In the opening minutes of the movie The Accountant the mom and dad of an autistic child disagree about how to raise him.
The mom prefers to place the child in an institution where he will be protected from the triggers that cause his extreme, potentially self-harming, behaviors, and where he will be gently coaxed in his training and education in a way that as much as possible avoids them.
The dad prefers the Antifragile approach of strength building.
This begs the question, what is care?
Is it the mom’s desire to protect her son from adversity?
Or is it the dad’s desire to prepare his child to be self-sufficient in the real world where safe spaces are not always available and protectors are not always present, and where the potential for harm always IS present?
Which parent is more compassionate?
Is it the mom who wants to avoid all suffering, including her own?
Or is it the dad who chooses to set aside his own heartbreak and place his child’s needs above his own by equipping him with the strength and skills that will allow him to cope with and overcome any suffering he does encounter?
Whose moral matrix is better? The mom’s or the dad’s? Which one is “right” and which is “wrong”?
Which moral matrix is the “normal” one? Which one is the mainstream baseline such that deviations from it are thought to be abnormal, aberrant, outliers that must be studied, understood, and treated, corrected, cured?
Academic social science has made its choice. It operates within the mom’s moral matrix. The questions it asks, the tests it designs, the analyses it performs, and the conclusions it draws – all of it – rest in the fundamental assumption, the ground truth, the sacred value, that “care” and “compassion” are by definition the mom’s outlook. It is by this standard that liberals and liberalism are judged to “care” more, and to be more “compassionate” than the Anti-Fragile constrained vision of conservatives and conservatism.
And so has Western culture as a whole. It is from the perspective of the mom’s moral matrix, and it is by her standards of care and compassion, that Western culture understands, evaluates, and judges, social thought, behavior, and people; and concludes that conservatives don’t “care” and are cruel and heartless.
It is by following that standard that Western culture has arrived at the situation described in The Coddling of The American Mind, where feelings enjoy primacy over facts and evidence, good intentions are more important than results, and where even certain THOUGHTS are forbidden because they might cause mild discomfort, and through which we fail to equip our children with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to cope with actual reality.
The notion that liberals “care” more or have more “compassion” than conservatives is dead-assed wrong. It is upside-down thinking that places priorities, and reality, in the exact wrong order.
I LOVE your examples of how conservatives and liberals react to situations. They’re great as illustrations, or exaggerations to make a point, of the two cognitive styles.
But to be fair, I feel like your examples of how liberals feel are unfair to liberals. I think in real life liberals are not so black and white. I think liberals think people are more capable than your examples suggest.
If I were to rephrase your examples I’d use phrases like “tend to think” or “lean toward.” Speaking of Bell Curve, the picture in my head of liberalism and conservatism is sometimes that of two bell curves, offset from one another by some amount, but with overlap. The right side of the liberal curve overlaps the left side of the conservative curve.
I see what you mean about masculine and feminine qualities. And that too works as a metaphor or illustration of tendencies, but I dislike the black and white, either/or aspect of it. Also, as a conservative, those metaphors feel shallow to me. They may tell part of the story but not the whole story, and there’s a danger in that. Pigeonholing people into categories like that has a dishonest, or disingenuous ring to it. I am NOT saying YOU are dishonest or disingenuous. I’m only saying that Lakoff’s metaphor seems like only part of the story, and therefore somehow misleading.
You make an interesting point about the ascendance of women. Of course, even bringing up that topic risks violating current social taboos or unwritten blaspheme laws. That said, I’ll forge ahead anyway. I used to work in a nearly all male environment of engineers, technicians, and program managers. I now work in a place that has a very high percentage of women in positions of leadership. The culture is very different here, but are SO MANY other factors that influence a corporate culture that I think it tying it to ANY single factor may be wrong. Correlation is not causation.
Thanks for your thoughts. And thanks for the careful way you present them.
Come back any time.
Another thought to share… Compassion is an action (one of those “ion” words) and also a reaction to a something. Despite claims that it’s a virtue, it doesn’t exist by itself.
