September 18, 2018
Transcript for The Deep Stories of Our Time
KRISTA TIPPETT, HOST: One of the voices many have been turning to in recent years is Arlie Hochschild. She helped create the field of the sociology of emotion: our stories as “felt” rather than merely factual. In 2011, she started spending time away from the company of fellow academics in Berkeley, California and in Southwest Louisiana, a Tea Party stronghold at that movement’s height. When she published her book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right in the fall of 2016, it felt like she had chronicled the human dynamics that had now come to upend American life. Arlie Hochschild is wise about the role emotion plays on every side of our life together, in politics and beyond it. Caring, she insists, is not the same as capitulating.
[music: “Seven League Boots” by Zoë Keating]
ARLIE HOCHSCHILD: It doesn’t mean that you’re capitulating — that’s the misunderstanding, I think, especially on the left. “Oh, if you listen to them, that means you’ve been taken over.” Not at all.
MS. TIPPETT: It just means being emotionally intelligent.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: That’s right. We all need to be makers. If you want to make a social contribution and help build a public conversation about the big issues of the day, you have to really be good at emotion management. It’s a contribution to the larger whole, to be really good at that.
MS. TIPPETT: I’m Krista Tippett, and this is On Being. Strangers in Their Own Land was a finalist for the National Book Award. Arlie Hochschild is a professor emerita at Berkeley and was born in Boston, Massachusetts.
MS. TIPPETT: You were the child of a Foreign Service officer, so it sounds like you grew up all over the world.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: I lived in Israel, from age 12 to 14 — very pivotal experience. Then Wellington, New Zealand. Then my folks were in Ghana, and I spent a summer in Ghana, but by then I was in college. Then they were in Tunisia. I was very fortunate, really, to get to experience all of that.
MS. TIPPETT: Was there a religious or spiritual background to your childhood in your family or in those places?
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yeah, I would say. My parents were very religious Unitarians. For Unitarians, the message I took away is that it’s a very big world, and we have to learn to get to know and empathize with people in radically different cultures. I think by the time I was 16, I had that message, but I felt something missing. I got interested in the Quakers, who seemed to be much more “OK, gang, so what are we gonna do about it?” Unitarians were very talky, [laughs] big talkers — talk, talk, talk. Quakers, they were doers.
MS. TIPPETT: I think how you’ve spoken about how living in that diplomatic world — you are known within sociology as the founder of the sociology of emotion. I just want to summarize — and tell me if I get this wrong, but it feels important. I want to really dive deep into that the backdrop, in terms of how we analyze and address political and social dynamics, especially in a time of discord like this, where the sides become more defined, and everybody seems incomprehensible to everybody else. You describe in the book: There are ways of thinking about how people are being manipulated or bought; there are ways of analyzing how people are being misled; and then there are ways of us describing how we’re just different and that there are distinct cultural values. You’ve said that for you, and especially as you’ve watched these last few years unfold in American and, now, global life, what is missing for you in all of this — while all of these ways of analyzing are useful — is an acknowledgement of the reality of emotion in politics.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Right, and empathy. The idea of emotion being basic and foundational to social and political life is not new. Max Weber talked of it and Emile Durkheim, so that’s not new. But I found that this important, foundational reality of our feelings — we didn’t have a language, a way of conceptualizing it that was useful. Certainly three decades ago, the idea was that either you were thinking, or you were emotional.
I thought, “There’s something wrong about that because when you’re emotional, you are seeing the world in a particular way, and you have thoughts about the way you see it; you are thinking. When you’re rational — take the stock exchange, where people are making these “rational” decisions about buy/sell/buy/sell stocks on the stock exchange. They are excited, they’re elated, they’re depressed — they’re emotional. These two are intertwined in ways we have not carefully understood. So, yes, it led me to become extremely interested in emotion, in managing emotions, evoking emotions and suppressing emotions, in daily life and in work. I got interested in that.
