When we voice our opinions we’re declaring two things at once. There’s the substance of our argument and then there’s the posture.
If I say in a haughty tone, “that movie’s story line was totally implausible” you get both my argument and my posture. In addition to my comment about the movie I’m saying something like “I’m a realist, not easily fooled…in fact I’m pretty cool indeed.”
Between the substance and posture I’m drawing a correlation. From my pride in declaring the movie implausible you can tell that I’m a guy who thinks that finding flaws in movie stories is correlated to being realistic and cool. You can tell a lot about people’s correlations by the glee they take in saying certain things.
These days you can also tell who’s slow to change correlations. Most of us are. That’s because the times are changing so fast. This week I witnessed several cases of posture drift, people who don’t recognize that their assumed posture is no longer readily associated with the opinion they have voiced.
In one case an argument that used to be associated with “hard nosed” Republican realism generated a posture, that felt much more like some woowoo New Age have-it-all dream. In another case an argument that has long been associated with upholding earthy values now seems more associated with the posture of the eco-oblivious clinging to outmoded technologies.
I overheard a few Republicans scoffing at Obama’s bailout bill and budget. They’re not fooled. It’s socialism. Big government doesn’t work. Tax cuts to the wealthy are the only successful way to stimulate the economy. You could tell that these guys thought they were coming across as realists.
I found myself biting my tongue like the patient yet unimpressed parent of a naive and dreamy teen who thinks he has discovered the meaning of life that has eluded the rest humanity for millennia.
I give the Republicans this. They’ve been in power for decades. It must be rough playing at being responsible. It must be liberating to go back to idealism from the sidelines. Like teens reveling in their first moments of freedom, maybe they deserve a little fun, rebelling against stupid adults. It’s therapeutic. Realistically though, if they should be rebelling against anyone it’s themselves. For a very long time they’ve occupied the parental role, promoting and protecting the policies that led to the current crisis.
The budget is big, but looks especially so because it includes everything we’re spending. No more off-budget items. No more not counting the Iraq war because we don’t know exactly how much we’ll spend. It’s the first budget in decades that approaches mature accountability. We’re not spending more than Bush; we’re just counting it more realistically.
The bailout is socialism? Obama is at great pains to keep from owning more of the bailed out companies than necessary. Still, if the taxpayers are going to foot the bill the taxpayers must be compensated. That’s business, or at least more businesslike than bailing them out for free. To which these Republican’s said, no bailouts. And what then? Let the businesses go under? They don’t want that either. It doesn’t add up any better than crystals and pyramids. It’s like a flakey hippie’s vision that it will all just work out: Imagine there’s no budget item. It isn’t hard to do. No need to bail out industry. Tax cuts for me and you.
It’s not a plan though. It’s like saying that your plan is to have all your dreams come true.
No one is exempt from posture drift. I received my new Kindle II and showed it to several people who said, “I don’t know…I prefer the feel of a book in my hands.” Now there wasn’t a lot of posturing in what they said. They were simply stating a preference. But still, I could tell they were at least comfortable with, if not proud of their position as if they were upholding good old fashion earthy values.
Old fashion indeed, but the times they are a changing. With shrinking forests it’s a luxury to talk about books that way. Electronic paper is part of the solution to our environmental crisis.
What I’m saying is that in these changing times we shouldn’t be so quick to assume a long cherished opinion equates to a posture of righteousness. We should be realistic. A realist notices the assumed correlations between substance and posture and tracks for posture drift.
Oh, and I’m also saying gleefully something like “I’m a realist, not easily fooled…in fact I’m pretty cool indeed,” which in times like these could be as subject to posture drift as the next guy’s opinion.