Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Selfish conservatives, altruistic liberals and EO Wilson's new book

Every now and then there'll be a story in the media about how scientists are finding the underlying physiological (or even genetic) reasons for differing political belief systems. It'll usually be about how the brains of liberals and conservatives are different somehow.

You know, conservatives are inherently fearful and power hungry, only capable of linear thinking. Liberals are just kinder, gentler beings who have brains that show a much greater level of intellectual flexibility, thereby allowing them to see other points of view ... That sort of stuff. 

Here's another one along these lines: In a new book titled The Social Conquest of Earth eminent biologist EO Wilson proposes a theory of political evolution. It says that humans are doomed to an ongoing struggle between individuals and groups as well as inner competition between selfishness and altruism.

He seems to see human civilization a bit like a constantly evolving ecosystem:

In other words, Democrats and Republicans are not two sides of the same coin, but rather different parts of the same genome. One cannot dominate the other, nor can either live without the other. Like it or not, the two parties are condemned to coexist with one another. 

It sounds interesting but I think he's made a big error in associating the left-liberal side of politics with altrusim. Sure, they've got the altruistic talk down pat. But they certainly don't walk that talk. Hell, they don't even crawl it most of the time.

I've watched liberals (we call 'em lefties here in Oz) close up for years on end and I have no doubt whatsoever that they're every bit as selfish as conservatives, probably more so. They demand responsibility from others but rarely practise it themselves. And morally, they're often all over the shop.

I believe that we're all selfish. Sure, we're capable of self-sacrifice but self-interest tends to trump it most of the time, let's face it. And we all seek power.

It's not pretty but it's the way we are. We heartless conservatives are just more honest and realistic about these potentially destructive aspects of human nature and seek to sublimate them with a worldview that rewards aspiration, self-reliance and self-possession. Basically, conservatives prefer a society in which we all have power over ourselves and ultimately freedom with responsibility. 

Lefties, on the other hand, are basically spoiled brats who haven't grown up. And they will do anything to avoid looking honestly into their own hearts and minds, assuming themselves to be unquestionably virtuous and always motivated by the noblest of intentions. They bang on about compassion, tolerance, and fairness because this tactic gets them what they really want: power over others. No wonder they seek freedom from responsibility so much of the time.

These are some of the key characteristics of conservatives as opposed to liberals. Unlike so many boffins who reckon that such political differences arise from competing genes, I'll be a leftie this time and say:

No way! It's a question of culture, see. Society's to blame.

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