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Lakoff on Real Reason vs False Reason

George Lakoff, Common Dreams
… All three results follow from a cognitive science study called Moral Politics, which I published in 1996 and was reprinted in 2002. There I observed that conservatives and liberals had opposite moral worldviews structured by metaphor around two profoundly different models of the ideal family, a strict father family for conservatives and a nurturant parent family for liberals. In the ideal strict father family, the world is seen as a dangerous place and the father functions as protector from “others” and the parent who teaches children absolute right from wrong by punishing them physically (painful spanking or worse) when they do wrong. The father is the ultimate authority, children are to obey, and immoral practices are seen as disgusting.

Ideal liberal families are based on nurturance, which breaks down into empathy, responsibility – for both oneself and others, and excellence: doing as well as one can to make oneself better and one’s family and community better. Parents are to practice these things and children are to learn them by example.

Because our first experience with being governed in is our families, we all learn a basic metaphor: A Governing Institution Is A Family, where the governing institution can be a church, a school, a team, or a nation. The Nation-as-Family version gives us the idea of founding fathers, Mother India and Mother Russia, the Fatherland, homeland security, etc.

Apply these monolithically to our politics and you get extreme conservative and progressive moral systems, defining what is right and wrong to each side.

… Those of you who’ve read my Don’t Think of an Elephant! and The Political Mind will be familiar with the basic results of frame semantics, developed by my Berkeley colleague Charles Fillmore and others within the cognitive and brain sciences.

The first basic result: The meaning of every word is characterized in terms of a brain circuit called a “frame.” Frames are often characterized in terms of the usual apparatus of mental life: metaphors, images, cultural narratives – and neural links to the emotion centers of the brain. The narrow, literal meaning of a word is only one aspect of its frame-semantic meaning.

The second basic result is that this is mostly unconscious, like 98% of human thought.

… from the perspective of real reason as conservatives use it, there is no contradiction. The highest conservative value is preserving and empowering their moral system itself. Medicare is anathema to their moral system – a fundamental insult. It violates free market principles and gives people things they haven’t all earned. It is a system where some people are paying -God forbid! – for the medical care of others. For them, Medicare itself is immoral on a grand scale, a fundamental moral issue far more important than any minor proposal for “modest cost savings.” I’m sorry to report it, but that is how conservatives are making use of real reason, and exploiting the fact that so many liberals think it’s contradictory.

Indeed, one of the major findings of real reason is that negating a frame activates that frame in the brain and reinforces it – like Nixon saying that he was not a crook. Dan Pfeiffer, writing on the White House blog, posted an article called “Still not a ‘Government Takeover’,” which activates the conservative idea of a government takeover and hence reinforces the idea. Every time a liberal goes over a conservative proposal giving evidence negating conservative ideas one by one, he or she is activating the conservative ideas in the brains of his audience. The proper response is to start with your own ideas, framed to fit what you really believe. Facts matter. But they have to be framed properly and their moral significance must be made manifest. That is what we learn from real reason.
(21 February 2010)
Campaigns to raise awareness about peak oil, climate change and sustainability are handicapped by the large percentage of “rational thinkers” (scientists, engineers, etc.) As Lakoff points out, logical discourse by itself is only a minor way in which people form their opinions.

Original title: “A Good Week For Science — and Insight into Politics”

Letters from Amok: The State of the World in Pen and Ink

Chellis Glendinning, Culture Change
I stand in the Chimayó, New Mexico, post office, poring over a hand-scrawled note from Oakland immigrant-rights activist Arnoldo Garcia — and I weep. Not for the stark vision of the fragility of life and the forces ripping into it that he voices, for I am not unfamiliar with the dire state of the world — but for the fact that he has had the courage to state it with so much heart.
Dear Chellis,
I’m still plugging away in the struggle for deep justice, writing poetry every chance I get, and relearning hope. I finally took a sabbatical from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. From this slight distance I’d say that it’s a tough situation we’re in. Have we reached a plateau? Or are we in decline? Don’t know that the Big-We-Collective, or even a significant constellation of them/us, has learned the difference. I’m worried about the safety and well-being of my family, extended families, and those like you who make a difference. In the immigrant justice movement there’s a lot of thoughtless trading of rights. The challenge is getting a majority to turn together. But that majority is up for definition.

Arnoldo Garcia
Every revolution has kept us farther away from the natural world and our roots. And the Earth herself will always have the last say. I remember a speaker at the International Survival Gathering in the Black Hills saying that for America to live, Europe had to die. Too few of us understood the metaphor.

…The next day I receive another letter. This one is from my compañero in Bolivia: Appalachian folksinger Jack Herranen. My God! From a village far away on the southern altiplano, Jack is feeling the same need to express the frailty of our lives and planet.

Hermana Che! Mi querida prima en la lucha!
I have re-approached the piece you wrote with your Chilean comrade Jesús Sepúlveda (“In Service to the Deities,” Sacred Fire, Winter 2009). In it you refer to our mission as being “in service to the deities.” Your words help ground me back to the reality of my life here in the village. Oftentimes the knowing slips — and I find myself bivouacking on an outcropping of the slippery slope to modernity.

I have here the works of Wendell Berry by my side, James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name, fresh coca from La Paz, some quotes from Illich and Mumford within eyeshot — also a makeshift altar on the kitchen sill with a folk image of Hank Williams, Sr., an amulet of La PachaMama, and some Palo Santo wood for cleansing. I have no commitments ‘til tomorrow … other than to be in service to the deities.
Oakland, California

…Come the following day, I begin to get the feeling that the Chimayó post office has strung a direct line to the collective psyche: a letter arrives from Michigan ecologist Stephanie Mills, and it too addresses the precariousness of earthly life.
Dear Chellis,
This morning I am pondering.

