First, thought I should mention that I think this site is a great idea, I really hope it takes off.
My hope is that this site, and maybe others like it can make a dent in the wall of words errected around our political process. Words are the main focus of this post, because I believe we need to use a much savier and robust political lexicon. For so long the debate in the U.S. has been splint in twain. I believe that sites like this can be a great vehicle to push past this barrier.
Why is it only democrat or republican? Conservative or Liberal? Pro-war, Anti-war?
This sets up a linear system upon which most people project their individual political beliefs:
How can a straight line possibly be good enough to describe the complex transactions of ideas, personalities, and events that make up any political spectrum?
Several years ago, during the run-up to the Iraq war, I took some friends to an anti-war rally in Santa Monica, CA. I went mainly to observe the process and see what the message was. I knew only that I had a vague feeling that pre-emptive action was not a good idea, because of the probability of others seeing us as the action that needs pre-empting. The first 3 banners I saw on the walk from the parking lot were: 1)"Free Mumia Al-Jabar" 2)"Pro-choice is about Life" and 3)"Peace"
What confusion! I was there to protest a pre-emptive war, not to champion all liberal causes simultaneously. In fact, most of my beliefs probably fall on the right (conservative) side of the line. And I don't support such sloppy and imprecise message like "Peace".
So who am I in the political process? What words are there to describe the fact that I am Anti-war in Iraq, but I'm not anti-war in general. Or that I don't care much about Mumia Al-Jabar or abortion for that matter. I'm serious, what word is there?
Well, Moderate doesn't work. Firstly, my feelings on most political topics are anything but moderate. Passionate? Yes. Deeply compelling? Yes. Moderate, is just so unsatisfying a devoid of inherent political meaning. Yet it seems that is the best and only word left for me. If you try to take the sum total of my political views and force them onto a linear template I suppose:
Liberal-------------Moderate--*----------Conservative *=I am here?
I look at this and think: Wow, what a really really bad way to think and talk about political identity. What the hell is a liberal or a conservative anyway? Those words seem to have evolved into catch-all terms that include too many people. Terms so general that anyone who identifies themselves as either can simply sit back and look at the confusing mess that is "the opposition" and choose to ignore them. Also, if I'm not liberal, or conservative, and I'm clearly too passionate to be moderate about anything, who do I get to identify with?
Don't get me started about the "Un-decided" phenomena.......
The most desturbing phenomena associated with this bi-polar, linear split is that when the core (big media, public media, gov, and acadamia) discusses politics using this vocab, then the ripple effect on the periphery (coffee shop politics, bloggers, family conversation) is emense.
To me, words are the human method of imbueing sound with meaning. So, when the meaning of a word is obfuscated or over-saturated, all you are left with is a sound. And much like music, sounds without objective meaning can only hit us at an emotional level, not a rational one.
Anyway, I don't think there is any work-around to this problem. It seems the whole political vocabulary must be torn down, then re-built based on a multi-linear, or even fractal set of terms (whose meaning can withstand mutation). Personally, I tend to think of political belief systems, belief systems in general, as somewhat similar to distributed netwok models. Each identifiable "belief" shows up as a single node on a vast network of interconnected ideas. Some nodes recieve more traffic than others, and some nodes eventually drop-off leaving space for new ideas.
I challenge this community to help break-down the 2D linear limitations of our vocab. I do not pretend to know the correct mechnism, however I have many many ideas along these lines and invite commentaries, criticism, discussion. As the line goes, "What better place than here? What better time than now?"
--Sanjianjc 23:17, 13 July 2006 (UTC)