Friday, October 21, 2005

Chapter 3 The Culture War – Nurturant vs. Strict Father Morality

Dr. Lakoff asserts: “On the whole, the right wing is attempting to impose a strict Father ideology on America and, ultimately the rest of the world. Many progressives underestimate just how radical an ideology this is…. ”

Dr. Lakoff says Conservatives believe that
  • “God makes laws—commandments—defining right and wrong”

  • “one must have discipline to Follow God’s Commandments”,

  • The moral order is “God above man, man above nature, adults above children, Western Culture above non-Western Culture, America above other nations. The moral order is all too often extended to men above women, whites above non-whites, Christians above non-Christians, Straights above Gays”

  • “morality can only be maintained through a system of rewards and punishments”

  • Free markets are “a mechanism for the disciplined (stereotypically good) people to use their discipline to accumulate wealth.”

  • “Competition is good; it produces optimal use of resources and disciplined people”

  • “By giving people things they haven’t earned, social programs remove the incentive to be disciplined, which is necessary for both Morality and prosperity”

  • “Education should promote discipline, and undisciplined students should face punishment (for instance paddling), and intellectually undisciplined students should not be coddled, but should be shamed and punished by not being promoted."

  • “There are right and wrong answers, and they should be tested for.”

  • “Testing defines fairness: those who pass are rewarded; those not disciplined enough to pass are punished”

  • “Because immoral, undisciplined children can lead moral, disciplined children astray, parents should be able to choose which schools they send their children”

  • “it is the responsibility of parents to take care of their children. To the extent that they cannot, they are not living up to their individual responsibility. No one has the responsibility of doing other people’s jobs for them”

  • “Nature is a resource for prosperity. It is there to be used for human profit”

  • “Corporations exist to provide people with goods and services, and to make profits for investors”

“Those are the basics. Those are the ideas and values the right wing wants to establish, nothing less than a radical revolution in how America and the rest of the world functions”

One might notice that most of these “radical“ ideas are the same ones held by the  Founding Fathers, and most of Western Civilization for the last 5000 years. These ideas certainly do not represent a change in thinking, and have persevered through the centuries because different people, in different cultures, have found them to be empirically true and useful in conducting their lives. These principles represent the “tried and true’ beliefs of many cultures. This is not to say that they are the best system that be devised, nor that the effects that proceed from them are the most efficacious for a human society.  However, these ideas set the benchmark by which other, newer ideas can be measured.  

“I believe that progressive values are traditional American Values, that progressive principles are fundamental American principles, and that progressive policy directions point the way to where most Americans really want our country to go. The job of unifying progressives is really the job of bringing our country together around its finest traditional values”

To prove that Nurturant Morality was part of Early America, Lakoff asserts that Early settlers consisted of “Groups like the Quakers, who had a nurturant view of God, and Groups like the Puritans who had a strict father view of God. The New England Colonies were mainly Puritan, though John Winthrop had a nurturant view of the colony he was establishing, and the nurturant view of god has existed side by side with the strict one in this country ever since”

 John Winthrop led the Massachusetts Bay Colony across the Atlantic and served many terms as its Governor. He participated in the ousting of Roger Williams for advocating the separation of Church and State, and denying the Puritan belief that they were God’s chosen to fulfill a Manifest Destiny that included stealing land from the Native Americans. Roger Williams left and founded Rhode Island. This incident was followed shortly by the exile of Anne Hutchinson in which Winthrop was a major participant. In his famous “City on a Hill” sermon , John Winthrop called for brotherhood but also recognized man’s fallen state (essentially evil) and man’s inherent differences (rich vs. Poor etc.) In short, John Winthrop was a strict-father morality based Puritan, who held a belief in certain liberties, which included a right to keep his property and laws that applied equally to everyone, and also asserted the right of a religious theocracy to govern. Perhaps Dr. Lakoff gets the idea that Winthrop was “nurturant” because he wanted to use the State as a Totalitarian power to enforce a certain brand of morality.

Dr. Lakoff’s statement that progressives mirror “the values the country was founded on – the idea of a community where people pull together to help each other. From John Winthrop on, that is what our Nation has stood for.” is simply absurd. John Winthrop himself said

“it is without question, that he is worse than an infidel who through his own sloth and voluptuousness shall neglect to provide for his family”

John Winthrop called for voluntary charity in times of dire need. The Massachusetts Bay colony’s circumstances were indeed dire when they arrived in America, but there is no basis of comparison between this and the Progressive idea of Charity by force of Government espoused in modern times. The idea of forced contributions has no similarity to a man who simply started to work building the houses of others in hopes others would join him.

