August 15th, 2017

This just may be the most important trait for political changers to have

Actually, if may be important in any kind of change, and that includes the ability to sincerely apologize (which is not all that common).

From commenter “J.J.”:

Then there is the matter of open/closed mindedness. Open/closed mindedness is one of the major traits of personality. Some researchers, such as Steven Pinker, believe it’s a genetic trait and doesn’t change that much over a person’s life. If that’s true, then the schooling of a person with a closed mind is likely to shape their beliefs for their whole life. Close minded people steeped in progressive politics as young people will not recognize new information as being something to take notice of. Only those with open mindedness as their inherent nature are likely to take note of new information and see differences between what they believed and what is actually happening. They are the only ones who are likely to be changers. That’s one reason why it seems so hard to “reason” with a progressive. They are not likely to change unless they are inherently open minded.

I believe Marx and the Communists have believed/sensed this and it is a major reason they have worked so hard to take over academia.

Prior to my political change, I would not have thought I had a particularly open mind. I always have been able to apologize, but not easily, and I’m stubborn and opinionated. It seemed that my political positions were well-formed, and I was no spring chicken in the early years of the 21st Century.

But it turns out the roots of my political beliefs were more shallow than I thought, although the principles on which they were based went much deeper. Confronted by a host of facts that could not be denied, I reluctantly realized that I had come to a very different place than before, politically. Why “reluctantly”? Well, I knew on a certain level that this change would distance me from many people I knew and loved, although I didn’t know the half of it. But there was no turning back by that time.

I’ve written at great length about the process of my political change, so I won’t say too much more here. But I do want to add that one trait I’ve always had—and I think it was vital to this process—was the habit, amounting to almost a compulsive need, to challenge what I think is true. If I have an opinion, I’m almost driven to read articles from people with a different and even opposite opinion, and to mull over what they say to see if it holds water. I’m not sure why I’ve always been that way, but the best explanation I can come to is that I wanted as firm a foundation for my beliefs as possible, and if the basis for my thinking was shaky I wanted to know it so I could revise my opinions and make them conform better to reality.

Long ago, I actually used to think that just about everyone was that way. I’ve since been disabused of that notion.

39 Responses to “This just may be the most important trait for political changers to have”

  1. Tatterdemalian Says:

    The ability to admit to being wrong, or even just imperfect, is so rare these days it might as well be a superpower. Maybe that’s how all golden ages turn dark.

  2. OldTexan Says:

    Introspection is a trait I seem to have and I’ve looked back from time to time over the years and asked myself what the hell were you thinking?

    Being an avid reader of history and skeptical of all politicians and their motives helps too.

  3. Oldflyer Says:

    Afraid I have a closed mind. At least my wife would say that I have, because I have no interest whatsoever in listening to the other side. She is almost obsessive about doing so, and I irritate her by leaving the room. Of course listening does not change her mind.

    Or maybe I recognize that the other side has so little to say beyond the hackneyed talking points.

    I hope it is the latter.

  4. Irv Says:

    I believe that open-mindedness begins at home but is really learned school. There are schools that have a reputation for producing students that succeed and also those that have the opposite reputation. This almost always has to do with the quality of the teachers and the support of the administration and the parents. Money and teacher pay is almost never a deciding factor (and I am a retired math and computer science teacher.)

    It’s so sad when we allow dogmatic leftists to indoctrinate our children instead of teaching them to question. This is the single most distressing thing about modern society. All progress in both science and philosophy comes from questioning the status quo.

    The only way to stop the brainwashing is to move education away from the federal government and back to local control. The best thing Betsy DeVos can do is to work herself out of a job by removing the federal government from all decision making about education and this includes money.

    Nothing will be 100% effective for everyone but this will return our education to the best in the world. The vast majority of students will benefit and we should then work on those that don’t without dragging down those that do.

