Never forget: Bad wars aren't possible unless good people back them -- Michael Moore
This is the last of a three part series examining why Republicans think and act as they do; in short, why they are so dangerous. The answer will also suggest what liberals require in order to actively engage and influence the outcome of the current impasse in which Republicans block all rational legislation and compel liberals to cave on any that does manage to pass.
The imitation of vengeance
Most of today's political ire is sponsored by Republican outrage over the advocacy of enforced responsibility, to say nothing of that which culminates in tweaking the separation complex they have with that part of their ar*e or forearm tethered to money. Their pique is characterized by vehemence redolent of another honor-based trait, namely, the penchant for vengeance. Those feeling entitled to more than their just deserts rarely settle for being a law unto themselves. They not only cherry-pick their prizes at the expense of others equally or more deserving, but secure legal means to degrade their means to compete. This includes every manner of deception and a welter of practices up to and including character assassination. Whatever Republicans attach to in earnest can be expected to unfold into full-blown 'cults of dignity', defined by the behavior of members thinking themselves to possess the only dignity that truly counts, on which basis they expect the first and best fruits.
If without wherewithal (a good job, stockpiles in the bank or bundles in the stock market) one perchances to irritate a ranking Republican but slightly, their accusation include laziness, lassitude, degeneracy or worse -- the imputation of being a threat to world security. They could care less that such tall talk is dismissive of fact, reality or truth. Far be it for the moribund to be respectful of truth. George H. W. Bush referred to Michael Moore as 'that horrible person'. I can understand having a distaste for one who flaunts or otherwise flirts with reverenced ideology; I have a hard time with those who so detest criticism and competition that they find contempt and ad hominems morally suitable.
Whoever can feel content to do this will also, given the means, construct far greater evils. And we know from experience that there is little that satisfies the Republican appetite for vengeance any more than for power. Such dispositions bring out the traits enabling thieves to respect one another even as they raid one another. They justify the privileging of stability at the expense of democracy, oil and business ventures at the expense of foreign policy leverage (Latin America, Middle East, China, respectively), and much besides. Democrats have long been in on this act as well, but it took Republicans, starting with Reagan, to elevate excuses into what many authorities in and out of academe refer to as empire-building. No more than schoolyard bullies, can ranking Republicans ever have enough power. No more than career criminals can they free themselves of the addiction. They have all of the characteristic traits of dictators, and a few doozies into the bargain that turn the garden variety of autocrat into a destructive fascist.
"If the gods had meant us to vote they would have given us candidates," quipped Jim Hightower. The Republican Party machine gives us candidates who eventually eliminate likely Democratic voters. Hiding behind apparently uncommon instances of voter fraud they are selling voter ID laws ostensibly intended to stem the presumed fraud, fully aware that the law will do more openly what they already do secretively. Republican voter fraud is under-reported but embarrassingly well documented where it is suspected: California , Wisconsin , and Indiana . Regarding their entitlement motivations, the ' Rush ' think of pot-smoking Republicans, or maybe the talk show host -- who acknowledges that voter fraud is laudable, but only when done by entitled Republicans. Entitled, so they say, but the larger issue is the devolution to decadence it fosters.
Like spoiled brats they exact vengeance on projected enemies for (fictively) engendering constant fears that their parades will be rained on. As threats become more real or more personal, the recriminations intensify logarithmically. Israelis offer the example par excellence in regard of the Palestinians. Enumerate the comparative body counts and property destruction valuation every time there is a scuffle. It's between 100 to 1 and 1,000 to 1, and it is nothing short of invariable. Conservatives under pressure are the same everywhere in the world. Vengeance specializes in all that is punitive. Aren't you glad to have thousands of people like this to consider for elective office?
Those paying attention cannot but help note the moralistic influences pervading industry and finance, from employment practices, to revenue policies, to advertizing methods. As earlier mentioned, the conduct participating in markets in invariably honor-based. But Republicans are never satisfied to leave matters there. They turn what could work respectably well for everybody into a cult of dignity that funnels the best into their own coffers, utilizing moralist agendas (or excuses) to justify the hit others must endure that still others might ensure the success of such policies. The web of relationships is rarely a conspiracy. What with the psychology of the dignity cult no conspiracy is ever required, just a membership of arrogant hypocrites.
