Friday, October 21, 2005

Chapter 1: The Ramifications of Nurturant Morality

In his various works, Dr. George Lakoff describes a concerted effort by the right to impose a Conservative worldview by coining and repeating certain phrases that carry with them a part of the Conservative Worldview or “Frame.” He describes the differences between Nurturant and Strict Father Morality and how these two world views can be reflected in different Frames.

In a chapter on arguing with conservatives he advises: “Never Answer a Question Framed from your opponent’s point of view. Always reframe a question to fit your values and your frames.” This is important because Dr. Lakoff believes it is the prevalence of certain Frames that win elections, not thinking about Facts.

Dr. Lakoff says there is “a set of Myths believed by Liberals and Progressives… The First one goes like this: The Truth will set us free. If we just tell people the facts, since people are basically rational beings, they’ll all reach the right conclusion.” “Neuroscience’s tells us that each of the concepts we have—the long term concepts that structure how we think—is instantiated in the synapses our brains. Concepts are not things that can be changed just by telling us a fact. We may be presented with facts, but for us to make sense of them they have to fit what is already in the synapses of the brain. Otherwise the facts go in and then they go right back out. They are not heard, or they are not accepted as facts, or they mystify us: why would anyone have said that? Then we label the fact as irrational crazy or stupid. That is what happens when progressives just “confront conservatives with the facts.” It has little or no effect, unless the conservatives have a frame that makes sense of the facts. Similarly, a lot of progressives hear conservatives talk and do not understand them because they do not have the conservatives’ frames. They assume that conservatives are stupid.” Or more simply put, “Just speaking truth to power doesn’t work. You need to Frame the truths effectively from your perspective” because certain frames “force a certain logic” In other words, Dr. Lakoff believes Truth is never objective, but is relative to the observer’s Worldview.

Dr. Lakoff says that articulation of these frames (or worldviews) “Need to be repeated over and over again and refined until they take their rightful place in our synapses.” It is as if Dr. Lakoff is saying “If you say something enough times, it becomes true”

The Scientific Method, however, relies upon the assumption that reality behaves the same regardless of which observer is put in place. One Frame is going to more accurately mirror the objective conditions in the real world no matter how many times a false frame is repeated.

The Second Myth Lakoff warns Progressives against is the belief that “It is irrational to go against your self interest, and therefore a normal person, who is rational, reasons on the basis of self-interest. Modern economic policy and foreign policy are based on that assumption”

Dr.  Lakoff feels this belief is wrong, because people don’t always vote for their Economic Self-interest and a Nobel Prize winner implied that the rational actor theory was wrong. An investigation of the work cited, however, reveals that the basis of a rational actor theory is not in question, only the ability of that actor to assign a proper weight to information he receives. Rather than discuss the problem of appropriate weighting, Dr.  Lakoff asserts that “People Vote their identity. They Vote their values. They Vote for who they identify with. They may identify with their self-interest. That can happen. It is not that people never care about their self-interest, but they vote their identity. And if their identity fits their self interest, they will vote for that. It is important to understand this point. It is a serious mistake to assume that people are simply always voting their self-interest”

Dr. Lakoff’s insistence on Rational Self-interest as a different concept than Identity in order to explain why Voters do not vote for Democrats, tells us that progressives believe a person’s best self-interest is whatever a Progressive believes it to be. Dr. Lakoff of course, fails to see that Values are called that because people think of them as valuable. Individuals are assigning a different weight to the importance of a value than what Dr. Lakoff would assign himself, and therefore they act “against their self interest” People allowed to assign their own weights may decide that protection of valuable things that are held jointly (for instance the morals of a society) is part of their self interest. Lakoff seems oblivious to the fact that what one determines to be in one’s self interest may be based on a number of factors, and on the perceived effects of different actions in the future. 