  5. DNW Says:

    ” … I do want to add that one trait I’ve always had—and I think it was vital to this process—was the habit, amounting to almost a compulsive need, to challenge what I think is true. If I have an opinion, I’m almost driven to read articles from people with a different and even opposite opinion, and to mull over what they say to see if it holds water. I’m not sure why I’ve always been that way, but the best explanation I can come to is that I wanted as firm a foundation for my beliefs as possible, and if the basis for my thinking was shaky I wanted to know it so I could revise my opinions and make them conform better to reality.”

    Well, that is laudable, and may comport to some extent with open-mindedness, especially as you have framed it.

    But suppose that your one principle were somewhat simpler: “Tell no lies”.

    In fact, many of the discomfiting facts we encounter will be found simply in double checking our own assumptions and facts : not as a result of an effort to meet some criteria of emotional liberality, but out of respect for the truth, and for our moral duty to relay it, and only it, insofar as is humanly possible.

    It is mere “due diligence” in formulating the predications which we present to other persons, you might say.

    Checking on whether “They fired first” is really and indubitably true, will open your mind whether that is your intention or not.

    But first you must make truth your goal, and never, ever, bull-shit in the name of a supposedly good cause.

  6. AMartel Says:

    Intellectual curiosity + intellectual honesty = open mindedness.
    I swiped right during the Clinton era.
    You have to be curious enough to look at alternative points of view and honest enough to acknowledge that they are reasonable.

  7. OldTexan Says:

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. Try as they might, in my mind no one in Charlotte doing the made for TV reality show had anything to do with true conservative issues. However it sure is Trumps fault that we can’t all get along.

    When I talk to my friends who are staunch Democratic supporters, they oft times have no idea what I am talking about because their information sources are the NYT, WaPo, CNN, MSNBC, etc. Discussing Lois Lerner and the IRS their response was, “Never heard of it.” At the same times my friends on the right seem to at least understand there is some dispute about the facts and they are willing to discuss the situation.

    It also seems as if the more college degrees my wonderful left side friends have the more they are informed and entrenched with their “facts”.

  8. Richard Aubrey Says:

    When conservatives try to take an honest look at lib/left/prog sides, a curious thing happens.
    “This is all false.”
    You could look it up.
    Had a friend who thought communism was terrific because look at how Russia developed after the revolution. Okay. But so did everybody else, in terms of technology and transportation and so forth. Additionally, as Thomas Sowell points out, many or most of the top-level managers were German.
    So either he’s ignorant or hopes I am. What other answers are there?
    This could go on forever.
    Eventually the exercise seems like a waste of time, especially considering the inference that they think I’m dumb enough to buy whatever they’re selling. Kind of insulting.

  9. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Old Texan,
    WRT your dem friends and Lois Lerner. Dollars to Krispy Kremes they have heard of it.
    But if they admit it, they’d possibly be caught acknowledging they think it’s a dandy idea to screw people for being of a different political persuasion. The country is not, yet, at a point where that can be admitted publicly.
    Or they’d have to insist it was just a couple of drones in the Cincinnati office, while knowing everybody knows better and how dumb they look saying such a thing.
    Better to blow it off by pretending not to have heard of it.

  10. Gringo Says:

    Regarding personality traits and political change, I am reminded of a recent indication of consistency in my points of view. I recently took a “What kind of philosopher are you” test. The conclusion was that I was a skeptic. I don’t know how the test reached that conclusion. 🙂 I am reminded of an assignment in my high school AP Humanities class. Our art teacher gave us an assignment to draw our personal mandala.

    A mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल, lit, circle) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe.[1] In common use, “mandala” has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.

    The explanation of the picture I drew could be summed up as- shall we say- a cloud of unknowing. We don’t know- a half century ago. Today- skeptic. Rather consistent.

    Another example of continuity is my attitude towards prejudice. As a New Englander in the 1960s, I was appalled at what I had read about the South. I was also appalled at my Okie grandmother’s dislike of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. It would have been very easy to fall into the “they are prejudiced and I am not” mode- a mode which is very common among our lefty “friends” these days.