Dr. Lakoff asserts that “Progressive values are the best of Traditional American Values. Stand up for your values with dignity and strength. You are a true Patriot because of your values” “Remember that right wing ideologues have convinced half of the country that the strict father family model, which is bad enough for raising children, should govern our national morality and politics. This is the model that the best in American values has defeated over and over again in the course of our history- from the emancipation of the slaves to women’s suffrage, Social security and Medicare, civil rights and voting rights acts, and Brown Vs. the board of education and Roe vs. Wade. Each time we have united our country behind our finest traditional values”

Dr. Lakoff is apparently unaware that the Strict Father Morality of our Founding Father’s ALWAYS dictated slavery was a blight on the nation’s character. Women’s Suffrage was fought for by women who held viewpoints that today would be considered "conservative". In fact, the suffragettes were so conservative that they ousted Elizabeth Cady Stanton from the movement when she wrote the Woman’s Bible. Social Security is a pyramid scheme with mandatory participation that would be illegal if any other organization tried it, and more Republicans voted for the Civil Rights act than did Democrats. The final two court decisions are examples of Judicial Activism where the Supreme Court legislated their own decisions upon the American people, in violation of the principles of Representative Government. For Dr. Lakoffs approbation of these events, it can be surmised that Progressives believe that Historical Revisionism and Elitist Rule are patriotic values.
Ironically, Dr. Lakoff says “Conservatives have parodied liberals as weak, angry (hence not in control of their emotions), weak-minded, softhearted, unpatriotic, uninformed, and elitist. Don’t give them opportunities to stereotype you in any of these ways”
 “What they [conservatives] have done is to create, via framing and language, a link between strict father morality in the family and religion on the one hand and conservative politics on the other. This conceptual link must be so strong that it can overcome economic self-interest. The method for achieving this has been the cultural civil war—pitting American with Strict Father Morality (called conservatives) against Americans with nurturant parent morality (the liberals) who are portrayed as threatening the way of life and the cultural, religious, and personal identities of conservatives”

Dr. Lakoff says that “without a Civil culture war, the conservatives cannot win” and to “Remember once more that our [Progressives] goal is to unite our country behind our values, the best of traditional American Values. Right wing ideologues need to divide our country via a nasty cultural civil war. They need discord and shouting and name calling and put-downs.”
“the ideas that the right wing wants to establish, [are] nothing less than a radical revolution I how America and the rest of the world functions. The Vehemence of the culture war provoked and maintained by conservatives is no accident. For strict father morality to gain and maintain political power, disunity is required.” “radical conservative ideologues are unwilling to compromise, and insist on the most rapid and complete change possible.”

But what exactly is changing? Dr. Lakoff says “conservatives see the strict father family, and with it their political values, as under attack. They are right” This statement confirms that Conservatives are DEFENDING, not attacking. They did not instigate a culture war, but are defending long standing institutions, ideas and even the definition of words from relentless attack.

Dr. Lakoff says, “Abortion is a stand in for the larger issue: Is strict Father morality going to rule America?”

“opposing same sex marriage is thus reinforcing and extending strict father morality itself, which is the highest calling of the conservative moral system. Same-sex marriage is therefore a stand-in; it evokes the larger issue, namely what moral system is to govern our country”

Abortion as a Natural Right and Same-sex marriages are changes to the Status Quo, both of which are being instituted following a process that denies the right of the people to determine their own laws. Conservatives are defending against un-ratified changes to their social compact, not instigating the “Culture War”

Dr. Lakoff says Progressives assume “that the world should be a nurturant place." (emphasis his) This is a tacit admission that it is currently NOT a Nurturant place and that is something the Democrats wish to change.
Dr. Lakoff defines “Hypo-cognition [as] the lack of ideas you need, the lack of a relatively simple fixed frame that can be evoked in a word or two…Progressives are suffering from massive hypo-cognition.”

And says “Common sense is reasoning within a common place accepted frame”

These two statements admit that Progressives believe their ideas are NOT common, and are not accepted, and do not jive with common sense. To a certain degree liberals revel in this idea, because they feel this makes them unique, superior and better able to guide mankind.

Contrastingly, “Conservatives can appeal to an established frame, that taxation is an affliction or burden, which allows for the two word phrase tax relief” “The conservatives used to suffer from [hypo-cognition] . When Goldwater lost in 1964, they had very few of the concepts that they have today.” “Conservatives have worked for decades and spent billions on their think tanks to establish their frames, create the right language, and get the language and the frames they evoke accepted. It has taken them awhile to establish the metaphors of taxation as a burden, an affliction and an unfair punishment—all of which require “relief.” They have also, over decades, built up the frame in which the wealthy create jobs, and giving them more wealth creates more jobs.”

It would be difficult to come up with a Conservative Frame that is not at least 200 years old, if not older.  (Think about how many Strict-Father Conservative Frames are in the Bible). Conservative frames are established and propagated from one generation to the next because they do in fact correspond to the empirical reality and therefore common sense.
The  Founding Fathers agreed with the “Conservative frame” that “taxes are a burden” as discussed in the Federalist 36 :

“Many specters have been raised out of this power of internal taxation, to excite the apprehensions of the people: double sets of revenue officers, a duplication of their burdens by double taxations, and the frightful forms of odious and oppressive poll-taxes, have been played off with all the ingenious dexterity of political legerdemain.”

And the idea of the wealthy creating jobs is discussed in Adam Smith’s (The father of Modern Economics) The Wealth of Nations, Book II, Chapter III :

“Those unproductive hands, who should be maintained by a part only of the spare revenue of the people, may consume so great a share of their whole revenue, and thereby oblige so great a number to encroach upon their capitals, upon the funds destined for the maintenance of productive labour, that all the frugality and good conduct of individuals may not be able to compensate the waste and degradation of produce occasioned by this violent and forced encroachment. “

This is further expounded in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part IV Chapter 1 “The rich ... divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal proportions among all its inhabitants.”