This is further illustrated by Dr. Lakoff ‘s explanation of the Third Progressive myth; that “political campaigns are marketing campaigns where the Candidate is the product and the candidates positions on issues are the features and qualities of the product. This leads to the conclusion that polling should determine which issues a Candidate should run on” Such an approach neglects the obvious fact that some agendas might logically conflict with others in terms of their goals or outcomes. While Lakoff denounces this approach, he implies it only fails because Progressives fail to “say what they idealistically believe” and “talk to their base using the frames of their base,” which he asserts Conservatives do much better. What this really demonstrates is that Progressives are oblivious to the real world constraints that force a need to make trade-offs.

Dr. Lakoff asserts that Conservative and Progressive world views, and therefore the things they “idealistically believe”, are based on a difference between those who support a “Strict Father” Frame vs. a “Nurturing Parent” Frame of Government. He likens our Nation to a family using phrases such as “Our Founding Fathers” and “Sending Our sons to War” as proof that people conceive of a nation and a government as some sort of family. Of course, following that logic, because Edison was Father of the Electric Light, and the Wright Brothers were the Fathers of Aviation, most people must consider Lamps and Planes as part of a family structure as well. In short, the whole idea of the “Government as a Family” is an attempt to Frame the Debate. Lakoff asserts that EVERYONE sees the Government as a sort of Family Unit, in which our leaders are the parents, and that everyone is just applying the type of family control they would like in that situation. This is obviously false.

He says, “The Nuturant Parent worldview is gender neutral. Both parents are equally responsible for raising the children. The assumption is that children are born good and can be made better. The world can be made a better place, and our job is to work on that. The parent’s job is to nurture their children and to raise their children to be nurturers of others. What does nurturance mean? It means two things: empathy and responsibility….”

Applied politically, this means that Progressives see themselves as Self-assigned Parents of others and therefore think Citizens are Children they are responsible for. (which goes along with the idea that hey are the ones who determine what is in someone’s best self interest) Hence their obsession with protecting everyone from Crime, Drugs, seatbelt less cars or passengers, smoking (except for Marijuana), food additives, environmental destruction (except for Cultural), work hazards, consumer hazards, and diseases (unless its AIDS because tracking the spread of THAT disease is homophobic)  Dr. Lakoff often uses the same word, “Discipline”, in describing both the idea of conservative Child Discipline (exemplified by painful punishment with “sticks, belts and wooden paddles on the bare bottom”) and the idea of Adult Self-Discipline. The lack of delineation between the two ideas may either be deliberate framing in order to confuse the two and give the latter a bad connotation, or simply derives from a difficulty of thinking of other citizens as adults.

Dr. Lakoff says that “Empathy” and “Responsibility” are the core Progressive values from which the other Progressive values are derived: "Responsibility implies protection, competence, education, hard work and social connectedness; empathy requires freedom, fairness and honesty, two-way communication, a fulfilled life (unhappy, unfulfilled people are less likely to want others to be happy) and restitution rather than retribution to balance the moral books. Social responsibility requires cooperation and community building over competition. In the place of specific strict rules, there is a general “ethics of care” that says, “Help, don’t harm.” To be of good character is to be empathetic and responsible, in all of the above ways."

“If you empathize with someone and want them to be fulfilled in life and be treated fairly, then you will respect their individuality, accord them maximal freedom (consistent with the freedom of others), and you will appreciate diversity as a value.”

This means that Progressives believe individual rights end where the rights of others begin but also implies that Progressives should accept any behavior that doesn’t intrude on their personal freedom. Dr. Lakoff doesn’t present any system by which conflicts in values might be resolved, implying Progressives implicitly believe that everyone will independently define the boundaries of their personal freedom at the same points.  This further bolsters the idea that Progressives do not recognize the real world constraints that result in tradeoffs and belies the fact that Dr. Lakoff still believes what he asserts to be a myth: “since people are basically rational beings, they’ll all reach the right conclusions”
“If you want your child to be fulfilled in life, the child has to be free enough to do that. Therefore Freedom is a Value….You do not have very much freedom is there is no opportunity or prosperity. Therefore Opportunity and Prosperity are progressive values”

