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This diary is not about Congress, or the shutdown, or about politicians much at all. Rather, this is about the American people... the ones who, after all, sent a bunch of loons to Congress and put our country in this position in the first place.

We have parsed and puzzled for years about what possesses basically decent, goodhearted people to make decisions that promise to have very indecent, mean-spirited effects.
We have asked what's the matter with Kansas, we have discovered a genetic basis for political thought, we have found that partisanship wrecks at least our math ability, and at most our entire non-lizard brain. We have uncovered more depressing truths about our brains and our less-than-rational natures than Boehner has had drinks.

I was inspired to write my own take on the political brain after reading 10 Health Habits They Didn't Teach Me In Medical School, which first came out a few months ago.
I believe this article is important to understanding why right-wing ideas remain an ongoing presence in Americans' psyches. The short answer: happiness, which is more and more becoming synonymous with good health.

The long answer is after the twisted sunny-side up...

As I read "10 Habits", I felt a familiar sensation. Not quite my blood boiling... more like a high simmer of indignation. Because I had read that same article, in various forms, many times before.

That easy-breezy, yet authoritative tone. That same confident sales pitch, that same lack of understanding of how average Americans are supposed to put its suggestions into practice.
Yet another "happy people are healthier" editorial.

But why would I have a problem with people wanting to be happier?

Because of that nice, authoritative tone. That one that says for our health's sake, we must do whatever it takes to be happy. That if we're not pulling out all the stops, we are neglecting our health.

And it's that "whatever it takes" that the right wing in America has cleverly homed in on.  Right-wingers' appeal to low-information voters is NOT all fear and vinegar; there's a lot more honey in it than we think.
It's about the joy of being part of a family and a community; of love and belonging; of standing for something greater than ourselves; of feeling pride in one's work. It's about a little bit of ego-stroke, too; not just appeals to our patriotism, but our general feeling of specialness.

Right-wingers have taken a good look at the image of a happy person we hold within ourselves. They have a keen sense of what a happy person looks and feels like. And they promise, every day, a fast-track to that salubrious state of mind... if only, of course, we adopt their values.

In short: they use our very pursuit of happiness against us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One of the political questions I most ask myself is why everyday people end up going along with, or even supporting, right-wing ideas. Can't they see how short-sighted and mean-spirited those ideas are?! we lament. How can they believe anything the Republicans come up with is beneficial for them, indeed will do anything but hurt them-- particularly if they are poor?

Do they lack the ability to watch a person's actions, to see if they match up with the pretty words? Do they even care about actions; do they just want to be soothed by pretty words and be done with it? Are they just mean and selfish deep down, and really only have room in their hearts for people they share blood and/or skin color with?

Or is it something else? Has the right wing been even better than we realize at convincing us that conservative values are good for us?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's not true the country is drifting further to the right. Too much of our leadership? Yes. The very rich? Oh my yes. But social attitudes as a whole are drifting to the left.

But in one of the few points Dr. Phil gets right, people do what works for them. People continue to do things that make sense, feel right, make them happy. There must be something deeply comforting about right-wing values; otherwise they, despite our overall leftward drift, wouldn't be so persistent.

This study, which says that the happiest Americans are the Tea Partiers, and that religious extremists are happier than moderates, sums up the problem nicely. Because of course Americans are going to want to be like "the happiest people"!

Decades of messages from the media, the scientific community, and our own social circles have, in effect, written Americans a prescription for happiness. And that prescription leaves us vulnerable to buying into right-wing ideas.

Particularly now. Because while American society has long put a premium on happiness, only in recent years has the idea that happiness is vital for your physical health been so widespread. Any authoritative-sounding, halfway-qualified person promising we'll be happy-- and therefore healthy-- if we do X, Y, or Z? We will lap it up. Our health care system is shaky-- especially the redder your state is. Obamacare hasn't fully kicked in, and we're a long way from single payer; if that's in our future at all. So, apart from it being plain old common sense, we feel we must take whatever control of our health we can.

The appeal of the conservative movement is not just about economics and taxes. And it's not just about fear. No message is that long-lasting unless it also promises something positive.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

10 Health Habits is written by Dr. Lissa Rankin, from Marin County, California. About as lefty as a community can get. Right?

More than that, Dr. Rankin presents herself as committed to women's empowerment, with a strong narrative of independence from a patriarchal medical system and a calling to help women find their inner strength. An OB-GYN, a field populated by way too many misogynistic males; she promotes female friendship as an instrument of healing as powerful as any medicine. And she's  technologically savvy and up-to-date, too.

Sounds like a feminist's dream doctor, right? It actually does. So what's not to like? Hardly anything at all. She even avoids the anti-vax curse! That made my science- and evidence-loving heart smile. This is one smart lady and doctor.

Hardly anything at all, I should say... except for the enormous potential for these ideas to be exploited by authoritarians. Right-wing authoritarians with smiley faces and soothing words.
Because despite the violence in our culture, despite a growing sense of general meanness, America is still a mostly peaceful, civilized nation. Most people have not developed a taste for Tea Party vitriol. The far right has to appeal to our love for freedom in order to get a hold on us. You really do have to use a friendly approach in order to win us over.

Because of this, almost all aggression we will experience in our lives is subtle. From "microaggressions" to emotional manipulation among friends to the Southerners' signature "Bless Your Heart"... most interpersonal aggression has such a light touch nowadays, we often don't even recognize it as aggression. At least until later.

So it is with appeals to our need for happiness.

I've always thought it convenient, for instance, how often churchgoing and marriage come up as strongly linked to happiness. Too many sources in happiness research lack specificity-- what kind of marriage? Traditional marriage, egalitarian marriage? How do you make sure the happiness benefits of religious participation outweigh the drawbacks-- particularly if your church is fundamentalist?

Also, many of these ideas are largely to utterly unfeasible for most Americans-- cash-strapped, stressed, and time-poor-- to actually put into practice. In order for this list to be a good guide, we have to overhaul our institutions; not just our individual attitudes. To remake our lifestyle on a country-wide scale, from our work vacation policies to our city infrastructure.

Telling people they should do something, on pain of ill health; without a viable plan to make it work in real life is at best short-sighted and at worst cruel. Yet another way of wagging our fingers at people for not exercising "personal responsibility" and implying we have 100% control over our health circumstances, and that we're failures as human beings if we get sick.

I don't think Dr. Rankin intends to convey such messages-- and indeed, her website and other materials have plenty of that welcome specificity I refer to. Better make sure that your couple relationship actually makes you happy, for instance; and it's most welcome news that she doesn't blindly suggest cutting back on work and ambition as the best way to restore "balance" to your life.
But I've seen these messages enough from the health community-- including the purportedly left-wing alternative medicine community-- that my mouth goes sour at even the hint of them.

I will explore "10 Health Habits" in greater detail below; and discuss how the right wing uses our need for happiness and good health to manipulate us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Habit 1: Alleviate Loneliness.

The Italian immigrants of Roseto, Pennsylvania had half the risk of heart disease as the rest of the country. Why? Researchers concluded that it was because they lived communally, celebrated regularly, and had a huge network of friends.

While no one can argue with the mood-boosting effect of regular celebrations, we have to ask ourselves what creating a tight-knit community entails.

Too often, that means forming cliques of other people like us.

There is a wealth of research attesting to our preference that our closest friends resemble us-- in attitude, outlook, values, political philosophy, socioeconomic level... and yes, unfortunately, skin color. What do you think white flight is all about?

Plus, think of the vocabulary we use to describe our relationship to someone we really like and get along with-- that we "relate" to them. In other words, that we resemble each other enough that we could be part of the same family.

We have a visceral liking for social homogeneity, and the right wing knows it.

The right wing also knows that happiness is very much tied in with feeling comfortable... especially for more privileged classes in America. This informal survey of OKCupid demographics showed an unmistakable preference on the part of white women for self-involvement, calmness, affluence and domesticity (proxies for comfort and security) compared to women of color. (Or, at least, it is what straight white women feel they must present in order to be successful romantically with straight white men-- also known as America's most fortunate demographic; suggesting the need for comfort is more on the men's part than the women's.)

Moreover, and unfortunately for liberals, the scientific community is increasingly getting on the "do whatever makes you comfortable" bandwagon, especially in the field of neuroscience.
Neuroscience is brimming with ideas, because the field as a whole is just getting started. Unfortunately, some of its most popular messages have been its most specious-- such as from evolutionary psychologists and those who misconstrue the mind-body connection.  
One of neuroscience's most prominent roles has been extolling the virtues of gut instinct. Specifically, the message that gut instinct is a better form of decision making than rational thought-- more accurate, more authentic, more reliable. This message is always delivered with a tone of certainty and confidence-- the better, I guess, to signal to our instincts that this person knows what they're talking about.

We all are familiar with Bush Junior's "go with your gut" ethos; but a lot of Americans engage in that method of making decisions. This couldn't help but increase their liking of him, and his "have a beer with" factor. Preferring instinct over thought is found across the political spectrum; and notable liberals such as Oprah were, if anything, there first.
More sinisterly, we are all familiar with The Secret's advice to purge anyone too "negative" from our lives-- which, in practice, often means someone who disagrees with us too much, or thinks our values may be leading us astray.

This is all done, of course, on the pretext of improving our emotional health.

The mainstream media reminds us, frequently, that we are social animals, that we always do better in couples or teams than alone. That oxytocin, which is secreted in response to warm, loving kindness and belonging, is one of the best boosts to our health imaginable.

Liberals consider solidarity one of the most powerful forces in the world-- but so do, in their own way, right-wingers. They're making a lot of friends out there in their megachurches, exurban communities, Republican campaigns and Tea Party groups.
Now, we know that they take camaraderie and ruin it. They turn it into an instrument of hate and exclusion, a sad caricature of itself-- you can be a part of our community IF you pay the price of admission, IF you subscribe to our values, go to our church, hate the same people we hate. Oxytocin and its health benefits, sorry to say, are mostly for the in-crowd; it actually decreases empathy for outsiders.

But does the average non-political American care that they're ruining solidarity? More than likely not. All they see is a group of people working together, living according to their values, living with purpose. And, I might add, having a damn good time at it despite all the anger and hate.
Tea Partiers and other right-wing fellow travelers get friends, a purpose, and connection to something larger than themselves-- three vital ingredients for happiness. Of course they're not going to step outside, look at the big picture, and watch out for any unintended consequences. They're happy and they're working according to their values; so psychologically speaking, they're covered.

It's harder to be a liberal than a conservative. It takes more emotional work to reach out to people unlike ourselves. It swims against the current of human nature. It increases our stress, at least a little bit. Thinking takes more energy than falling into instinct... and it may not always make us feel good.

Habit 2: Couple Up.

A UCLA study reviewed census data and found that those who never marry are 58% more likely to die at a young age than those who exchange vows.

Oh, boy.
No pressure there, eh?

This story line started coming out in the mid-90s, starting in earnest with The Case For Marriage, written by Linda Waite and our good friend Maggie Gallagher.

We all know what kind of close-knit circle Gallagher hails from. A community with a staunch sense of purpose indeed: to take rights away from LGBT people. (Happily, Linda Waite appears to have evolved.)