These conservative frames for wealth have held true to the empirical data for centuries. If we are to abandon these frames for the Progressive view, shouldn’t the real world behavior be taken into account? Apparently, Dr. Lakoff believes he has only to repeat his belief enough times and the real world will begin to mirror his words.

Dr. Lakoff’s plan for winning the culture war is to take Progressive frames and repeat them “over and over again, and [refine] them until they take their rightful place in our synapses. “ In other words, their plan is to brainwash people into accepting views of the world that have been looked at, tried, and then rejected. In doing this Lakoff advises Progressives to “Avoid a shouting match. Remember that the radical right requires a culture war, and shouting is the discourse form of that culture war. Civil Discourse is the discourse form of Nurturant morality. You win a victory when the discourse turns civil” and to “Never answer a question framed from your opponents point of view. Always reframe the question to fit your values and your frames”

This, in effect, makes it impossible to have a rational conversation with a Progressive. If it is impossible to have a discussion that compares the frames to the empirical reality, there is no way to discover the truth. IN stead, Dr. Lakoff advises Progressive to deny the other frame exists. Lakoff suggest Progressive “tell a story. Find stories where your frame is built into the story. Build up an effective stock of these stories” or to “use rhetorical questions: wouldn’t it be better if..? Such a question should be chosen to presuppose your frame. Example: “Wouldn’t it be better if we had a President who went to war with a plan to secure the peace?”

Anecdotal stories can be fiction: they can carry a point that does not correspond with the common empirical reality, or if true, may simply be a statistical aberration; the exception that defines the rule. Rhetorical questions like the one Lakoff suggests, presuppose not only a Liberal frame, but a lack of real-world constraints. No war in the history of man has ever been fought with a plan to secure the peace after the war, and certainly never with the idea that the plan, once written, would correspond so perfectly with the real world situation that nothing would go wrong. Progressives want to frame their ideas so they are judged on the morality of their intentions, rather than on the real consequences in the world of practical application. They do not believe the path to hell is paved with good intentions. In fact, Progressives often act as if they believe a virtuous intention will always result in a benefit, and that an evil intention (say a profit motive spurred by Greed) will always result in a detriment.

Lakoff offers further advice “Hold your ground. Always be on the offense. Never go on defense. Never whine or complain. Never act like a victim”

Dr. Lakoff should realize that most Progressives rely on considering themselves either the victims of something (to cover a poor personal performance) , or as the defenders of those victims (self-righteous moral preening). Victim-hood is at the root of claims of sexism, racism, “exploitation” by the wealthy and even environmentalism where the victim is the planet (which will be around long after the human race will have passed from its surface)

Lakoff also proposes his own Wedge and Slippery Slope issues:  “Imagine a campaign for poison free communities, starting with mercury as the poison of choice, then going on to other kinds of poison in our air and in our water, around us in various forms. That could be made into a wedge issue, splitting conservatives who care about their won and their children’s health from those who are simply against government regulation. The very issue would be a frame in which regulation favors health, and being against the regulation endangers health. This is also a slippery slope issue. Once you get people looking at how and where mercury enters the environment – for example from the processing of coal and other chemicals—and you get people thinking about cleaning up mercury, and about mercury poisoning, and how it works in the environment, you can go onto the next poison in the environment, and the poison after that, and the poison after that.”

One might notice that there is no mention of the empirical fact that there will be radioactive materials in our food, contaminants in our air and water, and other environmental hazards no matter what steps we take. The questions of “HOW MUCH RISK?” or “HOW MUCH WILL MITIGATING THE RISK COST?” are ignored because they are unimportant to Dr. Lakoff. Apparently, Dr. Lakoff is a proponent of the idea that creating unfounded hysteria is a good way to attain power. Cleaner water, cleaner air, cleaner food and cleaner fuels drive up the cost of these resources, and products derived from their use, thus making those things more difficult for the poor to obtain. These considerations never enter the mind of the Progressive because of the intrinsic belief that they are the elite intellectuals who must protect humanity from its own stupidity.

Dr. Lakoff suggests that conservatives believe that “The hated liberals, who are effete elitist, unpatriotic spendthrifts, are threatening American culture and values, and have to be fought vigorously and continuously on every front. It is a threat to the very security of the nation, as well as morality, religion, the family, and everything real Americans hold dear“

Given the Progressive support for removing decisions from the hands of individuals and their representatives, confiscating and redistributing wealth and opportunities, driving up the cost of living, silencing dissenting opinions via speech codes and prohibitions on public religious expression, changing the definitions of family and morality and ignoring the frames and principles of our founding fathers, attitudes such as this should not come as a surprise. They are founded on empirical experience with Progressives. There is a Culture War, but even Dr. Lakoff’s own rhetoric betrays the fact that it is traditional beliefs, institutions and values that are under attack by people that hope to play God, change the world, and remake it in their own image.


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