A reckoning is inevitable. It will come one of two ways. Soon, as an act of collective awakening, or too late.
It will involve a fundamental shift in our relationships, with each other and with the planet.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Different Conclusion

The time is rapidly approaching when what passes for the Left in the U.S. will be forced to name and expose the fundamental thrust of the Right wing ideology.

Background? OK. The Left has been conned into moving into the position of “center right” by the insidious pull of the Right toward the extreme right. By trying to play by the rules of honesty and fairness, compromise and the common good, the Left has allowed themselves to be co-opted and undercut by a less honest, less fair, less flexible and more damaging mindset: an adherence to a formulated, reactionary ideology that refuses to consider science, fact, reason, the public good, or a long term vision. With any luck, the merger of Fox and the blind ideologues will finally kill the GOP and bury its cancerous mental frame.

In the Huffington Post, author Chris Mooney cites and summarizes a total of 18 scientific and academic studies that define psychological trends that cohere with political alignment. People who hold Conservative and Liberal views divide along a growing and more detailed list of psychological tendencies. This is not the point here, only background, so you can look them up yourself. (Bill Moyers recently featured one not on Mooney’s list: by social psychologist Jonathan Heidt.) But to summarize the trends: Conservatives are: more likely to hold to traditional or familiar beliefs even in the face of contradictory facts; more driven in their basic psychological reactions by fear, including fear of the new; less likely to respond to or use irony or to value a sense of humor; less sympathetic or empathetic to less fortunate or disadvantaged people; more likely to justify wealth than economic fairness; less willing to acknowledge negative aspects of U.S. history; more likely to be strictly religious and less tolerant of other religions, and so on. Liberals are more: empathetic; open to new experiences; curious and creative; flexible in their thinking, more willing to question their own assumptions, and tolerant of other points of view (often to a fault); appreciative of art, irony, humor and the ambiguous in literature; and so on. Some of the studies suggest obvious causes like parental influence or life experiences that push the various thinking trends. Other studies attempt even to show hereditary differences in the way Liberal and Conservative brains are structured (similar to differences between males and females).

Analysts and commentators come up with a fairly broad range of conclusions. Some have the courage simply to ask (but not to assert) “are conservatives stupid?” Others suggest these trends should bring greater tolerance for the views of others. This is based on the assumption that some of the preferences are involuntary and extremely difficult to alter, either by choice or external pressure. And a pervasive tendency is to assume that these differences exist at similar “levels of thinking,” “levels of intelligence,” “levels of complexity,” or “stages of moral or ethical advancement.” This false assumption leads to another: that these different “mindsets” are therefore objectively comparable. And it is here that I jump off the Liberal “tolerance train.” Because I am sick, exhausted and angry at having my life compromised and my world destroyed by fear-obsessed, stupid, closed-minded (not to mention corrupt) people who think their beliefs are inherently superior to mine.

It must be said that two these trends represent nothing less than two stages in American intellectual and moral evolution: one more primitive, destructive, ignorant, immoral and inferior, one more advanced, wise, ethically superior and sustainable.

It’s time to call out the fear-based false patriotism and the hypocritical righteousness and to reverse the dumbing-down of the general public initiated in the Reagan years, and to elevate the value - the indispensable importance - of knowledge, rationality, insight, complex and flexible thinking in general, to their rightful place among American ideological values. Democracy is founded on the principle that an intelligent, aware and well-informed populace can be trusted to choose its own path into the future. When a national party and pseudo-intellectual movement base their authoritarian and backward-looking platform on willful ignorance, fear and an allegiance to dead ideas, they should be publicly shamed and run out of the political arena altogether.

So many commentators, right, left and center, are snickering up their sleeves at the absolute lack of competence among the candidates, it looks like the Republicans are on track to demolish themselves. Best case scenario: the Titanic right wing is heading, blindly and at full speed, toward the iceberg that is its own paralyzed thought process.