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While genuine conservatives seek to retain the status quo, fake conservatives demand change; while the genuine use persuasion, the fake resort to force. By William Marvel
Psychological factors predispose people to their political viewpoints. That, at least, is the assertion of four researchers who published ?Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition? in the Psychological Bulletin a year or two ago. In an examination of conservative thought, they concluded that people all over the world become politically conservative in response to a dogmatic intolerance of ambiguity, a desire to avoid uncertainty, a need for cognitive closure, and as a means of managing their own terror.
That list of traits helps to explain my own rather eclectic philosophy, which includes numerous symptoms of classic conservatism. I might blame my own dislike of uncertainty and ambiguity for many of those symptoms, including an obsession for organization, preparation, and certainty in both communications and expectations. I dread debt, despise deadbeats and moochers, and don?t like change. I value personal privacy and individual liberty, prefer less government, and harbor distrust for the welfare state, although I view the welfare state as including both corporate welfare and many of the vast legions who retire on the public treasury.
The reference to managing terror inadvertently suggests the obvious cause of our own country's sudden lunge to the right, as fearful citizens seek protection from an external stimulation to terror. That does not represent a true conservative revival, though, for in most cases it seems not to include the economic caution that helps to define conservatism. The urban flight that has swollen our rural community since 2001 has instead sustained an alarming willingness to spend money, if town and school meetings are any indication.
Neither do most of the Republicans who claim conservative credentials really deserve them anymore. The enormous prodigality of the war in Iraq, the unprecedented increase in government bureaucracy, the readiness to sacrifice privacy and liberty for the illusion of safety, and the unprovoked invasion (and chauvinistic reconstruction) of sovereign nations all violate fundamental conservative principles.
One psychological characteristic that these faux conservatives do appear to share with the genuine brand is a tendency toward dogmatic belief. The same intolerance that avoids ambiguity by adherence to firm political doctrine is also attracted to the most rigidly literal explanations for the natural world, which is probably why the most fervent neoconservatives of my acquaintance also subscribe to relatively fundamentalist versions of their respective religious denominations. Those Judeo-Christian extremists pursue their apocalyptic visions with the same fervor as their counterparts in Islam, and each insures the proliferation of the other.
Dogmatic belief serves such fanatics as well in religion as in politics because they find unanswered questions so discomforting. In both realms, they soothe their psyches with an evangelical certainty, crusading against infidels Christian or Moslem (as their incidental allegiance dictates) and measuring morality on the basis of blind faith.
Ironically, that unswerving devotion to doctrine cultivates ultimate immorality as it replaces reason. The local history teacher who deliberately distorts historical fact in order to support an invalid analogy between our wars against Hitler and Hussein betrays his intellectual discipline because it is more important to attract faithful followers than to remain true to his vocation. The pietistic politician who accepts the most frivolous and faulty evidence as an excuse to launch his crusade, regardless of the disservice to his constituents and all mankind, does so because he accords greater loyalty to pulpit and party than to truth. Only in degree do those focused fanatics vary from suicide bombers or their recruiters, and the overall effect of their fanaticism yields equal calamity.
These are not conservatives intent on nurturing the status quo and preferring only the most gradual change. They seek to foment abrupt change, and to do so through the medium of violence and compulsion. From Afghanistan to Austin, in burnoose or business suit, they constitute nothing less than the most radical and dangerous extremists on earth. Before we can effectively combat terrorists who would assail us from afar, we must first quell the comparable element that abides among us, and presumes to lead our nation.
William Marvel is a freelance writer in New Hampshire and served in the U.S. Army from 1968-1971. His many books include the award-winning Andersonville: The Last Depot and Lee?s Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox. You can send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Actually, the problem is that 'conservatives' nowadays are defending the status qou of the Clinton era.
-------------------- 1. "After an hour I wasn't feeling anything so I decided to take another..."
2. "We were feeling pretty good so we decided to smoke a few bowls..."
3. "I had to be real quiet because my parents were asleep upstairs..."
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