Harsh words exchanged across the political aisle are not uncommon, and in the last decade the language has grown more polarized on both sides. While much of this reflects political differences, some of it can more aptly be explained as a misunderstanding.
How can this be? People unconsciously assume that others share the same philosophical assumptions and evaluations of reality as themselves, and this can lead to people talking past each other. The classic book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus explored this topic in relation to gender differences.
Perhaps a similar guide is needed for people on the left and the right to allow them to communicate better? Let’s give it a try.
#1: confusing respect with cruelty
The fundamental worldview of a typical conservative is that we are all created equal under God. It means that his natural impulse is to treat someone as an equal. He assumes that he is talking to an adult who has the same capacity as himself to do the right thing, and when he sees another person act lower than his expectations he might express himself in angry tones and demand of him to improve. To the conservative this is a sign of respect.
The fundamental worldview of a typical leftist, however, is that people are not equal. Some are better than others – for various reasons. They divide the world into those who are adults – whom they call “privileged” – and those they view as children without agency or the capacity to behave like an adult.
When a conservative criticizes someone belonging to a “non-privileged” group, the leftist sees an adult talking meanly and harshly to a child. In their worldview, this is tantamount to child abuse. Making adult demands from a child is cruel.
Communication can improve by realizing that they have different views of human equality. What the left sees as cruelty is by the right seen as an expression of respect.
#2: confusing lack of principles with hypocrisy
One of the great hobbies of conservatives is to point out what they perceive as the hypocrisy of the left. Leonardo DiCaprio flies on his private jet to hold a speech on reducing CO2 emissions. Harvey Weinstein promotes himself as a feminist, while privately treating women as play toys. The list goes on and on.
Conservatives believe that calling out this hypocrisy somehow will change people’s minds. They do that because they have principles. They like following the law. They obey moral principles to the best of their abilities. They seek truth for the sake of truth. And they make the mistake of assuming that the same is true of the left.
The left has a different conception of truth than the right, which is sometimes referred to as the greater truth. The left views society as fundamentally a place of conflict of warring tribes, and in war and love, the saying goes, everything is allowed.
The left views everything in terms of the greater truth, and all they do is merely a tool for achieving the greater truth. The truth itself is of no value if it hurts someone’s feelings. The greater truth is the politically correct.
In the 19th century, the left saw Christianity as the keeper of Western civilization, and therefore when the theory of evolution came along, it became useful to tout scientific truth as all-important because they saw it as a tool to destroy Christianity. Later, when biology turned out to favor a conservative worldview – such as the biological reality of sex differences – leftists immediately rejected evolution in favor of the greater truth.
Part of the greater truth is the recognition that conservatives are principled. It is therefore convenient to criticize the right for being hypocritical. They do this because they know conservatives care about principles.
Conservatives then retaliate by pointing out the hypocrisy of the left, assuming that this will work because they assume that the left care equally as much about principles.
Communication can dramatically improve if conservatives would recognize that the left is not being hypocritical – they are being unprincipled.
An honest conversation
So how should a conservative go about communicating? They should always state the hidden premises. Instead of criticizing a so-called “unprivileged” group for being too criminal or not living up to their expectations, they should reframe it by stating that they respect them as equals and therefore expect a certain standard. This removes the impression of conservatives as harsh and cruel. People may still not like hearing this message, but at least an honest conversation is then possible.
Furthermore, conservatives should stop wasting time on pointing out leftist hypocrisy. Hypocrisy requires principles, and that is alien to the left.Feel free to comment below. And remember to check out the web’s best conservative news aggregator Whatfinger.com