Dialectic, Not Dualism


When I argue, as I do, for dialectic over dualism in the way we process conflict, some folk get the impression I’m arguing for inaction. I’m not. I’m arguing for more thoughtful action. Maybe for “tragic” rather than “heroic” action, acting in doubt rather than acting in false certainty.

Here are a few examples of issues I grapple with that seem to me in need of a synthesis you might call “dialectical,” not just an affirmation of one pole or the other:

There are brutal inequalities in society that, given the considerably fucked way the individual is socialized under capitalism, may need to be addressed by handing more (redistributive, etc.) power to the state. || The state is brutal, repressive, and authoritarian, with basically illimitable, irresponsible sovereignty, it tends towards hierarchy and centralization of power, and this is as true of socialist states as of capitalist.

Trauma is a discourse weaponized in and by neoliberalism to hide structural problems under expressions of individual pain, to avoid structural reform by pushing for individual redress. || Trauma is an all too real lived experience that must be taken seriously and treated compassionately, that mustn’t be dismissed as mere politics.

Most of our social problems are structural and most people live with some manner of false consciousness, a misunderstanding of their own interests. || To tell someone they have false consciousness, they misread their own experiences, is horrendously condescending and often just plain inaccurate, and most people who do so are kind of dicks.

Directly, writing/theorizing makes nothing happen. It is in fact “all talk.” || No ethical action is possible without doing the work that writing/theorizing gives voice to.

To feel so so so so much is a spiritual and political resource that matters. || Raw emotion isn’t a coherent politics, nor does it necessarily point towards one.

You will do harm, no matter what; you can’t avoid it. || You’re obliged to try your fucking hardest to avoid doing harm.

I might add to this list.


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