Try to think of a single major threat to our species for which no plausible solution has been suggested.
Global warming? Easy - cut the greenhouse gasses drastically. Terrorism? Simple - change the policies and cultural instruction which fuel it. Poverty, starvation? Plenty of resources exist to wipe it out. Three months of Iraq war money used wisely would drastically reduce both.
Nuclear weapons and war in general? We only lack the collective will to deal with them, and to insist on diplomatic solutions. If we can put ships into space and make digital watches, we should be beyond the caveman tactics of bloody combat by now.
Two facts should be clear:
A. We have the "know how" and resources to effectively deal with such problems.
B. We are not actually doing so, even though such problems threaten our well being and even our very survival.
Try to tell me that we wouldn't have done something about global warming by now if humanity was 90% "liberal" in our thinking. Would we be ignoring poverty and AIDS, invading Iraq, facing a rise in religious terrorism or watching health care and education crumble around us? Not too likely, Jack.
The real problem, the root problem of nearly all others, is not found in some external force or enemy. This enormous threat to humanity lies in the human mind - it all starts in the few inches between our ears.
Call it conservatism, fundamentalism, right wing thinking, ideological insanity, what have you, it can clearly be considered a mental disorder; a dysfunction of the human mind, and it threatens our survival.
I have put some thought into this problem, and I believe I can identify the symptoms as specific mental behavior patterns. I can even suggest solutions.
Do you have this disorder? Maybe. See if these symptoms fit how you think:
* Instead of valuing results of policies and actions above all, choosing behavior according to consequences, you instead hold rigid commitment to an ideology or a philosophical conviction as a supreme value. In other words, "it's okay to get things wrong as long as you have strong beliefs."
* You believe that your strength of will or faith defines reality, and that truth is a matter of your conviction, instead of independent fact.
* You believe that fate is inevitable, and that your decisions or behavior cannot alter destiny.
* You do not believe humanity is truly able to work together rationally and pragmatically to solve basic problems, and view that strategy as basically impossible, for various reasons.
* When solutions to major problems are suggested, you tend to think of reasons that they cannot or should not be attempted.
* You consider faith and personal conviction as being more compelling, or stronger, than facts or consequences of behavior.
* You believe things to be true for subjective reasons of personal perspective - ie., "I believe [x] is true because I feel it gives my life meaning."
These symptoms provide a rough sketch of the conservative disorder as I think of it. The kind of thinking described above is a recipe for disaster and destruction.
**************** But... ***************
This problem can be "cured" or at least greatly reduced, if people want it, through fairly simple education. Even this major problem is solvable, as long as people have the will to deal with it.
I think this problem is one of mental discipline and habit, but it may be that there are chemical / biological factors as well. Either way, it is a matter of brain function - how people's minds operate. Therefore, any solution must address that.
Imagine if societies taught children these core values:
* The human species, and individual lives, are very precious, and should be valued and protected.
* Being mistaken about what is true or real in the world around you is very dangerous, and it can seriously hurt or kill you. So it is important to understand reality accurately.
* The consequences of your actions and decisions are very important, because they can either hurt or help you and others around you - real results matter more than intentions or beliefs.
* Treating people equally, and according to how you would prefer to be treated in their place, is important. Unjustified inequality, especially in the extreme, generally fosters conflict and violence, and so increases threats to survival.
* Survival and well-being is more easily protected when we refrain from providing others with motives to threaten or harm us (another reason for the Golden Rule).
* Religious beliefs are your own business, and people should not oppose their own faith on others in any way.
* A society of reasonable, helpful laws is vital to survival, and rule of law should be respected and defended as a standard greater than personal feeling.
* Individual rights are equally sovereign under the law, as are personal freedoms.
I'm pretty sure that if all societies taught and preserved those values as part of the cultural foundation, we'd find it much easier to address other problems we face.
The real danger of the conservative disorder is that it causes people to think and act in ways which do not support the goal of human survival, and are often contrary to that goal.
The Bush administration provides an excellent example of the dangers this conservative disorder poses to humanity.
Thoughts? If anyone knows of related findings in the current neuroscience or psychology literature, I'd like to see it.
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