First, Lisa@2Babes posts the image of a despicable card received by a soldier at Walter Reed Hospital -- triggering a chorus of conservative posters to assume and insist that some anti-war liberal must be behind the act.
Second, Daniel@RavingConservative posts a laundry list of contrasting bullet points which detail his view of the liberal/conservative division. The pattern becomes painfully clear, very quickly. (UPDATE: Daniel has also, sadly, jumped on the Miguel's Card Bandwagon.)
And here we have a fundamental disconnect between two major schools of thought -- schools of thought which, although they do not break down exactly along party lines, can be reasonably identified as predominantly Reep- and Dem-oriented.
To be perfectly clear, one will find signs of BlueThink in Reeps, and of RedThink in Dems. This is also not inherently a liberal-conservative dichotomy. There are many BlueThinking conservatives, and a comparable number of RedThinking liberals. The Red/Blue taxonomy adopted here reflects the fact that the two major parties themselves can reasonably be seen as adhering to their respective schools of thought in their platforms and narratives -- their public communications, which are completely unrelated to policy. In other words, the Reeps cater rhetorically to RedThink, and the Dems cater rhetorically to BlueThink.
BlueThink sees the world as a complex and intricate composite of interconnected systems, a dynamic environment in which a change at any point has the potential to affect the operation of the whole body. This is not a mystical or metaphysical view -- well, okay, it can be -- but one rooted in scientific observation. Just as a transient change in the weather can destroy a city, any disruption of the political, cultural, or environmental balance can have consequences which are far-removed and disproportionate.
RedThink recognizes only two forces at work: Us and Them. The names may change -- either "Us" or "Them" might at any given time be defined as Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, Americans, Russians, Germans, French, Chinese, Christians, Muslims, Nazis, mujaheddin, neocons, war opponents, insurgents, atheists, secularists, Catholics, Communists, Jews, and on and on and on. The labels become unimportant once the pattern becomes clear: "We" are Good and "They" are Evil.
Seeing so many different forces at play, BlueThink recognizes problems -- especially geopolitical matters -- as intricate puzzles requiring complex solutions. Just as you cannot perform surgery with a sledgehammer, the application of overwhelming military force often does more harm than good -- you might accomplish your desired objective, but you will often set other forces in motion which will create even more and bigger problems down the road. BlueThink recognizes that friends can also be rivals, and values institutions which allow for power-sharing and compromise as an alternative to constant struggles for dominance -- BlueThink values a sense of community over the establishment of a pecking order.
The RedThink approach to problem-solving demonstrates no more complexity or depth of thought than you would find in a comic book or professional wrestling plot. The protagonist is a paragon of virtue, sworn to uphold goodness and light against all enemies. The antagonist is invariably blackhearted and villainous, and behaves without regard to any law or logic which can be deciphered by a rational mind. Since any reasoned approach is therefore unworkable, the sledgehammer is always the only solution. Predictably, in the dog-eat-dog world contemplated by RedThink, shows of strength are always important -- as a warning to the next Enemy as well as an answer to the present one -- and the Enemy's total unconditional surrender is the only acceptable outcome to a conflict. Anything less than total domination is considered a sign of weakness.
That being the case, BlueThink aspires to something that RedThink openly despises -- peace.
To BlueThink, the concept of peace represents a sustainable stability, where the myriad dynamic forces at work in the world come to an equitable balance, allowing people to go about their lives. Since artificial forces are at work disrupting the balance, the solutions are often artificial as well. Sometimes peace requires limiting the impact of one influence, or protecting that of another. Often it means compromising with rival powers to gain their cooperation. Almost invariably, it requires that influence and force be applied judiciously, and the outcome is rarely ideal.
As discussed above, RedThink is predicated on the concept of pitting one group of people against another. Without a clearly-defined, open conflict -- a banner to rally around -- RedThinkers are left to muddle through the countless petty rivalries and ambiguities which define life. Many will grow to the task, but most will lose interest and wander off to pursue their own interests. Neither outcome is desirable for those who rely on RedThinkers for support -- televangelists, neocons, propagandists of any stripe -- and so a conflict is always required, a battle always looming. Once again, anything less than total victory, total domination -- which BlueThink recognizes is an impossible goal -- is considered a battle lost, a battle to be fought again someday. By demanding the impossible, the champions of RedThink ensure there is always another battle to be fought. RedThink calls for constant conflict, for perpetual war.
