RE: MD liberals, conservatives & suffering

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat Aug 23 2003 - 23:14:11 BST

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    Steve, Wim, August, Horse and all sufferers:

    Steve said:
    "I would say that liberals tend to focus on fulfilling material
    (inorganic and biological) needs while conservatives focus on improving
    social quality for the suffering." ...and later explained...
    "I was led to this thinking because Wilber's internal/external split is
    to Pirsig's distinction of saying that the inorganic and biological levels
    are objective while the social and intellectual level are subjective."

    dmb says:
    I think Wilber was only saying that conservatives tend to blame poverty on
    the internal character flaws of the poor, while liberals tend to blame it on
    external forces like oppression and explotation. Lots of people have made
    this observation. Trying to frame this in terms of subjects and objects
    seems like a dead end. (Wilber takes on the problems of SOM, which he refers
    to as "flatland", but that's another topic.) I'd rather take this in a
    different direction, one that seems particularly useful if we're trying to
    make sense of the MOQ and it's view of politics.

    As I read it, the MOQ asserts that the political conflicts of our time, and
    for the last century or so, are actually a manifestation of the conflict
    between social and intellectual values. Its a moral battle. As I read it,
    this is a pretty big deal and is a battle in which we are all engaged
    whether we know it or not. The problem with SOM here, is that it does not
    allow us to very well make sense of these things. As Pirsig puts it, "Nobody
    could spell it out" because of SOM. We see this same inability in the
    assertions made by Rorty and company, who insist that no point of view can
    be asserted over another. There are no priviledged positions. Surely, even
    the most ardent pragmatist knows there's a difference betweeen THE CELISTINE
    PROPHECIES and THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON, but there was no real way to
    sort things out. This is the same paralysis that prevented Pirsig and his
    liberal intellectual buddies from being able to spell it out.

    Pirsig wrote(Chapter 21): In a value metaphysics, on the other hand, society
    and intellect are patterns of value. They're real they're independent. ... A
    value metaphysics makes it possible to see that there's a conflict between
    intellect and society that's just as fierce as the conflict between society
    and biology or the conflict between biology and death. Biology beat death
    billions of years ago. Society beat biology thousands of years ago. But
    intellect and society are still fighting it out, and that is the key to an
    understanding of both the Victorians and the twentieth century.

    dmb says:
    I like this quote because it mentions all four static levels. It gives us
    context and a sense of proportion. Intellect and society are stilling
    fighting it out. That's the key. The 20th century has been a battle between
    3rd and 4th level values. I find it confusing for any political view to be
    described in terms inorganic and biological values. I think social and
    intellectual values are the only ones that can make sense. Marxism, to use
    Steve's example, has problems. I dislike its materialism too, but I think we
    have to admit that such a complex historical theory is intellectual whether
    we like it or not. Pirsig spells out the flaws in scientific materialism,
    but those flaws don't lead him to re-classify it as anything other than an
    intellectual level construct. It makes sense to classify them as
    intellectual simply because they seek to improve on traditional ways and
    traditional knowledge, but Pirsig very nearly uses Marxism as an example of

    Pirsig continues in chapter 21: .......................................What
    distinguishes the pattern of values called Victorian from the postWWI period
    that followed it is, according to the MOQ, a cataclysmic shift in levels of
    static values; an earthquake of such enormous consequence that we are still
    stunned by it, so stunned that we haven't yet figured out what has happened
    to us. The advent of both democratic and communistic socialism and the
    fascist reaction to them has been the consequence of the earthquake. The
    whole 'Lost Generation' of the 20th century which continues, as lost as
    ever, through generation after generation, is a consequnce of it. The 20th
    century collapse of morals is a result of it. Further consequances are on
    their way."

    dmb says:
    The clash between socialism and fascism is among the consequences of this
    "enormous" and "cataclysmic" shift. We can all see that there are many
    differences between our Victorians and German Nazi's, but the MOQ shows that
    they are both manifestations of social level values. The Victorians were the
    last to live under the social level's rules, while fascism sought to destroy
    intellectual values and re-assert the old tradition, a retro future.
    (Fascism in America won't speak German or goose-step down the road. It'll be
    very, very American. It'll talk like a cowboy and swagger down the road in
    blue jeans.) But we don't need to go to such extremes. We can see the same
    battle in smaller, lesser forms. The clash between liberals and
    conservatives isn't as stark or dramatic as the clash between socialism and
    fascism, but intellectual and social values are still the key to
    understanding the differences. Its no accident that those who oppose the
    "hippies" and liberals in general often support family values, tend to be
    religious and patriotic. Its no accident that they tend to be defensive
    about those areas where intellect is most critical of tradition. Don't get
    me wrong, there are some very good reasons to protect tradition and the 4th
    level's flaw is no small matter, but that's a different post. This quote
    brings it a little closer to home...

    From chapter 24:
    "By the end of the 60's the intellectualism of the 20's found itself in an
    impossible trap. If it continued to advocate more freedom from Victorian
    social restraint, all it would get is more hippies, who were really just
    carrying its anti-Victorianism to an extreme. If, on the other hand, it
    advocated constructive social conformity in oppositon to the hippies, all it
    would get was more Victorians, in the form of the reactionary right."

    dmb continues:
    Roughly speaking, the MOQ views the battle between right and left as a
    conflict between social and intellectual values. That's the point. There are
    lots of complications and exceptions. Naturally. And we can never make sense
    of politics, within the MOQ or otherwise, if we aren't first familiar with
    the actual circumstances involved. But as a basic orienting generalization,
    conservatives are usually asserting social level values and liberals are
    most often asserting intellectual values. An editorial in the current issue
    of the Nation, for example, details some complaints about the Bush
    administration. I've made the case already that, at least in some places,
    the jury is still out on the scopes monkey trial and religion is asserted
    over science. I've made the case recently that this administration has a
    less than genuine respect for democracy and democratic principles. There was
    the case of privacy rights and the one not mentioned until now, involves a
    judge who refuses the supreme court's instructions to remove from the court
    a monument to the ten commandments. In one news story after another, I think
    we see the conflict between social and intellectual values. And sometimes
    leaders are so far to the right that they not only rabidly defend
    traditional values, but are actually hostile to intellectual values. You
    probably recall that Pirsig sites Hitler as an example of this extreme form
    of reaction. With that in mind, consider these words...

    From the article titled "SCIENCE GETS SACKED".
    "Faced with inconvienient scientific information, the Bush Administration
    just hits DELETE. This according to an explosive new report by Rep Henry
    Waxman, which catalogues dozens of politically driven affronts to scientific
    inquiry - from the recent EPA report that was purged of information on
    global warning to the biased rewtire of an National Cancer Institute web
    page that once debunked alledged links between abortions and breast cancer.
    The administration "has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or
    suppressed scientific findings", says the report, precipitatiing "misleading
    statements by the President, inaccurate responses to congress, erroneous
    international communications and the gagging of scientists". The editors of
    SCIENCE, NATURE, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN and the British journal LANCET have
    said as much in the past year, as have the ACLU, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, THE

    dmb says:
    Do you see social and intellectual values in conflict here? I do. I think we
    can identify jsut about any feature of the political landscape in these
    terms. This battle is in the newspapers every day. See?

    Thanks for your time,

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