Just a Thought… on Principle

I recently received an assignment to read both the democratic and republican political platforms for class. (I know. At this point you may bang your head against whatever wall presents itself and wonder who. does. that.) If you skim the introductions to each, you’ll find several references to the devil worshiping, American destroying… other party. It’s enough to make me feel like throwing something. Or at least sitting them down and telling each party, very sternly, “you’ve been a bad boy, Tommy. Sit here and think about how to make this nice again.” They proceed to outline their policies on a myriad of issues, sometimes explaining how it differs from their rivals and just how much better theirs is.

Pause. At this point you should be looking at your screen like: “Cozybooks! I thought you weren’t going to get all political on us! There was already a post about the presidential season yesterday!” And there was. And I’m not going to stay on politics, I just wanted to explain where the thoughts came from–because they lend it an important context.

It was the issues based writing that really got to me. It got me thinking: how often do we look at and tackle the issue at hand, one by one, endlessly–rather than tackling our thoughts on the principle and acting accordingly ever thereafter? When I first thought about this it took me a while to wrap my head around the idea: how can you know what to do if you haven’t decided on what to do? It sounds paradoxical. It isn’t, really, it just means I was looking at the issues and not the greater principles behind them.

For example, one principle of good leadership is listening. This means when I’m in a small setting I will do my best as a leader to listen carefully and actively to each persons concerns. What about in a giant conference, then? It’s not feasible to pass the mike to every one of ten thousand people, right? It seems like a different issue and so I need to find a different solution. This would in fact bother me–you could always open up a portion of the conference as a Q & A session. Better yet, as a part of the ticket buying process, ask each buyer what concerns they want addressed. Principles can be applied on any level.

In politics, then, it bothers me that we operate on a mostly issues based system: immigration is immigration, gun rights is gun rights, LGBT is LGBT and racism is racism. If both parties could take a step back and analyze what they believed on principle, there wouldn’t be a need for the long winded platforms.

Did you know that the republican platform in 1860 was only 2 pages long? Two pages. I don’t know if I’d go that bare bones today (maybe we should? I wonder how many issues really can be covered under ten or twelve principle points?), but at least we know it’s possible. Principles simplify things, they help someone see the implications of a situation clearer and they tear down labels.

A person is not made up of issues. They are not just a part of one demographic or another. I think it’s damaging to label someone an LGBT or black or immigrant white middle class female. You are a person, and as a person you have thoughts and feelings and principles. If we can operate on principles we can look past the labels we give people. Sometimes those labels hurt (homeless, handicapped, disordered) and sometimes people use them to call for attention or votes (women’s rights, the mexican vote, the wealthy). Why are there such divisions at all? Just because I identify one way or another as a race or sexuality has nothing to do with whether I believe in gun rights or not. Using labels in either way is a degradation to the autonomy of an individual. Of course I’m not saying we ought to get rid of labels altogether–I’m not that radical. I’m just saying that maybe we ought to stop creating an association between labels and a political or economic principle.

Principles don’t rely on any one person to stand as a belief. They exist independent of names, parties and any other man made institution. They helped simplify my life and opened my mind to the connection we can make as human beings. I encourage you all to try it–look past the issue to the principle behind it, and then make your decision.

Thanks for reading,

Cozybooks

via Stan & Ergo, all credits to owner and creator.

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