They Just Don’t Get It

  • by Gitabushi

I took a quiz I stumbled onto from Twitter last night.  I can’t find the link now, but it was something about 8 Political Traits. You took a quiz regarding your reactions to several political statements, and from that, it judged your position on 4 different paired-trait spectra.  Like, Authoritarian/Libertarian, Economic Freedom/Control, etc.

One thing I was struck with was that it got Conservatives/Traditionalists completely wrong.  Of course, Progressives usually get Conservatives wrong…it has been shown over and over that those on the Right understand the Left much better than the reverse.  Charles Krauthammer’s formulation is the Left thinks the Right is Evil, and the Right thinks the Left is Stupid.  Which makes sense, of course: the Right thinks the Left is stupid because they understand the Left’s viewpoints and find them immature or unworkable; the Left thinks the Right is Evil because they can’t understand how anyone can oppose the compassion of a $15 minimum wage and free birth-control for women.

Anyway, what bothered me was they characterized Progressives as believing that the human race can and should progress toward enlightenment.  The implication is that the past is always ignorant, and as we learn things, we can improve.  What is the opposite of that?  Why, that some people think that we should cling to the past because that’s how we’ve always done it!  Meaning, the quiz assumed that conservatives are conservative out of fear or reflexive adherence to tradition out of belief that Tradition is simply a Good.

That’s not my view at all.  Maybe I’m projecting to the rest of the Right and/or conservatives, but I think I’m not alone in this.  I’m convinced conservatives are Thinkers, and spend time questioning and trying to understand everything.

In my opinion, Conservatives conserve Tradition because Tradition arises out of What Works.  Humans are humans: we are biologically programmed (whether by God or Evolution) to exploit/game any system to its extinction, but also to require systems to reach our individual and social goals.  We are biologically programmed (whether by God or Evolution) so that in our interactions with the opposite sex, any/all errors of judgment result in pregnancy, because *anything* that results in reproduction is a successful reproduction strategy, and those traits of selfishness, sloppiness, pettiness, dishonesty, manipulation, etc, that assist in reproduction will be passed on.

As such, I support Traditions because those are time-tested ways to avoid pain, disaster, chaos, poverty, loneliness, heartlessness, death, despair, depression and Justin Bieber.

That doesn’t mean Traditions are immutable.  We can learn as a society, and do.  We can rise above our selfishness and pettinesses, and do.

But you have to make the case. You can’t just insist that there is an end goal of perfect equality between all people and all preferences, and anyone who obstructs that progress is wrong.  You have to explain how the direction of progress you want is helpful to everyone involved.  You have to make the case for overturning Tradition.  You have to move slowly when you do make changes, so that we have time to adjust to changes, and to reverse if it proves to be more harmful than helpful.

And most of all, you have to insightfully analyze and clearly identify and explain who pays the price and who benefits.  Assertions are not acceptable as proof.

If something benefits 1% of the nation and makes things worse for 60% of the population, it should not be done.  More time should be taken to ensure that the benefit is worth the cost, and to minimize the cost as much as possible.

So in the quiz, seeing that they characterized Conservatives as preferring Tradition simply because it was Tradition, it lost any/all credibility with me.

Closely related: Chesterton’s Fence.


18 thoughts on “They Just Don’t Get It

  1. I have been strongly right leaning since Tipper Gore and her crusade against music. Plus her support of Bothered About Dungeon & Dragons. Plus as an immigrant, I’ve always been very politically aware.

    I think moving forward isn’t always correct, because progress for the sake of progress is nonsense. If you’re going the wrong way forward motion doesn’t help. Cleaving to your traditions is important.

    The reason Jews have been a ‘people’ despite being in a permanent diaspora is they kept their traditions alive. Same with the Irish. I’m reasonably comfortable with an Aussie Irish as I am an American one. We have traditions that are upheld between us. I’ll paraphrase a quote I don’t remember the author of, maybe CS Lewis.

    “Sticking to your people’s traditions is giving your ancestors a vote.” Which they deserve. Americans seem quick to denigrate their heritage while idly using every single hard earned gift they have received from those they scorn.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I’d argue it’s the American Left that denigrates America’s past, and that the American Right reveres our heritage.
    But other than that, yeah. Well said.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a Harry Potter fan, so I have to invoke it here, though not in the way the Left would.

