Monday, July 31, 2006

Unity and dissent.

Atrios here makes the point that some in the US preach about "unity", when what they really mean is a hegemony of political opinion, where dissent is little more than insanity. I'm starting to see signs of this in Canada, as the neocon cancer starts to spread. I really don't understand the desire for "unity", however. If "unity" just means that there is a consensus opinion, then it's certainly a good thing, but not an overwhelmingly good thing. After all, when it comes to matters of policy or of political structure, there are multiple ways of instantiating any given principle. That is, there can be many right answers. Similarly, if morality is complex and principles give weight rather than trump, then there can be multiple right answers about matters of principle as well. In other words, just because people disagree doesn't mean they're doing something wrong -- they might, but they don't have to be.

However, if "unity" means something else, if it means something like a doctrine or a dogma that one must agree with for fear of being considered apostate or heretical, then it's quite a disturbing import of religious "thinking" into the political sphere. It's one thing for religious ideas (god, prayer, providence, etc.) to gain political traction, but when one of the forms of thinking typical of religion -- namely, that there is a core set of beliefs that one cannot diverge from without being considered evil -- bleeds into the political realm, then we have a much more serious problem. For if there is a revealed political truth, then there are political heretics, who must be treated as any heretic: ostracism, stoning, forced conversion, torture -- in short, the usual laundry list of atrocities committed by groups on individuals in the name of religion.

(I hope I don't have to explain why that would be a bad thing?)

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