Why your friend is voting for that guy.

Published Oct. 20, 2020, 7:49 p.m.

The answer is paradigm. (pear-a-dime).  Stay with me.

If you are voting in 2020 you probably know someone who is just like you in all other respects except that they are voting for the other guy.  Why is that?  How could two people who are knowledgeable about the candidates, and who ascribe to a similar set of "good" moral ethics come to a different conclusion about who to vote for?  You might be tempted to say that you and your friend are not equally educated about the issues.  They don't have enough information or they possibly have been misled into believing the wrong information and THAT is why they would vote for that guy.  You might also conclude that, "no, we have the same information, but my friend is not really a good person-- they do not have a similar set of moral ethics like mine".  In shorthand, your friend might be ignorant where you are educated, they might be misled where you are enlightened or they might be morally bad where you are good.

But if you inspect enough of your friends, I would hope you would have at least one that you can't use those answers for.  That one friend or family member who has impeccable character.  Who is on top of current events.  Who reserves judgment until they have understood a thing from all sides.  So what about them?   How could a person with the same information as me and with the same ethics as me vote for a different guy than me?  

Then you might be tempted to go the other way and wonder about your own basis of information or your own moral standards.  Maybe it is you who don't have enough info or you who believe lies or you who have moral failings!

Certainly all of these situations could be true for certain individuals.  And certainly those are the reasons that you often ascribe to your friends. After all,  why share that damning article about your friend's favored candidate if not to make sure that they have all the information?  Or else why share that witty biting rebuke (in the form of a meme probably) to anyone who could consider supporting the other guy since only evil people who don't care about their fellow humans could support him?  

You've noticed by now that I've not mentioned Trump or Biden by name because all of these observations are completely generic.  Left and Right accuse their counterparts of directly supporting or being complicit in no less than mass genocide, targeted oppression, slavery, and more.  Then they top it all off with accusations of "gas-lighting" -- or falsely accusing someone of what you yourself are doing. 

There is a reason that the go-to social media accusation is ignorance, naivete, or evil:  Those are big time savers!  Your friend is dumb?  Wham! Article to inform him!  Your friend believes the wrong thing?  Bam! Info dump!  Someone is evil?  Shahzam! Meme pointing out their moral failure!  Problem solved!  Except...

If any of those things were actually intended to inform, enlighten or shame I would probably have to rate their success rate as -0.0000003%.  If those things were intended to make the person sharing them feel smarter or morally superior I would give them a success rate of 135%.  And while they succeed at the later and not at the former, I go out on a limb here to say this:   They were not shared for either of those reasons.  They were shared by you because 1) you love your friends and want better for them and 2) you have a fundamental desire to be understood by your friends and loved ones.

So how could a well-informed and morally good person support someone different than you?  Part of the answer is paradigm.

Paradigm is a three-dollar (at least) word and I am going to start with Webster's third definition: Paradigm: "a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated".  A less-fancy word would be "worldview".  For the sake of argument, expand this word's definition away from purely scientific use and generalize it so the the sentence:  "She sees the world through her own paradigm." means "She sees the world through her own philosophical and theoretical framework... within which theories, laws and generalizations... are formulated". 

So each of us walks around with our own paradigm (or worldview or framework) through which we view the world around us.  The "theories, laws and generalizations"  of our paradigm are our "values".  It is not a controversial statement to say that many (maybe most) of our values, at their root, come from an almost universal set of values.  Values like " bravery is better than cowardice", "generosity is better than stinginess", "kindness is better than cruelty", "not stealing is better than stealing", "non-violence is better than violence".

So while ascribing to similar values we can come to very different conclusions on lots of things!  Paradigm explains why, because paradigm is the way in which we order that same set of values. It turns out that we make that ordering very personal and very complicated and we don't require it to be consistent (from ourselves at least) or always make sense.

Consider the issues of abortion and LGBTQ rights.  Both are extremely contested issues.  Somehow, people who are against abortion often find themselves politically at odds with people who push for LGBTQ rights as a human rights issue.  Of course not always and not for any related reason.  It's just assumed to be a safe bet: Anti-abortion = Red = Republican;  Pro LGBTQ rights = Blue =  Democrat.  What is facinating to me is that people are against abortion for the same reason that people are pro LGBTQ rights;  they both see a human being that is being denied their basic humanity.  Conversely I believe that people who support abortion rights or who oppose laws that establish special protections for people based on their gender and sexual identity do not believe that they denying anyone the humanity that is due them.  (You have to remember, these hypothetical people are your friends.  People you ostensibly know really well.  People that you've shared a meal with and would do it again.) 

For people who oppose abortion, it is as simple as opposing murder.  For people who support LGBTQ rights, it is also as simple as opposing murder.  In both cases, the other side doesn't see it that way.  I would argue that if they did they would change their minds.  With good arguments and supporting evidence people can and do change their minds all the time.  With memes and article sharing?  Probably not so much. 

So instead of sharing that zinger of a meme which totally pwns your friend about what a baby killing nazi they are, consider empathy.  Think about the issue from their point of view.  If that gets you nowhere try to think of it from some weird hypothetical extreme point of view.  Look.  I can't rule out that you are friends with people who are pro-extermination of some other class of people, but it makes me question your choice of friend.  What is more likely is that you are misunderstanding their point of view (just as they are misunderstanding yours) and that violates our fundamental desire to be understood. 

To conclude:  consider perspective street art.  Surely you have seen pictures of amazing 3D looking works of art using a street or sidewalk as a canvas.

The thing is, they only look "correct" from one perspective.  From the "wrong" angle they appear severely distorted.  But consider this.  If you came across one of these and you didn't know what it was or that it should be viewed from a certain angle to see it as it was intended your judgment about it would be ... let's say premature.  But you wouldn't know that.  From most angles it might look weird and nonsensical.  It might still be ascetically pleasing but not delivered as intended.  It might be heinous and repugnant or just totally ignorable.  But I think it illustrates the importance of paradigm and empathy.  We can come at this picture from different sides and argue about what it is and whether or not it is good.  We are looking at the same thing so we have the same information.  But unless we see it from the other persons perspective, we will not understand what they are talking about and why what they say about it could be so different from what we clearly see.

Once you really see something from someone else's point of view and understand it the way that they understand it, THEN you can totally pwn them with harsh memes.


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