“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” — John Michael Stipe
Every once in awhile you learn something new. Of course, the reality is that we rarely ever learn anything truly new. It simply is that we learn something that reinforces something we already knew in a unique way. In this case, another commentator stumbled on an idea that illustrates something we all have known for most of our lives.
I peruse a number of sites every day just to keep up with the times and to check out other writers I enjoy reading. I am a regular at John Pavlovitz’s site, I am a regular reader at Heather Cox Richardson’s site. I also go over to the Bulwark. It is a center-right blog that features a group of never Trumpers that used to be establishment conservative thinkers. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Yet, reading them has given me insight into the conservative mindset. One of their writers passed along an interesting nugget about Red Bull and Elon Musk.
Attributing it in of itself reveals a few things about me. It shows that maybe I’m an English teacher at heart after all. See, we drive home the importance of properly giving credit to our sources. More importantly, for those of us that call ourselves progressives (or left of center), facts and substance are far more important and meaningful.
Last (the author) pointed out something I didn’t know. Red Bull doesn’t actually manufacture Red Bull. In fact, the company doesn’t manufacturer anything. They outsource it to someone else and just handle the marketing. Their YouTube page and other social media are revolutionary. They are highly successful and they don’t make a damn thing.
Elon Musk made more money than the four largest car manufacturers combined. They made and sold more than 25 million cars last year alone combined. Musk’s Tesla made just over 500 thousand. Who made more? If you guessed Tesla you’d guess right.
This really isn’t anything new. Literature experts tell us that there are really only about 100 original stories in literature. Everything else is a riff on one of those original stories. Plato described this phenomenon in his “Allegory of a cave” in the Republic. Perception is reality and no amount of facts are really going to change that.
The book “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” described the differences between the sexes back in 1992. I haven’t read the book admittedly, but the general idea is that men and women are wired differently. Well duh. Yet, the same notion would probably best describe Republicans and Democrats. I hate to paint people with such a broad brush, but the two groups just don’t process the same way.
My daughter came home from school and told us about a debate thread a teacher had set up on their online learning platform. It seems she has been singled out by a group of students and told she doesn’t know how to debate. See, she cites facts and sources along with her statements. Only one other student seems to do the same.
My immediate first thought was to flashback to my school days. I was kind of a lone wolf too. I’ve later learned that I really wasn’t alone, but my classmates were smarter than me and avoided the pain of banging their head against that proverbial wall. My assumption like most of you was that reality had a liberal bias. Most of us say that with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but it may have been more true then we surmised.
We certainly can’t paint every progressive and conservative with a broad brush, but progressives and conservatives by and large think differently. I could make value judgments, but suffice it to say that when you want systemic changes your mind goes to policy initiatives. Policy initiatives require facts and specific aims. When your goal is to say no to more government you don’t need the specifics. You think in generalities.
The aforementioned book is actually pretty relevant here. Using my daughter as an example, she mistakenly thought that relevant facts and trusted sources of information were persuasive. They certainly are to people that speak the same language, but some people honestly distrust all of that stuff. Conservatives are great at communicating simple points in quick bursts. They frame issues quickly and convincingly. Progressives usually shoot themselves in the foot when they try to frame issues.
The long and short of it is that we cannot get through to most people by citing facts and discussing policy aims. They just aren’t wired that way. Trump never had a specific policy and never made good on most of his campaign promises. That didn’t seem to matter. So, pointing those things out really won’t work. We need something else. The alternative is to continue to bang our head against the wall.