MS. TIPPETT: I think that’s so important, yes, that we don’t have a language for it but that also, especially in the late 20th century, I think, we don’t know how to take emotions seriously. [laughs] I think this is such an important statement you make, that runs all the way through your work, that, also, we think the other side is being emotional, and we are not. And the really important realization is that this a piece of how we are all inhabiting the moment.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: That’s right. Exactly.
MS. TIPPETT: And that it’s social. That’s one of your big points that this line between our private emotional lives and social realities — acknowledging that is just being reality-based. It’s kind of like being in the world as it is and not as we fantasize it should be.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Right. In my latest book, Strangers in Their Own Land, I got very interested in something I call the “deep story,” which is a way of thinking about emotion. I live and have long taught sociology at Berkeley, in California, which is a blue state, as you know, blue town.
MS. TIPPETT: I think I’ve heard that, yeah. [laughs]
MS. HOCHSCHILD: And in 2011, I realized that, already, the country was falling apart. There were increasing divides between Democrats, Republicans, left, right, and that I didn’t understand those on the right, and that I was in a bubble. So I determined to get out of my bubble and come to know people that were as far-right as Berkeley, California, was left, and to try and climb what I called an “empathy wall” to permit myself a great deal of curiosity about the experiences and viewpoints of people that I knew I would have differences with. It turned out to be an extraordinary experience. It took me five years of really getting to know people, asking where they were born; where their school was; what row they sat in, in school; what their favorite thing to do was; where their ancestors were buried, and in the course of going fishing with them, in the course of really getting to know them, I came up with this idea of a deep story as a way of getting to emotion.
MS. TIPPETT: That wasn’t a phrase you’d used before, the “deep story”?
MS. HOCHSCHILD: No.
MS. TIPPETT: The “narrative as felt.” Right; that’s such an important — how would you start to tell the deep story of our time as you inhabited it in that experience?
MS. HOCHSCHILD: What I came to feel and realize is that both the left and the right have different deep stories. What is a deep story? A deep story is what you feel about a highly salient situation that’s very important to you. You take facts out of the deep story. You take moral precepts out of the deep story. It’s what feels true. I think we all have deep stories, whatever our politics, but that we’re not fully aware of them. They’re dreamlike and are told through metaphor.
The metaphor for the right-wing deep story that I describe in Strangers is that you’re waiting in line for the American dream that you feel you very much deserve. It’s like waiting in a pilgrimage, and the line isn’t moving. Your feet are tired. You feel you are properly deserving of this reward that’s ahead. And the idea is, you don’t begrudge anyone in this right deep story. You’re not a hateful person. But then you see — the second moment of the right-wing deep story — somebody cutting ahead of you. Why are they getting special treatment?
Then, in another moment, the president of the country, Barack Obama, who should be tending fairly to all waiters-in-line, seems to be waving to the line cutters. In fact, “Is he a line cutter?” — the idea is. How did his mother — she was a single mother, not a rich woman — afford a Harvard education, a Columbia education? Something fishy happened. That was the thought there.
In a final moment, someone from the coasts, someone highly educated, someone from that so-called elite, turns around, and they’re really close to the prize, or they have the prize. But they turn around and look at the others who are waiting in line and say, “Oh, you backward, Southern, ill-educated, racist…”
MS. TIPPETT: Redneck.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: “…sexist, homophobic redneck.” That is the estranging thing, that insult. And then they felt like strangers in their own land. “Wait a minute.” They would say — one man told me, “I live your metaphor.” Another one said, “You read my mind.” Another one said, “No, you have it wrong. The people in line are paying for the line cutters, and that’s why we’re enraged.” Another one said, “Oh, look, we leave that line. We secede. We’re getting another leader.” They gave it different endings. But, you can see, it’s my effort to get at feeling and how detached it can become from facts.
MS. TIPPETT: Yes, and something I think a lot about, and this comes through in you talking about the deep story — as you said, facts and moral precepts arise out of the deep story...
MS. HOCHSCHILD: No; actually, we take them out of it.
MS. TIPPETT: We take them out of the story.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: We remove them from it. It’s not about facts, and it’s not about moral attitudes, either. It’s a felt truth.
