Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Conversations I'd like to have versus conversations I really have

The conversation I'd like to have with the typical progressive:

Progressive: I'd like to see poor people acquire food, shelter, health care and education.
Me: So would I.
Progressive: Wonderful! Here's the way I think we should do it, and which I currently think is the best way.
Me: Alright. Here are my disagreements, and here is what I think is currently the best way.
Progressive: Alright. Here are my disagreements, and here are my responses to your disagreements. Do you see any fault with these?
Me: Here are the faults that I see, if any, and my disagreements and responses to your disagreements. Do you see any fault with these?

And so on, and so on.

Here's what I tend to actually get:

Progressive: We should pass policy X to give poor people food, shelter, health care, and education.
Me: I do not think that is the best policy, we should consider alternatives, like this.
Progressive: I hate your idea and it will never work, largely because it's not my plan. Why do you oppose poor people having food, shelter, health care and education?
Me: I don't oppose that, but I do not think your policy is the best route to those goals.
Progressive: By criticizing my plan you are making it harder to enact it, which is tantamount to an attack on the poor. Why do you hate the poor, especially women and minorities?
Me: Your policies are idiotic, and also go fuck yourself.

And so on, and so on.

I'm not going to say every conversation that goes south is due entirely to the person I'm talking with. I can snap at people, and if someone snaps at me, my natural response is to escalate it. But that first line - that key difference - is something I run into again and again.

For too many people, "a plan to achieve a given goal" is identical to "desiring to reach that same goal" - such that if you disagree with the plan, you're actually disagreeing with the goal. If you oppose state-run health care, it is for some people literally impossible that you would even desire to see poor people receive health care. Impossible! And if you insist otherwise - if you discuss the ways you wish this would in fact come about - it's mentally written off as insincere. It has to be! Because the alternative - that someone can have broadly good moral goals and yet stand in opposition to the progressive plan - is an alien thought for many progressives.

I do not think this is fundamental to progressive thought - it's not as if desiring state-run health care turns you into a person like this. I think it's a function of political influence which our lives are typically inundated with. Likewise, I do not think this sort of thought is absent on the conservative side - it's very easy to find people who equate 'opposing the GOP' with 'opposing gun rights and the free market and also you're an atheist communist'. But generally - not always, but generally - a conservative will recognize me as having common ground with me, so if I disagree with them I can at least get the benefit of the doubt and the conversation will continue instead of my getting an accusation of outright betrayal.

11 comments:

Athena Carson said...

That's actually why I don't do statements any more when talking with people. I ask questions instead. For example -

Ed: We should pass X policy achieve goals A, B, and C.
Me: Is X policy the best way to get there, though? Why do you think that? I was reading about(insert pitfall here)- how would you address it?
Ed: Well, that wouldn't happen because D, E, and F.
Me: Why do you think that?

Rinse and repeat. Keep asking "why," nicely of course, frame my thoughts as something I read that I want their response to, and explore and guide them toward what I want to say. I have used this technique to successfully navigate political conversations at work with two people who are as far apart on the political spectrum as they could possibly be, one of whom is my boss.

A side perk is that as a female taking this approach, I don't come off as a bitch ... err ... assertive, intelligent woman with opinions of my own. Men and women are seen differently and I'm an idiot if I don't work within that reality.

Crude said...

Athena,

Asking sincere and reasonable questions is a good approach for someone who otherwise is walled off. I've had success asking questions before - at the very least you can get someone to recognize a fault in their own reasoning as a fault without pointing it out. That still blocks out suggesting alternatives.

More than that, what worries me here fundamentally is the inability for someone to recognize that, say.. the person who rejects state-run health care may in fact have the poor in mind, may have similar broad goals in mind. Sometimes people have different goals, but in that case it's not nearly so often nor pronounced.

I also don't think these kinds of perceptions are always subconscious or accidental.

Athena Carson said...

"More than that, what worries me here fundamentally is the inability for someone to recognize that, say.. the person who rejects state-run health care may in fact have the poor in mind, may have similar broad goals in mind."

I agree that's an issue, but I put it in the category of "things I can't control that I nevertheless need to work around." It would help if kids / teens were legitimately exposed to more than one way of thinking and looking at the world, but many people are either temporarily or permanently lost causes on that front, I'm afraid.

Crude said...

Athena,

I'm stubborn, so that lost cause situation is the one I keep thinking about. I can understand working around it though - there's only so many hours in the day, and conversations like that can lead to real progress.

The Deuce said...

Hi, Crude, remember how you speculated that much of the support of straight progressives for the gay agenda was actually their attempt to undermine sexual norms so as to deflect shame and prevent judgement of their own sexual deviancies?

Well, that insight was correct, and it explains what motivates progressives across the board, and makes sense of all the various discrepancies between their stated goals and their actual behavior.

Regardless of the topic, the goal of the leftist is always to undermine norms of morality, quality, and truth, so as to ease their own sense of shame. Even when they aren't directly guilty of violating the the particular norm they are attacking at the moment, as with the case of progressives justifying homosexual behavior, they perceive it to be in their own self-interest to attack norms in general.

Of course, they rationalize this, as they must in order to justify themselves, as a stand for "equality" and "social justice" and "fairness" and whatnot, but the incoherence of their conclusions, the way they contradict themselves constantly, and the irrational counterproductive manner in which they debate (as illustrated in your mock dialogue above) shows that they are really just rationalizations, and not sincere beliefs.

In discussions of economics, what you'll find sets progressives off is the suggestion that there are ANY norms of good behavior and living, the deviance from which tends to cause poverty. Suggest that there's any bad behavior that ought to be discouraged among the poor to make welfare programs work better, or good behavior that should be rewarded, or that it should come with any strings attached whatsoever (time limits on job acquisition, drug testing, etc), and watch them go into a high-dudgeon meltdown.

