I never quite understood the difference between the Liberal and Conservative minds until I read Don't Think of an Elephant and The Political Mind by George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California Berkeley. He is one of the world's leading experts in cognitive linguistics and its expression in language. His books cleared up so much for me confirming what I already instinctively felt.
Agreeing with Freud that in our origins lays the explanation of everything that follows , Lakoff likens the two different points of view to the two different models of the family. The Strict Father model and the Nurturant Parent model. The Strict Father model begins with certain assumptions. The world is a dangerous and evil place and always will be. It is competitive and there are winners and losers. Children are born bad in the sense that they want to do what feels good instead of doing what is right and in the real sense that they are born into sin. It is the father's duty to protect his family in this evil world and to teach his children right from wrong. The father is the moral leader of the family and must be obeyed by everyone especially Mommy.
To teach the children right from wrong they need to be punished strictly and painfully when they are wrong so they will have a strong incentive to do right to avoid punishment. This is what's needed to build discipline so they can become self-reliant and compete in the cold cruel world. As mature, self-reliant adults they can go off on their own and start their own families without anyone meddling in their business and join in the political world to pass laws making everyone else adhere to their moral way of life.
Their God is a strict, unforgiving Father God. There are no grey areas. It's all black and white. Break the ten commandments and you go to hell. Keep the commandments and it's heaven. All right, if you sin and repent you get a second chance. You can get born again but that's it.
The gender differences and the leading role of masculinity are crucial to the Strict Father family. And if you think we're kidding about the role of punishment in the family you only need read that great Christian best seller, Dare to Discipline by James Dobson, the founder of Focus On The Family, a two million dollar a year operation with it's own zip code . Dare to Discipline is the bible on how to raise a proper strict father family. Spare the rod and spoil the child.
When I was in nursing and this book came out it made the Child Counselors livid--- especially the part where it states, "There is no excuse for spanking babies younger than fifteen to eighteen months of age!" (because it will only confuse them. Duh!) The Strict Father family is based on Patriarchal Power where male strength dominates unquestionably, so authority, obedience, discipline and punishment are all cherished values. The males raised in these types of families like to join the Armed Services and become policemen, prison guards, and other professions where they will have authority and be in charge. From a liberal woman's point of view, they become cranky, judgmental, humorless control freaks!
If these values define your personality and who you are in every day life and how you function in society then any threat to the legitimacy of this family model or to the legitimization of any other model are threats to your core moral values, threats to your very being --- to your deepest identity ------- and you will fight these threats with all the power and hatred you can muster for the rest of your life.
Occasionally when I return to my childhood home in Missouri I will attend church to keep the peace with a few of my relatives. I happened to attend one Sunday when Madonna first used the term "boy toy." The minister was apocalyptic! For a woman to use such a phase to describe a male! And for what ungodly purpose!!!! The minister ranted and raved for a full hour. He must have been drenched in sweat. But when he was through he had the whole congregation frothing at the mouth ----- about Madonna! I was in shock! For the first time I really saw and understood the weekly brain-washing that glues the religious flock together. Suddenly I understood their intense hatred of Hollywood. Any alternative to their way of life is a threat. That's why their children can only date within their religion, why they home school, why they can't watch TV. Their children must not be subjected to an alternate way of life until they are old enough to resist such evil.
So then, extending these values into politics. Since their prime directive is to maintain their moral structure the quest for power is a necessity. Whether it is running for the school board or as a deacon or bishop in their church or any minor local office or any state office, or any supportive position to those in power, or governor, congressman or president and yes, of course, the acquisition of wealth; this is their moral obligation and duty. Their sons are raised for this quest. Usually trained in the boy scouts where they must strive to become Eagle Scouts and stay pure in mind, body and spirit, they are soldiers for the Lord fighting for right in this evil world. And they will be rewarded for this in their afterlife. You can't help but admire their devotion to their families and the proper inculcation of their values in their offspring. Another admirable trait is their duty to help their own. Those among them who have fallen upon hard times are helped back on their feet again. They take their moral and political duties very seriously.
However if you leave the faith, look out! Sometimes even your own family will have nothing to do with you. Non compliance is met with shame and the threat of expulsion, and even eventual judgement by God and eternal damnation. Fear is used to control and prevent free thinking and intellectual questioning.
Their education must be strict. They do not care for their children to become creative, happy or fulfilled. They must be taught to conserve their own way of life. Thus the name conservative. Women receive just enough education to become good wives and mothers. Conservative men want wives that are sweet, silent and submissive.
How does this affect their view of economics. They admire and respect wealthy people because they obviously became wealthy because of their hard work and discipline, and/or their parents hard work and discipline. Obviously the wealthy deserve to be rich. They strive to become wealthy themselves so how can they not respect them? So if businesses and corporations are gaining in power, this is a good and natural thing. It is God's will. The rich are the ones who will create the jobs and maintain law and order and godliness in their nation.
So what about the social programs for the poor? They are wrong, immoral and a waste of money! They remove the incentive for the poor to become disciplined. The poor are poor because they are stupid, undisciplined, uneducated and evil not to mention impolite. And they behave badly. They are arrogant and sin against god. They corrupt the world and even if you give them money they will spend it for their own evil purposes. They are suffering the wrath of God and they deserve it. Put them in jail. Put them to death. Society will be better for it. If this sounds harsh, remember they are just as strict in their own families.
Naturally there are degrees of conservative values which vary from region to region and generation to generation. But these are the core values and as you can see, by their very nature conservatives cannot be tolerant. No, God is very strict.
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