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Posted by on Aug 6, 2009 in Economy, Health, Media, Politics, Society | 23 comments

WE DON’T REALLY LISTEN TO EACH OTHER ANYMORE

TMV is simultaneously an outpost from the 24/7 info-entertainment news cycle and yet it is a part of it. Perhaps those who work in the media, politics, mass communications, press, or public advocacy provide their brains with hourly dopamine fixes by constantly seeing and hearing something new, but most people don’t need the constant barrage of pointless facts, rumors, gossip and snippets of opinion that today is considered “news.”

People are overwhelmed by just living and having to care for family, businesses, jobs, bills, and friends. Most people want simplicity and predictability in their lives, plus a pleasant dose of entertainment from time to time to divert them from the mundane. People want public services to work, taxes to be fair and collected from everyone, and their civil liberties and personal lives to be safe at home and work, while shopping and traveling, and in their places of worship and entertainment. All societies form a silent but important agreement between its participants: We generally keep to our own spheres of interest and influence, and when they overlap we hope the exchanges are mutually profitable or without any major negative consequences. Sane members of society do not stupidly blow themselves up in public places and kill many innocents with them. The vast majority of people will not intentionally or randomly hurt others for intangible beliefs. However, dysfunctional societies with broken political and economic systems create places where the uneducated or the outcasts can be manipulated into doing horrible things.

Most human beings are not that intelligent and often do things that are not in their best interests. This cuts across all societies, nations, ethnic groups and cultures. We like to flatter ourselves in believing that we are all “above-average” but in reality half of us are below the statistical mean. If I-Q tests measure anything, they prove the natural existence of statistical “Bell Curves” in most aspects of life on this planet. Thus half of us have I-Qs of less than 100 but about 90% of humans have I-Qs between 85 and 115. Most of us can be fully-functioning participants in society within this normal I-Q range, even handicapping the measuring system with normal errors. The tests are inherently unable to measure the important abilities of getting along with others and an open mindset to new ideas, both of which can be learned. Serious problems in society arise when people within the majority, and when those above or below that huge block of “normalcy” attempt to communicate effectively with the majority of people. Good public debate requires that people be open-minded, are willing to listen, and are able to change opinions as new facts become known. These attributes are completely unrelated to I-Q but often determine our entire public discourse on every conceivable issue.

The 24/7 news media is interested in entertaining, not informing the population. Extreme actions, words and antics are promoted to the detriment of any rational thought that may require at least several paragraphs to describe – not just sound bites. Competition and fighting are great for raw entertainment, but not for public discourse on major issues facing society. Certainly the talking heads, pundits and opinionators on our television, radio, newspaper and Internet media outlets certainly do not listen to the views of others. It may be harder in their case since their opposites are simultaneously spewing such extreme positions that it is almost a waste of time to listen or even debate intelligently. However, besides giving our brains short-term dopamine fixes, we really don’t learn enough from such sources to make worthwhile decisions in our personal or public lives.

Sadly, many people in that large middle majority choose not to participate because the extremes on all sides, plus special interest groups, dominate the national discussion. Their words and actions are slavishly followed and reported by our 24/7 info-entertainment system. Additionally, many in the majority are pretty uninformed, disinterested, lazy or stupid to follow certain political or economic discussions. Anyone who has attended public schools can attest that many students just passed through classes without engaging in any major thought processes whatsoever. This unfortunately carries on throughout adulthood. Finally, many charismatic and entertaining leaders are able to manipulate many people through misinformation or fear which often results in the pathetic tirades that pass off as public discourse today. Some politicians are willing to say complete garbage in a vain attempt to get their daily media publicity and feed their insane supporters.

Most all public policies with respect to political, economic and social affairs have been and will be a result of compromise and trying differing ideas over time. What has developed in the U.S. over the past 30 years has been a perversion of that overall sane and reasonable human instinct. Instead the natural and healthy tendency toward a middle ground has succumbed to our society jumping between extremes, or doing nothing because of fear or jealousy that something might work that we hope will not. Also Schadenfreude becomes a growing and pervasive emotion in our society as we get dopamine kicks seeing misery befall others even if our own lot in life is no better or even worse. We do not consider ideas on their merits, but permit our personal animosities against certain people or our unsupported rigid ideological positions rule our lives and bias our analysis.

