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Failed Conservative Values: Arun Akkineni on Self-Righteousness

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If you think that you are where you are just because you worked hard, it is easy to become self-righteous and make classist moral judgments about others. Charlotte Bunch

I interviewed Arun Akkineni about Failed Conservative Values. He felt that self-righteousness is a Failed Conservative Value and it's scary and dangerous. With self-righteousness, you see the world as black and white and don't see the nuances. You also don't incorporate other peoples ideas, which makes for poor decision making. He points to the current conservative administrations creation of the war and occupation of Iraq, as an example.

Arun Akkineni on Self-Righteousness

Failed Conservative Values: Arun Akkineni on Self-Righteousness

I’m Arun, and I’m here to answer a few questions about progressive values.   I’m from Alameda

There’s something very fundamental that I look at in regards to conservative values which is from the perspective of so-called righteousness.  It seems to be very engrained in conservative thought that you have to be righteous – that’s a given value.

But now as someone who’s progressive or liberal, I’m more accustomed to looking at values from the perspective of different opinions, being more open to thought and perception, more open to the changes around me.  And I find that my opinions based on what I learn from others.  

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At the same time, the collective opinions that helped me form my opinions are actually far broader in scope than something that’s based on a degree of righteousness that I proclaim.  So that’s a fundamental difference between what’s conservative versus what’s really progressive in many ways.

EDWIN:  Is that righteous or self-righteous?

ANSWER:  I would put it down to self-righteousness.  If I would take a few conservative speakers – I wouldn’t like to name any – but you do see a great degree of self-righteousness in them.  And self-righteousness can be a bit dangerous, especially because a lot of things are quite relativistic in this world, and you can’t have a black and white reality to things.

Our current president is an example of someone who takes black and white, which doesn’t really work in civil society as we know it, because as mature individuals, and as mature, rational human beings, we actually think in terms of various perspectives, and we know that there might not be one given answer to a certain issue.  So you can have two or three different solutions.  But some solutions might be better than others.  But a certain self-righteousness can extend to where you really live by it and proclaim it.  It could be dangerous.  I would say it’s fatalistic.  

EDWIN:  How has conservative self-righteousness actually failed in American society?

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ANSWER:  I think the war in Iraq is a good example of it.  You know, the whole idea of extreme private economic liberalism, and the way things are being orchestrated in Iraq, the private military enterprises that are going in, is an example of an extreme degree of thought – you know, a belief in the righteousness of a certain ideology rather than actually putting in the perspectives of various people.  Because good policy really happens when you have taken the opinions of people and you enact on top of the opinions that the public actually talks about or wants something.

So if you don’t really take the public into consideration, you can’t really have effective policy.  The policy that you see being derived are frustrated in Iraq in terms of the foreign policy itself.  It’s very disjunctive from the requirements of what is really needed on the ground. 

Of course, it’s a whole other debate.  Even going to Iraq was a mistake altogether.  But you can definitely see this aspect of conservative policy which actually doesn’t really inculcate the values of the people who are on the ground.  It seems to be very biased to the bureaucratic thinkers who are setting the policies, and who want them that way. 

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Founder of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy. The Culture of Empathy website is a growing portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, (more...)

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