Thursday, June 14, 2012

What Profiteth It A Man...?

Yeah, yeah, Conan the Barbarian climbed to the top on a pile of skulls and rode through blood; Robert E. Howard lived in his Mom's house.

Politics makes people sociopathic -- somebody linked to an article on the subject recently but I can't find it again. Thing is, it's true; when we form up sides and fight over Ideas, it's wired right into us to forget that the men and women espousing ideas we oppose are still people and it's just as easy for them to do the same to us.

The problem is that unchecked, that's a short bus-ride to the killing fields and gulags, to death marches and concentration camps, to rock-throwing, city-burning riots.

There's damn-all you can do about the other guy when blood runs hot but we're each the keepers of our own heart and conscience. No matter the battle or the stakes, if you give in to the damn-fool notion that the other guy is a shadow-puppet of monstrous forces, to be brought down by any means, you lose. Even if you win, you still lose.

I'm tempted to call it Josh-Horowitz Syndrome, based on his histrionically-overblown loathing of the National Rifle Association, but that's too easy. (It's always easiest to see this happening to people on The Other Side; but they're not special; a spin of the radio dial finds demonization Right and Left). --I'm tempted to call it Carrie-Nation Syndrome, the belief that with an ax to smite the tools of the wicked -- and perhaps the wicked themselves -- a new and wonderful era can be brought to fruition. (How'd that work out? Oh, yeah, widespread scorn for law, police and the justice system, plus rise of the Mafia. Not exactly as predicted.) Again: too easy.

The real world is messy. People are always going to disagree about means, ends and basic philosophies. Accepting that you can't hammer 'em all into your own chosen mold, what do you do? Me, I dunno, but comin' up with ways to limit the damage we can do one another looks like a good first step; and perhaps that's the true genius of a Constitutionally-limited government. It would certainly explain why that notion is anathema to the farthest-out elements of the Left/Right political spectrum.

Fight? Sure -- fight over ideas. Not people; it's practically a foregone conclusion that J. Random Politician is a twisted, power-hungry jerk, but that's not because he's a member of $POLITICAL_PARTY, it's because practically all politicians are that way. And they always have been; which is another good reason to limit their power.

12 comments:

karrde said...

Potential citation for the post on politics producing sociopaths, in commentary provided by Joe Huffman.

http://blog.joehuffman.org/2012/06/13/QuoteOfTheDayJohnRansom.aspx

Roberta X said...

Ah, that would explain it. Thank you.

Tango Juliet said...

"No matter who you are or what you believe, you have to understand that some day the worst control-freaks among your bitterest enemies will control the federal government, and you better have restored effective, working constitutional limitations on that government before that time arrives." -- Rick Gaber

armedlaughing said...

Linking to your post - it's important to remember.
Thanks!
gfa

Taranaich said...

Yeah, yeah, Conan the Barbarian climbed to the top on a pile of skulls and rode through blood; Robert E. Howard lived in his Mom's house.

Mostly because he was his mother's primary caregiver (what with her dying of tuberculosis) in the middle of a crowded boom town during the Depression, but anyway...

Roberta X said...

WWCtBD? Probably not take care of his Mom.

Tam said...

"Taranaich",

That, and he was a pasty nerd.

Jerry said...

Preech it.

wolfwalker said...

"Thing is, it's true; when we form up sides and fight over Ideas, it's wired right into us to forget that the men and women espousing ideas we oppose are still people and it's just as easy for them to do the same to us."

Very true. However (pedant alert!), I think "sociopath" is the wrong word to apply. Sociopathy is a condition in which the individual loses empathy for all other humans. What the linked study describes is ... well, it's normal behavior for a Stone Age human. We evolved as a tribal species. We live for the Tribe, we die for the Tribe. Those outside our Tribe are not fellow-travelers; they are the Other, the Enemy. A threat, a clear and present danger, to be fought and destroyed by any means necessary. That's hardwired into our psyche.

Your political affiliation is your Tribe on some levels, so those who are of a different political persuasion are not your Tribe. They are the Other. Showing empathy for the Other is dangerous to the Tribe, so most of us just won't do it. It takes careful conditioning to be able to see "one who disagrees politically" as "still a fellow tribesman", and not "the Other."

And, I will admit, while it's certainly within my power to do so, there are times that I see no reason to bother ... mostly when I'm up against a political opponent who clearly doesn't see me as "still a fellow tribesman."

Roberta X said...

Wolfwalker: kinda sucks when you define half the people on your block as The Other, don't it?

Tam said...

That's the downside to the Nation State. Especially the modern rootless version.

wolfwalker said...

Roberta: "Wolfwalker: kinda sucks when you define half the people on your block as The Other, don't it?"

I don't know. I have no idea what the political makeup of this neighborhood is. And that's the way I like it.