Thinking Outside Several Boxes

“We should stay on the lookout for marginalized people — people whom we still instinctively think of as ‘they’ rather than ‘us.’” Indeed, we should “keep trying to expand our sense of ‘us’ as far as we can.” -Richard Rorty 

The quote above comes from a New York Times article by Stanley Fish. NYT readers already know Dr. Fish and others may wish (or not) to read the article. I warn only that he is an academic and tends to write about as clearly as academics can, which means semi-dense.

The point of the Rorty quote is obvious, we should strive to include more people in the "us" that we consider our us, our family, our race, creed, humankind. But his article starts not with a conflict between human and human but with Dorothy picking an apple off an Ozian tree.

The tree protests: "Well how would you like for someone to come along a pick something off of you?"

And therein yet another opportunity to overuse the line: "We're not in Kansas anymore."

The point is, OK one of the points is, that we think in categories and those boxes, those segments of reality are constructed by our society, by the way we was raised up. On the nature/nurture scale, this one is way over on the nurture side. Momma done taught us how to think. Sure we can grow and change but big swings in our view of reality are few and far between. As Fish says: 

"Wholesale conversions like Paul's on the road to Damascus do occur, but more often a change will affect only a small corner of one's conceptual universe."

So don't expect a lightening strike to change your olde friend's views on women or politics anytime soon. Which brings me to point number two for today. I have a friend who is in lock-step with everything the republicans are doing over the debt ceiling right now. In fact, he thinks they are being too lenient. His is 104% anti-Obama and would let the country default, if that's what it takes to get rid of Barack.

I, as you may remember, do not agree with the republicans; on the other hand, I completely disagree with the democrats as well. I don't think all politicians are crooks or evil; I simply think they are politicians. We have a ridiculous system that requires allegiance to a political party before and ahead of doing what is best for the country, the nation and the citizens. Stupid system.

But I was talking about my friend. I have come to realize that he is not an idealogue. He has a long held belief system that aligns with the right wing of American politics. He does not think social welfare in any form is the business of a constitutionally derived government. He is not a mean, heartless person; in fact, he is a highly principled individual. His principles are based on certain beliefs and observations that I disagree with, that I feel are exclusive of the larger "us" in Rorty's thinking.

But my friend is not a bigot or a racist, he is a principled individualist. In fact, it troubles him that many of those who agree with his political views are indeed, as he puts it, "those nut jobs with cabins in Montana stocked with freeze dried weasel brains." 

We agree to disagree about nearly everything political but secretly we both are hoping for a random lightening strike. Rorty would point out that we probably are hoping those bolts of conversion will impact those we still have in the "they" box.