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Asehpe @Asehpe
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Ms McArdle, first of all, thank you very much for this intereting column, and for taking the time to actually address some of the quetions it generated. It's a rare pleasure to see someone as interested in engaging with the opposite side as you obviously are.
Now, if you allow me, being a liberal-leaning individual, I feel compelled to play the unlikely role of a Dr Jordan Peterson and discuss the points in which your analogy fails -- because they are just as interesting as those in which it works.
1. Political orientation as tribe/race/gender. Indeed beliefs correlate (call these correlations "Weltanschauungen"), but in a much less perfect way than biological taxa, genders, or cultures--basically because the former are more consciously felt and structured than the latter.
Note, for instance, the significant (though, I hasren to agree, not dominant) tendency for young people in Western cultures to disagree considerably with their parents' Weltanschauung (you, personally, being an example, and I, too).
Now, the fact that such divergences (call them "high mutation rates" if you will) are frequent in Weltanschauungen has even led to the concept of "convincing" or "persuading" people to change--ideas,
subsets or the whole of a Weltanschauung.
The very existence of these words (and related ones such as "debate" or "exchange of ideas"), for which there are no good correlates in the other cases ("sex-change operation"? "going native"?), suggests they describe aspects of reality frequently found in people's experience.
Now, as you point out, people don't usually engage in rational exchange of ideas, and this may not be the most frequent way that Weltanschauungen change (Dawkins' "memes" are probably closer to the true mechanism here).
Still, this suggests that we can, and should, learn how to go beyond the mere concept of "good neighbors" that you propose. It's more a question of changing attitudes than changing anything important in the Weltanschauung.
And here, your analogy does present an interesting result. The main reason why genders/races/tribes are hostile to each other is fear -- fear of being (violently?) forcerd to change. This creates stereotypes of "the other" as a "bloodthirsty enemy" who "wants to enslave us."
At this point, your analogy may create a problem: to make them see each other as 'people', similarities must be brought to the fore, not the (tribal) differences. But if the comparison is with hard to change structures (gender, tribe, race), then the effort seems quixotic.
The same seems to happen in the area of Weltanschauungen. Conservatives and liberals are increasingly seeing each other as mortal enemies who simply cannot live together. And the more extreme they perceive the other to be or act, the more extreme they themselves become.
Wouldn't it be better to see Weltanschauungen as still analyzable -- despite the clustering tendency of their components? So that said components could be honestly discussed and considered, not simply accepted as so many bricks in the Weltanschauung structure?
In other words, rather than consider equivalences to "privilege", "prejudice", "oppression" etc. -- shouldn't we emphasize common points ("we all think murder is wrong") or the possibility of rational discussion ("abortion is a topic that can be discussed in an exploratory way")?
Let's say this is presented as a way for us to know each other better -- to engage in the process of understanding the other tribe (which, I see, is one of the goals of your column). Isn't it better to do so explicitly?
Using an "underrepresented minorities" analogy introduces a lot of emotionally loaded baggage ("oppression", "prejudice (systemic and otherwise)") -- besides indireclty implying that "persuasion" or "convincing" are impossible (like the uncrossable lines between URMs)?
Without at least the theoretical possibility of "persuasion" (as part of "searching for the truth"), then the idea of "good neighbors" seems to me to imply a wall that cannot be broken. We'd all be just tourists in each other's tribe. There is something profoundly sad with that.
You ask: how would you go about changing your beliefs? I say: by doing what you described: being concerned with the possibility that they are wrong (which I, like you, do every night), and being open to the thoughts of others. I believe in "persuasion," "convinceability".
Consider the worst of all differences in America: abortion. So, is it a human being or not? Well, without trying to settle the question, I think it is possible to put this in the frame of the (eternal in philosophy) discussion, what is a human being?
I used to answer this question differently than I do now. And with this change came also a change in my beliefs (I'm pro-choice now, after having started out as pro-life). And the change, for me, came via... persuasion. Talking to people, reading, thinking... searching for truth.
Are conservatives more authoritarian? I don't think so, but it's interesting that the example you chose to show the "authoritarianism" of liberals was environmental science. To me, the key word here is "science," not "environment."
Accepting the authority of science in practical matters such as the environment is, to me, simple rationality -- a precondition for a reasonable discussion, a way to establish facts. If you treat this as a simple recourse to authority, you are misrepresenting science.
In other words, there is an asymmetry between "environment experts" and "police/ministers/the military" that your comparison simply does not capture.
Science must be seen as an exception to your rule of thumb: "skews are the result of social and systemic factors" (a surprisingly left-wing belief, by the way). Some skews are more likely caused by certain people knowing something (say, mathematics) that other people don't know.
Discussion and debate are the means to tell if a certain group of people are excluded because of unconscious social bias... or because of not knowing certain things. Just as it is not true that the gender pay gap is simply due to (systemic) prejudice or misogyny.
To close this already too long diatribe, I don't think that "conservatives/liberals are half the country and are not going to disappear" is the best way to describe the situation. It is true, of course, but it leaves out an important thing: persuasion, "convinceability."
It is not the case that we simply need to learn to "get along." We don't just need to be neighbors. We need to engage with each other and discuss all the issues, because the law in our country is only one. Unlike genders/races/tribes, our belief systems must debate.
Or, at least -- rational, respectful debate is the better alternative. The other one being simply warfare and mutual hatred leading to all kinds of conspiracies against each other and all kinds of stereotypes about the other side being "evil."
Conservatives and liberals are not evil. But, if the issues must be addressed in policy and law, then both groups must face the possibility that, for each given issue, one of them is, must be, wrong. (It is also possible that, for some issues, both are wrong.)
We must concentrate on a way that allows us to determine, for a given side, which of these groups (or policy proposals) is wrong. To the best of my knowledge, rational debate and argumentation, though not perfect, is the most suitable method.
Either abortion is to be legal, or illegal. Either gun sales are to be restricted, or not restricted. There either will be, or not be, affirmative action. Conservatives and liberals cannot escape the "battle of Weltanschauungen."
To me, the sine qua non condition for rational debate leading to solutions, even if temporary, for these issues and policies is... "convinceability." If both sides do not admit the POSSIBILITY of being wrong -- and are thus open to be convinced -- then we'll never be neighbors.
Then we'll eventually be killing each other to "prove" our points.
I hope we can escape that.

That's it. Again, thank you very much for your column, and I hope to have at least etertained you a little. 🙂
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