We human animals are an irrepressibly symbolic species. So much so that any thing can represent almost anything else. A cloth flag, a firecracker or a slogan can represent a social order. A piece of bread or an animal can represent a god. The bottom of a shoe can represent a harsh put-down.
We endow some of our things with a special significance, such that we deem them “sacred.” I struggle to define what is sacred, but Jonathan Haidt gives us a big clue: sacred things seem to be the opposite of things that disgust us. But there usually seems to be something more to those thing that are the most sacred; there usually seems to be a public declaration or at least an implicit group acquiescence that the thing is sacred.
By recognizing things to be sacred, we seem to endow them with other-worldly significance; with heavenly significant. Once a thing is declared “sacred,” it would be disgusting and, indeed, immoral to consider compromising with regard to that thing.
So here we are, in a nation where half of the national politicians have declared that no-tax-increases is a sacred proposition. This means that there shall be no negotiation regarding this stance.
Unless it is realized that this sacred proposition conflicts with other sacred propositions. At that point, we can proceed to negotiate, it would seem.
Thus, I’m sitting here tonight, wondering what “sacred” value which will be impinged by the failure to raise taxes has any chance of being used for negotiating a tax increase. I don’t know whether there is such a thing at this time. It seems like no-new-taxes is not only sacred to the conservatives, but super-sacred. No-new-taxes is godly. It might not be proper, ever, to compromise on no-new-taxes. Even if the failure to raise taxes keeps children from getting decent education or health care. Based on the past 10 years, even the “need” to start a new war cannot justify increased taxes. Thus, we have a string of expensive wars we are unwilling to fund.
And thus we are watching dramatic theater in Congress. We are watching a plot that doesn’t seem to have a resolution or, for many of us, a purpose.