Tag Archives: values

Authority Rules (or does it?)

Yesterday I gave a talk on political framing, the audience was mixed, but leaned heavily toward favoring environmental protection – which likely meant there was a majority of progressives in the room. One of the comments and questions that was put forward was, “is authority truly the ultimate conservative value?”

Those that are familiar with this blog or the works of George Lakoff know that authority and tradition are stated to be the primary and highest priority of values of conservative opinion. A few people questioned whether the word “authority” has positive or negative connotations itself – the word “authoritarian” seemed to lean negative, while the word “tradition” seemed to lean positive in the general frames they evoke. Labeling a school of thought -conservatism- with a word that conjures up negative feelings, might not be the best way to get folks from that school of thought to start talking, so it is worth a look.

First of all, when we talk about the conservative view on any issue, it is not necessarily describing the person with that view. You may have a conservative opinion about a particular policy, yet overall describe yourself -and behave as if – you are liberal, libertarian, or another political orientation. For any issue that “authority” does not feel right, I would propose that one is not very conservative in their stance.

For instance… Continue reading

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Obama As Progressive

Obama’s announcement about his feelings towards gay marriage signals a shift in American cultural history. The conservative reactions range from accusations of “radical social engineering” to schadenfreude at how foolishly Obama is behaving. Why does it all matter? There is no action implied – no legislation or acts in process.  It matters because of the values enforced. Obama is signaling a shift in what is considered to be normal. He is the authority of the land, and conservative’s top two values are authority and tradition.

A progressives top value is empathy; that is why the President’s announcement was such a happy moment. It really isn’t that everyone knows a gay couple lining up to get married, the issue is one of civil rights. It’s also a testament to a “live and let live” attitude that is part of the American identity.

As the general election heads our way, much of the progressive base was grumbling a bit about Obama. This announcement gives progressives something to point at, we all know in our gut when something goes mainstream. Gay marriage just went mainstream. It’s okay for families to be themselves. This offer of goodwill does so much to energize the base because it strongly reinforces the empathy value. If instead Obama had spoken of some thin legal line that GLBT families could walk to to get some rights, the reception would have been cold. This is an issue based on principles and they are not very complicated.

In hard times, you’ve got to feed your base, otherwise they will become disinterested or disconnected from what is happening. Trying to appeal to the “middle” is no use and while it might look ok on a political calculator the reality is that playing to the middle deactivates both sides of the debate. The middle is imaginary. Averaging positions out over a broad range of socioeconomic issues is not an effective measure of ones political stance; the linear concept of left to right is flawed. Most voters tend to be left, right, ambiguous, or ignorant on each individual issue. People don’t advocate “mostly killing” criminals on death row; they either believe in the death penalty or not. Nuances of the law may also be accepted or rejected, but each decision can be broken down into yes or no answers. All of these answers will not line up neatly on the spectrum of liberal to conservative. That is why when speaking in an empathetic manner, many of those “switches” around issues will be flipped simultaneously to an empathetic perspective. When you change someone’s mind at the very root of their thinking, the cascading effect is exponentially successful to trying to win each individual policy nuance. This is why walking the middle is counterproductive for either side of the debate.

I wrote a previous post about this here.

Even though compromise is necessary to govern, rhetoric goes a long way to building expectations and values as a people. Obama’s move will produce more good than harm because at its root are those empathetic, all American values of peace, prosperity, equality, opportunity, love, and even tradition. We all can relate to that and most of us can attest to a moral code that honors love and committment.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Gingrich, Poor Kids, and Trash

Newt Gingrich, though faltering, is the one candidate for the Republican nomination that embodies the establishment GOP. Last November he made a bold choice to endorse and encourage child labor – he wanted poor kids to takeover the jobs of unionized janitors. This is not a smear campaign on Newt, he stands by the statement and it was no gaff. On Wednesday, Gingrich encountered a former child janitor, in the exchange he not only upheld his previous ideas, but threw in a cold dismissal of real world class differences. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Positive Politics at St. Louis City Museum

Hey, this is Amy Meier, the author of CivilTongue, thanks for reading. I am passionate about my beliefs and about how we humans create and process with our brains. The worst part about starting this blog is that there is so much depressing stuff out there! In reading and researching for posting, I am very interested in lots of issues, but consuming news can bring you right on down – especially if you see your values being trampled.  I am experimenting a bit here so that I can share some really positive things with readers as well. My “Favorite Frames” will be featured  – perhaps regularly – to show what is going on in the world that celebrates my values and makes me feel happy. There are no sponsorships or advertisers (though I’d be happy to entertain an offer 🙂 ), this part is just about feel good stuff.


The City Museum in St. Louis is one of the most stupendously amazing places on the planet. If you haven’t been, you really must put it on your “to do” list immediately, it is SO MUCH FUN! The City Museum is a 600,000 sq. ft playground, in the form of a  former shoe factory in what many folks used to consider a seedy part of downtown.  This museum is very unmuseum-like in most respects.  Touching is not just encouraged, it is required. Matter of fact, you will likely have a lot of full body contact with the museum. There are countless slides, steps, squeeze-throughs, tunnels, tubes, ropes, mazes, climbable sculptures, nooks and crannies that you would not be able to avoid exploring – the museum offers no maps or explanations of what to do, and also very few rules you have to obey.  The museum isn’t even that safe!…which is surprisingly wonderful. There are tons and tons of welded steel to crawl around on and in, kneepads are recommended and many stories of how a late night adventure turned painful (yes there is a bar open until 2). The space is for adults as much as it is for kids – it helps us adults really remember the feeling of explorative play.  There is silliness, sophistication, performances, art making, a huge aquarium, a circus, a ….a…. (I’m getting breathless here). There is so much about it that I love and that ties in directly to my values, I’ll try to start and explain (but I’m telling you, you have to see it to believe it).

