I Am Skeptic (and Disappoint)

If you’re not watching “Up with Chris Hayes” start doing so. Immediately. That combined with the follow-on, “Melissa Harris-Perry” are the four most thoughtful, intelligent hours on television. (No, I do not have time to watch all four hours, alas.)

I’m disappointed I missed the entire interview with Jonathan Haidt, who wrote the book “The Righteous Mind” and whom I suspect is filled to the brim with shit. Of course, when you want to broach a subject like this, you quickly find yourself in a weird position because the whole point of the book is that liberals and conservatives are emotional creatures who suspect something to be true, then work to find evidence that their suspicions are true. Which is not entirely unfair. Here’s where it is unfair: I think liberals right off the bat have more credibility because they believe things that are unpleasant to believe. For instance, I would much prefer to live in a world without climate change. I’d like not to think about it, worry about it or change my habits to accommodate my beliefs. But when the majority of the scientific community says a thing is true, I err on the side of believing it is. This strikes me as inherently reasonable and logical.

He also contends that conservatives are better at seeing humans for what they really are. HUGE CAVEAT: I have not read the book, so please take everything I say with a boulder of salt. But apparently he uses Ev-psych to back these contentions up, which you may or may not find disturbing. He also–and here’s the interesting/creepy thing–claims to have been a liberal before he wrote this book and now claims the mantle of enlightened centrist. He says we have much to learn from conservatives.

Punchline: He specifies that he means “Burkean (as in Edmund Burke) conservatives. ” Huh? Who, pray tell, are these serious, thoughtful Burkean conservatives? Who the FUCK is he talking about?

This is why I can’t take bothsidesdoitism seriously;  you have to twist yourself up into some pretty obscene head-in-ass pretzels to make it work.

UPDATE: Hey y’all…look what I found:

This is a quote from Haidt:

My first few weeks in Bhubaneswar were therefore filled with feelings of shock and dissonance. I dined with men whose wives silently served us and then retreated to the kitchen, not speaking to me the entire evening. I was told to be stricter with my servants, and to stop thanking them for serving me. I watched people bathe and cook with visibly polluted water that was held to be sacred. In short, I was immersed in a sex-segregated, hierarchically stratified, devoutly religious society, and I was committed to understanding it on its own terms.

It only took a few weeks for my dissonance to disappear, not because I was a natural anthropologist but because the normal capacity for empathy kicked in. I liked these people who were hosting me, helping me, and teaching me…Rather than automatically rejecting the men as sexist oppressors and pitying the women, children, and servants as helpless victims, I began to see a moral world in which families, not individuals, are the basic unit of society, and the members of each extended family (including its servants) are intensely interdependent. In this world, equality and personal autonomy were not sacred values. Honoring elders, gods, and guests, protecting subordinates, and fulfilling one’s role-based duties were more important.

Now. What do YOU take away from that? I will be doing another entry about Mr. Haidt.

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22 thoughts on “I Am Skeptic (and Disappoint)

  1. He also–and here’s the interesting/creepy thing–claims to have been a liberal before he wrote this book and now claims the mantle of enlightened centrist.

    In other words, a gutless moron.

    He says we have much to learn from conservatives.

    We sure do… from conservatives, I have learned that the earth is 6,000 years old, that my funny gay co-worker is plotting to destroy the fabric of society, and that women need to take birth control pills every time they have sex. Of course, all those things are stupid and false, so I have to drink to forget them.

    He specifies that he means “Burkian (as in Edmund Burke) conservatives. ” Huh? Who, pray tell, are these serious, thoughtful Burkian conservatives? Who the FUCK is he talking about?

    He’s talking about people who idolize the guy who said this:

    “The Chancellor of France at the opening of the states, said, in a tone of oratorical flourish, that all occupations were honourable. If he meant only, that no honest employment was disgraceful, he would not have gone beyond the truth. But in asserting that anything is honourable, we imply some distinction in its favour. The occupation of a hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively are permitted to rule. In this you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.”

    In other words, upper class twits and their apologists/enablers.

  2. Jonathan Haidt? What are the chances that a pop psychologist whose ideas about human cognition are sufficiently glib for David Brooks to pick them up, will actually be fullacrap?
    No-one could possibly have known…

  3. What do YOU take away from that?
    A visitor to another culture who takes “only a few weeks” to come to terms with the notion that not everyone in the world shares his own culture’s value system, should not be working in psychology. Has he considered engineering, or ditch-digging?

