Social Question

dalepetrie's avatar

I have a theory, but I don't want to give it away just yet. Instead, I'd like to ask you a few questions about ideology and personal preferences and see if they conform to my theory. Anyone care to help me?

Asked by dalepetrie (17913 points ) September 26th, 2009

1) What is more important to you, winning or playing fair?

2) In an argument, what do you see as more important, winning the argument or being right?

3) Do your answers change for either question 1 or question 2 if you are talking about you personally being involved vs. this applying to someone you are rooting for? An example of what I’m talking about would be, say in #1 you answered playing fair is more important, thinking we were talking about you and another person playing a game. But let’s say we’re talking about your favorite sports team, or a Presidential candidate…big picture abstract things. Would you rather see the team/candidate you were rooting for win even if it meant they’d need an unfair advantage to do so, or would you rather see your hopes dashed if it meant an unlevel playing field? Same would go for question 2, imagine say a political debate…would you rather see your candidate score points, even if the opponent’s position was more accurate, or would you rather see your person lose that part of the argument because they were wrong, even though overall that’s your candidate?

4) On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being as conservative as a person can be and 10 being as liberal as a person can be, where do you see yourself?

I’ve got some ideas about correlation between a person’s political ideology and what they value, and I’m just kind of curious what I’ll find (if there are enough conservatives on Fluther to give me a good baseline). I’ll follow up with my thoughts after I have enough answers.

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66 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

1) Playing fair. It may not always result in a win, but the ways of cheaters always catch up with them.
2) Arguments aren’t always about winning and losing. Many times, it’s about understanding the perspective of another. Coming to an understanding is a win for both parties.
3) 1 & 2 are not situational.
4) I refuse to label myself with a political title because titles are limiting.

lloydbird's avatar

Is it the blue and pink one with three legs?

filmfann's avatar

1) Playing Fair
2) Being right
3) During the campaign, I was a Hillary supporter. During a debate, she gave the wrong answer to a question AFTER hearing the right answer from Obama. It changed my vote.
I am a union member, but in arguments between the company and the union, I often find myself arguing the Company’s position, because I feel it is right, rather than the Union’s position, which would be my gain.
4) I consider myself a 6. Moderate Democrat.

augustlan's avatar

1) Fair
2) Right, if I am.
3) No change
4) 8

filmfann's avatar

edit my rating. Usually, it is 1 as liberal, and 10 is conservative, but I can’t say why.

jonsblond's avatar

1. Playing fair.
2. Neither. I just want to be heard.
3. No change.
4. 6

dpworkin's avatar

1) Playing fair
2) Being right
3) Playing fair is more comfortable whatever the circumstances
4) Not sure how to answer. Libertarian on questions of personal freedom (except where it conflicts with): Very Liberal on Social Issues, and Conservative on some fiscal issues (except when they conflict with social needs.)

Cat13's avatar

1). Playing Fair
2). Winning the Argument
3).Still playing fair
4). 8 + Liberal

Sarcasm's avatar

1) Playing fair
2) Being right
3) When answering, I thought about personal arguments I’ve been in. But I also do prefer my team, or my politician, or whatever, to play fair. I hate seeing smear campaigns and the like, they make me lose respect.
4) Maybe a 6? I agree and disagree with a lot of things on both ends.

I feel like this may have something to do with what happened in the 2nd amendment thread today.

Jayne's avatar

1) I don’t think that’s a reasonable comparison, because if you don’t play fair, then you haven’t won. I am a competitive person, and because of this I play fair, or else winning would not be the same.

2) It should be about being right, but I will admit that I will sometimes realize that I am wrong, but continue the argument nonetheless, or I might moderate my views somewhat to make them more acceptable to my opponent. I usually admit when I am wrong, however, and at least make an effort to think through my positions to make sure I am right.

3) If the stakes of the competition are personal (as in a sporting event, where the team gains glory and money, but there are no broader implications except, perhaps, for the fans) then #1 holds. There is no satisfaction in an unearned win. But when I’m “rooting” for a political candidate, I’m not looking for any satisfaction from their victory; I want the tangible results of their policies, and those results are no less tangible if the politician did not fairly earn their office. If it gets the job done, I’m all for foul play. However, in most cases, a candidate who cheats their way into office is not likely to be one with responsible policies, and there obviously need to be consequences for cheating to maintain an orderly political system. So the cheating itself would not “spoil” the victory for me, but it does carry risks, and it might be indicative of other issues that would put me off of the candidate.

4) ~8?

tinyfaery's avatar

1, 2 & 3: I’m never really concerned with winning.

4. I don’t consider myself liberal or conservative. I believe in community; we are all accountable to each other. Government and ideology exist only in the mind.

rooeytoo's avatar

1. They are both important, I play fair but I really want to win.

2. Remember the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Things?” There was a line in there that said “Would you rather be right or happy?” I’d like to think I am capable of agreeing to disagree on any subject. So winning the argument is not so important as knowing that I am being true to my own beliefs.

3. This is difficult to answer because there so rarely is a truly level playing field, and sports and politics are so different. With politics sometimes the end justifies the means with sports the end is not important enough.

4. 5.5 would be about right, however, depending on the subject at hand, it could go anywhere from 1 to 10.

Wow, that is a pretty damned wishy washy answer, but let’s face it, I don’t believe much of anything in my life is black or white, it is almost always somewhere in the gray area.

SarasWhimsy's avatar

1. Playing fair
2. Being heard – also I enjoy arguing for the possibilities it brings up
3. No matter the situation, I do not believe in unfair advantages. That being said, I think it’s human nature to root for someone.
4. Liberal!

Ivan's avatar

This is all pretty obvious, but whatever, I’ll play along.

1. Playing fair. This is the PC answer, but anyone who’s ever played sports or an online game with me can attest to this.

2. This is sort of the same question as #1, in my eyes. A fair argument is usually a correct argument, as “fair” means using correct logic and backing up your claims.

3. Nothing changes. Again, anyone who has watched sports with me can attest to this. For anyone who happened to watch the Michigan-Indiana game today, I’ll give you an example. Indiana threw a pass that was caught simultaneously by both an Indiana and Michigan player. According to the rule, the offensive team (Indiana) retains possession in that scenario. However, the referee ruled it an interception and gave the ball to Michigan. I root for Michigan, but I was audibly remarking how it should be Indiana’s ball.

4. over 9000

Or maybe like 8 or 9, it’s pretty arbitrary.

Blondesjon's avatar

1. Playing period. Fair or not the fun is in the playing.

2. Arguing period. Right or wrong the fun is in the arguing.

3. If I pick a side I stick with it regardless of personal involvement.

4. 10 I’m so liberal I believe that even the Uberconservative should have a voice.

critter1982's avatar

1. I think it’s always important to play fair even if the competition is not, however if you are playing fair and it’s impossible to win then the system needs to be fixed.
2. Do people argue points that they know are wrong? I think it’s more important to be right, than to win an argument.
3. These rules apply to everyone whether or not I am on their side.
4. 2–3 on the conservative scale

Zuma's avatar

1. Playing fair
2. Being right.
3. No change – I don’t pick sides I’m not personally invested in, unless perhaps it is to play devil’s advocate for the underdog.
4. 10

EmpressPixie's avatar

Playing fair.
Being right.
No.
8.

benjaminlevi's avatar

1) Playing fair
2) Being logical, and learning
3) If playing fair would let something truly disastrous happen to the world, then I won’t.
4) 8–9ish?

