty and maybe make the government install high-tech security systems everywhere while passing laws to curb thieving behavior.

Conservatism believes that humans are inherently flawed and evil. We are individualistic, naturally hierarchal, selfish, and irrational. Just rotten. Values such as order, restraint, and maintaining moral/religious virtues are then to be respected in order to save ourselves from this filthy nature, and we must reject notions of free will or individual freedom (because we’re too evil to be free). Conservative countries like Saudi Arabia prescribes to this belief, and this belief leads them to a system of governance whose main philosophical aim is to curb evil tendencies by passing rigid social laws. Due to natural hierarchies, classical conservatism demands only the ‘chosen’ rule (chosen by God or chosen by other powerful elites, making them slightly better than everyone else). The government becomes a sort of a police-force to ensure order and punish anyone who dared to breach accepted social norms.

Liberalism reluctantly agrees with Conservatism that humans can be self-interested. But more than that, Liberalism states that humans are not that stupid (i.e: rational) and intrinsically equal with each other. They are also born with natural rights to life and liberty. Because they are rational, they should be able to figure out what would make their life better. The purpose of the government is then not to limit their freedom, but to protect their liberty and make sure nobody violates another’s rights. Everybody should be able to hold office because we are equal. The best example of modern Liberalism in practice would be the highly Lockean United States.

As of right now, there are more political theories than just conservatism and liberalism, though most are variations of these two. Politics is, again, the inalienable basis to every human society. And at the core of politics is the endless argument of what makes human, human. The ideological war between conservatism and liberalism has been ongoing for hundreds of years, and you may have already witnessed it for yourself in day-to-day conversations. We have not yet decided whether humans are good or bad.

It was at this point when I had the realization that there would never be such thing as a political enlightenment without our personal enlightenment on what it is to be human.

Throughout history, people came and go spending their lives trying to create utopia. Pol Pot thought the Khmer Rouge was utopia. Stalin thought USSR was utopia. Chairman Mao thought The PRC was utopia. It was only after millions of deaths do we collectively realize that what these are not utopias, they are infernos.

We keep failing to reach utopia. We have tried governments in all its known form; monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, oligarchy, this-chy, that-cy. We tried different systems; capitalism, communism, socialism, legalism, and so on and so forth. And yet, none satisfied us in the way we wanted it to. Leaders propose tempting promises only to later be corrupt and heartless. Governments vow to protect only to later betray its people. No one theory can be marked the ‘correct’ one, because we have not yet an undoubtedly accurate understanding of Human Nature.

So, here I am, years and thousands of dollars deep in the study of Political Science; making peace with the fact that unless we collectively gain an enlightened understanding of who we truly are, there will never be a perfect world. Any politician promising you utopia is promising guaranteed bullshit.

If this world’s collective consciousness is tracked by a GPS, we are now unhappily at Point A (the current non-utopia reality) trying to go to the better Point B (utopia), except we have no fucking idea where or how Point B looks like (I’m starting to believe Point B doesn’t actually exist). So what do we do? What we have been doing forever — argue to death with each other about it.

Of course, the years of studying has made me more critical and quicker in spotting and calling out BS. But calling out BS was never my main intention. My main intention was to truly understand politics and all its truths, so I can use my educated guess to estimate what the true utopia would look like. Instead of glimpses of true utopia, I was demanded to look deep within myself and ask the unsolvable question: Who Am I?

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