Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wherein I politely disagree with George Lakoff

Let me begin by saying I like George Lakoff. You should read George Lakoff, if you haven't already. I should like George Lakoff, given our similarities. We are both fat, greying, left-leaning, Left Coast mathematicians. We both have nice smiles and most of our hair. I mean, what's not to love?

When away from the math stuff, George's big idea about language is frames. Conservatives and liberals have different frames, different world views, different ideas about what the problems the world faces, and even when they agree on the problem, they will likely have different ideas about the solutions.

Lakoff says it goes back to parenting styles. Conservatives believe in the strict parent structure of family, usually the strict father. It views family as a chain of command, where children must be made to behave and follow the rules because they cannot be trusted to make decisions on their own, but when they have learned enough, they are expected to stand on their own, firm in the belief of the correctness of their training, ready to start their own families where they can now be at the top of the chain of command.

On the other hand, liberal values can be traced back to nurturing parental styles, in which children are encouraged to think for themselves and try new things, with the expectation of support from the parents, both in success and in failure.

So far, so good.

But then we have what happens when conservatives and liberals disagree, when liberals ask conservatives to think in terms of the common good. Why not get out of Iraq and save the lives we are now squandering on a daily basis? Why not make a personal effort to change our lives so that we pollute less and use the world's resources more wisely?

In these debates, it does not seem like strict father vs. nurturing mother. It's more like the liberals are the parents, and the most common conservative response is what we hear from adolescents on a daily basis.

You're not the boss of me.

Much more Eddie Haskell than Ward Cleaver, don't you think?

1 comment:

Karla said...

Well, here's the thing. Taking Lakoff's framing argument as a given (which it may not be), I've noticed that people raised in the "conservative" way do not grow up to be self aware or particularly individuated.

They follow scripts, and traditions, and focus on what things should look like, instead of how they actually are.

I don't know if there IS a way to point things out to such people. I think their upbringing cripples them.