Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On ideological divides that separate us …

I received a leaflet in the mail recently, nothing extraordinary just another flyer featuring an aspiring candidate seeking support for local council elections. One of the paragraphs within reads:

“As a long-standing member of the ALP, I appreciate the important role Council plays in delivering quality services to the community”.
There is something about this innocuous sentence; it implies that only ALP members can appreciate services that local council provide. I guess that ALP both as a term and as an establishment has always been synonymous with local council. In this case, the aspirants chosen words, circuitously infer, that members of other parties e.g. LNP would not have the same appreciation.

Moving on, the same paragraph continues:
“I also appreciate the cost of living pressures residents are facing”.
Are you laughing yet, ALP advocates and devotees appreciating cost of living pressures? After massive hikes in living costs these past few years under Labor State and Federal how can we take them seriously. However, this had me thinking, perhaps they do actually have an understanding of sorts on the basis that the policies they seek to legislate, are for the greater good of the “community” and broadly, society. They may actually believe this passionately, as both conservatives and progressives act on well-rooted passions with the same vigour and conviction of righteousness, with both camps driven by similar moral foundations. Moreover, our differences ensure that a lack of understanding will endure. Ask a progressive and he/she will happily assert that conservatives are “bad”, driven mostly by greed and/or personal objectives. Conversely, conservatives have a better though not complete understanding of how progressives or those of the left think. I am not suggesting that this makes conservatives better just dissimilar. Both camps have entrenched differences in moral philosophy that causes each to view the world differently. However, what of the legitimacy of each, who is right, who is wrong?

It is not surprising that Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion is generating interest. His argument that conservatives appreciate the arguments of progressives far better than progressives the beliefs of the conservative is compelling because Haidt is an academic (Professor of Psychology), a Democrat in the U.S. and, a proud member of the left. He draws this conclusion from a large volume of evidence and formulates “six passions” from which all of us construct our various political suppositions. As one reviewer put it:
“Jonathan Haidt is a world leader in the new discipline of cultural psychology, which combines the psychologist’s understanding of what goes on inside our heads with the anthropologist’s interest in the social meanings that surround us. Cultural psychology applies the principles of Darwinian natural selection to problems about morality, consciousness and human existence, and Haidt believes that it offers definitive evidence"-based solutions to the problems that have been baffling philosophers since the dawn of civilisation.”
One of the moral foundations or passions Haidt formulates is care/harm for which he means the drive to compassion for others. This foundation is typically where members of the left claim a far higher moral resolve than those of the right. There are six foundations cited in all, but the author notes that progressives and conservatives share only three. The ideologies differ because the latter have a further three foundations that progressives do not share. The care/harm foundation is shared as is fairness/cheating and liberty/oppression. The remaining unshared conservative foundations are loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion and sanctity/degradation.

I recommend this text as a resource for those seeking a better understanding of what partitions us politically however as I indicated earlier, questions relating to validity, who is right, who is wrong, remain unanswered. The last chapter is particularly compelling as Haidt asserts that we need the insights of all that is liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation. Though I hasten to add, it may not be as compelling for a progressive.

Back to our wannabe local councillor, I cannot understand why he mentions the ALP in his communications; surely someone ought have advised him to avoid it.

 Video: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives


Incidentally, it is no surprise too, that we see the term “community” appearing and in just about all centre left – left political advertising. A common idiom that gets under my skin for it correlates to socialist ideals that contravene pursuits of excellence by, heaven forbid; individual actions unconstrained by bureaucracy and collectivist forces. I am not sure whom to blame for initiating the term and its persistent use by leftist politicians though Joan Kirner comes to mind.

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