    However, my observations in elementary and high school led me to the conclusion that we all form in-groups and out-groups. None of us are free from prejudice. That wasn’t the same conclusion that many of my liberal peers reached. Why, I will leave for another time.

  11. neo-neocon Says:

    DNW:

    Of course I try not to tell lies. But that’s not good enough.

    I also try not to be mistaken, at least as best I can.

  12. physicsguy Says:

    One aspect of doing experimental physics research is that one spends about 90% of the time correcting mistakes and making new ones. Combine that with a passion for playing golf and I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion I’m wrong most of the time.

    If you’ve never played golf, it’s a game that will show you how to be humble, and question yourself all the time.

  13. DNW Says:

    “… your dem friends [probably have heard of] … Lois Lerner. …
    But if they admit it, they’d possibly be caught acknowledging they think it’s a dandy idea to screw people for being of a different political persuasion. The country is not, yet, at a point where that can be admitted publicly.”

    That unfortunately, is probably true in all too many cases. Or they would have to say, ‘Yeah, but it didn’t seem like a big deal”; which is tantamount in moral terms to admitting the first.

    I think most of us have no idea how ready many of our neighbors are to embrace fascism (principally left-fascism). Rights, are not enough for them. Attention must be paid, appreciation shown, sacrifices made, the whole perverse psycho-sexual schmear invoked which acts as a replacement for a now discarded supernaturally derived assurance that they have value.

    And in a world without a God in His heaven, the only place to get that assurance that you have a value derived right to exist is from your neighbor. It becomes a social grant. Obtaining it becomes a matter of life and death; at least for the ego.

    As John Rawls, the pseudo-liberal put it for he and his kind, the esteem of others is a social and personal need. To be denied it, it is implied, is an offense.

    And thus, those who would fail to affirm, become, whether they have acted or not, the enemy.

  14. DNW Says:

    neo-neocon Says:
    August 15th, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    DNW:

    Of course I try not to tell lies.

    Of course you do.

    But that’s not good enough.

    I also try not to be mistaken, at least as best I can.

    Being mistaken does in and of itself cause troubles which are to be avoided.

    But as I referenced ‘due diligence’, I think that in the main it is your ahem, catholic (small “c”) conscience at work; stimulated for reasons other than egotism, to try and always convey the truth, lest you commit a “sin of omission” … due to the deadly sin of sloth.

    You would never of course be guilty of lust, avarice, pride, anger, gluttony, or envy.

    Or something like that …

  15. DNW Says:

    ” I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion I’m wrong most of the time.”

    C.S. Lewis said that almost all humans have been wrong about almost everything at almost all times. Who has not been proved eventually wrong? Would any of your colleagues argue that Democritus had it more or less right as our 6th grade science texts once implied?

    “If you’ve never played golf, it’s a game that will show you how to be humble, and question yourself all the time.”

    Attempting to maintain the picture perfect driver or 5 iron posture and axis of rotation is enough to do that alone.

    But when that ball sails off with only the slightest feeling of impact, and seems to ascend in quick straight strides, rather than a looping arc, you know that you have done something right.

    http://golfillustration.com/golfillustration/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/keith-witmer-golf-swing-glass-plane.jpg

    http://www.golftoday.co.uk/proshop/features/lost_fundamentals_hogan_2.html

  16. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    neo,

    I suspect it was your refusal to deny reality, wherein the seed of your change began and that permitted it to flourish.

    I find that all ‘isms’ on the left, at base rest upon premises that deny basic aspects of human nature while also rejecting key operative principles of the external reality within which we all exist.

    Those on the left by definition, reject Thatcher’s aphorism that, “The facts of life are conservative.”

    I think it impossible to reject key aspects of human nature and external reality while also making your opinions “conform better to reality”

    IMO, the seed of the left’s premises arise out of the infantile/juvenile protest; “that’s not fair!”

    A refusal to accept life’s essential “unequal sharing of blessings” necessarily leads to a rejection of the premise that there is a beneficent creative entity, a creator. For how could a loving God have created a world with so much suffering and inequality?

