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#248: How to Be a Good and Sane Citizen in Ugly Times | Ezra Klein

2020-05-18
Rest assured, this is not an episode where we're going to argue about politics. Instead, it's about how to maintain our happiness, calm, sanity, generosity, and compassion in the face of an increasingly ugly political dynamic that impacts all of us during this pandemic. Ezra Klein is the founder and editor-at-large of Vox.com, host of the Ezra Klein Show podcast, and author of the new book, Why We're Polarized. In this episode, we talk about the roots of what he calls the "Coronavirus culture war," the role of mindfulness in depolarizing ourselves, and the limited benefits of varying your media diet (and why podcasts are better than Twitter in this regard). As you'll hear, Klein acknowledges his own struggle to remain un-polarized but as a journalist he is committed to providing dispassionate analysis. Towards the end, Ezra speaks candidly about his anxiety and his struggles with his own meditation practice during this crisis. For a limited time, we're offering a 40% discount on a year-long subscription to the app. Visit tenpercent.com/podcast40 to get your discount and get support for your meditation practice today. This promotion is only available to users without a current Ten Percent Happier app subscription. Where to find Ezra Klein online: Vox: https://www.vox.com/authors/ezra-klein Twitter: Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) / https://twitter.com/ezraklein Facebook: Ezra Klein - Home / https://www.facebook.com/ezraklein/ Book Mentioned: Why We're Polarized by Ezra Klein / https://www.amazon.com/Why-Were-Polarized-Ezra-Klein/dp/147670032X Other Resources Mentioned: Better Angels / https://www.thebetterangelssociety.org/ Weather Underground / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather_Underground Civil Rights Act / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1964 Ross Douthat / https://www.nytimes.com/by/ross-douthat Twitter's Flawed Solution to Political Polarization / https://dupri.duke.edu/news-events/news/twitters-flawed-solution-political-polarization The Weeds Podcast / https://www.vox.com/the-weeds Morning Joe / https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe Pod Save America /https://crooked.com/podcast-series/pod-save-america/ The Federalist / https://thefederalist.com/ The Ben Shapiro Show / https://www.dailywire.com/show/the-ben-shapiro-show The Argument / https://www.nytimes.com/column/the-argument Ethan D. Hersh / https://www.eitanhersh.com/ Additional Resources: Ten Percent Happier Live: https://tenpercent.com/live Coronavirus Sanity Guide: https://www.tenpercent.com/coronavirussanityguide Free App Access for Journalists, Teachers, Healthcare, Grocery and Food Delivery, and Warehouse Workers: https://tenpercent.com/care Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/ezra-klein-248
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
For maybe see the tent, and happier podcast than her a guy's got a fascinating episode today. First though, won t about special offer. In my opinion, medicine is more useful invaluable now in the middle of this pandemic, then perhaps ever in our lives, but I know that starting a practice can be difficult enough from experience. I know that from working with lots of people directly in and through our company, and Why are we at ten percent happier than meditation app work with some of the best teachers in the world and create all of this content designed to get you actually meditated and with some regularity, so that you can access the many profound benefits
today. I want to do something that we don't often do on. The show which is offer a big discount were offering forty percent off subscription to ten percent happier this pretty rare, but we wanna recognise that times are tough and that meditation can be helpful. Sylvia and existing subscriber first wealth you freer ongoing support and if you're new and want to sign up now would be the time to do it. You can visit ten percent dot com, Slash podcast, forty four, the disk out ten percent, or one word spelled out dotcom, slash, podcast. Four. Zero will put a link in the show notes. and don't forget, if you're, a teacher or if you're somebody works in the food industry, for delivery or in a grocery store, or if you are health care worker, just go to ten percent dot com, slash care for free access, really appreciate everybody.
for now I was getting to the show I want to say from the outset, since you ve many of you have told me many times that you don't love, politics polluting your Europe meditation a mature. I agree with that, but I have heard you and I want to assure you from the jump here that this is not an episode where we're gonna argue about politics. Instead, this is an epoch, but about how to maintain our happiness, com, sanity, generosity and compassion in the face of an increasingly glee, political dynamic that impacts all of us during this pandemic as recline our guest is the founder. an editor at large of vocs he's the host of the as required. show which Podcast Andy's the author of a new book or newish book called. Why I were polarized in this episode. We talk about the roots of what because the corona virus Culture war, the role of mindfulness in polarizing ourselves and the limitation.
The varying your media diet, and why podcast, Sir, actually better than twitter in this regard, as you will hear, Ezra acknowledges that he comes at this from his own perspective as somebody who's on the left side of the political spectrum. But he does make an effort. He says to approach this subject we're journalistic this passion and one other note toward the end of the interview you in here, as we speak, mainly about his own anxiety and his struggles with his own meditation practice during this crisis. So, as I said, a fascinating episode here, we go as your kind to you wrote this book about tolerance Listen, I'm just curious! You! You wrote this before, as his son has been referred to his BC before Corona, and here we are mid, see and what are your thoughts about how we are handling this as a polity as a society in terms of through the lens of polarization
Are we all coming together? We are we all in this thing together. We are doubly not all coming together It's funny as you're saying that our thinking about right when this began, I got a text from our friend and it said so. Is it the end of polarisation and you the bucket, not long ago, and the Cares ACT had just passed by an overwhelming by part of the majority, and I remember texting back. I don't think so, but ask me again in six weeks, and so now it has been six weeks. Eight weeks, I think I can say pretty confidently. It is not in the end of polarization. I just saw a pole today that says: seventy two percent of Republicans believe the worst is behind us and seventy four percent of Democrats believe the worst is ahead of us. It is a perfect inverted.
