01 September 2010


Kathleen Maclay reports that four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature on the pyschology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservativism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:
  • Fear and aggression
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Need for cognitive closure
  • Terror management

Please click on the link for a more thorough description of the research. The qualities listed above are consistent with my own experience -- the further to the right one's thinking, the more likely that these and similar traits will replace rational thought. The findings go a long way toward explaining the conservative-induced polarization we observe at all levels of government, and in the populace at large. Mind you, I'm not suggesting that liberals are saints with a monopoly on insight and proper values. But they do, in my opinion, come closer. When your psyche operates out of fear and aggression, dogmatism and intolerand of ambiguity, and uncertainty avoidance, you are more likely to see the world in black and white terms -- which is rarely useful, since the world we inhabit is assuredly in shades of gray -- nuanced, diverse, subtle, and ever-changing.

This might explain the persistent perception among Republicans and Tea Party proponents that President Obama is a Muslim, or is partial to Muslim beliefs, or may not even be a citizen. None of these absurdities is true, yet according to a Newsweek poll, Republicans in large numbers believe that Obama would like to impose Islamic law. Say what??? Here is a man who is a Constitutional scholar, a Christian (not that being a Christian is somehow preferable to being a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew, or an atheist), and a deep and insightful thinker -- yet dull-witted people who are more comfortable letting others do their thinking for them follow reactionary slogans like lemmings into the sea.

Stop. Look. Think. You are being lied to by the leaders of the right. I increasingly am pessimistic about the future of this Republic, precisely because American voters do not engage their own critical faculties, do not question their own assumptions, do not think. They merely react. Which is why we face so many crises -- too few of us bother to think ahead five, ten, fifty years, to examine the consequences of our choices. Every difficulty we face, from human overpopulation to the financial meltdown to wars and yes, even the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, has been predictable and avoidable. We refuse to think in subtleties, we refuse to consider the larger picture, we seek only to maximize our own comfort and wealth and power, at the expense of anyone who gets in our way. This is civilization?

White fright is alive and well in America. If you doubt me, check out this video which compares the behavior and atmosphere during Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, and the behavior and atmosphere during Glenn Beck's "Restore Honor" address from the same location, 47 years later. Beck's audience resembles a Ku Klux Klan rally, complete with obscene words and gestures. This man's understanding of honor is twisted and vulgarized beyond recognition.

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