ranchandsyrup

Archive for the category “I reject your reality and substitute my own”

Don’t look back in anger

Welp, Mari and I took a bit of a blogcation.  It was quite lovely and I, for one, feel refreshed and ready to word-vomit all over this place.  So let’s get to it, shall we?

Over the past 5 years or so I’ve made a Christmas wish for humanity.  In 2014 I wished that everyone could experience empathy for people that aren’t in their own tribe.  In hindsight, that was waaaaaaaaaaaay to much to ask for.  If 2014 taught me anything it taught me people use empathy as a tool in conversations but they’re not getting what it means.  I think there are good reasons for this.  Empathy is difficult.  Empathy also leads to undesired self-reflection.  It is much easier to take the easy road of applying your beliefs to everyone and think you’re awesome and no one else “gets it”.

So a definition seems appropriate here:

The ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

Many people conflate empathy with sympathy. I choose to view it this way to avoid confusion: Sympathy is “feeling with” a person, such as compassion or commiseration; Empathy is “feeling into” someone else. It is the ability to project one’s own personality into another person to better understand that person.

Over the course of 2014, as empathy became a buzzword, I observed many people attempt to demonstrate that they are empathetic. Some people succeeded and it made my heart happy. Some people failed (I’m definitely in this group–it’s a work in progress). Some of these fails were spectacular or made me chuckle. I had someone tell me, “I’m trying to be empathetic but everything you think and say are just wrong.”. I appreciate the initial effort but this person isn’t taking things far enough, in my opinion.

I had another person, after saying he treats all races the same state, “no one cares about race but race-hustlers”. He refused to listen to racial groups alleging institutional racism because he believed “it doesn’t exist”.  When I disagreed and poked some fun (I had predicted earlier this would happen) he went completely off the rails. He listed numerous things that he does for charity, launched into a diatribe about what he perceived were my personal failings (which he had to imagine/make up), then passive-aggressively tell me that empathy is telling me that he’s sorry I’m so angry (which he again made up). That was a complete empathy failure during a purported demonstration of empathy. Good times.

I’m tempted to be disheartened about these developments.  However this year I’m choosing to be hopeful about them. I’ve known the above referenced people for a long time and even those efforts are significant for them. On a broader level empathy is injected into political campaigns, lawmaking and normal conversation at a higher rate. Empathy is aspirational. I think these are good things and I’m going to work harder to get it right. I’m hopeful because the elevation of empathy as a desirable trait will do us all well.

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I’ve got something against you.

This post is purely aspirational for me because I have a very hard time doing what I’m going to propose. From what I observe, the same holds for a lot of people. So here goes: Be for things. Don’t just be against things. Sounds simple, right? Watch me go off the rails straight away……

The inspirations for this post come from a couple of online personae that I admire.

The first is Cleek’s Law.

Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today, updated daily.

Pretty straight-forward, no? It also reeks of the truth. It’s quite easy to sit back and lob criticism at your ideological opposition but offer no solutions. These criticisms don’t need to be true or even make sense. They could be based on perception or potential perception of an issue. They could rely on all sorts of fallacies. Slippery slopes. Straw men. The intent is to invalidate the actions of one’s opponent by making a broad assertion and then force the opposition to defend itself.

Conservatism does not offer solutions. Sure, they trot out supply-side economics (trickle-down theory) and tax cuts that will pay for themselves, but these theories have an awful empirical track record. See, Kansas, State of, for a current example. Restating an ideology that has been shown not to work in the current operating conditions isn’t offering a solution. So we’re trapped in a zero-sum game. Everything that one’s opponent does must be wrong, because it comes from your opponent.

The second is related to Cleeks law and is called Davis X. Machina’s Law.

The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of who will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.

As a note up front, I get a lot of pushback when I quote this law. The substance of the pushback hasn’t ever been that people act this way. It is always about whether sparrows can fit on curtain rods to cook them. Whenever I hear this line of objection, I know that the criticizer is giving up on the merits of the law (the actions of the people) and trying to divert attention to the trappings of the argument. Basically, they’re trying to say that since a sparrow can’t fit on a curtain rod (or more accurately, they refuse to admit that they are small in diameter curtain rods), then the conclusion must be wrong. Ummmmmmm…no.