And what we are seeing here is that virtually any major crisis is going to get filtered through these mechanisms of who we believe and what our should have baseline orientation towards the future, and also leadership, is one of the really striking things viewed. A sucking opposing this period is that job. I then has had the single steadiest lead on record and put a answer, the question of the lead or not the lead. It was six points ahead of Trump a year ago. It was six points ahead of trust right when he was winning the prime hurry and before Corona Virus- and it is six points ahead of Trump right now in the middle of kroner powers, it is we steadiest lead we have ever seen and the way to think about that at some talk about Donald Trump from another perspective in the book is very little, including world historical world, changing events,
is powerful enough to shake us out of our baseline orientation of yeah my size then a job or know that side is doing a terrible job It's your mind. Is this a really danger, this phenomenon, or is it neither here, nor there always very dangerous, but often not for the reasons people think something I've tried to make a distinction about in the book. Is that polarization is not intrinsically good or bad. It really just means that ideas, arguments identities, something affiliations, are clustering between two poles. We have had periods in this country that are abhorrent, in which politics had a very low level polarization and we have had periods in this country which were fine or great, even in which politics- has had a high level polarization. The idea that you have structure do disagreement across to political power This is very natural and it can coexist with a functional or a dysfunctional political system. They did
faculty. We tend to have for a lot of reasons right now in particular, is it our political system is idiosyncratic and that a typically doesn't work? the high levels of party polarization units, because we have a system in which powers decentralized across different branches, any inside individual chamber sailing the Senate? You have super majority requirements at the filibuster. You have is very unusual in very powerful committee system, and so you need very high levels of compromise, even consensus to get anything done. What polarization functionally means and a competitive political system is, you can get level of compromise or consensus, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances- and so that means you have a system that begins to trend for the kind of paralysis, a kind of inaction in an endless amount of fighting, but no capability to resolve those fight. So if I'm here, you correctly It's not necessarily surly a big deal that there's mutual mistrust. Given the stakes, it's the real power,
amazed that we don't have a way to work. These things out peacefully in that could boil over yeah. I mean all of an example here that I I think, is helpful in thinking about it to take this civil rights ACT. That is one of these single hard. spot moments in all of american political history sooner one of our most consequential moments as a country. Now, if you think about what the pulling during that period would say, it is very clear that people on both sides of that divide thought the other side represented a threat to the country, a threat to its future, a threat to decency and a threat to their way of life. Right I mean the white Southerners were violent in the streets in defence of segregation and the forces of equality like what they risk in what they took.
on the change of the country I mean remains heroic today, but if you had said, is the other party dangerous? What would it make any sense as a question, because a civil rights ACT passed with a higher proportion of Republicans voting for it in Congress and Democrats, but a democratic president being one who pushed inside it? So it is not the case that in the twentieth century, our divisions were smaller. It's a case if they did in split by Paul or take the Vietnam war. Opposition and support for the Vietnam WAR were roughly equally distributed by party tenacious. What's was very weird about the way things have changed, Don't think that we have a greater divisions in this country, Then we did then I mean you had wrought more. I then more political saxony since then more political violence, and I mean you had more domestic terrorism, think about like the, whether man etc. What was happening in the country was very fundamental, is really coming apart. National guardsmen killing protesters can state it just wasn't split by party.
Where is here, I dont think the as yet, although we will see what we call in a couple years as it had, I don't think the divisions are as deep and they are not yet thing as violent, but our politics is amplifying them as opposed to calming them and that's a real difference. So what can be done about this, and what should be done about who I am I put up a gun solutions. I will say that I have ideas for how to make the american politics work better. Midst polarization and many of them have to do with small democratizing the system. I think that the incentives of democracy itself for good. I think that if the to win the war, I didn't see you needed when a majority of the vote like that is a good incentive system. There. The reason the most countries that are democracies do that. I feel this and what about the house? I feel the same way about the sentence I would like to see voting be easier and I'd like to see majorities able to express themselves or voting to such that the willow them
already tends to decide who holds power, not as is currently the case having the party that did not majority controlling most of the government, and then I would like to see majorities able to govern once they do hold power and I'll. Be there clear. What I'm offering is not a pathway for had a big de democratic dominance. Republicans are very, very competitive, when they have to win a majority vote is look at the states, Lookit republican governance in blue states. Like Maryland. In Massachusetts, I mean you can have a very majority Marian Republican Party it just because they don't have to do it that way that right now there's been victory within that coalition for up path. It has been minority area. but nevertheless is able to hold power so that set of ideas, but the problem with them too. To be very honest, We who have met the audience here is it for these, aim reasons that polarization keeps all kinds of things from getting done. It keeps big structural, systemic reforms from happening so like if I was
to give you a possible way that my solutions that would pass the problem I am trying to address. Would it be there please read, it would already have been facts. We would it be if we could do what about like will then be ridiculous to say we're paralysed in the first place and will see I mean corona virus could up and the political system given what's happening to the economy so dramatically that maybe all bets are often in a year or two, but I think sometimes it is worth simply as a writer and as rapporteur and a journalist describing how the system works or doesn't work, even if you can't pretend to know how to fix it. Hopefully, what I'm offering you the book will to people of all political persuasions and thankfully its largely been how people react to it, be it is an accurate description of what is happening in the system and why people's incentives look the way they do how to change. It is going to be hard and I suspect, we're not going to solve it in the sense of passing. A package,
Ilsa gonna make it all go away, we're just gonna change as a country either, because our demographic change or something happens to us. You know or we will end up in a war or take the underlying structure. Thirty or forty years now is gonna be different. Then it will be today, but I can confidently tell you: how do you do have some prescriptions, though, when it comes to how we can handle polarization as an individual? I want to get to those in a second, but before I do that, only just go back to corona virus till we talked at the beginning of this about how current a virus definitely did not end polarization. What are the consequences of us being polarized as we navigate this pandemic? In your mind I dont know yet, to be honest with you, I have rarely have as much trouble imagining the country three months or six months one year into the future, as I do now like ie,
