One of the illusions of thinking that very local actions by opposing insurgencies wash each other out is the underlying assumption that canceling out equals, “we don’t need to consider them anymore”. But even the components of our simple model of the entangled insurgency are not symmetric as this assumption suggests.
We also polarize political movements in our thinking to simplify our judgment of them, largely for short term political or personal gain. We pay no attention to potential long-term effects because they don’t have current meaning for us (see The Long Southern Strategy: How Chasing White Voters in the South Changed American Politics). Thus, by our short-term efforts to defeat some action or organized agenda from some insurgency, or to defend our own political assets, we guarantee the survival of those long-term consequences.
Asymmetries in the Right and Left Insurgencies, and the Asymmetric Competition in our Elites
Our Political, Social, and Financial Elites have managed their own internal conflicts for as long as they have existed. But the CAS that is our Elites now is becoming increasingly brittle. That doesn’t mean that collapse is imminent, but it does mean that their management of the macro-CAS is less effective, and there isn’t any way short of transformation that will alter this trend of degrading control. Presumably there will be more collapses like 2008, because brittle complex adaptive systems will eventually simplify themselves through various degrees and kinds of collapse.
There is also a level of threat to the Elite concept of stability that is growing every day. Groups that are internal to the Elite CAS can effectively negotiate improvement in their own status by threatening the Elite CAS itself with collapse. This has only become clear recently (from the “sort of accidental” economic disaster that was 2008). But the efforts by Elite subcommunities to bolster political and radical insurgencies of various kinds show the first steps in making existential threats a daily part of the ongoing Elite power dynamic (not threats to individual members or small groups that are part of the Elite, but threats to the ability of the Elite CAS to effectively continue its purpose). My guess is that the Elites will make choices to control these threats that will be less than optimal for the rest of us, and will continue to increase the brittleness of the Elite CAS.
Our entangled right and left insurgencies are also driven by an ongoing effort to build asymmetry into the macro-dynamic as a way of negotiating power and status. But the right and left versions do not approach this in the same way. The asymmetry in action reflects real differences in the dynamic of the insurgencies, and these differences also occur in sub-communities of the insurgencies. (The purpose of a CAS is what it does, not what it thinks it does.)
Right Insurgency Asymmetries
The Right drives mobilization by demanding an ideological commitment as a badge of movement and community membership. All right ideologies are organized around some idea of purity/righteousness as the source of community and personal power. Even when mobilization of this insurgency is successful, it is subject to fracture if its ideological basis of the action publicly fails, and the mobilization is more limited because of the sheer, if partly overlapping, diversity of right ideology.
The effect of such an approach is most clearly expressed in the enormous difficulty that the right insurgency has in breaking out of purely short-term tactical actions as their path forward. Trump’s election campaign was a tactical move of this sort, which became accidentally strategic because he won. We are now seeing how such a poorly framed strategy plays out. However, this failure doesn’t dismantle the local organizing and partisan build-up that has been the right insurgency model for the last half-century.
I think the right insurgency will fall back on its strength (organizing locally among the committed and building up from there) to try to preserve the mobilization it has worked so hard to build, or at least defend what it won in the last few years. As the left and elites come to believe that they have taken the oxygen out of the right insurgency’s strategy, they will fall back into the pattern that got the left (and the elites) into their current state of strategic confusion and relative ineffectiveness.
Exactly the same dynamic happened one generation after the Civil War, when the North came to ignore the South. The KKK, White Citizens’ Councils, and Jim Crow Laws started the South back up the hill in their apparently never-ending effort to control and exploit all who aren’t young white male aristocrats.
Left Insurgency Asymmetries
Left insurgent ideologies are organized around identities and the CAS that is Intersectionality. Such an approach requires continuous negotiation and entanglement of the various sub-communities without any consensus on ideology; the negotiation isn’t aimed at eliminating difference. Ideally, negotiation would create mutual trust and respect.
The left insurgency views the community as the source of power, seen as an ideal community of mutually respectful and mutually supporting members. This mutuality is aspirational, and must be constantly negotiated and renegotiated as each sub-community develops culturally, and uses that deeper understanding to deepen negotiation, until mutual respect and trust is part of the bones of the macro-community.
I believe that this negotiation is fractal, which is to say, going on at every level of social organization all the time, including inside each individual. Although the negotiation has no end, and causes mobilization problems for the left insurgency, it is a remarkably resilient dynamic, and allows the left insurgency to expand its reach regardless of the particulars on the current political, financial, and social situation, the behavior of the other insurgencies in the simple model, or the superficial calculus of power that pervades our media as exemplars of Elite political fashion of the day.
Mutual Interpretation of Others by the Insurgencies
The Elites and the Insurgencies interpret their opponents according to their fundamental assumptions about themselves.
Our Elites continue to use the trope of “let them eat cake”, and generally ignore the insurgencies, as long as their wealth, reputation, and power aren’t notably affected. When they are affected, they do the least they think they can get away with (because doing anything more soaks up resources that could be better spent on enhancing elite wealth, reputation, and power), so as to preserve and defend what they have. They view all of us as incompetent versions of themselves, largely beneath their notice.
The left insurgency interprets the right as driven by a single identity (white supremacy) and as a poor cousin of the Elites. The left views the ideology as no more than a tool to privilege one identity.
The right insurgency interprets the left as a single movement driven by a common ideology (Antifa right now). This “ideology” is no more to the right than an effort to steal the assets and resources of the right insurgency and the Elites.
(Note: It doesn’t matter if these perceptions by any insurgency of others are accurate to any extent. They will fail to support effective decision-making because they are too superficial, and very poor guides to the change choices made by the various insurgencies.)
These interpretations of opponents have the effect of attributing symmetry to the struggle, when that symmetry does not exist. The dynamic of the whole CAS is not these perceived symmetries in motivation, but the actual asymmetries of their interests and the impact that it has on day-to-day decision-making and the evolving dynamic of the macro-CAS.
Part Six: Where has all the empathy gone? Long time passing….