Group-Think vs. Constructive Dialog, and Civil War

The other day, I wrote a piece of political satire, titled A New Communist Manifesto (as political satire). Some saw this the way it was intended – as a parody of extreme leftist thought – and found it quite funny. Some on the right, on the other hand, thought it was too plausible, and did not like it at all. I read it to my wife, who grew up in communist Poland (you will never find a more fervent anti-communist than someone who grew up under communism), and her first comment was “So – what’s wrong with doing this?” Needless to say, converting my wife back to communism was not my intent…

Interestingly, some on the left read it, and really liked it. I got into several spirited discussions with leftists who were adamant that what I had written was a workable plan, and not satire at all. I would point out that the underlying assumptions were all wrong, and that if my plan were implemented, entrepreneurship and business investment would all but cease. They would argue that employees would invest as their ownership grew; that there would still be entrepreneurship, since ownership would only transfer over time; and that, at any rate, government could become the primary vehicle of investment. These became very spirited, and very interesting, discussions. It was like I’d gone back in time to the days when people who disagreed still talked to one another.

It was interesting hearing my own satire defended by those who generally disagree with me, and it also helped to explain why viable political discourse is so rare. In a nutshell, the two sides either talk ‘to’ one another, or they talk past one another. We almost never talk with one another anymore.

Jordan Peterson says that we think by talking, and that the feedback we get both reinforces our thoughts, and sends us back to the drawing-board of thoughts We (hopefully) improve our thoughts over time, based on this feedback.

I’m more of a rational thinker, and my wife is more of an emotional thinker. She approaches things from a different perspective than I do, and gives me a wealth of new things to think about.

When my wife and I think together, we come up with different, and often better thoughts, than we could come up with individually.

When a diverse group of people, with different beliefs and different values, all converse, there will be disagreement and debate, but as long as all parties are committed to a facts-based dialog, and as long as all parties can generally find common ground regarding what constitutes a ‘fact’, the ideas that emerge out of the group tend to be better than the ideas any individual in the group started with – exactly for the reasons Dr. Peterson illustrates.

Postmodernists believe facts are subjective (being interpreted through imperfect and subjective senses), and believe that the only reason to converse is to struggle with other groups for power. Postmodernists also believe that we live in a euro-centric patriarchy, dominated by straight, cis-gendered, white men.

To the post modernist, there is no reason to talk to a straight, cis-gendered white male, except to struggle against him for power. There are, however, a myriad of reasons to talk to other oppressed groups about taking power away from straight, cis-gendered white males.

Since postmodernists believe all facts are subjective, we each have our own ‘facts,’ and no one set of ‘facts’ are any better, or any worse, than any other set of ‘facts’. The only ‘facts’ that matter, under this view, are the ones that help to break down the oppressive, euro-centric, straight, cis-gendered, white patriarchy. Because of this, when we hear conservative speakers trying to reason with the left on college campuses, we hear the left say things like, “Those are your truths, and this is not about you. You need to hear my truths.” Conservative voices are shut down.

How do we find common ground when we each have our own subjective ‘truths,’ and none of them are considered objectively true? How do you reason with someone on, say, economic issues, when their only objective is to change the balance of power in society, rather than to improve society overall?

How do you ‘think’ as a society, after society throws the whole notion of ‘common ground’ out the window?!?

Jordan Peterson’s view on ‘thought’ is that it is a group-process. To the degree that this is true, there are only two kinds of thought: group-think (where only like-minded people converse), and constructive dialog (where people who disagree converse rationally). Everything else is noise.

Postmodernists do not believe in constructive dialog, and as such, using Dr. Peterson’s definitions, the whole process of ‘thinking’ is dead. All we are left with is group-think, and that leads not to solutions, but to civil war.