15 January 2012


(Click on the above image to enlarge, then read the red print at the borders to understand the message.)  

Okay, it's true.  I'm not conservative.  Or a Republican.  Or rich.  So you might (might) be forgiven for thinking that what follows is uninformed, or partisan, or sour grapes.  You would be wrong.  What follows is solidly based in fact, well-researched, complete with citations.  Read on, I dare you.

You Might Be a Conservative If ... is a collection of 22 beliefs voiced by many conservatives.  Trouble is, all 22 are founded in misinformation, deliberate ignorance of history, hypocrisy, double standards, and lies (or half-truths, which is the same thing).  You say you're upset that Obama has taken 61 paid vacation days to date?  You support the first and second amendments to the U.S. Constitution?  You're certain that former President Ronald Reagan was a devout Christian?  You believe that the wealthiest Americans are "job creators"?  Um, you might want to browse through the collection.  You're in for a rude awakening.

Why Republicans Deny Science ~ The Quest for a Scientific Explanation is on a mission ~ to understand why it is that Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to deny the validity of evolution, or the existence of anthropogenic climate change, or the environemental dangers inherent in oil exploration and production (remember the Deepwater Horizon?  All these concepts have been observed and documented and proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  Yet Republicans remain in denial.  Why?  Chris Mooney suggests that "An increasing body of science suggests that we disagree about politics not for intellectual or philosophical reasons, but because we have fundamentally different ways of responding to the basic information presented to us by the world.  These are often ways of which we are not even aware ~ automatic, subconscious ~ but that color all of our perceptions, and that effectively drive us apart politically.  What's more, what is true for how we come to our opinions about politics is also assuredly true for how we approach 'facts' that are perceived to have some bearing on the validity of our political opinions ~ whether those facts are scientific, economic, historical, or even theological in nature."

How we come to our opinions may indeed partially explain the widening ideological rift which all but paralyzes politics these days.  But that doesn't excuse us from stepping beyond knee-jerk responses and really thinking about the issues based on evidence, not bias.  I believe that's one huge advantage to my training in the sciences ~ learning to consider evidence, even if it might subvert my working hypothesis.  That's why resources like the collection of conservative beliefs referenced above, can be so valuable.  They force us to question our assumptions.  The result may confirm what we'd originally thought, or it may force us to re-evaluate.  Our beliefs may even evolve over time.  (There's a word for that.  Progress.)

Rich People Lack Empathy, a new study finds.  "Social psychologists are making an argument that Occupy Wall Street protesters have been saying for months.  Many rich people just aren't in the habit of thinking of others.  According to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley, people who grew up in economically comfortable circumstances are less attuned to the suffering of other people .... Such conclusions are especially relevant now, as the Occupy movement continues to focus national attention and criticism on the growing divide between rich and poor.  

"While some wealthy people have defended themselves as merely embodying the ideals of American capitalism ~ a system where, the argument goes, anyone can make it to the top if they're willing to work hard ~ many Occupy protesters have offered a less flattering theory:  that the rich, as a class, simply aren't concerned with the well-being of anyone else.  The findings of the UC Berkeley team seem to suggest that this may be true, though the researchers make it a point of saying that it's likely the result of inexperience on the part of the rich, not necessarily malice."

I would add that, as in the discussion of Republican denialism above, being born wealthy does not deprive one of imagination.  Here's a parallel.  I wasn't born Jewish, yet that does not prevent me from feeling (as best a non-Jewish person can) the horror which accompanies the Holocaust.  I also wasn't born female, yet I feel empathy for the physical, emotional, and economic struggles which girls and women endure in our society.  In fact, I feel I have an obligation to become aware, to empathize, to support those who are oppressed or victimized.  So the "inexperience" part of the explanation for the self-focus of the wealthy only holds so much water with me.  You don't have to have experienced being lynched, or know someone who was, to identify with the scars which many black people carry in white society.

I'm persuaded that there is indeed an emotional/intellectual distinction between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans.  It may be partly a genetic predisposition, it is certainly influenced by the family and community in which we grew up, but ultimately we choose, every day, to hold to our beliefs or to reconsider them, when faced with the evidence presented every day in the news, in scientific studies, and in our own set of ethics (or lack thereof).

Are rich people merely unaware?  I doubt it.  It seems more likely to me that their greed overrules their social conscience.  Is the system broken?  Not exactly.  But it's definitely rigged.


  1. accurate. you've been around longer than me, you've had a head start in seeing the truth.. politicians really don't care about us.
    It makes wonder more and more about the future on an economic and natural level. Sharing and living with less is going to become a fact our culture will have to adjust to. I enjoy your posts they are interesting and thoughtful.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Mitchell. And I agree that unless something drastic changes (like the Occupy movement really having an impact), our economic momentum will carry us into a time when the wealthy become wealthier, and the rest of us will learn to live with less, and less, and less. Thank you for your kind compliment on my posts.