Sunday, March 04, 2012

Left v. Right: The Worldviews

Hunter at the Daily Kos writes pithy, vivid posts that typically address the hypocrisy of the Right and the completely fantastic picture they paint of the world we live in, which has mighty little to do with the reality of the world we do live in. He writes sharp, scathing posts that connect the dots between seemingly unrelated but deeply interconnected actions and statements that arise on the Right day after day. But his latest post is different. It's not as scathing; it's profound and sad, and it captures better than many of his other excellent posts the nature of the debate that divides the Left from the Right.

Much has been written about how the liberals and conservatives are divided by a failure to communicate effectively using a common language. That is also the contention of Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia who recently appeared on Moyers and Company to discuss his soon-to-be released book titled The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt's book tackles the problem of how different moral intuitions and compasses shape our world view and how the failure to empathize leads to a breakdown in communication between political factions. It all sounds very refined, scholarly, and even convincing.

I like Moyers, and I  usually like the points his guests make. I will probably buy Haidt's book and read it with curiosity, but I suspect that I will be disappointed by its premise, and by its conclusions as well. It seems to me that Hunter does a better job of capturing the essence of the divide that separates the Left from the Right: It's not one about failure to speak a common language, to understand the different but equally valid point of the opposition that causes politics to break down and fail its people. It's really about a battle about disappearing opportunities; about how the America of the present, with all its huffy and haughty pretenses at still being the land of opportunities and just rewards, is a nation that more and more picks winners and losers by birth right, by heritage, and by heirdom. It is a nation where the promise, let alone the achievement, of upward mobility has been on the decline for decades, and where birth places and conditions tend to determine the outcome in life more than anywhere else in the advanced world.

George Will, Thomas Sowell, and all the other conservative pundits that strike a pose of supremacy of knowledge and intellect, cannot explain--as Hunter points out--why there are such disparities in our society if the goal of the Left, with all its assumed power over the ignorant masses, is to create equal outcomes. Ineptitude? Or is it because the premise that the Left is constantly seeking to establish equal outcomes is an invention of those whose mission in life is to conserve and preserve the inequality that has played to their advantage? Hunter's post, in all its quiet desperation, can be summed up in this paragraph (Hunter's):
[...] three stories sit on my computer desktop, all of which were written in the span of a few January days. A story about the damn redistributionists; a story about how America measurably fails its poor; a concrete case around which to question ourselves on what, as a society, we believe equal opportunity to mean. [Emphasis added]
I added emphasis to the sentence "[A] concrete case around which to question ourselves on what, as a society, we believe equal opportunity to mean." because nations are not shaped by debates; they are shaped by how debates are translated (or not) into action. We have a concrete case to deal with. How we deal with it defines not only our idea of what future we want to build, but future itself.

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