Thursday, July 21, 2005

Liberal or Conservative, Part 2 - The Nature of Authority, or Nature as Authority

To carry this analogy a little further, there is the question of where religion fits into the paradigm. The authority of Nature for a farmer is absolute, with specific rules that do not change, and must be scrupulously observed by the farmer for his survival. To question or attempt to circumvent these rules may mean the loss of his crop, and subsequent starvation. Therefore the trait that enables a farmer to prosper is unquestioning obedience to a higher authority, in this case Nature. Doing the same thing in the same order every year ensures his continued survival. So it might follow that a person who leans to the farmer side of the spectrum is more comfortable with an organized religion, with a specific doctrine and rules, and a leadership hierarchy.

The authority of Nature for a hunter is a little different. Hunters cannot take the same action over and over again, or they will starve. A hunter has broad guidelines to follow for catching his food, but he is mostly left to his own devices. He can say that usually the caribou are around here at this time of year, but he can't stand in this certain place and know that the caribou will show up. And he may have to fight someone else for that caribou. So he may have quite a different conception of authority than a farmer. He can't say, "If I follow the rules, I will be fed." He has to be ready to change course at any time, and he may not see accepting authority as the key to survival.

This may account in part for the differences in a liberal and conservative approach to faith.


Roberta S said...

Alicia, thank you for visiting me. I read your two posts on Liberal and Conservative theories and ended up dumb-struck. Dumb-struck because of the many parallels between your views and mine, particularly the perceptions you articulated about hunters and farmers.

I was also fascinated by your discussion about prejudice being the result of our natural tendency to ‘preponderate towards one [side] or the other”. That is so true, but that problem was magnified a thousand times by President Bushes’ foolish statement that “you are either with us or against us.”

That statement bluntly dismissed the right to hold an opposing ideology or even a mixed ideology. It was a statement that ignored all loyal country-loving citizens dedicated to supporting their country, to supporting the brave men and women in the war, to supporting the grieving families who lost loved ones in the war, to supporting so many other efforts of the administration, but who DID NOT personally support the President’s decision to go to war. To me, this statement truly weakened American patriotism by creating the raw and wounded divide between Democrats and Republicans that is currently so pervasive across the entire country that its ripple effect is even being felt in Canada.

afb said...


I very much enjoyed your take on liberalism and conservatism. You made a very complex issue easy to grasp. Thank you for such a wonderful analogy!

Alicia Morgan said...

Thanks, Marie - I'm just trying so hard to figure out why people think the way they do - it's just incomprehensible to me on the surface. Why else would someone vehemently contend that a lie about a personal (and consensual) sexual peccadillo is way worse than a lie about war, or treason?

Welcome to Hooterville, Roberta - thank you for stopping by! I was amazed that you and I were thinking along the same lines at the same time...Wanda's blog always gets me thinking, and ranting, but with the ranting I'm trying to find something beyond that, as are most of the folks around Hooterville. We have to find some kind of common ground, or we are doomed. Thanks for reaching across the border with your insight.

Jon said...

I've been on vacation... what did I miss?

Alicia Morgan said...

Gosh, mud, where did you leave off?

Karlo said...

An interesting post. The idea of "nature" or "natural order" is a profound one and your speculation on the link between nature and political leanings is interesting.

Unknown said...

More great insight. You are really going places with this theory. It really makes a lot of sense.

Can't wait to see the next post!

wanda said...

These last two posts are some of the best I've read anywhere. You have a real grasp on the liberal and conservative attitudes and expectations.
One thing I wonder about is why if conservatives strongly believe what they proclaim to, then why are they not more upset with BushCo's clear intent to involve the government in the most private aspects of our lives. If they really are people with strong morals and ethics why are they not more upset about the behavior of those in the White House?
The only conclusion I can come up with is either they aren't paying attention,or else they really don't have such high values after all.

Alicia Morgan said...

You know, Wanda, the only reason I can come up with is in the post between these two - that finding out that what you put all your faith and trust in is completely wrong is too much for a lot of people to handle, especially those of the farmer mindset whose wiring tells them not to change; to stick with what they are doing, as would be necessary to ensure that their crops continue to grow. Because if you challenge that, everything that you believed about yourself and the world comes into question. The question is, "If I was wrong about this, what else am I wrong about? Am I right about anything?" It is a shattering of self, and most people are not prepared to go there.

The more I think about this, the more I see that it was a stroke of genius on Rove's - I mean, Bush's part to feed into the farmer mindset by emphasizing that he never changes - that no matter what, he 'stays the course' and all the rest of that rot. I can see now the subliminal brilliance of that message - all the crap about being a 'strong leader' and positioning himself as someone who never backs down, etc., etc.

There are some people able to make a 180 and change their complete worldview based upon the evidence in front of them. The ones that do, like Robert and Marie, impress me very much. I remember when Arianna Huffington was a conservative and starting to write columns, and I remember thinking, "God, you're so smart and thoughtful - can't you see that this is a load of crap?" And the next thing I knew, she was a liberal! Now, I don't always agree with her about everything, but I will never fail to be impressed with how she took an analytical look at the facts and changed her position accordingly. That takes cojones.

The people who are hanging on to this contradictory and illogical view of Bush and Co are like people after a shipwreck clinging to a shard of wood, trying to stay afloat. What they are trying to do is to avoid drowning their concept of themselves.

I think the only way people like that will turn around is for enough conservative leaders to condemn the actions of the White House so they will feel like they have permission. Once it is the 'official' position of enough high-profile conservatives, I believe they will jump on board, but that's what it's going to take.

cakreiz said...

The 'hunter' v. 'farmer' dichotomy was interesting- I've always loved toying with these kinds of thoughts. When you set up the dichotomy, something else jumped to my mind. I thought of risk-taking entrepreneurs (hunters) versus hourly employees (farmers). What do you think?

Alicia Morgan said...

I definitely think that entrepreneurism is a hunter trait. It boils down to safety vs. taking a chance.

If you are a hunter, 'safety' means starvation. Literally. If you sit under your pile of brush and don't go after your animal. you will not eat. So a risk-taking nature is mandatory for survival in a hunter. Even when 'good sense' tells you that the animal could hurt or eat you instead, you still have to go for it.

A farmer, on the other hand, does best when he abides by the rules already in place. If he runs off after something that looks promising, he risks missing a step in the farming process and losing his crop. You can't eliminate any step in that process and succeed.