Sunday, August 31, 2008

On conservative values: the PT article by Jesse Prinz, PhD

I was particularly struck by an article on a Psychology Today blog about the particular values of conservatives which liberals have trouble understanding. I guess I have been reading the New York Times while skipping Safire and Kristol for far too long to have any idea of the existence of these values, much less any understanding to why they are so important.

According to the article these conservative values are: purity, respect for authority, and loyalty to the in-group.

The last one first. This is a morality straight from the savanna (or jungle). I.e. to survive you had to trust in people around you and these were your family and clan. And true, on the savanna, another human group could be out to harm you, at least before you harm them. In modern times without daily enemies to fight, this has morphed into loyalty your own town, city, state, or country. Or more ominously, your own race or religion. I would have thought we would have moved beyond this in a modern world. It reeks of xenophobia, racism and discrimination. But conservatives see this as a paramount value. I personally think it has unfortunately to do with this new fundamentalist Christianity or evangelicals. Mainline Protestants and Catholics seemed to have more compassion for the poor and others outside of their own circle. And if Buddhism was the national religion it definitely wouldn't be this way. Buddhists believe in striving for compassion for all, and explicitly not just the in-group.

Respect for authority. Okay, I might buy this. Let's not have anarchy, but still, burning the flag: what's the big deal? Okay, it's a symbol of the country, so what. It is small minds that equate burning the flag with anything other than someone's protest of something he/she feels is wrong with the country. It's not like the old days, where America was some weak and fledgling country which needed some symbol to rally behind like a flag. America is wealthy and powerful still. You burn a flag -- one you bought yourself with your own money --, we will make another to sell to you for you to burn if you like.

Purity. I'm afraid I completely don't get this one. Since I've never sat through church indoctrination (and never will, thank the gods), it makes no sense to me. I suppose I've always had what others would call 'impure thoughts' -- I guess these are supposed to be thoughts which if acted on would get you shut out of heaven's gate. (Or does just having the thoughts make you a bad Christian?) But those rules are so arbitrary. Like, okay, since I'm a guy and I like guys, every few seconds on the beach I guess I'm having impure thoughts. Actually thankfully, it has never occurred to me that this is the case. And only now, trying to put myself into a poor devout Christian's head, would I have had a complex about it. How sad to be concerned about such cultural relics. To be indoctrinated at a young age is almost a tragic thing. I resolve to have pity and compassion for such unfortunates. Okay, let me reconsider that later.

A couple bonus topics...

Now, I always understood economic conservatism. This was the basically selfish idea that government shouldn't spend my hard earned money. And one might have expected that I would become an economic conservative and a proponent of small government in my middle age. It hasn't happened yet, and I don't think it ever will.

Actually, so long as everyone as wealthy or as poor as I am is taxed equally, I think it's fine. Billionaire Warren Buffett himself feels he isn't being taxed enough. I agree.

And finally symbolism. I was so amazed at the damn American flags fluttering in the wind at the Republican convention. What does it mean? Is there anything behind those flags, except to hit people over the head with the idea that supposedly Republicans love their country more (but are too stupid, stingy or lazy to do anything to make it better for anyone outside of their own wealthy in-group). Have I become too cynical? The flag to me is weapon used by the Republicans against me. Screw the damn Republicans and their damn flags. It's as if maybe some idiot will vote based on which convention had more flags. Well, that could be. I guess the Dems will have to learn to live without winning that idiot's vote.

No comments: