abortion, conservative, environment, Health care, liberal, moral impulse, philosophy, psychology, sociology
Okay, we’ve been through this before. What in the world makes a conservative, well conservative, and a liberal, liberal.
We try to converse with each other, end up yelling, throwing down our respective hats, and screaming bloody murder. “What is wrong with you. It’s obvious to anybody with a brain!”
Yet, we fail, and we are wont, on both sides, it seems, to declare the other side simple-minded, irrational, self-indulgent, and any such collection of pejorative adjectives that come to mind.
Noted psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Happiness Hypothesis,” has more to tell us on that score. Haidt, professor at the University of Virginia is also widely known for his essay entitled “Why People Vote Republican.” He will be getting out a new book in the fall of 2010.
His basic theory is that we are victims of rather different moral philosophies, gained as much from our peers than from our parents. We value different moral precepts and this makes it inevitable that we will fall on opposite sides of some very big issues.
The five moral impulses he discovered at work were these:
• Harm/care. It is wrong to hurt people; it is good to relieve suffering.
• Fairness/reciprocity. Justice and fairness are good; people have certain rights that need to be upheld in social interactions.
• In-group loyalty. People should be true to their group and be wary of threats from the outside. Allegiance, loyalty and patriotism are virtues; betrayal is bad.
• Authority/respect. People should respect social hierarchy; social order is necessary for human life.
• Purity/sanctity. The body and certain aspects of life are sacred. Cleanliness and health, as well as their derivatives of chastity and piety, are all good. Pollution, contamination and the associated character traits of lust and greed are all bad.
And of course, you guessed it. The first two are terribly important to liberals and the last two terribly important to conservatives. The middle one is vastly more important to conservatives than liberals as well. It takes little imagination to figure out where you fall, and as you examine the discussions you’ve had with conservatives, you can easily see the echoes of their moral priorities as well.
This of course translates rather excellently into religious liberal/conservative divisions as well. If one is religiously conservative, you can almost bet they are conservative as to all the various political issues they are concerned about. When you say, “how can you not care that millions of your fellow citizens don’t have basic health care?” they retort, “What is that up against the millions of babies we kill through abortion?”
Perhaps, just perhaps, neither side is being purposefully obtuse in refusing to see the point of the other side, their moral impulse just screams that something else is desperately more important before your issue comes to the fore.
What Haidt and others would argue, is that neither side would be good at being the sole group in control. Either would drive society in general into a hole. Liberals would end up with chaos and conservatives would install a sterile grey world of rules, killing creativity in the process.
That this is so is clear when you examine either party after serious losses. They devolve into a mess, kind of like the GOP is doing to itself today. It wasn’t all that long ago that the Democrats did the same thing, which of course led to the Bush fiasco, which in turn led to the latest Republican downfall.
By the way, you can determine your own particulars on this subject by going to http://www.yourmorals.org/.
Given that we are living in a more and more global world, we are going to continue to be faced with people who have radically different takes on this moral impulse ground. It becomes imperative that we learn this fact well, and work to appeal in our statements to as broad a range of the five as possible when framing our arguments.
One area as an example is that of the environment. Liberals support action because of their broad care for people and keeping them from harm. But evangelicals are being drawn toward action by appeals to authority–namely that God expects us to take care of what he has given us.
There is much to argue, for and against Haidt’s argument, no doubt. It is in its beginning stages of development and there will be plenty of critics. If you want to see some of them, then by all means look at the comments to the piece, which is linked up top. They are thoughtful and reasoned.
Yet, it seems Haidt is on to something here, and we desperately need an answer to this polarizing situation we find ourselves in. We cannot continue to address the severe and huge problems facing this country and globe without learning somehow to work together. That we have widely divergent ideologies is clear, but we have much at stake that is the same–our children for a start.
Its a beginning, and one well worth your time to read and consider I believe.
Pat - Arkansas said:
Very interesting, Sherry. I consider myself an independent “Libervative.”
LOL Pat, I suspect we are all a good mix when you get down to it.
That’s so good to remember, that total control by either side would lead to trouble. Working together has to happen and we need leaders who can work with both sides and encourage a meeting in the middle.
If one lives and practices morality, are no problems. Morality ‘peaching’ ‘conservative politiscians’ are Highest Immorality. Last 8 years, Steall from the poor and middle class (Lower value of paycheck) and Enriched the Richest, Preciselly by the Reaganomics, Bushonomics “STAREVE THE BEAST” principle.
