Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Centrism and Feedback

I had an interesting conversation with somebody so far to the left that he honestly views the overwhelming majority of the country as descending levels of conservative. The amazing part is that our conversation was remarkably civil. Mostly that was because he had left the "liberal orthodoxy" so long ago that he did not object in the slightest to my definition of political correctness. Some of his arguments closely resembled any number of scenes from "Life of Brian", and I wonder if he has ever seen that movie. Overall it was a fascinating experience for me at the end of a very bad week, and it provided an interesting insight.

The moment you realize you are completely wrong on a given point is the greatest inspiration to growth and healthy change that a human can have. Isolating yourself from that moment is the most damaging behavior imaginable, because you doom your actions to repeating wasteful, self-destructive futility. This fellow is earnest in his desire to create meaningful change. Regrettably, he has abandoned every reasonable metric by which to judge the effectiveness of his own actions and the causes he participates in. He dismissed all feedback I could give him with trivial irrelevancies and trite phrases from somewhere well to the left of Marx that were almost as dated as the "L' Internationale".

In conversations about centrism, my friend Michael Totten often mentions his frustration with the insulated character orthodox liberalism has taken on. Part of the blogosphere's value is that it strips away our insulation and confronts us with feedback from source data and observers of actual events. Centrism is hard because it demands that you abandon your preconceptions and rethink issues you resolved. This makes it extremely difficult to come up with a rallying call that survives ongoing analysis. Arguably the only banner centrists reliably agree upon after exhaustive discussion is an image of a plane flying into a building and the resolution to never again go meekly.

We can build on that framework. It remains to be seen how long other political entities can survive on the premise of ignoring, forgetting, and dismissing that critical feedback. It is essential for centrists to never allow the drive for political power to obscure the acceptance of honest feedback. It is like balancing on a ball, very difficult without a steadying influence. That image of a planeload of cowed and naïve victims flying into a building of the unaware is our anchor. We cannot meekly allow ourselves to fly unwitting and unaware into our doom. We must seek and analyze relevant feedback then act upon it.
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