It’s more important than ever to recognize that conservatives and liberals need each other. Not just because of the dangers of disunity. Without a liberal disposition – acceptance of the unfamiliar and open to the new and unknown – societies would remain forever stuck in ancient superstition-based thinking of the pre-scientific societies that often fell prey to epidemics caused by drinking the water they peed in and slaughtered minorities as scapegoats for every natural disaster and lost military battle. Technological and artistic innovation and advanced education happen there. But ambition and abundant culture doesn’t allow much time to take in a sunset, spend a week in the woods or spend extended time with extended family.
Without the conservative impulse we’d lose any sense of a shared tradition or past – the elements that can maintain cohesion and a sense of connection to something deeper than status and stuff. It’s value increases as technology and urbanization removes us further and further away from any lived connection to nature. Science is no substitute. That’s not what it’s for.
We evolved with these conflicting mindsets for good reason. Geographic environments define cultures to a large extent. Coastal areas have historically been centers of international trade. So there’s always a presence of people from all over the world that bring along their cuisine, clothing, music, language and religions. That diversity is mundane, not threatening. The inland geographical regions are more ethnically and culturally homogenous. Lacking the constant flow of latest trends in pasta, footware or pop songs, a sense of continuity is the norm. People are less transient so there’s greater likelihood of long-term intimate relationships and sense of kin and connectedness. Extended families in close proximity take care of each other and don’t trust a distant government to do the caring for them. Religion has a huge role in maintaining supportive communities. Again, a kinship support system that’s more trusted than government.
Those different cultural ecologies naturally generate different worldviews – ways of experiencing the world – and ideologies. If we understood that certain institutions and ways of connecting to particular ecologies – natural and social – in one zone make absolutely no sense in the other we might be less inclined to try to apply one set of codes to everybody. It would be obvious that zero-sum politics is absurd. Dangerous. The extreme anti-compromise zero-sumness of current politics and the profit-generating media format of treating politics as martial arts sportscasting cements the growing disunity into the fabric of the nation and is heading toward some form of civil war. I know I say that civil war thing a zillion times. It’s not a whatever.
This isn’t an earnest call for loving and respecting each other. That’s an abstract concept. Feels good to say but has no real applicable meaning. Even tedious in a song lyric. The respect and love impulse drops away as soon as the intractible debate begins. It’s hard to love someone you don’t really know and think is a creep. So why pretend? But I firmly believe we can understand, feel connection with and care about those we fundamentally disagree with or who have a few different pigmentation or culture bits. The process begins with being around each other and not debating viewpoints until we come to know where those viewpoints come from. It’s a long-term effort and not the only one necessary but it’s a vital piece.
What I’m suggesting here is that there are very specific, obvious reasons why people in two geographic zones will have markedly different senses of the world. As incompatible and ridiculous as so many of these worldviews seem to be to the other, they are a logical and obvious bedrock to the respective home turf.
I’m not saying that equal rights, environmental regs, tech innovation and reproductive rights should have been put on hold for the sake of bigots and religious fundamentalists. As a reflective, empathetic New York City dweller I can imagine, but not in any way accurately feel, the experience of living in a place with one central base of economic activity. Where an entire region can collapse into existential despair because a single predatory, lethally polluting, obsolescent industry has shut down. I, and all my neighbors – dance in celebration of the fading coal industry but maybe not so much if we grew up and still lived there.
Where I live people move in from all over the country and from every part of the planet because a personal passion, curiosity of skill set is here and not there. Where working toward a lifetime pursuit is central. How can people from coal country relate to the criminally immoral desire to murder a developing baby because going to classes or taking one particular job right now is so damn important? Sounds pretty horrifying when I think of it in those terms. Well, lady, if you think abortion is such a sin, don’t get one if you get pregnant with this month’s boyfriend. Oh yeah, wise ass – don’t destroy my whole damn community just because you think the entire world is gonna burn up in a century or two or three. And just because you have no forest land or wildlife other than rats, cockroaches and pigeons you have no right to not let me have my gun to hunt for a week’s worth of dinner.
A response could be: in cities where people are jammed together and every place is crowded every minute, things get tense. There are neighborhoods where poverty is the pavement, the wallpaper and the Happy Meal; with tribal gang warfare on every block. Guns have no purpose other than murder. No open forest land for hunting or target shooting. Maybe some accomodation can be made to both sides.
Certain things are beyond consensus but understanding, is a real probability. Maybe even a little bit of love somewhere in there.
— Polar Levine, News Goo Dissection, December 7, 2017
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