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Mind Over Matter, Left and Right
June 23, 2023
by William P. Meyers

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What is true, and what is false? What is too complicated to call simply true or false? What is objective and what is subjective? These sound like philosophy questions, but they are generalizations of issues that frequently confront most ordinary people. Since most of my readers consider themselves left-of-center, I am going to start off by showing problems with right-of-center thinking. Then I will skewer my fellow-travelers on certain specific issues.

Consider religious beliefs associated with the right wing in the United States. That is, various versions of Christianity. Note that conservative religious beliefs often align with conservative values in other religions like Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and aboriginal religions. I will focus on Christianity because its beliefs are well known to Americans.

Conservative Christians believe that heaven and hell are real. They do not believe they are mere mental constructs. However, they do refer to an external reality as justification for the beliefs: the words of the Bible. Strangely, the Bible does not do much in the way of describing heaven or hell; the descriptions most people think of were added later. Modern people, including many modern Christians, do not believe heaven and hell are real places in the sense that Paris and New York City are. They are believed to be metaphors, with some sort of non-objective existence.

Saying "I believe this, and it is a belief about the real world" is quite different than saying "I believe this, but it is just an opinion." When does a belief become a delusion? Usually it is outsiders who call a person delusional. Part of delusion is the certainty that one is experiencing reality objectively, or that one's beliefs about oneself are objective. That is different from being conned into a false belief. Anyone aside from Donald Trump who thinks their actually Donald Trump is deluded. Anyone who truly believes the 2020 election was stolen from Trump has been conned. But they likely had a tendency to be conned in that particular way. Just as a delusional person usually can enter a room and see a chair and sit down in it without help, different people can be conned in different ways on different issues, and yet still navigate the real world.

It is hard to argue with someone about the existence of something in plain sight. A Republican and a Democrat, sitting in a room, might disagree on many things, but each would agree that the other person exists. The further apart in space, time, or complexity two people get, the more they may question whether the other person is being objective. For most information you need to trust a large number of people. False information can come from almost anywhere, so most people pick and choose what they will believe based on what they already believe. Catholic parents refused to believe their own children when those children told them of sexual abusive priests. Most Mormons, to this day, refuse to believe what was going on in their early Church, even though the events took place in the U.S. in the 1800s and were reported by newspapers, reliable witnesses, and church insiders.

Liberal democrats, and particularly the Progressive to leftist wing of the voting population (Democrat or not), do not believe they are subject to the kinds of mistaken beliefs they so easily identify in right wing Republicans. They tend to trust science. Until it conflicts with their belief systems.

Take two epidemics: Covid versus hard drugs (meth, coke, fentanyl). Generally the left was all for masking up and shutting society down for Covid. The right said it was just a bad cold and individuals should be free to seek safety or take risk by their own designs. The left argued that individual freedom would lead to a higher infection rate, so that individuals who were careless could become vectors that could cause other people to get sick or die.

But the left (or most of the left, as demonstrated of late in Seattle) makes the exact opposite argument about hard drugs. They believe the war on drugs was bad, that marijuana legalization has gone well, and that therefore hard drugs should be legal. The Seattle City Council essentially voted 5 to 4 to legalize hard drugs in our city. But hard drugs are less like cannabis than Covid is like the flu. You might do something stupid after taking marijuana, might get yourself or other people killed, but that is rare. It is not so rare with meth, coke, or fentanyl. Just as every person who has Covid is a potential vector to other people, every hard drug user is a potential inducer to others to start taking hard drugs. In fact the situation is much worse, because hard drug addicts may use for a long period of time, sometimes years, before they

Every hard drug user is a risk to the community. The profits from the drugs cause local violence and fund violence and corruption in other nations, particularly Mexico.

The recent Seattle drug law that progressive Democrats defeated was not a return to the old war on drugs. Its main purpose was to get junkies into treatment programs, which they generally will not do of their own free will. They would only go to jail if they refused to go into a treatment program. It does not even prevent people from consuming these drugs. It only says they cannot consume in public places. [Selling hard drugs remains illegal. For now.]

Local cartoon on the subject: Seattle City Council in Session

Crime and punishment are often sources of tension between the right and the left. A person almost won a race for Seattle City Attorney in 2021 running on a platform of not prosecuting anyone. Because the harm caused to criminals when they are prosecuted or in jail. This now-common belief in much of the active Democratic Party in Seattle is coupled to the idea that all criminal behavior has at its roots: social injustice. So close down the police and use the money uplift the downtrodden.

Again, this is in certain people's heads, and they have trouble realizing they are mistaken about reality. I have noticed that it is often people who have graduate degrees of some kind and who live in nice neighborhoods that believe that reducing punishments, or decriminalizing, will result in less people in the stealing and assaulting sectors. Or who are in college and come from such families. Working class people may wish to be as kind as is reasonable, but usually are not quite that gullible, at least on this particular issue. This is one reason a majority of working class people not tend to vote Republican, while college educated people tend to vote Democratic Party.

There are plenty of other examples of people right, left, and center entertaining false beliefs about reality. To slightly alter an old slogan, Reality Bats Last. When enough people get sick of drugs and crime they elect pols who are tougher on crime. When the laws are too harsh, eventually a majority will favor some amelioration. That works as long as we have a Democracy. Right now I am worried that Team Trump only is for the sort of sham democracy where they win automatically. But I have noticed plenty of leftists with authoritarian, anti-democratic tendencies.

Comparing your thoughts, your beliefs, to physical reality is the best practice. The problem is Reality is complicated. No one person has the time to read every history book written, or read every newspaper, or verify every science experiment reported in the numerous science journals. Knowing who to trust, on what subjects and to what extent, is essential to making good decisions. So, no easy solutions. But I do support criminalizing hard drug possession, as long as jail times are reasonable and detox is an option to jail.

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