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National Geographic Magazine in their March cover story, The War on Science, gives some light on our exacerbated political divide as they try to explain the psychology related to the fight over what to believe about science. The author surmises that the left includes “Those with a more ‘egalitarian’ and ‘communitarian’ mindset,” who are, “generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change.” The right, on the other hand, includes “people with a ‘hierarchical’ and ‘individualistic’ mind-set who respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings of climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to — some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.”
The author believes that climate change has become a sort of litmus test about which of these warring “tribes” — the left and right, you belong to. He believes we are not so much arguing about the issue, but about who we are. On the left, we’re all in it together and must deal with consequences on behalf of all. On the right, we stand as individuals against the world, and must fight for our autonomy of belief against the “science” of the masses. Accepting a belief in climate change, one of those nasty “science things,” could get that hierarchical individualist thrown out of his or her tribe.
The author concludes, “science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining right with our peers.” We still live in a world where science (read: evidence based) often trumps beliefs (read: tradition based). I’m neither a scientist nor a psychologist, and I see some of the dichotomy in this over-simplified analysis, and so I see that the social definitions of these two tribes often overlap among us. Yet, when it comes to politics, and after all, politics is nothing more than the quest for power within our broader community, the apparent growing gap in organizing belief systems between these two tribes is threatening our democracy.
The genius of our American society lies in our ability to find compromise and some sense of fairness between our varied personal belief systems, and then move forward as a people, individually and together. That is our democracy. And it is in trouble. The answer: we must rationalize the past, as we remember it, in light with what we know to be the truth, today.
While NBC News tonight bawled about drunk drivers with up to 27 convictions going free, and not to jail, while their victims go into physical rehab, if they are lucky enough to survive, I read in the Lake Geneva Regional News that at 9:05 pm on February 20, a drunk driver was cited for his 4th offense in nearby Elkhorn. Every week, I read locally of drunk drivers being cited for their 3rd, 4th or 7th offense, while retaining their license and remaining free, while thousands are maimed and killed, not to mention intimidated and threatened by intoxicated men and women, old and young.
My first corporate job was at the headquarters of Allstate Insurance, working on national efforts to reduce the blood/alcohol levels at which people could be arrested for drunk driving. We worked with the public, with women’s organization and with state legislatures, and we were largely successful in reducing those levels. But thanks to the pervasive tavern lobby, especially here in Wisconsin, and a culture that still endorses having a half dozen or so drinks and still driving, we are still letting people who drive drunk over and over, and are arrested over and over, to remain on the road. Maybe there should be a blood/alcohol ignition interlock in every car on the road. Maybe it’s worth another 50 bucks to save thousands of lives and injuries. Or more simply, let’s exhort these sleepy state legislators to do something useful for a change, and get the drunk drivers off the road.
In addition to being designated drivers when needed, why don’t we all become designated lobbyists to demand that repetitive drunk drivers be kept off the road, at least for the sake of our loved ones? End the drunk butchering on our roads.
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