Why do so many women feel like they must be in a relationship? Even in 2013?

I blame the medical and psychological media, saying, in so many ways, that we DO have to be in a relationship. That for our emotional-- and by extension our physical-- health, it's better if we're in a relationship.

I think again of average Americans-- those who don't care much about politics, or are too busy to get involved, and therefore are most likely to get their information from the MSM. Because while they may not trust the media about politics, they ARE likely to trust the media about health:

[H]ealth communication research demonstrates that mass media may be even more important than interpersonal communication in increasing awareness and knowledge of health issues.-- from Mayo Clinic Proceedings
Women are not going to listen to the old lines about "you're more likely to be struck by lightning than get married after your late 30's" anymore. We're too smart and worldly for that, and have been for years.

But if you frame it, for both men and women, as a question of our health... if you play up the "humans are social animals" angle, if you point to the oxytocin and the norepinephrine and all the other beneficial hormones that are secreted when we're happy; if you throw just enough science and fact into the mix... then, we start paying attention. Then, the average, non-political voter will start listening. And thanks to the neuroscience involved, you'll get a lot of liberals listening too.

One of my biggest fears when all the "married people are healthier" stories first came out, was that it would become more acceptable to stay in abusive relationships. Thankfully, more media have since amended that statement, saying that only when the relationship is good, does the couple attain those health benefits; that being in a bad relationship is worse than in no relationship at all. (thank you, even eHarmony, for seeing the light).

But still: I believe that the message of "coupled people are healthier than singles" has scared more than a few Americans into starting, or staying in, relationships that hold them down more than build them up. Just as with a social group, there are a lot of unspoken requirements to keep a life partner loving us. If our life partner happens to be conservative-- of course we've going to, over time, become a little more conservative. Our partner's rapport with us-- and by extension, their love for us-- demands that we, in some way, make ourselves similar to them.

And remember that OKCupid survey; sadly, too many men still find traditional gender roles attractive. Therefore, making it a social requirement-- or at the very least, a strong encouragement-- for straight women to at least give the appearance of protecting the status quo, if they want to be successful in love.

Love is not the answer, if the price of love is propping up harmful norms.

Habit 3: Get It On.

Those with healthy, happy sex lives live longer, have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, get less breast cancer, bolster their immune systems, sleep better, appear more youthful, enjoy improved fitness, have enhanced fertility, get relief from chronic pain, experience fewer migraines, suffer from less depression, and enjoy an improved quality of life.

What do the first three items on this list have in common? They all require cooperation from someone else for you to attain them.

All three of these items-- close community, marriage, and sex-- require mutual, enthusiastic consent between you and another human being. No consent? Consent is unilaterally withheld, by you or the other person? No health benefits for you!

Just as with happiness itself, the "people who have more sex are healthier" message has only come about recently. And when that's the message your audience hears, it may not be so surprising if they have problems with consent. Because, in this frame, the person saying no to sex or a relationship with them is not just frustrating them romantically. They're denying them a chance at optimal health.

You can't force enthusiastic consent. Like a good relationship in general, it must be grown organically. But for many of us, that's more surrendering control to serendipity than we are willing to deal with. Someone else's unilateral decision can shatter our long, careful romantic and sexual plans in the blink of an eye. And to respect the other person, we have to let them do it.

When you're hearing a veritable Greek chorus of voices saying that your health just won't be as good unless you get it on more... you're going to be less than pleased about the process of building trust and rapport with another person. You're going to lose patience; you're going to want to make it happen now, for you want to improve your health now. You're going to start wanting to force the issue.

Now, one group of people has no problem with just jumping in and taking sex. Right-wingers are pro-rape; this is almost a given. But rape culture is everywhere, regardless of where we land on the political spectrum.
The medical and psych media absolutely do not help with their uncritical and context-free message of more sex = better health. They disregard the process of relationship building, and assume enthusiastic consent doesn't have to be consciously created. They pit your health against someone else's bodily rights-- one of the cruelest false choices you can come up with in sexual politics. They present waiting, working, and negotiating for consent as secondary to the goal of getting more sex.
I bet rapists everywhere heave a sigh of relief inside at all of that... they're healthier than those fools who actually think consent is important, and let it get in the way of that all-important health and mood booster.

And what if you're unlucky at sex, and you're not into rape? Well, there's always raging hatred: those judgy women, in addition to denying you sexual and romantic success with those "no's" of theirs, are actively making you sicker.

Hatred for a person who won't have sex with you is given that extra kick when you throw concerns about your health into the mix. Or, on the other end of it, deep self-loathing at not being a person who can effortlessly inspire enthusiastic consent. For something that's supposed to be good for you, that strikes me as incredibly unhealthy.

Bottom line: Dear media, please stop saying anything is important to our health that by definition is out of our control. You will cause us to hate and resent ourselves, and anyone we see as withholding it from us.

Habit 4: Engage in Work You Love.

Those stuck in soul-sucking jobs are at greater risk for sudden death. ... Studies suggest Americans are at even greater risk of sudden death from heart disease and stroke due to overwork. If work is stressing you out, you may be shortening your life. However, when you’ve found your calling and are doing what you love, your nervous system relaxes, and this flips on your body’s natural self-healing mechanisms.

Oh, if only that were true in America today. An ideal that would really make America, America.

But how do we actually put that into practice, in a so-called "free-market" society seemingly dedicated to squeezing every last drop of creativity out of us, in the name of profits?
Not to mention, in a job market awash in jobs that either require a lot of manufactured friendliness, standing still doing nothing, or selling customers things they neither want nor need?

That too often is what happens when you let the "free market" rule everything-- the "marketable" squeeze out the "unmarketable". The qualities you need to become successful become increasingly narrowed and homogenized. Your possible life paths become limited.

Because "marketable" really means, the 1 percent likes you and wants to "buy" you; so your job is to make yourself salable to a fickle customer base of rich people, 24/7/365. And so we stretch ourselves to fit into what they like... not what we, or the middle class, likes. And forget about trifles like personal authenticity and empathy. Every job in America is a sales job; and those pesky things will screw up the sales pitch.

The time and energy that perpetual self-marketing and "building our brand" demands of us brings a drudgery to any job, and undercuts our desires to be more egalitarian and open-hearted. Because as far as many advertisers are concerned, there is ONE true way to relate to customers, and therefore be profitable. And it's by being as nonthreatening to the privileged classes as possible. Young, beautiful, wealthy white boys and girls whose smiles never fade and never think anything needs to change.

Market-values types should think about this every time they spout off about the market always being freer than the government. Through this twisted form of natural selection, the market can actually be more oppressive than any government.

Habit 5: Take Vacations.

Not only are vacations fun –- they’re good for your health! Failure to use accrued vacation time has been associated with early death. ... [ T ]hose who failed to take annual vacations had a 21% higher risk of death from all causes, and they were 32% more likely to die of a heart attack. ... [ W ] omen who vacationed once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed twice a year.

How many people in America take vacations? How long are those vacations when we do take them?

And how many of us really feel free to take vacations in this at-will work environment?

This is a culture where one third of American workers lack sufficient sleep. Where skimping on sleep is considered a point of pride in some workplaces, a marker of one's productivity. Where more and more professionals wonder if they will be disadvantaged for not taking Adderall, Provigil, and other drugs that-- what else?-- reduce the need for sleep.

If we think sleep is a luxury, you know what our take on vacation is.

Any way you slice it, vacation is increasingly for wealthy folks. Nice to see that the health enhancements of vacation are also for the rich. Just one more factor in the longer life spans of upper-income people.

Once again, saying "just take more vacations!" without sweeping changes to our work culture and corporate priorities; saying it in a way that makes Americans feel personally responsible for attaining this health enhancement; is myopic and cruel.

Habit 6: Express Your Creativity.

Health benefits of creative expression include improved sleep, better overall health, fewer doctor’s visits, diminished use of medication, and fewer vision problems. Creative expression also decreases symptoms of distress and improves quality of life for women with cancer, strengthens positive feelings, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, reduces anxiety, and improves social functioning and self-esteem.

Wholeheartedly agree. Something we need more desperately than ever. But once again, how do we put that into practice?

How many teachers, for an obvious example, feel secure that they will still have jobs if they dare to "express their creativity"? How many "creative professions" involve merely carrying out, in cookbook fashion, an employer's vision?
If HR is hiring for fit-- unless they are a company such as Google or 3M that make a point of hiring people who innovate-- creativity is NOT likely to be high on their list of desired candidate attributes. Too many organizations still believe creativity translates to a lack of leadership ability.

Even worse is the attempt to turn creativity itself into labor, and leisure time itself into yet another job requirement. As seems to be the case with Facebook, where part of your job is apparently looking camera-ready at all times, so that you may update your personal page regularly so as to sell the Facebook lifestyle. Remember, only "marketable" forms of creativity need apply.
Any company in the business of selling lifestyles, come to think of it, is the most notorious for prying into your personal life and co-opting your pastimes into yet another item you must tick off the employability checklist.
And of course, emotional labor has long been a feature of the service economy, which takes up an increasing share of our GDP year after year. Not much room for innovation when emotions themselves must be standardized.

If being more creative is going to bring us into conflict with our bosses or clients, we're going to choose blandness. If we see creative types struggling in life, having less money and success, punished by society for not catering to the needs of the 1 percent-- we're not going to emulate them. We want to be happy and provide for our families, after all.

Habit 7: Attend Religious Services.

Individuals who attend religious services regularly live seven and a half years longer (almost 14 years longer for African-Americans) than those who never or rarely attend religious gatherings. One study found that high levels of religious involvement were associated with lower rates of circulatory diseases, digestive diseases, respiratory diseases, and just about every other disease studied.

This is probably the biggest reason fundies have that perpetual look of smug confidence.

Because, dammit, they're just healthier. All the official sources say so!

Literally, nearly all official sources for health news vouch for the healing power of religion. And not just conservative sources, either:
How Religion Could Lower Health Costs in America, Gallup's Business Journal
Why Going To Church Is Good For You, the New York Times
"People who left a strict religious group were less likely to report being in good health",
Why Religion Is Linked With Better Health and Well-Being, Huffington Post
"Some societies may benefit from religious insularity — it is, they say, a way to avoid disease", Nature magazine (actually a critical article, but one that sharply illuminates religion's perceived benefits)

Religious services also provide side benefits touched on earlier, especially social support and sense of purpose.

As with the other happiness inducers on this list, the problem with religion is implementation more than concept. When it is used as a means for a powerful, privileged person or group to impose themselves on a less powerful person or group; religion can cause untoward emotional damage. Because it's being used ostensibly for the goal of better happiness, it reaches into deep, personal areas of our psychology; and it's a vision of emotional health that is being turned into a weapon. Like saying "I love you" in the most hateful way imaginable.

As in, most notoriously, when military psychologists require recruits to be assessed for spiritual fitness, and pronounce them emotionally "at risk" or "less resilient" if they score too low. No doubt if you asked these psychologists, they would say they're operating from sound science; via the teachings of Martin Seligman and the positive psychology movement. And naturally, from compassion and common sense. Doesn't everybody know that belief is good for your health?