but the range of probabilities are just seems completely opaque to me. I think it is possible that we are about to enter into a culture war over when a virus that you're gonna have the kind of blue coalition beyond the side of locked down and the red coat should be on the side of opening up and that in particular, one thinks it is up in the track and the bulk of the past fifty years is, we have polar it's very dramatically by the density of places it we live. And so, if you look into the early twentieth century. How dense your community is, does not predict which party you vote But if you look now, it's an incredibly powerful predictor of which party vote for them not a single dense place in this country? Defining density here is nine hundred people per square Mile devotes Republican, and so something it is true. Is that, while, The virus is very much a threat and a real issue in rural communities it for the obvious logic of disease. Contagion is
or dangerous in urban areas and sales I heard on top of this sort of increasing red blue device. For what to do and what the incentives are, what you, then, it is like its catalyzing. This already quite dangerous urban world divide in our country has a lotta resentment built into it, and a lot of like unusual power differentials, because rural areas have disproportionate political power. and urban areas have disproportionate economic and cultural power, and so that, both here and historically in other countries, very dangerous dividing line to exacerbate. But on top of all that one thing they like you, we could stand outside the problem. I think we would see a little bit better, is polarisation and bad governance is letting us polarized around a choice that should ever even be the choice for making at all. We can't have a debate, as we often have on but our right now, and I see it all the time- and I see it from me by agree with where it's like people who were
nationally arguing for a lock down with no end in sight against people. Functionally arguing for a reckless reopening. Both of those are untenable positions. You need to do the governance work to build a third option. In my view- and if you just look at where this is working and other countries, you need to build the testing tracing and quarantining capacity. So you can be safely reopening as quickly as possible and it's in the absence of positive some political leadership that is doing the work. build that third path. That middle way, do we end up polar messing around two ideas, Neither of them are sustainable, neither of them are safe and neither of them will work and so having an incredibly polarized debate over too
ideas that shouldn't even be the choice were facing like that is a deep and consequential failure loop for a country to be an so now. Let's get to your argument about how we can deposit rise, our self and as right, quite hilariously in your book, you say yeah. I know, of course, the politics book by the liberal, californian, vague and ends with a call to mindfulness, so without disclaimer out of the way. How can mindfulness help? Here? so, there's a couple things right. I try to pre empt a little bit of the mockery here in the book, but or even mean mindfulness. In a sense, it alot of people mean it as meditation. I use some words from Robert Right Y know. You spoken before to talk about it more directly as just the capacity of being aware, what's going on in her own mind, much of the book is about the way in which politics and political media and political figures Minette
played our identities and how, once our identities, which we can talk about and define, are activated that really cheap, it is our cognition changes, how we treat each other. It changes our experience of the world and, like so many things that happen in our own minds: the process of identity activation and then the process of distortion through that activation. It is very easy to be caught, up in it and never realise it is happening, and so something I'm trying to get people to do. There is to be a little bit more attentive to what is happening inside their men in the workings of their own minds when they are in political discussion reading or swimming political media and otherwise having or being exposed to political triggers. Look. I I'm not a meditative in the way that many people have on the shore, but I've been here before and- and I do try to have a real practice and- and I think about it- and for me the great insight in and mindfulness is it I
often have no clue. What is happy not just in my own mind, but in my own body, the experience of just stopping and saying or not bad mood, I'm actually nauseous or not stressed, I'm actually tired, or I can't ten breaths in a row and not find myself looping over this thing that I can seem to start thinking about, And realizing actually how little control I have over that that, for me, beef over course of years has been a tremendously cognitive, early, humbling process and at something I think we need to expand to thinking about politics to these sophistication with which we are manipulated in politics far exceeds this education with which we understand our own cod if an emotional reactions to political stimuli and just beginning to get some traction on that not even equal
I think we're just beginning to see that it is an issue, is, I think, an important first step. Even if the only thing it is a first step towards is us individually really having a better help. Your relationship with politics. I don't think this and are very clear about this in the book. I don't think this is a systemic solution for our problems. I think it is a health the thing to do as individuals, and that is not worthless- definitely not so. Yes, I think that's worth you're, not saying meditations, going to solve all of our political dysfunction. What you are saying is that an individual who is living in this political environment can have a singer healthier relationship to her or his around things are their surroundings. By employing deploying mindfulness yeah, I think that's right, and I use example bit of twitter here, and this is something I think about a lot, because a lot of political communication now happens on twitter, a lot of very important communication between politicians between journalists. It's not real life is people say, but it is not
meaningless in the way that the many wished to thank- and you know it is- worth being there and just trying to take a second or two after to ask if you're somebody who spends time there well, how do I feel right now? What is happening in me? What is different in me since opening that up than before you know this is true. Also for cable news is true for all kinds of different things end there I think we cannot change about politics and there's all kinds of things. We cannot change about our own lives, but something that we do have a little bit more control over. Then. I think we give ourselves credit, for is the informational ecosystems we inhabit and the kinds of identities that we reinforced through constant activation spyware, very important part of the book. We all have many identities, many identity, some of them are political. Some of them are not. I talk about myself, a sort of a California, a father, a dog owner, begin a Jew, illiberal, like a MAC user, can I have all kinds of things that are weak, that are strong things that
our values that people hold can become identities curious as an identity for me in a way that being to some other kind of value user or not, and so the identities get consistently threatened, or activated in some way are the ones who become very strong us. We have a lot of psychological literature showing this and so building and informational ecosystem for yourself, such that some Did you that you are trying to activate most often the ones you want to be strongest like? That is something that is more in our power than we realise, which is not to say it is industry oh, but I will tell you for sure that if you leave the entire clarity of that project to other people. It is not going to go the way, you hope so I have this memory and we can go back the check the tape, and maybe my memory is but I have his memory of the last time you
on the show which was before you'd written the book. I was, I think, extolling the virtues of a varied media diet, and I have this memory that you said actually there's some evidence that that doesn't actually work to de polarize yourself. Did I remember that incorrectly? No, that's correct! I talk about that evidence in the book and so it is a hundred percent, not my view that the way you're going to get a better version of yourself is that if you're, a liberal listening to their say, they should start firing Upright Bart NEWS three times a day. Not only does not work, it does the opposite. I talk about, for instance, experiment in the book. This is, to my knowledge, the single largest experiment of its kind done on social media, where research is ridiculous, today they paid with those twelve hundred people and the ultimate version of the study they paid them to. Let the researchers restructure their twitter feeds such it
