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Why the Left and Right Are So Polarized
Signposts of the Times
Why the Left Can't Talk to the Right (and vice-versa)
If you listen to the great political debates of our time, you will soon come to realize that the two opposing sides are mostly talking at each other with little movement in any direction toward agreement on the great issues currently plaguing us. It;'s not that we don't agree on what the problem is. It's that we don't agree at all on what the solution should be. We have not been this divided as a country since 1859 and given the rising tide of emotion associated with the outcome of the coming elections, there is every chance some folk might do something foolish if things don't go their way. It happened in 1861 and it can happen again in 2013.
So why can't conservatives and progressives agree?
If you buy any of the rhetoric, you'd come to the conclusion that it's .because the other guys are stupid, greedy and power hungry.
That's not the reason. The thing that blocks conversation between the left and right comes down to two fundamental and opposing beliefs.
Belief 1 (Progressive Left): Man is basically good. It is only a lack of basic needs that drives him to crime and disruption. This belief takes Maslow's hierarchy of need and runs with it.
In 1954, Abraham Maslow presented his hierarchy of needs model. The model says that there are two types of needs to which all humans are subject. The first is basic need and includes food, water, shelter, safety, love and self-esteem (though not in that order). The other need includes so-called "growth" needs like mental stimulation, art, creativity and something called self-actualization. Maslow posited that people need to satisfy basic needs first before they are able to go after their growth needs and that if you can satisfy people's basic needs (food, water, housing, health care and employment, that people will move on to meet higher needs as a matter of course.
To reach the holy grail of self-actualization, one must first satisfy all his basic needs the theory goes. Once the basics are taken care of, it's easy to get the idea that Maslow was predicting that creativity, productivity and happiness will spontaneously break out.
To accept this idea, one must first believe that man is basically good and that the only reason he resorts to crime and violence is that his basic needs are not being met. That's where TV gets its ideas for stories where good men are driven to murder and bank robbery because their families are starving. You'd be surprised how seldom this sort of thing happens anywhere outside of television, but then, the belief in the innate goodness of man does require a significant level of credulity.
Belief 2 (Conservative Right): Among conservatives, even the Ayn Rand atheists, there is an almost exact opposite belief about human nature and though we recognize some of the truth in Maslow's model, we assume that man is by nature, no damned good. Christian conservatives believe in original sin - that man is born wicked and selfish and needs to spend some serious time with God to overcome his natural propensities toward evil. Ayn Rand conservatives on the other hand believe that dog eat dog evolution made us natural born greedy, self-centered killers and that the natural economic controls inherent in free market capitalism is the only reliable way to control the behavior of the beasts. While we may not like B.F. Skinner's behaviorism (no such thing as free will), we do recognize that a system of consistent rewards and punishments does discourage the more flagrant behavioral outragesin our society..
Both Christian and atheist conservatives believe that there need to be natural punishments and rewards to spur human beings along and make them good citizens. Conservatives recognize that capitalism is an imperfect system, but this side of heaven, we figure it's the only thing that works. After all, it is a wicked world. That's why conservatives would have let AIG, Goldman Sachs, Behr-Sterns, GM and the whole rotten over-extended, greed-soaked pile of corruption fall without lifting a finger to bail them out. That's the consequence of greed and corruption - your business crashes down around your ears and leaves you flat broke.
The Consequences: Because the two sides believe so strongly in their basic philosophical tenants, they will, I fear, never be able to step over the chasm that separates the two sides. Conservative think liberals are at best naive and at worst power hungry elitist tyrants. Liberals think conservatives are at best, store bought dupes and at worst, mean-spirited, greedy tyrants.
The belief that people are basically good, comforts liberals and makes them feel superior. It also causes them to think that if they could only guarantee a level of basic needs, food, housing, health care and what-not, everything would be lovely and we'd all become self-actualized which is the progressive idea of true freedom.
The belief that people are basically untrustworthy does trouble conservatives who think that if given freedom to work, strive and risk, people will learn to meet their own needs. They believe that the struggle to find a way to meet their own basic human needs is what best helps people to move beyond the grind of survival to acquire those "growth needs", to become self-actualized and to experience true freedom.
For all the undecideds out there, it's time to decide for yourself which camp is right and which is deluded. The issues are too important.
As a Christian, I leave it in God's hands. I figure if people choose the correct solution next November, the world will last a little while longer. If we choose poorly, It jonly means the whole thing is going to blow up in our faces that much sooner and Jesus will have to hurry up and come get us. That wouldn't be bad either, so I figure this next election is a win/win either way it comes out, as long as you've got a cloud reserved for the trip home.
Just my own opinion,