The Primitive Conservative Psyche

The battles against the anti-democratic Right in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere are being fought to prevent conservatives from remaking America in the image of their moral worldview.

Berkeley professor and author George Lakoff advises us to see more deeply into the psychology of this crisis. We need to understand, he writes, how the conservative belief in individual responsibility, to the exclusion of social responsibility, is based on the model of the strict-father family.

According to this model, the father’s role in the family as Decider and moral authority is required to teach kids right from wrong. Conservatives claim that father’s superior moral guidance is needed, along with physical punishment if necessary, so kids can develop the discipline to become morally responsible adults.

Why do conservatives think that father knows best? Psychoanalysis can provide insight.


Guarding the Mosque, Church, and State Divide

With popular uprisings toppling governments in the Middle East, it’s time to understand more clearly the mentality of people who can’t separate mosque and state.

It’s vital that democracy, not theocracy or new autocratic regimes, replaces corrupt governments in Egypt and Tunisia along with any others that fall to popular uprisings. The growth of democracy is a measure of human evolution. Citizens of a democracy are more likely than their counterparts in a theocracy to value reason, the rule of law, cross-cultural exchanges, tolerance, self-respect, and environmental protections.

Guarding America’s church-state divide is paramount, too. We might not be able to export the wisdom that honors the separation of church and state when we’re in danger of being overrun by a theocratic mentality in our backyard.

Inner fear may be the main influence on those Americans who can’t separate church and state. Inner fear, which is often unconscious, is a common ingredient in human nature. The fear is evident in the widespread worry, stress, and anxiety that plague the human race. Inner fear causes the concerns of modern life to become fearful preoccupations, as when concern about terrorism produces a fearful populace willing to tolerate the suppression of civil liberties.


Fear of Facts Endangers the Nation

What may be hurting our country more than anything is a thick-skulled mentality that refuses to face the facts. Many of us are more afraid of facts than of terrorists.

Sad to say, people don’t necessarily change their minds when their erroneous assumptions are corrected. A University of Michigan study found that misinformed people, particularly those loyal to their politics, rarely change their minds when exposed to corrected facts in news stories. Instead, they often become even more strongly set in their beliefs.

This restriction of intelligence may be America’s most baffling and self-destructive problem. The nation’s complex challenges won’t get solved by all the dead brains cells insisting that President Obama is foreign-born, death-panels are coming, and gun controls destroy liberty.

Why are some of us so obtuse? We tend to create an identity—our sense of ourselves as individuals and as a group or nationality—that is based on certain beliefs. Those beliefs can be religious, secular, personal, cultural, and social. Beliefs are not just mental deductions: They carry a lot of emotional baggage.