Archive for the 'liberals' Category

Liberal levels

January 30, 2014

I really appreciated reading Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation for today.  It’s about “levels” and “stages”of development, and today he observes the stage at which many liberals get stuck.  He’s already observed that conservatives seem to be stuck at a previous stage.

I am so appreciative of reading this because I have found myself of late criticizing a number of regular liberal commenters in the NYTimes comments threads for things that seem to me rather similar to the rabble-rousing through disingenuous techniques and a lack of compassion and respect that they decry in their opponents.  It has looked to me like similar limited process only filled with different content — liberal beliefs instead of conservative.  Maybe I understand this as being stuck at a particular level but at a slightly different stage within it.

I find myself asking myself, “Why am I taking these comments on?”  I really am not sure, I do try not to be simply reactive, I try to distinguish between a reaction and an answer to a call to act.  I don’t have the impression I will directly influence those whose comments I criticize, I do it in the spirit that for me to not do so would be worse, including for me.

I think I’m kind of used to not fitting in with particular ideological groups — neither did Willy, and we used to talk about it a lot.  I still miss having company with that.

Confabulation

December 21, 2013

I was writing about confabulation in response to Charles Blow’s column about the Duck Dynasty controversy, and one of my replies came too late to be posted, and I closed my browser tab, so it’s lost and I can’t even post it here.

So I thought I’d write a few words on a related issue.

I do think we often have trouble distinguishing between (1) bad intent, (2) ignorance, and (3) distortions in processing and other aspects of communication.  And I think sometimes the explanation for a situation is not malice or even ignorance but that the person is saying something not to communicate any truth but for some other purpose in the course of trying to engage in social relations.

What I thought I’d mention is that I think that just as school administrators often misunderstand student behavior, liberals often misunderstand why people who disagree with them are saying what they are saying.  I think some of the things people who wind up being politically conservative say, they say not out of malice or even ignorance, but just because it seems like the thing to say to fit the situation in terms of social expectations.  As a friend of mine would say, they are “just talking.”

Now, “just talking” can create all kinds of damage, depending on content, but to get a person to stop doing it, browbeating them with reason or morals is not terribly effective.

I suspect the habit of confabulation arises out of a number of different scenarios, including avoidance of childhood abuse and a discovery it gets positive results of some sort.  I think that to dismantle the habit, whatever is the underlying cause must be addressed.

So when liberals rail at conservatives in a way that assumes bad faith or ignorance or difficulty thinking, sometimes I think they miss the mark.  The person is damaged, limited, and doing the best they can.  But I don’t think we ignore any damage they create, I think we have to show them the impact of their use of this mode of communication while we supply them with alternative and support them in overcoming the underlying causes for engaging in confabulation.

And failing that approach at resolution, we can just not take at face value what they say and avoid situations in which we might need to.

Of course, liberals have their own patterns of thought and talk, arising out of their damage and limitations, and enabling seems to figure prominently among people who end up being politically liberal.  That kind of posture and behavior causes damage in its own way, too.

Unfortunately, the combination of the conservative and liberal profiles seems to be one of those “deadly embraces.”  How we break our civic polity out of this merry-go-round probably involves everyone trying to address their own damage.  Come the millennium.

We may be social animals, spiritual creatures, and instinctive organisms, but we are also damaged goods, most of us, and we don’t tend to function at peak operational performance.

Addressing fear

August 16, 2012

I made a comment to a comment, this morning, to a Gail Collins column about Paul Ryan’s plans for Medicare.  I talked about the fear I perceive lying behind Republican conservatism, and how instead of working on dismantling the fear itself people try to protect against the thing they fear.  I mentioned at the end of my reply how I think liberals don’t address or effectively address conservatives’ fear.

I thought I’d elaborate here on my thoughts about effectively addressing somebody else’s fear.

For example, telling someone to stop feeling fear isn’t particularly effective, I don’t think, and it usually comes across as pretty harsh and not very compassionate, which may exacerbate a fear reaction.  Sometimes helping someone shine a flashlight under the bed helps, or explaining how others have dealt with an analogous fear gives them a needed roadmap.  Sometimes it is merely a matter of exposing the person to the thing feared, of having them taste the green eggs and ham, in effect.  Sometimes it helps for the person to identify an event or image that seems to be at the root of their fear and to re-examine that situation in order to see it differently:  maybe not all large dogs are unfriendly, and maybe even the one who seemed so was just being territorial and reacting with his own anxiety to feeling challenged, while tied up in front of the house he was trying to protect, by someone who didn’t speak “dog.”

I guess, with regard to fear, conservatives, and liberals, I might start with an issue like guns or immigration and try to address people’s fears directly, respectfully, and compassionately without contributing to them or endorsing them.  I think fears can be dismantled or at least reduced, and from that would flow a change in attitude toward the need for such hypervigilant self-protection.  I think that might change the policy debates on these issues more substantially than other approaches.

Conservative support

December 31, 2011

I didn’t understand David Brooks’s column today.  I started reading some of the later comments just now, and got some sense of what it meant to some people.

If it’s about how conservatives can be supportive, not just liberals, or moreso than liberals, well, I’m not buying that it’s a particularly helpful way of analyzing who helps who and why.  And if that is the point of the column, we are, as my deceased spouse would have put it, in violent agreement.

But I am tired of help based on a set of emotional motives involving attachments being paraded as altruism.  Especially because it is unreliable and selective.  I guess I think that focus on particular cases in this way keeps us from reforming our ways so we actually include everybody in our help.  In addition to being based on motives that don’t support sufficient generalization of the behavior, our usual approach also allows us to congratulate ourselves on doing only an imitation of what we should be doing, as if we were doing the real thing.