Ran across this study this morning:
This article has a number of little nuggets, but this is probably the best summary:
The refusal to admit error, or consider new evidence, is closely linked
to measures of “dogmatic intolerance” and “authoritarianism,” the
researchers concluded. Both, in turn, are linked with holding very
left-wing or very right-wing political opinions.
Our society seems to be producing zealots isotropically...more than I remember being the case a decade or so ago. Zealots tend to elect those who pander to them and demonize their opponents. They are quick to lose perspective, magnify any real or percieved slight, and are perpetually infuriated by any gains which are not theirs. In the political realm, the name of the game has become: wrangle for control of all three branches of government in order to impose one's own brand of zealotry on the remainder of the population. The candidates and platforms of the major parties drift further away from the middle with every election, such that we're really only able to select which extremist we disagree with less, or flip flop every 4 to 8 years so we don't get dragged too far off to either side.
It makes one wonder if there is an effective way to generalize the principle of "separation of church and state" to "separation of ideology and state". How do we create a reality where the state is no longer an accessible weapon with which one imposes one's own beliefs on the unwilling masses? Would this end be served by increasing the bar for getting a law passed? (Say we require 67% yea votes instead of 51%...)
Another interesting question: Are political zealots actually the norm, as they appear to be on Facebook and the news, or are they simply the noisiest or somehow the most attention-worthy? Is there no one left who recognizes and applies reason, or is everyone a sucker, ripe for the picking by whomever knows what button to push? Are the politicians responding to the zealots simply because they are the loudest, most passionate, most consistent voices, or are the more reasoned individuals factoring themselves out of the equation simply because they're more circumspect, cautious and reserved...particularly concerning topics which have no immediate personal relevance, or with which they have no personal experience? How does balanced reason inject itself into this environment where there is a clear need, but little in the way of an obvious means?
Finally, an optimistic remark for the current times: America is actually working quite well even now. The function of our government is not to make us like each other, agree with each other, or impose our beliefs on each other. It's to keep feuds--especially feuds between zealots--from turning bloody. It's workling flawlessly. Deciding to walk away from the feud...well that's up to us.
Anyway, enjoy the article....