Saturday, April 02, 2005

Culture of Fear

Did Ira Chernus read Lakoff's "Moral Politics"? Or is he a regular reader of "Science and Politics" blog? Or did he get to these conclusions independently? In any way, this is a good read (hat tip - Big Brother):

Culture of Life is a Culture of Fear

The debate is not about life, it’s about CULTURE. Everyone agrees that life is good. But the United States is split by a deep cultural divide about what makes a life good. Once we bring that divide into focus, the “culture of life” side begins to look a bit more logically consistent. And those of us who oppose them begin to see more clearly just where the lines need to be drawn.


The basic question that ties together all these issues is one that is all too rarely addressed or even spoken: How should we acquire our moral values?


Basically, they are people who are afraid of uncertainty, ambiguity, and change in the realm of moral values. Their po sition is simple:

- moral values must be universal, timeless, unchanging truths
- we should receive them from religious traditions or authority figures
- once we get fixed truths, we should stick with them, no matter what


On one side of this fault line, you have people who have a traditional view of morality: Some things are always right; some things are always wrong; and if you accept a society in which that's not true, then anything becomes possible.”

That’s just what thrilled those people sitting around in Volkswagen vans, smoking pot with peace symbols. Anything becomes possible -- even a world of peace and love.

For the right-wingers, though, the idea that “anything is possible” is terrifying. Their “culture of life” is really a culture of fear. They believe that human nature is basically selfish, competitive, and aggressive, If anything is possible, who can predict what crime or evil will happen next? How can anyone feel safe? The world would be spinning out of control. We need fixed rules that come from unquestionable authority. That’s the only way to keep us all from running amok.

You can’t get that kind of certainty if you leave the rules up to human choice, the conservatives insist. People are “flip-flops.” They change their minds to suit their whims. They think with their hormones. They do all sorts of dangerous things, if we let them. That’s why we have to agree with our president, who says: “The right to life, liberty and the pur suit of happiness is not a personal opinion, but an eternal truth.” That’s why we need to believe in an eternal higher authority.


We trust that people who have their basic human needs met can learn to get along reasonably. Th e problem is not human nature. It’s a society with skewed priorities that denies so many people their basic needs.


But that’s just what the right-wingers can’t admit. It’s the “might be right” that scares them and drives them nuts. They need a “MUST be right” to feel safe, to feel that their own lives are under even minimal control.

We can’t let them inscribe their fear-driven beliefs onto our laws. No compromise on that one. And we ought to encourage them to join us in a civil discussion about the issue. All the while, though, it won’t hurt to remember that they are frightened and hurting.


Yup, and they get that way during early childhood, thus are extremely difficult to help mature fu rther once they are adults. We have to get 'em while they are still young enough to overcome the Strictfathering (Fearfathering?) at home. We have to teach them to love ambiguity and relish complexity - it is for their own good as well as for the good o f teh society.

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