MS. TIPPETT: Yes, embodied.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: In fact, when I went back and forth between Berkeley and the people I came to know and really respect in the “other world” of the South, Southwest Louisiana, I came to realize that they were looking at different truths.
There are facts. I believe in the reality of facts. But the deep story — and again, we all have a deep story — it repels certain facts that don’t fit it, and it invites other facts that do.
[music: “Flight in Motion” by Parliament of Owls]
MS. TIPPETT: I’m Krista Tippett, and this is On Being. Today, with the esteemed sociologist of emotion, Arlie Hochschild.
MS. TIPPETT: You, in Strangers in Their Own Land, take up what you call a “keyhole issue” to go deep into, what are the dynamics that collect around a specific subject and to really understand the dynamics. You talk about the “great paradox.” You point at this dynamic that in the part of the country that you were in, there is, first of all, an abundant and beautiful natural environment and great pollution and great resistance to regulating polluters.
I think that’s such an example of where people from the outside of all the dynamics that go into that would say, “It’s just obvious.”
MS. HOCHSCHILD: But, you know, there’s a background. I think, partly, the people I came to know in Louisiana felt that the federal government was a bigger, badder version of local government. The truth is that in the state of Louisiana, the local government, that is, the state government, has not protected people from pollution.
MS. TIPPETT: There’s this passage in Strangers in Their Own Land that — as an example of this, and maybe this is the person you’re talking about: Harold. “The state always seems to come down on the little guy,” he notes. “Take this bayou. If your motorboat leaks a little gas into the water, the warden’ll write you up. But if companies leak thousands of gallons of it and kill all the life here? The state lets them go.” That example hits home. I can see that.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yes. The big companies are so rich and powerful that they basically have bought the legislature. In other words, the companies have outsourced the moral dirty work to the state. They say, “OK, let’s get a legislature that goes along with our development. Let’s talk jobs, jobs, jobs.” So the companies, with the money that the state gives them in this — I think it was 1.6 billion dollars that was, in the last five years, offered to the companies…
MS. TIPPETT: In Louisiana?
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yeah, to come in with that public money, which came from taxes — they then can make donations to the Audubon Society or for new football uniforms for LSU games. They’re looking good and setting up third grade classes in chemistry. Meanwhile, the state officials, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, is being very weak and giving out permits, as one of the people I interviewed said, “like candy.” The state looks terrible, but the company looks good. It’s kind of emotional, actual, manipulation, you could say, to get you to feel like the company is your friend and to feel like the state is your enemy.
MS. TIPPETT: You also describe this interesting dynamic that, again, is nuanced. It’s not something that would be obvious to anybody — a lot of this is true. For example, you have this chapter called “The Rememberers,” and there’s this amazing sentence about a sociological understanding that memory, just in general, is an indirect expansion of power. And then you say, “So ironically, strangely, embarrassingly, the memory of Southern environmental glory fell, in part, to respectful clerks in federal offices and to northern environmentalists.” There’s so much complexity there.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yeah, doesn’t it break your heart? It does mine, because the people I came to know, know more about the environment — they know which fish are in what area, where you set the crab pots, what ducks you can shoot at what period of the year. They love their land. And yet they’re caught, the people working in the plants. I talked to a woman — I asked, “Do you talk to your neighbors about the environment?” She said, “Our neighbors work in the plants, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I don’t want them to feel accused.” As if the people working in the plants would take on the guilt.
MS. TIPPETT: Right, or as though the guilt belongs to them.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Poor person, you know what I mean? It’s not their personal guilt. It’s a company policy, and it’s the absence of regulation. There are rules here; California has very strict rules. We enjoy a cleaner environment as a result. It’s at that level. The guilt is not a personal one. That, I felt, was very poignant and sweet of her to be mindful that an operator might feel accused. That’s how poignant this whole thing gets.
MS. TIPPETT: It does. What you are shining a light on is the human complexity here. It does make things messy. But again, this is saying, “Let’s deal with reality not wishful thinking.”