The point is that people will act against their interests as long as it hurts the “right” people. But why is this? As discussed above, it’s easy. It’s the path of less resistance. It is much easier to “punch down” on the people one wants to be disadvantaged than it is to “punch up” against the powers that be to obtain something for one’s benefit. Personally, when I see someone acting against their own interests in order to harm others it screams to me that the primary motivator for that person is hatred. It’s not a very good look. For anyone.

So what to do then? Try to make positive arguments and bolster those with negative arguments. By this I mean be for something, not just against things. I’m not saying one should never use a negative argument. Pointing out the deficiencies of your opponent is not necessarily a bad thing. However, over-reliance on negative arguments can be and is a bad thing because it is extremely difficult to find common ground. Only negative arguments is not a persuasive technique. I sometimes find myself painted in a corner and taking pot shots at an opposing viewpoint. I may even be making valid points about the weakness of the viewpoint. But in the back of my mind I know I’m not being constructive or persuasive.

A cracked polystyrene man. Who just crumbles and burns.

Robin Williams’ passing is just terribly sad on many levels. Not going to get into most of them as I’d like to concentrate on the politicization of his death and hopefully provide some perspective for people.

The next time I hear someone say, “Robin Williams could have just chosen to be happy,” I’m going to start windmilling hammer fists until the cops show up. The presumption that clinical depression stems from lack of effort or unawareness or the wrong type of effort is just plain false. The majority of depressed individuals are acutely fucking aware that they’re unhappy every waking moment of every day. They’re endeavoring each day to feel happy. But a “mindset change” isn’t going to do the trick for the vast majority of sufferers.  I’m typically wary of “common sense solutions” to complex problems and have written a bit about it here and Marianne has here. One of the problems with applying a trite solution is that it ignores the myriad of different illnesses and treats them all the same. It also treats all people identically. Those are horrible assumptions.

Some people I see advocating for people they know little about to change their attitude are applying their beliefs to a medical issue. When someone proceeds in this fashion they are showing they don’t care about results, only process. I feel the opposite. I do not care how someone who is suffering gets better. I only care they get better. Medication, talk therapy, attitude change, exercise, meditation, whatever works for each individual. I will not trivialize their suffering and I will not TELL them how to do it.  This is about a person’s life not a validation of one’s belief.  Those utilizing political/social agendas by saying nonsense like “PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY” or “THE PUSSIFICATION OF AMERICA” or Rush Limbaugh saying “negativity is a hallmark of the left”. These illnesses know no ideology or tribe or political orientation. To say otherwise seems borderline-sociopathic.

Other people (who should know better) try to tell those suffering  the path they took is the only right path and what didn’t work for them are per se wrong. This is straight up narcissism trying to obtain validation.  If Anti-depressants didn’t work for you but meditation and exercise did, great!  Telling people not to try medication or therapy or any of the myriad of options because it didn’t work for you? NOT COOL. Again, this is not results-oriented and is instead process-oriented. It’s also another pathetic attempt for validation. One could share their own experiences without imposing their values. It’s a question of phrasing, really.

So there’s a simple fucking solution to this. Stop telling people what to do and listen. Sublimate your fervent beliefs to try to ensure that this person gets help. Don’t close doors or paths. Open them.

I need a fix. I need a front. I need a new approach, a new approach.

The mid-2000’s were a high-water mark in contrarian thinking.  “Out of the box” approaches dominated the business, policymaking, writing, and personal arenas.  2005, in particular, stood out for writing that advanced this phenomenon.  Malcolm Gladwell’s follow up novel Blink and Leavitt & Dubner’s Freakonomics were runaway best sellers.  I eagerly read them during that summer and noted a shared theme about thinking differently.  For Freakonomics, it is thinking differently about economics/culture and for Blink it was thinking differently about, well, thinking.

