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What's in it For You?Daniel Johnson Salem-News.com
What is the reward that all you little people who support the Republican right expect?
(CALGARY, Alberta) - I, and many of us so-called liberals and lefties, would really like to understand what motivates conservatives, Republicans and Tea Party aficionados. The expanding Republican opposition to their fellow citizens and fellow peoples on the planet is a continuing source of negative wonderment.
The ideals of the eighteenth century French Enlightenment (from which rose the new Republic of America) celebrated the virtues of individuality and self-reliance. In the context of the time such virtues made sense, but as societies became larger and more complex simplicity is just no longer a viable option.
In fact, conservative columnist David Brooks, cites a body of research suggesting that
"the French enlightenment view of human nature, which emphasized individualism and reason, was wrong. The British enlightenment, which emphasized social sentiments, was more accurate about who we are. It suggests we are not divided creatures. We don't only progress as reason dominates the passions. We also thrive as we educate our emotions ." (Read the whole column here: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C01E0DB1E3FF93BA35750C0A9679D8B63&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=print)
In another column he wrote:
" Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise. Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert fiscal catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a national project." (Read the whole column here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/11/opinion/11brooks.html?emc=eta1&pagewanted=print)
We know all about economic inflation, but a little noticed change in American society over the last half century or so (since WW2) is what I call ego inflation where many, if not most, Americans see themselves individually and as a nation, as being much more important and significant than they really are.
For example, in a recent survey, ninety-four percent of college professors believe themselves to have above-average teaching skills. In another survey of high school students, seventy percent of them believe they have above-average leadership skills with only 2 percent falling below average. In the 1950s, twelve percent of high school seniors said they were a "very important person." By the 1990s, that number had risen to eighty percent.
This, I think, is the most important factor behind the rise of the political right. There are a lot of otherwise ordinary people who perceive themselves to be special, i.e., more knowledgeable and politically important than they actually are. Tea party constituents, for example, see themselves as magically possessed of solutions to the nation’s and world’s problems that only they are able to see. (Think about that for a moment and see how real that seems as a possibility.)
Origin of Left and Right
The French Revolution (1789-1799) was a period of extreme and violent political upheaval in France. The centuries old absolute monarchy collapsed, and under pressure from the mass population, society’s feudal, aristocratic and religious privileges disappeared.
New ideas from the Enlightenment proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in August, 1789. The conservative monarchy and its supporters did everything possible to hamper or prevent significant social and political reforms.
In 1791 a new Legislative Assembly was elected and when they met, there were 264 Feuillants on the right side of the hall who supported the king and absolute monarchy; on the left side of the hall were 136 Jacobins or Cordeliers who supported the rights of the people. (In the centre were 355 delegates who declined to be labelled).
Delegates or representatives on the right were and still are those who support the monarchy or aristocracy and those on the left were and still are those who support the rights and aspirations of the people.
Is your reward in the mail?
So, I return to my opening question: What is the reward that all you little people who support the Republican right expect? (The people on the left are little people, too. In fact, we all belong to the ranks of the little people.) Do you honestly believe in your secret heart that one day you will get a phone call or letter from one of the Kochs, Waltons, Steve Ballmer or Rupert Murdoch, etc., thanking you for your support of their interests.
"Dear Mr./Ms. Republican: I read your letter to the editor/heard about your activities on the shop/office floor in resisting unionization/cooperation. By doing this, you and millions of others like you, have done me a great personal service in helping to increase my fortune which, already in the billions, can be so much more. I would share some of this money with you but I'm sure you would refuse it as we both believe in America as a land of opportunity, it won’t be long before you will be joining my financial ranks through your own individual efforts. I look forward to meeting you at Davos.
If waiting for a letter/thanks/recognition is what motivates you, good luck. (BTW: Don't ignore lottery tickets as another reliable route to wealth).
Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place
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