Hole in the Coccoon

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

There is an engaging and thought-provoking article over at Salon titled "I Can't Believe My Best Friend Is a Republican" that sheds light on a vital aspect of cultural change I have brought up here a couple of times: the value of personal interaction. I'll excerpt it here, even though much of the value of the passage is lost outside the full context of the article:

This is a democracy, after all. Isn't it worth understanding a bit more about why approximately half the country votes differently than we do? Isn't it important that we understand why people -- good and legitimate Americans, whose votes count as much as ours -- like Sarah Palin? [I don't, nor do I support any current political party. --ed] Isn't it crucial we figure out why any woman would want to defund Planned Parenthood, if only so we could then address the argument? Nobody benefits from sitting in a room, agreeing with everyone else. [bold added]
Setting aside the dogmatic skepticism so common on the left, that last sentence names a profound truth. You can't really, fully understand even a correct position if you hide from ever having it challenged. Surrounding oneself with yes-men thus does oneself the disservice of slowing down the pursuit of truth. This is, first and foremost, detrimental to one's own selfish interest. And, yes, it also makes one a less effective advocate for those ideas that one holds that are true.

But that isn't the full picture, and this is why I like a certain aspect of this article. Our culture is rife with immoral, life-threatening, bad ideas. The thinkers who originated and spread those ideas can and should be judged as evil. But many people who adopt those ideas can do so mistakenly. This is what the article gets to in a fashion. Author Taffy Brodesser-Anker's friendship is forcing her to get past the cardboard stereotypes her cognitive dissonance might normally cause her to throw up, and at least consider the idea that good people can mistakenly fall for bad ideas. Without this outlook, without some measure of good will, constructive engagement about ideas is impossible. (That said, one can certainly take a closer look at someone with whom one disagrees and learn to his chagrin that the difference is due to irrationality on the other person's part. Human beings do have free will.)

But that's not all. Being neither conservative nor leftist, this point may stand out to me even more than it might for a typical reader, for I suspect that both the author and her friend are fundamentally decent human beings who are mistaken about certain ethical and political issues (some overlapping and others not). Brodesser-Anker's willingness to see a difference of opinion as due to something other than conscious evil not only makes it more possible for her to set her friend straight on some things, it also gets her one step closer to being able to profit from her friend's insight. This last is because she is one step closer to being able to see the same thing going on when she looks into the mirror.

-- CAV

----- In Other News -----

Certain libertarian types imagine that the fight for freedom will benefit from (just) better communications technology in the same way that open source software development does. Egypt is proving them wrong. In the words of its possible future leader, Mohamed ElBaradei: "[I]f Israel attacked Gaza we would declare war against the Zionist regime."

This $5.8 trillion budget cut proposal doesn't go far enough and doesn't challenge the legitimacy of the welfare state, but it's better than the tiny GOP proposal I complained about some time ago. Harry Binswanger discusses it in one of today's HBL postings, too.

Take the census, get a taxpayer-funded stalker. The census worker in this story only puts a creepy individual face on what the nanny state does more and more to each of us every day. Cradle-to-grave "care" comes with cradle-to-grave intrusiveness.


Mike said...

But many people who adopt those ideas can do so mistakenly

I have to say that I disagree. Alot of the people I've come across choose to be ignorant and adopt those ideas without questioning them. And should you challenge or try to point out the problems inherent with these ideas they usually either get defensive or they personalize the subject.

Mark said...

Semantics, but the Ryan budget proposal actually does not cut the federal budget. It just allows it to rise at 2.8% a year rather than Obama's proposed 4.7%.

Gus Van Horn said...


The defensiveness you mention can be psychological defensiveness coming from a guilty conscience as you indicate, or it can be symptomatic of a failure of communication on your part (with you opponent thinking YOU are personalizing things).

I have been on both ends of such encounters. More than once, I have realized that, in fact, my opinion was similar to someone else's -- but that the other person presumed I thought otherwise and then launched into an obnoxious attack on me. Likewise, I have had disputes with people only to realize later that my own lack of clarity was to blame.

This is not to say that lots of people aren't intellectually lazy. But I think lots of people would do well not to be so quick to presume that of others.


I don't have time to check that at the moment, but that would hardly surprise me. I'm not sure I have ever actually seen a federal budget "cut" that really was a budget cut.


Mark said...

I should have included a link, sorry.


Isn't it telling that even one of the most "extreme" fiscally conservative politicians can't bring himself to actually CUT the budget - and he is happy to characterize his plans for future reduction in budgetary growth as "cuts".

And isn't it amusing when politicians make budgetary plans for the next ten years, only to have someone else's plan supercede it a year later.

Gus Van Horn said...

Ugh! Thanks for passing along that link nevertheless.