Ideological Axes

posted Sep 12, 2003

One of the fun, if futile, things to do is to try to arrange the political landscape along varying axes, with "Liberal/Conservative" and "Libertarian/Populist" being two popular ones. There are many others I've seen, too, each with a bit of truth.

I'd like to propose for your own personal amusement this one: Tell a person to imagine themselves in the Medieval period of knights and kings. Do they automatically assume they are a knight or better, or do they at least admit the possibility (indeed the probability) that they are a serf?

This does not cut directly on "left/right" boundaries. But to take an example, by their actions many hard-core "leftists" (communists, similar ilk, not just "liberals") show that they do not care about Cuba, Vietnam, pay no more then lip service to the evils in Saddam's administration of Iraq, and do everything they can to prop up those governments and try to make us feel guilty for attacking them. By their actions they show a preference for brutal police states over democracies. Whether this is because they truly think that's best, because of elitism, or because they buy the line some leftists peddle about "People's Revolution" and such, I neither know nor care (and I'm sure it varies from person to person). The point is I think these people clearly assume that they would natually belong to the ruling class. In my hypothetical above, they would automatically assume they are a knight, or better.

Me, I'd assume I'm a serf and I hold no great love for that era in history, nor most of the rest of it. I am still lucky to have been born here, because there's plenty of the world left where what we'd call poverty is the norm. I think this affects my politics, and my beliefs in things like the need for a social "safety net" (not a hammock), and the importence of democracy. Not only am I aware that I could very well be a serf (and in US terms, I'm certainly not a "knight"; I'm underemployed and have no job prospects anytime soon to look forward to), but I know there are many others who are as well, and they should be able to climb out.

I think many of those who see themselves as kings are willing and able to dismiss the serfs as sub-human, and willing to push for any world they believe they would be kings in, no matter how many serfs it may create or maintain.

Again, I'm not trying to stick this label on any particular group (except that I will say I see a lot of this in modern communism with apology), but I think it's worth thinking about as you examine the psychology of those promoting ideologies in our world. In their mind, are they already a king? And by disagreeing with them, are you already a sub-human serf in their head? The answers may surprise you.


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