First of all, I love that Bob Cassily, the sculptor, birthed this dream against the odds. He dreamed it, found some capital, then proceeded to follow his dream. This is the American dream that I want (it has nothing to do with living in the suburbs or working in the rat race), it involves opportunity and ingenuity. He was like a kid in the candy store, choosing found items like sweets; the building blocks of this magnificent place were formerly known as “trash”. The idea of turning a (not exclusively money driven) dream into reality is inspiring. Doing it in a way that is creative is better. Doing it in a way that actually produces thousands of beautiful artworks is amazing. And doing all of this while recycling tons and tons of useful and beautiful bits of architecture, industrial equipment, scrap metal, and anything else they find is mind-blowing.

Values embodied in this project: creativity, empowerment (apparent in the creativity- no artists could plan the whole thing, there are many nooks where it is apparent that different people were given creative license), bravery (to take risks, follow dreams and buck the city), community (in playing with everyone there, multi-generational and multi-cultural, whos’ thinking about barriers while having a blast?), grit, hard work, and the joy of experiential learning – the joy in life.

Here is what is not a big part of City Museum – fear.  Granted, there is the thrill of self inflicted vertigo if you look down at the city from the bus that’s suspended over the roof, and no doubt many a youngster (or oldster) has found themselves stuck in a tight place or high place and freaked a bit. A person might have to overcome some personal fear about claustrophobia or high places, but there is not a culture of rules over fun like we see normally in museums and in our hyper-litigious culture; it is liberating. (Funny story: the only time I’ve been scolded after climbing everywhere I could find in the museum, was after going down a five story slide and lying on the floor giggling with a friend and we were spied – this was in almost total darkness. The employee thought we were coming from or trying to get into the apartments that adjoined in the rest of the building. The whole issue happened because the employee had no idea that a five story slide existed in the room – granted it was a 10-story “room”. The only way we convinced the employee that we truly had been down a 5 story slide was to show them where we got on. They admitted that it was a slide they’d never noticed before and let us be on our merry way.) Even if a person wasn’t able bodied enough to throw themselves into a child-like climbing frenzy, there is so much to touch, see, learn, observe – it’s extraordinarily rich people watching.

The museum does a decent nod to architecture, specifically the very rich architectural culture of St. Louis – so the value of tradition is honored.  Authority is a value that may be in place in the background (through boards, directors, or lawyers), but it is not apparent to the public. In fact it is encouraged that you “get lost” and you often find yourself in awe of the freedom to explore unfettered by “DO NOT____” signs, security guards (I’m guessing they were there in plainclothes), or school marms shaking their fingers at you. It is such a rare experience to be able to freely explore such a rich and intricate space in our Big Box, pre-fabbed, rectangular kind of world. There is a small section of “straight” museum, like you might have already experienced, with photos, artifacts and explanations, but most of the place is a crazy non-traditional jumble of old and new, fancy and junky all welded together to make a brand new wonderful 10+ story art piece (there’s a rooftop playground too).

Is the City Museum political? No…and yes! City Museum did have to contend with crabby city planners and assumed a renegade role in the beginning. Now that it is one of the biggest draws for tourists, the city admin changed their tune and trumpets the wonders of the attraction to the world. All of our lives are political, in work, play, school, church. Politics aren’t just about insider Washington policy and candidates, politics is about the governing of our lives. This is why the “government is bad” meme makes little sense for anyone but Anarchists. In experiencing the museum, current events are probably far from the mind, but the ideas and values that shape our world are still present.

Like the rest of our lives, City Museum reinforces values that are all over the political spectrum (probably very few people except myself even think of things in this way). Independence and a pioneering spirit are celebrated, as well as a community spirit. It is a beautiful way to show that community, freedom, expression, commerce – and JOY can be held in one place and enjoyed by all.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Empathy for Racists?

I know you are thinking, “seriously? Empathy for racists? Is she really going there?” I really am.

I abhor racism. My definition of racism is that you treat someone in a substandard way simply because of their race. This could be systematic or individualized, there are many forms. As a woman I am familiar with “women’s issues” and wonder why the topic of the gender that accounts for half of the population on this earth merits a “special interest” kind of label. I’m guessing that is how it can feel to be a person of color;that is being treated like an anomaly when, depending on the location, you might be in the majority demographic. When you deal with the hard and soft realities of prejudice on a daily basis, you are living in a different frame that those not experiencing those realities. This is part of the disconnect when you hear a (usually white) person saying, “why does it always have to be about race?”. It is always about race because a person of color never experiences life in the same frame as a white person does in this country.

It’s undisputed that white people arrived in this country, conquered or killed most of its inhabitants, prospered off of the rich land, enslaved people of color, prospered off of their labor, and as a group have held more powerful positions than any other demographic in the land. That accumulation of power and position has only been shifted slightly by the election of our first black president; you certainly can’t undo hundreds of years of slavery, oppression and domination with 4 years of anything. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,