The other day I saw yet another example of people debating the merits of capitalism vs socialism, with the obligatory mention of communism and even anarchism. It got me to thinking that the problem wasn’t exclusively between words like “social” and “capital” that precede the suffix “ism.” So, I opened up today’s conversation by expressing my frustration with conversations that always seem to turn in circles.
“Chad, I need your help. I’m beginning to think we talk too much about choosing a system we want to live under as if it’s a packaged product to buy off the shelf. My fear is that if we’re talking about systems that regulate our lives, a more fundamental problem revealed by such debates is that we always frame it as the choice of an “ism” to identify with. In such debates all sides appear to suppose there is a clear meaning of the ism they describe. This permits them to praise their favorite ism and condemn the others. Couldn’t the faith in ‘isms’ be the biggest problem of our civilization, meaning that we have to choose sides, without even knowing what that side represents?
Chad seemed genuinely interested and offered these thoughts.
“You raise a valid point that many people tend to simplify complex societal issues by aligning themselves with a particular “ism” without fully understanding its implications. It is important to recognize that these “isms” are not always clear-cut and can manifest differently in different societies.
Furthermore, people often tend to view these “isms” as mutually exclusive, leading to a false dichotomy where one must choose between capitalism and socialism, for example. This oversimplification can lead to a lack of nuanced understanding of complex issues and can hinder productive discourse.”
Chad then added this bit of advice. “It is important for individuals to approach societal issues with an open mind, and to educate themselves on the nuances and complexities of different political and economic systems.”
I had to interrupt at this point because of Chad’ unnerving tendency to pile on and turn everything into a moral lesson.
“Ok, Chad,” I blurted out, “in an ideal world, the kind of world you love to describe, people will think everything through, reason together and come up with a rational solution. But we don’t live in such a world. We live in a consumer society, in which everything is reduced to a consumer’s choice, a matter of personal preference. You yourself seem to be accepting consumerism as a kind of norm when you talk about what’s ‘important for individuals.’ For every important and trivial decision, we must all choose a brand. Our politicians and media tell us that that’s what we are supposed to do. Do you think that’s viable for a complex society?”
This time I decided to let Chad go on without interruption.
“You raise a valid point that we live in a consumer society where everything is often reduced to a matter of personal preference, including political and economic systems. It is true that many politicians and media outlets try to frame complex issues in simplistic terms to appeal to a consumerist mindset, which can lead to polarization and a lack of understanding of the nuances of different systems.
However, I believe that it is possible to shift away from a consumerist mindset and towards a more nuanced understanding of political and economic systems. This can be achieved through education, open dialogue, and a willingness to engage with diverse perspectives.
While it is true that people will always have different preferences and opinions, I believe that it is possible to foster a culture of critical thinking and informed decision-making. This requires a shift away from the idea that everything is reducible to a consumer choice and towards a recognition of the complexity of societal issues.
Ultimately, it is up to individuals to make a conscious effort to engage with complex issues in a thoughtful and informed way. By doing so, we can work towards building a more inclusive and equitable society that values dialogue, critical thinking, and a nuanced understanding of different political and economic systems.”
Why did I now feel even more frustrated than before? The lesson was always the same. Chad always seeks to conclude with a thought that is so reasonable, there’s no way of disagreeing. But instead of addressing the issues, Chad’s solution always comes down to getting “individuals to make a conscious effort to engage with complex issues in a thoughtful and informed way.” As expected, the focus is on individuals choosing something. Chad’s reasoned and critically thought out position sounds to me like a new social and economic ideology that deserves to be called “complex consumerism.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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