America is far too similar to Oceania from Nineteen-Eighty Four.

America has grown disturbingly close to the fascist nation of Oceania from the dystopian political novel Nineteen-Eighty Four by George Orwell. Please remember that these are generalizations and do not apply to every American. (By the way, I am aware that this is long so feel free to skim)

Ministry of Peace - The role of the Ministry of Peace in the novel is to conduct war upon opposing nations. This is pretty straightforward. They are both in a state of perpetual war as a means to drive the economy as well as perpetuate fear among its citizens. This correlates through things like the war on terror, cold war, etc.

Ministry of Plenty - The role of the Ministry of Plenty in the novel is to make sure that nobody other than the upper class has everything that they need. They are also responsible for continuing production within their economy. This is similar to the constant advertising throughout television and other media always telling people that they have to buy a (insert expensive unnecessary item here). As well as the preaching by politicians that the working class are the most important people in America while at the same time cutting wages, raising the taxes for people in the lower class, and phasing out worker's rights.

Ministry of Truth  - The role of the Ministry of Truth in the novel is to spread lies, propaganda, and misinformation. They are in charge of ensuring that none of the citizens know what is really happening. They make sure that everyone is happy living there because they say that everywhere else is much worse. This is similar to the reportings of the news networks across America (FOX, CNN, MSNBC, et al) as well as the government censorship of various documents and media (CIA, FCC, et al) This ensures that Americans not only love their country, but hate everyone who has any feeling of dissent or non-conformity.

Ministry of Love - The role of the Ministry of Love in the novel is to spy, police, and torture. This is in order to keep dissidents under control in order to ensure the Party's dominance. America has many institutions of torture (Abu Ghraib; and others I'm sure) intended to "keep America safe. The government has also been responsible for repressing "riots" and undesirable acts all throughout American history ("don't tase me, dude" incident, 1971 May Day protest, etc). The USA PATRIOT Act gave the government full power to spy on and detain whoever the fuck they want to but it has been happening since before then (Mumia Abu-Jamal, Rodney King, Sherman Austin etc).

War is Peace - American neo-fascists insist that "we must fight the terrorists over there, so that we don't have to fight them here". But the main reason that people hate America is that they are constantly invading countries to spread their empire. And make no mistake they are invading not liberating and they do have an empire not a Coalition of the Willing.War is not peace. Peace is peace.

Freedom is Slavery - Immigrants come to America in order to be free and a part of the "American Dream". But they are quite uninformed. The "American Dream" is only for rich, white males.So instead these immigrants must work for wages below minimum wage with no opportunity for any advancement or decent living conditions. This is known as wage slavery.

Ignorance is Strength - Many Americans are afraid of exactly what their government tells them to be afraid of (communism, fascism -ironic?, homosexuals, terrorism, poverty, illegal immigrants, people of other races, there are too many to even begin to list). This generates a system of consumerism and obedience. Thus making the country stronger.

Newspeak - This is a new language which thins the english lexicon as much as is possible. Words like freedom and justice are either removed or altered to fit the ideals of the Party. This is done so that nobody can make an intelligent argument against the party and so that while speaking, people do not need to think. This has only started happening recently with politicians perverting definitions of words like torture so that it becomes constitutional. A newspeak vocabulary is becoming prominent due to a new text messaging generation (lol, brb, omg).

Proletarian Revolution - The concept of a proletarian revolution is explored in the novel as the only possibility for change. The proles are the lower class. Their numbers are the only thing that can stand up to the Party. But, inexplicably, they do not rise up. This is because a lack of organization, the concept that they are lower beings being projected by the Party, and the need for them to get by day to day. This is similar to the lower class Americans living in America. They are far too busy trying to simply get by to enact any kind of change within the political system that would benefit them. But all that it ever really takes is for the ruling powers to go one step too far, or for a revolutionary leader to organize their numbers.

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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.

Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.

The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?

Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression

In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.

Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.

Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.

The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.

It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.

In their findings the authors state:

"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence
to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.

Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like
violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students
do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones,
speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment
to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on
controversial issues is "always acceptable."

With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.

Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner

As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:

  • Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
  • Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
  • Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
  • Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
  • Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
  • Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
  • Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,

Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.

It's interesting to note the authors found that:

"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."

You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.

Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:

  • 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
  • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement

Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:

  • Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
  • Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
  • Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
  • Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
  • We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
  • If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.

Civic discourse in the divisive age

Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.

There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:

"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.

Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."

We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.

This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.

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