September 05, 2011

Better political discourse: More than empathy is needed

What's left of the mainstream media illustrates again the Peter Principle on today's politics, with this naive and insipid column by Gregory Rodriguez of the L.A. Times.

His "takeaway"? This:
The solution to the corrosive spirit of U.S. politics is not more politics. With 8 in 10 Americans saying the lack of civility is a serious problem, we should consider that the answer isn't in the system but in ourselves.

First, Mr. Rodriguez, I'll bet a majority of the 8 in 10 blame "the other side." Certainly, I'll bet a majority of conservatives do, even though they're primarily to blame for the lack of civility, primarily through attacking the "other," whether that "other" be gay, Muslim, atheist, global warming scientists or somebody else.

Second, the rich like it that way. As a friend of mine notes, most of the social safety net was passed, in part, because the rich, during the Depression, began to fear mob action or the rise of so-called demagogues like Huey Brown.

Today? With the astroturfing of the tea party movement, the rich now sic the middle class downward on the working and nonworking poor alike and have their dirty work down for them.

As the book "Payback" (5-starred by me) notes, it's part of human psychology to want to pass on stress and aggression by taking it out on those lower in the ranks. So, the middle class, as it stresses more, looks to the poor as targets. The GOP side of the rich encourage this for the reason my friend notes. The Democratic side of the rich diffuses it by being libertarian on social issues, and maybe wanting to raise taxes on themselves, but still avoiding more fundamental structural issues.

Most of the little class have little to no desire to be empathetic to those below them. It's almost like an addiction of sorts; it becomes good to kick the poor, if only verbally. (As well as gays, atheists, Muslims and other "others.")

It will take a massive reworking of social psychology, not just civics or empathy, to even begin to change this. It will require Warren Buffett to be more friendly to organized labor, not just to want to pay more taxes. It will require rich of both parties to want to change the economic structure of America. It will require them on the GOP side, and their flunkie economists, to stop preaching at the poor and to admit the greed, and power-lust, that lies behind their own acquisitiveness.

Finally, Rodriguez himself approaches this issue from a duopoly insider's perspective, per his column:
Four weeks ago, I attended a daylong meeting at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hosted by former Clinton White House domestic policy advisor Eric Liu. A small group, including former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Bill Gates Sr., discussed how to "revive and reinvent civics" in the U.S. 
And you never did even an approximation of "man on the street" interviewing? Nuff said. A simplistic solution offered as a Band-Aid for a gaping wound.

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