Monday, January 30, 2017

What Say You?

Piecing together a couple of different public issues lately, I think I see a trend about even-handedness.  Conservatives are more likely to be equal-opportunity critics.  If they don't like something, they don't like it, regardless of who is president and proposing it, and if they support it, they support it.  Liberals are more likely to ignore or downplay things that prominent liberals do (I am here thinking first of Obama and Hillary, but include others, including non-politicians such as authors and celebrities).  Or perhaps their sources do much of the downplaying for them before they even get the information.

It would be tempting to then conclude that conservatives are less hypocritical.  That may be true, but something else is in play here.  Softenings of hard edges of morality are not always self-serving; they are often relational. It may be that as a personality type, liberals are more likely to bend the rules or overlook faults because of preserving relationships, not just personal or tribal convenience. The reputation of conservatives as cruel and uncaring may come from this. Sticking to principle and enforcing standards may indeed be divisive in the short run, reducing group cohesiveness. 

For those conservatives who think that if this is true it is still just fine, it is worthwhile to consider the extreme of this attitude. We have all known people who can get stuck on some small point on which they are technically right, but insisting on it creates unnecessary offense.  The Congregational church I attended as a child still technically forbade card-playing at functions.  It was still in the by-laws or whatever.  Some kids played cards at a youth retreat away from the church one year, and some unknown person or persons made a big deal of it.  I was in adult choir at the time and remember one of the tenors saying "You either have a rule or you don't. If you have it, you have to follow it."

The opposite extreme is equally disruptive, to allow anything for the sake of getting along.  I suppose it would at least be consistent to always strain at gnats or swallow camels, but not both.  However, it might be better to do neither.


Boxty said...

I think Ann Coulter answered this in her book, Demonic. Liberals are a mob. You don't criticize the mob lest you be out-grouped and destroyed. Their decisions are based primarily on emotion and rhetoric.

james said...

I think of Tevye's even-handedness---until there weren't any other hands.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I may have mentioned before how attached I am to the character of Tevye and how much I identify with him. I am trying to see both sides here, but I do ultimately identify with standards, because in the long run, there is no other hand. It is harsh, even cruel in the short run, but without it, the community ceases to exist. Yet night after night I watched Tevye's pain at parting with his daughter and so his partial relent of allowing, even encouraging his daughters to say goodbye to their sister.

I have this with my own children, of course. We all do. We draw our lines in different places.

Earl Wajenberg said...

Perhaps conservatives keep their hypocrisies in different areas. I am thinking of the standard liberal taunt that conservatives are "pro-life" only for life in utero and lose interest once the baby is born, or the similar but more recent one about how two weeks is too long to wait for a gun permit but two years isn't long enough to keep a refugee waiting while they are vetted. These probably strike a conservative as unfair, but then the bias accusation probably strikes liberals the same way.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I see the second as unfair because they are unrelated, and the first has been answered pretty well for years. I am coming to the idea that conservatives are often just wrong, but less often for reasons of hypocrisy. I think it's going to be hard to measure because a level of tribal favoritism tends to standard in humans.

Texan99 said...

I look at rules the way I look at free markets: fine ideas for strangers to deal with each other, but a peculiar system to get hung up on in intimate relationships. The kids playing cards are probably somewhere in between, so I'd be inclined to say, "What are we trying to achieve with a ban against cards? Does it really make sense in this context? If we think it's harmless for these kids to play cards, should we be re-thinking this old rule? Are the old temptations to gamble less dangerous now? Do we have a more relaxed attitude now toward frittering away time, and is that a good thing? If we genuinely still believe cards are wrong or harmful, shouldn't we be preventing the kids from playing at them even if they really enjoy it? If the kids knew cards were prohibited, shouldn't we be showing them that flouting a rule has consequences? There are all kinds of good reasons for bending rules, just as there are good reasons for upholding them.