Saturday, February 11, 2012

Have You Bothered Watching The Dysfunctional GOP Hate Fest This Year?


No, not many other people did either. Lucky C-Span doesn't care about ratings. This was like George Orwell's "two minutes of hate" expanded for the counterrevolution that the Republican Party has now fully embraced. There's been plenty of hate, of course-- but also some realization that hate alone won't propel whichever battered nominee the GOP winds up with, to the winner's circle. "The incredibly divisive Republican presidential primary," Benjy Sarlin reminds us, "has taken its toll on the mood at this year’s conference. Conversations with attendees tell the same story: none of the candidates has them all that stoked about the next 10 months." In his brilliant book Agenda For A New Economy, economist David Korten has the perfect explanation for Republican despondency... even without listening to Ann Coulter's failed rah rah bullshit.

The propagandists of Empire tell us that we are by nature a flawed species incapable of caring and cooperation, that we would destroy ourselves but for Empire's controlling, organizing hand. Recent findings from science tell us a different and more enabling story: a desire to cooperate and serve is hardwired into the human brain.

Scientists who use advanced imaging technology to study brain function report that the healthy human brain is wired to reward caring, cooperation, and service. Merely thinking about another person experiencing harm triggers the same reaction in our brain as that of a mother who sees distress on her baby's face.

Conversely, the act of cooperation and generosity triggers the brain's pleasure center to release the same hormone that's released chocolate or engage in good sex. In addition to producing a sense of bliss, it benefits our health by boosting our immune system, reducing our heart rate, and preparing us to approach and soothe. Positive emotions such as compassion produce similar benefits.

By contract, negative emotions suppress our immune system, increase our heart rate, and prepare us to fight or flee. [This explains why Romney's vicious attack ads that have carpet-bombed his opponents are making Republicans ill enough so that they are starting to turn on him.]

These findings are consistent with the pleasure that most of us experience being a member of an effective team or extending an uncompensated helping hand to another being.

It is entirely logical. If our brains were not wired for life in community, our species would have expired long ago. We have an instinctual desire to protect the group, including it's weakest and most vulnerable members-- its children. Behavior contrary to this positive norm is an indicator or social and psychological dysfunction. Caring, cooperation, and service are both the healthy norm and wonderful tonics-- and they are free.

The inevitable question, of course: is conservatism a pathology that needs to be dealt with medically? In short, for those who missed CPAC, are conservatives crazy? Let me turn to Korten again, because he goes right there-- and in no uncertain terms: "The lower, more narcissistic, orders of consciousness are perfectly normal for young children, but they become sociopathic in adults and are easily encouraged and manipulated by advertisers and demagogues. Even more tragic for humanity, people who have been thwarted on the path to maturity are those most likely to engage in the ruthless competition for positions of unaccountable power. ... The more mature consciousness recognizes that true liberty is not a license to act in disregard of others; rather it necessarily comes with a responsibility to protect and serve the larger we."

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At 6:53 AM, Blogger Joyce L. Arnold said...

Every year I check out CPAC, from a safe distance and only for occasional, very short periods of time. That's all I can stand, but also all that's needed, because it's always just a rehash of the same agenda and talking points.

Korten's analysis is very interesting. I haven't read the book, so he may very well get into this, but I'd guess there's a good possibility that most people who identify with what can be heard at CPAC, at least those at grassroots level, actually do experience a desire for and pleasure in "caring and cooperation." Perhaps it can be understood as selective in nature: "I feel good about caring and cooperation and service for people like me."

That's not to say there aren't those who operate at the "lower, more narcissistic, orders of consciousness," of course, at top and grassroots levels. I just find it interesting to consider how the "narcissistic" message from whoever is one stage is filtered through the minds of many who, at home, regularly participate in cooperative, caring actions.


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