• Demos and Repubs

    From cr1mson@316:36/1 to All on Fri May 15 01:18:21 2020
    We as a nation should come together, despite our difference, but come
    together as one... a whole group.


    --- Mystic BBS v1.12 A46 2020/03/22 (Linux/64)
    * Origin: Raiders Inc BBS -- vintagebbsing.com:1337 (316:36/1)
  • From DustCouncil@316:36/55 to cr1mson on Tue Oct 26 06:24:20 2021
    Excuse the necropost...

    I've given a lot of thought to this division, and I've written about this elsewhere, but the fundamental divide in this country (and it is spreading to other countries as well), is not fundamentally political, nor is it -- as commonly believed by both sides -- moral.

    It has to do with a completely different perception of reality. I stopped arguing with people on political topics when I understood that the issue was axiom-like premises from which people began their arguments. Few people are wildly illogical. If you accept a particular premise, the politics flows from that premise in a predictable manner if you believe that humans, by and large, subscribe to a roughly equivalent transcendent morality.

    I hate to bring up abortion, but I just brought up abortion.

    If you believe that that is human life, it necessitates doing everything you can to stop what amounts, to you, to infanticide.

    If you do not believe that is human life, it necessitates doing everything you can to stop what amounts, to you, to the tyrannical dominion over human bodies by the state.

    That part is less important than what follows, which is when people on both sides of this issue recast the other's position within the context of their own frame or reality tunnel:

    You want abortion to be illegal because *you want to control womens' bodies.*

    You want abortion to be legal because *you want to kill babies.*

    Both of these things ignore the root premise of the other's argument. You rarely hear arguments about the premises themselves, and that is just as well, because there is no index, no central authority, to verify "when life begins." You cannot call up a mutually recognized authority on the subject to tell you who is right or wrong.

    But *all things* in politics are like this.

    People believe themselves to be the heroes, the good guys, the moral ones, in any narrative (drunk as we are on the zeitgeist, in which narcissism and sanctimoniousness is so abundant as to have become invisible). It follows, then, that whoever challenges me *must be the bad guy*.

    Until we mend this epistemological fissure, accord is not possible, because for most people "agreeing to disagree" means tolerating evil (the other side). Or, in some cases, it involves going easy on people hell-bent on destroying the world (the other side being bad guys and all).

    Beck, the musician, once sang:

    Cut a hole in the floor to see
    How close to hell we're standing

    There are powerful factions who benefit from sowing a worldview in which we are under siege and our lives are in danger. Stoking those fears short-circuits the fair-minded part of us which ordinarily should be pondering:

    * I've changed my mind on a whole bunch of things. Is it possible I will change my mind on the things which now control my emotions, thoughts, and actions? What are the chances I am dead wrong about this thing I am arguing for or against? Will I regret this argument in the future?

    * This person who has this opinion counter to mine -- might they honestly hold that point of view, and their reasoning chain is different on account of different premises based on what they've read, what they've lived, or what they've experienced?

    * Do I really have any idea what I am talking about? Could I hold a reasonable argument with the best-educated member of the opposition? Is it likely an undecided person watching me debate would award me the win with such a person?

    * If I do know what I am talking about, are there aspects of the subject I am unfamiliar with? Is my understanding complete, or partial, contextual, relative, or subjective?

    As to these last points, I'd ask any critic of any world leader whether they think they'd hold the exact same point of view on a topic if they had access to confidential intelligence reports, briefings by experts, and so on.

    If you have doubts, why be so strident about the subject, so intolerant, so deeply rude?

    Some years ago there was a photograph of a boy covered in debris from a bomb that went off in Syria. Here it is (this is unpleasant, if you haven't seen it. He's not dead or anything, but he is...covered in war.)


    In the days that followed I watched the same critics of American foreign policy, who couldn't refrain from criticizing US intervention in any foreign kerfuffle for five minutes, suddenly forgot everything they'd ever said and demanded the US involve itself in the complex quagmire of the Syrian conflict on account of the emotional impact of this photograph.

    Foreign Policy magazine published an in-depth article on Syria, describing all of the (known) factions, who they were allied with, and all I could say is the more I read, the more confused I was.

    You also have unintended consequences. The most salient point about those who have opinions on everything and can't shut up about them, in particular the ones who are always against the status quo, is they never have to demonstrate that their alternative politics would result in a better outcome. They just assert that it would, loudly.

    There is no simulator we can enter ideologies into, target at a social pathology or political problem, and see what comes out the other end. Actors - that is, politicians - are always criticized, but the opposition never has to prove its solution would have worked. The opposition to the staus quo always argues via analogy or historical example.

