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Monday, October 17, 2005
Being the reasonable one has its drawbacks
Remember when our suspicions were confirmed about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rove, Rice, Wolfowitz, Bremer, Bolton, Libby, DeLay, Frist. Limbaugh, O’Reilley, Coulter, Robertson, Santorum, Lott [the list goes on ad nauseum]…?
It was a couple of years ago. Researchers at Berkley published a paper entitled Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition*. The paper discussed the results of a study funded by the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institute of Health. Various newspapers reported on the study; various conservative talk-show hosts condemned it.
In short, the study concluded that conservatism is a pathological condition, rooted in "fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity."
Liberals -- still coming to grips with our conservative-dealt bitch slapping -- enjoyed a brief ‘what’d-I-tell-you’ moment. Feeling vindicated, we nonetheless understood there would be no tangible pay-off (men in white coats would not be showing up at the Rove home, for instance).
The part of the study that interests me for the purpose of this post, however, is what those conclusions imply about liberals.
If the conservative mind is associated with rigidity, then the liberal mind is associated with flexibility. We have a talent for holding in our heads, many – and sometimes opposing – notions. Our more mutable and inquisitive nature is our strength – the engine that drives intellectual evolution. But as is usually the case, strengths are also weaknesses.
"… Liberals might be less intolerant of ambiguity,” authors of the study said, “but they may be less decisive, less committed, less loyal."
This explains why political rallies organized by liberals often feel more like liberal-issues-a-thons, with booths, banners, leaflets and entertainment for every lefty cause ever championed.
A recent anti-war rally – the purpose of which was to protest the American invasion and occupation of Iraq – drew everything from anti animal-cruelty activists to free-Tibet action groups, all with speeches and pamphlets at the ready.
Don’t get me wrong, I tend to support these causes and – like most mentally fluid liberals – can see the interconnectedness of all these issues. But our inability to focus our attention on one thing is paralyzing us. It has the same mind-numbing effect as one of those convoluted flyers you see hanging up on the co-op bulletin board, where every thought the author has about the topic he’s trying to sell is crammed onto one unreadable page. Liberals are the collective human embodiment of the muddy flyer that is so inclusive as to be inscrutable and -- as a result -- un-actionable. It’s bad marketing.
We need to focus and -- if only for the purpose of the immediate campaign – block out the inevitable addendums, postscripts and cross-references that come to mind.
Otherwise, my dear liberal brethren, we look like disorganized idiots. Are we here to impeach George Bush or liberate Palestine? Let’s make up our fucking collective mind!
* See the paper: http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/07/22_politics.shtml
Posted by Kay
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