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There are two types of people in this world... - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
There are two types of people in this world...
The funniest joke I ever heard was, "There are two types of people in this world, those who divide everyone into two types of people and those who don't."

Maybe you had to be there. Or maybe you had to be me. My point in relaying the gem is how natural it seems to be for people to split everyone into two types on just about everything. Of course we know the truth is much more complex, but it seems like the need to simplify to two types is irresistible. I find it irritating.

This was triggered by the discussion to harrock's post, but it's fairly tangential.

The whole liberal/conservative labeling system really irritates me. I don't consider myself to be either. It's just too simplistic. Basically, I believe some stuff. I have good reasons for believing the stuff I believe. I have no problems with the stuff I believe, but it seems to cause the labelers great confusion. Ask me about my views on abortion, gay rights, or religion and the "liberals" will be firmly convinced that I am one of them while the "conservatives" will either shake their head in sorrow or go out in search of firewood depending on their inclination. Ask me about my views on most things military, economic, or having to do with social programs and the "conservatives" will probably be nodding in agreement while the "liberals" will wonder what rock I crawled out from under. That is one of the reasons I abstain for any sort of politics. Every election is a choice between two candidates, both of whom are dead wrong (as I see it) on at least half the issues. There is also the fact that I wouldn't trust any of them any further than I could comfortably throw them in my current not-allowed-to-lift-heavy-objects-like-fat-politicians condition, but that's getting a bit off topic.

I think most of my friends actually identify themselves as liberals. I'm sure they don't think that they are just blindly going along with the whole liberal set of views. They mostly believe the things "liberals" believe, maybe differing on some stuff. Then human nature comes into it. Because they believe mostly liberal stuff, the two-types-of-people sorting puts them in the liberal bucket, and my impression has been that for the most part they accept the bucket. Of course people tend to gravitate towards like-minded people, so they end up mostly listening to other people in that bucket. The other people they know in the bucket tend to be reasonable, intelligent, well-educated people, so it's easy to believe that reasonable, intelligent, well-educated people just think that way, and the people who don't think that way probably don't have those characteristics. And then there's me. I'm intelligent and well-educated. I also think I'm reasonable, mostly. My friends know that I'm a pro-choice heathen, and I get the feeling that based on these things they assume that I am largely in the same bucket too. Sure, if they talk to me, they might get hints that I have some pretty abnormal views on a few issues compared to the rest of my social crowd, but my impression is that those differences are subconsciously dismissed. I'm just like them, but with a few quirks in my world-view that make me a tad odd.

The thing is, I am not in their bucket. I am not in the other bucket either. I am no where near either bucket. I'm sure that some of my friends will protest that they aren't really in the bucket either, but I wonder if they see the side effects of being not in the bucket as much as I do.

