Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Interesting Explanation of our Polarization

So, why can't people oriented to “liberal” ideas and those oriented to “conservative” ideas respect and talk to each other?  Why the “demonizing” that has occurred in the national discourse?
Behavioral scholar Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia wrote a book, The Righteous Mind, four years ago that provides interesting insights into this dilemma.  His views are also encapsulated in a YouTube interview with Bill Moyers at
His research says that when we look at such emotional topics as political and religious issues that we are intuitively evaluating the topic from a six-point moral foundations framework: Care, Liberty, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity.
On a ten-point scale, he said, on average, liberal viewpoints bring the following weights to the evaluation:  Care (10), Liberty (7), Fairness (5), Loyalty (2), Authority (2) and Sanctity (2).
People with conservative viewpoints generally bring these weights:  Care (7), Liberty (7), Fairness (7), Loyalty (7), Authority (7) and Sanctity (7).
This is on average.  Every individual, on specific issues, can elevate certain of these, and the internal complexity of applying them to real situations increases with age/experience.                 (Some ask where is the moral element of Equity, so important today.  Haidt maintains it is within the Care and Fairness elements; when they get out of whack, it is called inequity.)
It appears most often in Religion and Politics because both involve issues involved with aspiring to very high ideals, to greatness … very emotional … and therefore blind to other views ... his explanation of what is going on today.
The only resolution Haidt provides is to sit back and listen to the other views, and consider them in light of the six points.  Understand that the other person is not crazy or evil. Where is the person putting emphasis?  It takes the personality out of it, and interjects more analysis and consideration.
Among his specific points:
•  While he started out as a liberal, Haidt now feels that a more conservative view is more in touch with human nature … the need for structure, families, groups, memberships, rivalries (unless they cross the threshold into maniacism).  It’s difficult to run an enduring society without Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity, which are given low consideration by liberals because of their heavy emphasis on Caring.
•  Those ascribed with liberal views, he feels, are more in touch with seeing how society goes awry, where the social system breaks down.  Conservatives see more the consequences when the system breaks down.
•  Capitalism:  Yes, we wouldn’t have all that we have without capitalism.  It allows the lifestyles that we have.  But it has problems that need to be discussed in a nuanced fashion but aren’t.  Not by either liberals or conservatives.  What is the needed tweaking?  The discussion could be couched in the terms of the six points and acknowledging the other’s “direction.”  Nuance is important.  Staying away from extremes and generalities is critical.

Two Big Problems
Haidt says there are two great problems with today’s discourse:  Demonization, and Corruption!  Demonization is done by people at the extremes, and makes us weaker.  People on the extremes are typically more passionate, less open, frequently very moneyed.  They decide elections.
Corruption is buying favors for special interests.  It’s a common charge that Congress is bought-and-paid-for, responsive to the interests of those who contribute to them.
How to offset these?

Another Haidt Insight:
•  In our own, cohesive social worlds, we aren’t really attuned to finding the truth, but rather in being part of a complicated social network that maintains our alliances and reputation. We will actually turn hypocrite to make sure our “alliances” think well of and say good things about us.

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