If you were a democratically began seeing republican voices, the researchers are chosen for you and and by So if you were republican and what happens at the end of the study, is that the people who are exposed to this, like now, diversity voices in their twitter feed, their publicans become more conservative and the Democrats. The effect is also it's not clear that it was significant, but if it had any direction, equity and all they become more liberal. So it's real, not my view at all that what you should to who it is just like try to expose yourself to quote unquote the other side. It's a very important that you're exposing yourself either the things that are strengthened. Some other mention of you, so I talk a lot in the book about strengthening state and local identities. One of my really big piece of advice for people is too actually make sure you are reading a local resource every day
Then another version is you can try to find people who do not feel like there on the other side in you who you share enough with that you can like listen to them. So there's a really big difference between people who are right persuasively for an audience. It doesn't agree with them and people who are writing persuasively for an audience I agree with them. I use example of don't rewrite bar if around the laughed, at least, if you want come kind of pursue this project of personality polarization, but somebody you might want to read like Ross doubt that at the New York I'm gonna say that man, who is somebody who is very, very self consciously trying to talk to a liberal audience, even though he is a man normative and he writes in a way where he's trying to like get himself in your circles. Then you can hear him to very particular kind of work. So you have to be very thoughtful about how you do this. It isn't simply. The easy version of the echo chamber re like if you like, watching Sean Kennedy like switchover, MSNBC too, like that, doesn't appear to do much for people. You actually have to be pursuing this.
our intention away than that with the more I think, sophisticated or maybe on despite Casta, guess, where duties, a skilful understanding of how you're psychology works. You know Let me tell you a little bit of how I do and I may be a special case just cause. I'm a journalist that I feel like the firing. A bright barred thing is. a red herring in a sense I we recommend that either, but I do, for example, I try to be small, see Catholic in my podcast listening in my digital peregrinations around what I'm reading on line and is so, for example, on podcast. Listen to you. I listened to the weeds, which is also the Vocs media network. I listen to morning Joe I listen to the poor It saves America guys and then- and I also listened to the commentary podcast they ve gone to daily. Actually during the corona virus, I listen to bend Shapiro, whose d We occasionally I listen to the federalist- and you know,
I work at ABC News. I'm getting some pretty servant, sir down the Middle NEWS as a huge part of my diet. It's very interesting to be mindful of em assuming all this concept, because, if possible, that Joe Scarborough can say something that I find you know totally triggering and the same thing with Ben Shapiro, and I can watch how this is playing the watch how my so interesting to see how my ancient and perhaps irrational desire to see people vanquished can come up and how delightful I find it. When somebody agrees with me- and I find that that makes me maybe this is just a meal- mentioning it, but I feel like that makes me a better citizen and a better journalist. What do you think of the foregoing? So I have a couple thoughts there. One is it. I will say also for me that I think many it's my health. These political identity is out of journalist. It is an identity that for me front loads curiosity,
front loads. Indeed to understand. I don't get too just right people off. I have to figure out where they're coming from the question is not simply for me are people right, but do they represent something happening in our politics and to what you are? saying. I actually think that podcast are really good place. To do that, so is talking coupled with go about the ways in which different mediums make us feel and how people act indifferent mediums the absolute worst place to do. This is twitter because people are a very one dimensional on nuanced speaking to their own crowd version of themselves on twitter, some of the people you just mentioned. If you follow their twitter accounts and you listen to their podcast, you get very different versions of them: one reason I'm a pretty low volume twitter these days is because I do not feel I can be there and the more I am there, the further I stray from the values I want or body and my own work, so it isn't it.
I'm not there at all. I promote a lot of ox stuff on Twitter. Right, like I promote my stuff and occasionally sent off some tweets, but better. I am a twitter in many ways. A worse. I am up in terms of what I want to be versus podcasting. It has the nature being in conversation with people it brings forward a social dynamic where people are looking for oftentimes sum of conciliation. Most people do not like that. Killing of conflict in like a real indirect way, and so you off, I will often actually have the experience of I try on my part ass to make sure I'm bringing on people who disagree with me, and I will have people who have spent a long time disagreeing invariably sharp terms with me and I'll get on my part ass. I beg our. I hit me with it like. Let's do the thing and I will not get them do They won't say it right because, like the feeling of being there in a room with someone or their in conversation with someone is so different, they won't be little careful right with that, because you can be
want to make sure that you are seeing both sides of these things is true. It is not the case, as some people like to pretend that The version of ourselves we are when we are trying to be reasonable. Trying to win someone over is necessarily are threw herself a lot of people, including reporters like me, have been followed by. politicians, horror to others who are trying to be reasonable one venue and then, when it comes down to the boat, they do something. That is not what they told you. They were going to do or not what they were framing themselves. Gonna. Do I remember, for instance, something like us with Evan by was a democratic senator from Indiana, and I remember talking to him when he was in the Senate and he gave us stirring. Abed in an interview with me about how we can show the Senate had become a broken institution and he was going to go via university, present, hinder or teach our work for philanthropy do something where he could actually help people and, like I covered all that and
Then he went and I'm signed up. I think it was with a private equity firm, and you know just the kind of went into buck and raking in Vienna see gotta, be careful because people are always present. There are mediums it will pull out a kind of showy part of some one that you know you have to actually track you're, getting the true version of them or check. That's gonna hold their incentives down the road, but I think podcasting is a place where people try to be heard and can halting more human versions of themselves in a way that writing forces sharpness into declarative nest from a lot of people and, in particular, social media, has a kind of conflict and contempt, oriented discourse. That makes very hard to see yourself in somebody who doesn't already agree with your. You don't already agree with yeah. I agree with that so site podcast when in this project over social me for sure and speaking a pike s another one that I'd recommend is co hosted by the aforementioned rushed out. That's called the argument. It's in New York Times Podcast and he is
on therewith visit, Michel Michel Goldberg and David Leonhard. Yes, it's an excellent podcasting. You really get to hear people who have different views of the world into rack and sorry. This is me looking for affirmation here, but on behalf of the audience, you do think that one could have a varied podcast diet that could help in this project of DE polarizing oneself. That would be different, then, as you said, firing upright bark three times a day, orbs letting somebody reprogram your twitter feed. I do, but I really want to emphasise that I think that people hear this and the place they naturally go, which has set up where you ve gone here, is to this idea of deep polarizing yourself in the sense of I'm on the left. I should be more open to the right. I'm on the right. I should be more open to the left and I think that is a cramped. In many ways, a cramped way to think about choices. Your number one for a lot of the reserves talked about earlier, with polarization actually being a real thing, the truth of the.