If any political, economic or social system does not take account new facts and ideas, and are not allowed to change and grow, they will eventually ossify and die. For the past 30 years, too many in our society have embraced rigid dogmas and ideologies in religion, politics and economics, with little or no object proof they are even correct. Simultaneously we demonize those who do not share our orthodoxy and feel that any changes or compromises with “enemies” will result in dire consequences. The only dire consequences are really bruised egos and the death of false beliefs – both of which sustain too many people to the exclusion of real growth as human beings.

The most frequent results in the U.S. is to do nothing, ignore problems, or let people pursue their most narcissistic and greedy desires that later result in the greatest harm to other people and society at large. No viable political, economic or social policy is sustainable if it is rigid, nihilistic and refuses critiques or modifications to comply with reality. Unfortunately most of our orthodox positions have not been put to any rigorous tests. Their extreme positions are merely used in perpetual “debates” to offset and blunt any opposing views.

Many people also have unrealistic expectations of others, themselves and society as a whole. Real changes and progress require time, and major policy shifts take years to come to fruition. No one can make an accurate evaluation about a person, a group, or a major policy or program after only 90 days, 6 months or even 2 years in many cases, or even before it is even enacted. We try to do this in real life because we are too impatient and intellectually lazy to give people and policies time to develop. Those who make such broad summaries, condemnations or praises with seeing all the facts or allowing sufficient time to pass are merely arrogant imbeciles who should be ignored.

Let’s turn to a concrete example. Only a complete fool would deny that the American healthcare system has no serious problems. We can debate and disagree on the remedies, but various proposals are not the “end of the world” suggestions that their opponents claim. Without trying some new ideas, we really won’t know what works over time in the real world. By refusing any changes out of fear or greed, we do our entire society great current and future damage.

We are a big and complex country that requires similarly large and complex policies and laws to handle a very diverse population and economy. I am more than willing to try a slightly messy, conflicting and diverse cornucopia of new national healthcare policies without feeling either that my “principles” were compromised or that the country will be destroyed. Everyone should really “lighten-up” on this debate and realize that the changes won’t be everything they want. However, real life is that type of middle-ground compromise – except for the really lucky or unfortunate ones – and those are the people for whom public policy is not designed to address.

All of the proposals pretty much leave the majority of people alone, particularly those with good employer-based healthcare or who are on the existing public Medicare system. They all prevent the loss of insurance coverage due to illnesses, excessive costs, or pre-existing conditions. I would like to see more comprehensive tort-reform, greater systemic accountability for medical mistakes, and better provisions for those injured, without resorting to protracted and expensive litigation.

Most of the proposals try to address the 20 to 30% of people in the U.S. who have no insurance, inadequate insurance or who will likely face those situations in the near future. Many other proposals attempt to find ways to stop or reverse the growth in healthcare costs that impacts everyone. Current public and private players have in large part failed to do so over the past 20 years. Just by extrapolating current annual cost increases and by choosing to do nothing, total healthcare spending in the U.S. will double in 10 years, if not sooner. It would be worthwhile for every American to think that far in the future for our collective good.

In the final enacted healthcare reforms, we will all have to give up something for the overall benefit of our country. Eventually everyone will have to pay more taxes, not just for healthcare but to control our federal deficits since spending cuts will not be the only possible solution. We also have to realize that one-third of the current deficit is due to lower tax revenues during this deep recession and another third is due to prior tax cuts enacted during the Bush Administration. However screaming to preserve my sole interests at the expense of everyone else is simply nihilistic, selfish and immature. We all have to be open-minded on what may or may not work for healthcare, transportation infrastructure, public education, the environment, or national energy policy. We should not resist changes to the status quo because we fear change out of pure ignorance or anger.

Unfortunately, the final healthcare legislative may only be the result of actions by one party and the President as the other has apparently relinquished its intellectual and political participation in the debate due to extreme rigid ideologies, Schadenfreude partisanship, the corruption of money from special business interests, and pandering to fearful and ignorant people. Sane persons cannot endlessly debate in hypothetical and speculative fantasy worlds. Instead we must permit some major real-world experimentation within the system to see what works over the next 2 to 6 years. And we must be open to more tinkering and experimentation on a regular basis – free of all extreme ideologies that would prejudice an objective analysis of the real facts and results.

