Monday, January 3, 2011

Nothing to fear but pretty much everything.

This is a fun one:

Scientists have found that people with conservative views have brains with larger amygdalas, almond shaped areas in the centre of the brain often associated with anxiety and emotions.

On the otherhand, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life.

Naturally, the actual study isn't available online yet, so until it can be picked apart (which I assure you, it will be), let's just have some fun with it. Ha! Republicans all scared and shit. That's hilarious.

In regards to pop psychology, it just makes so much sense, you know? I can fall asleep at night without worrying that terrorists or Black Panthers are hiding out under my bed. I don't know if some right-wingers can say the same, based on some of the shit I've read by them. Wasn't there an actual children's book put out a while back about liberals hiding under the bed? I think there was, but I'm too lazy to look for it.

And yes, that's all a bit hyperbolic. But the actual examples aren't any better. Think of the hullabaloo over trying terror suspects in civilian courts, for example. It's odd that the same group that preaches American exceptionalism on a regular basis would piddle themselves at the thought of actually having our institutions tested. I mean, is there really anything that shows that we are the United Fucking States more putting these terror suspects through our own justice system, because goddammit, this is America, and we do that shit right? But no, the critics cried, trying them in our courts and putting them in our prison systems might lead to exposure to their radical world-view, either by recruitment of convicts or allowing them to testify on the stand, and apparently we can't handle such things, because we are so fragile. But you know, America! Fuck Yeah! and all. Makes no sense.

Now, as interesting as it may be, it should be said first and foremost that any study that is promoted as showing something "hard-wired" into the brain should send up a red flag instantly. It could be that the "hard-wired" conclusion may not actually be featured in the study (this is often an assumed conclusion that over-zealous publications will tack on because they feel it makes for a more interesting read). But even if this is so, a study is still pretty worthless if you can't go in and look at the methodology used. So I can't really delve into the merits of the study itself at this point. I'd just caution that most of these things are for entertainment value only.

But still, it did make me pause, because it fits nicely in with a pattern I've picked up on in regards to conservatives (or probably more accurately, Republicans). It's this idea that punishing the wicked takes precedence over protecting the innocent. Have you noticed it? It's a theme running through most of their arguments. For instance:

~ We must do everything we can to make voting as difficult as possible - harassing people we find questionable at the polls, pushing for ID requirements, etc. That this actually leads to massive voter suppression is an unfortunate yet necessary effect, but it is still more important to catch those that might be defrauding the system than to ensure that every American can exercise one of their most fundamental rights in our society.

~ Courts are not perfect, societal biases can influence cases and sentencing, and sometimes innocent people are put to death by the state. But it's better to have a few innocent people wrongly executed then to have one actual murderer get life in prison instead of the death penalty. You can also apply this to due process objections as well, even though protections are in existence for the sole reason of preventing abuse and fraud by the justice system, they can also lead to "technicalities" which may let a guilty person go free, which is why we need to do away with them.

~ Even though the majority of women that seek out late-trimester abortions have a really damn good reason for doing so, there may be a few that don't have a reason that we've agreed is acceptable, therefore the whole procedure must be banned; tough luck if you are one of the women that are desperately in need of those services.

~ Sure, it sucks when law enforcement shoots people that are protecting their families when the door of their home is busted down by gun-wielding strangers during to a no-knock raid. But sometimes when you knock first, drug dealers can flush drugs down the toilet, which means they might get away with it. And drugs are bad, okay? Sorry about having the wrong house address, though.

~ Hardship in life is inevitable. There will be times when families are desperate for funds to put food on the table so their children can eat. But sometimes, some people abuse the welfare system. Better to get rid of the social safety net entirely.

And so on. I think it comes down to what we consider to be the worst-case scenario. I've always held the opinion that it is better to let a few bad people get away with things rather then risk punishing the truly innocent. But I hear a lot of arguments that are willing to sacrifice the innocent to get the bad people, and we see this idea play out time and time again. Maybe it's due to fear. Maybe it's due to empathy, or a lack thereof. Maybe it's due to perfect-world syndrome. Or maybe it's merely the politics of ressentiment. But there are definitely patterns.

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