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Togo of Grand Smials
hfx_ben
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November 2013
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Togo of Grand Smials [userpic]
"Discourse variance" ... two faced in daily life

The classic case I encountered in the literature is this: an Australian woman is drawn out to describe her views and opinions concerning Aboriginal people. Over the course of interviews, with the method being applied to explore the "variance", what she says can clearly be seen as belonging to two "heaps". One heap consists of utterances that are, if only very mildly, sympathetic. The other heap is comprised of utterences that are, foundationally, prejudiced.

The first thing to note is that there's nothing "flaming" about the prejudiced statemets. The material is substantially racist, but it is stated as though reasonable and balanced ... nothing obviously inflammatory in the style.
And with the "sympathetic" statements we find something similar; these are almost as under-stated as they are vague.

And now we get to the crux of the matter: the attributions in the "racist" heap actually cross over into the "sympathetic" heap. If there's "variance" in the attitude, I read a consistent set of foundations. What qualifies the reference group for "sympathy" is the same set of attributes used in the racist heap to qualify them for scorn. The difference in attitude is an attitude towards an invariant set of characteristics, characteristics which (need it be said?) are actually not supported by sociological data. (That a large proportion of a visible minority are living in poverty is not evidence that this group is characteristically lazy or pre-disposed to criminality!)

One aspect in particular here attracted and held my attention, given my project's brief and mandate. (I.e.: how do we generate, support, and nurture wholesome community? Design and deploy a community decision making system that serves this end.)
Setting aside motive (I think in both cases the woman aimed at image maintenance; she wanted to be seen / known as thoughtful and considerate.) I imagined how she, as presented, could be subjected to manipulation, with her two heaps of variant discourse utterances serving as hooks.

And what came to mind was this: the "sympathetic" heap seemed to me the stuff of "Damned with faint praise"; though the material was cast as benevolent it was actually presented as a basis for paternalism. (I can practically hear her, voice shrill, lamenting how "Those people are never grateful for what we're trying to do for them" or some such.) The Aboriginals were presented as being "other" by their nature, and requiring integration for the reason of their being distinct. The "sympathy" was actually patronizing and superior. So these utterances set the stage for the imposition of authoritarian activity ... in the name of "doing good for others". There was something like pity in her words, but nothing like a call for justice.
The "prejudiced" set of statements were, essentially, defeatist. The attributions were so substantial and so fixed that ... except for wanting to seem caring ... the situation was to be accepted as hopeless.

In neither of the heaps was there any jingoistic call for some sort of "crack-down". And yet both heaps (or either, played individually) could serve the support the most draconian policy decisions e.g. eugenics.

My contention is that "debate" of the facts absent appreciation for subjective narrative will only lead to polarization. The participant in this experiment exhibited a consistent world-view, regardless of variation in her discourse. Any policy position that challanged that world-view would, necessarily, threaten her attempts at image maintenance and would, probably, give rise to energetic reaction.

"I can see how you'd form that view; it does look that way from here" is very different from, "You're closed minded on this, but actually the facts aren't at all in support of your position".

I can't care about those people (from an authentic sense of solidarity) and not care about this one (because she makes my skin creep).


"[T]o flourish, humans need to develop virtues of independent thought and acknowledged social dependence"

In "Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues" under "the conditions for human flourishing", Alasdair MacIntyre notes that, "The virtues of rational agency need for their adequate exercise to be accompanied by what I shall call thethe virtues of acknowledged dependency" including, as Carol Taylor points out in her "Health and Human Flourishing", "the attentive and affectionate regard for others".



Slightly related: "The sort of thing boosterism doesn't account for; increased Balkanization of individuals"
We now ask whether we should even care about the level of Balkanization in our society. Van Alstyne and Brynjolfsson discuss this question and find that Balkanization can have both positive and negative effects: As access increases, individuals may wind up with more and more specialized information. Highly-specialized and like-minded individuals in every field of knowledge will have the ability to collaborate together. Perhaps this arrangement will lead to the greatest overall knowledge output, benefiting society on the whole. On the other hand, over-specialization may prove destructive to knowledge growth, since many important discoveries come from combining differing fields of knowledge. For example, Watson and Crick determined the structure of DNA by combining skills from zoology and X-ray diffraction. The Alvarez theory that an asteroid caused the extinction of the dinosaurs required knowledge of both astrophysics and geology. Many other examples exist that demonstrate the value of combining different fields of knowledge. Clearly, this investigation is not sufficient to determine if increasing Balkanization is desirable or not. Like most global phenomena, increasing access will have a large number of consequences, not all foreseeable. On the other hand, national policy decisions made today can affect the future of communications technology. This model shows that the popular notion of a Global Village is not a guaranteed outcome of increasing access. It is necessary to recognize the variety of consequences information technology can lead to when deciding what course we should follow today."

"Closing Remarks" Balkanization tutorial
* INDIGO tutorials