Thursday, August 07, 2008

"The Price of Right" by Alicia Morgan - An Overview - Part 5

We live in a farmer society, where farmer traits such as patience, memorization, organization, docility, cooperation, acceptance of delayed gratification, long-term planning and methodical execution, and respect for tradition and rules are hallmarks of the successful student, employee, and citizen. People who have a preponderance of hunter traits find it more difficult to manage in our society, starting with school and continuing on through later life. Again, as with the two family models (Strict Father and Nurturant Parent), nobody is all one or the other. Everyone has both hunter and farmer traits.

What about a religious outlook? Farmers and hunters might have completely different relationships to a higher power. A farmer’s authority would be the authority of nature. It is one-way only. It cannot be seen or communicated with, negotiated with, challenged, bartered with, or connected with in any way. It can only be accepted and accommodated to. Therefore a farmer’s God might be an authority to be obeyed without question. Although a hunter must deal with nature also, his relationship with nature is much different. His sustenance comes from his own physical effort and battle with a living creature somewhat akin to himself. It is through his own decisions and actions that his animal dies and becomes his food. A hunter can challenge nature where a farmer cannot. So perhaps this might account for the differences in the way hunter types and farmer types view and relate to God.

I bring this subject up because I think that hunter-and-farmer models could apply to political orientation, as well. For instance, what if the traits that usually apply to those who consider themselves liberals are hunter traits, and those that apply to self-described conservatives are farmer traits that have been genetically passed on to us from our ancestors? If you have the tendency to be comfortable in going along with a group, with accepting authority without question, comfortable with having a a role in a hierarchy in which to belong, and are more affected by and susceptible to fear, it seems likely that you will call yourself a conservative. We are all susceptible to fear, but studies have shown that self-described conservatives are much more affected by it, and it will influence their behavior in a way that it does not influence liberals. This is why the Bush administration has been so successful in its use of fear to implement its agenda. The threat of terrorism and the Islamo-fascists who want to kill us is much more real and frightening to conservatives than liberals. Fear is a necessary survival trait, but hunters, more than farmers, must be able to shrug off fear in order to survive. Fear is the trump card for Bush Co., and they play it like Diamond Jim Brady every time.

Well, if conservatives are so fearful and liberals are so fearless, you might ask, why does the Democratic majority cower before the Republicans, refusing to challenge even the most egregious wrongdoings of this administration and cravenly co-signing every vile, illegal, immoral piece of legislation that is excreted in their direction?

The way I see it, Democrats, as liberals, are hostages to their framing as well. They operate from the deep-seated Nurturant Parent assumption that if you want to get, you have to give, and the converse – if you give a little, then your counterparts across the aisle will give in return. Like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football, Democrats make concession after concession, believing against all evidence that this will earn them cooperation from Republicans, somehow not processing the fact that conceding is perceived as weakness by the authoritarian Republicans, and merely results in more aggressive steam-rollering from the right. What we see as cooperation, they see as submission, which triggers even more dominating, leg-lifting behavior.

Both the Strict Father and Nurturant Parent frames have drawbacks that cause problems in our society. Within the Nurturant Parent frame, it is the tendency of liberals to try so hard to find a consensus that satisfies everyone that the result is that no one is happy and nothing gets accomplished.

What makes the Strict Father frame more dangerous, though, is that the inclination to obey their chosen authority is so strong in conservatives (especially the authoritarian followers) that it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to challenge or defy a bad authority once they have accepted the validity of that authority. What is usually a society-building trait can have devastating consequences if the wrong people are in power. When your need to comply with authority trumps any conscience you might have, the end result is disaster.

Dr. Altemeyer says:

[The] vast majority of us have had practically no training in our lifetimes in openly defying authority. The authorities who brought us up mysteriously forgot to teach that. We may desperately want to say no, but that turns out to be a huge step that most people find impossibly huge--even when the authority is only a psychologist you never heard of running an insane experiment, and your obedience means you are probably going to kill someone. From our earliest days we are told disobedience is a sin, and obedience is a virtue, the “right” thing to do.”

But is it really “the right thing” to do?

The Price of Right attempts to connect the dots and point out the correlation between the implementation of conservative policies - social, economic and political - and the demise of our middle class, our rights to free speech, free press, habeas corpus, privacy, the rule of law and the foundations of our democracy. We have paid a terrible price. Is it too late to stop payment on the “blank check” that Bush and company have squandered like drunken sailors?

I do believe it is possible. But I also believe that whether it is possible or not should have no bearing whatsoever upon whether we should try. What kind of principles are only worth fighting for if you are assured in advance of success?

As liberals, we should be aware that the ability to push aside fear when necessary is one of our strengths. We should utilize this strength more than we do. We are currently playing to our weakness, when we should be getting in touch with our rebellious, disobedient, reckless, fearless side. The United States of America was created by people who risked everything in pursuit of a better way to live; not only for themselves, but for everyone. Our forefathers could very well have stayed colonists (that's the conservative way); they could have easily accepted the status quo and made the best of it. But the hunter traits that gave them the impetus to challenge injustice and the willingness to fight for an ideal when there was no guarantee of success are traits that we liberals need to re-discover. Our flabby muscles of resistance need exercise, and our willingness to take risks is our biggest asset in the fight to get our freedoms back. So, gird your loins and grab your spear – the hunt for justice is on!

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

We have shelved those desires to explore and to be fearless because we live in a culture of radical skepticism. It's a radical, 180 degree shift from the Enlightenment ideal of radical optimism.

And it's such a self-defeating notion, I'm not sure what it would take to change it.