I’ve gotten into politics lately, having recently published a story in our companion publication, NUVO, about Chris Mooney’s new book, The Republican Brain. Normally, I try to avoid politics. To my mind it’s slowing down real progress when reckoning with climate change and the speed at which our habitat is deteriorating.
Plus, like a lot of people, I don’t like to be pigeonholed as one thing or another. In the most recent election for my township, I voted for a Republican, a Democrat, and an Independent. See, when I’m voting for my town council, I’m voting for my neighbors. I might disagree with a candidate on an issue, but I know the candidates personally and know they have my neighborhood’s larger interests at heart.
The problem, as I see it, is that politics is too abstract. It’s one thing to vote for your neighbors, assessing their political party as one aspect of the overall equation. It’s another to vote for a larger-scale office. The further you extrapolate outward – mayor, representative, senator, governor, president – the more abstract it becomes.
People become mythological fabrications fueled by marketing companies, supported by lobbyists and soft, corporate money.
The compelling conclusion of Mooney’s book is that conservatives and liberals actually have different brains.
You might say conservatives are from Venus, liberals are from Mars.
Mooney explores politics, ideology and human behavior by describing a series of traits. Conservatives are generally hierarchical in their outlook, believing “society should be highly structured and ordered, including based on gender, class, and racial differences.” Conservatives are also individualist in their philosophy, believing “we are all responsible for our own fates in life and people should be rewarded for their choices and punished for their faults and that government should not step in to prevent this.”
Liberals, being more egalitarian and communitarian in nature, believe the opposite.
Hey, viva la difference, right? Isn’t a little friction good for the culture? Disturbingly, over the past few decades, hierarchical-individualistic conservatives don’t trust science. And, even more disturbing, the more educated the conservative, the more sure they are that science is untrustworthy. That means there are a whole lot of people who disbelieve climate change is human-caused, so they aren’t responding to signs of our impending disaster.
You liberals? Beware of the “enlightenment syndrome”. As Mooney points out numerous times in his book, liberals fail on many levels — they’re wishy-washy, over-intellectual, too nuanced — but their biggest gaff is believing that reason will win out. That if we just lay out the right set of facts, conservatives will see the light.
Mooney posits — and I agree — we need each other. Perhaps there was even a time when these two persuasions were part of the same brain. Back when we were more in harmony with nature itself.
Compelled by artifices like elections and political affiliations, we’ve been steered by marketing geniuses to inhabit one house over another.
So here’s what I’m looking for in the coming election.
A liberal who believes in science and understands that we are on the cusp of the REAL Apocalypse, which is the slow but certain unraveling of our ecosystem’s balance, and that we will soon spin out of control if we don’t profoundly reduce fossil fuel consumption, slow down consumerism, eliminate waste and own up to our true cost of impact on the planet.
But what that liberal has to be is a conservative: a decisive, single-minded, stubborn and courageous person who will take this science and develop policy and initiatives that seize this most vulnerable moment of human existence and transform it into lasting change.
Anybody out there?
Alas, if someone fitting this description emerges, chances are they will be labeled the Antichrist.