Great Things To Come
Well now, another trip around our old pal Sol is just about complete.
That is, if our life-giving star still is out there. I dunno. I haven’t seen it in — what is it? — weeks? My sunglasses are around here somewhere, probably. I really don’t know since I haven’t had to use them since last goddamned July.
Anyway, I’m still alive, you’re still alive, and the world hasn’t blown itself up yet so I suppose we’re in as decent shape as can be expected.
Have a swell 2016. I know I will. My beloved Cubs will become World Series champions for the first time since 1908, woohoo!
If y’ain’t got optimism, y’ain’t got nothin’.
Around this time of year, newspapers and TV news shows are filled with suggestions about how to live a healthier, happier life. Eat the right things, exercise, play with the dog, listen to music — these are all the secrets to longevity.
Of course, to borrow a line from Rodney Dangerfield, at this point in my life if I do all the right things I’ll end up getting sick and dying.
Happy New Year!
Are You Disgusted Yet?
Of late, academic researchers have attempted to understand and define the differences between liberals and conservatives in scientific terms. Papers and studies have been published purporting to explain the gap between me, for instance, and the likes of those who’d vote for Mike Huckabee or Ben Carson.
There are, apparently, identifiable distinctions between the brains of Ls and Cs. Many of these distinctions harken back to our collective history as tree-swinging simians millions of years ago. This even though many conservatives pooh-pooh the idea that our great-great-great… uncles and aunts really were tree-swinging simians.
In any case, one such peek into the scientific research into this brain gap caught my eye this AM. Alexander Hurst in the New Republic takes a gander at the disgust response as a catalyst behind the rise of one Donald M. Trump who, ironically, disgusts me so much I might even delay breakfast by 43 seconds and that is a remarkable reaction indeed.
The disgust Hurst refers to, though, is far more visceral than mine regarding the most interesting political creature since Dick Nixon. I’m disgusted more in a theoretical sense. Hurst asserts that Trump’s appeal is based on the brand of disgust that served to protect our species from rotting food, poisonous fungi, and dangerous members of that foul pack of alien Homo Sapiens sapiens who live on the other side of the mountain.
Trump, Hurst points out, gets the willies from a wide range of everyday things. He washes his hands an extraordinary number of times in a day, he detests shaking others’ hands, he refuses to touch elevator buttons, and he even insisted his sex partners be tested for sexually transmitted disease before he’d treat them to the heavenly delight of his manly essence.
Hurst also reminds us how Trump expresses his own disgust at things like Hillary Clinton’s need to go to the bathroom and Megyn Kelly’s menstruation.
Plenty of things in Trumpland disgust him.
White-coated lab geeks at Virginia Tech University did a study in 2014 of MRI readings of people’s brains while they were being shown images and examples of disgusting things. The study revealed that the brains of Ls and Cs reacted so differently that the researchers were able to guess who was on which end of the political spectrum simply by looking at their MRIs.
Trump, Hurst asserts, positions issues such as Mexican immigration as that of a wave of filthy, dangerous contagion. Mexicans entering America illegally, Trump implies, are nothing so much as foul germs that’ll sicken and weaken our holy land. Disgusting, in short.
The response to disgust is recoil, which in many ways is the opposite of curiosity. Disgust doesn’t generate a desire to to better understand a complex issue, but rather a wish for a simple explanation and an impulse to shut out what is so disgusting. By presenting America’s problems as the spread of an infectious disease, Trump immediately generates the disgust response.
The disgust response feeds into an “in-group” response: What is disgusting is exterior, and the group must be protected from it, which in turn provides comfort and reinforces a shared sense of identity.
You can buy this explanation or not. It’ll have to do for me just now; there has to be some reason people dig this comb-over orangutan.
Now reading Drew Westen’s book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. Good stuff, explains a lot. Unfortunately, the folks who need to read this are more motivated by emotion than brain science, and that’s apparently why Trump trumps all rational explanation!