the matter. Is that the choice? One thing you can very easily do in this, and I do it, but The reason I do it for myself is I'm often trying to create an argument doesn't quite exist. For instance, right I mean if you are reading Rostov that to understand the right. You do not understand anything about Donald Trump rushed out that is no closer to Donald Trump really than I am so one by nature of looking for voices at you respect. You are very likely to distort the actual political structure you're dealing with, so it's good intellectual project. You should. You know, like I have a little Tyler Cowan, is a libertarian, leaning economists, who I really like an admirer, and I can spend up little Tyler count on my shoulder for that critique, but, like nobody in politics, thinks like Tyler. So
I knew you gotta be careful about what you're actually doing but too. I think it is important. One of the things it seems truer to me than that we are to laughter to write is if we are to national that we are too, that we are actually just being pulled in this way I tried to describe in the book towards one singular division of politics and what I think would be the healthy issing fur our politics red broadly, is. Actually I mean you can try moving people on the left to the right or making them more open minded, but because politics has a way of collapsing down to about. Mary? Yes, no, that is actually do you that much good, given that will not be a multi dimensional, say your podcast listening. What can be really importing is Chris, eating new dimensions actually for polarization, so, for instance, This is why I think it's a really important thing to track that our politics has become so
credibly nationalized, something I talk a lot about in the book and I think this is really important. Part of it is we were built. Our entire structure is bill to represent place very heavily, but over the past thirty or forty fifty years places really receded as an important dimension of our politics. If you look at how members of the House vote or members of the Senate vote- has very little to do on the big ticket items with where they're from and almost everything to do with which party they represent and like one way. I always tell people think about this. Is the affordable care act with a straightforward subsidy. the insured, the uninsured and from which a state's two poorest states, or at least from states with lower uninsured populations to states of higher once so. If you look from that risk, what you should see is politicians representing I uninsured constituencies voting for it and those. presenting low and insurance constituencies voting against it. But you don't you just Republicans. What against hidden Hamburg
its voting for it, no matter what they represent. So I really push people to the idea that you actually want to be developing cross cut. identities, not just trying to change this left right, identity structure, and that means again regional as very important there. I think, like listening to things like the show, I think there is a spiritual dimension on politics. It can be very powerful if it is practised in a consistent and rigorous way, not just as a like a secondary identical. Something that actually gives you an anchoring from political wins, so it isn't just about left right like. I would really urge people to try to break a little bit out of that space because in many ways the problem of politics from a polarization perspective. Is it if you're going to collapse down to simply left right in a system that works they are as does then, everything is gonna, be zero sum. Am I wrong to think that in some ways, your harking back to your exhortation issued earlier to me,
the anchor your identity in with a place where you live. Not just are you on the left or the right when it comes to the national Political, Saint Pierre, or at least that's what I mean. I really do urge people the bucket and look recognizing I'm a national political journalists and do not always practise what we preach here anger more in areas that they are a people are, are very caught up in national politics when they often can have the much effect on it and they ten Two. They routinely do not even know who their state representative is, even though that person pod meet them for coffee. So, just like trying to have an effect in the place you live can be very powerful, can be very healing. It can be very important, like a literal, consequential sense and over time, the things can work together in useful ways? If we had a politics but more in place, I think we'd have a better politics, but you don't even have to just anchor right like a simple way of putting this is if ninety percent of your political news, kids machine is national. What are that we're? Just seventy percent right?
it doesn't have to go all the way over to the other side amounting abandon national politics. I'm just saying that you know for most of us: we could stand to move in the directions like for me, I live in California. I just make sure that I check the Elliot I'm sorry, but I do it through. I like the old time's up, so people should down without that, if they are interested, but the other times does the best job of covering California and, like that really important to me, even though my job as I could the things nationally, some very involved nationally Tredah Mc Shriver special attention to what's going on in the in the area around me, for ten percent happier after this, better help offers licensed professional councillors specialised in a wide array of issue. like depression, anxiety and grief connect with their professional councillor in a safe.