DrBill's avatar

1> play fair
2> Being right
3> No Difference
4> 5, I’m conservative on some things, and liberal on some things.

Facade's avatar

1) Winning.
2) Being right.
3) No.
4) Four

Blondesjon's avatar

@Facade . . .you gotta be at least a 6 if you smoke weed. . .

Facade's avatar

@Blondesjon hmm. And according to my sexual preferences, I should be an 8 haha.

So 4) Seven :)

filmfann's avatar

@Blondesjon I know a lot of right wingers who still get high.
No, I don’t call them hypocrites to their face.

Facade's avatar

Why would they be hypocrites?

filmfann's avatar

@Facade Maybe you are right. Rush Limburger gets high on Oxycotin. Glen Beck raped some woman. Bill O’Reilly had to pay a million over sexual demands he tried to make of a coworker. Maybe the conservative movement aren’t really conservatives.

Facade's avatar

I was referring to you calling them hypocrites if they smoke weed.

Blondesjon's avatar

@filmfann . . .Sounds like you are confusing fiscal with physical.

filmfann's avatar

The Stereotype is that Conservatives are squares, and Liberals are hippies. It isn’t true, but it is the concept.
I am a moderate. I believe in fiscal conservatism, and social moderation. Pro: gay marriage, womens rights, Christian. Anti: drug, torture, death penalty.
Anyone who says they are more conservative than I am shouldn’t be using drugs.
I know it isn’t that simple, but that’s my view.

dalepetrie's avatar

A couple comments

#1 – don’t look at the playing fair vs. winning as necessitating cheating. As pointed out, there is so infrequently a level playing field. If we’re talking sports for example, let’s say the ref blows 20 calls, and all 20 of the bad calls either benefit you or harm your opponent. Are you more of the opinion that “I don’t want to win THAT way,” or are you more “Well, it ain’t a pretty win, but I’ll take it”.

#2 – I’m not asking anyone to label themselves as either liberal or conservative, just on a spectrum, even if you’re completely independent, which side do you lean to more often?

Great answers so far, nothing too shocking yet either. Though I’d love to hear from more some conservatives.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

skipping past everyone else’s answers to keep my mind clear I am easily distracted, ya know,

I am competitive with games. I don’t believe in cheating, unless they are video game cheats. In a video game, I like shortcuts, and not having to work as hard, since I am getting older and my reflexes have slowed down.

I don’t follow sports for various reasons, but I do think a level playing field is in everyone’s best interest. It’s like a job; a person should get the job because they have the right qualifications, not because they are related to the guy that runs the company or they have a supposed racial disadvantage.

Many years ago, my Dad taught me that the ‘shops’ i.e. the agricultural implement factories were no place for women to be working, as they were a ‘distraction.’ Nowadays, there are lots of women working in the shops. If they can do the job, great, more power to ‘em. If they can’t then get them a job they can do. You have a job according to ability, not according to some abstract tokenism BS.

As for arguments, I don’t believe anyone ever wins. I have been right in many arguments, but the person I was arguing with wasn’t convinced, so I simply decided that continuing the argument was pointless. So I guess I’d rather be right.

As for your scale, I must be right around 5 or 6. Liberals think I am too conservative and conservatives think I am too liberal. I claim to be an independent. I like to call myself a moderate, and not just politically. I lean to the conservative side as far as gun control and hunting and personal choice goes, and I am more liberal when it comes to societal issues, such as the care of the elderly, the infirm, and those who may be at a disadvantage.

Sarcasm's avatar

I enjoy the challenge of an argument (or game) moreso than I care about the victory. I hate when some team completely steamrolls the other, regardless of which I’m on. It’s just not fun.

Also I’m not surprised that only one person so far has actually labeled himself as being on the conservative side of the spectrum.

tinyfaery's avatar

Liberal 10.

Jack79's avatar

1. Playing fair. I’m pretty sure about this because recently I lost an important fight in my life because I refused to cheat. But I’m not necessarily against the idea, just can’t do it myself.

2. Being right. I will still argue for hours, but deep inside it doesn’t really matter after some point. I just won’t bother anymore.

3. I can’t think of specific examples, but I guess I’d still want them to be fair, unless there was a really important reason not to be, eg a war or something. I believe in honesty, even when it hurts.

4. I think we’re on a different frame of reference here because you’re probably thinking of the US, but in my mind I’m probably an 8 or something. Hard to judge.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

1) What is more important to you, winning or playing fair?

Playing fair. What’s the point of only winning? I don’t get it. Just like I can’t understand how, when people cheat on board games or something, they can be proud of “winning”. What are they proud of? It baffles me.

2) In an argument, what do you see as more important, winning the argument or being right?

Being right. I only argue about things that I either know are pure facts – like things related to science – or something that I strongly believe in.

3) Do your answers change for either question 1 or question 2 if you are talking about you personally being involved vs. this applying to someone you are rooting for?

No, none of my answers change.

4) On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being as conservative as a person can be and 10 being as liberal as a person can be, where do you see yourself?

10.

JLeslie's avatar

1. Playing fair
2. Being Right
3. My answers don’t change.
4. 8

markyy's avatar

1. Playing fair.
2. Being right.
3. No change, I don’t root for my guy/girl/team. I root for those who deserve it most (in my mind), and that means you play by my rules (see 1 and 2).
4. Crank it up to 11 (Because it’s one louder).

Looking forward to your theory.

dalepetrie's avatar

Well, though I haven’t really seen any conservatives or even other than @Facade who initially stated to be a 4 then revised to the other side of the liberal/conservative spectrum, I also so far haven’t really gotten any answers other than “play fair” on the first question from anyone other than @Facade – the only person who professed to being on the conservative side of the line also being the only person who states a preference to win.

The reason I asked this is because I look around, particularly in the context of Presidential politics and what I see is this, and I’m not trying to attack the conservative point of view, even though I am probably a 9 on my own scale. Basically, if you look at ideology, I really have no problem debating that if the debate is fair, and I like to see this play out in contests say in a Presidential debate or just the course of an election, I have no problem with legitimate discourse, back and forth, and so on. And from what I’ve seen fairly consistently in polling is that even during the Bush II years, and even back into the Bush I years for that matter, on a number of the hot button issues, liberals have been ideologically speaking in the majority in this country. Yet, we’ve had conservatives winning more elections. Even now, it feels that our lawmakers trend more conservative than do our citizens. So, I think there’s something beyond ideology, and much of the way in which some of the conservative focal points have come into play both during the last election cycle and since lead me to believe that there is a reason conservatives win more elections than liberals even if ideologically they are outnumbered in the populace.

