Sunday, January 07, 2007

Differences Between the Left and Right

I've often said the following regarding how I view the American Left:

I think I'm right. They think they're righteous.
I think they're wrong. They think I'm evil.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe seems to agree with me.

Affirmative action, sex education, energy policy, family law, criminal procedure -- on issue after issue, people on the left are more likely to stress virtuous motives, while people on the right accentuate real-world outcomes...

Time and again, the pattern is clear: Liberals are galvanized by idealistic motives; conservatives find reality more persuasive.

This helps explain why the left is so often infatuated with the idea of its own benevolence -- and why liberals are so quick to accuse their opponents of being not just wrong, but wicked.


John S. said...

Of course, he agrees with you, he is a conservative pundit. Go to Boston Globe’s website and look at his bio. Who cares what he thinks. What you think is the point.

I used to have similar thoughts about conservatives who claimed I had no moral values. Indeed, surrounded by a family of conservatives during the wonderful Christmas season I was directly asked such without the courtesy of a conversation provoking the comment. Instead, they thought it would be fun to turn on FOX news and ask me such a question (they have rightwingprofs keen sense of humor I know). I did not care, but the happening gave me pause. I had always felt the conservative party was the party united by connective hatreds. Anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-tax, anti-whatever. Nevertheless, I realized it was just how I spun it. They saw themselves as pro-Christian values, pro-life, pro-profit, and pro-whatever. I realized, for me, things were not so dual when it came to good and evil—people, and beliefs, are fully capable of both. Conservatives have called me horrible names and have claimed righteousness and moral authority. Still, how you have expressed your views about the “American left” underscores, seemingly, how you have totalized and essentialized each one, turned them into symbols, and seen them in a very negative light. Sad, but perhaps sincere and totally justified based on your experience. I am sorry. I feel differently about liberals, of course, and do not reciprocate in my views about the right. Here is where I have no basis in reality—perhaps? But, then again, I disagree wholeheartedly with what many conservatives, not all I know, posit as reality as evidenced by my dialogue with rightwingprof concerning the people in New Orleans. I also disagree with liberals’ perception—do not get to excited. A conservative’s conception of reality, in many cases (not all), includes an enchanted world separated by dualities of pure good and evil, black and white, right and wrong, etc. Such a reality is not the one I know.

rightwingprof said...

If you are going to discuss me, have the courtesy and the maturity to do it to my face, on my blog, rather than behind my back, unless you want to come off as a slimy, sneaky little coward.

The reality you know is apparently not reality at all, given your silly, but oft repeated sneers of black and white, right and wrong, and so forth.

Hitler. Was he evil, or not?

Pol Pot. Was he evil, or not?

Stalin. Was he evil, or not?

If I break into your home, rape your wife and steal your television, is that right or wrong? If I say when I am caught that I did it because you are privileged and have more than I, does that change the fact that I broke into your home, raped your wife, and stole your property?

If I believe that you have too much and steal your property, then give it to others, is that right or wrong? If I believe that you have too much and steal your property by government fiat, then give it to others, is that right or wrong?

John S. said...


I regret you feel slighted but I really appreciate and thank you for your consideration of my comments.

allen said...

John S. wrote:

A conservative's conception of reality, in many cases (not all), includes an enchanted world separated by dualities of pure good and evil, black and white, right and wrong, etc. Such a reality is not the one I know.

Oh, of course it is.

The world is separated by dualities of good and evil the notice of which doesn't preclude the existence of shades of gray. It also doesn't confer importance on those shades of gray and certainly notice of those shades of grey is an equivocal indication of intelligence. All those delicate nuances and the laborious formulae used to call attention to their recognition are not evidence of intellectual superiority or even intellectual adequacy.

To put it more bluntly, you haven't demonstrated your brilliance by noticing unimportant shades of gray but you have demonstrated your narcissism. The notice of inconsequential gradations of light and dark doesn't so much define insightfulness as it does a desire to demonstrate insightfullness. Not only is a cigar sometimes just a cigar, it's not always worth bothering to determine which it is.

Besides narcissism, the other characteristic I find quite common in liberals is parsimony. It's immaterial how much some vital, social responsibility costs as long as someone else is picking up the tab. It's not all that important if the valuable resource is time or money, the responsibility for supplying the resource is someone else's and the responsibility of the liberal is to identify that party.

