In the past five years, a menace that had been brewing beneath the surface of American society has broken through the water’s surface and began its rampage across American society. This beast is the beast of irrationalism – a 19th century philosophy that rose in reaction to the horrors visited upon Europe in the wake of Napoleon’s armies which serves as an opposition to the Enlightenment ideal of rationalism. Irrationalism supposes that there is no objective truth, or that that truth does not matter, and rejects objective facts, reason, and logic. It supposes that all logic is but an ad hoc (after the fact) rationalization of what someone already wants to believe to be true.
The reality of the matter is that an objective truth does exist, but we are imperfect vehicles of rational thought and irrational thought can often overpower our rational abilities. Yet, the objective truth is out there and our struggle must always be to maximize our ability to use logic and reason rather than abandon them and act in ways that only worsen the objective threats that we face.
Fascism is characterized by a conjunction of
irrationalism, nationalism, and elitism; and that threat has arisen in America
through the emergence of such fascist groups as the Boogaloo Boys, the Proud
Boys, the QAnon conspiracy theory, and the fascist administration of Donald
Trump. Early in the Trump Administration
we were introduced to the concept of “alternate facts,” rejecting the notion of
an objective truth. We were soon told to
ignore what even our own senses tell us and instead only listen to a single
authority. As time went on, our
collective grip on reality slipped as many held to obvious lies culminating in
a rise in violence and an attempt to overthrow a republic which has been
compromised to serve the interests of the owners of capital in favor of a
dictatorship run by a single owner of that capital for his sole benefit.
Because of this irrationalist onslaught, scapegoating distracts us from real solutions. Once economic power begins concentrating in the hands of a few capitalists, capitalism naturally begins to exploit workers, driving down wages while demanding higher workloads and leaving some unemployed and distraught. However, irrationalism leads us to scapegoat ethnic minorities and immigrants instead of addressing the actual problem. Economic activity is driven by those with the most pressing needs, the poor, receiving money so that they can actually buy those things – yet irrationalism leads us to instead give tax breaks to the rich who hoard this wealth instead of spend it. Capitalism’s push for infinite growth while maximizing short term profit is driving our climate to a breaking point where failure to act to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 will see human civilization collapse by 2050 – yet irrationalism leads us to instead increase emissions to allow those with plenty to gather more in the sundown decades of human civilization. COVID-19 puts us all at risk of death and other complications which include unprecedented strokes in young people, renal failure requiring dialysis, and other severe complications – yet irrationalism leads us to hold coronavirus parties, refuse vaccines, and refuse to wear masks where we kill ourselves instead of protecting ourselves. American democracy is rigged to ensure that the people vote for one of two parties who serve the interests of the super rich, disenfranchising minority voters and leaving options representing the vast working class to seem untenable – yet irrationalism leads us to instead try to overthrow the results in favor of a sociopath who benefited from this rigging and openly boasted that he tore apart the postal system in order to steal the election under the myth that the election was somehow stolen from him instead of directing that energy to establishing a legitimate democracy.
Irrationalism is the underlying rot that is worsening our societal problems and prevents us from taking the correct actions in order to correct them. It removes our ability to sort fact from fiction and to rationally come to appropriate solutions. It must be fought as an existential threat. The Socialist Party of Michigan, like all legitimate socialist organizations, stands for the Enlightenment values of rationalism, liberty, democracy, and egalitarianism while aware at how liberalism has failed to realize these values due to its reliance upon capitalism.
The source of irrationalism does not, however, lie solely with the fascists, but rather the sources are what enabled the fascists to rise in the first place. Capitalist administrations of both major parties have repeatedly weakened faith in institutions generally through lies in propaganda, experimenting on American citizens, and regularly lying on the campaign trail. Corporate media often repeated and amplified these lies, misrepresented scientific studies, distracted us with sensationalism and manufactured scandal, and generally played hard and fast with the truth. The inevitable result is Americans developing a lack in faith in institutions which not only includes those which have been bad actors, but legitimate and scholarly institutions as well.
However, there are many ways which research has shown to reduce the effects of irrational thought and reinforce rationalism. Higher education reduces a person’s susceptibility to irrationalist thought and so offering free education at all levels, including the postgraduate level, will encourage rational thought. Income inequality, such as created in abundance by neoliberal capitalism, increases irrational thought while lessening this inequality, as would be the result under socialism, bolsters rational thought. Thinking of death increases irrational thought – so reducing sensationalist news that each and every thing “may be killing you” as a teaser and enabling people to avoid death by reducing the number living paycheck to paycheck, giving them access to free national healthcare with preventative care, and ensuring that no one is facing homelessness are means of reducing these thoughts. Encouraging compassion, as innate in the socialist worldview, reduces irrational thought. It also is boosted by broadening the range of people considered to be of the same group which fighting several bigotries such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and others while uniting under a working class identity assists in doing.
While irrationalism poses this existential threat to us – the platform of the Socialist Party of Michigan and the Socialist Party USA are capable of effectively fighting against it, allowing us to face the myriad of problems in society and overcome them, creating a better world for all.