I believe that the more conservative you are, the less you care about equity, the less you care about being fair to everyone, and the more you care about winning. You may not believe in cheating, but you’re willing to exploit the hell out of an unfair advantage and don’t thing the first thing about it. This is why many conservatives are against spending THIER tax dollars to help anyone who hasn’t gotten as “fair” a break as they have in life…I think the conservative mindset has a difficult time even seeing inequities where they exist, and that leads to the stereotype of the cold hearted conservative. I also think it means when you’re trying to win an election, you think more big picture, you have a “gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette mentality” and it’s OK to kind of exaggerate, and cast aspersions on your opponent, plant some doubt in the minds of the voters as to the dangers involved with this guy, so we get people questioning (for example) how practical it is for someone like Dukakis to say he doesn’t believe in the death penalty when it applies to having his own wife raped, or we get decorated Veterans like John Kerry looking like wimps, while draft dodgers like George W. Bush look like military tough guys…or we get a guy born in Hawaii seen as a closet Muslim out to enslave the white race, having faked his birth certificate (before he was born), and we even have guys like Rush Limbaugh hoping that Obama’s plans fair, even if it means the entire economy tanks, 10s of millions are laid off and slip into poverty and it’s worse than the great depression…these are people who would win at any cost, who would rather win the argument than lose but have things turn out better in the long run for it. I don’t think conservatives are evil, that’s not what I’m saying. What I am theorizing here is that the stronger your inherent sense of empathy, the more liberal I suspect you will become. The more focused and driven you are to accomplish your personal goals, the more conservative you will become. And those who are more focused on goals WILL have a better batting average to use a sports analogy.

Conversely, liberals are often called “bleeding hearts”, because they want to fix the world’s problems, even if those problems don’t affect them personally. It’s not as though only liberals want to make the world a better place, but the definition of a better place to a liberal is “a better place for everyone on average”, and the definition of a better place to a conservative is “the best possible place for ME would NATURALLY be the best overall place for everyone.” This is why liberals are very much about letting you do your own thing…want an abortion, want a divorce, want to marry your gay partner? Go ahead, you have the freedom to make your own choices. Conservatives however see themselves as being for personal freedoms, but basically it’s when they see THEIR freedoms threatened, such as their freedom to spend THEIR money that THEY earned on the things THEY want to spend it on, rather than trying to give it to someone else who promises to do good things for OTHERS with it. But they see that if you do things THEIR way, the overall outcome will be better, and therefore, if they thing x, y and z are wrong, then NO ONE should do x, y and z, because it would make the world a less pleasant place for THEM and therefore by extension for EVERYONE.

Obviously this proves nothing, but I was curious if I’d get a bunch of conservatives saying they were all about fair play and some liberals copping to winning being the only thing. Other than @cat13 who claims to be quite literal but who believes winning the argument is more important than being right, I have very little to suggest my theory is out to lunch. Now I’m trying to be fair, and I can see how Conservatives might say I’m jumping all over them and taking this as an insult, but it’s honestly not my intention. So, if you disagree, please tell me where my thinking is wrong.

Facade's avatar

Can’t I be a “bleeding heart” and a winner? :)

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Facade Not really. ‘Cause if you care about winning more than playing fair, it kinda puts you on the other side of the spectrum… ;) lol

dalepetrie's avatar

@Facade – I think you’re being close to middle of the road explains your belief in personal freedoms and your inherent sense of empathy, though one which might be weaker than someone more liberal than yourself.

Facade's avatar

@DrasticDreamer My “winning” answer was totally off the cuff, and I didn’t really think much about every possible situation. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t kick a guy in the balls to win a foot race, but I wouldn’t forfeit the race if he tripped either.
@dalepetrie I am completely scatterbrained right now and don’t entirely understand what you’re saying. Mind explaining? Please forgive

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie I think the conservatives know HOW to win, and to liberals it might seem like dirty pool. I also think we have to sumise that most of America is not analytical in their thought process, and does not care about hearing both sides of an issue, or an honest answer. What would be interesting is if there is a difference in how republicans answer if they are republicans for fiscal reasons or for social reasons or what? My father has read some books lately about how the republican far right wing, the religious right, almost has a secret language politicians use that flies by people like me, because I don’t catch the references. Moreover, from what I understand the Christian right has come together and decided that not paying your own way is against God or immoral or something, so anything socialized isn’t good. So, here is where I take a leap with my own deductions…if all of this is true it means it is Gods work to not have any socialized programs and religious Christians seem to not care if something makes no logical sense if they feel like their is a biblical reference or support for it. What do you think?

Also, just as a side note Obama in his presidency has done many things that Hillary spoke of during the run, I wanted Hillary. She said everyone should participate in a health plan, he said it should be optional, but that everyone would want to if the prices were reasonable. Also, on international relations I feel he has in the end acted as Hillary would have. He said the right things to win I think.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am pro-choice, don’t care if gays marry, have no problem with universal health care. I have a social conscience, think the government should take care of people who can’t take care of themselves. I am definitely in favor of social security since I paid in all my life and am ready to start collecting. And I didn’t like Bush.

But I don’t think the USA is the perennial bad guy as so many in here make it seem. I believe 9/11 called for retaliation not sitting down and chatting about our differences.

Why must I be labeled a conservative or a liberal, why can’t I just be a person who makes individual decisions based upon the situation at hand.

Too damned many labels which some buy into and become even if it is not really who they are.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Facade – I guess to put it in the most blunt terms possible, I think there is a direct relationship with one’s ability to empathize with others and how liberal they are.

Consider all the forms of public financial assistance that have been made available by our government to people. Someone who is a 1 on the chart (as conservative as they get) would say the government has NO business taking away MY money and giving it to LAZY people. A conservative sees the world as such, “I worked hard to get where I am, I don’t want to have to support people who didn’t do the same.” A 10 on the chart would say “It is through no fault of their own that people need to rely on government assistance to get by, this is to help people who truly need the help, who would starve to death without it.” The hardcore conservative places too much emphasis on the fact that he or she worked hard, and does not even attempt to walk a mile in the shoes of the person who has had to humiliate himself and swallow his pride to take assistance he may not even want, but has no choice if he wants to survive. To a staunch conservative, the lazy person who doesn’t want to work for a living is lumped in with the unfortunate person who has done everything possible, but still needs help. To this mindset, it’s a matter of “if I can support myself, then ANYONE can.”

Now there are people who take advantage of the system, there are lazy people who abuse it, but because the conservative mindset lacks empathy for those who really DO need it, this mindset essentially ignores that this is even a realistic possibility at worst, or at best treats it as a “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs” situation. A truly hardcore liberal on the other hand doesn’t want to see ANYONE suffer, and at worst, completely glosses over the fact that there ARE welfare cheats and at best says “better safe than sorry” and believes that doing the right thing is far more important when peoples’ well being is at stake.

In fact, any time the government wants to spend money on ANYTHING, the Conservatives come down on the side of “not with MY tax dollars” and liberals come down on the side of “it’s the humane thing to do”. Take the current health care debate for example. Some I think erroneously label it is greed, but I dont’ think the conservatives are necessarily “greedy”, I just think they lack empathy. They believe it’s every man for himself. They believe therefore you should seek to win at all costs.

