Saturday, 10 September 2011

In a war of ideology, everyone loses

Not long ago a naive younger version of myself decided he would be ‘left-wing’.  For many years I subscribed to this ideology. I amongst many others took part in partisan flame-wars on news article comments. “Everyone on the right doesn’t have a clue”, I told myself.
Five years later, my perspective has changed considerably. I no longer identify with any ideology. Today I rarely even bother to look at what our politicians are saying, because I already know what they are saying. They are promoting whatever ideology they have subscribed to. They will paint today’s issues with a partisan brush and explain how only their ideology can work. It seems that no matter what sort of problem society encounters all it will take to solve it is a subscription to a specific ideology.
Reality tends to dictate though, that whatever your plan is unforseen circumstances will likely screw with it. This is why life on this planet is adaptive. Life adapts to the circumstances of which it finds itself in. In the last 100 years, with the advent of the petroleum based society which arguably for the first time in human history has provided more surplus than we know how to handle a new problem emerged. How do we control and distribute these resources? It is from this question that the modern left and right ideologies formed. Free market vs. Communism.
Today the world faces vastly different problems than it did 100 years ago and yet  we continue to frame all debates within these two very limited views on society. These views are not adaptive, they do not acount for unforseen circumstances. No one who subscribes to these views truly lives by either of them 100%. Many of those on the right are all too happy during a natural disaster to have governmental disaster relief. Take for instance the recent fire in ultra-conservative Alberta. Even though the government is giving money for rebuilding efforts no one is saying this defies the free market response. Albertans have been accepting of government intervention in this unforseen circumstance.
When push comes to shove in society, ideology goes out the window in favour of critical thinking. The rules of our virtual ideologies do not apply when the “greater good” is deemed imminently threatened. When a crisis is occurring most people are focused on what needs to be done, not who and how they are going to do it. These considerations do not matter in a crisis, there’s a job to be done and someone’s got to do it.
Yet when the crisis subsides the ideologies take hold again. The petty arguing between citizens resumes over petty issues. Who they think should provide health care, the government or corporations for instance. Both sides overlook the fact they both want the best healthcare to be provided, and that should be the primary concern or ‘root’ problem to solve.
Anyone who has ever debated me in politics may or may not have noticed that I refuse to use political labels. When I discuss issues you will not hear the words socialism, capitalism, etc, etc. I don’t use them because they don’t really mean anything when there is a problem to solve.
Since I’m a programmer, I will explain this using a programming analogy. Many people today have a favorite O/S of which you can find flame wars all over the internet debating which is “better”. Few of these arguments though put the phrase “better” in a circumstance.
“Windows is better for new users.”
“Linux is better for security professionals.”
“Android is better for embedded devices.”
Instead most of these discussions are absolutes, “Windows is better.”
When I’m approached for a development contract, my first question is always “what is the exact problem you are trying to solve?”. I don’t ask what their favorite O/S is, or if they have a preferred language. The reason? The preferred language or platform may not be the best choice for the particular problem. You might want a desktop app to manage your database, but I insist a centralized corporate website is better!
I can tell them what is the best solution to their problem because I evaluate all tools available without bias. Just because I do not like Windows does not mean I automatically rule out Windows as a tool to solve problems. This is the approach that is needed today in politics. As a society we must learn to address the root problem, and use all tools available to do it. Just as Linux is not the best O/S for every situation, the left (or right) is not always the best ideology for a given situation.
What we need to do to solve today’s problems is focus on critical thinking first and foremost. Not until all available tools are given equal weight will a true solution to our problems emerge. I don’t just mean left and right either, as I mentioned before these ideologies are mostly about resource distribution. None of the mainstream ideologies account for things like “finite resources”, instead opting for infintie growth. These ideologies were developed at a time when things like oil production and consumption might have been a sidenote on someone’s napkin at best. They were developed at a time when the majority of economic activity took place within a countries borders. We need to fully step back and address today’s problems without bias. We need to be open to modern technology, and the infinite amount of tools available to us. We need to understand that today’s world is neither socialist, nor capitalist.

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