I run a pen and paper roleplaying campaign set in a fantasy world of my own devising. It occasionally provides some rather frustrating examples of how my basic assumptions about things are radically different than those of my players, or at least most of my players. Now obviously, the players are free to roleplay their characters as being more liberal than the rest of society, especially when they have a good excuse like playing a character from a more liberal culture, but there are still numerous incidents where the players seem to completely not understand the default assumptions of the culture their characters have supposedly been living in for the past N years because those assumptions more closely match mine than they do those of the players. A couple of months ago there was a situation where a player character found out some hints about a covert military operation that they king was conducting through a prophecy affliction she picked up through a rather badly botched magic ritual. She then goes and gets an audience with the king, explains a bit about her odd prophecy tick, and then proceeds to spend a lot of time fishing for information about the covert military operation, basically hinting heavily that the king really should tell her about it. I had the king be pretty tolerant of this, partly because I see him as a reasonable guy who knows the player characters are useful people, and partly because I do cut my players some slack (probably too much) because they are operating in a culture that is not what the players are used to. On the other hand, the king of course refused to give any information about an ongoing covert military operation to the player character. Afterwards there was much talk about how unreasonable the king was. It wasn't clear how much of the talk was in character, but I was definitely left with the impression that most of the players (not just their characters) thought the king's point of view was unreasonable. By extension this meant that they thought my point of view was unreasonable. I think this is because they have this basic assumption that sharing information is always good, and people generally have a right to know things. It's not an assumption that I share. My point of view is that military secrecy has value, and there are definite limits to the details that people have the right to know. This whole thing was magnified for me personally because the run this happened in occurred just after the story about Prince Harry being in Afghanistan broke, and I was rather irritated by that situation. Reporting the whereabouts of an individual soldier is not OK in my book, no matter who he is, but the people doing so just assume that the 'right to know' trumps all, or at least covers them while they make money off it. I don't think the parallel occurred to any of the players. I also don't think it occurs to my players sometimes when they are discussing (often at the player level, not the character level) how unreasonable this or that NPC may be that I think the NPCs position is more reasonable than their own. I don't think it occurs to them that sometimes the logical conclusion from the meta-level discussion is that my players think my point of view on things is entirely unreasonable, and it's frustrating because having come up in the context of the game it's tough to have a discussion about it without sounding like I'm telling they how they ought to play their characters, when instead I'd like them to realize that perhaps they have certain assumptions not necessarily shared by everybody and that are a minority view among the inhabitants of my little fantasy world. It happens in the real world two, people make assumptions that they aren't even aware of, but seeing it in the fantasy setting makes it all the clearer to me.
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chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: April 11th, 2008 04:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Personally I think the belief that information should flow freely is on a different axis than the liberal conservative axis.

But I know the pain of a fantasy world bringing out how differently people thing. ringrose experiences that a LOT in role playing games, and I often get stuck being the translator.
From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 11th, 2008 12:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Without wanting to get into an argument about game stuff on LJ, I think using things that happen in game as an illustration of how people think differently about politics/principle is dangerous. Game interactions are weirdly complicated, because there's the extra aspects of people trying to play their characters and trying to play within the universe. But also -- and this is the part I think you're not taking into account -- the structure of it being a game always introduces inconsistencies.

e.g. the PCs are ridiculously powerful compared to most people in the universe, and generally run about doing Really Important Things -- sometimes even more important than the King is doing. That makes it not entirely strange that they should be irritated about not being on the "need to know" list for things that sometimes they actually do need to know about -- while understanding that they are not in fact part of the government and can't expect to be just told everything. (And they do understand that. I realize it may not come across that way when we're grumbling about not getting what we want, but we do.)

Also, a game is structured so that it has plot and the PCs are able to find it. This is not, strictly speaking, realistic -- it is a convention of fiction, and of games, because otherwise they wouldn't be interesting. But it means that the world can't always work the way it logically should. By this I *don't* mean "We're the PCs, therefore the King should tell us the plot." What I mean is, the PCs have reason to *want* the King to tell them the plot, in a way that I personally don't feel the need to go asking the President for briefings -- a) they can see more plot than a real person, b) they can do something about it, and c) it's their function to do something about it, whether or not it's their official job within the setting.

I find "we wish the King would tell us more stuff but he doesn't want to" to be a fine piece of character tension in the game, by the way. Because it *is* perfectly natural that he wouldn't want to do it. It's also natural that we'd want him to, in the sense of "you know, my job would be easier if only...."

arcanology From: arcanology Date: April 11th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yah. Anne totally believes that thing King should tell her stuff, because she's young, self centered, and of course the child of a god. So... she's got some issues.

If I were still playing Henri it would be different (although this isn't his King so he'd be at yet another angle).

But the player knows where the king is coming from. Anne does not (or pretends to herself not to).
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: April 11th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, here we have a fundamental misunderstanding then. My game actually doesn't have a plot as such. It's much more a simulation. There is some interesting stuff going on in the world, but a lot of it is independent of the PCs. The PCs can find and influence the interesting stuff, but I generally try to not pull out the scripted stuff unless I have to cope with a player being absent for a while.

I actually think that the role-playing games are great for getting insights into how other people think, in some ways they are better than real-world conversations. You are probably far too polite to call me unreasonable to my face, but when the players get to talking on what is clearly a meta-level about an NPC in the game who largely shares my world view and they say that the character is being unreasonable, if the character's 'unreasonable' actions are the local result of the shared world view, then it seems logical to conclude that the players believe my world view to be unreasonable.

