Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Twofold Principle V Enforced Conformity: A Pirate Perspective

I'm a big fan of all things Pirate as a rule. I am in full agreement with all of the principles and do everything I can to promote them. This, and the Liberal saying, "Your rights end where mine begin" is the foundation of the Twofold Principle:

The individual must be free to act and the will of the people must be respected.

The trouble is, we live in a world where enforced conformity is the norm and it's really unhealthy for us as individuals and for our society as a whole. Let's take a closer look at the Twofold Principle and how it works in practice.

You can't get all holier (or not) than thou

I always thought it was so damn simple a baby could understand it. I can do what I want as long as it does no harm and causes no offence to anyone else, and vice versa. It's the price you pay for living in a healthy society. If you want to do whatever you like without worrying about what the neighbours will say, go live on an island somewhere.

Demanding that people tolerate your lifestyle choices and beliefs means that you tolerate theirs. As I pointed out recently, getting all superior about your choice to be an atheist is as offensive as getting all superior about my choice to be a Christian. Watching people crank themselves up on their platforms can be funny but it gets old after a while. It's basically a contest to see who is most arrogant about how right they think they are. Big deal. Honey is sweeter than vinegar, so think about your approach if you're trying to win people over. Hint: don't create a hostile environment for potential dissenters.

Don't enforce conformity

Authoritarians absolutely hate the Twofold Principle with a passion. They loathe it, they despise it, they abhor it. And why? Because it forces them to admit that a) they might be wrong and b) we are not obliged to accept their opinions as fact without question. And this means that they are not The Boss Of Me — or anyone else for that matter. I've had the appeal to authority logical fallacy used on me often enough, particularly where religion is concerned. As it happens, science has not disproved the existence of God and I'd be interested to learn what the explanation for a particle smaller than an atom inflating to the size of the entire universe in the blink of an eye, then engendering life as we know if over billions of years, is. Take your time. While this is widely accepted as scientific fact, no one has an explanation for what got the proverbial ball rolling. What was the catalyst?

Create an enabling, open environment

There's plenty of room for both faith and science. They're not mutually exclusive. Pretending that they are creates the authority to which atheists appeal when they're bashing religion, conveniently forgetting that we wouldn't have had a Renaissance if it wasn't for the Muslims conserving, copying, and sharing scientific works from the ancient Greeks, then riffing on them to produce the works on which the bulk of our modern civilisation is built while we were duking it out with the Vikings, Goths, and Mongols during the Dark Ages. If this doesn't prove the Fifth Spoke of the Pirate Wheel is essential to a healthy society, I don't know what does.

A populous monoculture is just as dangerous from an ideological and viewpoint perspective as it is from the more well-known genetic perspective. - Rick Falkvinge, Pirate Wheel Principles: Diversity

If the best ideas are to win, an enabling, open environment must exist. Good luck finding one of those in a world where enforced conformity is the norm. The trouble with enforced conformity is the chilling effect it has on speech. People are afraid to speak up for fear of being ridiculed or ostracised by their peers. Look at this interaction between myself and two liberal activists over the Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke affair. As I said to Rick Falkvinge today:

In enforced conformity situations, that [Twofold Principle] is put aside to maintain the status quo. Result: the most strident, ideologically pure members create a drift towards extremism and a cult-like social environment.

Look again at the linked interaction. See how my friend Cindy Brown reacts when the conversation turns ugly and hostile towards me? That, my friends, is what approved speech looks like. No, thank you.

Like it or not, my views are founded on my religious beliefs, they are the wellspring of my thought, so if you constantly diss religion you create a hostile environment in which people of faith don't feel welcome. This then restricts membership, by default, to atheists, who will surely miss out on the valuable input we religious folk can provide. I'm the one who came up with the Twofold Principle, remember. And I know why it's not more popular: it's anti-ethical to the enforcement of conformity.

A Pirate approach

As someone once said, "If you stand for nothing you'll fall for anything." Which leads me to the Fourth Spoke of the Pirate Wheel:

...everybody may adopt whatever beliefs they would like after birth, be it a political worldview, a religious one, or a combination thereof. This is called an acquired belief. No distinction is made between religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other unfalsifiable sets of claims. No such acquired belief may be discriminated against in favor of another one, and no distinction is made from a human rights or discrimination perspective between different acquired beliefs. - Rick Falkvinge, Pirate Wheel Principles: Humanism

Now if everyone may adopt a belief after birth, as I chose to of my own free will, I ought to be able to express that faith without being insulted for it. There's a hell of a difference between, "I don't believe in God and am not interested in religion at all," and "Wow! Religious people are so flippin' stupid. Hah! Them and their Sky Fairy are so funny!" That you have the right to say it is not the point. That saying it creates a hostile environment for people of faith is what is at issue here because that hostility and the common-sense notion behind it that religious folk are crazy, stupid, and uninterested in factual truths can easily turn into discrimination. I mean, who wants to work with or hire a lying lunatic, right? Not me.

Now flip it over. Imagine living in the world Salon describes here. In America, it's common to see people being pretty much forced to deny their own beliefs (or lack thereof) if they want to fit in with their community. That this is not confined to religious groups alone is but reluctantly accepted as fact. And it doesn't just happen in America. My refusal to blindly agree with the Citizens Income policy comes under fire mostly because it's a dissenting view, not because those who argue with me have thought it through.

Agree to disagree

Debate is a necessary process and a valuable tool for building consensus on how we want to make our society work. If we want it to be healthy, it's got to work for all of us. A certain amount of friction will always exist, and we shouldn't fear it, but use it as a tool to examine our own positions to see if we're being reasonable and fair. It's impossible for us to have a real debate when only permitted speech is being made and we're all walking on eggshells trying not to fall foul of the unwritten rules about accepted social, religious, and political positions for fear of being kicked out of the club.

We need to feel free to speak but it can be hard to do that when you find yourself in an environment in which you are obliged to closet yourself because you're not left wing enough, right wing enough, liberal enough, libertarian enough, religious enough, or atheist enough to be accepted in those circles. Tolerating dissent does not mean you agree with it, you just agree to disagree. It's not a cop-out. My husband Richard likes football, I don't. We're still married after nearly ten years because I don't gripe about it or put him down for his deep and abiding love for Liverpool F.C.'s Steven Gerrard. Mind you, I don't feel threatened by it.

People who feel threatened by the fact that someone believes the opposite of what they believe will often adopt an authoritarian approach to dealing with it because they have invested their sense of community and personal identity in their religion or ideology. Therefore all dissent must be silenced at once and conformity enforced to maintain the status quo. Sooner or later we arrive at a critical mass situation in which so many people are pretending to conform and are fed up with being hypocrites that they end up breaking away from the community and starting one of their own that may be hostile to the group they broke away from. Therefore anyone who disagrees with their stated beliefs is interpreted as belonging to the original group and either dismissed outright or driven away by the hostile atmosphere. Where this has happened, you may find that the original group and its hostile progeny have created bogeyman figures to accuse members who stray from the accepted screed of being in league with.

You must be a liberal socialist!

Religion is responsible for all the misery and death in the world!

I don't agree with either of those sentiments and tend to get battered with both because I'm moderate. I honestly believe that the truest Pirate approach is to be moderate in everything we say and do, being willing to see the value in dissenting opinions instead of dismissing or abusing people we disagree with. I do my best to promote that belief but attempting to enforce it is out of the question because it's against the Twofold Principle, and I believe in that, too.

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