EdgeWise 3.12.2003


More on Political and Personal

I have re-read David Neiwert's 'Political and Personal' Post a few times. I love his writing, and I think it is an important contribution, but I am suspicious of it, precisely because it so well articulates conclusions I want to hear and evidence I myself feel. Because the evidence is subjective and anecdotal, it's hard to know whether and to what extent the conclusions are accurate. Further, regrettably like much good journalism, it cultivates the authority of neutrality by not endorsing or even suggesting any potential productive courses of action (group or individual), even as it well communicates the urgent need for such to be taken. I do think with only a little modification it could be much stronger supported, and more empowering.

An example of the subjectiveness of some of the evidence, the election of 2000, September 11th, and the current war in Iraq may only have caused us (the dissenters targetted, whether liberal to truly conservative) to pay more attention to violent or eliminationist rhetoric, from both prominent pundits and unknowns, that has always been present (although not perhaps as frequent or as blatant). Also, conservative critiques of their own members for such rhetoric are subjectively described as insufficient, rather than empirically quantified and compared to an agreed positive period in the past or an agreed negative period in the past (like McCarthy Era). Further, how do we prevent or stop such rhetoric from being spewed?

On the other hand, empirical evidence of the polarization that George Bush has engendered in the population is readily available, as are historical comparisons to past presidencies (both polarization and social conditions/effects). The socially corrosive effects of a bitterly partisan polarization of the population are well studied and understood, as are those structural systems that either encourage or discourage such polarization (see Lijphart's "Patterns of Democracy"). Scienfific techniques such as Linguist George Lakoff's "Framing" (more here) can be applied to good effect on the populace at large by dissenting groups and individuals. Further, once we get past this period we can take corrective action to prevent the reoccurence such as better financed independent media (NPR+PBS) and electoral reforms such as Instant Run-off Voting or Proportional (aka Full) Representation that encourage cooperating coalitions rather than bitter partisan dichotomies (see again Lijphart or FairVote.org).

Similarly, in individual relationships, neurological and cognitive studies have empirically revealed ways that hatred can be prevented or eliminated in the same way that phobias can be successfully treated as diseases (see pulitzer prize winning science journalist Rush Dozier Jr.'s "Why We Hate", summary here). Although somewhat less rigorously empirically verified, other techniques such as Marshall Rosenberg's "Nonviolent Communication Techniques" are more easily, universally applicable and comprehensive.

I don't mean to suggest that these are the only possible efforts/techniques, or even the best ones, but just that they exist and have some empirical evidence supporting them. I know empirical studies are bloodless, boring, and slow to reveal insights, especially in the heat and urgency of our current dire situation. Further, we remain ignorant as to the extent of the problem on many fronts (such as the eliminationist rhetoric and how close it is to a violent reality), how effective some of the potential solutions are (especially implemented from a position of weakness), and whether other, better solutions remain undreamt. However, it is a uniquely American arrogance to believe that I (and others like me) can think and act our way out of any problem, so long as we remain in hopeful and active pursuit.

Update: Added linkage by request

Update 2: What other solutions are there? Any drawbacks to the ones I gave?
posted at 14:52:32    #    comment []    trackback []
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