This post is very much me working something out on paper. Enjoy the ride.
Some of this post will come from a lot of thought I had while at my cousin's wedding, and that side of the family is very catholic and religious. Some of this post will come from having a television always on when I'm at work, and typically this TV will be tuned into some 24 hour news network or something.
We are starting to get candidates for the future leader of this country, and all of them bring an agenda and a viewpoint with them. Typically the republicans want money, and democrats want social change. These are opposed ideologies, and they are often incompatible; one represents private wealth, and one represents public wealth.
During the trip to the wedding, we all listened to the WTF podcast where the host interviewed Obama. If you haven't listened to it, it's very good. During the interview, Obama was remarking that he would do a lot of talking to people, and that it's incredibly easy for people to connect on a personal level, but once the political card was drawn, the polarizing effect of politics took immediate effect and a gap was created.
Like I mentioned, that side of the family for the wedding is very Catholic, and they categorize themselves as conservatives. Surprise, but I am not Catholic, and I just let my family bash the president as everything wrong with the country was just his fault anyways. While there are a few family members that I really enjoy visiting and chatting up, I'm not part of that group of people, and I think it just boils down to how we perceive the world differently.
Part of the christian belief is that God created the universe, and ultimately your prosperity stems from faith in him. He is the alpha and the omega, and will shape the world according to his wishes, and that your actions and inaction are his will. I've never really been comfortable with this thought. While this thought may have been easy to believe at certain points in history, those belief structures seem like antiquities now. Mankind has become the dominant force on this planet and is much different from the nascent, more fragile group than it once was.
I started thinking about this in terms of a specific example, climate change. This sounds like something that would be trivial for God to do something about. He did create the world after all. Yet there are lots of people who see things happening around them that would suggest that God is not doing anything about the systems of the Earth changing, and mankind must be the force to make these changes so that our planet remains habitable for as long as possible.
So through all this thought experimenting, I came to some conclusions, just in general terms.
- Conservatives/republicans are focused on privatizing wealth because of their belief that macro scale things are outside of their control, so driving towards a world where the individual can prosper makes the most sense.
- Liberals/democrats do believe that their actions can change the course of mankind, and that the rising tide raises all boats, and increasing the happiness and opportunity for all people has multiplicative effects for mankind as a whole.
Ultimately these are just labels, and are just used to screen out the oil to your water. I still have no idea why the two oppose each other so strongly.
One last wrinkle to add to this comes from this Planet Money podcast on why people commit fraud:
They talk about that it's just difficult for people to weigh the pros and cons of questionable decisions, when the outcomes will profoundly impact the people around them in comparison to unknown results of a large system. Housing fraud was common during the sub prime mortgage crisis, because people individually disassociated themselves from the economic system as a whole. I think parallels can be drawn between this and climate change.
My own personal slant in all this is that humans are beginning to understand their impacts on the world, and on human ecosystem more and more everyday. Our awareness is expanding both outward in terms of the limitations of who we can be as a whole, and inwards as the ease of communication between individuals grows. I'm hopeful that we become more mindful of our actions, and not leave it to chance the negative consequences of our actions.
I think a focus on just one of personal or public liberties is foolish, but a compromise between the two is the ideal. Humans have a strange need to belong yet be distinguished, and it's a strange balance that we are always fighting to maintain.
Long post is long.