The essence of RedThink is persecution. "We" are constantly being pursued, hounded, attacked. "They" are malevolent, irrational, and evil. The only solution is to take the fight to "Them," to destroy "Them" before they destroy "Us." RedThink despises concepts like compromise, refuses to recognize fine distinctions or gray areas. You're either with "Us" or with "Them," and there can be no middle ground.
BlueThink assumes that people generally act rationally, act in their own interests, and will respond to reason. BlueThink acknowledges that people can disagree without coming to blows. The essence of BlueThink is compromise between rivals, less-than-ideal arrangements which are equitable to all parties involved and will maintain a sustainable peace, rather than plunge things into chaos.
The difference is most-starkly reflected in the conspiracy theories pushed by both sides, to wit:
Miguel's Card, according to RedThink: "Must be the work of some leftist!" Why? "Because they hate our troops, and they hate America!" Why? Because they're irrational, villainous, et cetera.
Miguel's Card, according to BlueThink: "Could be a right-winger . . ." Why? "To demonize anti-war activists." Why? To discredit their political opponents.
RedThink's War on Iraq: "War opponents love terrorism!" Why? "They want the terrorists to win!" Why? Because they're irrational, villainous, et cetera.
BlueThink's War on Iraq: "The administration wants to loot Iraq!" Why? "Greed." Why? Because Iraq has lots of mineral wealth.
RedThink's War on Christmas: "Liberals want to destroy Christmas!" Why? "Because they hate Christmas, because they hate Christianity, because they hate Christ!" Why? Because they're irrational, villainous, et cetera.
BlueThink's War on Labor: "Republicans are anti-union!" Why? "Because they're bought off." Why? Because execs and trust-funders give them $millions for favors.
RedThink's Communist Conspiracy: "Democrats want global communism!" Why? "Because they hate freedom!" Why? Because they're irrational, villainous, et cetera.
BlueThink's Imperialist Conspiracy: "Republicans want global imperialism!" Why? "Because it benefits our multinational corporations, at the expense of the Third World!" Why? Because they own stock in those multinationals, and could care less about the Third World.
Over and over, RedThink perceives a battle that must be fought against a foe that has no sane or rational purpose -- "They" are simply evil, and must be destroyed. RedThink refuses to contemplate the possibility that other people might be acting in "Their" own perceived interests, as opposed to attacking "Ours" -- this is considered treasonous thought, giving aid and comfort to the Enemy.
Predictably, with one side willing to compromise and the other side refusing to, the rise of Reep RedThink has seen a steady rightward shift in the debate, with the left giving ground and the right always demanding more. This seems to be a natural consequence of pitting RedThink against BlueThink -- a dangerous tendency toward the aggressor.
More dangerous, however, is the enthusiastic convergence of two conflicting RedThinks -- such as Neoconservatism and Islamofascism -- which has the potential, if left unchecked, to destroy the planet entirely.
Like unsupervised children, or belligerent drunks, two global RedThinks will merrily escalate and escalate and escalate, and will destroy everything in their path, until only one or the other -- or, quite possibly, neither -- remains.
Neither side will back down, and neither side will accept compromise -- cannot accept compromise, since each side is at total war against utter evil.
Total devastation is the purpose of each.
Dan Trabue reminds me to give George Lakoff of the Rockridge Institute credit for laying much of the foundation on which this post rests.
And my friend Angry Chimp points me to a paragraph attributed to HG Wells, from the Open Conspiracy (1928):
All through the later Middle Ages there were great disputes among the schoolmen about the use of words and symbols. There is a queer disposition in the human mind to think that symbols and words and logical deductions are truer than actual experiences, and these great controversies were due to the struggle of the human intelligence against that disposition. On the one side were the Realists, who were so called because they believed, in effect, that names were more real than facts, and on the other side were the Nominalists, who from the first were pervaded by a suspicion about names and words generally; who thought there might be some sort of catch in verbal processes, and who gradually worked their way towards verification by experiment which is the fundamental thing about experimental science -- experimental science which has given our human world all these immense powers and possibilities that tempt and threaten it to-day. These controversies of the schoolmen were of the utmost importance to mankind. The modern world could not begin to come into existence until the human mind had broken away from the narrow-minded verbalist way of thinking which the Realists followed.It seems we've known for a while that a rousing narrative can be much more influential than empirical evidence. It's a shame that we haven't found a way around that fact yet.