Banks employ punitive penalties to those least able to afford them, and they know full well what they are doing and couldn't care less. Penalties for overdrawing an account are obscene, and only public outcry has led to a slight improvement in policies. Advertising shamelessly parades moralistic pretense which, if a bit nauseating, does at least offer support for a very important lesson. A recent ad by a German firm exposes a boss observing what would normally have been private photos, along with moralistic comments that do nothing to suggest that the boss will be able to compartmentalize the resulting disparagement from his interaction with the employee.
Golf commercials stressing etiquette utilize shame by confronting (what are made to appear as) idiots with highly respected professional golfers. It is a strikingly Republican sport, blending the best with the questionable. There is no sport more concerned with the ancient cult of honor, and no sport where rule violations are more punitive. And that the commercials are aimed thus at the Republicans who make up the bulk of the golfing community, the use of shame ought not be surprising. Liberals, please take note.
Harkening back to the cult of honor, we can also mention that there is probably no sport that does more by way of charity, and no sport that does as much to encourage the honor-based benefits the sport can afford (character-building, etc.). If Republicans in every branch of life could imitate these principles less the punitive elements, I would have no reason to write this essay. Don't hold your breath. Absent the expanded utilization of shame against their foibles, no such changes are in the offing.
No discussion of honor can be complete without mention of honor-killings. Who is likely to hold the girl down while the male commits the act? It is as likely to be the mother as anybody. Gasp! Fact is, women are usually more sensitive to status and aspects of appearances than men. Honor-killings are a matter of shame to the family, and those most responsible for representing the family -- the lead wife and the patriarch -- are thus responsible for settling scores and marking tallies. And the wives of Republican politicians? Well, they are just the perfect helpers.
In dignity-based societies, the concept of contempt is largely personal, or at least it is considered so by the citizenry even when the law doesn't. In the honor-based moiety, however, contempt reverberates through family and community tentacles. Beyond a defined level of severity, manifesting contempt for culture becomes their equivalent of our concept of treason. We, however, require that treason attempt to physically achieve the result, whereas the honor-based see things as much in spiritual and moralistic terms as they do the material. The honor-killing responds to ideas that disavow cultural fundamentals, which we might best understand as 'treason against tradition'. You'd think Republicans, who enjoy being thought of as venerating tradition, could understand this. What is more to the point, they have their own rendition of honor-killing, which I would like to briefly explore.
Given their dedication and worship of an ideology, this should come as no surprise. In this election year Republicans are as hungry for victory as ever. As with honor-based peoples in a state of war, nothing is off the table. Republicans inaugurated nasty tactics (George Herbert Walker Bush), indeed elevated them to an art-form (the triumvirate of Atwater, Rove and Norquist). Their task was to win, and thus nothing was immoral if only because their concept of affirmative action is to reward themselves with power, where the ends must justify any means. Again, the honor parallel is chillingly close. While they deny affirmative action for anybody else, they have never objected to adopting every wicked spinoff for their own benefit. They could care less about hypocrisy; they could care less of moral egress or anti-democratic methods when power is at stake. The ideology requires that all efforts possible bring Republicans to power.
Honor-based peoples are prone to see relations with competitors in war metaphors. You can imagine the reasons. Ditto with Republicans, who admit in private that they declared war on liberals forty-five years ago (the 'culture wars' are a Republican invention), and who often use war metaphors in business policies, and who take every election as a matter of winning all or losing all. Anthropologist H. H. Turney-High once advanced the interesting thesis that pre-modern societies waged war to defeat, whereas today's soldiers wage war to conquer. For Republicans the first applies to elections, the second to governance. Republicans are out for the land grab, the whole shebang. They are nothing if not committed, which usually implies fanaticism and a willingness to lie, Texas style, by which I mean, the 'bald-faced lie', where blatant and deliberate untruths are intended to rub in to the receptive the significance of between-the-lines message.