Toward a Spiral of Sound

Changing people’s opinions is hard. There’s a better way.

Karawynn Long

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Don’t let anyone tell you that marches and signs and protests don’t matter, that they don’t change anything, because science shows quite clearly that they do.

You want to change the world, but too often it seems hopeless.

If you agree with the above sentence, I can say with a high degree of certainty that you hail from the left end of our political spectrum. Not just because the political power in America this election cycle rests largely with the conservative party, but because for liberals, the desire to change things is almost definitional.

From social science we know that liberals and conservatives (note that here and elsewhere ‘liberals’ includes everyone on the left, from near-centrists to radicals, just as ‘conservatives’ includes everyone on the right) have distinctly quantifiable differences in moral values. Liberals focus primarily on caring and fairness, while conservatives consider loyalty, authority, and purity to be paramount. NYU professor Jonathan Haidt, who studies the psychology of morality, frames the distinction thus: “Liberals speak for the weak and oppressed; they want change and justice, even at the risk of chaos. Conservatives, on the other hand, speak for institutions and traditions; they want order, even at some cost to those at the bottom.”

This fundamental divide is not new — John Stuart Mill called the order/reform dichotomy “commonplace” in 1859 — but if it feels like things have been getting more intense than usual in recent years, you are not wrong. The US Congress is more polarized today than it’s been in a hundred years (Senate) or ever (House), and the general American population is no less so.

Every indication is that this trend will only become more extreme over time, as the identified factors — from economic inequality to algorithmic filtering of social networks to gerrymandering — are all self-reinforcing.

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Karawynn Long

Queer Autistic disabled reader, writer, researcher of disparate things. Newsletter & journal at https://karawynnlong.com/