After I read those, I had a new arrow in my quiver.  I started to try to approach thorny issues by looking at them in a “completely new way”.  It’s not easy to do.  I found myself coming up with fantastical rationales (because they had to be different than conventional wisdom) to reach what was 99% of the time the opposite to the established understanding.  I was essentially picking an outcome and backfilling the justification with fluff and “thinking differently”.  I’m not saying that Gladwell, Leavitt & Dubner, et.al. do this same thing.  They’re far more rigorous in their investigation and methods.  They picked specific issues that lent themselves to the application of a different approach.  But I only applied their conclusion that thinking differently was beneficial and led to results.  Once I realized this my excitement was tempered.  Contrarianism can work but doesn’t always work.  The Freakonomics bunch went on to form a cottage industry based on the book.  There’s a movie, a radio station, and a blog that churns out more examples of how going against the grain of “mainstream” understanding can open one’s eyes to the “right” answer.  Over the years I’ve noted that they’re falling into the same trap I did.  I admit it’s got to be tough to keep coming up with subjects that prove their beliefs.   But sometimes (not all of the time) I suspect that they’re starting with a preferred conclusion and backfilling.

The legacy of contrarianism-mania is that we all have a convenient scapegoat if we see a conclusion that we don’t like.  “Yeah that’s the conventional wisdom, but have you read Freakonomics?”  I get that sort of argument quite frequently in the odd corners of the interwebs I visit and in good old meatspace as well.  Things really crystallized for me on this when I saw the following (paraphrased) comment in one of my online haunts in response to the assertion that contrarianism is a “brand”:

Contrarianism is not a brand. It’s more a business model to pitch that you can bash an egghead without doing the learning. It’s like gold ads for the willfully ignorant and conspiracy minded.

There’s something to that. I started to think about the people in real life that advanced the “did you read Freakonomics quasi-appeal to authority arguments to reach their preferred conclusion. Maybe you know these sorts. The guy who in his online bio states that he’s “Doing stuff better than you” and for education says “At the public library” but hates socialism with a white-hot intensity. Or the guy who never showed any interest in learning much about the world that got way into talk radio and now is a geo-political expert. I also noticed when and how they unleashed the argument. It essentially concedes the argument and asks to ignore all of the established evidence. It’s a suspension of belief argument. I’m extremely wary of those sorts of lines of thinking–just as I’m wary of appealing to “common sense”. But I’m still willing to be convinced. The existence of one “looking at things differently” or appealing to process just isn’t determinative in every case.

So if you hear this sort of appeal to the authority of “thinking differently”, have some pause. Is this the sort of issue that lends itself to the new approach? Are there some significant leaps of logic required to get to the proposed conclusion? Or are you being asked to forget what you know to be true just because that approached worked on another separate issue? Or are you allowing someone who doesn’t want to do the hard work of learning and knowing a subject to pretend they’re an expert?

Isn’t it weird that a privilege could feel like a chore?

Personal failure: I refused to acknowledge or consider my own privilege for a loooooooong time.

I suppose a definition will be helpful here. I’ll go with this one:

the set of societal privileges that white/male people benefit from beyond those commonly experienced by people of color/women in the same social, political, or economic spaces (nation, community, workplace, income, etc.). The term denotes both obvious and less obvious unspoken advantages that white/male individuals may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely. The concept of privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.

What led me to examine these privileges? Being taken behind the proverbial woodshed in online and meatspace conversations. I’d like to thank not only the people that patiently pointed out my ignorance and took the time to educate me, but also the people that rightfully mocked me. The mockery stung but I (eventually) saw that even though I intended to be a good person I was choosing to ignore something important.

Once I admitted that these privileges existed I needed to take the next step and ask myself why I chose to ignore them. This was a difficult step. I relied on my perception that “things are much better than they used to be” to justify my choice to ignore the systemic structural and cultural issues that exist today. I pretended that today represented a true meritocracy and that women, people of color, etc. had zero impediments to success other than their own desires and efforts.

Many people believe they are “colorblind” and I don’t doubt their belief. But even if it’s true, it’s only a partial victory. Stephen Colbert has a great line about this:

Now, I don’t see color. People tell me I’m white and I believe them because police officers call me “sir”.

I love this line, but I didn’t realize the full implication of it until I saw it referenced in a twitter discussion about libertarians and race. Colbert slyly exposes his privilege while disclaiming it, which is genius. His purported colorblindness is a defense of his privilege.

Another reason that I refused to admit my privilege is that I liked the results. This, sadly is a remnant of my lamentable detour into libertarian beliefs. I internalized the “culture of dependence” argument. I thought that other racial groups and women would be OK with just pretending that everything was suddenly equal. Mind you, I didn’t bother to ask any of these groups.

