Happy Birthday George!
To celebrate Presidents Day, I decided to re-read George Washington’s Farewell Address. Our country’s first President, warned of the “continual mischiefs of the spirit of party” making it the “interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.” In 1796, President Washington cautioned against the dangers of political parties. We did not see what he knew.
Goethe said: “We See Only What We Know,” in other words, perception depends upon your knowledge.
When I look at a page of sheet music, I see a bunch of lines, dots, dashes, and other symbols that have no real meaning to me. When a musician looks at the same sheet music they see notes, chords, tempos, melodies, harmonies, etc. Why do I perceive nothing more than markings on a page while a musician perceives music? Because I lack the knowledge concerning sheet music.
The playing card paradigm
At Harvard in 1949, subjects were shown playing cards and asked to call out what they saw. They identified the cards correctly. After a while, the experimenters slipped in “incongruous cards” in which the colors red and black were switched, such as black hearts or diamonds and red clubs or spades.
The subjects did not perceive the incongruous cards, they saw normal playing cards, the cards they were expecting to see, they did not notice the incongruity. For example, when shown a black six of hearts, they called out, “six of hearts” or “six of spades,” neither of which was correct.
They misperceived something per the paradigm in which they were operating, “the playing card paradigm.” Their responses were based upon something that they already knew about playing cards. They called out the cards that they were looking for not what they were.
Only when subjects were forced to look at the incongruous cards for very long times did they “get” what was going on and saw what they were looking at. Suddenly, they realized that “the playing card paradigm” did not apply. They finally knew that reality included non-traditional cards. They thus became open to a new paradigm (that included black hearts etc.), and thereafter saw what was in front of their eyes.
The false paradigm
How does this apply to politics? Our paradigms cause us to see the world in ways that reinforce our beliefs. Some of our beliefs are reality based but many of our beliefs are perception. Most people’s perceptions are established by a combination of nature and nurture.
Liberty is not hard to sell or even difficult to understand: What is difficult is how to get people to unlearn their prevailing paradigm, that is a two-party paradigm, in which Republicans and Democrats together cover the full range of political space, while broadly opposing each other.
This paradigm is false: the two main parties are philosophically aligned on most issues. The rhetoric may differ but their actions do not. Both parties: grow government in the interest of their favored groups or worldview, promote security at the expense of liberty, militaristic interventionism, massive political gifting to interests with lobbyists and money, neglect of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and abuse the force of the State to impose its worldview, repress individual sovereignty and have no conscience when it comes to harming others.
Political paradigms, like all paradigms are utterly pervasive because it’s impossible to see anything except through one. When an old paradigm fails, as in the playing card experiment, people have no choice but to see the world in a whole new way. When paradigms do become unstuck, people become extraordinarily open and things become possible that at normal times can barely even be conceived of.
The Donald and Bernie Experiment
The election of Trump can be the beginning of an awakening to the fact that the old paradigm has failed. His election exposed the cracks in the D-R liberal-conservative partisan paradigm. An authoritarian shook the partisan paradigm of the American electorate. Many voted for a party that they had not previously identified with.
This same phenomenon was also happening in the Democratic Party. However, the Democrats “took out” Bernie and choose to back a corrupt, connected and deplorable candidate, thus losing many of the Bernie voters that they could not afford to lose.
The voters had turned away from the political circus tents of elephants and donkeys but were still stuck with the choices that the duopolistic party paradigm offered. The two-party system, is weaker than it has been for generations. The two-party system has failed millions of Americans but will the American people listen to George Washington?
People mistakenly believe that their political allegiances follow their values. The reality is that people identify with politicians that they have an affinity of personality, appearance, culture or social. When they connect, the people are inclined to adopt the values of those leaders, groups or parties.
Judgment and justification are entirely different processes the former should precedes the latter, yet we experience the exact opposite. The processes are closely intertwined and the latter precedes the former.
Political allegiance means an allegiance to the Republican or Democratic Party and the political paradigm that goes with the territory. Neither party is committed to the freedom and rights of the individual. These alliances may be hard to break but are necessary to save our nation.
A paradigm of values
Question your political allegiance. Now is the time to look at a paradigm of values. Do not follow a blind allegiance, open your minds to assessing arguments and options based on core principles and human experiences without bias toward a political tribe or mediation by a felt political identity.
The election of 2016 exemplifies the failure of our two-party system. Now is the time to “open up” to a new way of seeing. It is up to us to unlearn what we have been “taught”, reject partisanship and learn the paradigm of values.
The “perception of incongruity” was only correctly amended when the students examined and studied the incongruous cards. Maybe our perception of the political party will be amended when we examine and study their incongruence in liberty.
A birthday present for George
George Washington is our nations first National Hero. It stands to reason that we listen to the wisdom he imparted to his “Friends and Citizens” in his Farewell Address, of 1796.
President Washington warned that the party will become “potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” Happy Birthday!
*much of this blog is from an article written by Robin Koerner