Last summer brought an unnerving irruption of Eastern tent caterpillars. Their silky pouch nests were everywhere in the crotches of the cherry trees, and the creatures themselves stripped the limbs bare. Which is what they do, and the trees can usually withstand it – but not repeatedly and not in droughts. As spring unfolds, we’ll see if these members of the biotic community can make it through the current distress.

All of our gravest problems — overpopulation, climate destabilization, depletion of non-renewable resources, water scarcity, and the extinction crisis – are the predictable outcomes of the going economic paradigm, the trajectory of civilization. And those mega-problems come to a backyard focus in even the hardiest members of the local sylva on the ropes…

Then, on the fourth day — as if right on beat — a hand-written letter from Chilean poet Jesús Sepúlveda, in Oregon, is waiting in my post box, and he has actually titled his missive “Inmensa Precariedad.”
Querida Che,
Poet Paul Dresman came to visit with us yesterday. He was back from Mexico where it rained for three solid days and flooded the whole country. The Mexican rainy season is May-October, not now. Something is fundamentally wrong, and the agents that humans produce — industrialism, mega-technologies, mass societies, wars – are the culprits.

A climatologist told Paul that, like a sip of water for a fever, the planet is cooling itself down with moisture to tend the global warming. Lovelock’s Theory of Gaia is proven: the planet is reacting against human industrial activity…
(20 February 2010)

The ICPR Primer

Stefan Pasti, The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative

This post is an introduction to a new resource from The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative titled “The IPCR Workshop Primer” (425 pages). “The IPCR Workshop Primer” is accessible for free (as a pdf file) from the IPCR website homepage ( ). [Note: All IPCR documents are accessible for free.]

“The IPCR Workshop Primer” has 21 sections and 3 Appendices. The 21 sections include: “An Assessment of the Most Difficult Challenges of Our Times”, “Brief Descriptions of The Eight IPCR Concepts”, “A 15 Step Outline for a Community Visioning Initiative”, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers”, “39 Suggestions for Preliminary Survey Questions”, “36 Problems That May Arise”, and a 5 page autobiographical sketch from this writer. The 3 Appendices include “Starting Point Links for Learning More About ‘117 Related Fields of Activity’”, “48 Different Ways of Describing the IPCR Initiative”, “The Twilight of One Era, and the Dawning of Another”, and “Divine Intervention: A Collection of Quotations from ‘Sathya Sai Speaks’ Vol. 1-15”.

Many Difficult Challenges Ahead

The IPCR Initiative is aware of an urgent need to build bridges and increase collaboration between diverse communities of people; both as a response to the implications of global warming, ecological footprint analysis, and the “peaking” of our finite supplies of oil—and to be proactive about individual spiritual formation, interfaith peacebuilding, and the creation of ecologically sustainable communities.

…Creating a Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature

This writer feels that somehow many people have—unfortunately—learned to mistakenly equate flaws in human nature with the practical wisdom and compassion associated with religious, spiritual, and moral traditions. This writer also feels that, with enough experiences of a positive and mutually beneficial nature, many people can come to learn more about the practical wisdom and compassion associated with religious, spiritual, and moral traditions and less about flaws in human nature.

…Problems That May Arise

This writer understands that there will be people who are inclined, regardless of the difficulties and urgencies of trying to resolve multiple crises, to focus their attention on trying to make money by preying on people’s fears and misunderstandings, or on trying to encourage people to set aside their higher aspirations, and indulge in destructive behavior. Such behavior is clearly counterproductive to the building of caring communities; it can be very dangerous for community morale, and it can become a crippling obstacle in times of crises.

…All of Us Have Important Responsibilities in the Months and Years Ahead

Everyone is involved when it comes to determining the markets which supply the “ways of earning a living”. All of us have important responsibilities associated with resolving a significant number of very serious challenges in the months and years ahead. There is much which leaders could be asking from the people who respect their leadership, both as a matter of civic duty, and as a matter of necessity; and there are many people who will be very appreciative when they find that they have an important role to play in the work ahead. Leaders should guide citizens so that they can discover how they can do their part to contribute to the greater good of the whole.

…A Greater Force Than The Challenges We Are Now Facing

This writer encourages readers who explore this new resource to offer any comments, suggestions, recommendations, etc. Also, if readers have any questions, he encourages them to ask the questions. We need our public discourse to be as honest, responsible, and transparent as possible, so we can identify, nurture, support, and sustain ways to build a collective force greater than the challenges we are now facing. True confidence is never really built up by merely convincing a majority of the people involved that they believe the markets are based on sound and practical principles; true confidence is built up because people believe that the efforts of everyone working together is a greater force than the challenges they are facing.
(22 February 2010)
from the website:
The IPCR Initiative is an accumulation of documents, resources, and observations brought together to support the propositions that we– collectively– have both the need, and the potential, to be

a) much more organized and deliberate about “… bringing to the fore what is often hidden: how many good people there are, how many ways there are to do good, and how much happiness comes to those who extend help, as well as to those who receive it.”

b) much more multi-faceted and participation-friendly in our approaches to peacebuilding, community revitalization, and ecological sustainability

c) much more resourceful in the use of the storehouses of accumulated wisdom and “embodied energy” which are now accessible to us