So what does it mean for me now that I’m able to admit my privilege? It does not mean that the existence of the privilege is the only determining factor when faced with an issue. It does mean that I am better able to properly empathize with different groups’ positions. People sometimes let me know that acknowledging privilege is naive. Or it is “playing into their hands” like this is some sort of zero-sum game. Or it is white guilt. I don’t agree. Instead I know that I would feel guilty perpetuating the illusion of things being OK today. There is still much to be done.

And he is not one of us. He has never been one of us.

It’s fallacy exploration time again and today we’re going to tackle the No True Scotsman (“NTS”) fallacy. Generally, it occurs when a member of a group attempts to disassociate herself from the actions of a fellow group member by claiming that the other group member wasn’t ever really a part of the group. Basically it means that a person re-defines the group to exclude the “undesirable” actor leaving themselves and their precious narrative free from consequences.

The most common usage of the NTS fallacy is a Republican deeming a fellow republican to be a “RINO”, Republican in name only. Another common usage is the saying, “Conservatism can’t fail, it can only be failed.” Here are some quotes from a serial abuser of the fallacy:

“Republicans lost last night but conservatism did not, and that is, to me, one of the fundamental elements of last night’s results. Conservatism did not lose; Republicans lost last night.” – Rush Limbaugh, 11/8/2006

“Conservatism did not lose last night. Conservative was not on the ballot.” – Rush Limbaugh, 11/5/2008

“Conservatism, in my humble opinion, did not lose last night. It’s just very difficult to beat Santa Claus.” – Rush Limbaugh, 11/7/2012

I use El Rushbo as an example because it is my belief that the epistemic closure of conservatives in general as enabled by their preferred media does not allow conservatives to honestly and objectively analyze or understand why conservative ideas sometimes fail. I understand the incentive for the conservative media to abuse this fallacy. They are invested in a narrative and gain financially by doing so. They do not have a duty to accurately inform you contra their narrative. The rank and file conservative has a different incentive. They just don’t want to believe what their lying eyes and ears are telling them. I get this as well. It’s not enjoyable to be wrong. However, the lazy NTS fallacy severely diminishes your ability to be “right” going forward (if that’s something you care about). Would you run your business or family this way? In my business if there is a mistake or outcome that we don’t like, we perform a root-cause analysis. We don’t make up plausible excuses that conform to our narrative and then quit investigating.

There is no ideology or belief that is correct or “right” every single time. People that have that sort of expectation or belief have to delude themselves to maintain their narrative. When you see people use the NTS fallacy, you should be (rightly) skeptical of their motives. They have crafted what they think is an unassailable position. They are just aping their media sources/heroes by painting themselves in a corner and lashing out/playing defense. That demonstrates someone arguing in bad faith and they should be roundly mocked. Why? Because it is very likely that they would have cheered the actions that they are decrying if they produced results that furthered their narrative.

Ad Hominem. You think you’re better than I am.

ad hominem
Just one level better than name calling.

The ad hominem fallacy is a category of fallacies in which an argument or claim is rejected not on the merits of the argument or claim, but instead on the basis of a non-relevant fact or opinion about the person advancing the argument or claim. As demonstrated in the above chart, it is the 2nd least effective way to refute an argument, with number one being outright name calling. The fallacy occurs when the non-relevant fact or opinion is used to de-legitimize the claim or opinion. For you visual people out there, it goes like this:

1.Person A makes claim X.
2.Person B makes an attack on person A.
3.Therefore A’s claim is false.

I wrote previously on a specific flavor of ad hominem, the tu quoque argument, which generally describes the “you can’t have an opinion because you’re not perfect/you did the same thing” approach. The ad hominem is effectively a sleight of hand or a diversion away from the merits of a dispute to focus on the person making a claim.

What I find interesting is why the person using the ad hominem wants to focus on the person rather than the merits. Just speculating here, but whenever I use an ad hominem or someone uses it against me I realize that whomever uses the ad hominem really wants to have a conversation about how crappy they think the other person is and has no or little interest in the topic at hand. That’s just bad faith. Another common reason why an ad hominem is used is that during the course of the argument, someone’s feelings got hurt or they weren’t getting their points across and they want to come out as “the victor” on some level. Again, that’s bad faith.