Or how about the numerous examples of spiritual abuse going on in our everyday lives, almost always done in the name of our health, happiness, and success as well as that of our loved ones... whether through Bill Gothard's education curriculum for our kids, or driving wedges between family members in the name of holiness, or ineffective methods of healing our sickness such as faith healing?

Seems like quite a price to pay for extra happiness, doesn't it?

Soraya Chemaly makes the case that women feel they have little choice but to embrace religion, especially when poor; because the church provides the pieces of social safety net missing from our government and our society. But, of course, it's at the cost of taking on a belief system that may not fit them. Not exactly enthusiasm for religion there.

Habit 8: Be Optimistic.

Optimistic people are healthier. Optimists fare better when suffering from cancer, recover better from coronary bypass surgery, enjoy healthier immune systems, and live longer than pessimists. People with a positive outlook are 45% less likely to die from any cause than negative thinkers (and 77% less likely to die from heart disease).

Habit 9: Get Happy.

Happy people live up to ten years longer than those who are unhappy, depressed, or anxious. Depression increases your cancer risk, is a major risk factor for heart disease, and is linked to a variety of pain disorders, while chronic anxiety has been shown to increase cancer risk and carotid artery atherosclerosis, which predisposes to stroke.

(Habit 10 was "meditate", which I have left off because it doesn't really support the rest of the diary.)

I have combined these sections because for the purposes of this diary, they go together.

Be Optimistic. Get Happy. Just do it, and don't ask questions. Especially not about any side effects or unintended consequences. Do it for your health-- do whatever it takes.

Apparently-- judging by the people who are too often held up as examples-- even if it means trading in your ethics, your empathy, and your good sense.

If you're a happy selfish asshole, are you better off than an unhappy loving person of compassion? I wouldn't blame you for thinking so.

Scott Walker, to our chagrin, would probably score very high on a test of subjective well-being. Why? Because of his unshakable confidence that everything he does is right. Ditto for Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Dubya Bush, and almost every other right-winger we love to hate. They all possess that same certitude, that unwarranted self-confidence. What does it matter if it hurts other people, or hurts the country? They feel happy.
They've also ticked a lot of boxes off on this list: relationships, community, religion. The wealth to take vacations; and exercise more creativity in their jobs than the average industrial or service worker. As far as the pop health and psych community are concerned, that's all that matters.

Who wouldn't, without our level of political information, look at these people and decide that the way to the good life is to be just like them?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How do we fight a toxic right-wing ideology that-- let's be blunt here-- makes some of us feel good?

How do you fight social norms that, in effect, say that if we want to make a decent living, if we want to attract a romantic partner, if we want to have friends, if we want those support systems and communities so vital to our health... that we'd better protect the privileged?

That our best likelihood of happiness comes when we make quick, instinctual, prejudicial decisions? That's our default mode, and we do not need further encouragement to stay there.

All I know is, this is all agonizing for a liberal... but it's probably peachy-keen to the various authoritarians in our midst. No wonder they're happier-- they don't have to choose between having friends and being their best selves.

But their best selves and their happiness are tearing apart our common good. They are getting happy at the expense of all of us. How do we stop this-- particularly when trying to convince someone who benefits from the status quo to change, is about as easy as trying to stop a locomotive with your bare hands?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We can start by not falling into the same trap.

We will need, quite simply, to present a better alternative than the right-wingers have. To outdo them on both the happiness front, and the social support front.

The first step is asking ourselves, where do our happiness and optimism come from.

We are not accustomed to thinking this way, and for good reason: it forces us to think about happiness in an uncomfortable way. Are we happy because we choose not to care about the less fortunate, a tactic that's probably a favorite of right-wingers? (That does seem to take a significant source of misery off the table.)
Are we optimistic because we prefer simple explanations of life rather than embracing complexity... as fundamentalists prefer?
Are we serene because we associate only or primarily with people like ourselves, so our worldview is always affirmed?

Remember, all these mechanisms are tacitly supported by those in the medical and psych communities. Despite the clear preferences for following the specific steps above, their tendency is to not care how you get happy; just that you get happy... with little thought, if any, to unintended consequences. Sources critical about the methods outlined above are growing; but they're vastly outnumbered.

So yes: I say, uncomfortable as it is, that we must take this step of examining how we get happy. We do what almost no one else in our society does-- check our mood boosters for unintended effects on other people, and change them to benefit others as best we can. (And no, not just those others within our own social circles.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Which brings us to the next step: check our bias. Since the medical, psychological, economic, political, and media authorities won't do it for us-- indeed, will all too cheerfully benefit from stoking our biases-- we need to do it ourselves. Examine ourselves for signs of bias; and we ALL have them; because following our bias is one of those habits that makes us happy.

Think in terms of more possible ways to live, more possible ways to happiness. This is crucial for dealing with the inevitable pain that comes with taking a hard look at the effects of our actions. Facing the disparity between our intention and our impact cancan hurt badly. It can cripple us with anxiety and self-consciousness; remember that the implied message of the proverb "think twice" is "don't do it". Enough of these messages-- and ALL our actions have effects we fail to anticipate-- and we start to wonder, exactly, if there's anything at all we CAN do.

When it comes right down to it, most Americans are lousy at using the pain of interdependence for our benefit. Our defensiveness at our intent kicks in, and we feel like we have to make a black-or-white choice... to give up everything and let the other person have their way, or to force our way to prevail. The best option for both, obviously, would be for both of us to get some of our way-- and that can only be done through negotiation. We can't negotiate if we're reeling from the shame of "effect shock".
How to break through that shame? I'm still figuring out how myself. But this article provides some of the best answers I have ever seen on this subject. Read carefully the part about realizing there is a difference between asking someone for permission and considering our effect on them... we tend to think the two are synonymous; therefore we think that we lose a lot of autonomy and personal power by putting ourselves in someone else's shoes.

Caring for others is not supposed to make us miserable. But that is often the effect of a certain taboo in empathy-- the anti-asking taboo. In one of the most cognitively dissonant concepts in existence, a lot of us are taught that "true" empathy requires you NOT ask how another person is feeling. That empathy only counts when you correctly guess the feelings of others without asking. And so images fill our heads of those insufferable folk who insist they know your feelings and thoughts better than you yourself.

How much harm have we accidentally caused others, when our intentions were to help?
The Tea Party insists they are "saving" the country, after all.

Always give people the chance to tell their own story in their own words, and respect their right to not do so at a given time. Ask. This does not cheapen empathy, or make it "not count"... indeed, it's the only way to get accurate information, so that you don't take erroneous action. Remember Margaret Vojtko-- how much easier her life would have been if those around her had taken the time to talk to her, and ask her what she really needed; instead of calling Adult Protective Services and thinking they "did everything they could to help her"... when in reality that action actually turned her life upside down, and may have hastened her death.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Speaking of interdependence and our effects not measuring up to our intentions... we need to do a better job of sticking together. We're there in terms of things like crowdfunding to help fellow Kossacks out, and putting pressure on elected officials to reconsider the effects of their ideas. But can we step it up even further?

For all our talk of community, we sure are not as effective at it as we should be. If we are to present a more attractive alternative to conservatism, one of the best things we can do is promote the message that hey, living like a liberal works better than living like a conservative.

Too many Americans see righties living better than lefties.

Conservatives may promote a Randian philosophy, every one for themselves-- but watch what they do: they always come through for each other. Their mutual social support is impressive. It's as if they have an extra safety net the rest of us do not have.

That's probably the biggest reason IOKIYAR exists: we abandon our transgressing politicians while they embrace them. Average people are going to look at that, and think "Hey, I'd better be a conservative because they suffer fewer consequences in life than liberals". Never underestimate the power of example.

And no, sticking by our transgressing Dems does not mean surrendering our standards.  Tom DeLay may have gotten his conviction overturned through the power of friends in the right places. That's not the way we want to stick together.

Anthony Weiner should probably never run for elected office again, and he deserves not to.  But that doesn't mean we should just throw him away. On the contrary: what about all those plans of his to investigate Clarence and Ginni Thomas? If he's got a good case against them, I don't think we'd let his past behavior color that as much as he might think. And hey, we can always use more muckraking leftie talk show hosts. If Joe Walsh can make a go of it, why not Weiner?
Ditto for John Edwards-- elected office will never again be in the cards for him, but he'd kick ass at the Southern Poverty Law Center, because he was a great lawyer.  And if he's not at least quietly supporting the Moral Monday movement, then he's missing out on his biggest chance at redeeming himself right now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is huge when it comes to jobs. A major reason Americans don't get more politically involved is fear of job loss... which, in the age of the Internet, can easily blow up into long-term damage to our reputation and hiring prospects. The real danger to us from the NSA is not that we will be droned in our own backyard; but that the personal information gleaned by them will be viewed and shared by every employer we meet, threatening to a send us into a Tartarus of permanent unemployability. But thanks to the Republicans'  extra safety net, they're affected a little less "permanently" than the average person would be.

Don't think average Americans don't notice that right-wingers appear to have much longer careers and better job security! How long has Donald Rumsfeld's career been, screw-up that he is? How long has Newt Gingrich's been? Hell, how about Ed Meese's? Longer than those of many much, much more deserving people.  
Why? Because they have a lot of friends in the conservative movement willing to give them references and new chances. The wingnut welfare circuit is probably the most effective jobs program in the country. Too bad it's closed off to all but a select group of people.

Hell, how about a less political example... Pax Dickinson? Within mere hours of his ugly, public firing from Business Insider, he was back on his feet with barely a scratch. And note that his bosses at BI put up with his offensive tweets for two years. Most people who get "social media fired" get barely two hours, never mind two years.
Why did they stick with him? Did he have great technical skills? Did his bosses personally like him? Is he a good chameleon, knowing how to be agreeable in the workplace and only letting his douche flag fly on his personal Twitter account?
Could be all of the above. Could be none of the above. Does it matter?

What really matters is that his support system allowed him to keep a job despite being personally flawed, and displaying those personal flaws quite blatantly on social media. It probably makes a big difference that Dickinson is a privilege protector. It does seem as if those who protect or support the status quo have an easier time with jobs, friends and life than those challenging it.
Our own dedication to feeling comfortable at all costs keeps that dynamic in place. Why? Because what is against us is a community of like minded people, committed to working as a team to limit our freedom and our progress as a society. Liberals are NOT the only ones benefitting from teamwork.

A committed group of people can only be beaten by another committed group of people, if the goal is long-lasting social change. And that's exactly what the conservative movement has done, for the last 40 years... worked as a team to get their agenda not only practiced as law, but embraced deep in many American hearts and minds.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

No one is going to fight the system if they feel all alone. Or worse-- if their would-be social support system actively discourages efforts to make a change. Often the biggest sappers of activist morale are our own family and friends... and they will invariably cite stress and unhappiness as reasons not to get involved.  

To that I say: tell them that it's time to challenge some deeply-felt messages. For instance, that stress is always bad. The right kind of stress can, in fact, be good; if it energizes you and spurs you to action. Be suspicious of any stress-reduction technique whose primary effect (again, not intent) appears to be distracting or sidelining you. If we are to engage in self-care, we must stay in the game while we do.

