Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ice Floes, Pt. II

In general, calls for harsh retaliation is a very gut-level response common to conservatives.  A classic example is the father who would exact brutal revenge on anyone who threatened his family.  I think it's fair to say it drives the death penalty, hawkish foreign relations, "tough on crime", etc.

Each of these positions can be rationalized, or argued for with logic and reason.  But I wonder whether all that is somewhat after the fact?  Because the truth is that there is this deep reaction, for which there may, or may not be a well-developed rational framework.

And lest anyone think I'm only pointing at the right here, I think there is a sort of anti-response on the left.  That is, the tendency to under-react, or at least to not respond with the same desire for revenge or finality.  This tendency in liberals is all to clear to the right, who routinely point to it as a deep character flaw.  Liberals are "soft" on crime.  Liberals want a "nanny" state.  They are "bleeding hearts".

Yet, the most difficult piece of this is determining to what extent the feeling/reaction follows philosophy/worldview, or visa versa.  By the time one is old enough to be taking positions on the world, one has likely grown up in either a liberal or conservative environment.  Personally, I am largely sympathetic with my parent's liberalism, even if I've moderated my own somewhat.  And so I have a difficult time understanding what it might have been like to change my politics, as many have.  The sheer number of people who hew to their parents' views would seem to argue for philosophy shaping feeling/reaction.  I would assume natural variance in temperament would predict a much more diverse set of outcomes.

Another piece can be inserted here, something maybe described as the "personality style" of a family.  This would be a sort of familial temperament, or tone, that averages from the dynamic range between primary authority figures.  To a degree, peers and extended authority figures would have an effect, but my guess is less than that found in one's home environment.  This influence would most likely be expressed in the common self-describing statement, "...the way I was raised".  This familial tone would affect the essential temperament of an individual, with respect to his reaction to basic moral questions concerning justice, work ethic, empathy, sharing, in/out group, social status, authority and the like.

Unfortunately, even here we are forced to return to the effect of broader worldview on each of these family and network pressures.  The moving pieces thus rotate between self, family, and worldview.  The latter two seem to be the most static, considering predictable regional and ethnic patterns.  However, the first - one's temperament - varies relatively greatly.  Interestingly, temperament would seem to be highly selected for in forming familial partnerships, as well as inner networks of friendships - all having a great deal of effect on the developing child. 

So with ethnicity and worldview falling into general patterns, at least regionally, you would then have clustering by temperament, as networks associate and disassociate according to basic moral responses. 

And so here we are.  I have a much different response to whether terrorists do, well, basically anything.  And my response is very different.  As a liberal I very much take the "hand-holding" or "bleeding heart" position.  I have plenty of philosophical reasons to back up why I should feel why I do (and why you should too!).  But I wonder just how much of how I got to where I am at emotionally and intellectually, is due to the soundness of my ideas, and how much is due to the particular milieu from whence I come. 

Oh yeah - I love tofu and once hugged a tree (no lie!).

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