MS. HOCHSCHILD: And let’s talk about reality and not wishful thinking by having a civil, respectful, public conversation, where nobody is bullying, conversationally, anybody else. You’re coming together to see if there can be common ground on the environment. There can be, I think. The people I came to know are very interested and very approving of renewables. In fact, there’s something called the Green Tea Movement that is a Tea Party that’s all for renewables. But we’re not even finding that common ground because we aren’t even respectfully reaching out to look for it. We’re in our bubbles still. In fact, I think that problem remains with us. Especially on the left, I think, there’s a rigid sort of inward-turning, I would say. I find it very sad. I think we have to reach out looking for potential common ground.
[music: “King of May” by Brent Arnold]
MS. TIPPETT: After a short break, more with Arlie Hochschild. We’re putting all kinds of great extras into our podcast feed: poetry, music, and a new feature, “Living the Questions.” Get it all as soon as it’s released when you subscribe to On Being on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify — or wherever you like to listen.
I’m Krista Tippett, and this is On Being. Today, a conversation with sociologist of emotion Arlie Hochschild on how our stories as “felt,” rather than merely factual, shape our life together. The five years she spent between Berkeley, California and Southwest Louisiana while writing her 2016 book Strangers in Their Own Landhas given her singular insight into current political and social dynamics.
MS. TIPPETT: We started out speaking about your work in sociology and your focus on the sociology of emotion and taking emotion seriously. It’s hard for me to imagine anybody could argue that emotion doesn’t, in fact, seriously matter in politics now. Then there’s an obvious extension of that here, which is that we need emotional intelligence, right? That’s what mediation too. We need to say, this is as important as all of our other forms of intelligence that we wield very confidently and boldly.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yes, absolutely. You could say that much of my work — I’ve done nine books now — has been an effort, one way or another, to honor, and try and get the world to honor, the importance of emotional intelligence, especially as used by service workers: caregivers, child care workers, elder care workers — anybody in the service industry is using emotional intelligence. It matters enormously that we all learn to do it well and don’t sneer at it but in fact see that, really, the crust of society is very thin. It needs water and sun and nurture so that it’s not as brittle as it has now become in America.
MS. TIPPETT: Our life together needs caregiving. [laughs] I feel that we actually possess more intelligence about how to be in relationship where difference is present and where true misunderstanding is present. We have a lot of intelligence about that in our families.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yes, we do. When I set out on this odyssey, I got two kinds of responses, which were very interesting. One was, “Oh, I couldn’t do that; I’d be so mad. Those people are wrong.” And the other one was “Oh, you’re going where? You’re going to the center of right wing…? Oh.” They wouldn’t say it, but the kind of facial expression — “Maybe you’re pretty ‘right’ yourself.” In other words, you’re going to an enclave in which you will be embraced as “similar.”
What was missing from those two responses was the idea that you can be exactly who you are and take your alarm system off, climb an empathy wall, and get to know people on the other side of it. Then I got, “Oh, you must be especially empathic.” No. Not at all. In fact, I think we’re all actually extremely good at it. The only thing is, we don’t apply that skill, that knowledge, to getting to know the “other,” whoever we define as other. That’s the only thing different I did.
MS. TIPPETT: I looked at and read a number of interviews you gave and have given across the years, and I noticed that a great number of especially, let’s say, the “progressive” interviewers, they remark with great astonishment on your kindness, [laughs] kind of like, “How could you be so kind?” In a way, it models the rut we’re in.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Right, or “too kind” — foolish. “It’s a fool’s mission. What are you doing?”
MS. TIPPETT: Somebody said after Charlottesville, “Now that we’ve seen that...”
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yeah, “How can you talk to these people?”
MS. TIPPETT: To me, another great paradox of engaging difference, which you describe — you said, it’s not about going in and saying, “Change my mind. I want to be a Republican.” Or “I want to join the Tea Party.” Or expecting them, because they engage with you, to say, “I want to be at Berkeley.” [laughs] So you didn’t change your politics, but what you said — and I think this is true, and I know you’ve seen this as a sociologist, across all kinds of meaningful encounter with difference — you said, “It enlarged me as a human being.”
