Open-ended activism and dead-end activism5 min read

Dead-end activist thought has been a long-rising tide in America. Now it seems there is something of a rogue wave crashing upon us.

To pierce the veil here proves difficult if not practically impossible to many. One reason is that the social dynamics involved are infused with repellent defenses, such as the dead-end idea that, if one questions these affairs, then one is an inherent part of the problem that such thought is supposed to address.

The fact of the matter is, anyone interested in the preservation and continual betterment of the republic, and the culture that underpins it, is duty-bound to question these developments and share the action of their inquiry.

To assume that the only solution is to destroy the whole thing and then rebuild is wildly ill-conceived and neglects the actual patterns of social development, not to mention the way that such destructive efforts have tended to play out in the past.

What do I mean by dead-end activist thought?

I am referring to activist thought that is easy to replicate, through what I call dead-end activism, where many who are exposed to such thought through media and events are practically compelled to repeat and spread its message, and yet it does not inspire any further creative thought on part of its audience.

I am referring to dogma without rigor, particularly those ideas that naturally lead to injustice, masquerading as the natural embodiment of justice.

I am referring to activist thought that is effectively totalitarian in that, for example, it provides what are supposed to be the right answers for its own ill-posed questions and then addresses its assessment as settled, as a sound basis for vigorous political action at scale.

This is no way to go if we want an open society, because it homogenizes the actual living moral landscape towards coherence with a dead-end worldview, often now in the seductive name of opening up and unleashing the true potential of humanity.

We should be profoundly, actively suspicious of supposed solutions to social problems, especially those that we actually don’t understand, and especially when they are put forward as absolute.

If we are unable to question the ideas underpinning transformations in society, we are unable to control the transformations in society. Today we see an uncontrolled, runaway transformation of many areas of society, done in the name of justice and truth, which nonetheless compel adherents to refuse earnest inquiry into how they are actually supposed to carry out our search for justice and truth.

We see that people, as they encounter these forms of dead-end activism, often become active in promulgating it, even inflicting it upon others, without question. This is the creation of millions of kangaroo courts, the practically viral spread of a judge-jury-and-executioner mentality at the very same time as we need open discussion more than ever.

It might be presumed that I am talking about developments on the far-left, and I am, but it should be noted and emphasized that the very same developments are at play on the far-right, and in the center, and so forth. The compass of political postures does not adequately describe the issue. What we are actually talking about is something of a hyper- echo chamber effect, one where people are continually affirming, confirming their beliefs without question, assured by the infrastructures of thought that others have provided them so they can be convinced that they are acting righteously, all-the-while shutting down what critical faculties they have in favor of the path of least resistance, as most of humanity has always done.

Troubling common ground

From the inside, it must be very uncomfortable to acknowledge the similarities among the camps, so I reckon that they don’t; whether it is the ‘QAnon’ crowd with their wicked soteriology, or the anti-racist social justice warriors, they are convinced that they see the truth that others do not, and they are prepared to let it play out without questioning the foundations of these developments.

Open-ended activism

It only makes sense that, if we want an open society, our activism that seeks to bring about its furtherance should reflect the very same. This is akin to “be the change you wish to see.”

Yet so many so-called activists now refuse open dialogue.

There are now many who believe that, to even bring up certain topics in discussion is an affront to their program for justice. This should alarm us, because it is fundamentally destructive to personal and cultural integrity to assume that anything is off the table for discussion. When the list of disallowed topics grows, who is there to disagree?

While it may sound far-fetched, we are setting the precedent for political disappearing and other wretched tools we have seen the righteous evils of the world deploy in the past.

This is not without precedent.

Let us not go the way of those who failed to reckon with these ugly potentials we hold.

We must be willing to discuss what matters to us, and to not refuse the attempts of others to do the same. To dissolve this egalitarian ethic of open inquiry is to dissolve our capacity to create the world we actually want.

Any activist today, and any activist tomorrow, should be wary of absolutist postures for this very reason, and many others. Let us take stock of our beliefs, and, if they are not explicit, let us make them explicit in good-hearted, neighborly conversation, without condemnation, for our personal inquiries may be fruitful personally, yet it is the fruit of civilization we should like to be available to all.

Above all, let us be willing to change, for this is the way of all existence, and when we presume that we need not change, we set ourselves as brittle, and lay the conditions for us to break.

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