Our cranial roommate, Homo Politicus, identified by Aristotle long before the birth of Christ, is a trouble maker.
The following observation is true enough, but Homo Politicus latches onto one word and says “There you go again!”
“All forms of conservatism are symptoms of mental illness. The fact that they are collective and rooted in ancient fragments of wisdom does not change the fact, just makes them more dangerous, difficult to acknowledge as pathological, and hard to treat.“
Because Homo Politicus sees everything as political and “conservative” is a political label, (s)he distracts us from what’s important, the root of the mental illness that manifests as conservatism.
What is that root? Fear of change.
That’s important because so may of us fear change. It’s not just Republicans, Christian and Muslim fundamentalists or others who profess conservative values.
And conservatism is not our only mental illness that manifests in politics. Progressivism is also a delusion because we cannot in real life manage societal change.
Although our every behavior causes change, we cannot control the result. The network of causes in which we exist encompasses everything that ever happened. We cannot be in control because we are embedded in that network of causes.
Over-excitable Homo Politicus distracts us from the fact that knowing we cannot be certain about all its results does not mean our behavior doesn’t matter.
In fact, it is only our behavior that matters! Because they so often guide our behavior, we must be very wary of our mental roommate’s beliefs.
It is foolish, for example, to think that those with a different political bias are mentally ill while we are sane. That leads us to ignore important truths they point out.
And Homo Politicus blinds us to our own contradictory beliefs. Conservatives who oppose government activism at home, for example, passionately advocate the use of force to change other nations.
There are such contradictory beliefs all across our political spectrum.
The result is we live with great social and economic inequality, inadequate access to health care, persecution based on beliefs or identity – all these ills and more – and we don’t know what to do.
We might imagine too much government got us into the mess, or stronger government could fix the problem. But corrupt and incompetent as our government may be, it is not our primary problem.
That’s good because government’s flaws are very hard to correct but our individual problems are more tractable. Of course we must correct our government’s flaws but we will get results faster by correcting our own.
What can we do about our insanity? We can:
- Reject “us-versus-them”, start building bridges across perceived divides.
- Focus more on broader long-term consequences of our actions, less on short-term self-interest.
- Resist appeals to fear and anger that cloud our judgment, use more analysis.
- Assume misunderstandings result not from malice but miscommunication, practice empathy.
That we have an insane cranial roommate whose friends and enemies are also deranged doesn’t mean we must remain deluded. We can pay less attention to their chatter and act more wisely. We will be happier if we do.