So, I encourage you to take notice when you use this fallacy or see it used against you. If someone uses it against you, do not let them change the framing of the debate to your perceived personal failings. Those are immaterial. Take it as “some evidence” that this person does not really like you that much or respect you.**

If you find yourself using it, ask yourself why you’re going down that road. Are you being bested? Do you not like this person? Is there a better way to make your point? Do you care about making your point? You may be surprised by your answers.

**I’m not saying that mockery has no place. I’m saying that it is not a good way to prove your point. It is an excellent way to avoid improper framing as I detailed here. There’s a difference between mocking because someone doesn’t get it and not agreeing to their framing and going ad hominem from the beginning. 🙂

One thing leads to another

trolling

I hate the slippery slope fallacy. It is greatly overused and can be effective even though it is an informal logical fallacy. Many times I find myself itching to advance a slippery slope argument and it is difficult to stop myself. Recently I was discussing this issue online when a commenter that obviously went to a better school than I did said, “My law school professor said that a slippery slope argument is the type of argument one uses to divert attention while thinking of a legitimate argument”. I think that is spot on and remembering that piece of wisdom helps me to avoid using the slippery slope (for the most part–sometimes I have nothing else).

One source of consternation for me regarding the slippery slope is how the definition of the argument has changed over time. A slippery slope argument states that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant effect, much like an object given a small push over the edge of a slope sliding all the way to the bottom. Traditionally, there had to be some sort of causal effect between the first step and the subsequent events. In modern usage, there does not need to be a causal effect. The first step and the subsequent events just have to be related somehow. Let’s look at an example of modern usage using some statements from perhaps the dumbest person ever to be a member of the United States House of Representatives, Louie Gohmert, on restricting ammunition capacities and same-sex marriage/polygamy/bestiality:

In fact, I had this discussion with some wonderful, caring Democrats earlier this week on the issue of, well, they said “surely you could agree to limit the number of rounds in a magazine, couldn’t you? How would that be problematic?”
And I pointed out, well, once you make it ten, then why would you draw the line at ten? What’s wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is once you draw that limit; it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal?
There is no clear place to draw the line once you eliminate the traditional marriage and it’s the same once you start putting limits on what guns can be used, then it’s just really easy to have laws that make them all illegal.

Let’s unpack this statement to get at the fallacy. He almost gets to the fallacy on ammunition capacity but pivots to a popular argument on same-sex marriage to demonstrate a slippery slope. His argument is that allowing same-sex marriage will “make it easy” to allow bestiality and bigamy. He doesn’t demonstrate how this would happen, however. There is no causal connection between allowing same-sex marriage and bestiality/polygamy. These issues are just related in his mind. The slippery slope glosses over the fact that the justifications for allowing same-sex marriage are completely different from the justifications of allowing bestiality/polygamy. It also completely avoids the fact that there is very little support for bestiality/polygamy compared to SSM. In Gohmert’s world, a proponent for bestiality/polygamy would only have to argue, “But but we allow same-sex marriage, why not polygamy/bestiality????!” Do you really believe that the proponent’s argument would carry the day? We criminalize both polygamy and bestiality. We do not criminalize (with some exceptions) homosexual behavior. We treat these issues differentially. By using the fallacy, Gohmert gets to appeal to nihilism by changing the debate framing from same-sex marriage to the other two categories that are completely different. The merits of the arguments about SSM become immaterial. An SSM supporter would ostensibly have to support polygamy and bestiality in Gohmert’s world. That is ridiculous. Each of these issues should be taken individually.

So, what would be a proper use of the slippery slope? An argument where one can demonstrate the causality between the discreet steps. A leads to B which leads to C and so on to the end point of X. Gohmert’s example is that A leads to X but he doesn’t demonstrate how each step will do it (because he knows it won’t but wants to pivot to something that would scare people). The intervening events between A to X have to be factually based, not just alleged.

Keep an eye out for someone who uses the slippery slope in a fallacious manner. They’re deliberately and in bad faith misleading the argument. Ask them how the initial step leads to the end result. Make them get granular on exactly how the chain of events works. You’ll see that they have to make some sort of assumption or leap to tie it together.

First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect. Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect.

I really liked Marianne’s post Where’s my imaginary twin?. The idea that some people can only handle society if every person mirrors their beliefs has been running through my mind a bit and I noticed the below in an article about how stupid people look wearing Google glasses:

Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has developed a brilliantly concise definition of an asshole: “A person who demands that all social interaction happen on their terms.”

