We should strive to reinvigorate a culture of skepticism and self-critique into the ranks of Left.
“Someone should put together a checklist to help people figure out if they’re Regressive or Progressive liberals” -Peter Boghossain, philosopher and professor at Portland State University.
We should engage and converse across the political spectrum, and walk ourselves through shared exercises in envisioning such a list. This is merely a suggestion – one of many - for moving such honest conversation forward within the ranks of the Left. Millions of liberals are supportive when they hear good arguments about the need to make this critical distinction - progressive vs. regressive - and re-claim what it means to be a liberal. Many liberal or left-leaning freethinkers have expressed a strong need for the wider Left to re-claim the following values and guiding principles:
A plurality of ideas, a diversity of voices.
A rejection of groupthink, and a celebration of individual thinking
Freedom of speech, of thought, of conscience.
A firm rejection of censorship, and the slippery slope it leads to. “I may despise what you have to say, but I will die defending it”
Targeting ‘heretics’ and dissenters ‘within the ranks’ is authoritarian.
Don’t use bullying or attacks to control the narrative or define the parameters of the debate – this is authoritarian and dishonest, and antithetical to liberal principles
A celebration of non-conformity. An encouragement of everyone to ask questions.
Individual thinking is good, and groupthink is dangerous
No idea is above criticism, not even our own.
Question everything, hold nothing above scrutiny
Satire and speech are the best weapons. Ideas do not have rights; people do!
A rejection of dogmatic identity politics. An embrace of human flourishing, beyond borders
Openness to self-reflection, and a willingness to be wrong. The desire to morally evolve, and to always improve, be it an entire society, or ourselves as a whole
A firm rejection of dogmatism over free thought. A willingness to strive for new moral horizons
A rejection of simplistic binary thinking. The embracing of complexity and nuanced argument
A respect for science and free inquiry, even amidst discomforting truths – dogma and social correctness should never trump free inquiry
The ability to question orthodoxies is the heart of science and progress. Even Leftist orthodoxies
There is arguably nothing – no philosophical truth, no human virtue, no moral issue, no matter of race, gender, or culture, no matter of human oppression, imbalance or injustice - echoed by the cries of the dogmatic and ‘purist’ fringes of the Left, that cannot be better understood and discussed by non-dogmatic, scientifically literate reasoning. This seems quite sensible, so long as such reasoning is grounded in genuine compassion, love, and the recognition of human dignity and individual worth.
We should strive to reinvigorate a culture of skepticism and self-critique into the ranks of Right
We should partner with conservative freethinkers to help build a Freethought Coalition. With leading voices of independent conservative freethinking, moderation and reform at the tip of the spear, we must tell the Conservative Establishment and the GOP that it must make room for independent thinkers, and allow for a plurality of views that actually reflects the intellectual diversity among conservatives. We should work with as many open-minded conservatives as we can, in respectful dialogue, and take on Platform Ideology.
The point is to encourage people to be more mindful, honest and reflective about their beliefs and vies, and how they arrived at them. To encourage people to stop pretending to have all the answers on every issue, and to avoid pretending that these answers are so simple as to be reducible to soundbites and Talking Points. We need nuance, we need reason, science and freethought, not Platform Dogma!
We need a Freethinker Revolution within the conservative movement. We need to empower Rightwing Reformers. And a series of visible, well-promoted alternative media forums to empower its voices.
Reason Revival's 'Big Idea': Making our Country, our Communities, our Alternate Media, and our Universities “Living Laboratories of Discussion”
In a time of great dehumanization across demographic, political, religious, ideological and racial lines, perhaps two defining items should guide us in how we move forward as a Nation, and as a society:
Closing the Empathy Gap, by Building a Bridge of Conversation between polarized groups
Actively Tear Down Taboos of Conversation (and the ‘Taboos of Association and Agreement’) between Polarized Groups
Imagine two people sitting down, discussing their backstories and inner lives, and trying to imagine ‘what it is like’ to be the other person. To walk in their shoes. And then, connecting with more and more people from the ‘other group’, as their spheres of inclusion is expanded and their moral and intellectual horizons broadened.
But how do we get our politicians to answer to science and reason? A resistance toolkit for the Skeptic
Crowdsourcing ideas and dialogue on an issue, such as drug reform, can bring a lot of sensible points to light by tapping into the hidden reservoir of reason and common sense. In other words, a wiki-informed Citizenry. This will warrant a paper in and of itself – more on that in the footnotes.
Another part of this would be forcing officials to give reasons (not ‘talking points’ or a "just because" cliché) for bad or hurtful policies, or for bad ideas. This could be done at town halls across the nation, by applying the right pressure. We need to help more of our political communities, townhalls and discussion forums build up a conversational intolerance for the refusal to give good reasons (such as evidence) for ideas and policies. Take in for a moment, if you will, the idea of hundreds or even thousands of skeptics engaging in borderline (but safe) civil disobedience by repeatedly demanding at least some logical argument for new of existing policies. Imagine this occuring during townhall meetings and public policy venues.
Imagine if we were to fight for this standard of reason and evidence, in real time, all across the country. And teach and mentor others, in our inner cities and our rural countryside, to do the same.
If this sounds crazy, I would argue that it seems even crazier that we as a society aren’t doing this. The fact that we don’t demand good answers to questions of policy, or that politicians can repeatedly make bad calls and support indefensible ideas without really being challenged or called to give an explanation, should strike people as being far more backward and bizarre than the local security walking citizens out of a public meeting because they wouldn’t stop demanding reasons for policies. No one need go to jail for this; putting unrelenting pressure on officials and politicians and candidates to give answers would, at worst, lead to some people being banned from a meeting. This not be a defining problem for skeptical freethinkers – there are plenty of bars across the street with more enjoyment to them than a room full of politicians.
People should have to produce good reasons for their policies and ideas. Tradition, ‘talking points’ and political clichés will no be longer sufficient to fall back on; political expeindcy or vague references to memes and partisan soundbites should not be enough for us as a soceity – people need to furnish actual reasons, grounded in fact, logic, evidence and rational thiking. This, many feel, should inform the new 'moral arc' of American politics and society.