Believe it or not, the Tea Party illustrates this very well. I would say one of the biggest allures of the Tea Party, in fact, is their great show of self-efficacy. Americans dream of meaningful lives; as active citizens in their communities, working hard at something they love and believe in. Our reality, of course, is light-years away. Americans feel paralyzed, discouraged from taking any truly substantive action to improve their communities or better their own lives.
The Tea Party, out of all others, appears to have broken out of that paralysis. Note the operative word, "appears"-- but given enough frustration, and we're not going to know-- or care-- whether it's an illusion. After a long enough time of feeling paralyzed and muzzled, we are going to increasingly not care about things like side effects, unintended consequences, or far-off repercussions of our actions. We are going to demand the ability, the personal power, the social license to operate to take real, concrete, life-bolstering action. We are starving for it, and we're not really going to think about the aftertaste of shit... the sweet relief of living will outweigh everything else.

And we will copycat anyone who we see as getting a piece of that.

It's time that someone worthier than the Tea Party steps up and becomes this example to follow. It might as well be us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's sad indeed when our most visible examples of joie de vivre are bigots, fundamentalists and authoritarians.

It's time for liberals to beat them on this front... because in our hearts, we have them beat hands down on sheer appreciation of life.

For the real irony in the conservative take on happiness is, it's a watered-down version of happiness. In fact, it's an inverted form of Calvinist pessimism. You can attain happiness, but only if you constantly "work on yourself". Or purchase it, or pray for it, etc. It's happiness in the way free will is to a fundamentalist: a Hobson's choice, where you're "free" to choose God or not choose God. "You can choose to take the garbage out, Timmy; or you can choose to have your bottom smacked"...

Wouldn't we all be better off seeing happiness as a public good? When it doesn't become yet another transaction, yet another bauble we much purchase, yet another treadmill we must race on? Wouldn't we all be better off dropping out of the Emotional Health Contest and Death Match™?

Happiness was never meant to be turned into a competition. Same for emotional health, social support... and physical health. (Unless it's the President's Physical Fitness Awards.) That attitude to happiness is itself an artifact of right-wing thinking, just like the idea that good emotions must be earned, purchased, or gifted to you from God; and are therefore a mark of your character if you display them.
Rather than what they truly are... free to all of us to enjoy and better our lives.

Yes, I say this after an entire diary of saying the liberal approach to happiness is better than the conservative approach.

But that's mainly because liberal values can be universalized, much more than conservative ones. And therefore, they are more inclusive, open-hearted and ultimately more in line with human rhythms.

Goldstein's argument is this. The basic philosophical underpinning of ethics (as opposed to its psychological and evolutionary underpinnings) are:

(a) the starting axiom that we, ourselves, matter;

and (b) the understanding that, if we step back from ourselves and view life from an outside perspective, we have to acknowledge that we don't, cosmically speaking, matter more than anyone else; that other people matter to themselves as much as we matter to ourselves; and that any rules of ethics ought to apply to other people as much as they do to ourselves. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and all that. (Some version of the Golden Rule seems to exist in every society.)

In other words, the philosophical underpinning of ethics are that they ought to be applicable to everyone. They ought to be universalizable.

And liberal values -- fairness and harm -- are universalizable.
-- from Greta Christina, "Why Liberal Values Really Are Better"

We'll be more likely to find real, lasting, substantial happiness by emulating Ricardo Sanchez than Joel Osteen. Meaningful work that engages your brain and allows you to be a success no matter your background, beats the Prosperity Gospel any day.

Social support with no contingencies, save that you be a decent person; beats social support with a hidden cost of coercion and cognitive dissonance any day.

Creativity that freely flows from you, beats forced creativity for marketing purposes any day.

Consent beats sexual assault every day.

Freedom to be unhappy beats a forced drumbeat of happiness every day, any day, all the time.
Isn't it ironic that trying to force happiness results in more unhappiness?

How about re-writing Dr. Rankin's article... maybe we should call it, "10 Habits For A Smarter, Kinder, Fairer Way To Happiness?"

Originally posted to The Montrose Tractatus on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 11:03 AM PDT.

Also republished by Psychology of Conservatives and Liberals and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Then there's this (13+ / 0-)
    This study, which says that the happiest Americans are the Tea Partiers, and that religious extremists are happier than moderates, sums up the problem nicely. Because of course Americans are going to want to be like "the happiest people"!
    Those are the very groups, if your argument is correct, that feel the most obligated to report that they are happy--even if it is a lie.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 11:35:10 AM PDT

    •  I think they don't understand 'happy'. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dfe, greengemini, Mistral Wind, caul, fleisch

      Happy cannot come from the outside - no one can hand you a list and say "Do this and you will be happy".  Anyone who follows such a list and declares they are happy doesn't know what happiness is, they are just saying they are happy based on the list.

      Consider how many people derive happiness out of spite.  Sorry, I know the difference, spiteful people who say they are happy don't know happiness.  And that describes the tea-party and their self-described 'happiness' to a tea.

      The rules to monopoly are fair and apply equally to all. So what is your problem with joining a game-in-progress where all the properties are bought and the bank is empty...???

      by ban48 on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 02:43:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Please connect this to hoaxes. (6+ / 0-)

      The hoaxes are built up over decades. Millions of dollars a week go to pumping this swill.

      Any of this familiar?

      -- Economic problems are rooted in a Lower Class of 47%er welfare state layabouts
      -- Unions are criminal enterprises
      -- Government operations are intrinsically incompetent (lacking profit motive which is the only honest way to do things)
      -- Politicians are all crooks (especially Libruls, so voting doesn't matter)
      -- Guns in homes are a sensible protection against home invasion (reflecting societal breakdown, alleged to occur 1,000,000+ times a year)
      -- Government is the problem (referring to what we call Madisonian constitutional democracy; denying international competition, the 1%er redistribution, and increasing automation)
      -- Global warming is an economy-killing leftist conspiracy
      -- Guns in homes are our ultimate protection from tyranny
      -- American Christians suffer rough and hurtful persecution
      -- Science cannot be trusted (typically in argument, because scientific results can change over time. The Bible is absolute.)
      -- The less government, the better; a.k.a., government-vs.-private-sector is a fixed sum game; a.k.a., taxes are theft
      -- Supporters of legal abortion are "Baby Killers"
      -- Media outlets are biased to Left/Liberal positions
      -- Obama's election victories in 2008 and 2012 were illegitimate
      -- Wealth redistribution to the top is what drives job creation
      -- Ronald Reagan maximized American influence world wide
      -- Democratic politicians are members of an out-of-touch elite; Democrats do not understand ordinary Americans
      -- The 2003-2009 mortgage debacle was caused by lying poor people (which ties in with the broader hoax that the Welfare State has produced a 47%er class of dependent losers)
      -- Corporations are people (which sounds funny until you consider "Undercover Boss" and the like)
      -- Everyone in the world should love America
      -- We're # 1
      -- Vietnam and Iraq were examples of defending freedom and liberty and the American battlefield losses are all Americans care about
      -- America's health care system is the best in the world
      -- American football is a great sport and uniquely important as a character builder
      -- Student debt is a normal part of education -- nothing happening, move on
      -- Student debt and trashing support for Social Security..... nothing there, move on
      -- Department of Defense is an essential and underfunded investment
      -- Patriot Act cancellation of Madison's Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is what keeps Al Qaeda from killing your family
      -- National Security Agency storage of "metadata" is not part of a vast invasion of private lives
      -- Financing for politics in America is wide open and we are the Gold Standard for free elections
      -- The War on Drugs goes back and forth with more victories than losses
      -- Prisons lower the rate of violent crime by incarcerating "superpredators"

      Not "myth" and way beyond the daily lies.

      Here's first rate work, noted here at DKOS, on how the scam works:

      The Brainwashing Of My Dad By Limbaugh, Fox & GOP Media

      That's a quickie brain-screwing.

      Most folks are grabbed in with local groups that share the rightie hoaxes.


    •  Plus their politics and ideology make it clear (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lucy Montrose, deebee, MHB, karmsy

      they are most certainly not happy, at least not with the very existence of liberals, progressives, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, the homeless, the gummint, the poor, the LGBT community, or women's rights to control their own biology.

      I would argue that "happy" for these types (not the above list of who they're mad at) should be read as "fanatically committed to a cause" even in their own lives.

      They maybe "happy," but its more like "happily devoted to a single-minded hatred of anything that makes other people not so devoted to their lifestyle happy."

      •  FEAR... is it fear of LOSING security blanket? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lucy Montrose, MHB, caul

        Shallow clinging unexamined security blanket?... the Happiness sources may have plenty of good elements but they willfully ignore the downsides and especially some of the glaring logical fails, gaps and harm involved...

        When the only apparent shelter in the storm of life is something like a figurative if not literal "abusive pimp"... that shelter is worth staying with from the viewpoint of the the fearful who finds respite and protection however compromised or defective... and their investment in it... and presumably community with their fellow shelter "addicts"... who share the same mythology and mutual reinforcement... like cult members who are very "Happy" in the cult and will defend their position in it vigorously... proportional to the amount of fear and anger they are masking or self treating with this "refuge"... The immediate relief from fear and pain is a very happy feeling... never mind the long term harm it may do in other ways.

        Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

        by IreGyre on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 01:55:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That might be it (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MHB, Lucy Montrose, caul

        My impression of tea party people is one of angry people who are ginned up to feel impotent. So they get together and protest and donate their money to these right wing causes. I suppose that this gives their life meaning. And when one has a purpose, it can have positive effects on one's health.

        The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

        by deebee on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 07:28:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Seems to be some counterintuitiveness here (10+ / 0-)

    This paragraph: "It's about the joy of being part of a family and a community; of love and belonging; of standing for something greater than ourselves; of feeling pride in one's work. It's about a little bit of ego-stroke, too; not just appeals to our patriotism, but our general feeling of specialness." describes a lot of why I am liberal.

    Liberals look out for family and community; conservatives are about me me me.  Liberals acknowledge we are part of something greater; conservatives again me me me.  The things that set America apart in terms of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, equality, are liberal values.

    Tea Partiers are happier?  Could have fooled me.  They seem like a pretty angry bunch.

    •  Conservatives also look out (12+ / 0-)

      for family and community; they just define both of those a lot more narrowly than liberals tend to.

      Conservatives also frequently feel they're part of something greater; it's just usually a self-aggrandizing or self-validating "something greater," which isn't something they have a monopoly on either.

    •  vadem - "me and mine" (11+ / 0-)

      Conservatives are very much into community which is often defined by their religious community parish or church or their immediate neighborhood or close circle of family and friends. They lack a broader view of "community". In their view if they don't personally know you, you don't belong to their community.  

