ARE YOU A CONSERVATIVE?
A conservative is someone who draws his values and his guiding principles from religious dogma, often the Bible, or from a set of creeds or pronouncements handed to him by authority figures. He accepts these assorted statements and declarations as the “truth.” For example, “God created the heavens and the earth in seven days, about 8,000 years ago: He put us here to worship Him; and He will punish those who do not by throwing them into an eternal fire to burn for all eternity.” There are many other transgressions that will also result in permanent residence in the fiery furnace. Basically, the conservative approaches the world armed with such spotty and primitive interpretations of the Bible, the 10 Commandments, and with an open pipeline to his religious counselors for continuous updates about what constitutes “right” and “wrong.” He will often substitute the advice and counsel of a self-proclaimed holder of truth for that of this actual religious leader, for example, a Rush Limbaugh or a Glenn Beck.
He believes it is his earthly duty to vote, that voting is among the highest acts of loyalty to God and country. But he rarely decides for himself for whom to vote nor does he become informed about the issues. He merely follows the counsel of Limbaugh or Beck, or his favorite clergyman or politician. Whatever they say is the “truth,” thus they save him the trouble of having to engage in those troublesome acts called “thinking,” or “analyzing,” so as to reach reasonable conclusions based on facts and evidence. His working truths about voting are these: “Your greatest enemy is a liberal. He must be defeated and/or destroyed at all costs. He is the Devil incarnate. He nearly always comes in the form of a Democrat. Therefore, never vote for a Democrat; always vote for a conservative.”
The conservative soon develops a short list of other simplifications: One is that most knowledge really consists of “opinions,” and his opinions are as good as your facts. This simplification also helps him avoid having to deal with facts. Another is that patriotism consists of singing “God Bless America,” and saying the “Pledge of Allegiance.” A third is “support all wars, but let the liberals and the poor fight them. You have other priorities.” Besides, what a convenient way to reduce the population of poor liberals! And a third is “less government is better, while no government is best of all.” That is followed by “avoid paying taxes; they support an evil government.” And a few loose ends are rounded up in these generalities: “Homosexuality is an evil choice, unless he or she is your brother or sister. Then it’s a disease, curable by prayer.” And “immigration is good, as long as the immigrant is your color and your religion and speaks English; otherwise, he is probably a future Democratic voter trying to sneak into your country.” And in the world of business, “free markets are next to God; the government cannot run anything.” Charity begins and ends with church hand-outs. All government programs designed to aid the poor are against God’s will.
There you have the basics of conservatism. It relies on authoritarianism, dogma, and assertions about reality. Its adherents are brainwashed followers, whose main characteristics are subservience, low self-esteem, a strong need to belong, a low sense of humor, fearfulness, and intolerance for ambiguity. They need to be led, and they are led by those with a strong psychological need for power, who often believe they are ordained by God to lead. When left unchecked, they become megalomaniacs in the style and intent of Jim Jones, and believe the end justifies the means because they hold the Truth.
My thesis would be incomplete without a remedy for this social affliction. Those who exhibit the characteristics noted above also score on the “closed-minded” end of the scale that measures open- versus closed-mindedness. All of those symptoms begin to melt and fade away as the holder becomes better and better educated. Indeed, education is the single best antidote for closed-mindedness. At higher education levels each student is often required to defend his/her positions either in written discourse such as in term papers, or in debates, in or seminar forums. To merely spout old stale rhetoric in support of anything is not convincing to anyone interested in facts, and logic, and well-reasoned positions. It is because of that process of purging old fixed ideas and replacing them with sound, defensible positions that professors of higher education also possess open-mindedness, a trait associated with liberalism.
Along a continuum that encloses “ignorance” at one end, and “enlightenment” at the opposite end, it is a safe statement to say that it is a major effect of education is to move conservatives from the dark state of ignorance to a more civilized state of enlightenment. Not all unstated consequences are either unintended or bad.