And, USA is now Bankrupt, after Bushonomics Reversed Clinton’s ideal Record Profits, Including Federal Surplus and full emploment.
Is no Morality in misnomered ‘Conservative Politics”. It is All Enrich the Very Richest Globalizatiomn.
And they are the ones Falselly using “Right to Life” to Fatten their Bank accounts.
Lets try a Real Morality Test. That used to be the Operative, until Reagan’s “Business of Charity”, Business of Church”, And slashing Poor peoples programs, while Vastly increasing Unneeded Military Spending.
Great post, thanks. I suspect we all have some of each, but it would be nie if we could all get along a little better and be sure the politicians and the press understand that we aren’t as incredibly stupid as they seem to give us credit for.
The bad politiscians (‘Conservatives’) twist, lie, misrepresent, as did George W/Chaney/Reagan to do their Biggest Money enriching tricks. And ‘liberals’ Very seldom have a chance to communicate, Investigate, put the “Bad Boy” (Conservatives) on Trial, In Jail.
Big Money now Rules the USA. We voters are played with, misrepresented to, like Details of our Insane Violation of Universal Torture war Crimes Laws We Signed, after Cambodia 1970’s.
By Morality Should Rule, I mean Rock Bottom, Basic Morality, on Basics: Try the Leaders of our insane Torture Policy; Of the Major Finance Criminally Illegal Bankrupting Big Finance Companies. CIA and Seargents should Not be Tried, as Has been done to a small National Guard group at El Graibe. The Woman Major, Following ‘hasrrass the prisoners’ orders, and a couple of enlisted were falselly Blamed, Tried, found Guilty to Distract from the Initiators/Signors of Policy: George W/Chaney (Both Non-Veterans out to conquer a few countries) and Atty General. Try those at Bottom, and The Criminals on Top[ “Saved us from attack” Which they Did Not.
Interesting news from Iceland: The Conservative Gorvernment that Caused the Finacial Collapse There, were Kicked out of Officde by Voters, in the Oldest Republic in the World. A “Leftist” Liberal Woman (Lesbian, but no ones business) Is now Iceland’s Leader.
Basic Morality is Only thing needed, and missing, in Government. One of the Problems of ‘the past is behind us” Obama.
It is Not! Our Legal System and Constitution Require Prosecution, Jail Time for top 3 of George W. Is the Justice Department Legal Mandate, not questionable by Obama, as he has learned.
Basic, Fundamental Morality Must return to the USA; Or Our System will Fall, As it Is, like the Roman Empire. We no longer have Manufactusruing, Innovating Real Capability.
Iceland has Hydrogen Powered Buses. China is Testing Hydrogen Powered Cars; Clean Coal Technology, New Passanger Aircraft Manufacurng, etc, Green Technology We’ll be buying. Developed with the Massive Interest Payments we are Paying China, Saudia, Japan, Germany on Reagan/Bush Bankrupting Policies, Listed Clearly in STARVE THE BEAST Bankrupting Policy of theirs, and Republican Politiscians.
Basic Morality is Only thing that can Save the USA!
Jeannelle, that sounds like a good prayer! We sure need it.
Sailka, morality would be wonderful, but the point is, we each emphasize it different way. That is the rub. But I agree, to a large extent big business rules both parties now, and people are the victims.
Reamus: I agree, the worst thing is that we are taken for rubes by the media. That again is just a big business operation. As the conglomerates have grown our quality of news has deteriorated badly. I’m not sure how it will work itself out, but it seems right now the internet is leading the way. Trouble is, none of us is equipped by and large to do the serious deep research that is often needed to ferret out the facts.
Sherry, we only need Blog Sites like Yours to get Printed Media straightened Out 🙂 And its Happening: Newspapers are turning to Online Sites. (As Long as they offer Commet site, which they are removing, or qualifying to ignore Corrections.
And you offer free great Lemon Meringue Pie Recipes, Free.
I’m suggesting Basic Morality, like the Mafia, etc, followed: Don’t go over the Line: Don’t keep My cut from me, Etc.
That is what we need Nationally. All our problems are Strong Violations of Our Tax Money, Our financial investments, etc.
Criminal Trials of some Big Boy Leaders of Finance are becoming possibility.