I think one of the most difficult psychological tasks to achieve is to recognise, and I mean truly recognise, that someone whose views differ fundamentally from yours is entitled to maintain those views. I don’t mean in the abstract “I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it” sense. I mean seriously accepting that this other person is a product of a different environment, different experiences, a different life and these views are right for them.
This is a difficult concept to get across to a lot of people because people have a tendency to argue and fight. Acceptance, which logically seems easier than fighting, is much harder to achieve in practice. I’m not suggesting any kind of post modern “there is no universal truth” abstract reasoning. I’m not suggesting a weak, wishy-washy failure to commit to your own beliefs. I mean understanding that even though you are fully committed to your own beliefs and you are sure this person wrong, they have a right to their views and trying to force them to change is ridiculous.
There are a range of obvious exceptions to this, like serious criminal activity. But there are a lot of unjust laws and views over what is acceptable change over time so even this isn’t as cut and dried as authoritarian minded people would have you believe.
One thing that gets lost in a lot of political argument is the simple fact people are different. People give this lip service all the time but it is bizarrely rare for people to fully acknowledge what this reality means. Whatever your views are, however logical or moral you think they are, there will always be people who disagree with you. If you are a decision maker, you can never make everyone happy. No matter what decision you make it will always be wrong in every real sense for someone. Your decisions will always hurt someone. This isn’t a plea for politicians to water down everything they do in an attempt to please everybody. Personally, I hate it when politicians are afraid to commit. Plus, it’s pointless because nothing appeals to everybody.
Let’s get the disclosure out of the way. By most people’s measurement I’m a loony lefty although I’ve never been a formal member of any political party or group. This is simply because I recognised long ago that no matter what political party you join, the leadership of that party will make at least some decisions you strongly disagree with and you will be subject to massive pressure to toe the party line and go along with the orthodoxy. Fuck that shit. I am not inclined to subsume my individuality to keep some political party happy. And no, I’m not a libertarian. No matter how many libertarian principles I agree with there are way too many bugfuck crazy freaks who call themselves libertarian. I’m pro-environment, pro-choice regarding abortion, pro gay rights, anti-racist, anti-bigot, anti-censorship and I have disagreed with the policies and actions of right wing political parties around the world for as long as I can remember.
So that’s a very brief overview of “me” politically. Back to the bigger picture.
The problem I have observed from the Left is a sometimes obsessive need to do things “for other people’s good” whether they want it or not. This is as opposed to the problem I see on the Right of aggressively acting out a “this is right dammit” ideology and attempting to force diverse groups to conform to their views no matter what. I think it’s fair to say people on the Left are more likely to want to change an existing situation to the way they feel things “should be” without having any actual evidence and people on the Right are more likely to say they don’t want to change things without seeing an objective (usually economic) measurement of how it will improve things.
I’ve made it very clear where I sit ideologically but I think it’s still important to recognise that there are people on both sides of the political fence who are completely honest in their intentions. They pursue their ideology because they wholeheartedly believe it will benefit the most people and their opponent’s policies will hurt people. Having said that, I am far more likely to believe in the integrity of a left wing politician and support their policies. And that’s gotten me burned more than once.
I frequently attack conservatives because so often they make it staggeringly easy. I truly believe the things I say when I launch these attacks plus it’s a lot of fun baiting your opponents. However, doing only this would be lazy and I’d run a very big risk of getting complacent about the stupidity on the left. And people I essentially agree with are perfectly capable of being ignorant, obnoxious, narrow minded and straight out wrong. I guess I am too. Although I can’t think of any examples where I’ve been wrong right now.
One case of people on the left being obnoxiously arrogant and wrong is a book published a few years ago called “What’s the matter with Kansas?”. The basic theme in this book is echoed by left wing people around the world – why do working class and poor people vote for conservative politicians when the policies of conservative parties reward big business and hurt individual workers? It’s interesting to me that people looking at this situation seems to be saying “I represent this person’s best interests and yet this person votes against me. The problem is obviously with the voter.”
Does it not occur to them that this person they claim to be able to help is voting against them because they have fundamentally failed this voter? Why are people so quick to see a failing in someone else and not themselves? How dare they say this person’s moral judgements are wrong or have no value?
Even on a purely logical level this makes no sense. George Soros is a billionaire who actively supports left wing causes. By the logic employed in “What’s the matter with Kansas?” Soros is acting against his own interests. Do people on the left call him stupid for doing this? No. Because he’s on their side. So obviously he’s enlightened.
One premise from the book I do agree with is that Republican party is lying to these poorer voters. They don’t deliver on the “moral” issues they woo them with and, more often than not, they screw them over economically. I also think there is overwhelming evidence that these are deliberate lies, not a simple failure to deliver. I’m sure many people could point to what they consider deliberate lies from the other side of politics around the world – that’s the way politicians are. I will stress that I’m talking her about deliberate lies like Republicans saying Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11, not simple disagreements over whether or not a given policy is good.
This is a really complex issue. I’m writing this because I plan to explore the idea over a few videos for YouTube. Because I don’t see things as being black and white there are a million little qualifiers about almost every point I’ve made in this post. It isn’t possible to cover all the nuances in one blog post or one video. And it definitely isn’t possible to sort them out in comments. Not here and definitely not in the insane morass of fuckwittery that is a YouTube comment thread. I have far too much experience with ignorant morons who think they know it all sniping away in comments. They never shut up and there is no value at all in “engaging” with them because they aren’t engaged with you in any meaningful way, they are simply attacking you.
