Thursday, May 23, 2019

At Each Other's Throats

American politics have always been partisan, Glen Pearson writes. But Canadian politics used to be different:

Americans have always remained divided along partisan lines, while the Canadian context has been more of accommodation along general principles – a hegemony usually kept together by political parties usually hewing close to the political centre.  That national coherence is now fraying in light of more extremist tendencies weighing heavily on our traditional parties.

Increasingly, we are adopting the American model:

Seriously, we make assumptions based upon our belief that our positions are well thought out and we wonder how those with opposing views can be so na├»ve.  I’ve encountered a lot of this lately, as a conservative mindset sweeps across much of the world.  Those holding to such views who I encounter every day and work within our community think it’s high time that liberal thinkers started waking up to reality.  Liberal thinkers feel exactly the opposite.  How can they be so dumb?  Why can’t conservatives be open to research, to rational thinking?

We would do well to read a book by Jonathan Haidt titled The Righteous Mind:

Haidt declares right off that his goal for the book is to help people better understand and dialogue with each other as they work their way through their differences – a task seemingly impossible in our modern world where everything is about politics.  But the reader needs to beware that Haidt believes that all of us act more by intuition than rationality, so if you’re going to use reason to debate others, you might not get far.  In doing so, he provides plenty of research, as we would expect from a social scientist.  It’s more important to understand the other point of view than it is to defeat it, he says, adding that we were never designed to listen to reason:
“When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve already decided.”
Haidt believes that people reason all the time, but that they base it upon their preconceived intuition or value systems – filters that make movement in thinking a pretty difficult thing.  And, yet, we all think we’re smart and capable people.  There’s a significant disconnect here and it has its effects not only on our relationships, but ultimately on our politics – how we reason, vote, and collaborate together to face our greatest challenges.
The Righteous Mind reminds us that our certainties could end up being dead ends, leaving us little room to maneuver when the time comes for compromise.  We don’t necessarily have to agree about our political directions, but we do have to respect that we all – millions of us – hold to core beliefs that require one another to achieve together instead of dividing into rigid camps that could put the lie to what we have historically constructed together.  As DeShanne Stokes would put it: “We owe our loyalty to each other and to our children’s children, not to party politics.”

Wise words. Until we get our loyalties straight, we'll be at each other's throats.



the salamander said...

.. loyalties .. whow .. back the reins
the wagon master whether 15 or 60
cannot rein in a team of Clyde's ..
I tried - once - failed..
was admonished by a kindly elder Mennonite
for letting his horses get lathered, blown, needlessly
The message stuck with me.. 'have a care' ..
and that's just where we are ..
and do we even care .. to care.. ?

Loyalties are sacrosanct..
but also desire require calm appraisal ..
measure ...

In a lifetime.. I recall with amazement
every single of those who met the measure
& duly noted those who deserve nada - nothing

Owen Gray said...

Misplaced loyalty can be utterly destructive, sal. There's a lot of that going around these days.

Anonymous said...

We could start with a proper diagnosis, and this ain't it: "That national coherence is now fraying in light of more extremist tendencies weighing heavily on our traditional parties."

Only one of our traditional parties is showing extremist tendencies, and it's time to stop inventing false equivalences in an effort to seem even-handed. Extremists count on people conceding to their demands in the name of being "reasonable." That's how we got ourselves into this mess.

Haidt is right though that logical arguments don't work on someone conditioned to cut off their nose to spite their face. Finding common ground may help, but that takes more time than most people are willing to invest. Pulling the plug on the social media giants running a mass psychological conditioning experiment is the only short-cut I can think of.



Owen Gray said...

Thinking is hard work, Cap. As long as we are willing to take short cuts to thinking -- be it intuition or ceding thought to social media -- we'll be up the creek.

thwap said...

Yes and No.

No: Extremists are pulling society apart. It is the failure of centrism. It is the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of liberalism (Clintonite Democrats, the Liberal Party of Canada, the Thomas Friedman's of the world.) They have imposed a set of policies upon us that have impoverished the many to reward the few. They have done this in tandem with the sorts of "conservatives" that Trump defeated and that Stephen Harper and his ilk have replaced here in Canada.

No: In my case, in recent memory, I acquiesced to a set of facts about gun violence in other countries provided by a pro-gun person; I conceded to some "woke" male leftists about Julian Assange when provided with some other facts. I told them "You are right and I was wrong."
I have condemned the NDP when it betrays me; I've voted Liberal to stop a right-wing candidate; I criticize anarchists and other far-leftists when I disagree with them; etc., etc.,

YES: People are far less rational than they believe they are. They invent rationalizations after the fact and cannot quickly (if ever) process facts that conflict with their delusions.

Yes: People are becoming more isolated, divided into hostile camps. But the internet has created a space where debates can be had (and archived) for decades now. And reading back we can see that the pro-war/pro-bigotry/pro-patriarchy/pro-capitalism etc., team has been wrong again and again and again. Over and over and over. Climate Change denialism, moronic conspiracy theories, etc., ... WMDs, chemical weapon attacks, ...

These differences were papered-over with prosperity up until the 1980s. As things eroded under neo-liberalism, society diverged. The stupid people went (as they always do) with fascism.

Fascism is the stupid person's socialism.

Owen Gray said...

That's a really interesting statement, thwap: Fascism is the stupid person's socialism. After all, Hitler called his movement National Socialism.

thwap said...


You just have to think of your average Toronto Sun reader. (Or an Ezra Levant fan.) By this point, all but the more blinkered think public health insurance is a good thing. They just imagine that OTHER people (immigrants/drug addicts/crooked doctors/transgendered people/frauds, etc.,) are responsible for the "high costs." They imagine the system is breaking down because of OTHER people's fraud, and not because of deliberate under-funding by neo-liberal scum bags.

They believe there should be a safety net, for people like them. Anyone outside their "charmed" circle should fend for themselves. Hence rancid behaviour like Harper cancelling health care for refugee claimants.

It's kinda like the way that Rob Ford could sincerely believe he had "zero tolerance for drugs and gangs" and then be the only mayor of a big Canadian city to smoke crack with gangsters. And his fan base forgave him.

But back to the original point about "extremists on both sides" tearing apart from the middle: What is the "center" in US politics? "Moderate Republicans" (like Jeb Bush???) and "Centrist Democrats." And what are they about? Endless wars to pad the profits of the Military Industrial Complex/Servicing Wall Street over Main Street/Slavish devotion to Israel/and allowing US-Americans to die to protect the profits of the health insurance industry.

No wonder everybody is fed-up with them.

Owen Gray said...

The obvious hypocrisy involved in all of this should be obvious, thwap. Apparently, we no longer care about hypocrisy. I apologize for getting to your comment so late. Sometimes comments don't get to my email address, and I only get to them when I check the comments section in my blog. However, I do appreciate hearing from you.