That help?

dalepetrie's avatar

@rooeytoo – I agree with you about labels. What I’m asking for is, when you look at the ideology, the core things that liberals believe in vs the core things conservatives believe in, or the platforms of the Republican party (the more conservative of the two) and the Democratic part (the more liberal of the two), if you were to break it down point by point, who do you side with more often? Just saying, OK, that makes me a 7 on this scale, doesn’t take away from your humanity or your sense of being able to think independently or decide based not on party, but on what you think is right. Indeed, I think most of us here would say the same thing, we DO look at each issue on a case by case basis. Like I said, I’m probably about a 9, but I agree with everything you said. I’m not saying you have to be defined by a number, and if you don’t feel comfortable answering, well, I’m not gonna twist your arm, I’m just curious how people lean, as I am trying to establish a link between empathy and ideology.

dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – I think your points are all valid as they relate to a small section of conservatives who are also fundamentalist Christians. I’m definitely aware of some code word language in politics, and I do think that there is a fine line of “morality” which may come into play when people pass judgement on those who do not support themselves. But I believe that it’s more self interest when one does not also accept that not everyone who relies on “handouts” is taking advantage. It would seem that those who are ultra religious do believe in being charitable, usually to the church and people in their community…basically people who believe and act exactly as they do…people with whom it is easy for them to empathize. I have an uncle for example, married a southern baptist, they are EXTREMELY devout Christians who give all their free time and money to the church…if a family member or friend or neighbor were in need, they would literally give the shirts off their backs. But they’re not out there volunteering to give out free meals at the homeless shelter. They’re voting for the Republican candidates even if the Republican message is “I got mine, screw you,” because they are ideologically in line with guys like Bush. They may be good people on many levels, but I think perhaps they don’t have the ability to see beyond the issues that matter the most to them. Like most conservatives, I don’t think of them as evil, but I don’t see within them the ability to empathize in the abstract, and I guess that’s perhaps more what I mean. I think Conservatives can empathize, just not with hypothetical people…they know what they know and beyond that, they are limited. Liberals tend to personalize everyone else’s tragedy.

And yes, you are right, people don’t pay attention. Realize that in every election so far more people who could have voted chose to vote for no one than chose to vote for the other two candidates combined, and that should tell you something. Most people don’t care. And of the ones that do, you’ve got about a third on the left, a third on the right and a third who actually will consider the issues and decide on the best candidate. So what do you have, 33% of 40%...something like 13% of all the people out there who ultimately decide every election. And not all of THEM are even making decisions for the right reasons…some make their decisions based wholly on emotions, on fear, on prejudices. I’d dare say that every election in modern history hinges on about 5% of the population which really considers the data, pays attention to what’s going on and makes an informed choice.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie Oh yeah, I did not mean to imply at all that these Christians are evil or don’t want to help others. I agree that they want the CHOICE of who they help, and not to let the government decide it for them. I think what you said about them wanting to help the people they can identify with is very important…this is where race and religion come in. I saw a show on happiness and I think it was Denmark that was very happy? It was one of those colder northern countries in Europe with a msallish population :) and one of the reasons they deduced it was happy was because it was very homogenious, something like 90% white and the same religion, and it is very socialized there, but they concluded that people don’t mind helping people that they perceive are very similar to themselves. And, just to give the Danes a little more credit than just helping people because they are white and Christian…during the holocaust they risked their own lives to help the Jews escape as the Nazi’s came in. Police officers refused to cooperate, fisherman gathered to take Jewish Danish citizens across to Sweden (I think something like 7000 Jews, almost the whole popluation of them), and when necessary they hid Jews from the grasp of the Nazi’s. Sweden gets credit also for letting them in.

critter1982's avatar

@dalepetrie: I answered your question above and I am a conservative (probably somewhere around 2–3). I have just a few things to mention. From my own point of view I don’t think you can “absolutely” establish a link between empathy and ideology. I think what you identify as a lack of empathy on the part of conservatives is truly just a lack of faith/trust in the government. A lack of faith in the government to perform tasks well, efficiently, and without personal interests at mind. The conservatives that I know happen to be very empathetic. My conservative brother-in-law moved his whole family down to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina to help with disaster relief, after the government did an extrememly poor job I might add. He replaced a $150,000/year job with having to raise money for his family from those willing to give to him. My other brother-in-law reverse tithes. He gives 90% of his money to charity, churches, and other things he feels led to give to. He still makes an okay salaray, but is very convicted in how he reaches out to his community. Every Sunday I take 4 hours and help those in need of minor home repairs, and I give a significant amount of my money to charities, church, child sponsorships, cancer research, etc. This is just 3 examples and I could go on, about how the conservatives that I know are empathetic. I think if the government was able to prove that it could run programs well without the help of special interest groups, without running it into debt, and running it efficiently, I think you would see conservatives more willing to give their money. However, many conservatives see lots of waste, mismanagement, and greed in the government, things they don’t feel convicted to give to. Conservatives are empathetic however they want to spend their money “wisely”.

Regarding your comment about breaking a few eggs to make an omelette mentality: This is a game played by both sides. Both sides continue to misrepresent the opposing side at any cost. Yet another reason for me to have less trust in our government and what they tell us.

I think you’re right however that conservatives tend to be more leary when giving money to the government than liberals when it’s going to some sort of “social program”. I can understand how you see this as a lack of empathy even though I whole heartedly disagree. You are also right in that conservatives tend to see those people who leech onto the system and liberals say even though you have these people who leech onto the system we need to help those that are truly in need. IMO, we need a system that works for both. We need a system with more restrictions. Just for example, 15 years ago I was in my local grocery store with my mom who was working 2 jobs, and there was a family in front of me buying a bunch of lobster. She pulled out her food stamp credit card which I wouldn’t have known it was a food stamp card but the check out clerk said that she wasn’t able to buy paper towels because it wasn’t a necessity and out came a 5 minute argument. As if this wasn’t bad enough the lady got into her Cadillac out in the parking lot. I know this probably happens less often than more, but it’s something that should never happen because as you said earlier, it really is not fair.

dalepetrie's avatar

@critter1982 – I think you’re onto something and I guess that’s why I thought perhaps it had more to do with empathy in the abstract, and personalization of the suffering of others. Conservatives are more able to see an evidence of abuse and apply it to the whole population in order to not feel guilty about turning a blind eye. They are charitable and giving, but as it relates to their family, their community, people like them. As a liberal, I agree with good rules and such, but the limiters you put on helping others can’t serve to make it impossible for people who do need help to get that help, and I think the conservative ideal is to make the filter restrictive enough that abuse just doesn’t happen, and unfortunately, there is no filter that can be designed to achieve that. I think your difference is that liberals would say let’s do the right thing and deal with the problems on a case by case basis as they arise, and conservatives say, let’s hold off on doing the right thing until we can do it in a way that makes sure no one gets more than they deserve.