    But for all of its incessant, flamboyant Monday-morning quarterbacking, the opposition never has to put up or shut up: it simply insists things would have gone better had it got *its* way, and that should be obvious. That it could have gone *worse*, well, that's not something you can prove or simulate, so it can't...possibly...be true... Can it?

    As I've gotten older and I run into someone spitting mad about one political thing or another, my instinct isn't to argue (if I disagree) or agree vociferously (if I agree): it is to reflect upon a concept that would have horrified me in my more politically-charged youth:

    If we could somehow see the "other timelines" in which the opposition got its way, is it possible that the status quo, with all of its deficiencies, failings, and faults...might be the best outcome among them?

    Maybe not, but maybe.

    I try to imagine the person ranting in charge. I try to imagine people *like* the person ranting in charge. In charge of policy, planning, execution...

    Tends to make me a little dyspepsic. Other times I have to stifle laughter at the mental picture of the ideologue in front of me in charge. Other times, and this is getting more frequent, I have to excuse myself and leave because I can't stifle the laughter.

    Go to any public rally or protest and really do the exercise -- right or left, doesn't matter: imagine the people in front of you...in charge.

    The human mind, above all, condenses and simplifies. Of all of the information that exists, the human mind not only filters and processes a miniscule amount of it, but it insists on building simplistic models to describe a reality constructed of a baffling calculus: not only of known facts, but of known unknowns, and most frighteningly, unknown unknowns.

    Anyone listen to Freakonomics? In years to come we're going to find out things like the sales of fountain pens rise whenever there is a conflict in Africa, but not in Asia. Algorithms will be built to auto-invest based on these crazy things which appear linked, but whose causality cannot be explained.

    We may be able to predict war on the basis of bird populations. Some AI will correlate that bird populations drop when war is likely. There *is* a causal link but we may never understand what it is.

    All of reality works this way. It's the Butterfly Effect, but a massive complex of interactions of molecules, civilizations, people, economics, which the human mind cannot fully grasp.

    To believe we know for certain what the world needs and what it ought to get, to the point that we become hostile to opposing viewpoints is, to me, an expression of our animal origins, not our rational, sapient human faculties.

    "Predator bad!"

    "Must eat!"

    "Must breed, now!"

    Nothing is going to change until we learn some humility and embrace the fact that we are limited, and that expertise matters (but even that has its limits), and that there is a specific path to expertise.

    "The Dunning-Kruger effect is a hypothetical cognitive bias stating that people with low ability at a task overestimate their own ability, and that people with high ability at a task underestimate their own ability."

    This relates to the famous quote from Socrates, who we might all agree was probably fairly wise:

    "The only thing that I know is I know nothing."

    With this in mind, what am I supposed to make of the people sitting around in a local bar or restaurant emphatically insisting that they have the solution to all of the world's problems?

    I cringe when I think back on my past. Back then I focused on politics (majored in it) because I thought I *could know* what the world needed, and what it wanted.

    Then I got politically involved.

    And now in hindsight I cringe, especially thinking about assumptions I once held about the world that are so painfully invalid now.

    Humility is painful, but until we learn it, there will be no healing of this divide. We will, rather, have people convinced of their own rightness and goodness and virtue, against the mustache-twisting villains of the opposition.

    What's worse is, should one side learn humility, it has little offer to the side who hasn't. It will simply be perceived as weakness, not wisdom.

    We are writing our own epitaph as a species.

    If you find yourself agreeing with any of this, I think, from my subjective viewpoint and at this current moment in time, that this realization only becomes important *when you see it in yourself*. Seeing it in the opposition or people you don't like or agree with is easy.

    We will not, I fear, come together anytime soon. It will take disaster for us to understand the error of our ways, the folly of these years, and the cost of division.

    And it will cost us greatly.

    Fortunately, "Bob" comes to justify our sins and bring us the Slack we so richly crave.


    * Are true in some sense.
    * False in some sense.
    * Meaningless in some sense.
    * True *AND* false in some sense.
    * True *AND* meaningless in some sense.
    * False *AND* meaningless in some sense.
    * True, False, *AND* meaningless in some sense.

    This is the hardest pill to swallow, but if you remember it before you open your mouth, sometimes, you'll just decide to keep your gob shut and listen to the wind.

    And in the wind, maybe, you might hear something worthwhile.

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    * Origin: Shipwrecks & Shibboleths [San Francisco, CA - USA] (316:36/55)