Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Politics Of Morality, The Political Divide (Part 2)

freep.com
It goes unspoken that many of today's 'hot-button' issues are related to morality. Abortion, stem-cell research, gay rights, tax reduction, health care, and even foreign affairs. In part one, The Politics of Morality (part 1), the aspects of morality discussed were of a personal nature. However, the morality at the center of today's moral discourse is social. Social morality has developed into a set of standards. In the case of abortion-how much should society value life? With stem-cell research- what should be the limits of scientific study? In regards to gay rights, how people should live and to what extent should people's civil rights be associated with the way we live? Health care begs the question, how should public taxes be distributed. The tax debate is centered around on what society rewards and encourages. Lastly, regarding foreign affairs -how should society spread its morals to other societies. [Source: Morality and Political Discourse by Yanpei Chen]

Personal Morality is absolute. 


In general, people tend to agree or disagree with personal morality traits of an individual. In comparison, social morality, in today's moral debates, there is a huge disagreement between people on what should be social norms. People gather themselves in groups and try vehemently to impose their morality on others as being the proper social norm. In America, these disagreements have formulated along political party lines, factions, and demographics. [See Article: Party Identification Has Become the Lens Most People See Through ]

In America's two-party system, these disagreements have tended to lump 'We the People' into opposing sides on just about any issues period, but; especially moral issues.



With the election of America's first person of color to the White House, we have seen no compromise whatsoever. In fact, many citizens in this country feel that the obstruction by the Republican Party has bordered on sedition. [See Article: Tea Party Seditionists Say Default Not So Bad] This environment has led to an " us or them," mentality.

No Moral Issue Can Be Settled To The Satisfactions of All!  

The above truism brings this writers research to the realities of just how conservatives and liberals think. Political thinking is very much cognitive. Thus, Cognitive science plays a role in the evaluation of how these left and right factions of political thought process issues in their brains. One thing is for sure; you can't think without a brain. Cognitive science suggests how our brains are shaped determine very much on how we think. Any idea that you may have that you have learned that you use over and again makes up a part of your mindset [way of thinking] according to many Cognitive scientists and is physically represented in our brains. This fact matters in our way of political thinking enormously. The idea that people have the same rational is absurd. People do not think the same. We all have our own unique conceptual systems of thought. However, there are some universal systems of thought. In terms of morality, there are lots of metaphors. Morality is righteousness. In general, morality is a sense of well-being. Helping people. Being a person of high morals is seen as a person of emotional wealth. For example, a person who tends to help people will have many who feel indebted to them thus emotional wealth. On the flip side, when a person does things to harm others there becomes a sense of making restitution for the wrong-doing so morality can be seen as a form of emotional economics



Forgiveness plays a huge role in morality. Revenge for a wrong done plays a role in morality. Feelings of guilt have a place in the realm of morality. Once again, all this goes to the moral accounting metaphor. Metaphorically speaking, morality has an economic system of accounting that calculates a person's morality. How does all of this relate to politics? In a word, framing. Cognitive thought creates framing [images] in our minds. For example, when you say apple, an image of that fruit appears in your mind. Politically, when you speak of tax relief what frame or image comes to your mind? We all remember when George Bush, Jr took office his first order of business was the Bush tax cuts.[Tax Relief] The first mental image that comes to mind is the word relief. If there is a need for relief, there must be an affliction of some sort. The term relief means that some faction is being harmed by taxes, and the moral thing to do is to provide tax relief for those afflicted. So, because of this harm Bush, Jr political handlers set him up as a hero and anyone trying to stop him are the bad guys. So, when you add text to that metaphorically, what they are saying is " taxation is an affliction."

So, for many in America today when they hear the term 'tax relief' this is the frame that appears in their minds. When they hear this over and over it becomes a part of their physical brain. What happens when this accrues is 'taxation is an affliction,' becomes common sense to the person. Now, with this said, it becomes clear. How media outlets like Fox news, which claims to be fair and balanced, can have two liberals and two conservatives on a discussion panel, but; the host is conservative and can frame the questions with the now known factor that most right- wing authoritarian followers will have in their mindset that 'taxation is an affliction. If you take the other sides terms, if you are opposing it politically, and you take a question that fits their ideology and argue against it you are basically arguing for it cause you will be offending the common sense of the targeted Fox news viewer. Your argument will, in fact, reinforce that ' taxation is an affliction.'


