Monday, October 17, 2011

The individual and the group

I am not "against" groups --pointless-- but I am rarely comfortable in them. My basic reaction to them is suspicious. INTP.

Two recent moments bring to mind the complex dance between the one and the many for me.

Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the San Francisco wedding of my friend J and his partner Bob. Readers of this blog may recall that I am not a fan of gay marriage, but there I was, at their request, standing as their legal witness at City Hall. The political issue was not as important as the honor of being asked and my own instinct to honor two good men who have been partners now for more than a decade. Since I was the man, I guess...I felt it behooved me to note the date, so I sent them a bottle of Zinfandel, which I discovered they both like. They were very happy with it. Went with the lasagna they'd prepared for dinner.

On Facebook, I got a notice that a former patient of mine was recommending that I do an "I Like" of his business. I don't know how he found me. This is the second time a patient has apparently discovered me on Facebook. This time it unsettled me. Why? Because this fellow, whom I worked with for a couple of years, is a very liberal guy and if he found my Facebook posts, he'd discover that I am not and that this might be unsettling to him. Now I realize that FB has a privacy screen and, if it works, he would not be able to see anything of my postings. But FB connects me often with people I have had no FB connection with at all and so I am assuming there is some kind of monster algorithm privacy-busting program working the background.

In both cases, my friend and my former patient are connected with positions and actions of which I am not a big supporter. But it is simply a fact of my character that while I am well aware of an individual's "membership" in various kinds of groups --some of which I definitely do not like-- I cannot get myself to relate to that individual --if I make a personal connection-- in a way dominated by his group(s). I grew up in a NY 1950's world where we all knew each other's differences in ethnicity or religion, for example, and made robust fun of each other but still were friends and neighbors. Bracketing, the foundation of a free society.

When it comes to politics and the couch, for instance, pretty well all my patients are very liberal Democrats. And it is not uncommon for me to hear them speak to me on the assumption that --because I am gay-- I am on the same page. Very rarely do I respond, and only if their attitude in this field connects with an attitude in the rest of their life that is part of our work together. Otherwise I let it go by. It's not relevant.

And when I was asked to be the wedding witness, I wondered if it was wrong of me to agree, since I don't think that matrimony and male/male couples are a match. As much as I put energy into my beliefs about all kinds of things, I have a background awareness that beliefs can change --I am exhibit A in this-- and so I am much more likely to place friendship first.

Unless there is some severe question of conscience...which, being a 5, I rarely have :).  My question is not "Is it right?" --That's for the insufferable 1's-- but "Does it make sense?". One of the upsides of my natural emotional distance is that I can make room for things in people that the more feeling and intimacy driven types can't abide. Really, as long as I know I'm right and you are not going to impose your position on me, I don't much need to convince you to change your erroneous mind, especially if I like you.

The conscience of a conservative?


Anonymous said...

Lao-Tsu: Enneagram 5 ("how does it make sense?") is the ready tao, but Enneagram 1 ("how is it right?") is the eternal tao.

Anonymous said...

The God of the Olam's "monster algorithm privacy-busting program working the background" perhaps includes the insight that all publicity is good publicity. Who knows but you'll need the sort of work done by this guy's business and you'll contact him because you already know of his business and this saves the bother of searching -- especially the bother of searching for a conservative Republican who offers this business in your town?

When a the conscience of a "conservative" is founded not on implicit preference for "Throne and Altar" and such, but by finding fault with the real-world results of liberal idealism, liberal programmes, including support for Communism, the conscience is definitely troubled, guilt-feeling.

For after all, one admits that the reason communism etc doesn't work is that one doesn't care about the collective -- one cares much more for oneself and one's own family than about everyone and others all together as created by God or random darwinian movements. _Real_ tribal attitudes did not feel this way; they justify'd, and didn't feel the need to 'justify' their actions with a view to extraneous considerations — and a 'return' to these attitudes would be disastrous for technological society.

All this to say is that liberal Democrats aren't troubled by their valuations in the way that conservatives are. Liberals may hate their own origins, as they imagine them, but they don't doubt the validity of that hatred, nor the validity of feeling that calling for social change, progressive education etc.

The conservative confronts the liberal trying to get the liberal to agree that in fact we're all 'selfish' (for ourselves and our families) and accordingly public policies should work with, build on that selfishness, rather than proceeding with programmes that imply the poor are benefited by giving back to them the wealth that the rich got by stealing from the poor to begin with. "We need to potentiate self-improvement, not fund dereliction -- however dereliction may have been permitted in some populations while self-improvement may have been promoted in other populations." This is guilt-ridden conservatism.

You then hesitate to post on a liberal's facebook page a request to "like" America's taking charge of its southern border: this is an assertion of national selfishness rather than of universal fraternalness, as demanded by every Christian saint, after all -- even if it is also true that a guilt-ridden givingness attitude by liberal Democrats only helps maintain Mexico in a state of economic-social-political dysfunction.

So also if one says 'we' (whites) do African-Americans a great disservice by promoting in them the message that they can't use the American system to benefit themselves [e.g. restoring family systems to what they were c.1950] until we stop oppressing them, stop not believing in them, stop not taking from them so that we can have wealth and prestige. This may be false, but no white can feel good about himself if he starts pointing this out. He is saying that he is still more concern'd for his own career advancement than for the career advancement of this or that woman or member of this or that minority group.

Anonymous said...

But a liberal takes the easy road of proposing givingness and stop-oppressingness -- which is also a path that requires very little effort from him. Perhaps he pays more taxes than he otherwise would, but he is of the class that is very affluent and very prestigious. He doesn't have to declare that inequality will remain forever because persons are unequal and thus family-members are advantaged or disadvantaged unequallty. His own material and prestige advantages are only temporary, and after all as a liberal, he is using his advantaged position to call for social change and the eventual abolition of all poverty, inequality etc etc. Thus, posting a liberal "like" request on a conservative's page is perfectly polite.

Formerly, liberals were 'realistic' about 'human nature' -- Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, even Kant ("man's asocial sociability"), even up through the revision of Marx's communism by liberals who said that no way everyone would work for the common good, but since everyone has an interest in solving social problems and rich men don't like giving money to the poor when they see that not all rich men give, therefore "social programmes" would be progress.

But now liberals scoff at Machiavelli's realistic ridicule of 'imaginary' idealistic principalities. That idealistic intentions may be the path to hell is no longer consider'd a factor needful to consider. Human nature has been irrelevant to public policy considerations since the summer of love at least.

... The new liberals were, maybe still are a kind of Fichtean, I guess: for Fichte, human nature is will, and will has no intrinsic contents, therefore we can will any principality we can imagine.

Marx: »each Self may hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, do critical critiques after a dinner of earthly not heavenly bread, just as the neo-Islamic traditionalist caliphate's non-ego has a blame-accepting mind.« (German Ideology, Tucker ed. p. 160)

We could easily have ended up in the Hell advocated for North America by e.g. Maoist Norman Bethune, but 1950s+ fellow-travellers would have said "Don't blame us, damn you! We had good intentions!" They wouldn't have accepted that they indulged their consciences with easy-payoffs (future equality, future freedom from poverty) in terms of social policy while busily buffing their own career and lifestyle muskets.

Anonymous said...

BTW, the picture for the Individual Plan could suggest dangerously collectivized 'central plans' etc, couldn't it? It reminds of the old pictures of heroic Communist Man. ... The Group Plan seems to permit for individual_s_.

Jenkinsrmbr said...

Lao-Tsu: Enneagram 5 ("how does it make sense?") is the ready tao, but Enneagram 1 ("how is it right?") is the eternal tao.

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