Anonymous said...

I think part of this debate is that we no longer share core values. It used to be everyone read Romeo and Juliet. That's not the case any more so the references are all void. The same could be said of a number of cultural classics. How can you teach a group when everyone is not only speaking a different language, but coming to the room with such desperately different tapes running in their heads. An example-I was discussing social criticism in art and brought up the allegorical side of The Wizard of Oz. Nearly half the kids had never seen the movie. Some of them had seen The Wiz, but I don't think that's the same thing as the original. Without a shared historical, social and cultural base, we have no way to discuss things because all of our examples and analogies fall flat. So we resort to pointing and being misunderstood which if I read my anthropology books correctly is how communication started. I don't know if it means we need national standards-which frankly I think we do-or if it simply means that we are going to have to do some heavy hitting to get parents to disconnect their kids from the Playstations and cell phones in order to reinstate some sort of social structure.

Anonymous said...

In discussing dualities, it was interesting to note that as my AP Art History class was reading through topics in Ancient Art, we came across one that stated how there are only really a few stories and archetypes that fill the human spectrum. Heroes, villains, monsters, heroines and of course the first and most prevalent, Good and Evil. Like it or not, it exists. I think liberals deny Evil's existence except in cases where it serves their cause or to accuse others in opposition.

John S. said...


I regret you feel I am narcissistic and I agree completely I have not demonstrated any brilliance whatsoever. Still, back to point, I find much of value in your, rightwngprofs, and others’ comments to my obviously poorly constructed comment. At the heart of the debate, as I see it (which is usually wrong), is my insistence duality, as both a term and concept, is a limiting way of seeing the world for me (very western Judeo-Christian [roots in Zoroastrianism]). Perhaps not so excellent in my comments, as I shared elsewhere, is the notion I see bipolarities over dualities. Shades of grey is an excellent way to put it, however, I feel such a phrase lacks what I conceive the nature of bipolarity. Sure, Hitler is evil and many things in the world are evil. Nevertheless, to say such is to exclude the possibility of good in such things, say, most extremely, Hitler. I posit the notion people, and even things, are fully capable of both good and evil. For me, bipolarity fails to represent matters of “shades of grey” as to “degrees” of black or white (good or evil). Hitler’s degree of evilness over goodness—certainly evil “to the tenth degree.” Someone who broke into my home and raped my spouse is evil “to the tenth degree.” To presuppose such people never did anything good or were incapable of good altogether and exclusively evil is difficult to believe. Such people selected (to which I will avoid debate over human agency which I feel definitely exists) to do such atrocities and is the basis for which I choose to evaluate them for—to determine their degree of good or evil. So, again, for me it has nothing to do with shades of grey, but more to do with acknowledging people are bipolar, fully capable of both good and evil, and to thus evaluate their actions accordingly.

Ellen: “So we resort to pointing and being misunderstood which if I read my anthropology books correctly is how communication started.”

Certainly a great way to look at it. Strauss, or even sociologists such as Durkheim, would suggest language is useful, necessary, and functional to overcome the exact reasons you gave through your wonderful example of the Wizard of Oz. Precisely, language is a construct—an extremely useful one—just as time or causation. I find this all so fascinating because would conceptions of good or evil (causations?) fall under such constructs serving very real and tangible functions, which ARE necessary and useful? While I would agree with an accusation such talk can lead to relativism (most certainly would) does not mean it fails to shed light on the notions of good and evil are not so necessarily obvious. To resort to such would be reminiscent of parsimony.

Oh, Allen, parsimony is not monopolized by liberals. Our own Darren showed such through deference to Occam’s razor on an earlier post. Though, I understand you meant stinginess with a wallet. I disagree.

Anonymous said...

Ah, sweeping generalizations. How lovely.

Darren said...

I'd say something like, "Ah, pseudo-intellectual babble. How lovely", but then I too would be guilty of pseudo-intellectual babble.

So I won't.

John S. said...

Sweeping generalizations and pseudo-intellectualism? I lament the notion, but, HA, I have to agree with such an assessment—especially in regards to my own comments. I again thank everyone here, Darren foremost, for still engaging in conservation with me. I sincerely appreciate it because I am on your “turf.”