Friend/Enemy Politics Reigns Supreme

Derangement Syndromes and Oversocialization

(Apologies for the more rant-y tone of this post. This will be short, after yesterday’s super long post)

I have discussed earlier about individuals values and ideology and the relation between them. I attempted to explain how to change people’s minds while also calling for empathy in today’s anti-social world.

The issue remains that the Trump Era has brought out and crystallized, perhaps to a greater degree than any time since the end of the Cold War, friend/enemy politics as the primary driving force behind politics and ideological belief.

In that earlier post about values, I had mentioned Charles Taylor’s argument that we each have “hypergoods”, a “highest good” that acts as our North Star, and orients us in moral space. According to Taylor, we judge all of our other values, all the other ‘goods’ that guide our lives, by the standard of this highest good. I had this to say:

Second, not all goods are equal. A person almost always values many goods, and it is possible for that person to rank their higher goods. I will not go so far as to argue that individuals must have a single highest good, but we all encounter moral dilemmas: situations where we must pick between which goods to fulfill, as no option fulfills all of them. These dilemmas are critical to our development as people.

Trump Derangement Syndrome is, at its core, simply a condition in which “Trump is evil” is one of these higher goods for an individual. Obviously someone with evil intent must be doing evil things (or, if they do something good, they are doing it for an evil reason)!

Now I can’t just pick on TDS sufferers. Conservatives frequently have this same derangement with “communism”/“socialism”. Rephrasing poll questions on “welfare” vs “aid to the poor” gets different results (one of the many reasons The Public Does Not Exist). Discussing ideas generally associated with “socialism” without bringing in the label can frequently lead to more acceptance. But in the conservative’s mind, “capitalism = freedom = good” and “communism = tyranny = bad”, even if this is broadly mistaken (on the capitalism side. communism still sucks).

The problem here is simple: people select a person or label, assign it a moral value, and make that one of their higher goods. Rather than allowing my moral values to decide who my friends and enemies are, I have allowed my friends and enemies to determine what my principles are, what I support and oppose. This is derangement.

Someone may respond here with “I will always support my family” but this is missing the point. If my sister were to rob a bank, I would obviously still love her dearly, but I would not pretend that robbing a bank is a good thing (especially considering my family is not in desperate need while others are). Unconditional love is not a derangement (and frequently you see parents go “he couldn’t do something like that” in court cases - they accept the act is evil, they simply reject that their child could do such an evil act). Derangement is basing your view of good/evil based on what someone does. (If this sounds like Nietzsche’s “ressentiment” to you, it’s because it’s basically the same concept just easier to pronounce.)

Now, I will be doing a series on oversocialization in the future, but I want to simply point out briefly the importance that media narratives (and faith in the media) have on people’s derangement. Oversocialization in this context can best be understood as unthinkingly accepting the framing of an issue by a perceived authority, and using that framing as a good. This can obviously lead to derangement syndromes (see: tv-addicted Boomers on each side - CNN vs FOX - with their own derangements).

I plan on doing a full series on oversocialization (and some of the derangements that have followed) during the first two weeks of 2021.

I will be taking a break on Substack from now until next Tuesday to celebrate the holidays with my family. I wish all those who celebrate it a Merry Christmas, and I hope everyone else is enjoying their holidays as well. Much love my friends.