Sunday, May 12, 2013

Agreements and qualifications

child,flag copy 2.jpg I love SF copy.jpg
Will these young people grow up to adopt the current consensus?

A Pew poll aimed to find out what people in the United States all agree on. They got 90 percent assent, or close to that number, to a list of assertions.

Some of us are not like others of us, I realized reading through the list. On the other hand, maybe I'm not so far removed from opinions of the crowd as I might like sometimes to image myself. What follows is a snapshot of my reactions to the study.

Pew's areas of near universal agreement are in bold face; some of my responses to these items are in italics.

—believe in God.
Well, I do that -- but I worry that a lot of my sister and brother citizens seem attached to a rather demonic conception of the Deity. On the other hand, I sure don't want any more Wars of Religion, so mostly I remember to be polite about this.

—are very patriotic.
Not my best subject. I love this country, the land and our recurrent outbreaks of struggle toward greater equity and justice. I feel inexpressibly lucky to live with the wealth and security that we enjoy. But ultimately I sign on with the common English lyrics sung to the tune "Finlandia":
"This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine."


—consider preventing terrorism a very important foreign policy goal.
Huh? Preventing terrorism is much to be desired, but this only occasionally relates to "foreign policy." When you are the leading world empire -- or trying to be -- "foreign policy" is a very inadequate label for your international behavior.

—admire those who get rich by working hard.
No. Nor do I usually think those who get rich got there by working hard. Mostly they stole their wealth fair and square.

—think society should ensure everyone has equal opportunity to succeed.
There's something I can agree with. There are some crooks who get in the way. See the previous response.

—think it’s important to get more than a high school education.
Yes. Not certain this requires going to more school, though that probably helps provide a context for learning.

—favor teaching sex education in public schools.
Of course.

—find birth control morally acceptable.
Of course-- and essential for women's autonomy and dignity.

—believe cloning humans would be morally wrong.
I haven't thought this through really, but I instinctively recoil, along with the rest of the 90 percent.

—believe it’s wrong for married people to have affairs.
Probably, unless people can agree on some other arrangement and handle any emotional fallout. We've made marriage into a contract between two people -- not society or our families -- and we need to keep our promises to each other, whatever those promises are. Fidelity is usually one of them. And children should probably have some claim on their parents' behavior.

—are interested in keeping up with national affairs.
Yes. Also interested in influencing the national direction; that takes work.

—believe it’s their duty to always vote.
Gee, an awful lot of people who believe this must be disappointed in themselves. I do it, but I can imagine feeling it was less than meaningful. On the other hand, I think campaigns and citizen activity are good for us, building our capacity for collective action.

How do you respond to this list? Are you in agreement with the 90 percent? Or perhaps, like me, you have some reservations?

2 comments:

LarryE said...

First, I just wanted to note that this was not from a Pew Poll, rather the results were selected from, the article says, "big polls such as Pew, Gallup and the General Social Survey." That said, my reactions:

—believe in God.
I'm an atheist, so no. But I also wonder what would be the effect of pressing people on what they mean by "God" and just how near-universal that sentiment would appear in light of those answers.

—are very patriotic.
Again, I'd love to see people asked about their understanding of the term. I wrote a while back that I'm not at all patriotic in the way the term seems to be traditionally interpreted, but if you define "patriotic" as committed to the ideals of freedoms, rights, justice, and "promoting the general welfare" on which the country was *supposedly* founded, then I'm as patriotic as they come.

—consider preventing terrorism a very important foreign policy goal.
I agree - because as I said in October, 2001:

"Our best weapons [against terrorism] are bread and butter, not bombs; our best tactic reconstruction, not retaliation; our best strategy justice, not jingoism. The best way to minimize terrorism is to ensure that the dispossessed have a genuine stake in the world and don’t see us as grasping bullies - and the best way not to be seen as a grasping bully is not to be one."

Which would seem to be a good outline for a set of foreign policy goals.

[cont.]

LarryE said...

[cont.]

—admire those who get rich by working hard.
I suppose I could say yes provided that it's understood that it's the "working hard" part I admire, not the "get rich" part: I admire all those who work hard.

—think society should ensure everyone has equal opportunity to succeed.
Yes. Beyond that, I think there is a social duty to provide some degree of equality in outcome. Something else I wrote a long time back: "I've no desire to put a ceiling over anyone's aspirations, but I do intend to put a floor under everyone's needs."

—think it’s important to get more than a high school education.
In the sense of being a "life-long learner," yes, absolutely. Not long ago I would have said yes to the idea of college for everyone, but as that becomes more and more expensive and a return on that investment less and less sure, I've come to realize that no, college is not a good idea for everyone and formal education beyond high school is not important for everyone.

—favor teaching sex education in public schools.
Yes, even as I admit to being pleasantly surprised at such widespread agreement.

—find birth control morally acceptable.
Yes, even as I admit to being unpleasantly surprised that there is a measureable number who say otherwise.

—believe cloning humans would be morally wrong.
Yes.

—believe it’s wrong for married people to have affairs.
As presented, I'd say yes because the word "affair" suggests the relationship is covert, illicit, and therefore done without the knowledge or approval/acceptance of the marriage partner. If the questioned is broadened to the general "physical relationships outside the marriage," I'd say that's entirely up to the married couple involved and no one else's damn business but that it should be done with an understanding of the risks.

—are interested in keeping up with national affairs.
Yes, I am. And I don't believe for a single second that 90% of my fellow citizens are.

—believe it’s their duty to always vote.
Since I've been eligible to vote, I have missed precisely two elections: one when I moved into an area too late to register there and one municipal election when I was out of the country.

Voting rates in the US are embarrassing. We just had a local election here a couple of weeks ago. The turnout was 28.6% - and everybody was happy because that was the highest turnout over. Embarrassing, indeed.

On another point, the overwhelming "yes" response to this raises doubts about several other answers (such as "believe in God," "very patriotic," and "equal opportunity"), which, like this one, could be influenced by what people this they are "supposed" to say.

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