    And the refusal to accept the world as it is, prevents them from seeing that the “unequal sharing of blessings” is not only necessary but overall, a positive good with the responsibility for most of the world’s suffering resting firmly upon mankind’s inhumanity to man.

    This in turn leads to DNW’s perception; “Once God in His heaven [is rejected], the only place to get that assurance that you have a value derived right to exist is from your neighbor. It becomes a social grant. Obtaining it becomes a matter of life and death; at least for the ego.”

  17. J.J. Says:

    If Steven Pinker is correct, the trait of open/closed mindedness is a continuum from very closed minded to very open minded. with the bulk of people clustered near the middle. If it is inherited, as Pinker avers, your degree of open/closed mindedness won’t change much over the years, once your ideas are formed. Many people challenge that and it is not something anyone can prove with the precision of a scientific experiment.

    The problem with the social sciences is that the “facts” or “truths” are the often the result of wishing them to be so or custom. Also, differing cultures hold differing ideas to be true. Liberated women are anathema to many cultures. In many cultures government graft is accepted as the norm. Traveling widely has been an eye opener for me. It has shown me how differing cultures have differing ideas about many things in the social sciences realm. Most of the time it makes me grateful to be an American.

    I don’t know if I am open minded or not. I have always gravitated toward conservative ideas, even as a young man. I have examined progressive and Communist ideas and never found them attractive. So, maybe I’m closed minded. I have never been as intensely curious and searching as Neo is. I’m pretty much a straight line thinker and some one who gravitates toward doing rather than thinking. I would like to believe I’m open minded, (Isn’t being open minded what we all aspire to?) but maybe I’m not. Well, at my age I doubt things are going to change much. I yam what I yam. 🙂

  18. n.n Says:

    Thus the need for a statement of principles and reconciliation. There are no mortal gods and fewer yet who can predict a uniform consensus.

  19. parker Says:

    Since Pinker has been mentioned, I wish to note we are not born as blank slates. The left believes the social environment of our times decides everything about how the individual feels, believes, and thinks. And they intend to create the social environment. Athough thinking per se is not to be encouraged.

    As far as being a “changer” is concerned, I flirted with ‘progressive’ ideology during my freshman year in college but quickly came to the realization the left was divorced from reality; ignorant (or ignoring) history and the best and worst of human nature in their search for utopia. Seeking utopia always ends in the death of millions and barbaric cruelty.

    Unfortunately, a majority of people are like a mob, ready for the glorious leader to point out the verboten ones and elevate the true believers. Nothing new under the sun.

  20. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    It’s perhaps easy to go too far with thinking an open mind to always be best. I’m reminded of a line from an Aaron Tippen song that goes, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”…

  21. blert Says:

    Closed Minded True Believers are largely determined in their ways by their DNA.

    Read Eric Hoffer’s: The True Believer.

    Such souls can flip from Nazism to Bolshevism — but never make it to American Republicanism.

  22. huxley Says:

    Prior to my political change, I would not have thought I had a particularly open mind. –neo

    I did. Because I worked for it.

    Because I got the idea that an open mind was important.

    I read people like Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells, Voltaire, Thomas Paine, George Orwell and other, mostly liberal minds, that being open-minded was important.

    I can not entirely express my horror that current liberal minds have acquiesced at the mainstream level to something that looks like Stalinism, Maoism and Lysenkoism all rolled up into one.

  23. huxley Says:

    As regards the fight-fire-with-fire Trumpists — I get it, but you are not helping when it comes to the “open mind.”

    You are the closed mind.

  24. Ira Says:

    Only those with open mindedness as their inherent nature are likely to take note of new information and see differences between what they believed and what is actually happening. They are the only ones who are likely to be changers. That’s one reason why it seems so hard to “reason” with a progressive. They are not likely to change unless they are inherently open minded.

    Wouldn’t progressives say that about us?

  25. Tim Turner Says:

    Yes, Ira they basically do say that. I keep some eyes open on both sides of the debates. It is, in some ways, a mirror image. There are, of course differences (and we’re talking strategy here, not policy), but it’s human nature to believe you’ve got it all figured out and everyone else is nuts.

