Originally posted November 2004
Credits: To Bob, of course, due to his irritating (but this time helpful) habit of always leaving the radio on! ;)

The emotional quality of what we moderns call our thought produces an extreme violence of conviction combined with extreme incoherence in our arguments.
— Jacques Ellul

I don't like politics. Specifically, I don't like current politics — I consider the upcoming presidential election a fine example of the lack of reasoned debate which accompanies "us vs. them" oversimplification of complex issues by narrow-minded zealots.

One of my favorite quotes on issues like this is:

Just as most issues are seldom black or white, so are most good solutions seldom black or white. Beware of the solution that requires one side to be totally the loser and the other side to be totally the winner.

The reason there are two sides to begin with usually is because neither side has all the facts. Therefore, when the wise mediator effects a compromise, he is not acting from political motivation. Rather, he is acting from a deep sense of respect for the whole truth.
— Stephen R. Schwambach

Argumentation consists of effectively presenting your reasoning, and disproving the ideas of your opposition. Unfortunately, all we're seeing currently is hysterical mud-slinging and name calling on both sides.

"None but ourselves can free our minds."

Bob Marley

The race for president is so close, and the stakes so high, that each side has demonized anyone who doesn't toe their party line. Party ideologies have become battlements, with both camps screeching about how "those who ain't with us are agin' us," and thus destined to destroy all civilized life as we know it due to their lack of reason or morality.

I don't know about you, but when I hear two folks both claiming to be the new messiah, I figure at least one of them has to be wrong. ;-)

Democracy is a form of government where you can say what you think even if you don't think.
— unknown

I was therefore delighted to hear a recent interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation. The guest's name was George Lakoff. He's a Senior Fellow at The Rockridge Institute, and a distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Lakoff is indeed a man with an opinion, but his theory makes sense of how ridiculously dogmatic both sides of the current presidential debate have become. Not only that, he managed to present his concepts in a clear and non-judgmental way.

I so appreciate that! I am sick to death of hearing how 'our' side is as pure as the driven snow, the new moral inheritors of the nation — while 'they' are the evil destroyers of all that is good and wholesome and ethical in our great nation. Our side goooood! Their side baaaaad!

Poppycock. Who do they think they're fooling? No one is that simplistic and binary! No one who thinks at all has only the thoughts they're permitted to have. Everyone occasionally thinks for themselves, even if they feel guilty about it.

Dr. Lakoff was also promoting his book, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, which discusses both non-conscious thought and what creates the current supposed "moral divide" in our national debate. He asserts that a great deal of how we mentally organize our world is traced to our childhood experience.

Furthermore, this mental organization is a mostly internalized practice, done automatically — like tying your shoelaces or driving a car after 20 years of experience. We don't consciously create this mental organization; we just live what we've been taught or chosen to believe from those childhood teachings.

Perhaps most importantly, he definitively states this is not a simple, "either/or" issue but rather a spectrum of belief. In essence, he describes a slider bar of understanding, instead of an 'on/off' light switch.

I pursue understanding, in myself and in others, because I believe that the moment it is achieved is the closest thing we mortals ever get to the Divine.
— Alysabeth Clements


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