Friday, January 6, 2017

I think he's seen the light

In a New York Times article titled 'Why Rural America Voted For Trump', the author - a liberal Democrat in Iowa - highlights the moment he realized the difference between his views and those of Republicans.

For me, it took a 2015 pre-caucus stop in Pella by J. C. Watts, a Baptist minister raised in the small town of Eufaula, Okla., who was a Republican congressman from 1995 to 2003, to begin to understand my neighbors — and most likely other rural Americans as well.

“The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good,” said Mr. Watts, who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul. “We are born bad,” he said and added that children did not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing how to do that.

“We teach them how to be good,” he said. “We become good by being reborn — born again.”

He continued: “Democrats believe that we are born good, that we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God, as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else to blame when things go wrong — not us.”

Mr. Watts talked about the 2015 movie theater shooting in Lafayette, La., in which two people were killed. Mr. Watts said that Republicans knew that the gunman was a bad man, doing a bad thing. Democrats, he added, “would look for other causes — that the man was basically good, but that it was the guns, society or some other place where the blame lies and then they will want to control the guns, or something else — not the man.” Republicans, he said, don’t need to look anywhere else for the blame.

Hearing Mr. Watts was an epiphany for me. For the first time I had a glimpse of where many of my conservative friends and neighbors were coming from. I thought, no wonder Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on things like gun control, regulations or the value of social programs. We live in different philosophical worlds, with different foundational principles.

There's more at the link.  It's an interesting read.

I don't think the author is entirely correct.  For a start, I don't identify either the Republican or the Democratic party with explicitly Christian principles such as original sin or redemption.  There are just as many sinful, wicked Republicans as there are sinful, wicked Democrats - and there are too many of both varieties, as well as apolitical sinners!  Nevertheless, the different perspectives on humanity - fundamentally good, or fundamentally bad - are, I think, politically accurate.

The Christian perspective is an important one, as it underpins our legal system.  I can't recall the exact quotation from St. Thomas Aquinas (and if any reader can, I'll be grateful for a citation in Comments), but he pointed out that unless one realized and appreciated that one was personally capable of committing any and every sin, even the most grievous, one would not truly understand redemption and salvation.  The latter operate in the individual arena, not the corporate.  One cannot be saved merely by an outwardly visible membership of a particular church, but by internal conversion, redemption and salvation.  We have to accept personal responsibility for our own sins and wrongdoing, not merely some sort of collective guilt-by-association.  I can't repent for your sins, and you can't repent for mine.  Equally, our legal system calls to account the person or persons who commit a crime, not the parents that bore them, or the society that raised them, or the schools that educated them.

I think it's fair to say that 'big-city' Republicans are as likely as 'big-city' Democrats to blame society, upbringing, and environment for the evils plaguing our society.  Rural folks, and those who work with their hands and by the sweat of their brows, are closer to reality.  They have to be.  That reality can injure or kill them if they make a mistake, or starve them if their crops fail.  (I cited one local example last year.)  I therefore think the author of the NYT article is closer to the truth than many eggheads who've commented on the urban-rural divide since the election.  It's personal versus group, individual versus corporate, me personally versus group identity.

I hope the group - any group, political, social, economic, religious, or whatever - never succeeds in submerging or absorbing the individual.  If it does, we're doomed.



kurt9 said...

Murray Rothbard said it best when he said that if humans are by nature good, any system ought to work. However, if humans are by nature bad, then there is no sense in putting one human or group of humans in charge of all others. Christians, by definition, should be libertarian or, at minimum, for limited government and naturally hostile towards any concept of authority that is not specifically based on competence.

I also do not understand the hostility that many Christians have towards what the media often calls transhumanism. To me, transhumanism and Christianity are identical to each other. Transhumanism is made up mostly of libertarians. It is based on the values of individualism, self-reliance, work ethic, free markets, spirit of inquiry, technological innovation, and the relentless pursuit of the "infinite". These are the exact same values that comprise the bases of Western civilization, and especially the anglo-sphere. To oppose transhumanism is to oppose western civilization.

Jason said...

If by "bad" what is meant is "lazy and selfish", then I have to agree. Humans will take the path of least resistance (lazy) to get what they want (selfish). Overcoming that intrinsic nature, which is common to ALL life forms, requires a lot of socialization.

