A brief, general description of the traditional versus the secular progressive
In the world of social commentary, there is a continental divide between traditional thinkers and secular progressive (SP) thinkers. SPs generally believe that any societal move that parts with tradition improves the human condition, and it is a sign of progress (hence the term progressivism). Traditionalists generally believe that if an individual can find a way to follow the traditional path in life—that which is usually passed down by parents, grandparents, and religious leaders—it can improve their condition in life.
Traditionalists aren’t necessarily conservative, Republican, or religious, but they generally tend to be all of the above. By equal measure, non-traditional thinkers aren’t necessarily liberal, progressive, Democrat, or secular, but they generally tend to be all of the above. The point, in making all of these delineations, is that there is a continental divide in the aisle between the two philosophies no matter what labels they are given… Or not given, if you’re one of those that abhor labels.
1) The difference between being right and being effective. Every writer believes that they are correct about their issue, and they have absolute conviction in their position. If they didn’t, they probably wouldn’t be writing about it. Non-writers may enjoy a lunchtime discussion, over given topics, but they are not the type that will get so passionate about a topic, that they feel a need to blog it out. The problem with being so passionate is that a writer can reach a point where they begin to lose effectiveness. Most writers have learned, over time, to rein it in. Most writers have found that even the most passionate, most partisan sentence can be finessed in a manner that makes it digestible to the most non-ideological among us.
2) Avoid being easily dismissed. It is vital for traditional writers to finesse their work, because SP critics are always on the lookout for ways to dismiss traditional voices from the conversation. SP critics do not, usually, engage in point/counterpoint arguments with traditional thinkers. They seek to dismiss them. A traditional writer could have a piece that contains nine solid points about a given topic, but one point that can be spun as inflammatory, and incendiary. The SP critic will focus on that one point and characterize, and mischaracterize it, until they feel that the other nine points are diminished by comparison. Or, they will characterize the author with that one point, in such a manner that they hope that author is dismissed and hopefully never read.
Anyone that pays attention to the manner in which SP thinkers operate knows that they will attempt to dismiss a traditional thinker’s viewpoint based on their physical characteristics, their religion, their income, and, of course, their political viewpoint. With that in mind, it is incumbent on all traditional voices to avoid giving SP critics easy ammunition that they can use to prevent potential readers from reading you.
Anytime I read, or hear, traditional voices provide SPs easy ammunition, I often wonder if they realize how damaging to their cause they are. I wonder if they’ve ever heard, or read, SPs diminish individuals, causes, and entire political parties and dismiss them based on one sentence. I often wonder if these traditional voices have cable, and if they’ve ever watched MSNBC. I often wonder if they’ve spent any time mining their material to, at the very least, make it more difficult for the SPs to manipulate a potential audience with a dismissal. This careful, and mindful, editing is not about being less passionate, to my mind, it’s about being disciplined.
If you’re writing traditional pieces, know that the other side is probably doing keyword searches on your piece to try and find a way to dismiss you. They’re looking to characterize, and mischaracterize, you, so that they can dismiss everything you’ve written. As I wrote, most SP thinkers will personally dismiss your piece on the basis that your piece represents a view that’s different from theirs, but for them to dismiss it to a potential audience, they need you to provide them some ammunition. Some of them may feel guilty dismissing you on your physical characteristics, and they may fear that that’s less than effective, so they need your cooperation. Unfortunately, some traditional voices do cooperate by providing such ammunition when they get so passionate that they forget the discipline required to be effective.
The best method, I’ve found, for maintaining discipline is to pour all of my ideological passion into a piece, and then go back through it with the mindset of an SP mind seeking to dismiss me. My pieces are not stripped of ideological passion, but they are carefully edited in such a manner that they are more difficult to spin as inflammatory, and in my opinion, they are more easily consumed by non-ideological readers.
3) Don’t preach to the choir. Some people might say, I’m not writing my particular piece for the other side, so why should I avoid words that they might not like? To answer this question, you have to answer another question: To whom are you writing this piece? Are you looking to get high fives from like-minded readers, or are you attempting to reach a broader audience? Are you looking to feed into the confirmation bias of your readers, or are you trying to persuade those indecisive readers that your viewpoint might be one to consider? Are you trying to help other people reach clarity on an issue, or are you trying to prove to other traditional thinkers that you’re well-informed on the traditional viewpoint? Are you trying to tell other people what you think, or are you trying to clarify an issue to the point that they may, eventually, agree with you?
4) Allow your readers to reach their own conclusions. The most persuasive pieces I’ve ever read are those that know the other side so well that they can not only provide the other side’s views, but they can persuasively nuke them. These pieces don’t characterize the other side, or pretend to know their motivations. They present facts, and some opinions based on those facts. They then provide possible alternative conclusions to all these facts and opinions, and they persuasively nuke those conclusions, until the reader arrives at what, they believe, is a logical conclusion that just happens to match the authors.
5) Communicate your ideas clearly. Whereas the SP side attempts to provide nuanced confusion and obfuscation of an issue, the goal of every traditional writer should be to communicate their ideas clearly.
It can be tough, for example, for even the most conservative Republicans to be against some SP tenets, if it is their desire to adhere to individualist tenets. A true individualist tries to remain true to the absolute definitions of individual freedom, regardless what their other beliefs may be. Most true individualists have attempted to follow the somewhat arbitrary rules of individualism with philosophical purity, only to find an empty pot at the end of the rainbow. It made sense to us, at one point in our lives, to follow this path. We knew we were different, and we knew out different circumstances required a different, and new and improved, approach than that of our parents and grandparents. We knew that, compared to them, we needed an unconventional approach in our pursuit of truth. We are all individuals, is the nuanced philosophy of most individualists, and what may work for one, may not work for another. Most individualists, that have attempted to follow these nuanced, unconventional paths to their logical conclusions, have eventually, and painstakingly, found that we were incorrect with our assumptions.
Recent history has shown us that the SP mind is geared towards dismissing traditional voices. If you are disciplined enough to avoid providing them that one point that can be spun as inflammatory, or incindiary, they may attempt to dismiss you by arbitrarily changing the playing field on you. They may group you in with like-minded thinkers that have made such statements, and they may force you to defend these people. If they don’t have easy ammunition to use on you, they may inform their audience of your physical characteristics, your religion, your income bracket, or your political beliefs to suggest that your argument should not be considered, on this particular topic, for that reason. These are all forces beyond your control, however, and you can’t worry about all that while writing. You need to focus on what you can control. You can control your words, and you control your content, to the point that when they have exhausted all of their attempts to dismiss you, those attempts say more about them than they do you.