I think if conservatives were able to empathize a bit more in the abstract with people who come from completely different cultures and backgrounds and circumstances, they might not insist on such a strict filter. It’s not as if a Conservative would offer to paint their buddy Dave’s house because Dave has no money, and then insist that Dave give them the money back for the paint because they saw Dave had a six pack of beer in his fridge, and if Dave can afford a six pack, he can afford some damn paint, right? No, a Conservative would say, Dave’s a good guy, sure, he has a beer every now and then, and just because he’s unemployed doesn’t mean he should have to give up beer. But yet, the same person could see a guy go pay for his groceries with an EBT card, and then go into the liquor store to get a six pack of beer, that SAME conservative might be absolutely incensed and outraged that this person is sucking off the government teat and spending his money on something like BEER? So, I accept some of what you say, but I do think there is a correlation between empathy and ideology, I think Conservatives have a hard time putting themselves in the shoes of anyone who isn’t like them, because if they WERE able to do so, they’d see 50 million people living in poverty and say, geez, maybe we’re not doing enough with our tax dollars…they’d see 50 million people without insurance and say that maybe taking the profit motive out of health care isn’t a bad idea. I hear the mantra of distrusting the government an awful lot, but I think that distrust is rooted in a me vs. them mentality, THEY are taking MY money and giving it to THEM. If I want THEM to have it, I will give it to THEM. I simply have a hard time believing that really any of the people who think this way, if their taxes were reduced to zero, would actually give money to THEM.

critter1982's avatar

@dalepetrie: I’m not sure exactly what you mean by empathy in the abstract? However I still tend to disagree with you in that conservatives are only charitable when giving to THEIR family, THEIR community, and people like THEM. The 3 examples I gave you above regarding my direct family simply just don’t comprise of charitable giving for THEIR own sake. In fact my brother-in-law who went to Louisianna was quite the opposite. He went from PA to LA where first he had no family, second it was over a thousand miles away, and third to help people quite the opposite of himself. My church which comprises of a few thousand people and are 95% conservative raise tons of money monthly to help people with drug/alcohol abuse, family counseling, couple counseling, community outreaches of which include once a month going out and helping people with yardwork, housework, car work, etc. You have people helping other people that they have never met simply out of compassion for other people, whether or not they have a sixpack of beer in their fridge. We raise money and food for a food pantry of which anybody in the community can come to. We raise money and donate our time to help out pregnant mothers who can’t afford prenatal care, get prenatal care. We donate money and supplies to African tribes to help them make and take care of water purifiers. We donate money which goes towards homeless shelters. We donate money which goes to the company known as Compassion which sponsors children in all types of countries and gives them money for necessary supplies. We donate money and time to help foreigners coming into this country to learn the English language. We donate money and time towards helping the hearing impaired learn sign language. I could go on but you get the point.
Again, I utterly disagree with your direct corellation between empathy and ideology, because what I’ve seen with respect to the conservatives that I know, is quite the opposite. Perhaps you can generate a corellation between the two but I think it’s based on false assumptions.
In fact using your same logic couldn’t we say that based on these articles, link, Link2, Link3, Link4, Link5, Link6, liberals aren’t as empathetic as conservatives? Couldn’t we say that liberals aren’t empathetic at all and what they really want are socialized programs so they don’t have to work hard at all? If everything can be given to us by the government then I don’t need to find a job at all. We could say this because if democrats were truly more empathetic than republicans wouldn’t they want to give more time and money to charities? To me this is the same logic that you are using. The logic is flawed. You can’t assume people are non-empathetic simply because they don’t want to give money to something. There are underlying reasons of which I don’t think you’re going to be able to analyze.

JLeslie's avatar

I gotta say that I am annoyed if someone is receiving welfare or charity and then is spending their money unwisely. I judge it. I think to myself that is why they are having a tough time. This woman I work with has a 20 year old son who had a baby a year ago with his girlfriend. I needed some yard work done so I asked if he would be interested because I know he needs work. He was more than happy to do it, and did a good job. A few months later I found out he had broken up with this girl and moved back home, and ALSO that she was pregnant again. The next time I needed work I not only paid him, but my husband gave him about $1000 worth of car and truck parts at retail, maybe you could sell them for half in reality, because we were not going to use them and this young man was connected with mechanics. He thanked us and felt sure he could get some money or do some trades. Then he said, “I’m saving up to get something or other (I can’t remember truck parts stuff) for my truck, it’s about $2,000.” That is when he lost me. This is not to make the truck run, but to pimp it out. He can barely afford the baby he has, another one on the way, and he is spending money on decorating his truck. Sorry, that drives me crazy. And, by the way, his girlfriend is on welfare for now.

dalepetrie's avatar

@critter1982 – just to show I’m sincere, I gave you lurve for that. I want to clear up a misconception, just because I’m trying to draw a corellation, doesn’t mean I’m trying to paint ALL conservatives with the same brush, indeed, people are individuals first and foremost, but I’m looking for “tendencies”. And this is why in my original question I did not ask if you are liberal or conservative, I asked for a ranking on a scale of 1 to 10. To be quite honest, I am very glad to hear that conservative members of your family are so empathetic to those unlike them. However, I’m not talking about these particular individuals, nor was I trying (and I’m sure it is the fault of my wording that led to this conclusion) to imply that I thought ALL conservatives only looked out for their own. Indeed, that’s not what I meant, and I can understand you taking umbrage there.

First off, I have to say that I’m talking about in MY experience, what I have seen. I see conservaties, particularly religious conservatives who, the more conservative they are, the more their charity seems to extend to people with whom they have some sort of commonality. Often if people who are religious in nature go do something for the poor, it’s more often than not (and this is my experience) because their church set it up, it’s more of a social/community thing that makes them feel good and the church is behind it, so it must be OK. They trust the church, and it’s not so much that they’re volunteering to help the poor, it’s more that they’re volunteering to help their church, even if the charity work being done is building homes for people 1,000 miles away. Often the church where the homes are being built is taking care of THEIR own and using the connection with other communities. But again, this is not fair to say all conservatives do this.

What I AM saying is this. The further to the right (or the closer to “1” on my scale) a person is, the more likely they are to be judgmental instead of empathetic to a person unlike them. It is usually in my experience the person who most loudly decries say Obama’s “Socialist” policies, who wants to as noted conservative Grover Norquist said, “make government so small I could drown it in the bathtub”, the ones who join “taxpayer leagues” and make Republican governors sign “no new taxes” pledges who in my experience tend to be the most stingy with their time and money. The ones who are most rabid in the philosophy that all assistance to other people should be based on voluntary charitable giving are the LAST ones to open their wallets.

I’m not saying that there aren’t people who think government should be much smaller who don’t care an AWFUL lot about people whose plight is to them an abstraction, I’m just saying as a general correlation, I do believe that the more conservative the person (on average), the more personal the misfortune needs to be in order for them to see it as a problem. And anecdotal evidence to show generous conservatives and stingly liberals is proof of nothing (nor is my little experiment).

Zuma's avatar

@dalepetrie Michael Lerner in The Left Hand of God addresses exactly the point you are trying to get at in your question, and is a “must read” if you are serious about this. I think Lerner and Hedges are part of a movement on the Religious Left, to articulate an alternative that stands in contrast to the Right Hand of God, ”[a] vision of God as a powerful avenger, the Force that will overthrow evil through superior power, the Force that seeks to exterminate enemies and suppress dissent. The vision of the Right Hand of God imagines that evil can be wiped out by one more war or by imposing rigid commandments about how to live and enforcing them through violence and punishment. It imagines that people can be coerced into goodness.”

Lerner says that the Right does have empathy for their immediate circle, by which they mean people like them, whom they regard as the deserving poor as opposed to those others, those undeserving poor. But where and how one draws this line this fits into a larger world-view about whether the world can be healed or saved, and who in it should be helped. Its a bit complicated, so bear with me.

