Fundamentalists and pluralists are in disagreement across the political, academic and societal relations landscape. There is a tendency for a pluralist to agree with some or all of what a fundamentalist believes to be true, with additions. Sometimes the fundamental beliefs get reframed, as Newtonian physics has been absorbed into contemporary physics. Fundamental beliefs sometimes are reinterpreted. For example, Christian origin myths are embraced by pluralists as stories, but not as fact. Often fundamental beliefs remain true or useful but become part of a larger pattern or perspective that suggests or includes far more. Patterns can keep widening.

Even pluralists can discover that their interpretations have been reframed.

There are struggles on the American Left between fundamentalists and pluralists, usually over process and/or strategy, sometimes tactics. Leftist fundamentalists retain a commitment to change and to empowering the disempowered, but they are often utilizing a process almost identical to those that they would replace. Organizational structures are astonishingly nontransparent and are characterized by several levels of hierarchy with limited diversity. White males are usually in control.

For example, many U.S. labor organizations are usually run by elected white guys with an executive’s prerogative to make top-down decisions. Focus in parochial. Jobs shouldn’t go overseas. American labor only limitedly integrates into the American Anti-War movement. Labor is fundamental to the American Left while behaving with a fundamentalist’s tendency to obsess around its own constituency.

Pluralist Leftists embrace the union’s call for workers’ rights while suggesting that the movement of jobs overseas is not a bad thing if those workers are provided rights and receive respect. American pluralist Leftists often focus on process, urging transparency while organizing, engaging in horizontal communications instead of relying upon hierarchical structures and encouraging women and minorities to participate in the decision-making processes. Struggles between Left pluralists and fundamentalists are often over process, but the most vociferous conflicts are over strategy and tactics. Lost in these battles between fundamentalist and pluralist Leftists, also called soft Left and hard Left, is how much they have in common.

Traditional Leftists, the fundamentalists, are comfortable working with established power structures. Many arguments that emerge between fundamentalists and pluralists are over what degree members of the Democratic Party should be supported or endorsed. Party politics are not exactly bastions of transparency, horizontal communication or diversity. Fundamentalist Leftists integrate well with political party structure. Not so the pluralists.

This lack of integration with party structure is often where communication breaks down.

Though committed to transparency, diversity and horizontal nonhierarchical communication, the pluralists are often opaque to that aspect of process communication that offers nonverbal and verbal signs of respect to those with which they disagree. Fundamentalists, frequently framing the world as Us vs. Them, will often assault the “them” verbally in disrespectful fashion. Same with the pluralists. Wars of words characterized by online flaming, are not uncommon between these two groups.

Though there are many ways that the pluralist perspective builds upon fundamentalist foundations, clashes emerge, particularly when competing visions strategize noncompatible tactics or techniques for bringing in new people to the movement.

This clash often boils down to whether a Democrat is allowed on stage. Fundamentalists estimate they can influence the established power structure by establishing rapport and providing assistance. Pluralists often prefer to exert pressure from outside an established party, calculating that large numbers, an attentive press and a clear message will offer incentive to modify behavior.

This competition is ongoing, occurring locally, regionally and across the country. The battle is distracting. Many on the Left express dismay that the fundamentalists and pluralists don’t get along. Particularly confusing is that a third wave, let’s call them perspectivists, are quietly intervening and influencing the direction the Left is taking, often without the fundamentalists or pluralists aware that they are there.

Perspectivists are bypassing the streets and taking process directly into the beating heart, the communications infrastructure of society. Embracing the century-long triumphs of the fundamentalist and pluralist Left, the perspectivists seed transparency, diversity and horizontal communication into the way people share information. This style is the culture of the online young. They communicate through email and the web, relying upon social networking and cell phones. Friedman has referred to the flattening of the planet. The young are reconstructing how culture communicates, instilling the founding principles of the Left into its very core. The young are flattening, integrating and making things clear.

Outframing both the old Left and the relatively new pluralist Left, the young Left is so Left that they don’t even think in Left/Right terms. They embrace the old Left perspectives without battles over strategy and tactics. And, perspectivists add something astonishingly new.

They respect no borders. Perspectivists are citizens of the world.


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