Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sandbox Rules

Dave Neiwert of Orcinus began a series this week, "The Politics of the Personal," over at Campaign for America's Future. Part 1 describes his journey from growing up in Idaho in a Republican working class family, to rejecting that ideology. But there's enough caution to go around for all:
A basic realization took shape, perhaps typical of the age, but it has persisted: even though I had always believed (and still do to some extent) upper-class and urban liberals are prone to indulging a paper-thin compassion that more resembles a parlor game rationalized with a tortuous intellectualism, it was also clear that conservatives, conversely, were fond of wrapping themselves in my old-fashioned, working-class values (along with the American flag, of course) even as they systematically undermined the ability of ordinary, working-class people to make a decent living and obtain equal opportunity.

[. . .]

I simultaneously came to almost instinctively mistrust ideologues of all stripes because it seems that to them, ideas are more important than people. This observation arose first out of personal experience, since ideologues are often likely to reject friendships with those who don't think like them or fit their ideologies. I might be able to maintain a relationship with an ideologue (right or left) for awhile, but inevitably, they would reject me because I didn't fit the pure mold they had in mind. People who disagree with them or challenge them assault their egos and are placed out of their personal realms. This dynamic – valuing ideas above people -- played out on the larger stage as well; indeed, it’s virtually a guarantee that when ideologues act out their ideologies, in both national politics and everyday interpersonal dealings, ordinary people in real life are harmed.
You see it at both ends of the ideological spectrum, as I've written myself after encountering liberal activists who wouldn't give pro-life Democrats the time of day:
It has been obvious to me for some time that the further right and the further left one goes in the political spectrum, the more alike conservatives and liberals become. They don't think the same things, but they begin thinking the same way: rigid, dogmatic and intolerant. They just don't see themselves that way: "You must mean those people."
Dave, who has followed the "eliminationist" trend in America for some time, also wanders, as I have, into exploring the mindset(s) behind the American Right. Dave, Digby and others have been puzzling over the coverage of Hillary Clinton's appearance at Wellesley -- for playing the "gender card" -- by the boys' club that unashamedly gushes over their favorite candidates' manliness. As Digby puts it:
Indeed, the entire Republican campaign strategy can be said to be one big gender card --- the only people they believe matter in this country are delicate, insecure creatures who are so sensitive that they have to be pampered and pandered to like a bunch of overfed princes who like to play cowboy and don't want to share their favorite binky.
Even more fascinating is Orcinus' Sara Robinson's take on fundamentalist/Right Wing Authoritarian ideology that traps people "somewhere around the age of five or six":
They also have to give up on adult-level emotional functioning (which, as I mentioned, may be welcomed as something of a relief after adult life has blown up under you a few times). Authoritarian followers crave someone who will keep things ordered and safe, someone who will provide and protect and set firm rules and boundaries; someone all-powerful and all-knowing who can teach you right from wrong and keep the harsh parts of the world at bay. Someone, in short, who looks like Daddy looked when you were about five years old.

RWAs would far rather curl up in Daddy's lap -- even if it means abandoning reason and taking the occasional spanking -- than try to deal with the world by themselves, on adult terms. This is also why RWA family and community relationships (as Lakoff has explained) are necessarily hierarchical. These people still need parents around, because they don't feel emotionally safe without the presence of a strong authority figure. Egalitarian relationships terrify them, because there's nobody in charge to make the rules and set the boundaries that keep people from hurting each other. And that's damned scary, because (as masters of projection) they're quite sure that everybody else in the whole world is also still five years old and playing by sandbox rules. Without a playground supervisor in charge, they know for sure that somebody will get hurt.
It takes us full-circle to the Bush joke that went around the Net awhile back. As Digby put it:
Avedon Carol snares a great quote that finally cleared something up for me: why does Bush always sound like he's talking to five year olds?
"He speaks to the audience as if they're idiots. I think the reason he does that is because that's the way these issues were explained to him." - Graydon Carter
All well and good. Now, what do we do with this information that will help us set this country right again? How do we elect leaders who will lift us out of the sandbox in Iraq and the political sandbox Washington has become?


Gordon Smith said...

Nice post, UB. I love that Carter quote about Bush, and I've used it as a mental filter whenever forced to listen to the President.

Comparing the left and right's rigidity and intolerance is helpful I think. How to be as principled as possible and as tolerant/flexible as possible is a difficult balance to strike.

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