Tuesday, June 23, 2009

move along if you don't care

I'm in the midst of a fairly heated back-and-forth left/right political discussion with a co-worker. Well, it's only heated in ideas, not yelling; we get along well but disagree on some serious issues. To some extent it's a repeat of what we all went through prior to the November elections but there's been a shift in the ground particularly as banks, automakers, and others have collapsed and the government has needed to step in to assist; and now the Iran election. There seems to be a load of fears that boil to the surface, particularly on the moderate right. It's been a very smooth step from being in charge for eight years (six in the Congress) and performing poorly to blaming someone else after 150 days. This desire to put blame somewhere, and it's a very strong conservative trait, has actually deepened the abyss between myself and the moderate conservatives. In fact, the more I think about it the more it becomes clear that I even find myself separating from a good number of the liberals (moderate and extreme) who seem to implode on a daily basis at some injustice they feel has been perpetrated because things aren't moving fast enough. That may be an issue for another day.

One of the trunks we debate is origins of principles and it sort of comes down to this input from someone: "I suppose one of my points is that we'll never agree on this issue because of our respective world-views and perception of human nature." What becomes clear pretty quickly is that this devolves into a nature v. nurture debate when that root is elevated to levels of principles (those beliefs we draw from the origin) and further upward into what I call the balloons that we debate every day. Think about it this way: the origin is the core of what we believe, the principles are how we shape those cores into words, the balloons are the yelling and screaming we see and hear on TV. In a real world example you could say that sanctity of life is an origin, not killing another person is a principle, and the abortion debate is a hovering balloon. The debate always centers on popping the abortion balloon that's hanging over your opponent's head; more times than not no one chooses to understand or address the core belief because we all generally believe in the sanctity of life and there's no money maker in that debate.

The huge difference I see, when considering what people want at the core level (happiness and a chance to live a good life), is that the table isn't balanced. Over a very long time I've come to realize that sorting out what's best for a country, as a whole, should come from looking up from the bottom; even if I'm not at the bottom I can certainly start my task by attempting to remedy the problems at that level. The problems that I encounter, as a white, upper middle-class American, are not the starting point for most of America. If my desire is to maintain only what I have then I'm merely mounting blinders on my head and whistling through life. Instead of assuming that humans, and their human nature, are merely choosing to sit in their own shit, or that they don't have any desire for a better life, only furthers the blindness of which many conservatives are guilty. We can debate all day long about choices that may or may not be available but if we recognize that there are choices then it's more of a debate than the simple standard "make the right choices to succeed." It's a far more pontificating position than what liberals are routinely accused of holding. It's just looking down the steep mountain and telling everyone to either hang on or climb harder.

It's enlightening to consider the idea of lifting yourself "up by your bootstraps" in order to make it in this world. If you read Outliers then you'll understand a bit about that; virtually no one (Bill Gates, famous athletes, Sonja Sotomayer, Clarence Thomas, etc.) got to where they are without help; it's help that not every person has access to no matter how well they make their choices. Lives aren't strictly based on choices even if they are a major factor in how the road unfolds before you; but it's easy enough for conservatives to wash their hands by saying that it's only our individual decisions that will determine where we sit or stand at age 40. That's a hallow position that serves to justify their own fears and ignorance.

If I look back over the span of my lifetime there is nothing within the realm of humanity in America, nor abroad, that conservative movement was correct on when history finally judged the results. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to come up with any real economic issue that's been vaguely successful. The pat answer will be Reagan and the Berlin Wall but I don't consider that something that was ended by Reagan (or Bush 41) as much as something that would have happened anyway. But, if I must, I'll allow a feather in their hat and then they can keep on looking for something else. We don't create revolution and Iran right now is a prime example. When a stance is premised on the idea that everything I have, sitting fat- and-happy on the top of the hill, will eventually trickle down to the others who are struggling is to be believed then I only see a people that are fighting against, and not for, a better joint to hang our hats. It always seems to be all or nothing.


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