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 12:15:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  defined by religious community or church (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        catwho, Lucy Montrose

        And if they paid attention in said community or church they'd realize that their religion probably teaches that all of humanity is their community.  That's certainly true of Christianity, the religious identity of many conservatives.  When Jesus said "Love thy neighbor as yourself," Luke records that the teachers of the law pushed back asking who was their neighbor.  Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan wherein the foreigner takes care of the mugging victim.  Jesus then askes the teachers who the victim's neighbor was and they reply the one who was kind to him, to which Jesus responds, "Go and do likewise."

        •  Their view of community are people they personally (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Egalitare, Lucy Montrose, JosephK74

          know. It's not very Christian, but that's how they view it.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 01:31:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Depends on the church. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lucy Montrose

          Catholic, mainline Protestant and other faiths that mostly adhere to the Revised Common Lectionary offer their parishioners a full selection of Christian teachings like those you mention above.  Other churches, not necessarily.  Compare this to a church where the pastor (hired by the largest tithers, and liable to be fired by same) chooses four or five verses and turns it into an hour of sermon.  

          The problem here is that few honest people can sit through the parts of Scripture and doctrine that inveigh against the Seven Deadly Sins without realizing where they come up short.  The fundangelicals offer easy solutions:  Say that baptism washes everything away and you never have to worry again, or simply elide Biblical  criticism of acts that we all commit from to time to time to talk about the acts forbidden to all that a minority of us can commit.  

          "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

          by Yamaneko2 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 06:51:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Conservatives are about community, all right. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreenPA, mrkvica

      You just have to pass the worthiness test/loyalty oath first.

      Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

      by Lucy Montrose on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 12:24:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Charles Murray talks about this in (0+ / 0-)

      "Coming Apart."

      Honest. Smart. Thorough.

      Most folks here will argue with its approach and conclusions.

      But what is happening in America is truly a "coming apart."

      Murray makes too much of the "happy" responses from religious people. He doesn't consider Jonestown and other cults.

      •  Murray (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        waterstreet2013, ybruti, paz3

        I don't take a person who thinks I'm genetically inferior seriously on anything, sorry.

        •  "Genetically inferior" is hard to define. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lucy Montrose

          Plainly Americans are not "# 1."


          The Japanese and Chinese got wood-block mass printed books very early on. Maybe 3,000 years ago and with cheap wood-based paper. Reading became a huge advantage for survival. When the "Tale of Genji" came out in the 11th Century, it was a best seller.

          Jews were unique for picking up books as an every-home asset about 2,700 years ago.

          You can see where the Japanese, Chinese, and Jews are now. Europeans got the printing press in the 15th century. Books got cheap by 1750. They're getting smarter.

          As Blacks go through a couple dozen generations exposure/dependence on literacy, there's no reason to think that the tested IQ won't be pushed up. Books do that. Listen to any speech by Dr. King -- the ability is there. He was a genius on any scale.

    •  Olive oil (7+ / 0-)
      The Italian immigrants of Roseto, Pennsylvania had half the risk of heart disease as the rest of the country. Why? Researchers concluded that it was because they lived communally, celebrated regularly, and had a huge network of friends.
      Some might argue for the effects of a mediterranean diet.

      Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

      by triplepoint on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 06:24:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Measuring (9+ / 0-)

    Bhutan is the only country that defines its progress by increases in GNH - Gross National Happiness

    In order to set up the baseline indicators, the centre developed a detailed questionnaire covering the nine key areas considered crucial for reflecting the values and principles of GNH.  These key areas of GNH fall within the domains of psychological wellbeing, health, time use, education, culture, good governance, ecology, community vitality and living standards.
    The UK's Office of National Statistics does a similar sort of survey to produce the National Wellbeing Index.
    The programme aims to produce accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation - how the UK as a whole is doing.
    Measuring National Well-being is about looking at 'GDP and beyond'. It includes headline indicators in areas such as health, relationships, job satisfaction, economic security, education, environmental conditions and measures of 'subjective well-being' (individuals' assessment of their own well-being).

    We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 11:37:23 AM PDT

    •  Fascinating. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lucy Montrose

      In light of this diary, I can't help but wonder if this would reinforce homogeneity in Bhutan and how the UK will interpret results.

      "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

      by annan on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 08:19:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a doctor, I have to wonder just where... (9+ / 0-)

    Dr. Rankin went to medical school, because all 10 points were certain addressed and endorsed where I went to school.

    The notion of physicians as joyless, humorless, pill-pushing drones is a bit behind the times IMHO. It's certainly true that insurance-driven productivity stresses make it a lot harder to pay attention to all those relevant-but-unreimbursed real world issues. But as a family doc I'm always asking my patients about their relationships (healthy or otherwise), leisure habits, exercise, hobbies and other joyous activities, and encouraging them to cultivate such things to immunize them against troglodyte bosses and grim work environments.

    Just sayin.

    •  I feel kind of mixed about that. (0+ / 0-)

      On the one hand, it's always made me feel pressured to live up to some emotional ideal... Like a doctor would automatically think me less healthy because I'm unmarried and a non-theist. On the other hand, these factors do have an effect on health, and you really have to consider all the facts... The question is, how do you continue to take stock of your patients' emotional life, without making them feel this pressure? How do we avoid, as a society, promoting one personality type or emotional style over all others?... because we all knew what happened whenever we've promoted one race or religion over all others.

      Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

      by Lucy Montrose on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 12:50:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is only Averages (5+ / 0-)

        Like all such surveys it can not say anything about a specific person. I for one was utterly miserable when I was part of a religious Community and am so much happier being an Atheist. Now maybe a Happy Atheist is never going to be as content as a happy Deist, but considering how much worry and misery a religious group can levy on some of its most devout members, I kind of doubt it.

      •  Good point. Some of us like to be dour. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lucy Montrose, dinazina, greengemini

        I'm a flat-out atheist, so the Church thing doesn't sing to me. But I draw comfort from my knowledge that even if we humans screw up the planet irrevocably and end up dying off, Gaia will slowly right the planet on her own terms. Some species will survive, and life (of some kind) will continue.

        If joy to you is curling up with a good book and sending poison pen letters to the toxic neighbors, have at it. There's more than one kind of happy.

  •  Are the religious more happy? (9+ / 0-)

    Enjoyed this diary very much, thanks for posting.  I'm personally a very happy non-theist, but it's a cynical kind of happiness that may not work for everyone. The following article came to my attention recently and it ties in with the "Habit 7" here:


    ...About the only way to tease this out is to follow people over time, and see who gets depressed and who doesn't. That's what Michael King (University College London) and colleagues have done in a recent international study.

    They interviewed 8318 patients without depression attending doctor's surgeries in the Chile, Estonia, The Netherlands, Portugal, UK, Spain, and Slovenia. Then they interviewed them again 6 and 12 months later (well, most of them - some, especially the younger and less educated, didn't turn up to later interviews).

    They found that significantly more of the participants who actively practised religion (10.3%) or had a spiritual world view (10.5%) experienced an episode of major depression over those 12 months compared with those who had a secular outlook (7%).

    Unfortunately, USA wasn't in the study. So it's kind of hard to connect to a discussion about the American Right-Wing. But it makes sense to me that "a spiritual worldview" (as the study put it) would be a risk factor for depression in the context of American Culture.

    Everything Right is Wrong Again - TMBG (lyrics)

    by GreenPA on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 11:56:50 AM PDT

    •  It makes Sense (5+ / 0-)

      If your religion completely reflects your worldviews then it seems like that reinforcement is going to be a powerful positive force. But if your religion is at odds with some of your deepest values and sense of self, or less dramatically your place of worship takes positions that you don't agree with it could easily be a source of additional stress.

      •  If your church makes you unhappy, get a new (3+ / 0-)

        church.  If it gives you no comfort, get a new church.  There are thousands of them so finding a new one won't be hard.

        I had a great aha moment recently, someone commented that anyone can prove anything using the Bible(or any religious text) and the religious leader(Jim Wallis) replied that the great texts are meant as a mirror to your soul, if you have a mean spirit or hard heart, that is what you will find, if you are a person of great compassion and love, that is what you will see.  

        •  Spiritual Formation Lesson (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GreenPA, Lucy Montrose
          The first step is asking ourselves, where do our happiness and optimism come from.
          The seminarian asked his professor, "How do we please God in order to be happy?" The professor replied, "God did not make us to be happy, he made us to be good."

          Whether you are a fundamentalist atheist, or a right-wing Catholic or Evangelical Christian, even a Dominionist, or anywhere in between, try and talk me out of that premise!

          It takes more emotional work to reach out to people unlike ourselves. It swims against the current of human nature. It increases our stress, at least a little bit. Thinking takes more energy than falling into instinct... and it may not always make us feel good.
          No, but reaching out to those unlike ourselves is good, good for those being reached out to, and for those doing the reaching, no matter what the result.
          Are we happy because we choose not to care about the less fortunate, a tactic that's probably a favorite of right-wingers? (That does seem to take a significant source of misery off the table.)
          A case where being good, no matter the unease of caring though action, clearly trumps, in the larger scheme of how things work among humans deep down, the guilt of inaction and denial. Seeking empty "happiness" can allow us to turn away from those suffering, the need for "happiness" allowing us to judge the less fortunate as undeserving, lazy, not really needing help. So, cut food stamps, slash WIC and heating assistance, cut funding for Meals on Wheels - it's only poorer, and thus much less worthy, seniors, after all, who need that help.
          Are we optimistic because we prefer simple explanations of life rather than embracing complexity... as fundamentalists prefer?
          Sure seems that being somehow "good" is far more complex than seeking happiness via external means.
          Are we serene because we associate only or primarily with people like ourselves, so our worldview is always affirmed?
          That is clearly narcissism, no path to lasting or genuine happiness.

          Very good and thorough diary! Tipped and Rec'd!

          Tom Finlay

          I condemn alike that individualism that would allow the state no room for industrial activity, and that socialism which would absorb in the state the functions of the individual. -Richard Theodore Ely

          by paz3 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 11:44:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I heard something like that... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lucy Montrose

            It was more along the lines of "Do your duty" from the matrons of a fairly liberal, Episcopalian parish.  Many of us had duties that were emotionally, physically and/or financially arduous; we "bore our crosses" not always seeking happiness.  

            This is not to say that happiness never found us.  These matrons were in their 80s with vigorous minds and able to get about, so long life was present.  The consolation of a life lived well is also a great consolation.  

            Perhaps happiness is most easily found when pursuing something else worthy, in sort of the same way that your  cat bestows her affections most lavishly when you're pursuing something worthwhile that's not her.

            "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

            by Yamaneko2 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 07:15:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Atheist here, but I have (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to confess that that study is very ambiguous at the level of causality.  Is it that religion causes higher rates of depression, or that people already disposed to depression gravitate towards religion in an attempt to "self medicate"?

    •  If you are a religious person and something (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      catastrophic happens to you or a member of your family, like cancer or a car accident, and you have been a good person and devout, then that shakes a person's faith. This is the flip side of the "Prosperity Gospel." This idea that all things are ordained by God.

      If a person hasn't really done anything wrong, then that person asks himself or herself why God has abandoned them. The feelings of loss are compounded with a feeling of betrayal. This would only seem a natural cause of depression.

