Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Slog Through the Swamp

Deeply immersed once again in overwhelming amounts of student writing and lecture prep... will re-appear in a couple of days, no doubt bruised and bleary...


jimf said...

> Another Slog Through the Swap... will re-appear in
> a couple of days, no doubt bruised and bleary...

Hmmm... Is that what they call a "rough trade"?


Dale Carrico said...

Definitely not...

Dale Carrico said...

Two days later I get the joke.

jimf said...

> Two days later I get the joke.

The clown can stay, but the Ferengi in the gorilla suit has to leave!

liz said...

Hi Dale,

I have a question. I've been taking a 'tread lightly but carry sound info' approach to conversations with my tea-party family members. Last summer I remember you saying to me that sometimes things come down to problems with facticity - which I found very helpful and illuminating at the time, though I still haven't figured out a way to make what I say any more constructive.

Recently my parents have blamed Obama for the fact that they got less money back on their taxes - my mom has even gone so far as to say that they would be better off working at Rite Aid (this was of course beyond infuriating). Now, I know that the likely reason behind why they got less money is because they wrote off home value depreciation on last year's taxes, which boosted their return (and, incidentally, went toward their being able to have two of their bathrooms redone real fancy-like). I thought this was worth sharing mostly because I imagine this same thing lies behind others' accusations that Obama is a dirty socialist commie, etc.

I don't think my parents are lying; I believe them when they say what they say - or I should say, I believe that they think Obama lies at the root of their diminished return. This is what makes the problem trickier I think.

Do you think there's anything I can do about this?

jimf said...

> Do you think there's anything I can do about this?

Well, I'm not Dale -- I'm sure he's working on an answer as
I'm typing this -- but I'll butt in anyway.

Short answer -- no. There's a reason for the old saying
"Never discuss politics or religion with friends." (The
implied qualification being -- if your friends' politics
or religion are different from yours, but you've managed
to become friends anyway, and want to keep it that way.)
You can expand that to "or family members" (if you want to keep
Thanksgiving and Christmas cordial), and "or taste in music,
or art, or movies, or stereo equipment, or cars, etc., etc."

Some things are simply not amenable to "facticity". That's
not just true among tea-baggers or for politics, it's even true in the
exalted realm of science itself. Things have to **cohere** -- lots and
lots of facts taken together, and also all the theories
that have been developed so far to account for them.
An isolated observation here, an isolated experimental
result there -- they don't count for much on their own.
They have to accumulate, and they have to be digested.
It can take a long time.

On a less elevated plane, such as the political
and religious opinions of one's parents (they're often
deeply intertwined, after all -- "imbricated", as Dale
would say ;-> ) -- it's pretty hopeless for a "child"
(and even an adult child is still going to be seen as a "child") to
try to make a dent in them. Ditto for anybody "on the other side".
Your tea-bagger family members are probably not too keen
on the New York Times (they would discount any "facts"
from that source), or on Rachel Maddow. They undoubtedly
watch Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, and read -- well, if
they were where I am, they'd be reading the New York Post.

Political and religious world views tend to be formed at
an early age, and they're **very** resistant to change,
particularly among folks who aren't that inclined to think
about them in detail in the first place (an attitude
which is very much encouraged if you belong, say, to the
Mormon Church). The attitudes and opinions they generate
tend to be hermetically sealed, self-reinforcing, and
logically circular.

It's hard to accept, I know, but there it is. There's
no way in hell you can **argue** a homophobe out of
being homophobic. And it's damned unlikely you're
going to be able to **argue** a Republican (or a
libertarian, or a [God forbid] Objectivist) into
being a Democrat (or a "socialist"). Or talk a Texan
into believing in the "theory" of evolution, or saying
anything nice about Barack Obama. ;->