MS. HOCHSCHILD: It did, to be able to imagine myself into a different heart. One man told me, “Look, we have similar minds, and we have similar hearts, but we have different souls.” I thought that was so interesting. So I said to him, “Thank you for saying that. Would you be a co-sociologist with me and figure out how the souls are different?” He looked at me — [laughs] scratched his head, “Well, I’m not sure I know what you mean, but sure.”
This empathy thing — another wonderful encounter was with a gospel singer who was sitting across the table at a meeting of Republican women of Southwest Louisiana. She said, “Oh, I love Rush Limbaugh” I first thought, “Oh, my goodness.” Then I thought, “Wonderful. Here’s a chance for me to get larger here.” So I said to her, “Could we meet sometime this week for some sweet teas, and you can explain why you love Rush Limbaugh?” She said, “Yeah, sure.”
The next day we were meeting for sweet teas, and she explains, “I love Rush Limbaugh because he hates feminazis.” I thought, “Oh, my goodness.” So I ask her, “Well, what is a feminazi?” “Well, it’s a feminist who doesn’t like children, wants men to cook...” She goes on to “environmental wackos, these people that want to regulate us to death.”
After I’m asking her, she stops me and says, “You’ve told me that you come from ‘the other side.’ Is it hard for you to listen to me?” I told her, “Actually, it’s not hard at all. I have my alarm system off, and I’m learning about you, and you are doing me such a big favor to share your thoughts. I can’t tell you how grateful I am.” Then she says, “Take your alarm system off? I do that too. I do it with my kids. I do it with my parishioners.” I thought, OK, let’s start with that, a little common ground.
MS. TIPPETT: We, in fact, do that all the time. It’s a habit we have. We do it at work, because you can’t just blurt out how you really feel about what someone said at every moment.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: No, there are rules about that, and there should be. It’s kind of the ground rules of social life that we can get, really, better at it than we are. So that’s a great invitation. It doesn’t mean that you’re capitulating. That’s the misunderstanding, especially on the left. “Oh, if you listen to them, that means you’ve been taken over.” Not at all.
MS. TIPPETT: It just means being emotionally intelligent.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: You’ve developed a way of talking. Actually, that is a fundamental floor of social interaction when you barrel on in there and ignore the competence and identity…
MS. TIPPETT: And just the dignity of people.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: …of the person you’re talking to. It’s just counterproductive.
MS. TIPPETT: It is counterproductive, and the way people talk down to any point that might be made, I sometimes want to say, “Do you want to be right in every moment, or do you want to be part of the larger healing?”
MS. HOCHSCHILD: That’s right. We all need to be makers. If you want to make a social contribution and help build a public conversation about the big issues of the day. In order to do that, you have to really be good at emotion management. It’s a contribution to the larger whole to be really good at that.
[music: “Sands” by Emancipator]
MS. TIPPETT: I'm Krista Tippett and this is On Being. Today, with the esteemed sociologist of emotion, Arlie Hochschild.
MS. TIPPETT: One of the poignant things throughout Strangers in Their Own Land and this time you’ve spent in Louisiana is — it’s the Bible Belt. One of the things you found, which I think is an interesting critique for the side that considers itself to be enlightened, is that a lot of the things that are coming at people as “what needs to be done” in fact is not about repairing, not about how do we get whole. You said, the question of how could repairs be made, a lot of people find that their Bibles are more useful, in that sense, than the government.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: So that’s a question: OK, what has the government done for you? Maybe they have a point. Maybe it hasn’t lived up to its promise, or maybe it’s getting blamed for things it didn’t do. Let’s figure that out. Let’s have a respectful public conversation about just that: Is the government, in fact, letting people down? Or are they expecting too much of it? What’s the record? Let’s talk about that, the specifics.
MS. TIPPETT: There’s a paragraph in your book — or maybe this was in another interview you gave — you said, even among the most ardent and extreme people you met over five years of research, you found specific issues on which there was potential for coalition: safeguarding children on the internet; reducing prison populations for nonviolent offenders; protecting against commercialization of the human genome; pushing for good jobs; rebuilding our rail system, roads, and bridges; and our social infrastructure. It’s so interesting to think about what if we started by saying what we could start talking about tomorrow.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Right. There are low-hanging fruit. That’s right. And do it in the spirit we’ve been talking about.
