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Do political discussions have value?

Why are we so divided? Is there any value
in having political discussions? Hi I’m Bob Greaves and this is Living With
Wisdom. First, I want to address our division, then afterwards I will discuss
the value in our discussions. We are lost in a broken system. Why is it that so
many people can clearly see a depth of corruption on the other side of the
political aisle, but they simply cannot allow themselves to see the depth of
corruption on their own side? Well not everyone is that extreme. Oh perhaps
several can admit to some isolated corruption on their side or concede some
genuine integrity on the other side. Nonetheless, we seem to be largely
oblivious to the employment of differing weights when assessing potential
corruption in both major parties. When I critique the right side, or what Trump
or McConnell are doing, what do I typically get from the right? “Trump did
nothing wrong … What about Hillary? What about Biden? What about Obama? However if I critique the left side, or what Pelosi, or Hillary, or
Schumer, or Perez are saying or doing … what do I get? “False equivalency, Bob,
false equivalency.” There is the occasional person who does see me as an
equal opportunity political critic, but what do I often get from them? “All you
can do is criticize! Don’t you believe in anybody?” Well, to be sure, both sides also
see corruption on the other side where it does not exist. They conflate
differences of opinion with EVIL. And this adds the complexity to discussing
the issues. And so unfounded accusations Do abound. But
I would argue that both sides also use unfounded accusations as justification
for refusing to consider legitimate concerns. There seems to be a genuine
disbelief that we are living in a systemic breakdown. That a breakdown that stretches across the entire political spectrum. It cannot be admitted that
corruption is that widespread! Too many need to believe the corruption is mostly
over there on the other side of the aisle. It is as if our society has a mob
cognitive disorder of splitting. Now I’m using the word splitting to talk about
the human ability to have two contradictory ideas without realizing
they are a contradiction. So, hmm, what causes this splitting? Half of our minds
desperately need a hero to worship, and half of our minds desperately need
enemies to blame. Both needs are maladaptive and out of balance. But few
people can see that. And so our standards of judgment are biased towards our
heroes and against our enemies. But rarely do we realize that our heuristics
of evaluation use contradictory standards. When judging the other side of
the aisle, we can ask ourselves, “Is there any way that I can see them as corrupt?
If so. I need no other explanation. But when judging our side of the aisle,
we ask ourselves, “Do I have to see them as corrupt? Uh, perhaps I can embrace what sounds like a better explanation. True it is that both sides of the aisle
subscribe to different philosophies and value systems. That’s fine. And they
develop a different hierarchy to their moral matrix, and therefore they exhibit
in some ways very different concepts of what constitutes success or failings. But
they are both suffering from the exact same human insecurities and traumas. They are just maladaptively dealing with their denial of inadequacy and
insecurities with different philosophically distorted filters. It
reminds me of the spliting associated with the Madonna whore complex where
some heterosexual men cannot be sexually attracted to women of character, but
cannot love and respect the women they desire. It is almost as if we cannot
conceive of all politicians as possessing the full set of human nature
together with its acquired developmental strengths and weaknesses. So, hmm, we
cannot allow ourselves to be honest about the shortcomings within our own
political party as we simultaneously overstate its integrity. This is not just
an error in thinking; it is backed by strong emotional fear. To be more
balanced and honest would most likely cause us to lose all hope, and so we
cannot be honest about the legitimate concerns of the other party. After all,
how can one make a deal with the devil and prosper in such desperately trying
times? Oh, of course we usually do our best to keep from, hmm …
to keep from sounding overly dramatic! We must, after all, sound rational when we
can, from time to time. As but one example the calloused indifference that indulges
the artificial need to control women’s bodies, in my opinion, is just as
indefensible, and just as violating as the alleged woman’s right to an abortion.