Consider how you feel seeing a bird (maybe a robin) in your backyard, poking at the ground, looking for a bug or worm to eat. You might enjoy watching her efforts, but you wouldn’t feel any compassion toward it, right?
However change this to a baby bird, who’s obviously fallen out of a nest. Now you’re filled with compassion based on what? You react to a perception that (rightly) a baby bird isn’t capable of surviving and you’re running out the door to act in a way that will prevent harm.
So when a liberal claims to be compassionate, it’s only that they first perceive an inability/incapability in the subject of their focus.
Conservatives don’t have that initial perception of inability/incapability = they don’t feel any need to act.
The parenting analogy to this is “you’re fine… it’s just a scratch… now go back out and play with your friends.
It is just plain flat out wrong that conservatives don’t have that initial feeling.
You’re proving my point that conservatives are excluded from conceptions of care and compassion by definition, and that that definition is straight up wrong, false; a delusion, and that it is used to “prove” that conservatives don’t “care.”
I disagree. Conservatives see the world around them as first able/capable. Only when they see/perceive a real need will they act. Any married man knows what it’s like to be prodded to action by his wife!
Once I understood this, many of my political questions were answered – and I feel it might for you too.
For example; why do conservatives give more to charity, than liberals? My view is that liberals are literally paralysed by the enormity of how large they perceive problems = only the government can solve them. Conservatives don’t suffer similarly and instead see and act toward tangible needs, where they feel that can make a meaningful difference.
Pick any political difference and you’ll always see the same split.
Conservatives see people as being capable of behaving correctly in the presence of a firearm – liberals don’t, but they can’t (or won’t) say; “we don’t trust you with a gun!” so they seek to remove guns from everyone.
Conservatives believe women are capable of the behaviours necessary to prevent pregnancy – liberals don’t. So liberals act on their perception of incapability in ways to absolve women of the natural accountability that comes from sex = abortion. Actually the term “safe sex” is actually a euphemism for “accountability free sex”.
Conservatives believe americans are capable enough to manage their personal finances – liberals don’t. So they fought against any form of social security reforms that included personally administered accounts.
Conservatives believe americans are capable managing their own healthcare – liberals don’t = obama care, soon to be single payer healthcare.
Conservatives believed immigrant children were capable of learning english – liberals didn’t. So liberals demanded bilingual education.
I could go on for hours here, however I’m guessing you understand my concept.
And yes, it is IMO proper to assign masculine to conservatism and feminine to liberalism. George Lakoff has it kind of correct with his strict father=conservative and caring mother=liberalism. Polls clearly show men are more conservative than women.
“The bell curve” quickly became taboo because of the uncomfortable truths it contained. At some point someone like Haidt will finally figure out that all of the conflict he’s seeing in colleges (and the west in general) is due to the ascendance (power) of women. You’ll notice that the majority of SJW’s are women – as are college students in general. And men aren’t attempting to force women to become more sensitive/act more like men, the last time I checked.
Whig this is actually pretty easy. It comes down to a perception of ability/capability. Mom clearly doesn’t feel her son has now (or will ever) have the emotional ability to cope with the adversity he’s sure to encounter in life. Not seeing her son as capable, she acts in ways she feels will prevent unwarranted harm and/or accountability.
Dad’s perception of his son is the opposite. He sees his son as capable to learn to overcome the inevitable adversity.
This is actually the best argument for mixed sex childrearing – mom and dad balance out each other 🙂 In my home I often described my role as to introduce a level of risk acceptance in my two daughters > now both strong & capable young women who are also caring and empathetic – which they got from their mother.
Is care a hand up or a hand out?
The dad and conservatism define it as the former, the mom and liberalism as the latter.
Western CIV is liberal, so by definition the dad does not care, and is “mean.”
Neither up or out. It’s more like; “do I sense that you need a hand?”
Yes – dad is “mean”, but only to someone operating under a liberal paradigm.