I agree, partially. I think that this perfectly describes a distinct subset of people who may be a particular type of asshole. But the definition doesn’t adequately define the larger term. I’m going to pre-but the inevitable “But Mike, you’re an asshole” tu quoque argument and admit that I’m an asshole and that there are many other subsets of assholes that describe me well. I don’t think the above definition applies to me (your mileage may vary–as always).

I’m fascinated with the “why?” aspect of this. Is it truly better to live in a homogenized world? I lean toward no because I see a lot of value from considering opinions and beliefs that differ from mine. I also do not get trying to force people to believe a certain way. Anyone want to take a crack at why it is a good thing?

When two tribes go to war, a point is all that you can score

nice mullet!

So, I haven’t been posting much. Honestly, I wanted to wait until after the election. Our collective behavior in the run up to the election and the aftermath has been both fascinating and heartbreaking to observe. Time to start processing, I suppose.

A while back I wrote a piece about epistemic closure. Today I want to talk about tribalism, which can be seen as a result of epistemic closure. The self-selection of media and information creates a “bubble” in which people nurture their tribalism.

The type of tribalism that I am referencing is when a person acts or behaves in ways that are more loyal to their tribe than to their friends, their family, their country or other social groups. Over the past week I have read some amazing examples of tribalism advocating treating family, friends, customers, neighbors and society in less than kind ways because they didn’t vote “properly”. You may have seen this conservative-libertarian’s rant after the election. I also recommend reading this interview to get some color on how far he intends to take things. Elsewhere I read about a mother cutting off her daughter and another gentleman drastically reducing assistance to his “mentally handicapped” uncle due to his uncle’s vote for Obama. Here’s another person who demonstrates her tribalism by calling for the President’s assassination and then wonders why it was such a big deal.

I readily admit that I’m engaging in some “nut-picking” here (and I readily admit that this behavior isn’t confined to only one tribe), but the above stances seem a bit harsh, no? Also, it seems to undercut the whole idea that each person can vote how ever the hell they want to. There are less egregious examples of tribalism. Some people will only do business with “red” or “blue” businesses. Some people purged their facebook friends of their “enemies”. Some friendships fall apart for a political reason that had nothing to do with why they were friends in the first place. The interesting question to me is why this is happening.

Tribalism is hardwired in the primitive areas of our brains. We no longer have tribal societies, but tribalism still exists. In an evolutionary sense, tribalism is beneficial because humans by nature need a social group to survive. Tribalism bonds an individual to the group. When a member of a group starts to disagree or wants to leave, the traditional countermeasure from the group is bullying to keep the member in the group. “Bullying” is a pretty good analog to the examples I linked to above. Those people want their “opponents” to know that there are consequences, dammit, for their actions.

Tribalism manifests itself in (mostly) benign ways. The easiest example is the sports fan. I think this is a healthy way to indulge our tribalistic instincts in a way that usually does not result in harm. There are some rather large differences between sports and governing. Sports have definitive outcomes and the winners and losers do not have to work together going forward to achieve goals.

Part of the allure of tribalism is the ability to glom onto the identity of the tribe. Oakland Raiders fans seem to believe that they are “tougher” than other fans. Democrats believe that they have more empathy. Broadly, one could argue that those perceptions are true. On an individual level it may not be the case. Tribalists are appropriating the “coolness” of the larger group, whether it is true about them personally or not. Put another way, a relatively poor person can still feel superior to an abjectly poor person or minority. That superiority makes them happy and allows them to look past their troubles.

I hope that we can agree that tribalism taken to the extent of shunning family, friends, customers and neighbors produces bad results. Personally, it does not compute at all. I do not “hate” 50% of my fellow Americans because they do not share my views on governing. Even if I were inclined to, I must interact with my “opponents” each and every day. I love my friends and family in spite of their flaws and sometimes because of their flaws. Honestly I like some of them more because they feel differently than I do because there are opportunities to learn about myself and others from them. To promote effective government, the people need to provide the template for our elected officials. We need to talk to each other and at least try to understand our respective positions if we expect our representatives to do the same. We don’t have to sacrifice our principles to talk to each other. The first thing we need to do is to recognize tribalism and reject how it can be a substitute for actual thinking and understanding.

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