MS. TIPPETT: In Strangers in Their Own Land, near the end you say you write a letter to a friend on the liberal left. I should say, you imagine, “If I were to write to my friends in Louisiana on the right, or if I were to write to a liberal friend.” There was a sentence in your letter to your friend on the liberal left. Again, it’s humanizing, and it’s provocative in a human way: “Consider the possibility that in their situation, you might end up closer to their perspective.”
MS. HOCHSCHILD: That’s it. [laughs] I think that’s true — that we are products of our own experience. What if you grew up in a family — so many said, “Oh, we were poor, but we didn’t know it. Had a great childhood, but we were poor. Didn’t know it.” OK, what if that had been your experience? What if your dad’s job and how much he earned was the central fact of your life? What if it was a blue-collar job, but you felt put down for doing that blue-collar job?
I think that there’s something actually missing in the entire vocabulary we have for talking about social class, because I didn’t go just to another region or to people with different political views. I went to a different social class. And there is a lot of sneering on the left at the blue-collar class. They’re furious at it. “Look, we’re the daily workers. We are climbing the telephone pole to repair your telephone wire. We’re repaving your roads. Who are you to put that down?” There’s a lot of humble pie to eat here. I think it’s a problem I didn’t know when I set out that I would come back and be as critical of the little cocoon I’ve long been in, here, as I am.
It’s not only a contempt that really bothers me now whenever I hear it or see it, and that is buried to some degree, but there’s a kind of reluctance to reach out. It’s as if, on the left, there’s a lot of good political will, but it’s gotten curled up onto itself and become a kind of a self-monitoring program, “Oh, you said this wrong or that wrong,” instead of reaching out to build coalitions — because we’re a big country. Not everyone’s like us; not everyone’s like them. What we need are sturdy coalitions. And I think labor unions — when the labor movement was much larger, there was a way that people of different colors and classes got together. When you had a compulsory draft, people of different colors and classes got together in a natural way.
MS. TIPPETT: It was an experience.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Public schools have done this. But we’re down on those crossover, connective institutions. I think we need to build another one. I would like to see a civil service, one year required of everyone.
MS. TIPPETT: Of everyone.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yeah, of everyone, and you go to a different region and get to know people — first of all, get to know how to treat people respectfully and listen actively and be immediate. Everybody should learn those skills. And then go across to see if we can rebuild that connective tissue.
MS. TIPPETT: I’m sure people have said to you, and I get into this conversation myself, this critique that there are all kinds of groups of people, including people of color, who have long felt like strangers in their own land in this country.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Oh, definitely; especially now.
MS. TIPPETT: Yes, and especially now, yet again. And it’s the critique that white people wake up to this phenomenon when it’s about other white people. How do you work with that in your mind?
MS. HOCHSCHILD: I say it’s true. I think it’s an important insight. Yes, I think it’s an excellent point. For example, the opiate addiction problem has been — now they’re called “diseases of despair,” which is kind of a compassionate way —
MS. TIPPETT: And the crack epidemic was not, yeah.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yes, whereas the crack epidemic in the inner cities, which hit blacks, wasn’t this benignly...
MS. TIPPETT: It was criminalized.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: That’s right, and worse. It’s a point that should be broadly received.
MS. TIPPETT: I want to draw to a close. This has been just such a big, wonderful conversation. I’m curious; you say somewhere that “the English language doesn’t give us many words to describe the feeling of reaching out to someone from another world and of having that interest welcomed.” You said, “Some of its own kind, mutual, is created.”
