How to send people to their deaths to fight for a cause.

How to send people to their deaths to fight for a cause.

How to send people to their deaths to fight for a cause.

Comments Off on How to send people to their deaths to fight for a cause.

Berkeley

These are two different ways of being cooperative—cooperation on different terms. A lot of our political disputes are about individualism versus collectivism: To what extent are we each responsible for ourselves, and to what extent are we all in this together? We see this, for example, in issues such as the health care debate and climate change. The modern moral tragedy is not a simple problem of selfishness versus morality—Me versus Us. It’s different tribes with different moral ideals occupying the same space. It’s Us versus Them—their values versus our values, or their interests versus our interests.

The problem is even more complicated because groups not only have different ideas about how to cooperate; they have different histories, religions, leaders, heroes, and holy books that tell them what’s right. This exacerbates the problem of Us versus Them. Different groups rally around different moral authorities, different “proper nouns” such as the Christian Bible versus the Koran.

So one of the main ideas of the book is that when it comes to everyday morality—being selfish versus being good to other people—your moral intuitions are likely to serve you well. Our moral emotions evolved to solve the Me versus Us problem, the tragedy of the commons. But when it comes to Us versus Them, what I call the “tragedy of the commonsense morality,” then our gut reactions are the problem. And that’s when we need to stop and think and be more reflective.

JS: How can we disengage and reflect when faced with moral dilemmas like the ones that exist between groups?

JG: An important tool is just awareness—understanding that it’s your gut reaction if you judge this way instead of that way and that the people on the other side have different gut reactions, too.

But awareness isn’t enough. You’ve got your gut reactions and I’ve got mine—but what should we do? What we need is what I call a “meta-morality.” Morality is what allows the individuals within a group to get along, to turn a bunch of separate “Me”s into an Us. A meta-morality, then, performs the same function at a higher level, allowing groups to get along. A meta-morality adjudicates among competing moral systems, just as a first-order moral system adjudicates among competing individuals.

The meta-morality that I favour has historically been known as “utilitarianism,” but that’s a very bad name for it. I prefer to call it “deep pragmatism,” a name that gives a clearer sense of what it’s really about. Deep pragmatism boils down to this: Maximize happiness impartially. Try to make life as happy as possible overall, giving equal weight to everyone’s happiness.

It’s a meta-morality because it’s a system. Unlike simple rules such as “don’t kill people,” deep pragmatism tells you how to make trade-offs, which is what a meta-morality needs to do. For example, suppose there is a conflict between the individual right to free speech and the rights of other people not to be harmed or offended. A deep pragmatist asks: What are the long-term consequences of allowing this kind of speech? What happens if we restrict it? Which option is most likely to lead to the best results?

Let me pull this out again:

So one of the main ideas of the book is that when it comes to everyday morality—being selfish versus being good to other people—your moral intuitions are likely to serve you well. Our moral emotions evolved to solve the Me versus Us problem, the tragedy of the commons. But when it comes to Us versus Them, what I call the “tragedy of the commonsense morality,” then our gut reactions are the problem. And that’s when we need to stop and think and be more reflective.

This article is about the most simple definition of how political manipulations have created the chaos of warring political divisiveness that now seems to pass as political discourse in all of North America. The political strategists get this better then psychological professionals ever will: If you can make a people view another people through the lenses of Us vs Them, then you have forever destroyed the chances of compromise or even rational thought and left that people mired in hate and fear.

Those are people you can control — and even send to their deaths to fight for the cause.

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