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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) After 30 years of testing as Lawful Good, today I came up Lawful Neutral for the first time. I suspect it's because—at 41—I'm learning that those who elevate their subjective view of what is good over the continued existence of a lawful society can collapse that society.
2/ I don't have any doubt Trump is Chaotic Evil. (Many educated people out there who—like me—don't play D&D nevertheless see that game's moral framework as a useful starting point for discussion). And I think all those working for him are *deliberately* working on behalf of evil.
3/ If I'm Lawful Neutral, I'm as likely to oppose someone who is Chaotic Evil as anyone is—a Chaotic Evil villain like Trump doesn't believe in the rule of law and perpetuates a lawless environment in which evil (and not any sort of peaceful, just, tolerant balance) is ascendant.
4/ Right now the infighting on the Left is between those who say justice is achieved through social order—by voting, by changing laws, by peaceful and lawful protest, by running for office, by organizing—and those who want what they see as good at any cost, however it's achieved.
5/ The Chaotic Good Democrat says do what you have to do to fight for what's "good"—even if it means destroying the social fabric of the nation you want to *be* good. It's a classic question of whether what you want to fight for will still exist if you fight for it a certain way.
6/ A Lawful Neutral Democrat says a) we've got many more honorable ways to fight and win this fight, and b) if we use this method—harassing people in public places and denying them access to public goods—what we're fighting for won't be *worth* fighting for by the time it's over.
7/ So the problem Democrats are having is obvious: the Chaotic Good Democrat thinks the Lawful Neutral Democrat doesn't care about the cause of good, and the Lawful Neutral Democrat doesn't think the Chaotic Good Democrat sees the long-term consequences of fighting a fight dirty.
8/ If all that's so, a Lawful Neutral Democrat will use these attacks on the Chaotic Good Democrat: you're a hypocrite—you wouldn't accept this treatment from the other side, who has their own sense of good—and you're going to ruin the cause by the way you choose to fight for it.
9/ Meanwhile, a Chaotic Good Democrat will use these attacks on the Lawful Neutral Democrat: you value order—though the terms used, loaded and *not* synonymous with order, will be "civility" and "niceness"—over the cause of justice, and you do that because you yourself feel safe.
10/ So the question that D&D users have been asking since the 1970s is *also* the question Democrats need to ask today: how do we do good (especially in an emergency situation in which we need immediate results) while not destroying the very social order we want to do good *for*?
11/ In other words, how do we achieve good in the short-term while ensuring we don't collapse the very society we want to be good? If you're on Twitter right now denigrating either of these two missions, shame on you—your moral framework is ill-constructed and dangerously narrow.
12/ The worst thing Twitter does is cartoonize us beyond the already over-prescribed terms I'm using here. Lawful Neutrals act like Chaotic Goods are dangerous radicals with no immutable—only idiosyncratic—principles, while Chaotic Goods consider Lawful Neutrals amoral appeasers.
13/ But here's the cool thing about D&D, which I admire even though I haven't played the game in over 25 years: it gives us the *solutions* to this problem, and therefore it gives us a better answer to Chris Hayes' "just say what you believe in" than I think he actually expected.
14/ The way D&D does that is by asking us to consider how we become Lawful Good—the best of both worlds for those who want to be what we colloquially consider "good people." And the basic rules for that are actually not that difficult to understand—and they're very relevant here.
15/ RULE #1: Don't put the goal of a peaceful, lawful, just social order at odds with the cause of good unless you've no other choice—in other words, don't pick battles in which good people must choose between the "good" and what allows societies to function and thrive long-term.
16/ RULE #2: If you can't satisfy "good" and "order" in a given situation—i.e., if you can't meet the core dictates of both—you must mitigate the harms to both/either to the extent humanly possible and seek out collaborations across alignments (e.g., Lawful Neutral/Chaotic Good).
17/ RULE #3: If you not only can't satisfy the "good" and "order" dictates in a given situation but also can't collaborate across alignments, you must at a minimum *acknowledge your enemy is the Chaotic Evil person/system* and not those who pursue similar ends by different means.
18/ If what Rep. Waters is saying sounds like wisdom to you, that's OK—you're likely of the Chaotic Good persuasion. The question then is if she's putting "good" and "order" in conflict with one another when there's no good/order-harmonious alternative to achieving the same ends.
19/ Given the Lawful Neutral bias I copped to, I'm going to say that I think systemic harassment of political opponents in public places unnecessarily puts short-term good and long-term order in conflict when there are other—yes, Chris, far more efficacious—means to the same end.
20/ OK, so let's say you disagree with that—which would be totally understandable. The question then is, OK, we're going to do it this way, but have we mitigated the harms of putting "good" and "order" in conflict and have we sought collaborations across similar-aimed alignments?
21/ For instance, if you support the actions against Sanders or Biondi you might also promote an immutable principle that governs your actions as a way of maintaining your alliance with the Lawful Neutrals. Two examples: saying "I think retailers should be able to discriminate...
22/ ...against patrons on the basis of their political views (NB: mind you, I'm not saying on the basis of immutable characteristics) and I promise not to be upset when/if a restaurant refuses to serve a pro-choice patron." Or you might promote an immutable principle that says...
23/ ..."I support business owners being able to discriminate against those the law deems 'public figures' on the basis of their political views and/or actions but I would vehemently *oppose* such treatment of a 'non-public figure' no matter what their off-business views/actions."
24/ The problem, as a Lawful Neutral Democrat would see it, is that the Chaotic Good Democrats had no interest at all in establishing a principle—an immutable, politically "neutral" principle—behind their actions, instead saying just that they knew absolutely what was right/good.
25/ "I know what's right and good—period" isn't a foundation for a peaceful, just, lawful civilization—it's a recipe for anarchy, destruction, and death in the long-term even if it can achieve results in the short-term. I think that's what Lawful Neutral Democrats are saying now.
26/ Democrats must learn to talk to one another and collaborate if want to hold their party together. First, Lawful Neutrals need to understand that Chaotic Goods think evil is seconds from victory and thus don't have the patience for immutable, politically-reversible principles.
27/ And Chaotic Goods should know you can often get a Lawful Neutral on board with you—and *every* activist needs the *maximum* number of allies, don't fool yourself—by laying out the immutable, politically-reversible principles that you are agreeing to be bound by going forward.
28/ Finally, there's a utility in recalibrating the necessity of individual actions. If you're a Chaotic Good who thinks Chaotic Evil is seconds from victory, *why the hell are you satisfied* with keeping an evil bureaucrat from a farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Virginia?
29/ One reason Chaotic Goods lost credibility with Lawful Neutrals like me is while we were advocating for a peaceful/lawful occupation of DC Chaotic Goods were saying they saw more urgency than we did but also said keeping Sanders from a farm-to-table dinner was "urgent." Uh—no.
30/ Hayes' tweet is silly because it misunderstands why people do what they do and how activists think. Moreover, Chaotic Goods haven't proven they see the "urgency of good" here—only that they'll root from the sidelines when someone else takes a cathartic but unnecessary action.
CONCLUSION/ Chaotic Goods and Lawful Neutrals want to defeat Evil. So let's do it: let's find consequential, large-scale actions that don't sacrifice the "good" for "the social fabric" or vice versa—rather than waiting for imperfect activism to occur, then cheering on our "team."
PS/ If you think Trump is Chaotic Evil *and* you think largely symbolic, ineffectual, order-decaying actions taken in the cause of good are *stupid* in view of the opportunity to take *dramatic "Lawful Good" steps toward the defeat of Evil*, you're my ally and you always will be.
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