      In terms of the modern day debate over taxes and how they should be implemented and who should pay what share of them [taxes] I was reminded by George Lakoff book: Moral Politics , of Dan Quayle's acceptance speech at the 1992 Republican convention when speaking about the progressive tax  he made the statement:

Dan Quayle 


      "Why should the best people be punished?"

The first questions are why is this even considered an argument against the progressive income tax. Second, Dan Quayle assumption is that people with the most money are the best people. And, in terms of morality, this is completely false. But, to a person who has been condition on the notion that " taxation is an affliction," will buy it hook, line and sinker, even though, it goes against their own best interest. Why? Cause it plays into their misconception of their common sense. Why do I use the term misconception? Let's look at current events of current common sense discrepancies among right- wing authoritarian followers.


What are right-wing authoritarian followers?  




In general, a conservative person is against abortion and for a flat-tax. As a liberal, I am totally opposite to this position, so I don't get what the two issues have to do with one another. More baffling, why people are for the flat-tax but against environmental regulations. Moreover, why people who are against environmental regulations are overwhelmingly in favor of gun ownership no matter a person's mental capacity. Then, I can't understand why these same people who are for no gun laws whatsoever are for tort reform. Confused? These examples are pretty wholesale among conservatives, but; what do they have to do with one another? This conundrum is a typical example of a Cognitive science problem. What is it that brings these ideas together and unites them for conservatives? What brings these example into some natural order that certain mindsets of people agree in totality? What is it that makes this possible? Liberals ask the questions how can you be pro-life and for the death penalty? How you can be pro- life for a zygote, but; be for cutting aid to starving children and support and create laws that would detain and punish refugees [mostly children] from fleeing oppression. Conservatives claim liberals as irrational for not wanting to put a murder to death and sanctioning abortion. What this boils down to is different world views.

 What is it that defines the different views of the world people have physically embedded in their brains? Why do conservative's talk so much about family values? With all the complex problems we as a society face in these troubled times, why is the main issue for conservatives always family values? Some conservatives see their way of thinking and the grouping of these mindsets as a family of like-minded souls. In practice, however, the reality is that there are many different world views which lead to the conclusion there are many different notions of family. As previously pointed out there are two notions of family.

  • Strict father figure family. [Authoritarian]
  • Nurturing parent family. [Egalitarian]
Regarding the conservative authoritarian model which has been the model embraced by conservatives throughout the country my research led me to one James Dobson. Dobson has so many people writing for him he requires his own zip code.

Who is James Dobson?   

Dr.James Dobson


   Dr. James Dobson is the Founder and President of Family Talk, a nonprofit organization that produces his radio program, “Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.” He is the author of more than 30 books dedicated to the preservation of the family, including The New Dare to DisciplineLove for a LifetimeLife on the EdgeLove Must Be ToughThe New Strong-Willed ChildWhen God Doesn’t Make Sense;Bringing Up BoysMarriage Under FireBringing Up Girls; and, most recently, Head Over Heels.


Dr. Dobson is one of those individuals accredited for much of the Republican Party's move to embrace religious factions [Christian Right] into the party fold and his Focus on the Family operation was a huge mechanism in answering the question; why do conservatives always focus on family values. However, ask any liberal and they will tell you flat out that Dobson view of family is distorted.

Case in point.

    

What Dobson has done is use fundamental theology and other doctrines and geared his writings and precepts of the ideal family into conservative ideology. This en-turn creates politics of morality, which causes a political divide cause as we have learned there are many world views, and many notions of  family.  Dobson, and many of the Christian right and the Republican Party claim to have a strict view of morality. It goes like this; it's a gender system of family structure. Daddy is different than mommy. The father must be strict he is the head of the family the authoritarian figure. There is evil out there in the world and it's the father's role to protect the family from it. Because there are winners and losers in this world, the father must be a winner to support the family. In the Dobson model, children are born badly, in the sense as a child if it feels good they want to do it. Children don't know right from wrong, and you need a strict father to teach them right from wrong. The major dilemma here is the various views on how to teach children right from wrong and this dilemma indirectly has caused a political divide in America and morality is the root.