The ascendant form of evangelism on the religious Right is Dispensationalism. Dispensationalists believe that we are “living in the last stage of history prior to the Second Coming of Christ, a thousand year period in which Satan and all his demons will be imprisoned, and then a final battle will take place in which Satan and all his evil followers will be destroyed by fire and a new heaven and a new earth will be established for all eternity.”

To paraphrase Lerner, Dispensationalists see the world as on a downward spiral toward total corruption and that humans can do nothing but wait for the coming of Christ. Social action is seen as a waste of time because there will always be wars and injustice till Jesus returns to rectify it all. Feeding the hungry is legitimate not for the goodness that is involved but for the opportunity it may present to open the people being fed to accepting the gospel. Convinced that nothing much can change, they often take the evil around them as confirmation that the biblical predictions are already on their way to coming true.

Dispensationalists are unapologetic champions of the Right Hand of God. And while they would not reject a call for a world based on love, kindness, generosity, and nonviolence, as espoused in the Sermon on the Mount, they would argue that it has no application today but was meant instead for the thousand year period after Jesus returns.

When you live by the Right Hand of God, you believe that you must dominate others if you don’t want to be dominated yourself, and you also accept looking out for above and beyond all as nothing to be ashamed of, but as common sense. They will empty their pockets to fund a food pantry and bask in the warmth or their own quite genuine spirit of generosity and human kindness, but then they will turn around and vote for a party that depresses the minimum wage, slashes social services to the poor in order to fund tax cuts for the rich, and which fights tooth and nail to prevent the enactment of universal health care.

Why this disconnect? Because they don’t approach the systemic problems of society in systemic terms. The Christian skill set in analyzing social problems does not include systemic social and economic analysis. They don’t see the selfishness and me-firstism, which is at the heart of a spiritual crisis that pervades the entire capitalist system Rather, they blame the crisis on the intrinsic sinfulness of individuals. When Wall Street brings the world economy to the brink of collapse, they blame it on a few greedy individuals, while overlooking that Wall Street is a virtual temple of greed that exists to advance, celebrate and consummate greed and excess in all it’s forms.

They also see societal distortions as the product of some group in society that only cares for itself and promotes selfishness and materialism because it cannot embrace the “true” values of “our” religion. And who are they? Whichever group happens to be the major scapegoat of society at the time, the major “demeaned other.” The major demeaned others have generally been Native Americans and African-Americans, with Catholics, Jews, the Irish, Italians, Poles, Mexicans, Japanese, and Chinese taking their historical turn, and gays, lesbians, and Muslims today.

Each of these groups has had to struggle against prejudice in order to be included in American society. And when each gets a foothold, the Right often denounces these groups as “special interests” pursuing their own narrow selfish agenda and thereby disrupting the narrow sense of community and “family values” on which family life is believed to depend. Thus, gays are perceived as a threat to marriage and the family in general, and are blamed for rising divorce rates and a “decline in private morality” for the decline of society in general. Racism has morphed into a general hostility to the ACLU and for civil rights generally; and a “get tough” law and order politics, and the largest prison system in the history of the world fed by a war on drugs that is really a war on people of color.

The Left takes the rather uncomfortable position that we can never do enough to atone for the enslavement of blacks, the genocide and subjugation of Native Americans, or the benefits we currently enjoy from America’s global economic domination, and ecological irresponsibility. The implicit message of the Right, on the other hand, is that “you are enough simply because you are a Christian. Because you are one of us, there is nothing you have to accomplish to be judged valuable. The very fact that you’ve become part of our group (by accepting Jesus as your personal savior, or by recognizing the right of Americans to run the world, or by recognizing that we have the right path to God is enough—you are one with us, you are saved, you are part of the elite,your life has meaning because you are one of us.”

In a sense, the Religious Right practices retail compassion but wholesale selfishness. Charity begins at home, you hear them say, or near home. It can never take the form of a more equitable and just society because then people would be able to obtain benefits without working for them (like public schools, roads and libraries).

But it really isn’t about that, its the fear that those undeserving (and demeaned) others might getting something that might be better than we have—that one person 15 years ago who had lobster one night when we could only afford hamburger. If you know anything about poor people they will splurge on things that may strike us as extravagances that people in “their” circumstances shouldn’t be able to afford. The reason they do this is precisely to affirm that they are deserving of nice things too, and not some lesser form of humanity who should not even aspire to such tastes. This is nobody’s business but their own.

How many times has that anecdote been repeated? And, each time implicitly arguing the utter futility and wastefulness in giving food subsidies that allow the poor to make their own dietary choices in dignified privacy. This is the welfare queen myth being born anew (based on nothing more than a prejudicial perception about what is “too good” for poor people). And each time it is repeated, it justifies taking even more food out of the mouths of poor children. Ah, what sweet compassion it is to force people to come into your soup kitchen, food pantry or shelter and endure your demeaning soul-soliciting pitches in order to get some scrap from your table.

After all, people aren’t poor because there is any structural misallocation of opportunity or resources in the society, are they? Everyone in America gets the same great public education no matter where they live, right? There isn’t any racial discrimination anymore, right? There aren’t any lingering pockets of deep poverty, hopelessness and despair any more, are there? So, obviously, the only reason anyone is poor is because they they just don’t want to work. Instead, they want everything just handed to them.

Obviously, such people aren’t worthy of our compassion because they are sinful. They are lazy, slothful and self-indulgent. And they are just using the government to advance their own narrow selfish agenda to get something for nothing. Never mind that we have been getting something for nothing from them in the form of slavery, legal discrimination, redlining, economic disinvestment in their communities, and the slave wages we currently pay prisoners.

The Right holds itself out as individually and collectively compassionate because it doles out a meager private charity with one hand, while on the other it votes for politicians who seek to deepen the poverty that makes charity and welfare necessary. Just look at how the Right has piled on with yet another phony corporate-sponsored PR campaign full of lies in an attempt to de-fund ACORN, because they register poor folks to vote and use that voter base to press for things like a living wage. They raise money to help out pregnant mothers, but they vote for politicians who cut back funding for Family Planning. They send money to Africa for water treatment plants, but support governmental policies that destroy subsistence farming throughout the developing world.

It is, ultimately, feel-good compassion that palliates individual hurts, but which does nothing alter the inequitable power relations that keep the injured person in a subordinate and demeaned position.

critter1982's avatar

@Zuma: The reason they do this is precisely to affirm that they are deserving of nice things too, and not some lesser form of humanity who should not even aspire to such tastes. This is nobody’s business but their own.

I disagree if only for the fact that our human rights go as far as, but stop short of impeding those rights of our fellow citizens. The rights of your fist stop short of my nose. When the government obstructs on a woman’s right to work 2 jobs to simply support her children by taking her money in the form of taxes, they better be spending it on necessities. It’s not the government’s right to take $50 from a woman working 12 hours a day to put spaghetti on the table for her children, so that somebody else can affirm themselves into believing they deserve nice things. Just like it’s not right for CEO’s to take million dollar bonuses when that money comes from your taxes. What people do with their own money is no business of others until that money comes from others hard work.

The Right holds itself out as individually and collectively compassionate because it doles out a meager private charity with one hand, while on the other it votes for politicians who seek to deepen the poverty that makes charity and welfare necessary.