There is little to no empathy for the woman dealing with a very tough
situation or medical condition and little to no
awareness of a sanctified boundary with the mystery of humanity developing in
the implanted fetus instead of seeing this as a truly difficult conundrum know
where the solution is not at all simple we reduce it to an artificial morality
of black and white where we pretend the solution is always and only in one
extreme direction we cannot allow ourselves to find a balance no no no a
balance needs to be seen as the slippery slope towards evil now I started out by
asking why is it my working theory is that it isn’t entirely our own fault yes
there are a number of bad apples spread out among us all on both sides but I
believe most people are simply trying to do what they honestly believe to be the
right thing we live in stressful times we can’t quite figure out what stresses
are helpful and what stresses are harmful and we disagree we pay more
attention to the stresses we wish we didn’t have and so rather than face
societal problems squarely we take an easier path and embrace a tribal
philosophical loyalty and when we differ we defer to the charm of our leadership
but leadership is often just as lost as we are there in the stress as well and
so they get seduced by the donor owners in the oligarchy without whom they
cannot raise sufficient money to get elected and as much as I don’t like the
oligarchy they too are just trying to keep from losing what they believe they
have justly gained every single one of us from the top to
the bottom are born into a challenge and for many of us that challenge seems
overwhelming at times and so we have failed to develop a true and solid
belief in both ourselves and others we have entered survival mode and so we
pick our tribes for security and use our brains not to think fairly but to
rationalize our loyalties as we let an imperfect system run its course but
rather than change the system that seduces all of us in different ways we
tweeted to our advantage and demonize the other tribes tweaks while allowing
the system to merely continue running its malfunctioning course as for myself
I cannot justify many of the decisions acted on by Trump or Pelosi or McConnell
or Schumer and to be honest I struggle with my own decisions and actions but
really given the level of stress the degree of common traumas our maladjusted
driving needs and a broken system what else should we expect so although I hold
us responsible for fixing the broken system I blame the system more than I
blame us for the resulting problems we’re not the enemy it is a broken
system that is destroying and dividing us we need a new zeitgeist we will only
find it together now I turn to the value of the discussion and the political
chatter or the missing value in my opinion the quality of thought is all up
and down the excellence continuum we have access if we wanted to numerous
professional journalists as well as an unending supply of citizens on social
media so there certainly is no shortage of
political chatter some of these people engaging in the discussion are very well
informed while others are aware of little more than sound bites if even
that and this range of rigor or lack thereof is not distinguished by what
side of the aisle the comments are coming from or even how generally
intelligent the commenter might be there are plenty of astute conservatives
plenty of astute liberals and plenty of a student dependence not really loyal to
either side and almost all commentators out there are pretty sure that they are
one of them it is rare that those speaking up think themselves
ill-informed or mistaken I’m not immune to this perspective I have questions and
opinions that have been described by many others as my not so humble not so
well informed opinion and and I hope to get you to consider that this political
chatter makes some difference but in the end at this particular moment in history
it makes very little difference can an argument be made that I am overreacting
or is there some validity to my concern well I will try to make this as
bipartisan as possible in this discussion I do not want to take sides
as much as I want to examine the process of political chatter but to be sure I do
have my own opinions so what do I see is problematic first most people are not
really listening to anything other than their own signs now I do not mean that
no one hears things from other tribes rather most people give the huge bulk of
their attention to their own side and if they are aware of anything coming from
the other side it is short little snippets shared by commentators who use
those snippets to discuss how ridiculous the other side
is in other words for both liberals and conservatives most of what they know
about the other tribe is through the filtered comments coming from their own
side in today’s social media we all have access to a wide variety of opinions but
no matter we do not avail ourselves to truly consider the spectrum if for
example I had something to say that had a potential to change your mind about an
issue or two but you already have a vague negative idea where I stand on
other issues well it’s very likely that you will not take me seriously and if
you do read or listen to me you will most likely not pay attention to the
development of my argument instead you will listen for small isolated
statements that you feel confident you can use to dismiss me as a useful idiot
when I speak about specific positions on specific issues my audience is
significantly made up of those who already agree with me and who are
looking for even more ammunition to bolster our common opinion does that
really make a difference hardly does it matter how correct or incorrect I might
be no not really if we already agree in our politics I might seem brilliant to
you if I can use big words refrain from swearing or simply sound educated but if
we disagree you will look for evidence as to where am I purchasing my Kulik the
net gain is that best insignificant and at worst I might even lose you because
even like-minded people do on occasion disagree so if I am correct and saying
that for the most part people of differing opinions are not actually
listening to each other then it could be that our chatter has
only an insignificant impact second problem is that of sources news
organizations are anything but the major sources of news belong to huge
conglomerates with cable TV and hundreds upon hundreds of channels with
newspapers television and radio stations in abundant supply all over America it
might surprise you to know that 95% of all of those sources are owned by just
six huge corporations and those corporations are involved in much more
than just news so can we be sure that they will report news that could hurt
their other corporate conflict of interests well is but one example Disney
Disney owns ABC 80% of ESPN touched home pictures marble they owned Lucasfilm Fox
Entertainment Group 50% of A&E 50% of the History Channel 50% of lifetime they
also owned Pixar Hollywood Records 10% of Vice media and core publishing that’s
just a partial list what’s more those corporations also own various other
corporations numbering in the hundreds both inside the USA and in foreign
countries many that are engaged in local and regional news the vast number of
local radio and television stations in the United States are not actually
