I realized some time ago that the divide is unbridgeable. And it is identical to religious. It is belief systems with enough unknowable to them (like religions) — and because of that unknowable, they rely for psychological (and even epistemological) assurance heavily on the strength of something akin to consensus. That is, since what I believe cannot be known with abject certainty, the only thing in which I can rest — the only confirmation of my reality — is the knowledge that I am not alone — that others (even smart people) agree with me.
But because of that nagging unknowable, I am forever and always exceedingly vulnerable to the new and fresh data point that challenges what I want to believe. And so I cloister. That cloistering is not just the obvious bias confirmation. It goes beyond that to as close to total lack of exposure to a challenge to my beliefs as possible. I will only hang out with people like me. And in the very most current culture — I will even declare that cloistering as moral superiority.
I saw that in my youth. I was raised around many religious fundamentalists. I was raised around many who came from the separatist tradition of Christianity. I recognize it. The righteous band together and declare the moral failings of all who are not among the cloistered.
I once used the phrase “he spoke in a matter-of-fact manner”. I meant that he spoke something like “casually”. But the moment I typed out “matter-of-fact”, it haunted me. Why? I think it was the dawning realization of why “matter-of-fact” has come be something of a synonym for “casual”. But I suspect it became so because of its manifestation rather than because of its cause. That is: (again, I suspect) that it is because when one operates under the conviction that what he believes is actually so, he need not shout it. He needs no drama. He can simply confess it. He can simply declare it.
And I suspect that that dynamic is highly in play in today’s supercharged and super-nasty political discourse. It is obviously (at least) two parties fighting desperately to believe what they want to believe (and often WITH good and thoughtful reason), but ultimately (and without admission) vulnerable to doubt those beliefs anyway upon each interchange with those who share a different ( opposing) belief system.
Can we ever get past this? I doubt it. All movement in today’s world is toward even more cloistering — ever more shutting down of dissenting voices — ever more censorship of the moral “other”.
And even at the suggestion that cloistering and censorship shouldn’t happen — that only open avenues of communication will result in the synthesis toward a better community, the cloisterers single response is — “You first”.
It’s almost strange: 1. The degree to which those (like Bill and Marshall, for instance) don’t grasp the philosophical differences and therefore don’t even understand the point being made, and 2. The degree to which they project their own views onto those on the right, supposing what we are saying with such an intensity that they cannot actually read what we are writing.
Seeing that blindness in them, I’m guessing I harbor it as well. Cloistering at this point isn’t going to give me any comfort. I can take solace in the remaining few who see the world as I do. But I’m just kidding myself if I surround myself only with those who think as I do. I’m creating the very world in which the Bills and Marshalls live — believing it is the totality of reality.