It's the same dynamic at work when they respond any actual attempt to defend against rape as "excusing rapists" and so on. They don't actually care about diminishing poverty, or stopping rape, or anything else. They care about rationalizing away their shame, and all common-sense proposals and acknowledgement of reality threaten to pierce their desperately-constructed fantasy world and bring their own shame back to the fore, so they react viscerally to it.

Crude said...

Deuce,

Regardless of the topic, the goal of the leftist is always to undermine norms of morality, quality, and truth, so as to ease their own sense of shame.

I am skeptical here. 'Leftist' seems to me to comprise a variety of views, and a lot of those views have a lot of potential and even likely motivations.

I run into people who are 'pro-gay' because they're basically 'anti-sadness' and their understanding of gay rights amounts to 'being against gay marriage or sodomy makes my friend SAD' and 'sodomy or gay marriage doesn't cause people to spontaneously combust I guess and opposing it makes people SAD', and that is operative.

I run into people who are 'pro-welfare' or the like because 'poor people are suffering and that is BAD' and 'this program helps poor people' and that's really all there is to it.

I also run into a lot of people who, yes, cannot even comprehend the idea of a person (particularly a poor person or, God forbid, themselves) having a duty to fulfill beyond supporting the right political causes. I don't deny the sort of people you're talking about exist.

But I believe there is a big gulf between 'outspoken leftist' and 'person with liberal inclinations', just as I think there is a real difference between 'the Cult of Gnu' and 'irreligious', and 'LGBT activist' and 'same-sex attracted'. I've had calm conversations - reasonable, thoughtful, even pleasant conversations - with all of the latter. The former, less so. And some of the people in the former category are floating there. They don't scheme, they don't plot - they simply react, they've been conditioned to think a certain way. Not always easy to tell those particular ones from the active 'under the surface I realize I am bullshitting' sorts.

Call it some lingering faith in popular humanity I retain. Or, if you prefer a cynical version: I think most people, including most passionate people, don't think about what drives them nearly so much, so active deception is largely outside of their purview anyway. Sometimes they just don't care. Sometimes - as rude as it is to say - it's just that they're not very bright, and think intelligence means 'saying the right thing no matter if you even understand what you're saying'.

Acatus Bensley said...

You're talking about adults who think with their hearts and not their heads. What you do expect?

msgrx said...

Acatus:

"You're talking about adults who think with their hearts and not their heads. What you do expect?"

Indeed. I've got the impression from a lot of leftists, including ones who didn't seem to fall into Crude's "under the surface I realise I'm bullshitting" category, that they think it's somehow, I dunno... callous or improper to think rationally about certain topics. So if I present an argument against abortion, say, or same-sex marriage, I get accused of "Trying to deny people their rights based on your bullsh*t metaphysics" or something like that. It really is quite a sight to behold.

The Deuce said...

I am skeptical here. 'Leftist' seems to me to comprise a variety of views, and a lot of those views have a lot of potential and even likely motivations.

I'm using the term to identify Progressivism with other Leftist ideologies, like Marxism and Jacobism. All, I assert, were based on the same basic sense of shame or inadequacy, which they seek to rationalize away by casting down the norms of truth, logic, and morality which make them feel ashamed or inferior. All rationalize this self-dealing shame-deflection as a principled quest for "fairness" and "equality" and "compassion," and try to portray their war on normalcy and reason as doing away with the "outdated" and "exploitative" and "bigoted" in the name of "science" and "progress" towards "enlightenment" and utopia. Their premises are all basically the same, their goals are all basically the same, and their tactics are all basically the same.


But I believe there is a big gulf between 'outspoken leftist' and 'person with liberal inclinations'

Sure, but "person with liberal inclinations" isn't the type who's going to respond to good faith debate about how to help the poor in the way you described above. That's how Leftist ideologues respond. I'm trying to explain why the sort of "conversation" you describe is so depressingly common when dealing with so-called "Progressives." It's not just bad luck on your part that the Progressives you run into are so unreasonable. It's something intrinsic to their ideology.


They don't scheme, they don't plot - they simply react, they've been conditioned to think a certain way. Not always easy to tell those particular ones from the active 'under the surface I realize I am bullshitting' sorts.

Well, there are some who only buy into Progressive ideas due to conditioning, but I don't think that even most hard-line Progressivist ideologues are consciously aware that they're bullshitting. In fact, I think they're mostly bullshitting themselves first, and you second. That's why I say that they're rationalizing. Their rage is more visceral and inchoate than calculated, because the sense of shame that prompts it is itself visceral and inchoate, and not something they admit to themselves.

I think what happens is, when you tell the Progressive your conservative ideas for helping the poor, the assertion of moral absolutes and personal responsibility implicit in your ideas condemns them and ignites their deep subconscious sense of shame and self-loathing, so they instinctively lash out at you using the same rationalizations they've told themselves to justify their deviancy and rejection of norms - namely that their deviancy and failure are nothing less that compassion itself!

What is to you simply an objective, practical, facts-and-logic-based discussion of how to best serve the needs of the poor is, to the Progressive, experienced as an acutely painful attack on all his self-justifications, which threatens to unravel all his rationalizations and even his very sense of self-worth if he doesn't put an end to it immediately.

msgrx said...

"I'm using the term to identify Progressivism with other Leftist ideologies, like Marxism and Jacobism."

I think you mean "Jacobinism". The actual Jacobites (as opposed to Jacobins) weren't notable for radical left-wing views.

Acatus Bensley said...

I sense that so called progressives are just people who are unaware that Robin Hood was a criminal, not a hero. Thievery is only wrong when it's not being done by an elected of official. I actually witnessed these idiots saying that poor people had the right to not live within their means using other people's money.