According to Dr. Lakoff, Progressives believe that everyone must be given freedom, enabled by wealth and opportunities, to execute their moral obligation to be happy and fulfilled. Of course, the wealth and opportunity that give people freedom comes from somewhere, so someone must be "freed" of their wealth and opportunity so it can be given to someone else.  Unfortunately, as will be shown repeatedly, Progressives only seem to be fulfilled when they are making decisions for others. The progressive principle of freedom is really a license override the decisions of others.

"If you really care about your child, you want your child to be treated fairly by you and others. Therefore Fairness is a value." Dr. Lakoff asserts "Fairness is understood metaphorically in terms of the distribution of material objects. There are three basic liberal models of fair distribution: (1) equal distribution; (2) impartial rule-based distribution; and (3) rights-based distribution. Metaphorical fairness concerns actions conceived of as objects given to individuals. One can act to the benefit of others equally, impartially and by rule, or according to some notion of rights. According to this metaphor, moral action is fair action in one of these ways."

Thus it becomes evident that Progressives believe that “Fairness” is using the government to redistribute wealth, opportunities and “rights” more evenly over the population by taking wealth, opportunities and rights from some and giving them to others.

Dr. Lakoff, lists other values in “Don’t think of an Elephant”, but the Rockridge Institute’s list is more concise:
  • "Community: Healthy communities are based on cooperation, honesty, trust, and open communication.

  • Cooperation: Responsibility to others requires cooperation and empathy. Cooperation is the basis for community, and requires open communication, honesty and trust.

  • Trust: Trust is needed for open communication and cooperation. We are trustworthy when we treat others fairly and responsibly.

  • Honesty: Honesty is the hallmark of open communication, and is necessary for trust and cooperation.

  • Open Communication: Open communication is at the heart of empathy and responsibility. To know how to care for others, we must communicate with them to understand their needs. Cooperation relies on two-way communication."

Of course this can be even more concisely stated as “Progressives believe in Community Building via co-operation enabled by open communication, trust and honesty. “

In the Nurturant Model a “Community is a Family”; when expanded to society this implies Community building involves the imposition of Nurturant morality on the society
Dr. Lakoff says, "The Nurturant Parent worldview is gender neutral. Both parents are equally responsible for raising the children. The assumption is that children are born good and can be made better. The world can be made a better place, and our job is to work on that."

"It is assumed that the world should be a nurturant place."

These statements imply the following about the "progressive world view"
Men and Women are the same and interchangeable when it comes to child care
Parents are both responsible for raising their own children
Children naturally know how to get along with others and live in a community, but parents make them better at it.
The World is largely controllable, and the job of a Progressive is to impose their ideas on the world, and the others who live in it, in order to change the world for the "better" (in their judgment)

In a "Nurturant parent model", "The parent's job is to nurture their children and to raise their children to be nurturers of others. What does nurturance mean? It means two things: empathy and responsibility. If you have a child, you have to know what every cry means. You have to know when the child is hungry, when he needs a diaper change, when he is having nightmares. And you have a responsibility - you have to take care of this child."

Which means, Progressives have a moral responsibility to feel for and take responsibility of their children, and teach their children to do the same to others
"Since you cannot take care of someone else if you are not taking care of yourself, you have to take care of yourself enough to be able to take care of a child"

Therefore, Progressives believe Individuals have a responsibility to take care of themselves before they can be allowed to help others.
"Further, it is your moral responsibility to teach your child to be a happy, fulfilled person who wants others to be happy and fulfilled. That is part of what a nurturing family life is about. It is a common precondition for caring about others"

Therefore, Progressives believe it is a moral duty to teach children to do whatever makes them happy and fulfilled and encourage them to accept others who are doing the same and that if someone is unhappy or unfulfilled, or doesn't accept others who are, then that person is incapable of caring about others.
"And if you are an unhappy, unfulfilled person yourself, you are not going to want other people to be happier than you are. The Dali Lama teaches us that. Therefore it is your moral responsibility to be a happy, fulfilled person. Your Moral Responsibility."

