Friday, July 2, 2004

Common ground

I've long been a proponent of the idea that 1. people are rational actors, and 2. that exposure to filtered data leads people to make rational, but filtered decisions. The challenge then is to try to identify and remove filters on your own inputs, and to recognize the filters others use and respect their rationality even as you disagree with their premise.

This is very hard to do. Most of the far left, starting from the Nader pole and passing through the remote Moore-land, and roll-off in the near-Kucinich region, are very guilty of the assumption that people who disagree with L-Truth are just dumb. "The sheeple!" they sneer, preferring perhaps the rule of elites to letting those ghastly proles take overwhat with their fascination of truck size and what not. This hyper-condescension is itself rational (Principle #1 applies to even the radical left) when you take into account that most of their political beliefs hinge on "survival" - of the world (ie environment, clean water, renewable energy), supremacy of civil rights (to not get lynched for your skin color and so on), a healthy skepticism of the benevolence of our corporate masters (usually with respect to the former two issues), etc. These people think their politics are critical to survival of the human race and the planet Earth and that's a noble thing.

The mainstream Right suffers from a similar problem, but in their case the group whose rationality they disbelieve is the straw-man construct "liberals." The "liberals" are the root cause of all society's ills, and the conservative vertically-integrated media (from government websites that spout campaign rhetoric to fox News conglomerate to the talk-radio wasteland which even some conservatives despair of) has a large role in maintaining the perpetual state of siege mentality that they labor under. Here the primary motivating desire is security of the nation and their interpretation of culture and religion which they feel are integral to its identity. Again, noble goals.

Still, in pursuit of these noble goals, these rational actors go astray, sacrificing their own ideals and principles - essentially pursuing the ends-justify-the-means route, even though the means ultimately influence the ends.

What is needed then is articulation of common goals, of common principles, around which a new coalition of opinion can form. And that coalition needs to be protected, since the present media is simply too enamored of its' current access with the status quo - so the best alternative is to create a new media. Blogs fill that role.

I want to try and start articulating what I perceive to be those common principles. It's not exactly a trivial task, since we must separate principle from opinion on how best to achieve same.

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