Tag Archives: politics

‘The Righteous Mind’ by Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous MindstarstarstarstarJonathan Haidt (pronounced ‘height’) is a social psychologist and ethics professor. He tackles the very interesting relationship between intuition and reasoning. The Righteous Mind is a little heavy going at times, as one might expect of moral psychology, but well worth the effort if you are at all interested in why people are so divided about politics and religion. He explores why good and smart people come to very different conclusions and why they get so righteous about it.

Drawing on twenty-five years of groundbreaking research, Haidt shows how moral judgements arise not from reason but from intuition, and why we evolved to be this way. Realizing that morality binds people together but also blinds them to other’s reasoning, is helpful in understanding friends, enemies, colleagues, and fellow citizens as never before. After reading the book, I’m already listening differently to political rhetoric and have a better understanding of why attack ads are so annoyingly effective. The author does try to make the book as readable and approachable as possible, using intriguing analogies like these: “The mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant.” and “Human beings are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee,” (chimps being selfish and bees being self-less).

Elephant and RiderHaidt’s main observation is that we are more intuitive than we know. Reasoning is simply something we do to justify a position we already hold. Reasoning seldom persuades unless our intuition can be changed.  In politics, how many people meticulously sift through policies or platforms? Probably most rely on a gut feeling about the person they are voting for. In an interview, despite the stellar resume before us, if our gut tells us that the person before us is not right for the job, we are not likely to hire them. Often it’s difficult for us to explain exactly why we think something is right or wrong or be able to come up with an articulate argument about it. People are not easily persuaded by reasoning, but if you walk a mile in another man’s moccasins, well, that can make a difference.

Haidt says, “Empathy is an antidote to righteousness, although it’s very difficult to empathize across a moral divide.” The author’s goal is to drain some of the anger and divisiveness out of these topics, and replace them with wonder and curiosity so that it will help people to get along. The hope is to make conversations about morality, politics, and religion more common, more civil, and much more fun.

‘The Best Laid Plans’ by Terry Fallis

The Best Laid PlansstarstarstarstarVery funny and very Canadian! Brisk and highly readable, this political satire won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 2008 and Canada Reads in 2011. This post is timely because a CBC TV series based on it, with the same name, is airing in just a few days! Now I almost wish I hadn’t cancelled my cable! 😦

The Best Laid Plans, CBC TV mini-series

Behind the Scenes – The Best Laid Plans

Angus McLintock is the most unlikely politician to hit Parliament Hill! This quote from the book describes his larger than life character: “you cannot be bought, you have no desire for re-election, you have no interest in higher office, you don’t care what people think of you, you actually do what you say.” How refreshing is that!

Angus, a big burly Scottish engineering professor will do just about anything to escape teaching English to Engineers – even running for political office. Still mourning the death of his wife, he agrees to embark on an unlikely political campaign which should have been doomed to failure. Throw in a little love story, a monstrous hovercraft, some drams of good single malt, and a few games of chess and you end up with a novel that has a little bit for everyone. And if you want to carry on with Angus, there is a sequel called The High Road which came out in 2010.