The left holds itself out as individually and collectively compassionate as “bleeding hearts” because they tend to vote for politicians who seek to reduce poverty by taking money from the rich, while on the other hand giving little of their own money to charity. It’s easy to spend other peoples money and say your compassionate without impacting your own financial security. It’s easy to say the rich don’t need all of the money they worked for because they have already affirmed to themselves that they are in fact deserving of nice things. Never mind the fact that it was stated earlier that it is nobody’s business what we do with our money but our own.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Zuma – first off I want to thank you for the lengthy (even by my standards, and that is saying something), thoughtful and informative piece above, and for turning me on to the book, which I will read. A great deal of what you pointed out makes a lot of sense to me and gives me an interesting perspective on one subset of the group about which I am speaking.

Now both you and @critter1982, allow me to jump into the great lobster controversy. First of all, I agree that if funds are taken from a person who needs them and are given to a person who can afford to waste them, that is not serving anyone’s interest, but I think using the idea that someone bought lobster with food stamps is indicative of a flaw in the system is extremely fallacious, and in fact is a perfect example of what I mean by Conservatives being unable to empathize with situations not their own. I’m not saying we’re there, but what I am saying is that theoretically, a welfare system should be based on need. What does a person need to survive and support his/her family? And are there legitimate reasons why this person can not meet these basic needs on his own? I believe one role of government and taxation should be to make sure that a person who has a legitimate need which due to circumstances beyond his personal control he can not meet, this is where the government should provide help. To me, it is a mistake to say that because an occassional person abuses this system that we should take it away from everyone, and that is what the conservative argument leads to…because we decry the few cheats, we should do away with the system altogether and replace it with private charity, which because @critter1982 pointed out with yet another fallacious argument, conservatives who are more caring would be more willing to give their money to these causes, we would do away with these problems without taking money away from those who earned it. On the surface it seems a fair enough set of assuptions, but it truly belies the lack of empathy on the part of the conservative mindset.

Essentially, the first problem I have with the argument is that it does not consider circumstance, and it discounts what @Zuma said about at times people trying to maintain their sense of humanity in the midst of an unpleasant situation (to reword it in what I think is a more accurate way). Consider what YOU would feel like if YOU had to get by on a mere subsistence wage, and you had to stoop to taking a handout to even get that. How quickly would you want to chew on the barrel of a shotgun? Some times it’s the little splurges (for which sacrifices may have already been made or which may be necessitated in the future by today’s splurge) that make life seem worth living. Nor does this argument accept that perhaps there is more to the story. Perhaps it is someone’s 20th wedding anniversary, and he had hoped to take his wife on a cruise back when he was young and idealistic, you know, before the accident that forced him onto disability and welfare? And now, by carefully bugdeting the money he gets from the government, he was able to splurge on $25 worth of grocery store lobster. Now liberals don’t tend to judge, they understand that hey, if we give you this money to live on, and you choose to spend it unwisely, well, you will reap what you sow…you will be the one unable to eat that last week of the month because you spent all your money the day you got it. Contrary to what some conservatives seem to believe, there is no “I spent all my money, can I have some more” government program. So if you spend that money on things you don’t need to survive, well most liberals aren’t going to be too sympathetic when you’ve run out of money on the 25th. But where liberals would seek to make sure the system was fair, the monies were going to the people who needed them, but once it’s distributed, we’d expect people to be adults and make their own decisions, conservatives, who claim they are about getting the government off our backs and letting us make our own decisions in regards to money, would have the government make the budgetary decisions for those getting monetary assistance from the government. It’s a symptom of a mindset which can not put itself in the place of a person who lives the life afforded them by government assistance. There is this seeming false idea that welfare recipients live in some sort of shangri la, spending their money on anything they want, never doing any work, and having all these luxuries. I’ve even heard it argued (by people who could NEVER get by on 14 grand a year or even 3 times that) that today’s “poverty stricken” have it pretty well because most of them have TVs and microwaves (basically things that set them back maybe between $20 and $200 at some point in their lives, a one time expense). They see need when it is personal, but they don’t see the plight of the 13% of Americans or more who live under the poverty level…they choose to write many of them off as lazy, irresponsible people, because they could get by if they’d just work, but they don’t consider why it might not be so easy for everyone to do what they did.

Now the second reason this argument is fallacious is because of the example of taking $50 away from the working mother with 2 jobs. Chances are, this working mother probably isn’t even payin any or much federal and state income taxes because her 2 minimum wage jobs which give her 60 hours a week, but which don’t provide her with any benefits and which force her to pay for costly day care, do not raise her family above the poverty level, and she too is a member of the growing working poor. But, she still pays all the other taxes like sales tax on the things she buys for around the house, or taxes on every gallon of gas she uses, property taxes on her modest home, all these taxes which aren’t related to her income level, which are a) ultimately regressive taxes as they represent a far larger percentage of her income than they do for people making more money than she does, and b) which DON’T go to programs to help the needy.

Reason 3 why this argument is fallacious is found in the 6 links provided previously, which if you look at them, you’ll find they all cite the same source, the same book (well one doesn’t mention this book but 5 do), and discusses the findings that conservatives give more of their money to charity than do liberals. But again, this is ONE study, ONE article, ONE guy trying to sell a book. Second problem is that nowhere in ANY of these articles does it discuss methodology, so the reader has no way of knowing what may or may not have gone into these conclusions and thus has no way of determining their validity. And thrid and most important, the article pretty much in and of itself proves my point about empathy with one’s own. It points to a very specific reason WHY conservatives give more than liberal….religion! Conservatives are by and large more religious, true. Religious people give money to their churches, also true. But first off, how much of this money given to churches ultimately goes to feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless? Some, but by NO means anything approaching a majority. Seocnd of all, why do people give money to the church? Well, because they BELIEVE in the church. The church is part of THEIR community. The church is something THEY can direcly relate to. The church EXPECTS its followers to tithe a certain portion of their incomes (something taken as gospel by the devout). I dare say that even if churches around the country said tomorrow, we are no longer going to give to humanitrian aid, donations would not dip measurably, because people don’t give money to the church because they expect the church will feed the hungry, they give money to the church to belong to the community, to have that sense of goodness that comes from giving to a cause in which one believes, and to the religious, what cause is greater than God? In fact, if you will skim this document, you will see that 90.4% of all households bring in less than $100k a year. You will also note that of the 89.92 billion given by households in the 100k or less a year income bracket, a full 59.96 billion went to religious causes, while only 9.34 billion went to meet basic needs. That means that 66.68%, a full ⅔ of ALL charitable giving done by regular folks goes to religion, while only 10.39% of that money goes to meeting basic human needs. If you look at all money given to charity, the percentages go down, to about 40% of all charity going to religious causes and only 7.5% going to meet peoples’ basic needs. Bottom line, with numbers like THIS, ⅔ of the money given by 90% of the population going to churches, in other words people with whom they can empathize, the vast majority of these people being conservatives, they very sources cited by conservatives to prove how “generous” they are in essence tend to demonstrate to me even more convincingly that conservatives have a harder time empathizing with the unfortunate and are far more willing to give their money way to their communities while writing off the plight of 13% of Americans because they one time saw someone buy lobster with an EBT card.

