Which is the more complicated: for a right-wing person to understand a left-wing person or for a left-wing person to understand a right-wing person?

as answered on Quora:

It should be easier for a left-winger to understand right-wingers, rather than vice versa — based on a quick glance at the two ideological approaches.

Why? Well, the most sense I can make out of the left/right duality is this: the right emphasizes defense of self or in-group from the threat of other or out-group; the left emphasizes defense of others from self or out-groups from in-group.

By leftists’ very nature, you would think being open to new thoughts and alien (“outside”) ideas would entail more sympathy for rightists than rightists would have for them. And that was once the case.

Not any longer. Few leftists today can pass an ideological Turing test — but most non-leftists can.

This has been noted for some time, including by careful psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt.

What happened? The left captured the commanding heights of the culture, particularly major media, entertainment, and academic institutions. Everybody is more than familiar with leftist arguments. But leftists, em-bubbled in their institutional safe spaces, have been coddled. And they are therefore, to an astounding degree, pathetically and witlessly unaware of arguments against their positions.

Further, the types of people who adopt ideas based on social status have inverted. When I was young, it was late adopters who were “conservative,” and early adopters who dared buck trends who were leftist.

Nowadays, those people who by nature are culturally conservative adopt not traditional morality and politics but “progressive” morality and politics — because they are at the cultural center. And many of the folks prone to be early adopters now flock to perceived anti-leftist dogmas and positions.

It is quite hilarious.

Of course, both of the human propensities I identify as “left” and “right” are necessary and good for life in an extended order of civilization. But the vices of both — at the extremes, where sacrifices are insisted upon and ritually made — are quite dangerous:

right-wing vice: sacrifice of others to self, other groups to in-group and its hierarchies

left-wing vice: sacrifice of self to others, in-group to out-groups

We will see if our civilization will figure this out. And we will get over this stupid squabble between two necessary human propensities.


N.B. The illustration for this post is of two covers of a great book by a Catholic theologian. In it, he invited readers to go beyond the mere aping of another’s way of thought, but to “pass over” to theirs. And then come back, with greater understanding. “Passing over and coming back, it seems, is the spiritual adventure of our time.” This has not proved to be true. In politics, it has definitely not been the case, otherwise more folks could pass an ideological Turing test. John Scribner Dunne was not talking politics, of course — his interest was in religion and spirituality — but it is curious to see the political crowd most apt to decry dogma and boast of being ‘spiritual but not religious’ fail utterly to avoid dogma and foreswear spirituality.