Thursday, September 11, 2003


One of my conservative academic colleagues saw the "Berkeley study" of conservative psychology too. This was his rather jocular response at the time:

"Studies that purport to show that conservatives have some sort of mental problem are legion (double entendre intended). I saw one reported some years ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education that claimed to show that liberals were more morally sophisticated than conservatives by the way they answered a test designed to show moral awareness. The article didn't say if the test measured, say, belief in moral absolutes, but if I were to venture a wild stab in the dark, I'd guess no. I wrote the ChHEd saying I wasn't aware they were publishing comedy pieces now, since the whole project was such a blatant exercise in circular reasoning, but for some reason they didn't publish my comment.

Biased tests are bad when they favor those who value math and verbal skills, but good when they advance liberal ideology. This, of course, is mental health, Gulag Archipelago style, reminiscent of the way the USSR used to put dissidents in mental institutions on the premise that if they didn't accept the prevailing ideology, they had to be crazy. The best example is the term "homophobia." I have never met a homophobe. I have met lots of people who reject homosexuality on moral or esthetic grounds, but that is hardly a phobia.

Still the studies are right. There are conservatives who have all the negative attributes listed. One person might reject change because it's unwise or immoral, another will resist because of cowardice or laziness, and they will both come to the same position, one for good reasons, the other for bad.

I find some solace in this study appearing now. The more panicky and shrill liberals get, the more threatened they must be. Columnists like Mollie Ivins and Tom Teepen and filmmakers like Michael Moore are my moral compasses; if they're going totally ballistic I know the universe must be headed in the right direction.

Still, if conservatives have characteristic mental issues, so must liberals. Rather than get angry over studies identifying conservative mental problems, it's a lot more useful to try listing the mental problems of liberals. What are they? I think an approach based on the seven deadly sins is useful. For conservatives, the deadly sins are obvious: sloth and greed. There are people who call themselves conservatives simply because opposing change is less work and less threatening than accepting it. And there are those who call themselves conservatives solely because they want lower taxes and easier regulations, but whose personal ethics are as liberal as they get.

Now what are the deadly sins of liberals? If there's one pervasive characteristic I see in liberals, it's mindless revolt against authority. We can say with some justice that liberals as a group suffer from Oppositional Defiant Disorder. So I'd say their first deadly sin is Pride. Second is Envy. There's even a name for it: the Politics of Envy. If you have something, then you must have stolen it from others, goes the thinking. And the third would be Lust. Listen to any ostensibly intellectual discussion of religion by non-believers and watch just how quickly sex pops to the surface. I suspect that objections to religious belief boil down to about 85 percent resentment over Christian sexual morality, 10 percent concern about war, oppression and social injustice in the name of religion, and 5 percent serious intellectual issues.

[I suspect a lot of liberals have unresolved adolescent guilt issues over sex. Scratch a militant atheist and you'll find someone who was scolded for masturbating as a teenager and never got over it.]"


No comments: