Obeisance and bad attitudes to dissent

Life is not a collection of binary actions and decisions. As all of us should know, life is messy, people are complex and illogical in their behaviors, and (contrary to the song that Donald Trump keeps playing at his rallies) you can’t always get what you want.
However, you wouldn’t know any of that if you read many of the postings that wend their way across my Facebook.
According to many of these postings, complex issues in life do have clear binary answers. There is a right answer, that the poster has of course signed on to. Then there is a wrong answer, which Other People have adopted.
Then it gets interesting and silly. It also appears that the Other People are not only wrong, but they are lesser individuals on multiple levels because they have a different worldview.
They can be many things, but smart and nice is not one of them. They apparently occupy some position in the world that makes them inferior.
They are unpatriotic. (The online world is full of self-proclaimed experts on who is a “Real American” these days)
They are stupid, moronic, or gullible.
They are retarded, perverted.
They are enablers of terrorism, atheism, homosexuality, perversion, communism, marxism, umpteen other isms

It seems to me that most of the people issuing these streams of denunciation are doing so because they cannot, on any emotional or logical level, handle and process dissent.
In a normal healthy social grouping or society, dissent is seen as useful. Dissenters often ask awkward questions that force people out of collective groupthink modes of operation. Dissenters have driven many of the great advances in human thinking and worldviews.
In unhealthy societies and groups where conformity is valued above independent thought, dissent is seen, incorrectly, as a form of disloyalty, subversive and therefore unacceptable. Cults, immature political movements, revolutionary groups, insecure businesses, narcissistic people and dysfunctional families all can adopt these attitudes.
In totalitarian dictatorships, the state takes over the job of policing obeisance and conformity. Dissenters are demonized, persecuted, and in many points in history, tortured and murdered, often with the full endorsement of the government.

Unfortunately, in many societal situations in the modern USA, I am constantly discovering individuals and groups who practice the policy of attempting to eliminate dissent, either by the expedient of tuning it out, or demanding that dissenters shut up or go away. They adopt the position that unless you openly profess unconditional fealty and credulous obeisance to a group or body in society, that you are opposed to that group.
There’s no polite way to summarize this. It’s utterly, moronically illogical, and has no seriousness or credibility. The people making these demands are, perhaps without realizing it, adopting the worst behavioral characteristics of totalitarian and cult leaders and supporters.
In the modern USA, there are numerous groups, event and symbols that many people believe have a right to enjoy perpetual, uncritical support. Provision of that uncritical support is seen by many people as some sort of litmus test of a person’s worth. The police, the military, the US flag, and and the National Anthem are all seen by many people as somehow above criticism and requiring uncritical fealty at all times.
There is a reason why the Bible included an injunction against idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of symbols, not people or processes. A flag is not a country, and an image is not a person. Students of history well know that totalitarian societies and dictatorships place great emphasis on the role of symbols in obtaining and maintaining uncritical fealty to the aims of the dictatorship. The film of Nazi rallies is chock-full of symbols of all types. Communist countries in Eastern Europe were full of air-brushed images of leaders displayed in public places.
In a healthy society that values individual freedom higher than unthinking group cohesion, no group or organization has a right to expect uncritical obeisance. Implementing that rule will ensure that the organization in question will, over time, slowly morph to behave in a thoroughly reprehensible way, since there is no possibility of it being asked awkward questions like “why are you behaving like a bunch of out of control assholes?”, and many humans, sadly, do what they can get away with, not what is right. World history shows this very clearly.
So, when I read postings that, shorn of flim-flam, say things like “you’re either 100% for this group or you are hostile to them and you need to shut up”, my considered reaction is to call bullshit on that line of reasoning. You can be married to somebody but see their faults, and discuss them with your partner. That’s not disloyalty, it’s smart and empathetic.
If your reaction to politely expressed dissent is to tell the dissenter to either shut up or go away, or to start down the road of juvenile ad hominem insults, you have the problem, not the dissenter, and I am going to call you on it.


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