Monday, March 18, 2013

We're All The Same, and We Haven't Changed

I borrowed a lo-res version of a shot from the amazing Shorpy site, to make one of my idiotic points.  We'll return to it in a moment.

So I am constantly struck, in this time of polarization, heightened dispute, social media, and an ever-present, unavoidable barrage of information [read: opinion], at how often I hear people ascribe characteristics, motives, and intelligence [well, lack thereof] to entire groups -- large groups -- of people. 
You know:

Democrats don't care about freedom.  Republicans are dumb.  Teabaggers don't care about people. Congress doesn't care.

I'm struck because I'm pretty sure that they're false and ignorant.  And I lament that I think people genuinely embrace their hyperbole, and believe the hot air.

Republicans are you.  Democrats are you.  Large groups are pretty much just like the other large group.   They may have coalesced around a different value.  Or set of values.  But they're likely, especially across such a swath, to be just as nice or not nice as the next group.  Just as charitable  Out of a group of 50 million and another group of 50 million, I dare say that the percentage of people with an IQ of 80 is the same in both, and folks with an IQ of 180 -- probably about the same.  Nice people, charitable people, mean people, oblivious people -- probably about the same proportions in each group.

There are probably ten talking heads, out of the 200 I regularly see rotated through the talking head circuit, or six op-ed contributors out of the roughly sixty that I follow routinely, that make any true effort to discuss the issues of the day by trying -- and legitimately trying --  to discern the values or motives of folks with whom they disagree on an issue.  Who really do say "my opponent x is motivated by y, and thus argues z.  I am motivated by b, and therefore I argue c" and do it with an understanding that the folks he's arguing with are just people, no matter how passionately they argue.

I think remembering that is incredibly useful, and might, if embraced and remembered by many, be a powerful force for good.  A phrase I read about, and a thing for which I keep my eye out.  I hope that I can remember to do the same thing, as often as I can.

So why the photo of old-timers?  They're us.  The guy with the car driving across the street?  His 1916 car is an iPhone 5 --  plentiful, but new and cool as shit.  An a symbol of status or accomplishment or cool.

The young dude with his car?  He thinks that he's cool as shit, and sexy, and hip as all get-out.  The old fat fuck?  He's proud that he earned enough to buy one, and he's convinced that he's not a Luddite. [I'm assuming that less than a century after the Luddite movement opposed mechanization people used the term disparagingly.]  The young woman?  She's concerned whether she'll make a good first impression.  The dude in the hat, hustling?  He wants to get out of the rain.

I disagree, profoundly, with some opinions or beliefs of every political party, and almost certainly every friend.  But we're not that different, you and I. . . .


Mister Parker said...

I disagree, profoundly, with some opinions or beliefs of every political party, and almost certainly every friend.

With me being the lone friend you always agree with.

mister muleboy said...


mister muleboy said...

Ha ha ha

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Man I probably spend 5 hours a week, every week poring over the Shorpy site. The magic of the high-res zoom is stunning.

Any yeah, the dead people we see were just like you & me -- it's really odd to think that everyone you see in a street scene is long dead. Carpe Diem, as Robin Williams would say in one of his sappier moments.

I honestly believe one of the biggest obstacles to communication is our rush to assess the motivations underlying other peeps' political opinions (or even just their political questions).

Hence water boarding 2 or 3 or something terrorists after 9/11 poses questions of fierce moral urgency (because Bush's motives were bad, or worse, stupid) whereas Obama's drone warfare that evaporates many more & often less important terrorists plus assorted family members = no big deal (because his motives are good). And so on. Or from the right: Obama must be resisted at every turn because he "wants to destroy America." Right and left both think they are morally superior to the other side because they both think they know the other side's "real motivation." But they don't. The Shadow Knows, but they don't.

Lupner said...

Well said, Mister Muleboy. Hear, hear!

Tangent opportunity: This makes me think of that recent Berkeley study, where it was observed that people driving expensive cars were less likely to follow the rules of an intersection than those in more modest vehicles, and that they were even less likely to stop for pedestrians. It surprised me, because I've figured my often intense resentment of people in ritzy cars doing rude things was most likely due to the fact that I was noticing those cars more vs. them actually DOING those things more frequently. As well as possibly just an ounce of sour grapes on my part. (Though I do very much like my modest lil' Rav 4.) And of course those things play a real part in my perception.

Will acknowledge that rude people in expensive cars comprise a much smaller sample than the large ideological groups of which you speak. And I'm sure they weren't ALL Republicans (kidding). But I thought it was interesting, in a kind of sad way. Because I admit I found the results ("Ah-HA -- I KNEW it!") immensely satisfying. I found myself feeling quite vindicated that THAT group of people was proved to be more rude than "MY" group.

Not helpful to the state of things in general.

tomanonymous said...

I respectfully disagree.

With everything.

At all times.

I can't even afford a Rav4 :-)