locally owned and some that claim to be locally owned are owned by a local
corporation that in turn is actually owned by a national corporation so
locally owned even when true does not always mean what you think it means
now we can certainly differ on how and to what degree this filters the spin on
political news that you have access to but it’s strange
credibility to think that this would have no impact no doubt the impact
varies from place to place but we have a string of journalists who upon
criticizing the party line inside their a news organization found themselves
quickly without a job when exposing inconsistencies usually only a few at
the top of the heap can get away with it as of the day I was busy preparing for
this discussion three websites that I knew about that maintained lists of
journalists who were fired for telling the truth no longer exists and one such
website had a suspended notice when I got to there still active URL sad to say
the day I was preparing for this discussion I could not find one active
website still in existence that had such a list of journalists fired for telling
the truth well just off the top of my head from previous research well Phil
Donahue objected to the probe Iraq war attitudes on MSNBC and was quickly let
go and it was later leaked that Chris Matthews was influential in that
decision Bill Moyers was pressured into silence for his anti Iraq comments but
managed to keep his job the chances of being fired from your job at a major
news outlet goes way up when you disagree with the political posture of
the owning corporation and it is common for fired journalists to assert that
afterwards that talking points were distributed daily about what attitudes
and positions were to be pushed that day we even saw from some of the emails
published by WikiLeaks that MSNBC was receiving directives from the DNC about
how to change their narratives and on the other side of the aisle Fox News
might criticize certain Republicans but they still remain the major talking
source for points coming from the RNC how can we
trust news organizations that are so huge we’re the owners of the news
organizations have definite political concerns on one side or the other and
even if we are aware of fact-checking you know we have fact-checking
organizations we discovered that they too can’t have a bias but the general
gist is that it makes no difference what side of the aisle a particular news
outlet might be on fact-checking in American journalism is telling us a very
sad story but we also have a number of small independent news organizations
available on either YouTube or low-traffic websites or featured on
low-powered community radio stations and these organizations are also usually
identifiable as being largely on one side of the aisle or the other but they
are often a splinter group who are at war with the hypocrisy on their own side
of the aisle I suppose that is helpful but they do not have the money or the
outreach that the major news sources have and those that still have obtained
excellent facilities are nonetheless not heavily trafficked the vast majority of
independent news sources on the Internet are made up of just one person in front
of a camera and microphone pushing up episodes on a youtube channel these
independent commentators do not have the personnel or the finances to get their
views out to a major portion of the general public so given the limitations
even when news organizations are truly dedicated to giving us the unvarnished
truth they do not have the time or space or the resources to make a thoroughly
compelling case at best all they can accomplish is to rally the choir of
people who already agree and inadvertently offer the incomplete
information that emboldened the opposition to
to conclude well if that is all they have to offer me then obviously they are
wrong and I am right we also have some foreign news outlets in the United
States like Al Jazeera tell us sir English and Russia today and many who
see their work are unaware of the fact that aj+ is actually al jazeera or that
RT is actually russia today but this is not necessarily a problem on its face it
is not as if foreign news organizations are incapable of delivering truthful
news but how do they rank on fact-checking
for my experience as it turns out foreign news organizations can be just
as fact troubled reporting about their own countries as American news is well
however sad to say that when foreign news organizations report on events
going on in the USA they do come out far better what what yeah and that is
terrible news when for new sources criticize US policies or report on us
issues they tend to be more accurate when fact checked but in our McCarthyism
and other phobias it is easy for us sources to simply dismiss them as
propaganda sites true it is that they are very critical of the u.s. at times
and they are not writing stories about our best features but as it turns out
they are exposing the indelicate side that most of our news organizations
simply lack the courage and integrity to touch or if they do they will offer a
cleaned up version of the story so as to not seem too anti-american they have to
wait for a complaint to become trendy and if they tread too far they will get
accused of being a foreign ass and lastly most of the news we get comes
from a source that has very little choice but to deal with the issues in an
overly simplistic manner to truly understand for example what is going on
in Latin America would require hours of information equivalent to reading
several books from several different points of view
hearing them all and then hearing the rebuttals extensively but know no one
has time for that if what will appear in the news cannot be reduced to a daily
column or a soundbite sorry you’re just not going to get it and when the
research experts do have something to say in a soundbite if you do not like
what you hear well you can simply dismiss it as in substantive and you are
correct there is a lack of substance offered but that does not mean that the
substance does not exist if it could be given the time and space 95% of the news
we get is an insufficient reductionism of mere summaries with too little
substance to actually persuade anyone to change their mind news does not inform
us it serves the purpose of soothing us into believing our side was right all
along regardless of what the truth may be I
would argue that the general state of affairs in the United States is that we
simply do not have a news environment that informs the bulk of Americans about
political matters this makes it very difficult to have fruitful political
discussions it makes the little difference what side of the aisle you
are on which side you resonate with what Samuel Clemens said years ago is just as
true today he said if you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed if you do
read the newspaper you are misinformed not that it matters
Americans have very little respect for any political opinion they do not hold
everyone everyone is an expert without regard to how rigorous they have
researched a matter even if they have no clue how to go about doing the research
so I conclude that there is some value in expressing a political opinion but
that turns out to be minuscule and and I see the division between us as an
inevitable consequence of a broken political system I’m Bob graves
thanks for listening

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