Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Predisposed to Be Opposed

The "Unisex Restroom" sign means something entirely different when all you can see is half its story.
What follows is necessarily, admittedly overgeneralized and simplified for the sake of making his point--and, of course, described from his progressive perspective--nevertheless I find it helpfully gets at some core differences between the perspectives of the two extreme ends of the spectrum.  An explanation, through the lens of commentary on the Michael Brown shooting, of the opposing viewpoints of progressives and conservatives:
Conservatives aren’t Racist. It’s Worse than that.

It’s important to try and understand how Conservatives think when it comes to race, crime, social strata and the justice system. We’ll have to cook it down to its essence first. Conservatives believe that we are personally responsible for our lives. The decisions you make dictate what will happen to you. If you make mistakes, you are responsible for those mistakes. You are also responsible for your safety. That’s why Conservatives believe in gun ownership. You should also be responsible for your future (why Conservatives don’t like Social Security) and your health (why Conservatives don’t like Universal Health Care). This idea works in a world where you are in the middle of a prairie, killing buffalo and living off the land. It doesn't work as well when you live in a city of a million people, sharing resources (Why many Conservatives don’t like cities).

Progressives believe in Social responsibility. We are all in this together. That’s why, for Progressives and Liberals, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and Universal Health care, that all makes sense. To a Progressive, pooling our resources and working together is the smart thing to do for our long term security.

The problems we are facing, why our political leaders can’t agree and why nothing ever gets done, are because these two concepts don’t fit together. You can’t believe that you are personally responsible for your actions and live in a society where we collectively work together to achieve results. You can’t believe that you are responsible for yourself and then be forced to pay taxes for programs you never use. Your brain hates contradictions and will actively fight them. It’s one of the reasons why our political system is a mess. You have people doing things they actually and truly don’t want to do. Don’t get it twisted; no one likes paying taxes. However, Progressives understand that paying taxes is a need, that it helps the collective good of our society. Conservatives are pissed there’s a collective society in the first place. . . .

To a Progressive, all the facts and data clearly show that Mike Brown was killed because he was Black. For a Conservative, that can’t be possible. It’s easy to call Conservatives racist, but we should be more nuanced. Racism isn’t rational and I know plenty of Conservatives that are smart, fun, interesting individuals. They disagree about why the Criminal Justice system hammers the Black community, why the poor can’t raise above their lot, why catcalling and misogyny are real issues for women. Conservatives just don’t think they we have systematic problems. It’s the individual that’s the problem. But, because Conservatives refuse to bend on this, because of their impossible lack of empathy, nothing changes. We keep limping on. More and more young Black men die in the streets. Police officers who kill us will, again and again, get away with it. And, more and more, no one does anything about it.

As I was thinking about context for sharing Jarvis Slacks' post, I was surprised to realize, aside from a reference to an article about the authors' work, that I haven't mentioned anything on this blog about the book Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences.  I might have to do something about that in the future.  For now, though, a brief attempt to amend it by sharing my review from Goodreads:
A nuanced, impartial presentation of recent psychological and scientific evidence that biological predispositions drive--though don’t necessarily determine--political passions (or lack of them). Because of these predispositions, those at one end of the political spectrum literally experience the world differently than those at the other, and so they reach different political conclusions based on those experiences. The writing is accessible, frequently humorous, articulate, and informative. The authors are very careful to repeatedly say that neither end of the spectrum is better than the other, the point instead being that the ends are inherently different so the goal shouldn’t be changing the other side but understanding and appreciating it. I highly recommend the book.


Those with predispositions counter to yours do not see what you see, fear what you fear, love what you love, smell what you smell, remember what you remember, taste what you taste, want what you want, or think how you think. These differences run so deep that they are biologically grounded and, as such, cannot be changed quickly. Since political beliefs flow out of these predispositions, this means that they, too, cannot be changed quickly. It is our conviction that making an effort to understand the nature and depth of political mindsets will be beneficial since it is always good to better appreciate those with whom we are sharing the planet. Just as learning a second language assists in coming to grips with your native tongue by putting aspects of language in perspective, learning a second political orientation also puts your native orientation in perspective and deepens understanding.

In addition to self-improvement, taking predispositions seriously can improve understanding of others and therefore can enhance the state of political discourse. Recognizing that the maddeningly incorrect views of your political opponents are due less to their unencumbered choices than to traits they have little choice but to endure cannot help but increase tolerance and acceptance. Think of the improvements resulting from the recognition that being left-handed is not a choice resulting from flawed character but instead is the product of a biological (in this case heritable) disposition. Teachers are no longer disrupting classrooms and wasting time (not to mention demeaning 12 percent of the student body) by trying to beat the left-handedness out of left-handers. The entire learning environment has improved as a result. We look forward to the day when liberals are not trying to beat the conservative out of conservatives and conservatives are not trying to beat the liberal out of liberals, as we believe parallel improvements in the political system will be in evidence. . . .

This kind of acceptance directed at predispositionally driven variations in political beliefs would not mean you have become a traitor to the cause. We need to get past the stage where liberals/conservatives are in a contest to show that they are the most outraged by their ideological opponents. It would not even mean that you were any less convinced that your political opponents are wrong. You would just be acknowledging that the reason they are wrong is largely beyond their control. This in itself is a major step forward. Accept that the main reason your political opponents hold the views they do is not laziness, a lack of information, or willful bad judgment, but rather physiological and psychological contours that are fundamentally different from yours. If you had the same predispositions they do, it is likely you would have political opinions similar to theirs. Whenever you meet a conservative/liberal your response should not be, “What a shallow idiot,” but “There but for the grace of God go I.”


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