Saturday, August 6, 2016

Constricted Viewpoint

In the Liezi there are a couple stories about how people suffer from constricted viewpoints that generate delusional behaviour.
In one a fellow misses his axe and develops the idea that the neighbour boy stole it. He notes that when he looks and talks to the boy, the boy looks guilty. After a while, though, the fellow finds the axe on his property where he had been using it last. Later on, he sees the neighbour's boy and decides that he doesn't look guilty at all.

In the other, a fellow walking through the market sees a display by a jeweler who has an ingot of gold sitting on his table. The fellow impulsively snatches the ingot and runs away. The jeweler yells "thief" and he is quickly caught by the crowd and handed over to the police who take him to the magistrate. The judge asks him why he would try to steal something so brazenly in the middle of crowded market. Didn't he see all the people around him who would grab him if he took the gold? The response by the thief is that all he could see was the gold.

This is a problem that happens to us all the time. We look at a situation and refuse to see what is right in front of us. Instead, we start off with a narrative and selectively seek out information that reinforces that original story and ignore anything that that doesn't fit.  The boy looks guilty, the gold will make my life better---.


Yesterday I watched a press conference by Hillary Clinton and saw a side of her that impressed me. She seemed to me to be a politician who are seriously concerned about how to make America a better place. What I found quite interesting was towards the end of the event. A reporter asked her to relate a specifically formative conversation that she had had with a black person. She fumbled greatly to come up with an anecdote and instead spent her time listing off all the great black friends she has and has had in her life. Eventually, she said that she just couldn't think of any incident that she'd like to share with the press. Another reporter then asked her to reassure people that she just wouldn't take Latino voters for granted. How would she make sure that she actually did some of the things that she promised to do? Hillary fumbled a bit to show the steps she'd take.  This is a difficult question for a presidential candidate to answer, as it is very hard to do much if Congress refuses to help any initiative---but I think she did a good job.

But at the end, she kinda answered the previous question. She mentioned that when she was twelve years old she volunteered in her church to do baby sitting for migrant farm workers. That's an interesting story that answers something that I want to know about a politician. I want to know that someone comes from a background that included doing this sort of "hands on" stuff for the greater good. I don't need Hillary to be a gushing bag of emotions---in fact I'd like her to be a hard-nosed politician who is also a policy wonk. But underneath all of that, I want a genuine human being who genuinely seems to care. And, to be honest, it seems more genuine to me if someone finds it hard to expose that part of themselves in a public setting. Really deep emotions are privately held.

I made a comment on the original news site to the effect that Clinton had totally "nailed" this news conference. I expected some negative comments, but I was saddened to see what really amounted to a "pile on" of Hillary haters. I just don't understand where this is coming from. Of course, she did a bit of prevaricating, that's what politicians do when reporters ask "gotcha questions" and they know that the viewing audience adamantly refuses to understand how hard it is to shepherd real change through the American maze of checks and balances. But all politicians do this sort of dance, and, usually a lot more glibly. I can't help but wonder if she really is being held to a much higher standard than other politicians. Maybe this is because she was the wife of another President, or, maybe it's because she's a woman. I suspect a bit of both mixed together.

She often gets tarred with the brush of having supported her husbands social policies that led to things like the dramatic reduction in welfare support. She's also attacked for supporting "tough on crime" legislation from her husband. She's also attacked for initially supporting the TPP treaty. But the thing to remember about these is that she never actually initiated these programs, instead, she was supporting someone else's ideas. And I know enough couples to realize that just because people are married, or, work as Secretary of State for another, doesn't mean that they hold exactly the same values and world view. Could it be possible that Hillary has different ideas from Bill on things like welfare reform and criminal justice?  Could it be that her understanding of these complex issues has evolved since she was the First Lady? As for the TPP, she is a lawyer and lawyers are trained to not state their own beliefs, but rather to advocate for the worldview of their client. As Secretary of State for Barack Obama---who most certainly does support the TPP---it was her job to promote his policy, not hers.

I have to ask, why are people so angry with her about things like this? What do people think, that every woman has her independent will sucked out of her whenever they get married or take a job? Or do they believe that anyone who makes a compromise in order to make a relationship or job work is some sort of vile "sell out"? If you can believe that, I would suggest that you spend a long time looking at the mirror, because you are far more deluded than the folks in Liezi's stories.