Let the conversation begin… But, if we’re going to do this then we need to first be honest with ourselves about a few things.
When I was in high school, I once had a conversation with a girl who looked at me and said, “Tell me everything you think you know about religion and I’ll tell you where you’re wrong.” I’m not sure what I said after that, but the audacity of her statement stuck with me. Fast forward a couple of years into college and I’m in a philosophy course on religion. At the time we were working through the first few books of the Old Testament. I don’t remember the specifics of the day, but the professor shot some holes in the text that illustrated some contradictions and fallacies of some commonly held biblical beliefs. Which isn’t a big deal unless you grew up in a world that taught you the bible was literal and infallible and to question it was something resembling sin. What I remember most about that class was the handful of people slamming their bibles shut and walking out of the door.
Cognitive dissonance can be a painful thing to endure and watch.
What is it that you think you know? What makes you so confident that what you know or believe is accurate? What about the person who disagrees with you? How do you respond to information that conflicts with your beliefs? How do you define truth? Can you define truth?
Let me ask you another question. Did you really think about those questions or just gloss over them? These are the exact kinds of questions that cause people to roll their eyes, fill in whatever answer they have in their pocket and not for a moment consider that someone else could come up with an opposing and compelling argument against their belief. These are the kinds of questions that are all too often being omitted from modern college coursework in lieu of greater pursuits toward STEM fields and less and less consideration of things like philosophy, sociology, or psychology. We can do things, but fewer of us know why we do those things or consider if we should. Liberal arts are the academic equivalent of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park that pops in to make the statement, “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
These are the questions that are currently plaguing our world. At its core, the question comes down to truth. Truth and fact are not the same things. Truth is really more facts within their proper context… sort of. The question then is what is proper context? Plato had something to say about this. (Hooray for philosophy!)
I bring all of this up because if we’re going to have a conversation about the border, then we need to first start by getting a better handle on where each of us is coming from philosophically speaking. In our current context we’re talking about liberal vs. conservative mindsets. In the world of cable news and social media, those labels went off the rails years ago and I’m not sure, that as descriptors, if they’re still the best choices anymore because the bias associated with them. But, academically speaking, they’re accurate so we need to get our heads around what they actually mean and what they mean for the lenses that we view the world.
Hang with me here. For the moment I want you to throw out politics and who you voted for in the last election. We’re in different territory.
The big thing you need to take away from this, before I get too deep, is that they’re not actually oppositional viewpoints. They actually co-exist quite well once you understand what’s going on inside our brains and how that can play out for everyone’s benefit.
A conservative oriented mind tends to view things with orderly structure and boundaries. They are conscious to a reality of limited space and resources. They are geared toward protecting those resources. They believe they should conserve those resources. They are suspicious of things that can be viewed as outside threats and they work to maintain order within their own world. This often takes the form of applying pressure on individuals to maintain both personal purity standards as well as purity standards for the village. How a particular group defines ‘purity’ will vary. A conservative is willing to share what they have, but much more willing to share it with someone within their own village. Within a conservative mind there is an underlying fear of danger and chaos. The pros of this lens are that conservatives are good at organizing and accomplishing goals. They are also proactive in assessing threats. The negative side is they’re not much for the messiness of change and as a result aren’t good innovators. Left alone, their communities will eventually stagnate and die.
A liberal oriented mind tends to be less restrictive and more creative. Liberal minds think more in terms of having plenty of resources available to do whatever needs to be accomplished. Imagine a big table; if the conservative mind is trying to decide who should or shouldn’t be allowed to sit at the table, the liberal mind says just build a bigger table. Liberals happily exist within the chaos of change and tend to focus more on things like justice and fairness for the underdogs within their village. The pros of the liberal lens are that they’re fantastic innovators and conceptual thinkers. They’re also great at working to ensure that the tribe remains a just society for everyone. The negative side is that they’re not great organizers and the security of the village from outside threats may not necessarily hold as high of a priority as it should. Left alone, their communities will devolve into chaos and die.
What you have to get your head around is the reality that both groups are primarily driven by a governing form of ethics. The conservatives want to protect the village from outside threats. The liberals want to protect the village from inside threats.
But, both are trying to protect the village. Everyone thinks they’re the good guy.
When people recognize that reality, things change. You begin to recognize that the weakness in each mindset is the strength of the other. You have innovation and organization. You have good ideas that get accomplished. The village is protected inside and out. This community will flourish. Take environmental efforts, as an example, are really extremely conservative ideals. They focus entirely on the concept of limited resources and maintaining the purity of existing resources, yet environmentalists are almost universally considered liberals.
That being said, you change “environmentalist” to “conservationist” and those barriers break down. Everyone is working toward the same thing, they’re just calling it something else.
Where it gets weird is when outside groups start convincing people that they’re not in the same village anymore. Things get twisted and pulled out of alignment. Now they’re in two separate villages. A conservative village and a liberal village, that are at war with each other, protecting themselves from the other. Then to take it a step further, those villages divide to the more or less versions of their spectrum. You get a race to the fringes and self-proclaimed true-believers emerge. Now you have the far left and far right claiming that those toward the centrist side of their spectrum aren’t really part of their village.
And in this village, hardly anyone is paying attention to actual threats inside or outside the village.
Left alone, this village will destroy itself or be so pre-occupied that it will fall victim to an outside invader.
If you believe the fear mongers, that’s exactly where America sits today… while everyone thinks they’re the hero of the story.
Talk amongst yourselves.