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The Righteous Mind 1 - Programming Leftism at School

Jonathan Haidt's book The Righteous Mind grants keen insights into today's politics.

By Petrarch  |  September 16, 2013

Although we tend to write about politics and other social observations, Scragged occasionally does book reviews and movie reviews.  The two fit together: politics and our culture are reflected in print and visual communication.  Using someone else's story to illustrate a point is a time-honored rhetorical technique, and occasionally it's fun to use a more light-hearted approach.

Then we find a book which offers such profound insights that a "review" isn't sufficient.  The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt is such a seminal tome that instead of just a review, this volume deserves a whole series of articles as we examine Prof. Haig's insights and see how they apply to life in these United States - and elsewhere.

Rationalism vs. Emotion

We at Scragged pride ourselves on rationally and logically examining facts and applying them to current political situation.  Our Founders also prided themselves on their rationality, and the long-term effectiveness of their deep thinking speaks for itself.

Alas, modern politics seems to run mostly on emotion, with a majority plumping for "Hope and Change!" despite there being no rational, logical explanation as to how Mr. Obama's policies would make things better.  In his first term, they manifestly didn't, but America voted for him once again, thanks to four years of effusively emotional worship by an adoring media.

According to Prof. Haidt, this is not an anomaly: while human beings are distinct from the animal kingdom in their ability to reason, the belief that people can be ruled by reason is an illusion.  A long series of psychological and sociological experiments demonstrates beyond doubt that even the most rational people are, at bottom, ruled by their emotions: their reason serves not to control their actions, but instead their logical mind is used to gin up plausible-sounding reasons for doing what their emotions demanded that they do.

We see political evidence of this phenomenon in "Man on the Street" interviews, where common Obama voters express fatuous nonsense or out-and-out falsehoods as to why they voted for The One.  Even when presented with facts, their preferences remain unchanged.  That's because their voting decisions aren't rational, they're emotional, based primarily in Mr. Obama's perceived co-membership in a group with which they identify: black, young, urban, liberal, cool, you name it.  From all this fuzzy stuff was a winning electoral coalition formed, not once but twice, despite Mr. Obama's complete lack of any objective qualifications for high office and his manifest failures.

Conservatives often bemoan the ceaseless progress of liberalism.  Prof. Haidt's theories persuasively offer an explanation as to why: the century-long takeover of our educational system by the left.

Reprogramming the Ick Response

Prof. Haidt presented a series of thought questions to experimental subjects, asking them to state whether various things were right and wrong and explain why.  One noteworthy example was a brief story of a brother and sister who, when alone one night during college age, decided to have sex together.  Both used birth control, nobody else knew about it, and they never did it again, they simply saved it as a fond memory.  Was this wrong?

Virtually all the experimental subjects had a fierce negative response - of course incest is wrong!  But when pressed to explain why, they struggled.

We all know that incest can lead to birth defects and other genetic anomalies, but the story explicitly spelled out the birth control methods used, so no child would or could result.

Their parents and community standards might be offended by such a blatant disregard for social norms, but again, the story said they were all alone and never discussed their actions with anyone.  What you don't know won't offend you.

Yet the respondents still felt the incest to be fundamentally wrong, even though the facts of the case made it plain that there was no possible harm that could result to anyone.

Did everyone have exactly the same end result?  No: there was one specific group that weren't controlled by their "ick."  Well-off, well-educated students at a prominent large liberal university still felt an initial "Ick!" response the same as everyone else, but were able to talk themselves out of it by applying their supposed rational beliefs of free agency: "It doesn't matter what I think, nobody was harmed and therefore it's OK."

One can well imagine that this type of person, having spent nearly two decades under a constant and ever-increasing drumbeat of sexual license if not debauchery, has reached a point where the natural "ick" is weak and easily overridden.  To use an old theological term, their conscience has been seared.

Job One for the Gay Agenda

Prof. Haidt didn't set out to explore the reach of educational leftism, but we see similar results at the macro level in polling and in the news.  Throughout human history, virtually every society across all of time and space has had a public revulsion toward homosexuality.  There have always been homosexuals, but they've almost always had to keep their activities well closeted or restricted to "elite" society whose every member has been thoroughly educated in how to squash any natural "icks" - that is, they've seared their consciences.  Only a handful of historical milieus tolerated open homosexuality, and that only briefly just prior to societal collapse.

Homosexuality, like incest, clearly triggers a very strong natural "ick" response.  Young children use "gay" and "faggot" as schoolyard insults, even before they understand the precise sexual practices to which those terms refer, with their negative reactions only becoming stronger as they gain insight into what they're actually talking about.  Yet somehow, a clear majority of Americans have been persuaded not only that homosexuality should be lawful and accepted, not only that a homosexual union should have the same legal and social status as a marriage, but indeed that disagreeing with these tenets is now socially if not legally intolerable!

Does it start to make sense as to why the Left is so adamant about teaching kindergartners that homosexuality is just fine?  The earlier they begin squelching the natural "ick" response, the more likely that the children will grow up with seared consciences and no objections to perverse practices.  Exactly as conservative activists feared, Heather Has Two Mommies was the opening salvo in a twenty-year propaganda offensive that's now paying the expected Leftist dividends as its juvenile targets reach voting age.

What the Left seems to have realized, by accident or by design, is that the cold-headed rational discussion beloved of most conservative thinkers can't hold a candle to an instant emotional response.  The Left has concentrated their efforts on making sure that most of America receives twelve, fourteen, or twenty years of hardcore Leftist emotional programming, thus immunizing them from even considering conservative arguments.

Think about it: How receptive are you to arguments about why the incestuous couple of Prof. Haidt's experimental story did nothing wrong?  Probably not very; you'll move heaven and earth to come up with arguments as to why they're wicked, and when all else fails, resort to "It's just wrong!" and leave it at that.

So what do you think will happen when children inculcated with twenty years of "Gay is OK, homophobia is bigoted hate" encounter social conservatives?  The "ick" reaction will be the same, and as strong, as yours to incest: an impossible political hill to climb.

In fact, considering that the Left has dominated education for over a century, it speaks to the fundamental truth and strength of conservatism that it still has any political influence at all: that its proofs and arguments are so strong that, for a significant minority of Americans, they're able to override the indoctrination of their schooldays.

As fascinating as is Prof. Haidt's argument of emotional dominance, and as relevant to the lost culture wars, there are other insights just as interesting.  In the next article in this series, we'll explore how they apply to what we call the "Fight against Barbarism" - that is, our current ongoing problems with Islam.