In the discussion on of harrock's post there is some talk about understanding someone else's position, and who put in more effort at understanding the position of other's. I'd also argue that a role-playing game is a good venue for discovering who is actually adept at this and who just protests their efforts. When you have a game that is set in a society where the default world view is not what it is in modern day Boston you can watch who is successful at understanding the character with a different world view and who is less successful.
From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 11th, 2008 12:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

comment part 2

You're right that I (I think this is less true for the other players, but I can't speak for them) generally think that people telling each other stuff is good. But that's much more a social opinion than a political one. Er, rather, there are lots of political contexts in which I do believe People Have A Right To Know (and that Information Flow Would Be Good). But I do believe that often tactics and/or strategy call for not just spewing all your information all over the place. Military endeavors are a context where this is often true, but so are all sorts of negotiation situations. (On the micro-level, I was recently involved in a negotiation between two groups where a question came up about "do we tell the larger membership of our group what the subcommittee just talked about?" And this was tricky, because while I believed the membership really did have a right to know, telling them would have (practically speaking) meant also telling people we might not have wanted to have the info, including members of the other group).

I thought the Prince Harry thing was stupid -- there was no reason to tell (except for entertainment), and there was good reason not to. I don't think anyone had a right to know that, because as you say, it's the whereabouts of some guy, even if he is a prince. (I'm not sure if my opinion would change if he were off doing Official Government Things.)

But the problem with the Right To Know issue is judgement, and trusting other people's.

I don't particularly trust my leaders implicitly -- neither the actual ones I've got, nor even in theory. They're people, they'll be good and bad, competent and not. (This may be a point where we differ; perhaps you believe that leaders ought to be trusted implicitly, even if one thinks they're junky. Certainly King Alexander thinks that, because that's the rule in the game universe. :) ) And information flow is a check&balance (weak though it may be) against really bad leaders hijacking a nation off onto some horrible path.

I do believe in democracy, in the sense that I think everyone should get *some* say over their own fate, even though I also believe that a mob or even a committee isn't capable of making decisions and taking actions in real time, so they need to delegate that job. Right To Know is the principle that everyone has a stake and a responsibility and thus needs to know what's going on.

So anyway, trusting people's judgement. The media's job is to find out information and spread it. The trouble is, you can't trust them to use good judgement about when it's a bad idea to spread something -- there's just too many of "them," the spread of how they'll make the call is too wide, someone will inevitably tell. Thus, the Prince Harry situation. But either you let them use their judgement, or you don't let them know and say anything, and too little information flow is also bad.

On the flip side, the most efficient way for the Guy In Charge to get things done would be to make all decisions unilaterally and never tell anyone anything, and for no one to ever disagree with him. Then no one needs to know anything. But there's no Guy in the real-life universe who's going to always do the right, or even best thing all by himself. (Granted, help may not help...but there's always the hope that it will -- which may be another opinion you don't share, I don't know.) So you trade off some efficiency for some assistance, you trade off some for some checks&balances to power as a safeguard against its misuse... and where do you draw the line of compromise? Somewhere arbitrary, because there isn't really an obvious place to put it. And no two people are going to agree on where the line should be.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: April 11th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: comment part 2

I would disagree. I think where you fall on the right-to-know spectrum is a matter of world view, which I see as being more fundamental than either a social opinion or a political one. It just has both social and political consequences.

To use a safer example (safer because I think we agree), there is the issue of homosexuality. If your world view on that subject is that homosexuality is OK, then that has both social and political consequences. If you think it's OK to be gay you are more likely to have gay friends and are likely to support things like the rights of gay couples to marry. On the other hand, if you think that being gay is bad, then you probably will avoid social contact with gay people, and you might oppose gay marriage because you feel that it would give official endorsement to something you feel is wrong.