So don’t waste time with stupid comments in response to this, I won’t waste any time with you. Fuck off and get a life. Better yet, if you’re so convinced you’re right and I’m wrong go off on your own forum and explain yourself in at least as much depth as I have here. Otherwise I have nothing but contempt for you.
For those of you who have a brain and are actually interested in thinking, I will be exploring this topic further.
11 responses to “Seeing the other point of view”
Extremely interesting, and very coincidental really.
I make it a habit to try and get into (in order to understand) the mindset of people with vastly different views on the world to mine. Sometimes with frustrating results (i.e. I CANNOT fathom some mindsets but I find it so important to at least try).
I had just finished reading on of those agony aunt columns on a local news site and was doing this very thing (unfortunately again with not much success) when I saw your twitter post.
Recognising the rights of others to have differing opinions to us is fundamental to our own growth and understanding of the world. Although it might pain us to leave things be and not argue, sometimes just the very act of discussing (not arguing) with someone can lead to better understanding for both parties. I believe in cultivating the skills to dispassionately discuss issues, something which aids immensely in approaching and communicating with people on divergent issues. We learn so much when we are able to do this, and I think couching our beliefs in the boxes of our emotions can lead us to miss out on some great learning opportunities. Not that I dismiss the validity of emotions from beliefs and discussions entirely.
I miss your intellectual blogs and videos!
I don’t get libertarians at all. They seem to claim that they back absolute personal freedom, which is fine, but the only absolute personal freedom is anarchy and they seem to be against that. Rightly so too. As far as I can work out, they want complete freedom for themselves, but not for anyone whose freedoms might encroach on their freedoms, which is kind of contradictory. It’s a bit like thinking airbags should be compulsory but no-one should force you to wear a seatbelt.
Like the commenter above, I try to engage different viewpoints and whenever possible, ask them WHY they take that particular viewpoint. Some will explain themselves, and others will just spout slogans. The latter are dickheads – not because I disagree with them, but because they won’t do anything other than spout slogans. People I agree with who only spout slogans are dickheads too.
all people who hate anger are just angry at it
If you keep up this attitude, you won’t be angry anymore.
It’s the way I have always approached disagreements, if the intentions are honest (they come from a viewpoint they believe) and not malicious, you can never get angry at the outcomes, even if they’re wrong.
Sort of like play the ball, not the man.
Heh. Fuckwittery. Love it. Respect.
As far as libertarians go, from what I can tell (ymmv) it is not so much that they want freedom necessarily for themselves, but good luck getting them to reach a general consensus on how much government is too much. Some are really conservative, and some are two feet before anarchy. Sadly, the majority of “public” libertarians, like “public” Christians, are so crazy that it is not even funny.
As far as what you are saying goes, there are just some people that need to be right. If you try to tell them anything, or ask them to consider another opinion or even respect the opinion of another, you are evil/wrong/likely to enjoy abusing animals or children. They need to be right so badly that they will beat their opponent up, if not physically, than verbally.
And this goes for many people, regardless of party lines, religion, age, race, or country. Jerks, are jerks, are jerks.
“…Why are people so quick to see a failing in someone else and not themselves? How dare they say this person’s moral judgements are wrong or have no value?..”
Empathy? Are you talking about empathy? You’re not mellowing in your old age are you, AA?
“…So don’t waste time with stupid comments in response to this, I won’t waste any time with you. Fuck off and get a life…”
Ah! No, you’re not!
I really enjoyed your piece here. Refreshingly honest.
David Smails take on ‘reality’ is closest to what I feel :
“Hardly any of the ‘symptoms’ of psychological distress may correctly be seen as medical matters. The so-called psychiatric ‘disorders’ are nothing to do with faulty biology, nor indeed are they the outcome of individual moral weakness or other personal failing. They are the creation of the social world in which we live, and that world is structured by power.
Social power may be defined as the means of obtaining security or advantage, and it will be exercised within any given society in a variety of forms: coercive (force), economic (money power) and ideological (the control of meaning). Power is the dynamic which keeps the social world in motion. It may be used for good or for ill.
One cannot hope to understand the phenomena of psychological distress, nor begin to think what can be done about them, without an analysis of how power is distributed and exercised within society. Such an understanding is the focus of this web-site.”
I’ve had a guy tell me I don’t deserve freedom of speech for speaking out against paris hilton because I was saying she should have been given alot of jail time in a real jail due to doing something which could have easily killed somebody
Wow, I thought this was excellent. I couldn’t agree with you more. And it IS definately harder in practice than words to be, and I’ll put it this way, open-minded, as in , truly open minded. I don’t see myself even looking at politics as much as possible, not defining myself by party either. I find the system as a whole, on the entire planet, over. It just isn’t really working. And it’s too much like slavery at this point as it’s gotten corrupt. I am trying to see a new focus, a new way for humans on this planet. Anyway, I am extremely impressed with what you say here and I’ve waited a long time to hear others says just what you said. Hard not to get excited by this I can tell you. And if I may also say, you don’t need to define yourself even by the things you have politically, you don’t need to explain yourself. You ROCK!!!!!
I totally agree – I wonder what Sarah Palin would write on her hand about all this? 😉 I don’t really care what she does as long as she keeps wearing skirts!!