Left “sensibilities”, Right “social autism”
Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-09-28
Eyeing through Andrew Norton’s good set of links pointing to recent essays of The Right on the Left (2009-09-28), I must agree that Norton’s characterization of "the left" as a "sensibility" has much going for it, and that his work is, as usual, much more coherent and rational than most other self-identifying righties.
So what is the converse? Are most self-identifying rightards best characterized by a lack of sensibility, if not sense? Could they be described as suffering some kind of social autism?
Such a characterization has a number of advantages, not the least being that it means they should be pitied rather than demonized, and offers the hope that intervention can ameliorate the worst results of their inability to perceive the internal suffering of others caused by their actions.
Let’s think about it for a moment.
Those on the autitistic and Asperger’s spectrum can be very intelligent, and show incredible focus on the details of things that interest them, but are typically unaware of the impacts of their behaviour on others, are often accused of viewing people as objects, and the risk of being in this spectrum rises dramatically with increasing paternal age.
Now the last point is interesting. It’s not uncommon for righties to run in families with lots of money, and as many of this class delay children to climb the greasy pole, get young "trophy wives" (think Murdoch), then it would not be surprising if there is a variant form of autism that treats the "anonymous other" as an object, while having some sensibility to those they meet face-to-face.
How similar is the modelling of others by those with extreme autism as objects to the way the extreme free-marketeers model the economy, devoid of the bigger human picture! (Not always the case, some economic libertarians do focus on human outcomes as the key to determining social policy, but the majority of them appear to think that money is the root of all good).
Just as those on the autism spectrum can be talented, and these talents are sometimes best used in environments that remove them from the pressures that can come with standard business environments, perhaps the talents of those with "social autism" can be put to good use, as long as they have no involvement in setting social policy, something that requires a sensibility to the anonymous other.
Perhaps those self-identifying lefties, those united by a "sensibility", when demonizing rightistics, have not been sensitive enough. The rightards need help to understand the human dimension – and unless we drill them in the human dimension of social policy the same way we assist those on the well-recognized autistic spectrum to work better with others, we’ll continue to marginalize them, if not despise them.
Now… time to start working on getting market libertarianism recognized as a disorder in the DSM?
- Mark over at Larvatus Prodeo has a series of articles from a lefty perspective on the rightistic essays about the left – as usual the LP comment thread will provide an extensive (although possibly not diverse) set of opinions: