Saturday, 30 June 2012

30/6 Why Convservatives seem nuts and why their reign may be over for now.

At any given moment in modern history those in leadership are aged 40-60 years, If we look back to politics around the time when they were children we find they would have been exposed to rhetoric that if not directly regurgitated maintains the same emotional resonance on issues of the day. What I'm describing here applies to not only to those who enter political institutions but also voters, and not only those who the enter the institutions of piety but the laity too. So for the purposes of this article I refer to those in leadership as those who are in the generation that shapes political discourse from the top which are generally those age between 40-60 because these are the people who are in senior levels in the institutions of power.

People also tend to latch on to the first ideas that they are exposed to and combined with one of the most profound flaws in the way people develop their understanding of everything, confirmation bias. "Give me the child until he is seven and I'll give you the man" - St. Francis Xavier. This is because we tend to remember things that confirm the model of reality that we have constructed and discard contradictions - it is not a conscious act and if you mention it people will often deny it because they are not aware that is what they do. It is like blinking, we do it regularly and usually have no idea when it happens.

So how does this play out in reality? Lets start with what today's republicans learned as children about the world they lived in.

From the later 1940's and through the '50's we see children exposed to the political conversations on the radio, tv and conversation between and with parents about Communists in Korea, the Atomic age and the iron Curtain, Duck and Cover Civil defence drills and the cold war or the McCarthy-ist communist witch-hunts.

All this included anti-communist rhetoric that vilified not only communists but socialists too. These kids grew up exposed to the idea that those on the political left were godless evil zealots bent on persecution of God fearing people. This led to changing the national motto from "E pluribus unum" to "In God We Trust" and the addition of "under God" to the pledge of allegiance during the 1950's. Later neo-conservatives would claim that liberal values have failed and begin advance an agenda of advancing American interest in part though war and its galvanising effect on the population. At the moment we see some of this rhetoric being regurgitated yet again.

Along came the '60's, and those who were in the leadership years of their lives grew up during a time when political discourse included strong defences of left leaning political discourse. This meant that many in the electorate were conditioned by the discourse of their childhood to embrace the political left and voted Democratic. Giving JFK the chance to announce "We choose to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard.". The creation of NASA lifted the sights of people around the world and it lifted the US economy through innovation. Still the communist threat remained and the Cuba missile crisis. but for many there were huge questions about authority of the state, civil rights, sit-ins and Vietnam.

Then came the '70s and Nixon's generation who grew up during the great depression were pre-programmed to be concerned by government spending and high taxation. Because they were exposed to depression era discourse about high unemployment, high taxes including the 94% bracket brought in by Roosevelt to pay for job creation. And they talked about lazy ass dope smokers bums then too. This led Nixon to cut funding form the Apollo program. The campaign to cut Apollo started in the churches who were concerned the exercise of reason and really cool science encouraging people to think for themselves, and with that they were abandoning the false promises and exaggerated claims of the church.
Roll-on the '80's, and the leadership grew up during the '30s and '40s this time was characterised by the more depression era rhetoric, rise of fascism in Germany and Japan's war in the pacific. Their was also widespread debate of eugenics - which led to practices which did not stop in the US until the '70s. This was Ronald Reagan's generation.

Moving on to the '90s the leadership grew up in post-war '40s and '50s, A time of high unemployment as troops came home and looked for work in a economy that had many jobs filled by women. It this was an economy shaped by Roosevelt and Keynes. The GI Bill allowed many returned service men to train study in technical and industrial fields which led to the industrial boom of the 50's and 60's. With the end of WW II came great optimism. This was Bill Clinton's generation.

In the '00s the leadership grew up during the later '50s to '60s. The cold war was in full swing. The 50s saw a "march of communism" in the Korean war and the "police action" to keep the communist Chinese out of Korea ending in a standstill and the creation of North Korea, the Cuba missile crisis. Later there was Vietnam. This was GW Bush's generation. Since the Soviet threat had evaporated during Reagan's term Not having an Evil Empire was a bit inconvenient, but some radical muslim funda mentalists unwittingly came to the rescue by flying planes into buildings, add some propaganda and you have yourself a whole new demon to fight, problem solved. CIA did their best to say”Hey Prez, check out these bad ass assholes. We strongly recommend that you let us stop them” only to get blown off by President Potatohead who couldn't understand why they were so excited and went on holiday for the month prior to the attacks.

In the '10s the leadership grew-up during the later '60s and '70s. At time when there was reason to question government over it handling of Vietnam, optimism over the growing economy and NASA's struggle and triumph for Kennedy's dream. Nixon Presidency ends in impeachment for Watergate. And we have Democrats in the Whitehouse for now. In part because Democrats achieved impressive technological, economic and economic progress to the children of the day and now the they want an recognise the need for it in this time. This is Barack Obama's Generation.

In the '20s we may expect to see leadership from a generation that grew up in the '70 and '80s a generation that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, a time of great hope and freedom. Also the Iran-Iraq war and the Iran-Contra scandal in which the Reagan and Oliver North were caught Gun running in south America in an attend to raise funds to buy the freedom of US Citizens held captive by Iran.
In the '30s the leadership grew up in the '80's and '90's, seeing iran-contra play out in the media. The Afghan war comes to an end, Bill Clinton Brings peace to the middle east.

Today 24% of Americans under 30 have no belief in the god of the bible. As this group enters the age of leadership starting around 2025. combined with the optimistic views of those raise during the '80s means the death grip the far right have in American politics will be weakened as people sharing conservative views are replaced in the population by people who have developed strongly secular views and values. But even more quickly than that the internet is making it possible for fast change of the public dialectic because people can use search engines to explore the validity of rhetoric in the modern public debate. Lies are detected much quicker by more people. The republican performance in truth telling or even delivering rhetoric that does not come off as insane to many Americans is losing them power in the public sphere.
Perhaps because of the natural swing in the political mood of the nation and the increasingly apparent desperation in Republican rhetoric, the Republicans have chosen to try short circuit this natural dynamic with corporate money and voter suppression. Even going so far as to publicly admit that voter id laws are for the purpose of improving Mitt Romney's chances in November. It seems Republican strategy if you have no ideas - cheat.
Also evidence of their desperation is the paragraph in the Texas Republican Platform that is set to reject critical think and up hold fixed beliefs.
Those in the coming demographic of leadership embrace science critical thought, and question absolute authority. So for the next little while there is hope.
Before I finish, would should be done about the kids who are going to be taught that the Loch Ness Monster disproves Biological Evolution?

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