There is some justice to the "society made me do it" attitude though, but it relates back to the "lazy and selfish" nature. When being lazy and selfish is rewarded by society, then why change? Why get married when you get paid by Uncle Sam to bear children out of wedlock? Why practice chastity when you can just kill or abandon unwanted children? Why respect property when you don't have to pay for either acquiring it or replacing it? The individual choices are still the individual's responsibility, but the incentives under which he operates will significantly influence which choices provide the easiest rewards.

Jess said...

The article left out the huge amount of free stuff the blue counties acquire through confiscatory taxes on all counties. Remove that, and the ability to demand by taxes, and the responsibility returns.

The only problem would be the transition stage. With so many leeches, rioting would destroy most any large city.

Rusty Gunner said...

I wouldn't cast it as "man is good" vs. "man is bad". I think both sides acknowledge that man is imperfect. The difference is that the more utopian philosophies teach that man can be perfected, and the political expression of that is that man can be perfected by the rules imposed on him to constrain his freedoms. Thus there's no problem creating power structures requiring perfect people to manage and exist within, such as any variant of socialism, since people will be perfect once the right laws are passed.

In practice this always turns into a Procrustean nightmare as the perfecters break out the (literal or figurative) guillotines to hasten the process.

To people not saddled with Utopian wishful thinking, a man may be improved but Man will always have feet of clay, so if you allow him power you'd best limit the damage he can do.

kurt9 said...

The difference is that the more utopian philosophies teach that man can be perfected, and the political expression of that is that man can be perfected by the rules imposed on him to constrain his freedoms.

Its more fundamental than that. The primary definition of a utopian world-view is the belief that there is the One Perfect System or World-view that is optimized for all human beings. By this definition, even Christianity itself can be considered a utopian system. We are all different, have different dreams and goals, wants and desires in life. Hence, it is definitionally impossible that one perfect system or idea could possibly exist.

I believe very strongly that the notion that the individual does not own his/her own life is the philosophical root of all tyranny. My commitment to liberty requires that I reject ALL memes that does not recognize individual autonomy in the Randian/Rothbardian sense. Until someone comes up with a version of Christianity that is compatible with my commitment to Rothbardian self-ownership, it can never be acceptable to me.

I understand the usefulness of the alt-right as an antidote to the liberal-left. I am often sympathetic to the alt-right. I think of it as analogous to a chemotherapy treatment for the cancer of liberal-leftism. However, at the end of the day I realize that in many ways the alt-right is as collectivist as the liberal-left.

I despise and reject all forms of collectivism.

Thornharp said...

If you're a person who always expects someone else to clean up your room, you vote for the Democrat. (Example by action is so much simpler than example by philosophy.)

Michael Brazier said...

The difference between Left and Right isn't moral at its base, but theological. The Leftists subscribe to the Pelagian heresy - they think Man can perfect himself, with no need for God's grace to save him. The Right is, by definition, everyone who rejects Pelagianism; that includes, but is not limited to, the Christian doctrine of original sin.

Jester said...

It gets worse than this guy I think. He knows the communities are dying on the vine so to speak and that the money is being spent where the population is. Fine. He seems to know and understand that food, raw materials and the like come from outside the cities. Great. He also knows that the cities have an advantage over many rural areas for making products. Terrific. But half the liberals in the cities don't have a clue how this works first off. The ones that do or might know what is going on see those people outside the urban areas as feudal holdings areas. Serfs live outside the cities and produce for the Lord (.gov) And Manor (The Urbanites space) That eventually they will be able to out vote and outright control those areas where they don't live. Don't like the fact your community is dieing, well move and join is or we will absorb you anyway. You have a population of a few thousand that are impoverished, well we have ten times that in a major urban center. Don't like how we dictate you produce the goods we need? Well find another place to live because Urbinites don't think they should have to change or acknowledge those outside their areas unless it is to tell them what they are doing wrong or how they need to be living.

Dad29 said...

We can get close to your cite of TA here:

"Aquinas also finds that the ordering of the soul is damaged by original sin. He writes that ``original justice was forfeited through the sin of our first that all the powers of the soul are left, as it were, destitute of their proper order'' (Summa Theologica IaIIae.85.3; New Advent). Why is this? Aquinas writes that ``the whole order of original justice consists in man's will being subject to that the will being turned away from God [in original sin], all the other powers of the should became inordinate'' (Ibid. IaIIae.82.3; New Advent). He calls this concupiscence the material component of original sin, and he concludes that original sin is indeed concupiscence (Ibid.; New Advent)."

