Monday, August 29, 2005

Political mess is a family crisis

The following was inspired by a post at Distance, where a version of it is also posted. It's admittedly speculative, but I think it suggests things that could in fact be scientifically tested...

Today's sociopolitical situation in the US is a lot like having a very weak parent (the Dems & moderate Repubs) to turn to when a strong parent (the right-wingers & corporate cronies) is brutalizing you.

In the past, such conditions would've sparked the growth of third parties, but corrupt electoral laws and widespread self-absorption today make such parties very difficult things to get off the ground. It doesn't help that the courts and government watchdog agencies have largely been corrupted, social services are underfunded, and the wingnuts are constantly screaming that liberals are "traitors" (or worse). That kind of atmosphere is much like that found when an abused child tries to run to an outside adult, only to have the door slammed in his face because the parent has already passed around word that the child is "a troublemaker" or just "making it up."

The right wingers often decry the common focus on self-improvement, therapy, psychological exploration, and the like, but they seem to be benefiting from it at least in the short-term. I'm sure, if such a study could be done, we'd find that those who are most likely to seek therapy & otherwise try to deal with their past are also most likely to be of a progressive bent culturally. In effect, such self-exploration takes progressives out of the loop ... but only temporarily. Often, they return with a vengeance to use the knowledge thus gained to help others, b/c it almost invariably results in finding common ground with lots of other people struggling with the effects of this dysfunctional society.

Our best hope is that we can forestall the right-wing agenda long enough to give a new generation of self-aware and socially/ecologically connected people a chance to act.

The right-wingers don't care about facing their demons -- in fact, they tend to deny they exist internally, thereby projecting them onto everyone else. They, however, are probably more likely than progressively-raised folks to have actually experienced serious trauma during childhood, not b/c conservatives are by nature more vicious than progressives (they're not), but b/c conservatives have a much greater tendency to keep other people out of "family business" and are more likely to see children as being subordinate to their parents. That attitude sometimes approaches paranoia the farther toward the right fringe you go, especially when it gets wrapped up in supposedly literal religious proscriptions, social isolation, and lack of education.

When abuse does exist in such an environment, it's much more likely to be hidden for longer -- and thereby have more severe impact -- than when children are raised "by a village" and seen as having rights separate from but dependent on their parents. In the latter case, openness gives the kids and stressed parents somewhere to turn and tends to minimize (although not entirely prevent) abuse.

Today's politics represent these two attitudes writ large: A "go it alone" view that cloaks itself in morality while projecting its pain onto other countries and segments of society and a "reach out" view that seeks to engage the outside and learn from it while accepting the real cost of our history to ourselves and others.

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Nice post, Jay! Very insightful.

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