Progressives believe that if you are unhappy, you will automatically wish others to be unhappy. This is in direct conflict with Dr. Lakoff’s assertion that “children are born good and can be made better.” It is immoral to be unhappy or unfulfilled, therefore moral behavior is doing what it takes to be happy or fulfilled. However, Lakoff asserts that this DOES NOT translate to "if it feels good, do it":

"Conservatives seem not to understand what nurturant morality is about, both in the family and the nation. They find any view that is not strict to be "permissive""

permissive (adjective) Definition: lenient Synonyms: acquiescent, agreeable, allowing, approving, easy-going, forbearing, free, indulgent, latitudinarian, lax, liberal, open-minded, permitting, susceptible, tolerant Antonyms: intolerant, strict Source: Roget's New Millennium Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.1.1)Copyright © 2005 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved

"Nurturant parenting is, of course, anything but permissive, with its stress on teaching children to be responsible for themselves and empathetic and responsible toward others, and raising them to be strong and well-educated enough to carry out their responsibilities. The conservatives parody liberals as permissive, as supporting a feel-good morality- doing whatever feels good. The conservatives just don't get it. They seem ignorant of the vast difference between responsibility and permissiveness"

Accordingly, the only morally acceptable way to be "happy and fulfilled" is by being responsible and empathetic towards others. Moral Behavior is Responsible behavior. Parents have the ability to discipline their children through "promotion of responsible behavior via empathetic connection, the example of responsible behavior set by the parents, the open discussion of what the parents expect (and why), and, in the case of non-cooperation, the removal of privileges that go with cooperation"

However, Dr. Lakoff asserts Moral Authority is a metaphor in the Strict Father model, and " is patterned metaphorically on parental authority, where parents have a young child's best interests at heart and know what is best for the child. Morality is obedience. Just as the good child obeys his parents, a moral person obeys a moral authority, which can be a text (like the Bible or the Koran), an institution, or a leader. "

Since Nuturant Parents have no Moral Authority, only Parental Authority, it is hard to see how they can morally remove privileges from their children or determine that certain behaviors are right or wrong. Instead, Dr. Lakoff asserts that Progressives believe that children become responsible by caring about and watching parents who do whatever it takes to make themselves happy and fulfilled. Therefore, progressives believe that parents have the authority to morally remove privileges that allow their children to be Happy and fulfilled, in order to discourage children from behavior deemed by the parents to be irresponsible.

 "Nurturant parent morality contains a structural feature that guarantees that experiential morality is not overridden, namely, that moral empathy has the highest priority in that moral system. The idea that Morality is Empathy entails that if you feel what others feel, you will abide by experiential morality since, by empathy, you yourself will experience any harmful effects of what you do to others."

In conclusion it appears that the Progressive moral code can be reduced to caveat on a feel-good philosophy: "If it feels good and you "empathize" with the person, do it " If you don't experience (empathetic) pain when you do something, then it is morally right to do it.

Dr. Lakoff says "Empathy includes empathy with nature.... liberals have empathy even for criminals (and thus defend their rights and are against the death penalty) "
Dr. Lakoff fails to explain how Progressives have evolved to have perfect and reliable empathy with others, including an ability that includes completely different lifeforms like animals and plants (Gaia) or even inanimate objects. Progressives believe they understand what motivates a burglar, a murderer, or a pedophile, and can feel those things along with them.  It is more likely that Progressive merely assume their empathy is accurate, since it is a huge investment of time and energy to get to know people, and even then there are limits to the knowledge. In conclusion, Dr. Lakoff appears to assert that Progressives can accurately read other peoples minds.