Private online environment. It's a truly affordable option and listeners can get ten percent off your first month by going to better help dot com, slash happier fill out a questionnaire to help them assess your needs and get matched with the counselor you'll love thank you said before. If I were you correctly, that the project here isn't de polarizing ourselves. So if that's not what the project is, what is the project? So for me? First, yes, a project is not de polarisation for me. First, it foremost, the project is understanding how the system we are in actually works and how it works upon us and it is really again. It is extraordinarily important to my political views, I am not here to tell you being polarized, given the choices we are faced with is the wrong attitude. I would like american politics, given that I think
a relation is somewhat natural and somewhat inevitable. I would like american politics to be functional and within the context of polarization now, other people could read book and read the analysis have a totally different idea of solutions, including that deep polarization The only thing that matters, but my view of this is that we simply do not know, and I cannot stress enough because I really have looked. I might feel differently here. If there was any intervention we knew of the could work at scale to deep hole or us. If I could find in my research anything like that, I can tell you lots of things that work, a very small scales. It there's this whole thing about intergroup contact policies in the way kind of setting up particular structures in which people from different groups worked together. in service of a common project and so on, and their groups like better angels. It that do that work, but in terms of like what is happening at the national level at scale, we're not gonna deep hole.
Guys we're gonna move a little bit back and forward and that at some point something big is going to happen. That is going to change a game entirely and who again, I guess possible. Krona virus will be a thing depending on happens over next year too, but I think that we have to accept polarization as a dynamic. We are living with for now and try to understand how to adapt to it in very much the same way that, for instance, with climate change, I wish we did not have climate change. I want to do everything we can to stop it, but also want like we need to accept that the climate, is changing around us and we are going to have to figure out how to make our societies work in that context at least do not up to US level of warming, so part of what I'm trying to do is established as a force and reality in our lives such it. It is more than simply some We lament and I've ineffectual conversations about how to turn back so there's something that we can bring. the Inter analysis of how things work and used to see the world a little bit more clearly sorry to be clear, a man I was
asking about when I said the project being de polarization. I wasn't asking in a macro sense. I met more for us as individuals who want to be he is happy and saying is we can be given the political atmosphere which we exist? I think about how we can have a better, how we can be better citizens and how we can. So there are two things that I'm interested in here. One is: how can we be better citizens give the atmosphere in which were existing, and then how can we be happier healthier, ass humans in the same atmosphere? I do not think that the answer is to give up your principle but I do think there is a value in having understanding, empathy and compassion Visa VIII, those with whom you disagree, because, as you reference this, better angels group. I have a lot of respect for the they're, not doings work at scale per se, but they are doing pretty interesting. Work on a micro level bring,
red and blue together and facilitating conversations where they try to get to what they call accurate disagreement. That strikes me as a really interesting. I I've been to these encounter sessions and you can see that it just feels good. It's not that they're trying to convert the other side there, just trying to actually understand them. Yadda disagree with any that I've been on the better angels podcast on very much in touch with those folks, and, as I said, I tend to be a fan of trying to work on both your temperament and engagement with politics such that it doesn't fall prey to some of this. But to try to like hold your views in a space of honest rigour, which, of course, everybody does right. It's like easy enough to talk about that, but that's why I try to be careful in this. I mean and its again why, in the book, what I call for in that section is not exactly depots station, but in this case was identity mindfulness, but actually mindfulness is a very good way of thinking about it. What I am urging people to do is to make sure that you are acting in politics.
Within pension hourly, and that you are noticing again here speaking individually. What politics is due, to you how you are being manipulated by it and so to some degree, if you're somewhere, you who you look at the current situation and you feel that the right answer is thus a very polarized answer and you want to act that in relationship to it. I'm not against that. I think that is a total they reasonable viewpoint actually- and I also I think the other viewpoint is reasonable and you know I've blather on about politics professionally. So people can Emily see rifle on this day to day and frankly, changes day today, but I think mindful his is actually a good place to start here, rather than being attached to which outcome you're going to get to That's why I'm a little cautious when you say de polarization, because I find sometimes people mistake the path, therefore the destination? Yes, so I completely understand I, when I say de polarization again, I do not mean I think, there's a vast difference,
between seeing things from an alternate point of view and dropping your values or abandoned in Europe. Let me add one thing in here, though, that is some, I am thinking a lot about and struggling with a lot, and I think this is a rare space. Right can talk about it, which is something that I on the balkan thing about on politics is the ways in which this system has become. zero sum again here separate from Blake. The polarizing nature disagreements I describe it, lay then it is true that the way we ve set up our system, it is irrational for minority party to work with the majority party in most cases, and so they don't in so nothing gets done and people what they want to do typically in politics is win, is beat the other side end again. I disk I have a lot of studies showing the ways in which policy which is positive sum collapses down, Turk, identity, competition
I'm using identity and a very Broadway here are not in the way I dont into politics is often used, which is kind of zero sum, grew power, competition, zero sum, because you're fighting over status, something that I have been struggling with myself is this idea that, like how would you think about more ideas of non dualism in your politics? We are built on so many metaphors and ideas and approaches that both explicitly and implicitly tell you to imagine winning as actually beating the other side. A victory for some one is a loss for someone else, but Something that I have seen many many many times in politics is that when you are doing what emotionally ends up feeling like winning- you are often actually losing and when you are winning, What you are doing is often very emotionally difficult and to be more vivid on this to pass legislation
then often means compromising on so many things and giving up so much and including so many voices and stakeholders that to the people who passed it, it doesn't and I feel like a win at all like take the affordable care act, which was a very painful process for many. The people who were pushing from the very beginning. We lost many fights along the way. we somewhat winning a war which ended up helping tens of millions of people get health insurance for whatever its flaws, so that was a process in which they want we genuinely historic, substantive victory, but it was gruelling. Meanwhile icy constantly this sort of the noble loser kind of thing happening where people love they love winning, a fight that actually Turns people against them say on twitter or in an election, or they prefer to lose in a way that keeps impure, and I think we need to find better ways to tell stories to do reporting to just think about the people about how to have a politics where you recognise that you.
