Fearghus Ó Conchúir Choreographer and Dance Artist
April 21, 2009

Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who has been mapping how different political affiliations are the products of very different ethical systems. This article caught my attention because I’ve been aware that my interest in bodies and buildings is a that the relationship between them is a metaphor for the negotiation between individuals and the systems (groups, institutions, families, nations) with which they interact.

Following research in India, Haidt

realized that “the Confucian/Hindu traditional value structure is very good for maintaining order and continuity and stability, which is very important in the absence of good central governance. But if the goal is creativity, scientific insight and artistic achievement, these traditional societies pretty well squelch it. Modern liberalism, with its support for self-expression, is much more effective. I really saw the yin-yang.”

While Haidt is a liberal, he doesn’t think the solution is that everyone should adopt his worldview

“I see liberalism and conservatism as opposing principles that work well when in balance,” he says, noting that authority needs to be both upheld (as conservatives insist) and challenged (as liberals maintain). “It’s a basic design principle: You get better responsiveness if you have two systems pushing against each other. As individuals, we are very bad at finding the flaws in our own arguments. We all have a distorted perception of reality.”

So while I usually make work that speaks for the individual making his or her own niche in relation to the structure, I know a structure needs to exist for the individual to make their relation to it.

As Haidt says

Look at the way the word ‘wall’ is used in liberal discourse. It’s almost always related to the idea that we have to knock them down.
“Well, if we knock down all the walls, we’re sitting out in the rain and cold! We need some structure.”

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