A conclusions that is bolstered by Dr. Lakoff’s own words: "Empathy itself is understood metaphorically as feeling what another person feels. We can see this in the language of empathy: I know what it's like to be in your shoes. I know how you feel. I feel for you. To conceptualize moral action as empathic action is more than just abiding by the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule does not take into account that others may have different values than you do. Taking morality as empathy requires basing your actions on their values, not yours. This requires a reformulation of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. "

Apparently a Progressive "Feels For Others" in the literal sense, ignoring any feelings that the individual might have on their own. Dr. Lakoff's version of the golden rule dictates you must accept another person’s values if you are to act responsibly, morally, and according to empathy (and hence this will lead you to be happy and fulfilled). Progressives believe that no one has the right to judge anyone else, except by their own value system. This leads to a Progressive expectation that they will be judged based on their intentions, not on what actually follows from their actions. In a Progressive view, what it takes be moral, responsible, happy and fulfilled varies from person to person, demands respect and acceptance of other peoples moral systems and ultimately results in a system that lacks an  ultimate moral authority that defines right and wrong within a society. This conclusion seems especially odd because many of Dr. Lakoff’s ideas are judgments on the relative merits of conservative morality. One must assume that such judgments cause Dr. Lakoff no empathetic pain, and therefore must be morally correct.

 "Strict Father morality allows one to impose experiential harm on others in the name of the abstract metaphorical principle that Morality is Strength. In short, strict father morality allows you to hurt people in the name of morality. That violates experiential morality, which is the foundation of every abstract moral system. "
”In the place of specific strict rules, there is a general "ethics of care" that says, "Help, don't harm." Dr. Lakoff asserts that, from the perspective of Strict Father Morality, "multiculturalism is immoral, since it permits alternative views of what counts as moral behavior. Multiculturalism thus violates the binary good-evil distinction made by Moral Strength... "

Dr. Lakoff has the following to say about "moral strength": "A major part of the Moral Strength metaphor has to do with the conception of immorality, or evil...Moral strength ... is required if one is to stand up to some externally defined evil. The metaphor of Moral Strength sees the world in terms of a war of good against the forces of evil, which must be fought ruthlessly. Ruthless behavior in the name of the good fight is thus seen as justified. Moreover, the metaphor entails that one cannot respect the views of one's adversary: evil does not deserve respect; it deserves to be attacked! The metaphor of Moral Strength imposes a strict us-them moral dichotomy. The metaphor that morality is strength induces a view of evil as the force that moral strength is needed to counter. Evil must be fought. You do not empathize with evil, nor do you accord evil some truth of its own. You just fight it....The metaphor of moral strength does not occur in isolation. It defines a cluster of other common metaphors for morality” which include the metaphors of Moral Authority (defined above) and Moral Bounds: "moral action is seen as motion within prescribed bounds or on a prescribed path. Immoral people are those who transgress the bounds or deviate from the path. The logic of this metaphor is that transgressors and deviants are dangerous to society not only because they can lead others astray, but because they create new paths to traverse, thus blurring the clear, prescribed, socially accepted boundaries between right and wrong."

Therefore, a  person with a "Nurturant Parent" Morality confronting a person with "Strict Father" morality must either submit to the moral judgment (moral strength) of the "Strict Father" system or they must adopt a Nuturant principle of "Moral Strength" that allows the Nurturant system to (immorally) ignore the values of the other.

"liberals too have the metaphor of Moral Strength, but it is in the service of empathy and nurturance. The point of moral strength for liberals is to fight intolerance and inhumanity to others and to stand up for social responsibility. "

Hence, Progressives do have a belief in evil, moral authority, and moral bounds after all; however since their Moral Strength serves Nurturance and Empathy, anyone NOT exhibiting those values becomes evil. Since a "strict Father" system, implicitly does not exhibit those values, to Progressives any Strict Father Morality system is Evil. This may explain why many Progressives are so hostile to Religions in general, and Christianity in particular. Nurturant Morality is in truth only tolerant of others with "Nurturant morality", since people with "Strict Father" moral systems will put "moral strength" (right and wrong) before "experiential morality" (empathy).

