Information Politics: Evil Adds Up to Zero


In the chaos of mis/information nowadays, finding moral reference points can be quite difficult. Everyone wants to get along with their friends, so if one says something that might sound a bit morally awkward, we might shrug it off. I believe some moral premises should be regarded as red flags that warrant further discussion. For instance: the zero-sum-game.

A zero-sum-game is a model of interaction in which any participants gains are balanced out by another’s losses. In other words: there is no scenario in which all players benefit. In order for one to gain, another must lose. As a moral premise, it is necessarily malicious.

As such, I think we should listen for it, especially in social or political discourse.

Listen for it in ideas like:
“I wish we didn’t have to keep bombing the Middle-East to stay safe.”

A much more insidious place this premise hides is in variants of “If we don’t hurt them, they will hurt us” from those who aren’t clear and present danger. As a softer variant, “if I’m not comfortable, they don’t deserve to be comfortable”, or “If I don’t feel safe, they don’t deserve to feel safe”. In application, the context can range from warzones to courtrooms to interpersonal relationships.

Not that people who say these things are evil, but these ideas should be elaborated on and scrutinized. Often this sort of rhetoric is used to support causes that, on the whole, have been good for the world. Despite this, I believe that actions carried out based on these ideas tend to do more harm than good. Do not let friends and loved ones act on the zero-sum-game unchallenged.

I think political discourse among those who disagree are much more fruitful when addressing moral premises, rather than debating the details of recent events.

No amount of research or raw information will affect the actions of the politically polarized, be they Congresspeople or new voters. We have to engage morally, because that’s where the divides must be bridged.

The time for abstract armchair philosophy and detached hypothetical scenarios is over, at least for me and mine. Now is the time to engage and act on however you think you can contribute to your idea of a better world. Find where we agree.

Violent conflicts may be an inevitable feature of human nature, but indifference is a moral blight.

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