Countless times over the past year I’ve been in conversation with friends or family and the point has been raised that it seemed, in casual observation, that the Left was acting like the Right and vice versa. Amid the myriad points laid before me I routinely had to agree.
In so many ways right now, culturally, the Left is now the Right and the Right is now the Left.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this and exploring potential causalities. There’s no shortage of them of course.
At its core, as far as I can tell, is the dogmatism with which humans are conditioned to approach their narrative driven experience of life. I routinely make the point in my writings that religion hasn’t left our species, it’s simply mutated into the most opportunistic form of desired consumption. Namely, in our time, national governments and more and more, the institution of Science itself are the new Religions of many.
Now that the Left, at large, has a religion to which it can adhere, it suddenly becomes vigilant in its interpretations and desire for conformity. They now find themselves in the historically Right position of conserving established institutions and lashing out at those who would be so brash as to question their beliefs or have independent thought.
To take this a step deeper it’s important to understand the conservative mind, psychologically.
Many often interpret that conservatism finds it roots in fear. Fear of openness. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown.
This is the wrong diagnosis. Fear does not drive conservatism. Disgust does.
The conservative mind has a high disgust sensitivity to disorderliness. Most of those who naturally lean toward Conservatism are also high in conscientiousness and are attracted to order. When they encounter disorder, uncleanliness, chaos, it’s not fear they experience, it’s disgust.
Those who lean naturally toward Liberalism, are generally high in openness and find themselves invigorated by chaos as it’s the appropriate canvas to which they can apply their inherent creativity.
Naturally, all people are not in one of these camps or the other. It’s an environment of irreducible complexity and nearly all people experience some traits across both spectrums throughout their lives. It’s a moving target. For this reason, you can find tremendous hypocrisy on both sides of the Right/Left paradigm and that same hypocrisy manifests amongst individuals as well.
So, what is aggravating this balance so greatly this year?
I read this amazing study from some years ago. It really should get more attention.
Please read if you have the time. If you don’t, it basically states that the higher the prevalence of infectious diseases within a given population the higher the probability of totalitarian political attitudes.
Amazing right? It makes sense though, doesn’t it?
When you perceive a threat to yourself and your loved ones your natural response is to put borders around everything. To protect them. You have evolved to behave in this precise way.
Now suddenly, legislator’s totalitarian strategies to mitigate pathogen risks are not only justified to them personally, but they are willfully consumed by those upon which they thrust them, even when there is no empirical evidence to suggest that those strategies are doing any good. Even when there IS empirical evidence to demonstrate that those strategies are causing harm.
We need to guard ourselves from these tendencies. Push against them before they devolve into barbarity, which historically has often been the outcome.
We have no lack of historical examples of what happens when we adopt totalitarian attitudes.
Nazi Germany is the classic example though there are so many others. There’s a brilliant lesson in the Nazi experience.
Germany, in the 1930s was at the height of civility. It wasn’t from the depths of a chaotic Hell from which that nightmare was conceived.
A high degree of conscientiousness leads to civilized societies. Most wouldn’t argue that.
However, follow that psychological path we explored above and see where it leads you.
High conscientiousness leads to civilized societies.
Civilized societies lead to high degrees of order.
Excess order leads to a high degree of disgust when things become disorderly.
Barbarity is just as likely to result of excess civility and order as it is to result from a lack there of.
Now that’s a terrifying thought.