I just found that intriguing because I think so much about the power of words. Are there words you’re using now? Perhaps that gets at symbols and how important that is for us in constructing our world.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Well, I use the word “empathy.” It’s something we’re all capable of, and we, in a way, carry around empathy maps of who we should and shouldn’t feel empathic with. And we need to enlarge those maps and shift them. Maybe there are different kinds of empathy. One is, you could call it pragmatic empathy, to see if “OK, let’s see if we can heal this divide.” You’ve got a purpose to it. Then some is just there, and it doesn’t have that purpose. So that’s a very special word. Having it returned is, you’re seeing the humanity of the person you’ve reached out to — like Madonna Massey, this gospel singer, did to me: “Oh, I do that too,” she says.
MS. TIPPETT: Right, when you talked to her about the empathy wall, and she said, “I have one of those too.”
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yeah, and she said, “Oh, you’re my first Democratic friend.” [laughs] So we laughed, we could laugh; it was a new pool of laughter possible that started with an absolute acknowledgement of our differences.
MS. TIPPETT: I think that’s a good metric: Have you created a new pool of laughter possible. That’s good. [laughs]
I want to ask you as we close, and perhaps thinking about how you continue to live with this, not just what you learned as a scholar, but what you learned as a human being — right now, as you look around in the world and as you move through this experience that has changed you, what makes you despair, and what is giving you hope?
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Well, I’m a positive person, I would say [laughs] and tend to see the glass half-full. I think we’re at a moment of challenge as a culture, but we’ve been in those moments before. I think it’s time for us to look at leaders who have been real models of repair. Let’s look at Nelson Mandela, for example. His country was going to go to war with itself. It was bitter. If you look around the world, it’s hard to find a place pre-Mandela that was more bitterly divided, black and white. And he did it differently. He did it like Gandhi. He was a unifier. He was a guy who was very good at talking across these hardened lines. We have a lot to learn from Nelson Mandela.
MS. TIPPETT: Studying that kind of history and that kind of leadership.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yeah — Martin Luther King — these were people who were not off in their corners, just separating themselves off, but were good at saying, “Look, there are better angels here. Let’s access them and create public conversation about a problem, see where we can go with it.” Let’s think of those positive leaders and look to them and learn from them because they were real experts in empathy and pragmatism.
MS. TIPPETT: I really like keeping that “and” — empathy and pragmatism go together. This is a weird connection to make, but I think it’s in the afterword of your book that you mention Café Gratitude in Berkeley, which I didn’t realize had closed until I read that because it was kind of an institution there. It was a raw vegan place, and you were imagining, with these new sets of eyes you have, you were thinking about some of your Christian friends in Louisiana. You were thinking, maybe they would hear about Café Gratitude and think, “Oh, it’s a hippie place.” But maybe they would see that there are some real echoes there with their Christian way of —
MS. HOCHSCHILD: A touch of church.
MS. TIPPETT: Yeah, a touch of church. I was sad that it had closed, and I looked online, and I found this article in, I think, the Berkeley student newspaper. It was kind of an obituary for Café Gratitude, and the student was saying that they loved the daily question that they used to ask there. The examples they gave were: “What are you grateful for?” or “Who can you forgive?” Those are actually questions, for example, that Nelson Mandela asked, very surprisingly, given what he’d been through.
MS. HOCHSCHILD: Yes. That’s right. Imagine. We have a lot to learn. Don’t know if we can live up to his model, but it’s worth a good try.
[music: “Acacia Road” by Thrupence]
MS. TIPPETT: Arlie Hochschild is professor emerita in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Berkeley. Her many books include The Managed Heart, The Second Shift, and Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.
STAFF: On Being is Chris Heagle, Lily Percy, Mariah Helgeson, Maia Tarrell, Marie Sambilay, Erinn Farrell, Laurén Dørdal, Tony Liu, Bethany Iverson, Erin Colasacco, Kristin Lin, Profit Idowu, Casper ter Kuile, Angie Thurston, Sue Phillips, Eddie Gonzalez, Lilian Vo, Lucas Johnson, and Damon Lee.
[music: “Twinkle Twinkle That Is You” by Kettel]
MS. TIPPETT: Our lovely theme music is provided and composed by Zoë Keating. And the last voice that you hear singing our final credits in each show is hip-hop artist Lizzo.
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