Monday, April 4, 2016

A Few More Comments on Depth vs. Breadth

Let me make a few more comments on depth versus breadth.  To repeat, both social depth and social breadth are good.  It is unfortunate that there is a trade-off, but that is a fact that must be faced.  Only by facing the trade-off squarely can be meaningfully debate and decide where it should be drawn.

Next, while neither preference of breadth over depth or depth over breadth is a pathology, both can be pathological if taken to extremes.  Consider the forms they can take in personal relationships.  An extreme preference for depth over breadth in one's personal relationships is codependency. Codependency essentially means limiting one's personal commitments to a single person and taking care of that person with such intensity as to be self-destructive.  Pouring all one's energy into trying to fix one person can narrow one's focus to the extent of neglecting all obligations to anyone else, and even to wronging them.  (From lying about why the other person is missing work all the way to being an accomplice when the other person commits crimes).  The extreme, pathological example of preferring breadth to depth in personal relationships might be pet hoarding.  The pet hoarder wants to save as many animals as possible and ends up with too many to give proper care to any.  This being said, I know of no evidence whatever suggesting that codependents tend to be politically conservative, or pet hoarders politically liberal.

In the larger society, a pathological emphasis on depth over breadth might be "amoral familialism,"  the inability to make a moral commitment beyond one's immediate family, or gang warfare.  These are social sub-groups that have very deep commitments to one another, but none to anyone beyond their immediate circle.  The pathology of breadth might be one where conflict levels are low, but people do not know their neighbors or have any real friends, just commercial dealings. And, conservatives like to point out, pathological expressions of depth are often a reaction against its pathological absence.

But I want to move on to another such pathological expression -- authoritarianism.

PS:  I forgot to add, one of the most obviously pathological manifestations of breadth over depth (at least to your average liberal) lies with Evangelical Christians, a very politically conservative bunch, and their attempts at making converts, by calling out to people in public places, asking if they have taken Jesus Christ as their personal savior.  Unsurprisingly, the attempt rarely succeeds.  Fred Clark likes to argue that successful evangelism requires hospitality and building of a relationship to get through.  No doubt your average Evangelical Christian would dismiss such talk as foolish. Anyone who doesn't take Jesus Christ as their personal savior will go to Hell for all eternity.  Surely saving people from Hell is more important than simple matters of manners.  But this would be more convincing if approaching random strangers were actually an effective way of winning converts.  It is not.

Other evangelists do not limit themselves to calling out to random strangers but try to persuade (bully?) passers by into signing a statement dedicating themselves to Jesus, or to read a prayer of repentance with them.  But really, as members of a religion that dismisses outward display in favor of what is in the heart, they should know better.  Signing a statement or reading a prayer when you don't really mean it is no more than an empty gesture.  What are they trying to achieve?  Slacktivist links to a delicious satire on the approach:
GREENWOOD, SC—Michael Garcia, 20, was extremely surprised to learn that he had committed his life to Jesus Christ at NewSpring Church’s Easter service, sources confirmed Wednesday afternoon. 
Garcia noted that the service had ended and he was getting up from his pew to leave with his family when two smiling ushers “kindly but forcibly” escorted him to a room in the church for a class titled ‘Your New Life At NewSpring,’ during which he and a roomful of others viewed a video featuring lead pastor Perry Noble. 
“We were all kind of looking around at each other, confused,” Garcia told reporters. “Then they put the video on and Mr. Noble informed us that the terms of service on the inside of the programs we were handed when we walked in the church clearly explained that by stepping foot on NewSpring’s property we were explicitly agreeing to give our lives to Jesus Christ. 
“We looked and sure enough, there it was, down in the fine print at the bottom.”
When reached for comment, Perry Noble would only repeat loudly, “1244 SALVATIONS LAST WEEKEND!!!”
Yeah, basically.  I don't know whether this shows that conservatives just don't do breadth well, or whether liberals are equally obnoxious and just not aware of it.  But it does stand of an example of what can go wrong with choosing breadth over depth.

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