I don't think that we should trust out leaders implicitly. (You are also incorrect about what the NPC thinks.) What I feel is that most of my friends default too easily to 'I have a right to know', and don't take the time to examine the consequences of the information being available. I think that when things get examined on a case-by-case basis that my friends are usually closer to my own views than not. Part of the frustration with this particular issue is that people are often lazy about that examination, and I get the impression that they are inclined to jump the wrong way by default.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: April 12th, 2008 07:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: comment part 2

I'm not sure if my opinion would change if he were off doing Official Government Things.

Uh ... serving in the military is an Official Government Thing.
countertorque From: countertorque Date: April 11th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
In my experience, there's a large number of people who fall into the socially left, economically right group (apologies for disregarding the point of your post and continuing to group people). It's completely unclear why those people aren't their own group. I keep hoping the Republicans will dump the social conservatives and turn into this group. I think it's a symptom of the 2 party system sucking.

When I was in the military, I was the bleeding heart liberal. Now I'm in the SF bay and I'm the fascist. It all depends on who you surround me with.
From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 11th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought the Libertarians claimed to be the bucket for the people you describe?
psychohist From: psychohist Date: April 11th, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm in that group too. However, just because you and I know a lot of people who are in it doesn't mean those people are a large group. "Everyone I know" is almost always a very nonrandom selection.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: April 11th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, we still have a bucket issue actually, because I'm not even sure I can be classified as socially left.

I am certainly not as socially left as my friends. The prime example: I disapprove of polyamory/open marriages even though I know a number of folks in our circle of friends are involved in such relationships. I generally keep my mouth shut about it though, because I deem it to be Not My Business. I know some people would argue that the Not My Business view is a liberal thing, but it's actually an attitude that I inherited from my father who is quite conservative.

Even more shocking, I find that the older I get the more I disapprove of divorce. Sure there are obvious times when it's clearly the thing to do, i.e. when there is abuse present, but I find myself rolling my eyes at the couples who have been married several years and 'just fell out of love'. Now I have it easy, I've been married to a great guy for eight years and my parents are still going strong after 42 years together so my disapproval may be born of having it easy. On the other hand, it is my current inclination to not feel at all sorry for couples who give up on their marriage.

I guess that was more long winded that it needed to be, but clearly if we're going to use buckets we need and infinite number. I will agree with you that the 2 party system really, really sucks.
harrock From: harrock Date: April 12th, 2008 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure that some of my friends will protest that they aren't really in the bucket either, but I wonder if they see the side effects of being not in the bucket as much as I do.

Well, you know, there are two kinds of people in the world... free-thinking people like me, and people who believe they're free-thinkers, but are actually brainwashed, i.e. most everyone else. [You're short on iron, not irony, right? :)]

I suspect that most of the people you're thinking of there are loosely in one bucket, but hold at least a couple of views that are serious outliers for that bucket.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: April 12th, 2008 01:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I mostly bucket myself as a liberal in the same way that gays started calling themselves queer - to reclaim a term that has been used as an insult. I'm generally leftist but there are a lot of specifics that I disagree with. But I like to start from liberal as a way of saying "so there!"
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: April 12th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think I was saying that everyone else in the bucket entirely on every issue. Of course a number of them are calling themselves liberal, so it seems they think the bucket is a good first-order approximation.

If you want to dispute that I don't see more side effects of not being in the bucket than most of my friends, I would ask you to consider how many of your views you think the others would not only disagree with but consider to be unreasonable. Of course I am not entirely alone. I note that twe generally keeps her mouth shut on certain topics, much as I do, probably because it seems pointless to get into the discussion. kirisutogomen is often willing to go off and give opinions that differ from what the bulk of our crowd think, but the impression that I get is that he just doesn't care if the bulk of the crowd thinks he's a bit of a loon... in fact he might even enjoy it. Holding minority views is a different experience that holding widely accepted views.
From: treptoplax Date: April 13th, 2008 03:34 am (UTC) (Link)

because I will never get a better opportunity for this joke

There are 10 kinds of people, those who think in binary and those who don't.

Interestingly (and re: my ramblings above); one of the special mathematical cases in which you can have more-or-less optimal voting systems is one in which all opinions lie somewhere along a 1-dimensional axis. I wonder if cognitive dissonance means that people who bucket themselves will therefore be more satisfied with voting outcomes (even adverse ones).
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