8/6/09 by Marc Pascal in Phoenix, AZ

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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • Lit3Bolt

    This article is too long, so I didn’t read it. =)

    Ok, the problem with speaking in large generalities is that you seem make sense without actually making much sense. I don’t think people oppose change merely because they delight in nihilism. It may SEEM that way to the Anthropologist From Mars, but people are actually acting in their perceived self-interest. If you work for a student loan company, you oppose Obama because he wants the government to take over the student loan business. Similarly, if you’re an insurer, you oppose single payer health plans offered by the government because you oppose more competition and anything that can interfere with your current business model. Similarly, you can oppose abortion because you’re a Christian, your beliefs are important to you, and it would therefore cause cognitive dissonance to NOT oppose abortion or to allow it in some cases. People embrace rigid thinking in order to simplify things for themselves and their world, which would be a defensive mechanism against the 24/7/365 infotainment news cycle.

    At the same time, I think you’re being foolish to decry human nature (people are selfish! HORRORS!) and then say we can simply be open minded and reason our way out of it. Similarly, you can’t insult and lambast everyone for being idiots and then just tell them to be smart (which is to listen to you, I presume). However, your proposal to accept healthcare reform on an experimental basis is a good one I think. That would be harder to oppose on purely partisan grounds.

  • CStanley

    I skimmed it and was generally agreeing until the second half of it where it becomes apparent that the author himself has not listened to any of the substantive criticisms of the current healthcare reform bills.

    Physician, heal thyself, and all that.

    • Lit3Bolt

      @ CStanley, I think it’s a valid point that the Dems are trying to ram something through, I think most Republicans have added little or nothing in their criticisms of healthcare reform, besides whining about cost. Cost is a very very valid concern, but I have read no counter offers or proposals, other than simply we need to be “controlling costs,” whatever that means. This country desperately needs healthcare reform and so far, only one party is seriously considering it.

  • DdW

    Some may question “Most human beings are not that intelligent.”

    Otherwise, I find it an excellent, thought-provoking writing. Lots of insight, lots of good points, lots to ponder, and lots to comment on—I am sure.

    Thanks

  • JasonArvak

    I disagree with the assertion in the last paragraph that the (probable) flaws in health care legislation will be solely the blame of the ideological rigidity of Republicans. As I and others have repeatedly pointed out, including through examples provided by writers on this very site, many Democratic pro-reform partisans areo every bit as capable of intransigence, ideological entrenchment, and demonization of others as Republicans are. And, because they currently hold unchecked power in the federal government, Democrats’ intransigence is far more consequential than whatever stunts Republicans might pull.

    Also, there are several more substantive criticisms out there than just cost (though that is not something to be brushed away, given the current and probable future state of the bond market). There are also problems with underinvestment in equipment infrastructure and low payment rates that drive providers out of the market and increase waiting periods. I’ve raised those myself several times with some of the pro-reform advocates, only to be persistently ignored in a pattern similar to the treatment that pro-reform advocates in Congress and the media give to the same issues. Lit3Bolt, you should not assume that just because the pro-reform people are refusing to tell you about certain issues that some critics of reform aren’t trying to raise them.

  • CStanley

    Good gosh, Lit, have you been following the discussions here at all?

    There are three or four of us here who have put forward some pretty lengthy policy proposals. I realize that isn’t the same as ‘counterproposals’ from actual GOP elected officials but I’ve also pointed to legislation that has been sponsored by GOP in the House and Senate, and to actual bipartisan bills like Wyden-Bennett.

    Repeating over and over again that conservatives don’t have any ideas doesn’t make it true.

  • Lit3Bolt

    Then they need to get their ideas out there, CStanley. It’s not my fault if I can’t find it on the internet or that I’m misinformed. I’m honestly looking for it and I’m having trouble finding it. I’ll give you another chance: What are the conservative plans for healhcare reform? Or do you just want to make bland assertions at each other all day?

  • An interesting and, I must confess, very well written essay, Marc, even if I’m going to disagree with several of the key beams in the structure. First of all, I absolutely agree that we all need to “listen to each other more” and do our best to keep the discourse civil, and this happens to be one of the sites where that happens far more often than the majority of the field.

