How good are you at separating your core values from your current political perspective? I ask this as someone whose core values have not changed significantly over my lifetime, yet my political perspectives have. To be able to separate the two areas, you have to be able to define your core values in ways that are concrete enough to be discussed. That doesn’t mean they aren’t abstract in the literary sense, but the substance of the concerns has to be somehow actionable and measurable in how it influences your decisions. How do these values affect how you spend your time and how you treat others? You have to be able to explain to someone why when you “help” someone, it might look different from when they “help” someone.
I think a lot of people would be surprised at the idea that core values can be separated from political perspectives, even assuming the language of politics stayed reliable. In the political air waves, we are lead to believe that anyone who does not hold the same political perspective is basically immoral and/or stupid. It dishearteningly resembles gang warfare in a struggle for power. Woe to the person who doesn’t pick a political party.
Political perspectives are only ideas for government systems to force how individuals get to interact. Many people with similar core values come to opposing political perspectives. This is partly because of types of education or experience, but it is also because of assumptions that people want to make about human nature and outcome. There are universally demonstrated and historically documented characteristics of human nature and outcomes of every policy under the sun, but these are frequently ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented. A sizable chunk of the population would still rather dream that imposing their political perspective can achieve the desired qualities in human nature. Or at least the desired behavior, but even that doesn’t happen. And they still lock their doors at night, because even though people are “good at heart” or all the “right laws” are in place, people can’t seem to be trusted on the whole.
It is important to distinguish core values from political perspective for two reasons that I see:
1. It allows you to find common ground with many you might otherwise only have unresolved conflict with.
2. It allows you to grow beyond political cliches about yourself and others, in ways that enhance utilization of your own opportunities, while wasting less energy on political drama.
A key difference is that core values are often simple, clarifying decision making, and encouraging human harmony. Political perspectives are often used to complicate, obfuscate, and create authority of some humans over other humans. People say that they want laws (according to their own political perspectives) to uphold core values, but the pattern over the generations is rather that the more the minutia of laws, the more corruption and crime there is. This is actual corruption and crime, not just the recording of it. This is because wherever one human claims power over another, this power is used against the underling. Power is not needed or conducive to just getting along. People who simply want to get along usually don’t have the impetus for obtaining power, unless it is to get their own freedom back. Political perspectives, in the most common sense, require the imposition of laws to get people to behave the way you want them to. Core values are usually more along the lines of how you wish everyone else would treat you.
Some might argue that individual freedom is, in fact, a political perspective, and in some ways they might be right. For the sake of discussion, it is often necessary to speak of freedom in the same breath as politics. However, one could also make the case that freedom is the opposite of politics. Without some people having power over other people, there is no need for “politics” in the modern sense, only that every person try to gain skill in being politic (having practical wisdom, being prudent) in their communication and problem solving with others.
Those that strive to hold onto or gain the power to coerce others have tried to scare people with the idea that anarchy means chaos and violence. It truly only means “no one ruling.” Anarachy means individual freedom to cooperate and protect and prosper. Sure, some people will use their opportunities unwisely or harmfully. All manner of people and governments do that now, legally and illegally. Laws have not done much to change how people treat each other. If chaos and violence are what we want to avoid, then it is obvious we had better get rid of pretty much every government system where power is consolidated. At least then the many fools and miscreants who would rise to power couldn’t “legally” oppress whomever they want to.
Another aspect of coming to terms with your own core values is whether or not you will, as peacefully as possible, let other people make their own choices of core values. To force someone else to live by your core values is to weaken the case for your own freedom to live by yours. Possibly some people think they are happy letting someone else decide what their core values should be, but, with time and a little examination, most people tend to find that they want to make their own decisions. As long as everyone has this chance, there is less chance of one group of people using their decision making to take away other people’s decision making power.
It seems just as well to point out that institutional religions, those with organizations that give some people more power and authority over others, are just another form of politics. It is the same model of using the resources of others to build up a system which makes promises it cannot fulfill and uses threats to manipulate the non-compliant. Just like with political systems, people sign on thinking the outcome will be one way, when in reality it cannot be.
Political perspectives tend to distort reality and gloss over inconsistencies. They often box discussions into certain parameters that create disagreement. A mentality is fostered such that disagreement means enmity.
Just because I disagree with “A” policy does not mean I wish “B” person was dead or harmed, or even that I am indifferent. Just because I think “C” is a really bad idea, does not mean I think “D” person is of less value than any other person. It does mean that I don’t regard people who hold positions of political power, often referred to as “serving the public,” as deserving more respect than any other person. If someone does something because they think it is right, well, fine, but those who think it is wrong are not “haters.” They might be mad at how they are being treated, but is that more “hateful” than those who use their position over others to get their own way? Some people might express their frustration in questionable ways, but it is not the disagreement that makes them wrong, it is their actions.
So what are your core values? I find that mine have been distilled down to four basic themes. Upon reflection, I can say these have been stable since my youth, although I could not have defined them as well as now AND I had not evaluated well how they got along with certain political perspectives that were pushed by either government school or religious organization. My parents were pretty non-political and, although core values were graciously and logically presented, the political implications and realities were not.
-Individual freedom for every adult
-Honesty in my own actions
-Working diligently to care for those who are obviously my responsibility
-Finding ways to personally love others with God’s love, which can mean anything from being kind to helping drastically.
It all starts to sound a lot like loving your neighbor as yourself. Knowledge that I now have a firm grip on my core values brings peace to my mind in the midst of various political fights. I could discuss how I apply these core values in daily life, all without anyone else’s political coercion or “help.”