Through the Concept of Progressive Moral Strength, one can surmise how a conflict between individuals with different moral values would be resolved in the Progressive view (like deciding between nurturing your child or nurturing a pedophile that wants to have sex with your child.) If a progressive has an empathetic feeling that someone is unhappy, or have reason to believe that  they don't care about others, then that person MUST be immoral and irresponsible (because they are not happy), and therefore evil. A progressive may then assume a moral authority over the "evil" that justifies all further actions. Since there are no "specific strict rules" each Progressive Individual is an independent and autonomous Moral Authority. In effect, progressives believe they can proclaim moral authority over anyone at will based only on their own individual opinion of another’s motives or actions.

Remembering that Moral authority is "patterned metaphorically on parental authority", we can now surmise as to how a Progressive Parent claims moral authority over their "child". Anyone who (in a progressive's opinion) does not practice "experiential morality" (Responsibility and Empathy), or who is “unhappy and unfulfilled" must be a metaphorical child. Dr Lakoff confirms this with the following: "The metaphor of morality as nurturance can be stated as follows: -The Community is a Family - Moral agents are Nurturing parents - People needing help are Children needing care - Moral action is Nurturance This metaphor entails that moral action requires empathy, involves sacrifices, and that helping people who need help is a moral responsibility. "

Therefore, An adult to a progressive is any self-reliant person who is happy and fulfilled that assumes responsibility for others (a nurturing parent.) A Child to a progressive is anyone who needs care (in their opinion and via their highly accurate powers of empathy)
Dr. Lakoff states that Progressive Principle of Equity mandates: "If you work hard; play by the rules; and serve your family, community, and nation, then the nation should provide a decent standard of living, as well as freedom, security and opportunity"
"morality is conceptualized as uprightness, it is natural to conceptualize one's degree of morality as physical height, to understand norms for the degree of moral action as height norms, and to therefore see the possibility for "moral growth" as akin to physical growth. Where moral growth differs from physical growth is that moral growth is seen as being possible throughout one's lifetime."

Growing is, of course, what children do until adult hood. What "Moral Growth" in effect means, is that any individual who does not follow Nurturant Morality; who doesn't work hard or follow the rules; who doesn't serve family, nation or country, is, in effect "still growing". Therefore, Progressives believe that individuals should be given a lifetime of dependency and nurturance, if that is what they need to "grow", even if they are recidivist criminals, or just engage in detrimental and irresponsible behaviors (laziness, drug use etc). To make such things possible, Progressives believe that no one should suffer any adverse consequences as a result of making poor personal choices.
"The world is filled with evils that can harm a child, and it is the nurturant parent’s duty to be ward them off. Crime and drugs are, of course, significant, but so are less obvious dangers: cigarettes, cars without seat belts, dangerous toys, inflammable clothing, pollution, asbestos, lead paint, pesticides in food, diseases, unscrupulous businessmen, and so on. "(Dr. Lakoff does leave some conspicuous omissions such as  of Islamic Jihadists, Pedophiles, and other criminals, presumably because  Progressives Empathize with them)

"if you empathize with your child, you will provide protection. This comes into politics in many ways. What do you protect your child from? Crime and Drugs certainly. You also protect you child from cars without seat belts, from smoking, from poisonous additives in food. So progressive politics focuses on environmental protection, worker protection, consumer protection, and protection from disease. These are the things that Progressives want the government to protect citizens from."

Therefore, Progressives believe they have the (moral) right to make decisions for other people (who are metaphorical children) as to how much risk they are allowed to take, as well as how much they will give to charity, what kind of house you can build and where, what school you your kids attend and its curriculum, etc.  It is the operation of this belief that leads many to label Progressives as elitist and undemocratic.

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