The American people have grown weary of partisanship. We know this is true because of the very existence of the Tea Part and Coffee Party. But even those are influenced by the constant gravity of one end of the political spectrum or the other. There are other words for it — polarization, absolutism, fanatacism, extremism.
What keeps the fire burning? Bad thinking. Black-and-white blindness on one end and moral relativism on the other. The middle ground is not a highly popular or highly populated place given the average person’s deficiencies in serious critical reasoning.
The sad part is that supply will always meet demand in this area, and not just from activists and opportunists. In addition to a plethora of Harvard studies (using the term loosely in my opinion) targeting conservative depravities of all kinds, I came across a Yale study asserting that Conservatives are more likely to believe something even more after being shown contradictory evidence. After all, they had to explain away why so many people vote to such a persuasion. Of course, it fails the most basic test for scientific process — a control group of NON-conservative people. The attempt at propaganda wasn’t even well veiled to someone willing to take a quick critical look at it.
And this game is by no means one-sided. A certain Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., M.D., feeds the beast with his book “The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness” which apparently asserts “Modern liberalism’s irrationality can only be understood as the product of psychopathology.”
I didn’t read it. I avoid any propaganda that attempts to define an opposing ideology in terms of psychopathology. That’s likely a worse tactic than anything the object of criticism could do. But I can and will judge it.
What is billed as some expert study cannot be any such thing by the simple nature of it’s very presumptions and conclusions. The quasi-scientific psychology angle is just the method of rationalization, and as a substitute for truth is perhaps worse than a lie.
No set of preferred values is psychopathic. This is no different the shill that “proves” black people are violent, jews are greedy, gays are cowards, theists are delusional, and on and on and on …
However I offer this caveat: FANATICISM is pathology, independent of the ideology. And this includes vilification of opposing views by such clever means as above. Calling people who disagree with you sick is, well, sick.
Am I rejecting the value of science and the field of psychology? Absolutely not. I am rejecting it as an appropriate tool. BECAUSE IT IS NOT. Is a study somehow legitimate because it is “scientific”? From Yale? Peer reviewed? So what? The use of it is unacceptable, and it doesn’t even require reading to know that.
Laying attributes upon value sets instead of individuals independent of them is an unvalidatable premise that is ignorant from the start. All the science in the world can’t save it — it only adds insult to people like me who highly value scientific method, which in these cases are devoid of the required honesty.
Not Quite A Half-Truth
However, I will not deny statistical tendencies — there are often truths behind a stereotype. American liberals TEND TO place collective authority over individual choice — except in regard to some personal freedoms. Those with more life experience versus ivory tower types TEND TO be more conservative by modern definition, but this is mostly true in economic affairs, where business people know first hand that many liberal premises about things like Capitalism are inconsistent with the facts. (Try explaining to some people who have never run a business that it’s not about maximization of profit and it’s like you told them they have three arms.)
But like conservative choices, liberal decisions ARE rational, just not following according to the former’s premises about how the world works, human nature, etc.. The difference is in how the different common values are weighed against each other. And as conservatives think liberals unwise or naive in some ways, liberals interpret conservative decisions as selfish or against the good of society for similar sorts of reasons.
No, one of them is not right and the other wrong. How we weigh values may be more or less practical in view of whatever reality is at hand, but in the end, it is mostly opinion based on individual balancing of common and divergent values.
Instead of being right, how about we do our best to be honest about the implications of our actions and their consistency with our values (integrity)? Learn from our mistakes and be willing to be wrong sometimes and extend that right to others as a matter of free will and not imposing what WE decide or discern what is right.
I’m willing to fight for my ideals, but not impose them. That’s what a free society strives for — in theory. And neither the right nor the left seem to have any recollection that this was the whole point of America.
You can judge actions and the merits of one’s position. We can blame the left for this and the right for that, but we’re wasting time that could be spent refocusing the common values and complimentary strengths and balances in liberalism AND conservatism.
How I Handle It
Does a lot of what modern liberals do offend my sensibilities? Yes. And many things conservatives do. But I have to watch myself and not think either quasi-defined group as a whole is “good” or “evil” or anything absolute. It would be like talking about how to deal with people of a certain religion, or people who prefer the Yankees to the Red Sox. Yes, there are some particulars to expect many or most times, but in the end we’re all human beings.
Stereotypes, like I said, have SOME kernel of truth in them. But they are a caricature formed by public opinion, often a half-truth at best. So on the rare occassion I slip and say I “can’t stand liberals”, I am referring to those who fit a stereotype that all of them as a whole do not deserve.
So I stick with issues, and curb my assumptions when dealing with people of opposing opinions. But even suggesting a psychological basis is the oldest ploy in the book and serves only one purpose — to breed intolerance and insulate oneself against having to face their own fallibility.
In the end, maybe all this isn’t about a lack of critical thinking. After all, these long-winded rationalizations aren’t child’s play and educated people vote for them with their dollars on Amazon.Com. No, at the risk of being a hypocrite as per the above statements, maybe it is (ironically) psychological. People seem to inherently need answers they can count on like the sun to rise the next day. Such surety necessitates reasons why other people who disagree are wrong — or worse.