Saturday, May 4, 2019
Piaget, Archimedes, and a Defense of the New (and Necessary) Centrism
“Evil exists,” writes the man in my Twitter bubble as a caption to his post, a news piece about a man who tortured & murdered a two-year-old. Were I in the other, right-wing bubble, where it’s a given that evil exists, I’d more likely be hearing a call to disembowel the perpetrator or the liberals who are soft on crime. The Trump era has taught me the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives assume no one can be trusted, even those who can be trusted, while liberals like me assume the good in everyone. For two years, we’ve been reeling from the blows of every hateful word, each corrupt act, pulling out our hair, chanting, “How could they do this?” It’s time, I guess, to shove past the formal operations stage of development, though I’d argue that far too many conservatives have yet to even reach it. Having reached it, though, too many of us on the left have been content to perch here, looking down at the ones beneath us who fail to even try to make this milestone. Even Piaget was clear that it isn’t an end in itself, that adult life tempers the high ideals of the young adult abstract thinker, and though he, being a serious scientist, didn’t use the word realpolitik, many of us need to recalibrate without becoming utterly cynical, push off from this shore we thought was safe and good, though laced underneath with larcenies with longer half-lives than plastic, as we’re often reminded by those in a particular bubble that often overlaps with ours—the purity left. While we cry out, “How could they do this?” they pounce (hi Glenn Greenwald!) and say, “How can you be upset by this when X has been done in your name?!” This bubble intends to live in the formal operations stage, hang portraits of Hegel and Marx on its immaterial walls, imagining that the privilege enabling them to do so is the fulcrum Archimedes dreamed he could build.