How far apart are we conservatives from this set of social desires?
Do we not also care about the welfare of the entire community? Do we not agree that individual choices can do serious harm to the collective? Do we not also want everyone to enjoy the blessings of liberty? Are we not disgusted by any governmental attempts to prevent people from this enjoyment because of minority group discrimination? Are we not equally committed to a Constitution that reflects the actual needs of the nation?
With a few exceptions—important ones, no doubt—the average leftist and the average conservative probably are in agreement about the kinds of outcomes we would wish each of us to enjoy. So what prevents consensus?
In the fifth century BC Socrates famously asked about what constitutes “the good life” which Plato chronicles in The Symposium, The Republic, and other dialogues.
We humans have been debating this ever since. And what keeps liberals and conservatives apart are very different approaches to answering this fundamental question.
The evidence for this divergence can be found in the unconscious framework of our internalized narratives. The Recovering Bureaucrat was recently reminded of this by a post on Facebook by the great author Robert Bidinotto, whose salient work on the “clash of Narratives” helped him better understand the stubborn consistency of leftist beliefs even against hard evidence of their nonviability, or, as they might like to put in, their unsustainability.
Facts may be stubborn things, but denial is even more tenacious. The RB would bet on denial over facts any day. Our determination to cling to a Narrative about “reality” appears to be a hard-wired developmental structure, an element in the trajectory of our individual and collective human evolution. The relatively rare capability to witness our mentation is essential to noticing that we are, indeed, adhering to a narrative in the first place—and how many of us have engaged in a meditative practice effective enough to develop this witnessing capacity in the first place? It tends to happen only in matured individuals, people whose self-sense is autonomous and responsible, and how many of us fall into that category?