Monday, September 12, 2016

Hearts and Minds

Link to article about a Slovenian philosopher and his thoughts on the migrants.

Perhaps it is time (arguably past time) for us to sort out our feelings from our policy decisions. To be clear, I am a big proponent of acknowledging and being in touch with our feelings. I am convinced feelings are our motive force. That said, they are as much a force propelling us to do stupid or even harmful things as they are for motivating us toward our more noble goals. Further, following our feelings without a sufficient injection of rational thought is almost always a bad play. A cursory check on current events illustrates how, both in our own lives and on the global stage, failing to include the links of critical rational thought into the chain running between events and policy has led us down some foolish or even dark paths. Without heart we are nothing. With only heart, we silly dangerous beasts, indeed.

I am in part drawn to association with my beloved fellows inhabiting the Left side of the political sphere because of their heart. That said, I think it is important to call out my comrades*. The stakes are too high for us to make grave errors because we are (understandably) caught up in the horror. We need to honor our bleeding hearts without drowning in that blood.

I am going to unambiguously label the following as the critical bit. Some of the points being made by the Slovenian philosopher (and other thoughtful humans) are the same as or overlap with points made by people on the far Right here in America and in Europe. How can this be? If a person says some of these things they must be driven by racism, xenophobia, fear, anger and hatred, right?


Recognizing evidence that is disturbing does not immediately make one a hateful, fearful, xenophobe. In the same way that recognizing the horror on the faces of desperate refugees does not make a person a hopeless romantic without critical thinking skills. How one reacts to the evidence is the deciding factor. When the philosopher asserts that many of the migrants entering Europe are from vastly different cultures that may share little in common European countries, this is a fact. When he states that these migrants were at once justified in fleeing their war-torn homelands and not necessarily entering Europe with an intent to assimilate or adopt European values, this is a fact. If the response to these facts is hatred and violence, this is a horrible and sad fact- but not a surprising fact. If the response is to the plight of desperate fleeing refugees is to ignore their plight, this is unconscionable. However, recognizing the horror and committing to aid the afflicted while not simply absorbing them all into Europe is not a horrible or hateful thing. In fact, I would argue (after hearing the recent report on the refugees by This American Life) it is a superior idea. Compare this to the truly horrifying condition they currently endure in squalid under-funded refugee camps as stateless persons. Bereft and hopeless. Link to the refugee story.

Things would be easier if we could blame everything on the far-right-crazies but that won't fly. However, I will advance this idea. I am not the first to think this by any means. We are all concerned by the tendency on the Right, in recent years, to stray from historical fiscal conservatism into fundamentalist ideology both religious and political. I suggest that, when we are not reveling in glee at the pit they've dug for themselves, we may want to have a look at the ripple effect of these trends on the Left. Once upon a time and not so long ago, I could have an honest debate with a conservative in which we shared a fair amount of middle ground (intelligent rational people wanting to solve commonly agreed upon problems). Our routes to the solutions were often quite different but our thoughtful arguments spurred each other to better thinking and eventually some compromise. As the far right ideologues began their ascendency, I noticed the lack of a rational opponent helps degrade the argument on both sides. Without real and thoughtful arguments to push back on, progressives began to lose their edge. Worse yet, we didn't notice ourselves slipping. We rejoiced with cheap jokes about our opponents, but we were duller.  If you are thinking I seem wistful and at a bit of a loss without those old-time fiscal Conservatives, you'd be right. It wasn't all sweetness and light but I might have appreciated the reasonable ones more while there were greater numbers of them to appreciate.

*I agree, that bit about "comrades" was totally gratuitous. It was an unsubtle poke at any hardcore Republican Fundamentalists passersby. One has a certain curmudgeonly image to uphold.

Examples of conflicting cultures:
child brides

so-called honor killing

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