    First, to your point about ours being a system which works best when we engage in “compromise and trying differing ideas over time. and try to avoid “jumping between extremes, or doing nothing.” For almost all matters of public affairs, I tend to agree with you. If we’re not willing to try new things, to experiment, to ask questions and be open to new theories, we do not advance. There are, unfortunately, times when we reach a juncture where we must choose between a clear and present danger or a saner course. If you prefer, it may even be phrased at times between a choice between good and evil… survival and destruction… right or wrong.

    Fortunately, these don’t come along very often. The last one, at least for me, was in 2003 during the run up to the invasion of Iraq. That was an all or nothing choice. One can not “invade a little bit” and then decide to change one’s mind if it doesn’t look like it’s working out. I marched in the streets to oppose that invasion and took every measure you mention as being extreme to oppose it… all for naught, of course. Now, more than six years later, we’ve seen the outcome of that particular experiment. More than four thousand brave American men and women dead, and for what? To find out there were no WMDs, just as the inspectors suspected, and a corrupt government teetering on the edge of disarray as we leave. The evil and corruption of Saddam Hussein will likely just be replaced by a thousand smaller tyrants. That was a moment which did not call for compromise or experiments. It’s what caused me to eventually leave the GOP and George W. Bush will forever remain a villain in my mind, with the blood of each of those Americans on his hands.

    What’s this got to do with your discussion, you may ask? Because we are, as I read the tea leaves, at another of those all or nothing moments, though it comes in a different area of concern. This health care reform debate is only one facet of the larger looming crisis, but it’s an important one. And the results of yet more wrong decisions here will be fully as dire, if not more so, than our mistake in Iraq. I rarely get this exercised over policy, thankfully, but that’s because we rarely face such massively important junctures.

    As to health care, the so called “public option” can, as far as I can see, have no other long term result than the eventual destruction of the health insurance industry, the loss of that entire segment to the economy (including all the jobs, revenue, services, etc. involved) and the degradation – to a punishing degree – of one of the best, most advanced health care systems in the world.(All Democratic blustering about how “awful” our current system is not withstanding.)

    Even if one of the current compromises on the table manages to “reduce” the cost from a trillion dollars down to 900 billion, that’s yet another giant log on the pile currently being dumped on our backs. When you add in the horribly ill conceived porkulus bill (with discussion now under way for a second one), Cap and Tax, and the rest of the spending on the table, we’re heading towards a burden where no amount of taxes and cuts may save us from an actual collapse of our economic system. This past year or so we’ve seen a series of one disastrous spending decisions after another and the long term forecasts, for those willing to put aside their partisan blinders and really look at them, are beyond frightening. This new Democratic leadership, for which I honestly had such high hopes last winter, is driving us toward disaster.

    With that in mind, I would like to point out one the stunning disconnects in your essay. You spend a large portion of the introductory paragraphs talking about the need for civility and bemoaning the lack of polite, adult discourse. You then finish up with this…

    the other [political party] has apparently relinquished its intellectual and political participation in the debate due to extreme rigid ideologies, Schadenfreude partisanship, the corruption of money from special business interests, and pandering to fearful and ignorant people.

    How very polite and well reasoned of you! You go on to iimply that only the liberal democrats are “sane” on this issue. With that in mind, I will openly admit that I no longer have any interest in ensuring that polite, civil debate and compromise are the only methods of fighting this battle. If you look at the continual, insulting screeds from Kathy K (among others) on this subject, I see no need to fight any more cleanly than misguided opponents who have no interest in doing the same. And this battle is one where the outcome is too important. It is, as I see it, fully as important as the moments before the invasion of Iraq and the long term costs and consequences will be even more dire for us.

    The Democrats have taken the golden opportunity of a generation to effect real change and positive advances for our country and completely squandered that chance, thrusting us in short order to the precipice of financial ruin. At this point I really don’t give a tinker’s damn about civil discourse when the future of our nation’s stability may well be swirling near the bottom of the drain.

