The Empathy Foundation Network

Growing empathy for a peaceful world

Hi all,
I have just started reading a book which rings all the bells with regard to our Empathy Foundations explorations and makes sense of different political perspectives in a way that links strongly to your expressed commitment to children and nurturing.
It is called "Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think" and is written by George Lakoff 2002 a professor in linguistics and cognitive science at Berkeley.

Might sound a bit dry for some of you however I find the whole notion resonates with our work in an exciting way. I am forwarding you some early notes I have taken from the book, so that if I talk about when we meet next week you will have some background. ......Getting back now for the next instalment1

In this second edition of his book , Lakoff attempts to describe how people make sense of their politics, and the basis of morality that underpins it. He describes not what the morality should be but how the notions of what is moral are built into our unconscious conceptual systems.
He describes the role that our ‘worldview’ plays in our political preferences, ie whether we support Conservatism or Liberalism(Progressives) and proposes a view of politics based on our worldview of Nation as Family, with the government as parent. He describes two different models of family:
Conservatism: the Strict Father model
Liberalism (progressives): Nurturant Parent model

Conservative worldview - the Strict Father model;
“This model posits a traditional nuclear family, with the father having primary responsibility for supporting and protecting the family as well as the authority to set overall policy, to set strict rules for the behaviour of children and to enforce the rules. The mother has the day-to-day responsibility for the care of the house, raising the children, and upholding the father’s authority. Children must respect and obey their parents; by doing so they build character, that is self-discipline and self-reliance. Love and nurturance are, of course, a vital part of family life but can never outweigh parental authority, which is itself an expression of love and nurturance – tough love. Self-discipline, self-reliance, and respect for legitimate authority are the crucial things that children must learn.
Once children are mature, they are on their own and must depend on their acquired self-discipline to survive. Their self-reliance given=s them authority over their own destinies, and parents are not to meddle in their lives. “

Liberal (progressive) worldview centres on a very different ideal of family life, the Nurturant Parent model:
“Love, empathy, and nurturance are primary, and children become responsible, self-disciplined and self-reliant through being cared for, respected, and caring for others, both in their family a d in their community. Support and protection are part of nurturance, and they require strength and courage on the part of the parents. The obedience of children comes out of their love and respect for their parents and their community, not out of their fear for punishment. Good communication is crucial. If their authority is to be legitimate, parents must explain why their decisions serve to cause of protection and nurturance. Questioning by children is seen as positive, since children need to learn why their parents do what they do and since children often have good ideas that should be taken seriously. Ultimately, of course, responsible parents have to make the decisions, and must be clear.
The principal goal of nurturance is for children to be fulfilled and happy in their lives. A fulfilling life is assumed to be, in significant part, a Nurturant life – one committed to family and community responsibility. What children need to learn most is empathy for others, the capacity for nurturance, and the maintenance of social ties, which cannot be done without the strength, respect, self-discipline, and self-reliance that comes through being card for. Raising a child to be fulfilled also requires helping that child develop his or her potential for achievement and enjoyment. That requires respecting the child’s own values and allowing the child to explore the range of ideas and options that the world offers.
When children are respected, nurtured, and communicated with from birth, they gradually enter in a lifetime relationship of mutual respect, communications, and caring for their parents.”
Each model induces a set of moral priorities, the different prioritisation of the same principles give a very different, even opposing focus.....”It is natural for liberals to see the function of government to help people in need and hence to support social programs, while it is equally natural for conservatives to see the function of the government as requiring citizens to be self-disciplined and self-reliant and therefore to help themselves.”

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