    • No only that, he quickly acquiesces to a world in which his male and wealth privilege is gloriously expanded–plus, he can look down his nose at stupid furriners drinking polluted water while spinning it into some Friedmannian profundity. Nice orientalism, buddy–did the next paragraph wax rhapsodic about what their devotion to family and spirituality can teach us over-marketed, over-stressed, “narcissistic” Westerners?

  4. Or hairdressing or tallow-chandlering for that matter. I believe conservatives are latter-day alchemists, searching for a philosopher’s stone that will turn everyday assholery and selfishness into unalloyed virtue, their faith in its existence unshakable.

  5. Mr Haidt in “Why people vote Republican.”
    If Democrats want to understand what makes people vote Republican, they must first understand the full spectrum of American moral concerns. They should then consider whether they can use more of that spectrum themselves. The Democrats would lose their souls if they ever abandoned their commitment to social justice, but social justice is about getting fair relationships among the parts of the nation. This often divisive struggle among the parts must be balanced by a clear and oft-repeated commitment to guarding the precious coherence of the whole. America lacks the long history, small size, ethnic homogeneity, and soccer mania that holds many other nations together, so our flag, our founding fathers, our military, and our common language take on a moral importance that many liberals find hard to fathom.
    Always with the blaming soccer.
    One is a bear of very little brain but I think he’s saying: Democrats should not push the social justice thing at the expense of national unity. So some people should STFU with all their moping around and get with the programme.
    All that thinking time has not been wasted eh, Jonathan?

    • He is pushing a conservative argument that I remember from the 80’s but which is surely older than that–the old “social democracy can’t work here because blah people” canard.

      Not sure why anyone would repeat it today, when the toadies of the rich have moved on to other arguments.

      It does, however, put the lie to the notion that he was ever a liberal. Maybe he recycles and thinks Phyllis Schafly was over the top. I mean, she was so strident.

  6. our flag, our founding fathers, our military, and our common language take on a moral importance that many liberals find hard to fathom.

    Yes indeed, if there’s one thing I associate with US Republicans, it’s their willingness to compromise on their political agenda for the sake of maintaining national unity & stability.

    Not sure what “our military” is doing on the list. Some would say that imperialism, conquest and exploitation abroad, and an expectation of barracks-style obedience at home only became central to US identity about 50-60 years ago, yet he is arguing as if they have always been there.

    Not sure about “our common language” either. Perhaps the “our” does not include the Spanish-speakers who became American through the annexation of large chunks of Mexico and the Anschluss with California;or the First Nation groups; or the various involuntary immigrants from Africa… they might have a different perspective.

      • VS, can you get WP to uncheck the notifies by default? I don’t give out a real email addy and wouldn’t want notifications if I did. It was checked by default, though, and I apologize for the bounces I may have inadvertently created before I noticed it.

      • I don’t know what setting that is. However, I have made it possible for people to post anonymously and with no email addy. I hope this helps.

      • Haidt seems to be arguing that Conservatives invest all their loyalty in symbols rather than the abstractions that those symbols represent… even when those symbols are dreamed up on the spot as Loyalty Tests (oaths of allegiance, lapel pins, “our military”)… this loyalty being switched from target to target according to political convenience. Also that this is a Good Thing that liberals should emulate.

  7. a moral world in which families, not individuals, are the basic unit of society, and the members of each extended family (including its servants) are intensely interdependent. In this world, equality and personal autonomy were not sacred values. Honoring elders, gods, and guests, protecting subordinates…

    First & 2nd sentences: maybe. Third sentence: utter bullshit. The “guests” who get honored are clearly not women friends of the women in the family, since it seems unlikely they’re even allowed to have friends, let alone entertain them. I don’t see any lack of “honoring” the gods (or God, or for that matter, Zod) in today’s America; if anything I see way too much of it. And I really don’t see how it “protects” servants when you’re not supposed to thank them for their service because, you know, they might get uppity if you don’t treat them like dirt. Jesus F. Christ, what a steaming pile.

  8. Pingback: Curried Beef and Butternut Squash Stew and Asteroids. No, Not Together. « Super Karate Monkey Death Car

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