George Sarant

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Much of the rancor one sees in political life is basically rooted in emotion, and therefore irrational in its fundamental state. Ideology stems from the same root, which is also not rational, and hence the more ideological things become the less reason prevails and the more susceptible people become to nonsense claims, usually about the other “side.”  Now since the response is emotional it is also personal, which frequently involves projecting personal concerns or deficiencies out onto others, or society. That being the case it can never be ameliorated as long as that false understanding prevails, and so such people are never happy, and seemingly always angry about something someone else is doing. 

There have been many academic studies purporting to explain irrational political behavior, but it is always ends up as characterizing only the right, thus betraying the left-wing bias of their world view, especially in fields like psychology. For while there is an emotional basis for ideology, it applies to both sides, and in fact there is arguably more intense emotion on the left. This is evidenced in the remarks of an actress suggesting that the new President hates “foreigners” among other things, irrespective of the fact that he is married to one, thus attacking a yahoo straw man that does not exist.  It was a perfect example of an emotional argument making absolutely no sense. The angry response was also beneath the dignity of a President, along the lines of: you attacked me so I’m going to attack you.

Nevertheless, the emotional component is far more prevalent among those on the left. They are forever trying to shut up and silence anything they don’t like, or preventing others from speaking. Failing this they will attempt to organize boycotts that never gain any support, and indeed often provoke a reaction that is the opposite of their intent. They will also threaten and blacklist, i.e. entertainers who have the temerity to try and appear at a presidential inauguration. If they can’t get their way directly they will try and get in indirectly, i.e. by trying to boycott advertisers on a medium they dislike. It is true that corporations have folded with this kind of pressure from the left, though whether that will continue in the age of Trump is another question. There is thus a disturbing totalitarian proclivity to shut others down, cause them to lose business, or even to ruin their lives. 

Surveys also show that those on the left are three time more likely than those on the right to “defriend” someone on Facebook over political matters. The reason for this disparity stems from a world view, unique to the left; one that believes that all aspects of life have a “political” dimension, and are therefore fair game for political action. That vast array of activities and circumstances that exist for most people in the private sphere are an inconvenience for them. If something is not perceived as political they will politicize it, and obsessed with symbolism, they will seek removal of the most innocuous  item that offends their sensibilities, even if totally innocent of their mischaracterization. 

This does not necessarily apply to true “liberals,” at least to the extent that they are true to liberal principles regarding freedom of speech and thought, although they are more likely to cave into the hard left when it comes to unreasonable demands. But this totalitarian tendency to threaten or force others to behave or think a certain way or eliminate what offends their sensibilities has to be vigorously resisted. Failure to do so undermines the legitimacy of  liberalism itself. 

Thus the more ideological the perceptions the more emotional and irrational the attitude the outlook and behavior. This does not characterize all emotional responses to things, i.e. empathizing with suffering, a swell of patriotic feelings, listening to music, etc. but rather emotional reactions that underly ideology and that are political in nature. Anyone whose world view leaves them constantly miserable and compelled to make political statements needs to engage in some honest reflection as to why they believe what they believe with such intensity, and the consequences it has for their personal life. It means perhaps recognizing that personal needs are being projected out onto society. Finally it means examining why political perceptions are so intense, and how they can cloud what truly exists in the present moment. Quo vadis.

Written by georgesarant

January 21, 2017 at 7:14 PM


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50 years ago this day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and this fact has been much in the news. I remember the day well, as does everyone who was alive at the time. For those who weren’t, I won’t offer the sort of reminiscences that are ubiquitous at present, but rather explore some aspects of the man and his legacy, as well the experience of those decades. This compels us to consider the phenomenon of fresh memories of an event half a century ago, as well as its continued presence across that span of time. This has happened before, though not frequently. For example, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were able to recall the American Revolution fifty years later. The Civil War was vividly etched in the national consciousness for the generations who experienced it, so that living veterans were ceremoniously reconciled fifty years later.

We think we live in times of rapid change, but 1963 is still part of the broad national experience, whereas in 1963 the decades back to 1913 were remote, and change was far more pronounced during that period. in other words the world of 1913 is much further away from 1963 than the latter is from 2013. For following 1913 the great shocks of the century manifested themselves. Just a year later the most seminal event in modern history began, namely World War I, or the “Great War,” as it was known before World War II. The latter was but a consequence of the preceding war, if not a continuation of it. In the world of 1913 Europe was at the pinnacle of its power, while America was still a relative backwater, though emerging as a world power. The old European civilization totally collapsed as a consequence of WWI, and its repercussions are still being felt today. Its former glory was gone forever, following an unbelievably costly mass slaughter over four years of pointless war. By the end of World War II the continent was completely exhausted.

John F. Kennedy served gallantly in the second war, and then went on to the political career we are all still familiar with. Kennedy was never a man of the left, despite subsequent claims. He was a political moderate; Hubert Humphrey was the “liberal” candidate in 1960. JFK would have some difficulty fitting in with today’s Democratic party given that, among other things, he did not raise taxes but cut them, and ran to the right of Nixon on defense in the general election. The Kennedy family “liberal” tradition really began with Bobby, when he was radicalized in the late 1960s, and then continued with Teddy. The notion that JFK was some sort of liberal is simply a myth sustained by those who have an interest in maintaining it. Another myth is the notion that somehow “right wing hate” brought about his assassination, when in fact he was killed by a dedicated Communist. Following his death endless speculation began about whether or not Oswald acted alone. The preponderant evidence suggests that he did, notwithstanding various conspiracy theories. and in truth the assassin was an early prototype of the “lone wolf” killer we have become all too familiar with in our own time. Indeed we can see how much more plausible the notion of a lone killer is today than we could back then, when it was too hard to believe that the great could be brought down by an insignificant, (but for the assassination), nonentity.

 JFK came into office after an extremely close (and possibly fraudulent) election victory, but so charmed the nation that he was very popular across the board at the time of his death. He was a very appealing man, but one wonders how he would have fared in today’s media world. Would his reckless behavior and chronic infidelity have remained secret? Or his compromised physical condition? Would his human frailty have been apparent?  In those days the press was far more deferential and protective of the presidency, in a way that is unimaginable today. It is also rare that you see anyone with his aristocratic bearing today. For he was a man of his times, a product of the years he lived, as well as his father’s ambition. He is not a transcendent figure, in the sense of being outside of time, but rather a man who was in his prime half a century ago. Some of his characteristics would not translate well today, and whether that says something good or bad about our own time, is up to the reader.