      “Progress for the sake of progress must be discouraged. Let us preserve what must be preserved, perfect what can be perfected and prune practices that ought to be prohibited.” This is said by one of the villains, Delores Umbridge (this is the movie version, I believe, which is pretty near the original text). The thing is, she’s not wrong. Or rather, there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about this philosophy, with one small tweak. “Progress” is great, when we can agree on what constitutes progress.

      I think this is what you were getting at, Gita. My neighbor and I may not agree on what progress is (nevermind BLM or Antifa or radical Islam). “Progress” for one group may mean injury to another, if their agenda is malevolent or ill-conceived.

      Where I differ slightly is on placing the emphasis on the good of the many. This cuts too close to utilitarianism to me. Slavery, for example, many benefit 60% of people and make things worse for 1% (depends who we’re enslaving here). Doesn’t make it right (and I know you’re not saying it does – just pointing out a flaw in that logic here).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Right. I’m not promoting majority exploitation of a minority, but rather noting that 1) there is Wisdom of Crowds…when something is a good idea, lots of people choose it. You’d be daft to reject a good idea just because everyone is doing it.
        …of course, the counter to this is that just because everyone is doing it, it isn’t necessarily a good idea. This is where conscience and experience come in.
        However, there is a point that just like the majority shouldn’t exploit a minority, we also shouldn’t remake all of society just because a minority claims something is beneficial to them.
        They could be wrong about the benefit, for example, and so we would have remade and probably damaged the lives of the overwhelming majority of people for no good reason.
        But even if the benefit is real, it still isn’t worth it sometimes, and that balancing is often figured by a simple comparison of numbers.

        I could come up with an analogy, but let’s just state it flat out:
        The number of true transgenders is so vanishingly small that it doesn’t constitute an injustice to have them use the bathroom according to their chromosomes. And even if it represents an injustice of some kind, the potential harm from probable exploitation by sexual predators makes finding another compromise or accommodation preferable. But if true transgenders made up 40% of the population, the threshold of inconvenience and/or injustice that would require the other 60% making an accommodation would be much lower.

        In short, it’s complicated.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah I think we’re mostly on the same page. I just think it comes down to a higher moral structure. What is progress? What is a net benefit? What is good? These answers will change depending on who you ask. For me, these things are often framed by the Christian idea of Universal Truth. For atheists/agnostics, I imagine the calculus is much more complex and at times unclear. That’s not to say we can’t reach the same conclusions. I just think some paths (again, like utilitarianism in its purest sense) are much more perilous.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well, I think a lot of these issues would be much more clear if people just accepted me as the Arbiter of All Good Things.

        But yes, we are pretty much on the same page, and your point is a good one that I could have addressed fairly easily, and should have.


        Liked by 1 person

      1. *Typed the man wearing nothing but hand woven fruit roll ups as he looked intensely in the triple mirror at his desk.* “Aren’t we my love, my precious?”

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Back.

    Now I’ve completely forgotten my train of thought but I did have 1 question:

    If ” I support Traditions because those are time-tested ways to avoid pain, disaster, chaos, poverty, loneliness, heartlessness, death, despair, depression and Justin Bieber.”, then how is it that we HAVE a Justin Bieber?

    Or, are you saying that there would be MORE THAN ONE JUSTIN BIEBER, if we did not follow Tradition?

    Dear Lord, that’s horrifying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, nothing can ever completely avoid/dispel pain, disaster, chaos, poverty, loneliness, heartlessness, death, despair, depression, and Justin Bieber, because pain, disaster, chaos, poverty, loneliness, heartlessness, death, despair, depression, and Justin Bieber are part of the human condition. We carry pain, disaster, chaos, poverty, loneliness, heartlessness, death, despair, depression, and Justin Bieber in our hearts, like a viral load too small to show any signs or symptoms.
      The only way to truly eliminate pain, disaster, chaos, poverty, loneliness, heartlessness, death, despair, depression, and Justin Bieber is to eliminate the human race, and we don’t want that. As such, Tradition is a way to minimize or otherwise mitigate pain, disaster, chaos, poverty, loneliness, heartlessness, death, despair, depression, and Justin Bieber.

      IMHO, of course.


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