De-Incentivising Right Wing Authoritarianism (and the one thing the Conservatives get right more often than the Left)...

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A leading progressive-light Thom Hartmann is fond of referring to Bob Altermeyer's book "the Authoritarians" and its sister book "Conservatives Without Conscience" by John Dean. Both are fantastic reads into the very puzzling contradictions of Conservative America. After reading these books, (and also classical works such as "The Authoritarian Personality" by Theodor W. Adorno and more modern studies by people like Professor Geraint Rees at University College in London that showed that conservatives process emotional responses predominantly through the amygdala and are thus more prone to primitive, 'limbic/animal' thought processes), it seems very clear that pushy, judgmental, greedy and lustful power-seekers are not simply annoying, but may very well represent the single greatest threat to civilization there is (the law of the jungle handles both weapons of mass-destruction and credit-default swops with an equal lack of judgement).

Both Altermeyer and Adorno's works spend a great deal of time discussing what might be the most important point of the issue - THE FOLLOWERS. Every group of people have their Eric Cartmans, but such are only able to become Adolph Hitlers within groups of people willing to surrender freedom and compassion. What makes a person give up such valuable things? Simple, you wait for a time when the 'system' appears to be failing them, offer them permission to be selfish and abandon their humanity, and finish the job by equating their new directives with righteousness. This may seem to be overly-simplified, but the honest truth is that the concept of democracy is relatively new and things like birth control are downright radical from an anthropological standpoint. Only a few thousand years ago, most humans belonged to clans that are the homo-sapient equivalent of wolf-packs. The alpha-males controlled all and the only ethos in play was that of the Selfish-Gene. Religion and concepts of nobility, later evolved to enable the extension of power and authority over greater numbers of humans, and create larger wolf-packs. Democracy changes the dynamic from one of status to one of accountability, and bucks man-kind's historical structure by reducing the power of intrinsically intelligent (or perhaps clever) individuals and increases the burden of intelligence on the rest of the group. For many, unwilling to rise up to the responsibility of democracy and the 'Golden-Rule' ethics that it imposes, it can be very appealing to let the loud-mouth down the street become a tin-god, in exchange for simplifying one's own life decisions (and not having to be nice any longer to the guy next door who talks funny, looks foreign and listens to that 'weird music').

In recent decades, or at least since the twin-tragedies of the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens and presidential election of Ronald Reagan, the wolf-packs have managed to reclaim much of their previous power by simply allowing people to live-down to their historical heritage. Incremental skimming from the top by financial elites, weakening of America's status, and an increasing profligacy within the Democratic party itself, have led to distrust for government. Progressiveness and the concepts of democracy and civilization are beginning to seem less 'natural' and therefor less righteous to many. From such a place, modern issues like gay rights, without the benefit of the doubt, are able to alienate large groups of people who have not yet been personally victimized by right-wing authoritarianism, and/or have no frame of comparison between a truly democratic society and a fascist one. Why has democracy failed and the wolf-packs returned? Because of a fundamental failure by liberals to realize a simple truth: Individuals Make All the Difference!

An individual Democratic congressman who gets caught cheating on his taxes, or an individual Republican oil-baron creating hundreds of jobs by destroying the environment, both have the ability to greatly impact public opinion toward their politics. Where the right-wing has been smarter about this is to allow much easier access and reward to individual players in the political arena - if they can deliver results. Andrew Breitbart, and James O'Keefe where complete unknowns, who boldly came forward to defend their flawed platform and were immediately celebrated and rewarded by their party. Why do liberals have such a hard time treating their heros as well? Because, philosophically, we expect people to do the right thing, so the only place to go is into disappointment-mode when they fail us. Meritorious promotion, which has been the holy grail of progressive politics since ancient times, correctly asserts that talent rather than nepotism should decide an individual's fortune, but it also creates an elitism based on raw-talent and intelligence rather than character and tenacity, and thus shuts out many who might have much to offer. Ironically, it is also this lack of respect for the individual that so often causes otherwise good progressive politicians to go bad. When less than 50% of Americans exercise the precious right to vote, or vote stupidly, the very hard battles fought in defense of freedom, often just lead to more battles and disappointing votes. What would be so bad about celebration and perhaps even a little demagoguery for good politicians who really make a difference?

A college of mine, affiliated with the Rutan/Virgin Air Orbital Flyer program recently shared regrets with me that NASA, for all of its achievements had reached a stance on procedural perfection that virtually precludes true innovation. Rutan's people, rather than covering their prototypes with gold-leaf and working in clean-rooms, would climb right onto the craft and shorten wings with hand-saws: relaunching within hours rather than weeks, and at mere fractions of the cost. My friend told me, that he knew that NASA would never make it so HE could visit outer space. The tragedy, is that Democracy in America has fundamentally failed its own position of empowering from the bottom, by worshipping elitism. What do young people get for joining Democratic political causes? Scrutiny. What do conservative internes get? Adventure and the very real possibility of advancement. Unfortunately, most liberals are not even willing to consider an opinion until the speaker has become famous. Grover Norquist's ideas had much of their power BECAUSE he was unknown, and the clever Republican 'stealth mode' was able to capitalize on them to the fullest - because they were effective ideas, and not because he was important-enough to be worth listening to.

The solution to conservatism's gravitational advantage is that it unashamedly caters to more than a few human wants – like the want to feel important, and the want to better one's self. It also acknowledges that all things are NOT equal. The problem with the US Government's unwillingness to reward hard work with better pay is foolish, and is not found in most other OEC nations. From a road worker to a congressional-aid, it is not possible to get a raise without proving that you CANNOT get your work done without help. Also, why do high-school science departments HAVE TO spend every last dime of their budget to avoid loosing a portion of it the following year? Why do Democrats always wait for government to make life fairer, when they could do so by hiring a few more workers themselves, or giving their own workers a raise. Tea Partiers like the Koch Brothers are taking control of education in this country by digging into their wallets and promoting the people they want. Why can't John Kerry (who is worth around 200 Million Dollars) or the Clinton's (worth around 90 Million) do that – rather than only giving pennies to the hopelessly poor?

A few modifications to allow for justifiable points of the human creature could forever remove desire for unnecessary/undesirable traits. Liberals have the potential to truly end Greed, Bigotry and Authoritarianism once and for all – by simply putting in a better set of stairs on their Ivory Towers.

artphotodude's picture
Dec. 24, 2010 11:45 pm

There's a 1 in 20 Chance of the Apocalypse. Shouldn't We Act Now?

A new study published in Science argues that we as a civilization need to move "rapidly" -- as in almost immediately -- towards a carbon emissions free future if we are to have any chance of holding off runaway global warming:

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