Persons whose mode of interacting with the world is significantly determined by fear are not in a position to think clearly or thoroughly. This is not some new-age fatuousness or Star Wars homily, simply an obvious fact. And note that the language used here is fairly deliberate: I’m not talking about persons who are afraid all the time – a truly dreadful, and genuinely pathological condition to even imagine! I mean persons whose conceptual, perceptual, and affective approaches to how they frame and engage with reality have a substantive, more-or-less constant, fear-driven component. Even as this component is not the single greatest part of the entire puzzle (indeed, such persons will often enough hardly even realize that it is there) the fact that it is there, even though it whispers more than shouts, its endemic presence gives it disproportionate influence over the affected people’s lives. It turns out that such persons are overwhelmingly conservative in their political and social outlooks.
People who have this substantial (albeit subtle) inclination toward a fear-driven account of, and interaction with, the world are not particularly less intelligent than other people. Endless sniping to the contrary notwithstanding, neither liberals nor conservatives are less intelligent or less educated than the other. Many famous conservatives have advanced degrees: Newt Gingrich has a Ph.D. In European history, and Ben Carson is, by all accounts (not just his own) an extraordinary neurosurgeon. (Although, in Carson’s case, it may be legitimate to wonder about his genuine intelligence, as opposed to clever puzzle solving abilities..) But one of the aspects of Authoritarian thinking – which is often, if not mostly conservative in nature – is its ruthless compartmentalization. One can be very intelligent and very well educated, but within the fear-driven parameters of the Authoritarian mindset, that intelligence and that education will not be permitted to range freely across the full spectrum of inquiry for very long, if at all. This compartmentalization allows ideas to exist independently of rational critique, and they can take on an emotional tinge – such as fear – which is not objectively merited. Continue reading