    Liberals certainly do not go around asking “Why are all these conservatives so open-minded?!”

  26. AesopFan Says:

    Ira Says:
    August 15th, 2017 at 10:14 pm.

    Wouldn’t progressives say that about us?
    * * *
    They would, and do.
    The real point is that both sides want to reduce the entire distribution of traits on the other side to a single negative point, while ignoring any possessors of negative traits on their own side.

    It’s bell curves all the way down.

  27. Tim Turner Says:

    In my view, Geoffrey Britain has it right here
    It’s perhaps easy to go too far with thinking an open mind to always be best.

    There are certainly survival-based reasons for close-mindedness to exist. You wouldn’t want to live in a society where everyone changed their minds every 5 minutes.

    In my experience, some people are not inherently more open-minded than others. That sounds a lot like a group-think to rationalize a bias. Open-mindedness is a pattern of thinking. That means it’s caused by a number of factors:
    1. Training: As Huxley says above, it is something you are cognizant of and practice with intent.
    2. Social pressure: Our peers influence us consciously and subconsciously to conform.
    3. Fact Impact: Sometimes reality forces you to face it.
    4. Temperament: Angry people are close-minded people.
    5. The personal side: Actually experiencing what other people experience, or seeing them personally as they are opens you to their side of the issues. Or when it happens to you.

  28. J.J. Says:

    Ira: “Wouldn’t progressives say that about us?”

    Good point.

    When it comes to economics/governmental systems, it is quite clear to me that statist systems never produce economic rewards for the greatest numbers of citizens. To me, that is clear from the study of history. Heck, it’s clear from reading the news from Venezuela.

    On the other hand, I keep hearing progressives describe the Reagan years as a failure of economic policy and bad years for the U.S. . The economic numbers don’t show it, yet they aver it is true. What I say to them is that they didn’t like the Reagan years because he slowed (minimally, I’ll admit) the growth of government and took an aggressive stand against the USSR – both the opposite of progressive policy. Which they deny or sidestep.

    Maybe I am wrong about the Reagan years. Maybe I’m too closed minded.

  29. AesopFan Says:

    Richard Aubrey Says:
    August 15th, 2017 at 12:47 pm
    Old Texan,
    WRT your dem friends and Lois Lerner. Dollars to Krispy Kremes they have heard of it.
    But if they admit it, they’d possibly be caught acknowledging they think it’s a dandy idea to screw people for being of a different political persuasion. The country is not, yet, at a point where that can be admitted publicly.
    Or they’d have to insist it was just a couple of drones in the Cincinnati office, while knowing everybody knows better and how dumb they look saying such a thing.
    Better to blow it off by pretending not to have heard of it.
    * * *
    Actually, a lot of them may never have heard of it (it being any of the scandals that exercise the ire of the Right).

    For instance, here’s Jeffrey Lord, a conservative-of-sorts recently fired by CNN for practicing sarcasm without a license:

    http://www.allsides.com/news/2017-08-14-0820/cnn-fires-me

    “There is more to the old-fashioned use of double-standards. As I made the rounds of radio shows from coast-to-coast the day after my firing I was repeatedly asked about CNN’s tolerance for those who, employed by CNN, have used social media or other forums to compare the President of the United States to Adolf Hitler or conservatives to Nazis. I had to confess my ignorance as I was not aware. Over at Fox, Mark Steyn and Pete Hegseth, criticizing CNN for their decision, made the point that — if one is a liberal — Nazi references are not only never assailed by CNN as “indefensible” they most assuredly are not followed by a summary firing. They are in fact not even noticed, given a total pass if not being treated as A-OK.”

    He was not aware of the rampant name-calling by the Left, and he is a professional journalist.

    BTW, the entire article is relevant not only to open-mindedness (which, like reality, seems to often mug the complacent) but to the Damore firing and the Trump presser today.

    If you are Right, you can do no right.
    If you are Left, you can do no wrong.