  • CStanley

    I’m sorry, Lit, but I’ve been asked to post and repost my ideas at least half a dozen times here. I don’t have time to redo it. If I get a chance I’ll look for a link to one of the threads where I did so (and in many of those threads others like DrJ have gone into similar ideas and proposals.)

  • Lit3Bolt

    Ok, I looked up Wyden-Bennett. I think we’ll end up here in eventually…it’s just funny that no one’s actually talking about it on both sides of the aisle.

    And yes, I’m sorry CStanley but counter offers from the actual GOP elected officials do matter. If they’re not doing that, then they’re not doing their job and are simply trying to force “Obama’s Waterloo.”

    Also, Jazz, thank you for that comment. That gave me more insight into your position than anyone of your many posts about Obama, cliffs, and lemmings. Isn’t honesty refreshing when you’re no longer shackled by the chains of that false god, Moderation?

  • CStanley

    Lit- took a while but I found this thread, one of the ones where I gave my own thoughts and ideas (I think the discussion also got into a bit about the GOP bills which are in committee limbo, which is what always happens to minority party sponsored legislation. But there is a bill in House and Senate, called Patient’s Choice Act of 2009- google it if you want to learn more.

    it’s just funny that no one’s actually talking about it on both sides of the aisle.

    Too much oxygen being used up in demonizing, name calling, and trying to marginalize opponents.

  • casualobserver

    Jazz, well-articulated, young man, kudos.

    • Jazz, well-articulated, young man, kudos.

      Jeebus, C.O. How old are you? I know a couple guys around here who call me “young man” on occasion, but they’re in their eighties.

  • Lit3Bolt

    @Cstanley, Thanks a bunch!! I can’t believe it, I’m being informed from a Moderate Voice thread. *pinches self* lol. Honestly thank you for the effort.

  • shannonlee

    That was a great response Jazz…maybe I should actually read the essay? 🙂

  • CStanley

    I can’t believe it, I’m being informed from a Moderate Voice thread.

    It happens on occasion, eh? LOL…seriously though, that’s why I went off on that other thread about partisan sniping. I realize I ran the risk of sounding sanctimonious (and I think that was your first reaction) and I certainly wasn’t advocating that we all should just get along and sing Kumbaya. But that particular kind of nonsense about which side is worse and who started what and how bad the last administration (or the one before that) was, which is somehow supposed to be relevant to how we judge the current powerbrokers in DC, just makes me nuts.

  • pachigordo

    My post was not meant to vilify the right and say everything Democrats are doing with respect to healthcare and other national issues was correct. I am bothers that too many Republicans gave up a civil and intelligent debate long ago and are pandering to imbeciles or extremists, or their largest campaign contributors – but the latter is a problem for many democrats as well. I personally think you can have a public option without a public program – you merely require every private insurance company to provide a minimal set of coverages to everyone at particular premiums, and they can compete for other coverages, as in Switzerland. I would also increase the availability of Medicaid to more members of our society – since they may never be able to afford health coverage under the current outdated federal poverty levels used for state eligibility. Having worked in the industry, I know that fraud, overbilling, errors, and malpractice are expensive components and unless we pursue reforms in those areas, we are not going to adequately cut costs either. Cost containment has not been adequately addressed by the current legislation but there is a separate issue of coverages for all Americans, which may be paramount at this time. I don’t expect the 2009 Legislation to cure everything and we need more continuous and open-minded experimentation in the healthcare field over the next decade. People on both the left and right must see this is the first step in the process, not the only step. I also agree that long-term costs and overall federal deficits must be addressed, but not this year. And we must all think about others and our nation’s viability – not just what is immediately in our own selfish best interests. I can see worrying about one’s job, but if it is in a field that damages the public’s well-being, there are many other things one can do. Someone linked opposition to reforming student loans to oppositing abortion. They are completely unrelated. Best wishes from the author in Phoenix, MP

    • Lit3Bolt

      “However screaming to preserve my sole interests at the expense of everyone else is simply nihilistic, selfish and immature. We all have to be open-minded on what may or may not work for healthcare, transportation infrastructure, public education, the environment, or national energy policy. We should not resist changes to the status quo because we fear change out of pure ignorance or anger.”

