Not Quite a Trope-a-Day: Values Dissonance

Posting this one out of order, too, because it may be useful to have it up here in future, and – well, because having fictional people and real people call each other names just seemed fun to me when I was writing it up.  So.

Values Dissonance: In-world, plenty of it, discussed and handled – as mentioned under Culture Clash – fairly often, because there’s really not much of an alternative in a polyspecific universe, and there are polyspecific and multicultural polities and colonies in which people essentially have to work it out.

Out-world, which is to say, between them and us, plenty of it too.  Look at all the values dissonance evident just from Blue and Orange Morality, for a start, starting with the section on propertarianism and working down.  Or, to put it the way that two people unwilling to take anything but the hardest line on values issues would put it:

They’re grasping and materialistic; we’re envious thieves and whinging martyrs.  They’re cold and uncaring; we’re testosterone-poisoned, bleeding-heart hysterics.  They’re self-centered bohemian insubordinate eccentrics; we’re conformist power-worshipping submissive drones.  They’re legalistic and rigid; we’re treacherous and unreliable.  They’re obsessive perfectionists; we’re sloppy incompetents.  They’re impossibly demanding; we just don’t care enough.  They’re mad scientists; we’re afraid to ask the hard questions.  They’re childishly enthusiastic; we’re boringly cynical.  They’re stultifyingly polite, formal and baroque; we’re as subtle as a brick to the face.  They’re stuck-up judgmental aesthetes; we’re appalling cacophiles who seem to think shock value is an adequate substitute for artistic merit.  Their sense of humor is overly intellectualized; ours is maliciously cruel.  They won’t even try to implement reasonable, effective, broad-based solutions; we’re discipline addicts pathologically incapable of leaving folks alone to work things out.

They’re environmental criminals for wanting to turn the universe into a garden; we’re environmental criminals for refusing to fix what nature got wrong.  They are morally outraged about our treatment of the prosapient species of our world, starting with the dog, dolphin and octopus and working down the list; we… can’t see what all the fuss is about, evidently.  At war, they’re ruthless killers who don’t “follow the rules” and embrace civis Romanus sum; at war, we’re soft-hearted idiots who can’t remember which side we’re on.  They’re gun-crazy madmen who even arm their children; we’re incredible hypocrites for pretending people have a right to defend themselves and then denying them any practical means to do so.

They hate the poor because they don’t give them everything they need and sneer at the downtrodden; we hate the poor because we choke off their opportunities, ignore their rights, and coddle even deserved failure.  They hate the disabled because they insist on fixing everything; we hate the disabled because we keep making more of them.  They’re cruel and inhumane because they execute violent criminals and brainwash the rest; we’re cruel and inhumane because we lock criminals up in prisons for years of pointless torture.  They are so permissive they can’t have any meaningful moral standards (and, yes, this is contradictory, but read moral standards as something like the modern US sense of “family values…in re sexuality, marriage, public modesty, guns, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc., etc., etc.”); we are so restrictive we can’t have any meaningful notion of personal freedom (again… yes, but it’s a stereotype).

They’re outspoken and judgmental about (which they would call actually believing in) their sense of ethics and morality and intolerant when it comes to the people that offend their effete sensibilities; we’re so morally flexible (for which they would read lacking) we’ll skip lightly past any amount of suffering, oppression and rot as long as it’s happening somewhere we don’t have to look at it.

Oh, and for different reasons (they refuse to treat anyone differently for the sake of individual fairness, or give the notion of group identity any ethical weight; we think two wrongs can make a right and never generalize to the big picture), each party thinks the other is a bunch of howling (sexist | racist | everythingelseist) bigots.

All of which is not to say that individuals necessarily think all or even any of this, and indeed, as between any two societies people could often find each other pleasant, upstanding chaps, and indeed good friends, especially once individual variation is taken into account.  But there are certainly plenty of places to find said dissonance if you care to go looking…

(For more possible examples, well, look at the Ethnographical Questionnaire series on this blog, which has plenty of them already, and will have yet more.)

5 thoughts on “Not Quite a Trope-a-Day: Values Dissonance

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