      Some people allow themselves to get depressed and work through it, possibly losing their faith in the process, but others try to double down on their faith becoming hyper-religious because they believe that it was their lack of faith that may have caused their calamity and there is the comfort of believing that they or their loved one is or will be with God.

      The Abrahamic religions don't seem to have a good explanation for these types of situations, although there have been books written on this subject trying to grapple with it. Hindus would believe that it was a debt from a past life. Whether that makes it easier to accept, I do not know. Non-theists would still have to deal with the loss, but not the betrayal, and they would have other sources of coping, like counseling or medication, that many religious people avoid.

  •  People who are angry are happier (9+ / 0-)

    There is so much in this article that I find compelling, but there's one big omission, I think--

    Being angry feels good.

    When faced with something unpleasant, it feels better to get angry about it than to lament it or endure it, or to try to learn from it.  Getting angry gives an illusion of control over the situation, regardless of the truth.

    This is fundamentally what's driving the Republicans, I think, and it's fundamentally what makes right wing ideas thrive.

    Like it or not, bias against coloreds and gays are rooted in a seed of instinctive disgust.  Our instincts give us a natural disgust of those with incorrect skin tone and non-compatible sexual behavior.

    Now, we don't have to be slaves to our instincts...we can use introspection to compensate for our innate biases or we can use anger to amplify them and impose them on the world.

    Introspection and self assessment is hard and uncomfortable, though.

    It's much easier and comfortable to simply get angry at the rest of the world for not conforming to you.

  •  Cons are happy because they can say.... (7+ / 0-)

    ... "Fuck you, we don't care!!!"

  •  LucyM - thanks for a very informative diary (4+ / 0-)

    Lots to process.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 12:18:20 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for providing detail for (at least) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose, greengemini

    one version of the Disney version of America.  Also probably one of the main reasons 50% of Americans fail to vote.  Lots of them watch the Disney Channel frequently, as well as Lawrence Welk re-runs.

    Ignorance is bliss.

    Someone said that.

    "There's always room for cello." Yo Yo Ma

    by ceebee7 on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 01:16:47 PM PDT

  •  Because they are really good liars nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 01:31:09 PM PDT

  •  A new sport coat for the same old pants. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    What I found interesting was the almost casual use of the word 'hate'. I could find 5 instances, ascribing the emotion to either the left or right:

    They turn it into an instrument of hate and exclusion, a sad caricature of itself-- you can be a part of our community IF you...hate the same people we hate.

    And, I might add, having a damn good time at it [i.e. right wingers living in social groups] despite all the anger and hate.

    You will cause us to hate and resent ourselves, and anyone we see as withholding it from us.

    Like saying "I love you" in the most hateful way imaginable.

    Ditto for Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Dubya Bush, and almost every other right-winger we love to hate.

    I don't hate anyone elected in the US on a political level, so such casual usage just means "agenda" to me, not thoughtful discussion. For example, I suspect most here would not find this book amenable, but it provides alternate interpretations.
  •  So the 64 thousand dollars question is (5+ / 0-)

    why doesn't their message work on us? I hear what they have to say and can't believe anyone with half a brain would fall for there nonsense. All that they stand for is basically taking away from us and giving it to the rich how would that make anyone happy? I guess that some people just love to have there money and benefits taken from them and given to those who don't need it!!!

    •  Because we are more thoughtful. (4+ / 0-)

      Because we care enough to take the time and spend the emotional energy. That's the biggest difference between us and conservatives; we make the effort and they just want to be comfortable.

      Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

      by Lucy Montrose on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 01:53:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It takes effort to be thoughtful. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        A friend, who has for years been an avid recycler, doesn't want to hear about climate change, says she trusts someone smarter than she will come up with something to solve it.

        Buy a Boat. Save the Seed.

        by cumberland sibyl on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 10:17:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  But Why??? (0+ / 0-)
        Because we care enough to take the time and spend the emotional energy. That's the biggest difference between us and conservatives; we make the effort and they just want to be comfortable.
        Until we begin to know why this is so, we are just pissing in the wind, just scorning the conservatives.

        I know that many are not comfortable digging into motivation, but until that is understood more clearly, we are just talking amongst ourselves, all verklempt. (SNL reference.)

        IMO, anyway.

        I condemn alike that individualism that would allow the state no room for industrial activity, and that socialism which would absorb in the state the functions of the individual. -Richard Theodore Ely

        by paz3 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 11:51:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  it doesn't work on me because I'm not rich (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greengemini, JosephK74

      I don't have the luxury of acting in accordance with my values, interests, or appetites, so neither do appeals to righteousness or selfishness get any traction on my psyche.  Liberalism for me boils down to self-preservation at its most basic level, because conservatism is going to kill me for any of more reasons than I can count.

      Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

      by Visceral on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 04:36:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Becuase (0+ / 0-)

      I'll never be a pert of their "club" never they destroy the club before they'd let me in.

    •  Depends on the liberal. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lucy Montrose

      In my case, I was inoculated by The Sunday Visitor (a Catholic weekly most Catholics in my diocese got) before it became a tool of the Right -- the torture and martyrdom of Catholic religious at the hands of the Reagan Administration figure especially strongly in my imagination.  Then came the passing acquaintance of many delightful African-American customers and coworkers.  My father's layoff put paid to the belief that corporations are looking out for us, but Unemployment Insurance kept us fed while he looked for work.  Then came the Great 1994 Opening of Closets -- people I respected or whose company I enjoyed came out.  

      "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

      by Yamaneko2 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 07:26:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A very plausible explanation (7+ / 0-)

    Near the bottom of your NY Times article link

    People at the extremes are happier than political moderates. Correcting for income, education, age, race, family situation and religion, the happiest Americans are those who say they are either “extremely conservative” (48 percent very happy) or “extremely liberal” (35 percent). Everyone else is less happy, with the nadir at dead-center “moderate” (26 percent).

    What explains this odd pattern? One possibility is that extremists have the whole world figured out, and sorted into good guys and bad guys. They have the security of knowing what’s wrong, and whom to fight.

    Religion provices "certainty". the "coupling up" - in marriage or some other close relationship, provides certainty that there is at least one relationship that can be counted on, Etc.

    Then there's Jonathon Haidt's work

    The six are Care/harm, Fairness/cheating, Liberty/oppression, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation. .... Liberals (leftists) tend to endorse primarily the Care, Fairness, and Liberty foundations, whereas conservatives (rightists) tend to endorse all six foundations more equally

    Notice that his model says that the right puts more value on Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity - the same sorts of things lhat lead to a sense of certainty about what is right or wrong.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 02:10:26 PM PDT

  •  It's a very simple concept ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose, greengemini

    "If'n I ever get rich ... " insert whatever idiocy you can imagine.

    And the rest follows.

  •  I must disagree (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose, greengemini

    Granted, I didn't read the whole diary (it was a bit long and I'm short on time), but it appeared that your basic premise was that people vote conservative for reasons of wanting to be happy.

      I feel the opposite is true. People vote conservative out of despair. Most people I know who embrace the right-wing are very cynical people who don't believe that things can change for the better. They vote conservative in the hope of keeping things from getting worse.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 02:36:54 PM PDT

    •  Actually "voting so that things don't get worse" (6+ / 0-)

      Is pretty much all that Democrats are left with these days.

      We keep voting for Democrats.  Things keep getting worse.  But we just have to imagine HOW MUCH WORSE it would have been had we voted otherwise.

      We must
      We must

      Clap Harder, Y'all !

       (It burns calories and promotes cardiovascular efficiency. )

      •  Well, then, BOTH SIDES DO IT! :-p (0+ / 0-)

        I mean, really.  Both sides vote to keep things from getting worse.  The difference is that apparently conservatives literally can't imagine a different, better world; to a conservative a better world would be one where everyone was richer/more moral/whatever, but it must be essentially not a different one.

        But no, things don't actually keep getting worse.  Well, some things, but not all.  Still, just remember that teabaggers also think that "Things keep getting worse".

        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early; don't mistake an unfulfilled dream for a lost one. A dream has no deadline!

        by Panurge on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 09:38:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Religion and their god is the glue.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ..holding them together. None of the loons could get anywhere near public office if it weren't for their christian enablers.

    Why are we so scared to say that? It's 2013 for fuck sakes.

    What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. SAM HARRIS

    by Cpqemp on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 02:57:00 PM PDT

  •  happiness is overrated (7+ / 0-)

    The attitude that we're all supposed to be happy is a form of emotional violence. Studies show that depressed people (who tend not to be "optimistic") are more realistic and objective than happy people - at least about themselves.

    It's probably true that the right wing offers a comfort zone of warm assurances  - while on the left, no matter what you're doing, chances are someone will tell you it's wrong, or not enough, or the not the right kind of effort.

    I, too, have noticed that people who do terrible things can feel perfectly fine about themselves - there's no correlation between feeling good and being good.

    Happiness is irrelevant. Plus, define happiness. I think it's about living a meaningful life even when it's difficult - not about mood or energy. But there are probably many people who equate mood or affect with their values.

    Anyway, I agree that being a great big pile of bummer is not how to get more people on board with left-leaning or liberal values. Rather than analyze the problem, though, I wonder what a desirable situation or outcome would look like, what characteristics it might have, how you would know when you got there, and how to effectively share a vision of an ideal society (something the right also seems pretty skilled at doing).

    •  Anyone can be 'happy' (5+ / 0-)

      when they are so thoroughly invested in a closed, static, belief system.  Empiricists (as I fancy myself) only see things that need to be improved, and are therefore eternally plagued by ennui.

      •  new paradigm needed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lucy Montrose

        And I'm not saying I know what it is, but I just watched an interesting documentary that says the world monetary system causes most problems typically assigned to human nature, and politics is irrelevant because it's tied into the monetary system - that we could change the world if we devoted ourselves to solving problems through responsible resource management and the development of new technologies, valued human potential, recognized the interdependence of life on this planet, and employed the scientific method. It's a fresh view of things, whether you agree with it or not. "Zeitgeist: Addendum."

  •  Excellent diary (3+ / 0-)

    Thank you.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Emerson on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 03:12:11 PM PDT

  •  10 habits of privileged dumb cisgender shrinks... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, terabthia2

    who have never needed any genuine intellectual ability to survive.

  •  I'll reprise George Bernard Shaw a little here. (4+ / 0-)

    Whether a believer Tea Partier is happier than a skeptic progressive is no more to the point than whether a drunken man is happier than a sober one.

    liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

    by RockyMtnLib on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 03:40:49 PM PDT

    •  Well no (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mistral Wind, Musial

      Because if we want to see a progressive country, we need to recruit more progressives and make progressivism appealing to people.  

      If right-wingers appear to be happier people overall, that doesn't really help us do that, methinks.  

      Of course, NOTHING will make right-wingers or progressives happier than WINNING, which is why we want SO FUCKING BADLY to see Obama and the Democrats break the teabaggers this time and run up Democratic enthusiasm for 2014.  

      Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

      by Mark Mywurtz on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 04:21:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm with you when it comes to winning. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greengemini, Musial

        But I'm thinking in terms of what's true and right. And as far as I'm concerned, it's better to be unhappy in accepting reality than happily deluded.

        liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

        by RockyMtnLib on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 05:05:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ignorance is bliss! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          greengemini, Musial

          Ecstatic teabaggers!

          Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

          by Mark Mywurtz on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 05:12:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  That has pitfalls of its own, though. (0+ / 0-)

          And that's been borne out in spades since the '70s.  

          What I see left of center is a veritable orgy of "accepting reality".  We can give up over and over again at the least setback and, in the wake of it all, pat ourselves on the back for "accepting reality".  And it happens over and over again.  No wonder people keep talking about "gloom and doom Democrats"--it's like Democrats and liberals are actually AFRAID of being happy about anything for fear of being "deluded".  Surely if we're disappointed or we accept what someone tells us is "reality", we can't be deluded, right?  And so we trade happiness for a certain perverse pride, never stopping to wonder whether it was really, truly necessary.

          The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early; don't mistake an unfulfilled dream for a lost one. A dream has no deadline!

          by Panurge on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 09:47:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Good Luck... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bluezen, Musial

        you clearly do not get the massive level of teh stupid/crazy of the teabagger mob. they are not just going away like OWS did.

        "The 1% don't want SOLUTIONS; they've worked very hard the last four decades to get conditions the way they are now".

        by Superpole on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 05:30:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  OWS didn't go away. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          They're still helping  people like Jodie Randolph fight foreclosure, boosting more focused movements like Moral Mondays and the fast-food strikes, etc.

          Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

          by Lucy Montrose on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 05:02:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And On TV! (0+ / 0-)

            Kossack Ministry of Truth, OWS supporter and member, has been on The Ed Show a couple of times now in the last month, presenting the OWS POV.

            I condemn alike that individualism that would allow the state no room for industrial activity, and that socialism which would absorb in the state the functions of the individual. -Richard Theodore Ely

            by paz3 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 11:57:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Dealing with the Symptoms of the Larger (0+ / 0-)

            problem is great-- but eventually we have to deal with the obvious disease.

            "The 1% don't want SOLUTIONS; they've worked very hard the last four decades to get conditions the way they are now".

            by Superpole on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 06:24:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Jeremy Bentham- greatest good for the most, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lucy Montrose

      pursuit of happiness is a natural right that the nation was founded on. A self-evident truth that people pursuing their dreams are naturally happy. Bentham argued for abolition, women's suffrage, animal rights, gay rights, flowing from natural rights of liberty and equality. Slavery and subordination make people unhappy, messed up, despite antebellum mythology or today's 10 tips.

      •  It's also well known that hunter-gatherers... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... were much happier than agrarians, because of their more egalitarian gender roles and, despite all the the time they spent searching for food, more leisure time. Hunter-gatherer societies were well-known for their communal celebrations. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about that in one of her cheerier books, "Dancing In the Streets."

        Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

        by Lucy Montrose on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 10:11:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "Conservative" is an identity first (7+ / 0-)

    political ideology second.  No-one goes around saying "I'm a progressive, and these are the cultural symbols around which I have to surround myself in order to be considered a progressive."  But this is precisely how a right winger would respond--not nearly as academically, of course.  Guns, Jesus, a utopian vision of all-white solidarity that cuts across classes--all of these symbolically tie the conservative/teabilly movement together.  Look beneath the stated ideals of God, Freedom, Family, Country, etc., and you will witness the undercurrent of white status anxiety at work.  The baggers will not stop--ever!--until they completely run this country into the ground, or start their own.

    •  they will be stopped (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      by demographics.

      the clock is ticking.

      •  They will be replaced. (0+ / 0-)

        The new majority will form their own far-right wingnut movement.

        Give it time. White people don't have a monopoly on crazy.

        * "Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect all who seek it." - Frank Herbert * (-7.25; -5.64)

        by Selphinea on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 09:54:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  economic clock also ticking, the C's hang on by (0+ / 0-)

        creating inequality, and inequality causes national decline. Inside this downward spiral there is less and less life, liberty or pursuit of happiness. Principles plus demographics would make a difference, as in 1933.

      •  There's PLENTY of Reagan kids out there. (0+ / 0-)

        Ted Cruz, born in the wake of the '60s and yet looking like a middle-aged man from 1957, has plenty of company.  Heck, plenty of liberals think the way to success is to try to appeal to people like Ted Cruz.

        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early; don't mistake an unfulfilled dream for a lost one. A dream has no deadline!

        by Panurge on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 09:50:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Maybe saying, "I'm a conservative" is a polite way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lucy Montrose

      of saying, "I'm a racist."

      I was having a discussion once that veered towards politics with someone I know who drinks, smokes weed, has been married three times because his first two wives got sick of his running around, and he says, "I'm a conservative," and I think, "What? he doesn't act like a conservative." So the only thing I can think is that the appeal of conservatism is not morally based, but is based on something else, particularly racism. This was reenforced to me when I heard the Democratic party described as the "Black Party" or the "Party for the Blacks."  I had never thought of the Democratic party that way, but apparently many conservatives do.

    •  Maybe this is a problem. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lucy Montrose

      My attitude has always been that we should go back (!) and fix the '60s and '70s, then run on that.  But we've let the right goad us into rejecting what should be the beginnings of our own socio-cultural model in favor of me-too retromania (our JFK to their Ike).  So American politics becomes merely a contest to determine exactly how the '60s get repealed.  Not repealing them seems to be off the menu, which if you ask me is a terrible sign for Western Civilization, as if freezes conservative esthetic and cultural norms in place.  I know it sounds funny, but the people of the '60s were right in their idea that those norms had to be overturned or at least resisted, precisely because they'd become regarded as part of the Immutable Cosmic Order.  Can we call a world where such norms can't change truly free?

      The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early; don't mistake an unfulfilled dream for a lost one. A dream has no deadline!

      by Panurge on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 09:56:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sense of fair play (13+ / 0-)

    While many right wing values appeal to bigotry, many of their 'intellectual' arguments are craftily designed to exploit the American sense of fair play. I believe that we develop this sense of fair play via children's games, and via both historical and cultural exposure in youth. The right does this by presenting issues stripped of their correct context. This leads their working class base, and some independent too, to support policies such as tax cuts for the wealthy, and deregulation of big business, and elimination of food stamps, for just a few examples.

  •  First step for successful fascist dictators: (4+ / 0-)

    Convince those you wish to dominate that they alone are the most beautiful people in the world.

    All else follows.

    If you had asked the average German, on the eve of what was to become the war that completely destroyed them, if they were happy, they would have said they were living in the most perfect society conceivable, that Hitler loved his people, and that they were completely happy. "Joy" was the word most commonly used to describe the popular mood.  

    Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. - Adam Smith

    by boatwright on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 03:51:25 PM PDT

  •  There is a lot of good insight in this diary (8+ / 0-)

    I think the right-wing offers a very immature, Randian version of happiness--don't care about anyone or anything else and be smugly self-satisfied about yourself and what a great person you are because you haven't directly harmed anyone.

    That's why they LOATHE progressives so much--they see us as a threat to the bubble they live in where they feel free to support sociopathic policies and tell themselves how special they are.  Actually having to think about the responsibility they might have for ills in the world is a VERY threatening concept and one that causes them to lash out angrily.  Nobody knows this better than the environmental community, especially when we have tried to convince people to look at the consequences of their own behavior...right-wingers are so busy telling themselves what wonderful people they are then we come along and say, "Well, actually you're warming the planet, torturing livestock, polluting the water, and crowding our natural areas."

    Immediately, fingers go into ears..."LALALALALALALALALA!!!!  Don't tell me this stuff evil liberal!  I'm a good--scratch that, GREAT person!"

    Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

    by Mark Mywurtz on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 04:14:16 PM PDT

  •  Yeah, pretty much. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I feel no need to get into specifics, but I have been convienced that right versus wrong matters little to the typical American audience these days.

    Like the traditional  media, the cry is DECORUM, DECORUM, DECORUM, and as long as decorum isn't violated, the consequences be damned.

  •  I've never believed any of that crap (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    waterstreet2013, Lucy Montrose

    I've never met a "religious" person who is happier than I am. I also don't believe that highly religious women have more and better orgasms, etc., etc.

    But why go on? It's all a load of old codswallop. I suppose the people who believe this kind of thing are the same kind of people who base all their health care decisions on what celebrities do--such as having a colonoscopy only because Katie Couric had one, very publicly, on TV.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 04:18:01 PM PDT

    •  Religion can also restrain the rich. (6+ / 0-)

      Catholic notions of social justice are getting one helluva boost these days.

      That man named himself "Francis." Now he has to live up to it.

      Nobody before him had the balls for that one. St. Francis would have been a saint for any religion on the planet.

    •  Agreed! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lucy Montrose
      I've never met a "religious" person who is happier than I am. I also don't believe that highly religious women have more and better orgasms, etc., etc.
      I'm what some might call a "religious" person, and I agree with you in the abstract: I've never met either a non-believer or a believer who is subjectively digging the skin they are in more than I am, or who can claim better sexual satisfaction, or less anxiety, or fear of the future.

      Then again, I have met more folks on both sides who can be objectively seen as doing having done, or doing more, good than I've been capable of in this life.

      I condemn alike that individualism that would allow the state no room for industrial activity, and that socialism which would absorb in the state the functions of the individual. -Richard Theodore Ely

      by paz3 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 12:10:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Perhaps Because (0+ / 0-)

    the democrats have no bold ideas to offer?

    "The 1% don't want SOLUTIONS; they've worked very hard the last four decades to get conditions the way they are now".

    by Superpole on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 05:28:47 PM PDT

  •  Ironically, this is written from left-biased POV. (0+ / 0-)

    All of those things about women you ascribe to men, the medical media, etc.? Science doesn't support the feminist, tabula rasa, environment-not-genetics view.

    Women, on average, have higher oxytocin levels--especially white women. That's why we need relationships, are more likely to be religious, are drawn to domestic roles... Our biology commands us to "go do those oxytocin-related things," and we are, by and large, powerless to resist.

    Reality is sexist, sad to say.

    * "Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect all who seek it." - Frank Herbert * (-7.25; -5.64)

    by Selphinea on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 06:08:51 PM PDT

  •  Right wing mantra: always blame "OTHERS" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's why it feels so nice to espouse right wing agenda, for it's always someone else's fault, no matter how much they talk about personal responsibility.

  •  Peace! Love! Rock and Roll! Rainbows! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose

    My goodness. I must be very confused because if I had to pick a "happy" side it would not be the one sucking on lemons because the kids are dancing dirty.

    Freedom is such a sexy thing.

    Sharing is very cool.

    The kind people who you say "have long careers" never give people like me a chance to even get in the door and explain who I am and what I'm there for.

    I find I'm much HAPPIER when I'm WELCOME and accepted and not excluded for my gender, or race or sexuality.

    And people like me are really the majority. Think about it.

  •  it has a lot to do with the fact that in most (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose, Mark Mywurtz, fleisch

    parts of the US there are NO free alternatives for political talk while driving or working. 50 mil americans get the coordinated messaging from those RW think tanks, on 1200 of the loudest radio stations in the world, and they get NO real time challenge to the lying- they get a free speech free ride from the left.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 09:59:48 PM PDT

  •  Annie Hall (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose

    Puts me in mind of that memorable scene from Annie Hall where Alvie Singer (AKA Woody Allen) is going down the street and sees a happy couple walking arms around each other. He stops them and asks them their secret.