      You lumped a lot of things in there, MP. I brought up abortion and student loans as additional examples, because you can oppose reform of ANY of these and somehow still not be nihilistic, selfish, and immature. Also, it’s just human nature, and insulting it doesn’t it make it any less of a problem or change it. I’m sorry you’re astonished people are more than happy to allow others to suffer so their own nest isn’t disturbed, but there you have it. (Think the elderly will vote to allow Medicare coverage to the young? You wish!)

      Just because people are misinformed by their representatives and media doesn’t mean any and all of their concerns are invalid, though.

      That said, proposing reform one step at a time, such as coverage first, then costs, definitely has merit, as does the experimental approach. In the future though, provide example to what you are talking about so you’re not just speaking in broad generalities.

  • Lit3Bolt

    I think that’s what all of us need to be reminded of, CStanley. Our enemies are not each other, no matter what our position is on the issues. Our enemies are the MSM and the Washington “Village” culture, and it’s so easy to lump everyone you don’t like into that (which is the fatal flaw of nearly every liberal blog). Just as everyone here I think can agree that we need healthcare reform, I think everyone can also agree we should be concerned about costs in light of the deficit, and we need to make it work with our system, not the British or Canadian or French or Japanese system.

    I think actually a Moderate Voice “Kumbaya” moment would do us good…we need to think more meta about what we post, why we post it, how our posts will be perceived, while trying to openly admit our biases to ourselves and each other so that we don’t simply create a new partisan position, one of “Moderation at all costs.”. The opinion disclaimers “I think…” or “My opinion is…” have been discarded for authoritative arguments that ape the pundits. Recently, I’ve noticed it’s simply been conservative columnist versus liberal columnist trade offs here on TMV, with occasional guest voices that one side or another tries to blasts out of existence. We have become in short just another partisan battleground.

    So there you have it, there’s my Kumbaya. My own position is evolving and I owe so much to political blogs and TMV especially, since I’ve lurked here so long (I first discovered TMV in 2004) and commented so rarely. When I *DO* comment, I tend to be cynical and snarky but that’s just another defense mechanism to pretend to not care about issues I obviously care deeply about.

    So I dunno what my real point is…mainly appreciation for CStanley for helping me understand an issue when I really asked for it, and Jazz for writing a long from-the-heart comment that made me really understand him. I hope to keep that spirit here.

  • Kastanj

    “the so called “public option” can, as far as I can see, have no other long term result than the eventual destruction of the health insurance industry”

    You mean the public option. It’s called such because it is a public option. Moving on, the CBO disagrees with the prediction that the government becoming an actor will destabilize the industry.

    If the only circumstances the insurance companies can thrive in are these ones, it’s a pretty cruel kind of life support.

    “Even if one of the current compromises on the table manages to “reduce” the cost from a trillion dollars down to 900 billion”

    That’s a reduction if you consult any dictionary in the world. Consider the costs of not doing anything. By 2020 the cost of healthcare in the US will be twice the size. America is ranked #37 in quality of healthcare with a top spot in cost. That’s what not doing anything gets you.

    “When you add in the horribly ill conceived porkulus bill”

    The stimulus bill you mean? Well, steep though it was I never heard much of a realistic alternative to it presented. It could be argued that the moderately good news out of some of the relevant sectors as of late could be ascribed to it. Could. I’m not interested in passing judgment for or against.

    “Cap and Tax”

    Why not just call it Communism and Genocide and be done with it? The effects of CO2 must be addressed. It’s basic economic sense.

    “At this point I really don’t give a tinker’s damn about civil discourse when the future of our nation’s stability may well be swirling near the bottom of the drain.”

    So you’re trying to make up for voting for the previous administration by renaming the policies of the current one so they sound, well, badder. That’s not sticking it to the man in any sense of the word.

    I would like to say that if the Wyden-Bennett bill goes through I’ll dance a jig.

  • $199537

    Reading that essay was sort of like watching an episode of Toonces the Driving Cat.

    • Lit3Bolt

      It was, wasn’t? lol It’s like he can almost write and make a point but…just…not…quite…there…

  • RMac

    You are right on Marc.I live in Canada where I dont need to fear the costs of illness.We believe in looking
    after all our citizens.The U.S, is almost unique in the world in not providing healthcare for most of its citizens. Robert G. Mac Donald.B.A.M.D.

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