Dr. Dobson model advocates punishment when they do wrong. Dobson claims that the punishment must be painful enough that the child will correct themselves next time when confronted with a choice. The idea is that the child will internalize the correction and not do wrong again. Dodson advocates spankings. Dobson claims beating a child is okay as long as they are over the age of 15 months. In the Dobson model and subsequently the republican model, a child and person can only become moral through discipline. The claim is through this discipline a person will become self- reliant and a prosperous adult.

Conservatives believe there is a link between morality and prosperity.


Discipline allows one to be obedient to the moral authority which makes one more successful, happy, and prosperous. There is a logic here. Suppose someone is not prosperous. Then you're not discipline enough. And, if you're not discipline enough you're not moral. So, you deserve your poverty. We see this mentality played out in our modern day political debate. We have seen Tea Party, Libertarians, and Republican Party main-streamers and related legislation on both the federal and state levels take on a " go fend for yourself," narrative. This attitude is a prime example of the politics of morality and how it has caused a political divide in America. All of this has social implications.

Another major part of the Dobson [conservative] model is after a child has grown and become mature if they have gotten the self-discipline they can go out into the world and take care of themselves. If they haven't, adhered to this discipline they should still go out into the world [tough-love]  and let the world discipline them.[The School of Hard Knocks] If they can't make it, too bad. Now, there is another part of this. Why is it moral within this system or doctrine to pursue your self-interest? Dobson is very clear about this; he proclaims this as being in step with Adam Smith version of capitalism. 
Noam Chomsky brings perspective on Adam Smith.          


Adam Smith claimed that if everyone pursued their profit by the 'invisible hand' the law of nature would maximize one's goals. The model suggest it's good to pursue your self-interest because that's good for everybody else. In this model, what's bad, is to interfere with someone's self-interest. According to Adam Smith taxation is an interference. And, that's why Dan Quayle said "why should the best people be punished." So, fast-forwarding to our modern day times, under this "train of thought" the Koch brothers are the best people because they are pursuing their self-interest. The next interference is government regulation. Government gets in the way of people pursuing their self-interest. There is also a term in conservative language for those who don't pursue their self-interest. When people pursue the good of the community they are labeled by conservatives as " do-gooders."


 A 'do-gooder,' is one of those people who is trying to help somebody and are getting in the way of those so-called best people self-interest. Once again, this is a prime example of the politics of morality and, how, it has created a political divide in America. Now, there are lots of other facets of this family values model. What does this conservative family values model say about social programs? Conservatives claim that all social programs are immoral. Why? They claim they hurt the people they are trying to help. Because, they are giving people something they have not earned. This action makes people dependent on the state, hence the term "nanny state." This dependence takes away their ability to be discipline that takes away their ability to be moral beings. So, in the cognitive minds of the right-wing authoritarian follower social programs are immoral according to this logic. In addition, you have the mindset as the father as the strict figure with the moral authority. Moral authority can be a very interesting idea because it brings together two trains of thought.


Morality
Authority
In the text, this translates to morality and power. Part of conservative thought is that people who are in power, who have pursued their self-interest, are moral and should have the authority over the rest of us do-gooders. In short, moral people should rule. The discipline people should rule. This belief gives rise to a conservative hierarchy or moral order. In the moral order which is part of the conservative model, you have GOD above man, man above nature, adults above children, western culture above non-western culture, America above other nations. It's the idea if you look at forms of authority historically that will show you what GOD has made moral. Then there are other versions. The bigotry ones, the ones that are so out front in today's Republican Party. It goes pretty much like this man above woman, whites above non-whites, straight people above gay people, Christians above non-Christians. Now, in fairness, not all conservatives have those bigoted views. There are non-bigoted conservatives. However, it is important to understand as a liberal it has been hard for me not to lump all conservatives into the irrational, mean- spirited, greedy and stupid box. In fact, all conservatives are not irrational, mean- spirited, and stupid. Conservatives have a strict interpretation of morality. For the most part, most conservatives see themselves as moral people. In this writer's view, this reality can sometimes be a "hard-pill-to-swallow."


What Morality Do Progressive and Liberals Have?    



Written By: Johnny Hill

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