    (Spoiler alert) It turns out they are extremely shallow people.

    So, so, you've worked it out between yourselves.
    And that truly is the secret to being happy (presuming happiness is, indeed, your one and only goal).
  •  Really? This is what you object to? (0+ / 0-)

    I just found this entire critique pointless. it is this kind of critique that gives the right wing more fodder for their world view. And in the breathless language that now seems required in all internet articles It has to stop now.

    We can't say people are happier in groups and in couples? Because those who are not in them may feel bad about themselves?  

    People are  happier in groups. People are happier in a community and as long as the relationship is sound, people are happier with mates.  

    The idea that people not things matter should be an idea the left owns, but then there are articles like this. We attack the idea rather than the system which gets in the way of this, or emphasizes the wrong things.

    And some of the specifics here specifically bother me all on their own. We can't say having sex is good for you because then someone might think rape is ok? Sex is not rape. Let me say that again. Sex is not rape.   And most people can eventually find a sexual partner. They have to have realistic expectations, be willing to look for one, and be willing to put themselves out for another human being. And some degree of patience.  You can't feel bad because a partner doesn't arrive immediately.  If you do, then your problem is not what other people say but your inability to be realistic.

    As for the optimism and happiness, that doesn't mean you need to be cheery cherry. It means you need to look to the future. That is a habit of the mind. Being happy, except in specific circumstances, as well is a habit of the  mind, and needs to be worked on. If you are not happy or optimistic and tend towards depression, you do not need someone to say this isn't a problem. You need to see a therapist. You need to get rid of negative, useless or chemically induced modes of thinking.

    I am not a Buddhist but the very essence of it is that these last two things are very much under our control.  Yes, there are times when there is no alternative but sadness, but in those times, we feel bad because we are sad not because we are supposed to be happy.  But in those times, our last worry will be what we are supposed to be.

    But all to often, we refuse to change because we normalize, even romanticize the dark and destructive. We get comfortable with tragic cycles. If some little list has the power to make you feel you shouldn't be doing this, fantastic.  (For the record, I doubt it will.)

    Being liberal is not about not making people feel bad about themselves. It is not a self-esteem movement. It is about achieving justice, and equality, and assuming everyone has the right to pursue happiness. These are serious goals for serious problems.  When we try to prevent people from unpleasant realizations based on self-reflection, we undermine this message. And then the right wing wins.

  •  Excellent diary that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    scott5js, fleisch

    hits a key issue about our framing of issues.  No matter how you cut it, conservative ideology does indeed emphasize pride, narcissism, accomplishment, health, power, strength, and the capacity to succeed, while a good deal of contemporary leftist rhetoric emphasize injustice, victimhood, our frailty, etc.  This just doesn't resonate well with a lot of people.  It is either a) anxiety provoking, b) guilt inducing, or c) a sense of weakness inducing.

    Compare this sort of rhetoric that arose out of identity politics that endlessly talks abut how offensive everyone is being to everyone else (the minefield of linguistic politics that's all about not offending), with leftist Marxist and labor politics at the turn of the century.  Here I'm not talking about the content of those positions, but how they rhetorically framed their political struggles.  They sought to instill a sense of pride among workers, emphasizing their accomplishments, the goodness of the values of the working class such as fraternity and know-how, and presented a picture of an alternative way of organizing labor where there would be more leisure, better pay, retirement, education, universal suffrage, etc., on the grounds that workers deserved it because of the value of their labor.

    No one likes a) people who say certain things can't be done (the awful rhetoric of being "the responsible adult in the room" and "pragmatic realism"), nor b) "Debbie Downer" who is perpetually telling everyone how awful the world is and how terribly and offensively people behave and are always hurting the feelings of others.  There's got to be a better way of framing our issues that doesn't rely on the rhetoric of guilt, frailty, weakness, and victimhood.

  •  I am happy with Obama (0+ / 0-)

    I would rather be happy than unhappy.
    Some people around here are unhappy with him. Look, he is not up for re-election. Members of Congress are. Check out your member of Congress. If you are not happy with him/her, try contacting said member and urge other constituents to do so. The next possibility is to recruit someone to run in 2014. That's 2014, not 2016.
    I get tired of hearing people fret about how bad things are.

    Censorship is rogue government.

    by scott5js on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 07:30:31 AM PDT

  •  What a rich, well-source, informative article! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose

    Thank you for writing this and thanks to the rescue rangers for spotlighting it. Tipp'd, recc'd and hotlisted.

    The links were amazing and I've only gotten through half the post.

    This would make an terrific series. Consider breaking this into parts and publish at a set time on the weekend to encourage focused conversations.


    "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

    by annan on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 08:17:09 AM PDT

  •  I'm not sure about the "happy" thing (0+ / 0-)

    Most of the TeaBag Republicans I've been exposed to on a personal level, are pretty angry, hateful, and frustrated.

  •  Excellent analysis and good comments (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fleisch, Lucy Montrose

    Conservatism has become a club for the comfortable. They are basically opposed to anything that makes them feel even a little bit uncomfortable, whether its skin color, other people's abortions, gayness, paying taxes, global warming or lack of an approved religion. This emphasis on feeling comfortable at all times lies behind the "manufactured friendliness" now enforced in the service industry, where every order taker or bank teller has to emanate a gushing flow of pre-apologetic enthusiasm for you and their job, despite the fact that you see that person working extremely long hours for lousy pay in a soul killing environment.

    So the club is working on making you feel comfortable with unaffordable health care, food stamp cuts and fracking America into a pin cushion to take away that uncomfortable Peak Oil feeling. Reality really does have a liberal bias.

  •  Madison Ave Advertising as Propaganda kills sole (0+ / 0-)

    Think about the ads we see every day. They lie to us, and we know they lie to us but eat them up.

    They use the same tactics in the political ads, every time we see one we hate it and we tune out. But the GOP is better are distorting the truth and willing to inject the most hateful claims. All in the hope some of it sticks to their opposite. They never fear the public remembering that it was a lie by the GOP. Just that is was hear and must have some truth in it.

    TV and the ads we see is what is make the American public stupid. Well, maybe a few other GOP tactics too.

  •  A long diary, but worthwhile. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose

    You build to something really important, and take your time doing it.

    Interesting that neoconservatism initially succeeded with the masses, in 1980 or so, because its messages spoke to peoples' hearts, promising them happiness.

    In recent years, we have seen Tea Partiers distinctly, measurably less happy, less confidant, than liberals. Their ideas aren't working.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 06:18:27 PM PDT

    •  pity the writer quotes right wing sources (0+ / 0-)

      sure why not paint it as all glitter and gold on the right?

      Doesn't this cut against the grain just a little bit?

      Where exactly are these jolly tea partiers?

      "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Riane Eisler

      by noofsh on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 03:26:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If we went undercover to observe TParty events... (0+ / 0-)

        ...then we'd probably see more jolliness, percolating in that echo chamber of theirs.

        Also: see Michele Bachmann the other day.

        Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

        by Lucy Montrose on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 05:07:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  GOP: Anxious, Worried, Scared, Discouraged (0+ / 0-)

    And of course it's all the Democrat's fault.

    Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

    by bernardpliers on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 07:35:06 PM PDT

  •  Religion is anathema to Faith - polar opposites (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose

    "As with the other happiness inducers on this list, the problem with religion is implementation more than concept. When it is used as a means for a powerful, privileged person or group to impose themselves on a less powerful person or group; religion can cause untoward emotional damage. "

    Religion versus Faith.

    A good book to read for a Progressive person of faith, even non-Christians (for the intellectual analysis side of it), is Pagan Christianity.

    (EDIT: At this point I sidetracked from what I'd planned to say, but I'm going to leave it in because its a good point anyway. Look for the next "EDIT" for where I get back on point).

    The book puts forth a radical argument that "Christians" have been worshipping Mithras for the last 2000 years... and have essentially kicked Yeshua Christ to the curb.

    And then it breaks it down point by point how even the most basic things "Christians" think are Christian are in fact - things Yeshua preached against...

    Like for example... building churches.

    Or having pastors...

    Or even having ANY leaders at all...

    And yeah - they quote Yeshua on these things, and explain how popular belief has mistranslated things... But then they go on to show pre-Christian Roman rules... that today are the rules seen in the "Christian" world...

    Ok, so fine... means nothing if not part of the "pagan" church of "Christianity"...? Well no - because if you take the way the authors (lifelong Protestant Religious Scholars who I'm pretty sure now each has a personal target sign over his head among Evangelicals) break it down, you find the same problem in EVERY organized religion.

    Walk into a room of Buddhists and start quoting the Dhamapada... the actual quotes of their founder, Shakyamani... In places like Sri Lanka where they're willing to kill unbelievers, you better have good running shoes...

    Talk to a Muslim about the temple in Mecca that was run by women for centuries, having been founded by one of the Prophet's wives. And then get those running shoes ready...


    (EDIT: here is what I had originally meant to get to when I hit the post comment button.)

    Religion is a political thing.

    Faith is a spiritual thing.

    The two are more or less, incompatible.

    Religion is the process of taking control of another's exercise of faith for your gain. Control. Oldest form of government there is. Very easy to blame faith...

    But faith is something that comes from within us all. Even an Atheist has a "belief" in the order and way of the world and what lit that match that got placed under the Big Bang...

    Faith is a concept we all know and feel, a sense of how we should live as social Apes... It can be inspired by a feeling that somebody flipped on the lights way back when, or just a feeling that we are a human community...

    The roaches always win if you turn out the lights.

    by Jyotai on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 08:44:31 PM PDT

  •  sad people most want to be happy (0+ / 0-)

    Scared and angry people who believe themselves to be trod underfoot by the masters of a culture they cannot identify with are logically going to be the most solidarity, pleasure-seeking, and the achievement of power.  One could say this is as true of the underclass as it is of old white men mourning a lost golden age.

    Conversely, it's secure, content people who turn their attention to the sorrows of the world and wish to bring everyone into the life of peace and plenty that they know.  You find deterministic "happily ever after" types on both the right and the left of the political spectrum.

    Where you are and where you want to be need not be congruent with one another.  In fact, they're almost certain not to be.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 10:08:24 PM PDT

  •  do we really have to quote AEI studies? (0+ / 0-)

    Come on look at the sources in this journal.  An AEI study?

    Give me a break!

    When are folks on the left going to learn to be suspicious of AEI, Heritage, Cato, etc...

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Riane Eisler

    by noofsh on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 03:25:03 AM PDT

  •  "A rough draft of a Grand Unifying Theory"-- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose

    --is what my sweetie called this when she recommended I read it.
    And it is.
    Grand in its scope, but rough because of the woo index of some of the references (in my opinion, that is).
    I learned a lot; no doubt, some of it true, new, and useful.

    "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

    by CitizenJoe on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 12:01:27 PM PDT

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