Zuma's avatar

What I find interesting about this exchange is how quickly we get down to the nub of the matter: anyone who accepts a government subsidy is ipso facto a lesser form of human being who is not deserving of the same level of decency as the rest of us; they should be consigned to a kind of second-class citizenship which entails a degrading form of poverty so deep that they cannot escape it, even for a moment.

Forget all that Christian stuff about giving food to the “poorest amongst us” as if you were giving it to Christ himself (Matt 25:37,45). Forget about loving your neighbor as you love yourself. We’re talking lobster here, which evidently, is symbolic of the many status goods that “we,” the privileged classes, reserve to ourselves alone. In other words, lobster, has become a symbol of what “we” (who are good, deserving and virtuous) are entitled to enjoy, but which “they” (who are undeserving and not virtuous) ought to be categorically denied.

It doesn’t matter to @critter1982 what else the woman may be sacrificing in order to be able to afford her indulgence, or what occasion she might have to celebrate. She is, in his eyes, a second-class citizen who ought to know her wretched and demeaned place in society. In purchasing lobster, she is, in effect, violating @critter1982‘s sense of class boundaries, which he regards as not only a material assault on his wealth, but an insult to his person, a virtual punch in the face.

Of course, if everyone could afford lobster, it would no longer be a status symbol; it would no longer differentiate between the “decent” privileged class “we” belong to from the second-class citizens we demean, subordinate and marginalize as “others” in our society. Somehow, it often “just so happens” that these distinctions coincide with race; but, even if it didn’t, what is at issue here, beneath the meritocratic rhetoric, is a desire to divide humanity in two—into people like “us” who are virtuous and deserving of a decent life, dignity, and compassion, and demeaned and despised “others” whom we wish would just curl up and die.

In this respect, @critter1982 has proved @dalepetrie (and my) point; namely, that compassion on the Right only extends to certain classes of deserving people, and even then, only to the limits of a charitable hand-out. What is implicit in @critter1982‘s scheme of things is that the people who are currently consigned to second-class citizenship deserve to be there. It is further assumed that no one is in the least disadvantaged by history or race; that everyone plays on a level playing field and always has; so that those who drop out, fall behind, or become demoralized and dependent do so because they are morally deficient in some way.

Let’s face it. Private charity is a drop in the bucket of what is necessary to repair the social inequities that persist because of our history of slavery, conquest and genocide. We seem to conveniently overlook the fact that we practiced slavery for 300 years; that we had a system of official, legal discrimination up until the 1960s, and instead of the promised urban investment and renewal in the inner cities, we expanded our prisons 10-fold and used the drug war to fill them up with people of color. We seem to conveniently overlook the fact that we stole a good ⅓rd of our country from Mexico, and yet we manage to work ourselves up into a vituperative rage over the prospect of someone settling here “illegally.” It is a self-serving myopia.

The Liberal vision is one of inclusion. It seeks to lift people up into the middle class without asking if they are truly deserving. If people are not able to afford lobster, it is not because they are a lesser form of undeserving human being, it is because we have failed large groups of people in our society. These are people who have been left behind by our educational system; or disenfranchised by our political system; these are people who have been bankrupted by unscrupulous, unregulated lenders; they are impoverished because they are ill-served, under-served, and unserved by our health care and mental health care systems.

The reason we do not view taxes as an imposition, much less as theft, is because we see the poor and the disadvantaged as deserving people just like ourselves. We see things like universal health care not as a burden or a personal inconvenience, but as one of the necessities of a just and equitable society. If a piece of lobster falls off the truck, we don’t sweat it, because there are lots of unearned benefits we enjoy—like the deductibility of mortgage interest on our income taxes, or the accelerated depreciation allowances on our income property, or the tens of thousands of tax breaks we in the middle class enjoy that the poor do not.

About 15 years ago a death in the family threw me into contact with some Republican relations from Texas. The wife worked for the county welfare office and was incensed (in her tirade of what is wrong with this country) that a woman on her caseload had received a gift of a color TV. What bothered her was that she could find no rule which would allow her to penalize this person for getting something she deemed was “too good” for a person in her class to enjoy. Apparently, this gift did not put her over the $4,000 in personal property that welfare recipients are allowed to have. Had it done so, I have no doubt that my proud Christian church-going relation wold have found a way to deduct this amount from the poor person’s future checks, in effect, grinding their face into even more demeaning poverty.

My Texas relation was quite shocked when I pointed out that they got between $60,000 to $160,000 per year in farm subsidies, basically for not growing whatever it was that they usually grow. Moreover, she made a very good living in her position as social worker, figuring out ways to screw poor people out of their meager benefits simply because they aspire to enjoy the same things as the rest of us. No doubt my relation gives generously (and conspicuously) when they pass the plate at church, but I would not call her a compassionate person, even if she gives till it “hurts.”

At the heart of the difference between Left and Right is whether you want to live in a society where everyone is included and enjoys the benefits of being a citizen, or whether you want to live in a society in which only a (dwindling) privileged class enjoys the full benefits of citizenship, which they maintain by creating a legal distinction between themselves and an increasingly impoverished second-class citizenry, whose moral claim to equality is nullified by the dominant class’ belief that they are lesser human beings who do not deserve full rights and benefits as citizens.

@dalepetrie GA, but please, please, please, more paragraph breaks, please.

critter1982's avatar

@Zuma: What I find interesting is how you love to paint a generalization over all republicans as this anti-sympathetic, greedy group of people with no realization of the struggles that some lower class citizens realize. Never mind that your conclusion comes only from the idea that republicans vote for republicans. You ignore the idea that there are a billion other issues that the government deals with on a daily basis and the idea that perhaps republicans don’t only vote for somebody who is going to change healthcare or increase the money going towards welfare. No you generalize the whole GOP as heartless people uncaring of the lower class. This is where I take issue with your argument. I truly do believe that the republican party needs to shift the party ideology with respect to the lower class into another direction but I don’t think the democrats have this perfect ideology either. The idea of welfare reform is not to simply give a man a fish. It’s to give a man fishing lesson so he can eat the rest of his life. If we were truly compassionate we wouldn’t simply be giving these people what they need however it is a start. We need to give them what they need while teaching them how to survive on their own.

Zuma's avatar

@critter1982 Name one thing that the Republicans have done for the poor, besides screw them.

erikaVT's avatar

1) Playing fair (if it’s a game)

2) Being right is more important. And unfortunately, being right doesn’t always win you the arguement.

3) My answers would apply to either situation and wouldn’t change.

4) 4. I’m a conservative who hates Republicans.

Zuma's avatar

@erikaVT Welcome to Fluther!

I just have to ask, when did “playing fair” become a Republican idea? It seems to me that their opposition to health care has been anything but—i.e., spreading lies about “death panels,” using “astro-turfed” groups to shout down people in town hall meeting, and just saying No, no, no, no, instead of offering a their own concrete proposals sounds unfair to me. I’m also perplexed as to where “conservatism” ends and “Republicanism” begins nowadays.

erikaVT's avatar

@Zuma I agree to your question of Republicanism and conservatism, which is why I am only slightly a 4. Playing fair is probably the furthest thing from a Republican idea hahaa

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