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The Conservative/Liberal divide seems to be an inherent feature of human nature. At least there are too many parallels to support another hypothesis. Moreover, the great divide between the right and left is mirrored within each party. Finally, we see the phenomenon within each of us as a template for the whole.

On the level of the Conservative whole, one sees the Evangelical Right vs what is left of the Goldwater Republicans vs the Neocons. And these are paralleled on the Liberal side by the Economists vs Unionists vs the Civil Rightists. None is pure black or white; there is much overlap within and between the major parties. The point is that like nature, politics (or any human endeavor for that matter) abhors a vacuum; If there is a position or attitude unfilled, it will be filled by someone or a movement. Byways are therefore to be expected and respected. In this way multiple systems of governance, faith, and economics have arisen, flourished, and too often gone to war upon one another.

While most of us are overly obedient, most of us are also ambitious (read that as genetically aggressive). And being ambitious, we look for differentiating niches for ourselves. Depending on our personalities and charisma, we go those paths alone, in concert with others, or as the leader of a pack. Thus it is that scientists, politicians, religious leaders, soldiers, come in all flavors over the continuum spanning the great Conservative/Liberal divide. Conservatives revere history and the status quo, and are usually well-organized in their reverence. On the other hand, by nature, Liberals want to improve things, many things, all things, and all at once. As a result they are less coherent, less-well organized. Each trait can be infected by a siege mentality that does their cause more harm than good.

Just as the Conservatives too often get stuck in the mud; Liberals too often go off something less-than-fully prepared. Policies from either side too often suffer from ill preparedness, lack of vision or both.

It is human nature to want to be secure. It is also human nature to want to live longer, more comfortably. Typically, each person wants both. But they are not often that compatible. Conservative citizens of declining empires cling to the methods (such as wars of revolution, empire, defense and finally to over wars of choice that go with decline. War brought greatness in the past and therefore will again, the thinking seems to go.

While liberal citizens recognize the folly of war and try to avoid it, they immediately run up against the human tendency toward aggression of the previous paragraph. And, moreover, from the works of Adorno, Milgram, Burger and a host of others, the liberals also run up against the human tendency of overly obedience. The two tendencies reinforce one another. Conservatives are better at exploiting both tendencies. Again there is great overlap, but the generality seems real enough. Difference is here to stay; we have no choice but to live with it in all sectors of society and at all levels, most especially at the international level.

So how are we doing?

Not so good methinks.

  • Two decades ago America was the unquestioned world leader economically; today we are debtors, to a nominal Communist state at that.
  • Two decades ago we were embroiled in a Cold War. Today, we still are in addition to two live ones, against an ephemeral enemy, here one minute, gone the next.
  • Two decades ago, America and the USSR agreed to end the Cold War. Today we are still in it, not because the Russians did not do their part, but because we behaved as victors often do; we treated them as another vassal instead of as a partner. That was the doing of the Clinton Administration.
  • Under Bush, American extended the Clinton agenda, armed Georgia and brought the New but Old Cold War to Russia's doorstep. Bur America lost when Putin stood up and defended Russian National interests. What was our real business in Georgia?
  • Two decades ago America watched China adopt a market economy. Today, China is America's principle creditor while still remaining an important trading partner. That American ambitions were out-sized was not easy to see at first. But it is now evident that we over-reached big time. Communism died, but central governance did not. And China is moving ahead economically like no nation ever has. Its developing middle class feels liberated. Why do you suppose?

What kind of a nation are we?

Time will tell.

An individual showing all the above tendencies might be termed manic depressive, to expand a psychological term to the society level. America shows a similar pattern. And like the manic depressive, America resists the idea of removing the personality albatross. America has been the most innovative nation on earth for over a century, and that very fact played into our genetic flaws--we became not only manic depressive, but triumphalistic to boot. A more critical and dangerous combination is difficult to imagine.

National therapy is indicated, just as it would be for an individual. But are we not a nation of individuals? the therapy needed is not the couch variety, but simple education about the root causes of violence and the dialogic response necessary to remove those roots. Once accomplished, violence will reduce to its background level associated with the genetic psycho-sociopath. Once an intra-national citizenry has been created, It can be used as a framework for other nations. The nation that first accomplishes this can go on to lead the 21st century toward peace.

Conservatives will protest that this is impossible, that violence and war are not only necessary but inborn and therefore beyond redemption. But that is not true. Witness the great disparities in violence among nations, among cities within nations, and among social classes within societies, not to mention huge differences among families. The so called "nature nurture" tension is real enough so long as the marriage between aggression and obedience holds its grip on individual citizens. Self actualization plus balanced internal and external loci of control combined with ability to think logically and skeptically are the realm of nurturing. Parenting, nurturing, altruism, and empathy are among the traits most of us are born with. Accenting these traits can offset that marriage consummated in Hell.

Isn't it time we got on with it?

It can happen if we as a society can get our perspective right.


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