don't win by beating people you win by bringing them into your circle with you, you win by expanding your coalition. You win by entering into a relationship that over time allows you to be heard by somebody who wouldn't otherwise I'll, send you to just give a very quick story here. So I think a lot about who is on my pockets for about a year ago. Is this woman? Lay a gorgeous who is the head of mercy for animals and lay a is a long time. Animal rights activist in sheep is somebody who looks around and sees an injustice happening in the world around us at a scale so large as to be mind melting and what she focus on, particularly the way we treat and torture and kill chickens, and she I see what she was doing, wasn't working and so what she began doing over the past couple of years is an her organisation behind her is beginning to build coalitions with chicken farmers, the people who are actually carrying out the slaughter that she has devoted her life to stopping
and trying to find common cause with them on their working conditions and on the way they are being treated such it together, like they could take some of the steps towards cheating, both the human beings and the animals better, even if the ultimate we're say both want or really different, and that's a really difficult kind of political practice that is doing a lot of good in the world. and there I think we'd own honour or sea or teach that well. We know that is not what happens at the end of the show. You know or the end of the story, but to me like a very non dualistic way. Doing this, recognising somebody who in some ways seems the most like your enemy is a person. You actually need to build a bridge weapon Did you get something done not because you guys are going to end up agreeing, but because politics is often this not just art of compromise but art of acceptance of a pluralistic space in which were
I've got to give a little bit to get a little and something that worries me is it. I just think we're becoming much more. A zero sum are the very poorest opinions, but still of that kind of approach to politics. You can have very middle the road opinions, but have a very, very zero sum approach to politics, and I dunno I would urge you hear me Brad Belinda, because I think this stuff is hard, but I think it's important to start trying to call out this kind of political practice as something that is maybe pretty important here. So how do you think that would look any individual life for people here? Listening The war is regular people who happen to live in in America at a time of polarisation increase polarization. I would we operational eyes, this non do a vision that you're starting to articulate here, also in a big way. Don't now because I'm starting to play with it and and
about it, but in a small way, I think. Maybe there is something more clear here, which is to say that the people who do this are trying to get something done. It is easier to make politics a polarizing war of group identity when it is Steps tracked when you are sitting somewhere and thinking about the overall national or even international picture- and it doesn't really moment to moment effect you that much so you, actually trying to do anything but like you're, trying to beat the other side as you correctly fear or hate them or incorrectly. fear hate them. Whatever my big one reason, I push people to getting gauge locally and one reason I use a leg. Ursus example, where she's a very, very specific goal, which is fewer chickens, living lives of torture and slaughter. Is that because the goals becomes so clear, it becomes much
easier to see that you need to build these coalitions and create these compromises and create a form of politics. It is about making progress, not feeling self righteous and so making sure that your politics is actually dedicated and Orient did towards getting something tangible done in the world around you, which is much easier to do. Look the nationally, I think, is probably a first step is to put aside the same baton Hirsch, who makes a distinction between what he calls put it. a hobbism which is following and being engaged in politics as a hobby like the way you might be engaged in sports and actually doing the work of politics, which he seizes trying to win. people overrun and actually get power, so their different ways of cutting conceptually. I'm not dualism may be something in my head, but not even but you're, not the clearest one, but I think that making sure
you're, trying to actually get something done in that year, anchored tat out your anchored to actually helping not just winning, is probably the base upon which to build that kind of approach. That sounds reasonable to me. It does, I don't know if I can. help you develop the idea any further, but the notion that what you just said about stepping out of the abstract national hobbyist, based approach to politics and into these sort of very hands in the dirt pray critical, local working with people with whom you may not share the same world view toward a common goal of helping other people. That seems like a very practical doable way to be.
Part of the solution rather than the problem, and I certainly hope so, and it is at the very least it cheap, a ball, and if you do it at worst, you do try to help people locally. Some, you know look at the same time. People have to and should be engaged in national politics somewhere and others. I think it's simply about making sure you have a good breakdown between the two but the more Europe politics can be about making progress. The more it is going to naturally fall into a pause there's some place and the more your politics actually rely. eyes on who wins, something that only one side can way like an election. The more naturally be in his ear or someplace and they're. Just so no real way to get around that my goal: As I have said in this discussion, was you know, aside from just bringing you on and get to hear you talk, which is always great, was to give people some practical sense of how to in the midst of these weird and
unpleasant times in which were living to be better citizens, but also to have a better relationship. A saner, healthier relationship to to the political scene. Have I've given you a chance to fully gear Your thoughts about that in this interview or their things that I've missed now I looked, I think, I've talked plenty I mean all say I'll say it is a question to you. I'm should be prohibited from the tune in inner for you. I struggle with the question of how to talk even just about them like mindfulness and meditation amidst crisis, because I don't want to tell people. You know that I got old line that it is not a sign of health to become accustomed to a sick society, and obviously I want. Things to come out of this, but I wonder how you think about the relationship. Is it something I struggle with between trying to engage in practice? Is that help you accept what is going on verses? listening to maybe a proper sense of rage and frustrate
anxiety. It provokes because, as can be, activating emotions that help people recognise that something has to change, not just that. We should learn to have a better relationship with something that should never have happened in the first place. You, I think it's a bit of a false binary, because I think acceptance in a meditative contemplative. And is not at all resignation or passivity its accepting. What is the truth right now being mindful and curious about it? So like your seeing something playing out on tv like the horror in America's nursing homes and your feeling the anger the sadness, many other emotions it may come up. in that moment calmly, with some curiosity, investigate the feelings
You're feeling how their showing up in your body, the kinds of thoughts, their provoking and metabolize the emotion and that will allow you to then take the action that you want to take their most likely to be effective. from a place of some increased com rather than reflexive rage, and so I am there. I really am not a proponent of black. and blind acceptance, but rather a mind full com, compassionate engagement. Does that make sense yeah it very much. Does it mean you know, I don't know if this is your view, it's something that right now I really struggle with. Not that I would have the capacity to have acceptance, even if I wanted it, but I found it harder to have a good practice right now than at any other time and.
