Monday, July 13, 2009

Do US Conservatives Understand What Empathy Is?

George Lakoff has explained that for forty years, from the late 1960s, conservatives managed, through their extensive message machine, to fit much of our political discourse to their worldview. The conservative message machine is still huge and ongoing. About 80% of the talking heads on TV are conservatives. Yet Obama based his inaugural address on his view of fundamental American values—empathy, social and personal responsibility, self-improvement, and improving the USA itself—as progressive values. Laissez-faire free markets assume that greed is good, and that seeking self-interest will magically maximize everyone’s interests, but empathy-based values opposed pure self-interest. Empathy-based moral values are opposed to the traditional conservative focus on individual responsibility without social responsibility. An economic program should be a moral program. Progressive taxation is a matter of moral accounting. Budgets are moral statements. So, four economic issues—education, energy, health, and banking—are at the heart of government’s moral mission of protection and empowerment. They are what is needed to promote empathy, social responsibility, personal responsibility, and a better future for us all in the USA. Empathy is why we have the values of freedom, fairness, and equality—for everyone, not just for some special people. Empathy leads us to democracy. To stop us being subject indefinitely to the whims of an oppressive and unfair ruler, we need to be able to choose who governs us and we need a government of laws. Empathy with everyone leads to equality. No one caring treats some people worse than others. Caring is Christian. God in the person of Christ taught it. How can any Christian reject empathy while pretending to be a Christian?

Morality rests, first, on empathy—putting oneself in other people’s shoes, seeing the world through their eyes, and caring about them—and, second, acting on that care—taking responsibility for oneself and others, accepting one’s social and personal duty.

Summarized from G Lakoff

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