  30. parker Says:

    huxley,

    What took you so long? 😉

  31. parker Says:

    huxley,

    Not a trumper, I distrust all who seek office. However, djt is POTUS despite his obvious flaws as a human being. Did you feel the same way about messiah obama? Or others in the past?

  32. Big Maq Says:

    @huxley – amen.

    Really it is not about having an “open mind” so much as starting with a good bit of humility from a recognition of the limits to one’s own knowledge, access to information, etc.
    .

    The extent that each of us actively consumes information from a variety of sources (vs largely, or, worse, exclusively, from ones that push a point of view we agree with) demonstrates to ourselves just how “open” one is.

    Will leave that as an open question for each to ponder.
    .

    “I can not entirely express my horror that current liberal minds have acquiesced at the mainstream level to something that looks like Stalinism, Maoism and Lysenkoism all rolled up into one.”

    Amazing, isn’t it, for the historical example of success the US (and much of the West) is?

    On the flip side, neither are we in a Flight 93 scenario, as several ascribe.

    What we think that should be obvious, is not.

    Long ago concluded that there are not really any new ideas, just different labels for them, pushed by people who seek some position of power, and / or of fortune (e.g. certain radio hosts?), thus it is a debate that will be forever for humanity.
    .

    There is a willing audience for those ideas, for a variety of reasons / motivations, and humans are very flexible in how we can rationalize even the worst ideas and behaviors.

    Just like a lot of “tribal” behavior which gets a pass as some kind of well considered position, which unfortunately seems to be a growing phenomenon in recent years.

    Sadly, it is not the exclusive domain of the left where, as parker says “a majority of people are like a mob, ready for the glorious leader to point out the verboten ones and elevate the true believers.”
    .

    We fortunately live in a democracy, if we dare try to persuade a majority, rather than seek a shortcut, which may well accelerate the G-March many of us say we want to reverse.

  33. huxley Says:

    However, djt is POTUS despite his obvious flaws as a human being. Did you feel the same way about messiah obama? Or others in the past?

    parker: I was horrified by Obama.

    Much of my feeling about Trump is that he is the right-wing flipside of Obama — a narcisisstic, populist demagogue lacking moral and intellectual foundations.

  34. huxley Says:

    What took you so long?

    parker: Dunno.

    But I’m waiting for the rest of you to catch up. 🙂

  35. Ymar Sakar Says:

    It isn’t about being open minded, it is about flexibility combined with inflexibility, like steel.

    We are flexible as to the outward appearance and shape, but inflexible when it comes to core principles. Since core principles are rarely effected or applied by human society, human society is the one that ends up needing to change or being displaced.

  36. Ymar Sakar Says:

    But I’m waiting for the rest of you to catch up.

    That’s funny, I would have said the same thing about many here in 2007 and 2012.

  37. Julia Says:

    I consider myself very set in my ideas, but I do listen with an open mind. In the past, I have flipped positions, sometimes significantly. Mostly political, but I went from an atheist of 25 years to a devout Catholic.

    Neo said:
    “If I have an opinion, I’m almost driven to read articles from people with a different and even opposite opinion, and to mull over what they say to see if it holds water. I’m not sure why I’ve always been that way, ”

    Perhaps you are like me. I believe in Absolute Truth. I also think that our opinions can be near or far from that Truth. If someone can help show me the errors of my ways (or if I can persuade myself), I change my opinions. Why? Because the whole point is to be closer to the Truth. I have nothing to fear due to change because I change in order to reach my goal.

  38. Big Maq Says:

    “Because the whole point is to be closer to the Truth. I have nothing to fear due to change “ – Julia

    Wise – sounds like you understand the limits we each have.

  39. Sarah Rolph Says:

    “Long ago, I actually used to think that just about everyone was that way. I’ve since been disabused of that notion.”

    Same here, except that it wasn’t long ago–that reality has only made itself clear to me in the last decade or so. I’m still working to accept it. The world looks very different without that happy false premise.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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