A psychoanalyst, as part of his training, learns how to continually monitor and question his own prejudices, preconceptions, and biases (which is much of what happens during analysis but is post-analysis carried on without the assistance of the analyst.) The need to do this is related to the ongoing work of analysis with pone’s patients. When, for example, I make a particularly trenchant and incisive interpretation and my patient reacts with disbelief or worse, doesn't have any reaction at all, it is up to me to discover the source of my possibly incorrect interpretation. Did my own prejudice cause me to miss something the patient was working on? Was I so invested in my own brilliance that I forgot to attend to the working of my patient’s mind? There are, of course, innumerable ways in which the Psychoanalyst can miss something important, and it is crucial to learn whether the “miss” had its source within the mind of the analyst as opposed to arising in some resistance of the patient. All of this is preamble to a question that has been troubling me for some time: Why is it that some people have so much trouble questioning themselves?
I have been often accused of various transgressions since beginning to change my political views. My favorite was being told I am stubborn and won’t ever change my mind, when in fact that is exactly what I have done which is so troubling to people. My least favorite pejorative was being called a fascist by family and friends who were outraged that I might have the temerity to not only support our efforts in Iraq but actually planned to vote for Bush!My political odyssey somewhat parallels that described by New Sisyphus in his post on “The End of the Cold War: Testing the Left's Central Thesis”. He reviews the history of the cold war and suggests that the left (and usually liberal, as well) reading of history does not hold up as well as the right (conservative) view. He writes:
The post-Cold War world allowed people to judge the analysis of the We don't think these two phenomena are unrelated. On the contrary, people are mostly rational and, with the facts being what they are on the ground, most people have begun to give credence to a philosophy that simply has done a better job of explaining the world around us.
We see this all the time. We may laugh when the New York Times runs one its famous "Crime Rate Continues to Fall Even as Jail Population Booms" we-can't-buy-a-clue story, but the fact is--from things small to grand--liberalism as a theory simply fails to either explain past behavior or successfully predict future. People notice this.
The Right isn't convincing people--its arguments simply don't have the same exposure--so much as the Left is convincing people that the Left isn't right. In this vein, United States by liberals and conservatives and, more and more, people began to come to the conclusion that the conservative narrative simply made more sense. At the same time, a rising conservative movement has come to dominate the U.S. political scene, even if the cultural and educational heights are still controlled by old-school liberalism.
Iraq's recent elections are merely more of the same. One side said that it was a useless puppet exercise resented by the Iraqi people. The other said the people of Iraq wanted freedom and their voice as much as any other people would. Which side better anticipated what occurred on January 30?
The entire article is a terrific read. It seems to me that to maintain the left point of view, for example that the Soviet Union failed because of its own inherent weakness, rather than the right’s view that it required Reagan’s resolute efforts to win the cold war in addition to the inherent structural weaknesses of communism, causes one to construct more and more elaborate structures of causality that begin to resemble the cycles and epicycles of Ptolemy’s universe rather than a coherent historical narrative. I know others who had an experience more like Cicero at Winds of Change. He describes how powerfully 9/11 woke him out of an "end of history" slumber:
During the remaining 1990s, while the country partied and worked overtime in search of digital gold I took a breather from the world, to recline as a political zero. I was utterly amazed and distressed at the excesses of those post-historical dotcom days. We were becoming too soft as a culture, I believed -- surrounded by too much wealth, convenience and distractive media to actually defend ourselves as free people. I felt that the West's hard-won liberal principles were melting into irony in the face of blinding overabundance and frivolous politics. But the confetti of those heady times draped over my concerns, and like many other people, I was too busy shuffling pixels to put much energy into discerning the gathering storm. But I sensed that history was near. For me, the 1990s were like a glorious sunset at the end of a long, resplendent day.
And then came nightfall.
I admit that it took 9/11 to slap me awake from complacency. It wasn't merely a shock to see the twin towers implode; I had the sick realization that the abstraction of history that so eluded me had suddenly made it's triumphant return. I felt irrelevant -- that I knew nothing when those buildings fell. Nothing. I knew that the free world had to be rewired, if only to survive the incipient era of terror that was hurtling towards us.
In the case of Cicero, it was the violent intrusion of new information that was transformative. The events of 9/11 forced him to look more closely at his world and he was frightened, as all of us were. Too many have let the intervening years dull the memory and they have returned to the comfort of their assumptions.
The liberal world view, usually coterminous with the secular humanist world view, is based on assumptions and tenets that fail basic tests of consistency and reliability. I plan to investigate this phenomena in various ways over the next few days to weeks.
My initial point of departure is that the political philosophy of the left has come to resemble a faith based belief system. In such a system, facts become relatively unimportant; what is important is to maintain one’s faith. In an interesting, thought provoking article in New York Magazine, Kurt Andersen writes:
New Yorkers think we are smarter than other Americans, that the richness and difficulty of life here give our intelligence a kind of hard-won depth and nuance and sensitivity to contradictions and ambiguity. We feel we are practically French. Most New Yorkers are also liberals. And most liberals, wherever they live, believe that they are smarter than most conservatives (particularly George W. Bush).
And finally, most liberals and New Yorkers suspect that we may be too smart for our own good. It is a form of self-flattery as self-criticism. During these past few years, I have heard it said again and again that liberals’ ineffectiveness derives from their inability to see the world in the simple blacks and whites of the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Bushes. (Why else, the argument goes, did John Kerry lose?)
Maybe. But now our heroic and tragic liberal-intellectual capaciousness is facing its sharpest test since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, most of us were forced, against our wills, to give Ronald Reagan a large share of credit for winning the Cold War. Now the people of this Bush-hating city are being forced to grant the merest possibility that Bush, despite his annoying manner and his administration’s awful hubris and dissembling and incompetence concerning Iraq, just might—might, possibly—have been correct to invade, to occupy, and to try to enable a democratically elected government in Iraq.
The entire article, When Good News Feels Bad, is well worth reading for a look at the cognitive dissonance so many in my home town are struggling with (or avoiding altogether.)
There are some important issues at work here and I hope to explore this more in the next week or two.