The tree

 

I was talking to my father once, discussing the merit of Bernie Sanders and others well meaning but ultimately (from his perspective) ineffective approach to sorting out one of the greatest problems of all time: inequality. Sanders outline for a tax plan in 2016 would increase taxes on the entirety of the US but with a greater focus on the upper echelons of society than Hillary Clinton’s proposed measures, with the intent of evening the odds in an increasingly unbalanced society. My father responded that it is simply not addressing the problem properly and I myself here suggest that such measures could be reversed by another party taking power as the tax brackets have jumped around there is precedent for such a criticism. I made the analogy that the Sanders of the world wish to trim the leaves while the communist ideology of my father and others wish to rip out the roots of the tree.

If the tree is our international society then I am sitting relatively high up in the branches at the present moment seeing as I live in a rich town in the UK and trimming the leaves seems more amenable to me despite the realization that I get sunburnt (higher taxes) taking out the roots (revolution) would mean I lose my place in the tree and with no guarantee where I might end up in the hierarchy of the new sapling on its way up, in other words: I do not advocate revolution. That said I believe there is real value in Marxist criticism of the world I live in. I have listened to a variety of social critics who attack the structures of capitalism and find that there are too many problems to count in this tree.

One man stands out as he approaches different problems in The Tree from the other side of the aisle to myself. Jordan Bernt Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologistcultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto who has recently found fame and fortune through his online lectures and speaking out about the perceived attacks on freedom of speech by members of the left. Dr Peterson is first and foremost a psychologist who has helped me to adjust my perspective in regards to the injustice I perceive in my society. He also attempts to study and analyse the personality traits of conservative and liberal minded individuals.

Peterson calls himself a classical liberal while I perceive him to be a conservative Christian who refuses to outright align himself with that clique. I have never encountered someone from that side of the aisle who perfectly articulated to me what I think are genuine problems with The Left while simultaneously giving practical advice for how to overcome psychological issues. I come from a liberal town in a conservative country, I have been surrounded by liberals for my entire life, I come from communist parents, knew a black girl with lesbian parents and a gay guy with an eco friendly family from the age of 7. I describe these features of my life to illustrate how embedded I am in a staunchly anti-conservative culture. One of Peterson’s elucidations which hit home for me was the idea that conservatives tend to have stricter borders on all aspects of their life than liberal people. Both nationally and on a personal level I can see that this claim holds water. The obsession with Trump’s wall in the US and the insistence of a conservative friend of mine for absolute cleanliness validates this view to me: borders on the community and the individual’s body itself are of the utmost importance to conservatives whether they are aware of it or not.

People sensitive to disgust are more likely to be conservative – so much so that their brain’s response to a disgusting image can predict political leaning . Research proves that human beings who are averse to change or innovation and hold traditional values have a different physiological response than those who are willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own (these are the internet’s definition of conservative and liberal). If our very biology dictates our political leaning or at least helps to shape it, then what hope is there for rational argument overcoming that without at first recognizing the internal neurological basis for their point of view? I am a liberal and actually managed to make some headway in a discussion with a ‘pro-life’ advocate through adopting a community based/fiscally responsible approach to the issue rather than engaging with the ‘unholy and disgusting’ practice of abortion. There is value in aligning yourself with your ‘enemy’ to persuade them to your point of view. I am not suggesting liberals need to absorb this conservative value to evolve however, something which Peterson makes all too clear in his online lectures. This sensitivity to disgust has tragic consequences for human beings .

This particular revelation among others have helped me to understand the other side of the political spectrum and for the most part I give credit to Peterson for my newfound appreciation for the complexity of the individual branches on this organism. This is my first post and any more will focus on another random branch of this world and seek to understand how our values are reflected in culture and political discourse. Thanks for reading.

 

Davy Hume

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