Friday, February 5, 2016

Jonathan Haidt is a Good Guy. But...

Back in 2012 when I read Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind I gave it full marks. But I pointed out a basic flaw in his argument.
We humans, he argues, are wired to make instinctive moral judgments, and he has identified a moral matrix with 6 different axes, including Care/harm, Liberty/oppression, Fairness/cheating, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation, that differentiates out our moral instincts...  Conservatives score about equally on each of the six axes, implying that conservatives value each of these moral axes as of equal importance.

But liberals don't. They rate Care/harm of overwhelming importance, Liberty/oppression pretty highly, Fairness/cheating moderately, and Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation hardly at all.
But, I protested, this is baloney. Liberals do too believe in all six axes. What is environmentalism about if not the sanctity of the planet and the avoidance of environmental degradation? Liberals may not believe in the authority of fathers and CEOs but they deeply believe in the authority of liberals and liberalism, and you will be made to care. Liberals believe in loyalty, otherwise how could those liberal professors all select their own kind for tenure, forsaking all others.

If a dull dog like me could see that immediately, why couldn't Jonathan Haidt, and why couldn't the educated evolved liberals that reported disinterest in loyalty, authority, and sanctity? We know why. It is because liberals think of loyalty, authority, and sanctity as nationalist, religious values, and they know that liberals don't believe in that stuff because they are educated and evolved.

In reality, liberals are in denial. The six moral axes probably apply equally to everyone. The point is that everyone has a religion -- in the broad sense of faith in a narrative about the world and what it all means and what we should do about it -- even the people that insist that they don't. And because liberals are in denial they are putting themselves and us at risk.

Jonathan Haidt now has a conversation with conservative John Leo online that has something important to add to all this. It extends the encounter that Haidt experienced with SJWs at an elite private high school. And it dovetails with my "Three Peoples" theory. The key section is about the moral urgency of social justice in the academy. Jonathan Haidt:
They’re so devoted to social justice, and they have accepted the rule that you can never, ever blame victims, so if a group of victims makes demands, you cannot argue back. You must accept the demands.
And the official victim class now includes seven groups:
You know, the big three are African-Americans, women and LGBT. That’s where most of the action is. Then there are three other groups: Latinos, Native Americans… [LGBT]

But now we have a seventh–Muslims. Something like 70 or 75 percent of America is now in a protected group.  
This really fits into my "Three Peoples" theory, because it tells us a lot about the religion of the People of the Creative Self.

The religion of the People of the Subordinate Self is the Propitiation of the Gods and their mortal representatives on earth, the feudal lords and powerful politicians. The religion of the People of the Responsible Self extends from Hinduism to Judaism to Christianity. It is about living a responsible life and making the most of God's understandable universe.

But the religion of the People of the Creative Self is a horse of a different color. And we can see one of its characteristics in the modern university. The idea is to wage holy war on behalf of the innocent victim groups that have been exploited and oppressed and marginalized through no fault of their own since the dawn of time, or at least since the rise of the West in 1500. That fight is the road to virtue and salvation. Anything less is a damning sin.

Of course, it's a wonderful thing to advocate for those less fortunate or less privileged that yourself. But it becomes a problem when you harness it as your religion to the vehicle of state. Because politics is violence, and government is force. You end up forcing everyone to sit in the pews of your established Church of Social Justice and force them to tithe. There is a word for religion combined with politics. In former times we called it theocracy. But in the 20th century it took on a new form and we called it totalitarianism.

The fact that the social justice warriors in the academy don't get this demonstrates their stunning ignorance or something worse. First, they don't seem to understand that they do too have a religion, and a very enthusiastic secular religion at that. And they also don't seem to have grasped the basic lesson of the 20th century, that you don't combine economic power, political power and moral/cultural power in one and then hand them over to the state, not unless you have a sick attraction for heaps of dead bodies.

By the way, Jonathan Haidt, who once was a Democrat, now considers himself non-partisan. The only thing that would make him vote Democrat would be if the Republicans nominated Trump or Cruz. Which goes to show that Haidt doesn't get it, despite his book and his research and his encounter with the SJWs at "Centerville High." Trump and Cruz represent the two groups that liberals say are beyond the pale: white working class and Christian evangelicals. Haidt is saying that if those two groups, that in my opinion have been egregious oppressed by liberals over the last half century, elect one of their own, he is outta here. We can't have those bitter clingers actually having some influence on public policy.

Well, Jonathan Haidt, back in 2008 I, a severe conservative, voted for Barack Obama. Not because I thought he would do America a lick of good, but because the Democrats and the liberals and the victim classes are after all American they have a right to have their turn on the bridge of state after eight years of George W. Bush. The alternative is civil war. If you don't see that the folks directly oppressed by the liberal establishment deserve their turn at the wheel, led by people who are, after all, perfectly conventional establishment figures, one a crony capitalist and the other a star scholarship boy, then you really need to go back and read your book again.

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