I don't know it's funny, it's. You would think that the way in which it forces you to just be in one place and said, unlike experiences, but the desire to not feel it has been very powerful for me, I've been very much struggling with my practice here in a way that I now that I've been trying to keep it up, because I have been but. By the other. Is something about wanting to flee from this momentum, knowing that we might be in it for a long time, which is Really really increase attendance here sometimes have till her run from an unpleasant emotion, I mean I full. I really here that I appreciate you say in it and just clear, because I want to respond to it, but I want to respond accurately you're, not saying you're, finding herself not doing whatever your daily allotment of Gore Daily Ish allotment of meditation,
is, but that, on the cushion your finding that its chop here is that what you're saying he had not just choppy are what is, even though I would put it that the work that is going in to just making it through the time on the cushion they there is so much call struggle at Matt that some of us would have loved the most of it. I did it like that feeling of like clarity and like you're, seeing something you know baby every once in awhile, I'm like that. So much of that is gone like I have an internal drive towards distraction right now by this desire to not feel this way. That makes the work of Troy let myself sit with the things that are actually happening, just experienced some much harder, no matter what the way of doing it is, I mean that's. It
for my time on the cushion it's true, also decide for my space is a human being. I had a stock into somebody and she made the point that, like I've, Sir drinking a lot more coffee during this period and Jimmy the political, how does your body feel news like this? My therapist inches and as all my body fills tired and my mind is going crazy and trying to like sit in between those things has been. Very disarray thing. Ok, I have a bunch of responses with the caviar that I had a train meditation teacher, so this is a little bit like getting your gallbladder removed by somebody who slept. A holiday in last night, but first of all I would give yourself a break. that's my number one message to you is: give yourself a break. We are living through times that suck and I think perfectionism he's going be super unhelpful right now this urge towards doing things. The way with the king
quality that we were doing before the pandemic. I just think that's too big and ask and the fact that you're you may be forming or exacerbating, I'm habits they: u they had BC before Corona, but are they getting worse? Now the coffee drinking, the urge to distraction may be a twitter or or tv or whatever it is whatever your vice, not that neither of those things is truly a vice, but if you misuse them they can be. I think that's all just gonna happen and you wanna do your best to be mindful of it but not tell yourself some story about being a failure. If, if it's happening in an increased level because we're all gonna find coping mechanisms for just a terrible moment in human three in terms of the meditation practice itself. The one thing you said that really struck me was there the clarity that you like it might be helpful to notice.
That's a form of desire. You are wanting more clarity, and wanting is one of the most noxious things you can bring to the meditative party, and there is it going in with expectations about what's gonna happen in a city is truly going to trip you up and in fact it's meditation. It's so useful to be reminded of the fact that meditation isn't about feeling any certain way. It's about feeling whatever you're feeling clearly, so that the feelings and many of our feelings these days are difficult, don't yankee! around as much so I just had a bunch of words. Did any of that may, since you know that very much does make sense to me, I mean I think it is. I will just say for me: it is a constant lesson of these practices. It I often do go in wanting something I started meditating, because I wanted to feel less anxious and instead
and what it did for years was kind of show me how is actually feeling and that force me to make changes. It would help me ultimately been. I feel a little bit more at home in my skin, and I take the point you make in their too that, certainly for me, I I definitely struggle with remembering that it's just about seeing what there are now like. Sometimes what is air is now we wish. Was there because things now what you wish the horror, but that space between your driven, sometimes to meditate by wanting of something the wanting is in some ways the enemy of the is that's an interesting pension to halt, but just now Oh, what I'm hearing from you is good practice. The wanting is totally natural. You don't deserve a smack on this now, for that that issue and why we need teachers in our lives are good friends who also meditated just to be reminded of very basic things that we often forget it. That's the function of having
Fellow meditated in your life or meditation teachers in your life is to just be reminded of things, because we all fall into these tracks So one thing I go into one over and over I learned about the disutility of desire in my own meditation practice in that's the point and what I heard from you about how you're encountering and not liking. These things that are coming up in your meditation practice will that's me sounds like you're doing it right, because if, if you're not more, anxious right now, you are not paying attention because wherein a pandemic and it sucks. But if you stick with it and try to may be noticed the desire arising rising and
they go a little bit in a relaxing into all of these uncomfortable emotions, you're feeling just to the best of your ability with the promise of meditation, and I feel pretty confident about this promise- is that you will be able to co exist with these difficult emotions more skilfully, then you would by either trying to feed them fight them or paper over them through twitter, binges or too much coffee That is why I did want to come into this and be told by you. I was doing it right, so I feel like I've really really gotten. I gotta tell you today as the abundant How do you congratulations on the book and I really appreciate you making this much time for the broadcast. So so thank you now. It's always a pleasure. Thank you for having me. They thanks to Azra? Before we go on to remind you that dead discount running right now, forty percent off a subscription to ten percent happier just go to the link in the show notes and as always, if you're some
the works in health care or education or in the grocery store. delivery, the app is free, just go to ten percent dot com. Slash care. I want to thank the team who were so hard on the show all weeklong. Every week, Samuel Johnson run at point opera. sir, are sound. Designers are met bulletin and on sheikh of ultraviolet. Yo Maria were tell is our production coordinator. We get a ton of incredibly important input and guidance from our colleagues at ten percent Ben Reuben. Gent point please. Levin and NATO be also a big thank you to our ABC comrades Rank, has earned our cohesion policy and was a ferocious, don't Halifax. That was a great conversation said to bring that too will season there's not a person in America who hasn't been impact it in some way by the corona virus pandemic, but it every community there are pockets of people
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