Microcosmic debate part II

Question: Do you think this cultural divide between the left and right in America is confined to their different understandings of religion and reason, or does it extend into other areas as well? If it does, what are other points of cultural schism between liberals and conservatives which are making rational public debate more and more difficult. Please answer in a coherent, well-developed essay, using additional sheets of paper if necessary.

A reader posted this hysterical comment the other day and I felt I should at least try to answer it, so…

In my various talks with peoples of different political persuasions I have noticed something a bit odd. Now, I have always been labeled as a pessimist and I have never denied my almost total lack of hope for humanity, but my political ideals are indeed very hopeful. I attempt to advocate and find new ways for us to organize ourselves, reason with each other and create a more inclusive political order (both local and global). I see hope as a mainstay of the liberal idea. Who else but one with hopes for the future would try to question, examine and thus, improve his political state?

Back to my point. I get a definite sense when I talk to conservatives and Republicans that they have already given up on humanity. It never fails that I hear from them, “People do not change. People are ugly creatures. People, by their very nature, are flawed, selfish and ignorant.” Now, is this the face of hope? Do these people know something I do not? Is this the result of all that Biblical talk about original sin? Does the Bible actually teach these folks that humans are ugly little creatures created by God?

The convergence of religion and the dismal life of man seems an incongruent idea to me. I mean, I know I was raised Catholic and that Catholics seem pretty unhappy about their entire damn existence, but I thought the other religous folks might be bit more optimistic about life here on Earth. Damn, no wonder I turned away from Christianity. I feel depressed enough without being saddled with some existential guilt brought about by man’s betrayal and separation from God. Maybe Agent Smith from The Matrix is right, people can not really be happy unless they have some serious conflict in their lives. And what better way to create conflict within the self than to create some ethereal know-it-all omnipresent parent figure who sits in the clouds and wags his finger at you for every little damn thing that is wrong with you.

In short, I may look at man and be pessimistic, but I never give up on him. I still like to think that man is capable of growth and evolution. If we are not, then how are we different from all other life on this planet? Would that not just make us animals? That is one of the things they (Christians) argue against is it not?

The next difference betwen the two also seems rooted in religion. That difference is the ethnocentrism of liberals versus conservatives. It seems that because of their religion the conservatives have this idea that what they do is automatically right and good. As stated in my previous post, this is caused by the dichotomy of us and them that is a by-product of organized religions. But this point deserves to be made separate. When you begin to justify your methods based on God and not reason, you have an internal, built-in mandate. No questions can be asked. Faith is mandatory.

Obviously, the left has some of the same problems–none of what I say should be construed to include all peoples on both sides of the debate, there will always be exceptions. Nevertheless, my point is still valid I think. People from the West look at Muslims and wonder, “what the hell are they thinking?” The Muslims in the East are thinking the same damn thing about us. Why? Because instead of examining difference and understanding it in cultural context, they retreat into the comfort of their own narrow culture and teachings, confident that God has shown them the proper way and the infidels/heretics/fundamentalists/traitors will either come around or answer to him on judgement day. This is not strictly related to religion though. This ethnocentrism extends far beyond religion to politics, morality, government, freedom, sex, gender, justice, art–you name it.

Whatever happened to tolerance and respect for diversity? Again, I may not get agree with conservatives (or liberals) on every thing, but I respect both sides because I realize that finding the path to the future must always be crafted by people of different persuasions. Any other way is doomed to failure.


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