This article in the NY Times is somewhat fascinating:
Studies suggest that conservatives are more often distressed by actions that seem disrespectful of authority, such as slapping Dad. Liberals donâ€™t worry as long as Dad has given permission. Likewise, conservatives are more likely than liberals to sense contamination or perceive disgust. People who would be disgusted to find that they had accidentally sipped from an acquaintanceâ€™s drink are more likely to identify as conservatives.
One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty â€” and revulsion at disgust.
That’s just about the difference in attitudes – which is revealing in itself. But how do you bridge the divide (if you want to)? Kristoff says that merely exposing someone to the opposite view isn’t enough, because it might simply re-inforce their view. In other words, the fact that many of us in the blogosphere think it’s great that people are exposed to a range of opinion doesn’t necessarily mean people are more likely to become open minded. They just argue a lot more.
Here’s the crunch:
Thus persuasion may be most effective when built on human interactions. Gay rights were probably advanced largely by the publicâ€™s growing awareness of friends and family members who were gay. A corollary is that the most potent way to win over opponents is to accept that they have legitimate concerns, for that triggers an instinct to reciprocate.
How does this apply to the UK? Well, one of the reasons I think race relations are unlikely to get like the 70s or 80s is precisely because people have many more friends/partners of different races. That barrier has been broken in the mainstream.
The empathy point is important though – when discussions about Israel/Palestine or Muslims/Jews or terrorism/racism come up – it seems to me that the main reason why they don’t get anywhere is because the loudest voice on each side is unwilling to acknowledge the other side has legitimate concerns, or empathise with them.
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Filed in: Culture,Current affairs,Race politics