Bibliotheca Servare said...

The comments on that article (especially the "top" ant "Time Picks" ones) are an exquisite illustration of regressive leftist bigotry, wilful ignorance, arrogance, and bilious, venomous hatred and stupidity. One of the top comments actually claims s/h/it (xher?) has "...never heard an urban dweller express real hatred of rural Americans..." but that the hatred always flows the other direction! One of them says they hope all the people who grow the food they need to survive "do secede" because God knows the cities will do well in the absence of regular shipments of food etc from rural areas, right? Thousands and thousands of upvotes! The "Time Picks" (essentially endorsed by the NYTIMES) were, if anything, *worse*. A pox upon all their houses, I say. And I know a thing or two (but not much more) about how horrible smallpox was/is, so I don't say that lightly. Venomous, self-centered -and self-absorbed- deceitful vipers, the lot of them.

Now I need to look at some pictures of fluffy bunnies and puppies, and maybe give *my* puppy a hug. The urge to kill is dangerously strong right now.

Anonymous said...

I think that, for a personal view, kurt9 (up above) gets about as close to the heart of the matter as needs to be -

Overall, though, I see it as both simpler (for the given individual, at a given moment) and vastly more-complex (for the series of individuals involved. across the continuing stream of time and circumstance) than what the minister -and ex-legislator - framed it to be.

It is quite demonstrably so that children - especially very young ones - are barbarians, having no particular mores or moral sense where humans - even themselves - are concerned. They are born heathens, and are trained/educated towards what we are pleased, mostly, to call "civilization", both by example from those around them and by implication/explication from some or all of the same.

None of us are perfection, though some are measurably much closer to an acceptably-"civilized" set of ideals than are others, of course. As to Republican vs. Democrat in that spectrum - in large part, for those who agree with and much more closely act upon the theme of the ultimate supremacy of the individual over the collective, the far-greater tendency will be towards individual independence of both action AND responsibility for same...and this is the base-philosophy, in general, of Republican thought and deed. Insistence upon the other end of the philosophic stream - that the collective is paramount, even where certain individuals may appear to "stand out" - is generally emblematic of the Democrat view and action...and is fully prepared to force the issue of both deeds and words away from reliance on individual decisioning or suasion.

In the end, it all flows from that difference: The individual versus the collective. There is simply a very broad range of gradations within that flow -

In broad, general categorical terms: The Collective - with little-to-no individual volition or - at base - responsibility - is the end of the spectrum for the Democrat...trending into the Socialist, tending into the Marxist; whereas The Individual - with separate, inherent individual volition and full responsibility therein is the other end, flowing to Republicanism to some primary-gradation (preferably stopping at least somewhat-short of the pure-Libertarianism end of matters).

SQT said...

I'm not particularly religious but I think the language is sometimes the most accurate at describing human nature. I don't think people are fundamentally bad, I think we're fundamentally fallen. We all have the capacity for bad acts. What makes us good has a lot to do with our moral upbringing- through the church or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"...perhaps even strong enough to withstand a disastrous Trump presidency."

All ready viewed as a failure and he's not even been sworn into office.

The article still reeks of the hicks are too stupid for their own good and fails to address just how terrible a candidate Ms. Clinton was.

The fact is when the only choice is between the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen, people with some kind of moral compass will choose potential incompetence over known corruption.


lee n. field said...

Read the article. Boy, he does certainly bring in a whole bunch of his own assumptions, unexamined.

Read a few of the comments. Eff them.

kurt9 said...

The religious perspective on good and evil actually supports radical decentralization of any kind of authority, as Murray Rothbard said once. Think of centralized authority as a form of systemic risk, kind of like centralized banking. Like banking, if bad people get in charge of any kind of centralized power structure, the damage they do affects everyone, or at least a large number of people. If everything is radically decentralized, the bad people's damage only affects that people who are directly around them. It doesn't affect everyone else.

The notion that libertarianism prevents collective action is horse pucky. Of course any number of individuals can work together to pursue a common goal. Libertarianism merely forbids the use of coercion in the pursuit of such a goal.