Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Foundationless House

The way people "know" things is by trying to fit it with the things they already know.  If something matches their previous knowledge, it gets included.  If it doesn't match, it gets discarded.  That's just how we discriminate our input and learn how to make sense of it all.  It's like building a house with whatever scraps you happen to find; using anything that fits.  The better it fits, the sturdier the house.

And that's a great system, IF the foundation you're building it on makes sense.  But if the foundation is flawed, then you're going to get a lousy house.  And too often, people suffer from cognative dissonance because they have sketchy facts that don't fit, and these facts continue to conflict with one another.  And this happens when the foundation they're building upon is fake and doesn't match the reality they keep experiencing.  And this dissonance causes frustration and anger, and they don't know why.  But rather than searching their beliefs and finding the base of their trouble, they lash out at the world that refuses to match the one they expect to find.

And that's why conservatives are always so confused, because the foundation of their thoughts are almost completely fictional.  They take a few names and concepts from history and reassemble them into the only way they fit into their political ideas.  But that's a lousy way to do things, and is like someone trying to lay the foundation of their house to fit the house they already built.

Real Olden Times

And so you get these people who imagine that their childhood was the idyllic Leave it to Beaver world they remember.  And they imagine that their grandparents were all god-fearing farmers and ranchers; living the life of the Old West, which really only existed for a very short time period before their grandparents were born and wasn't nearly as romantic as they were led to believe.

And so these people continue to pine for the days when Men were Men, and doctor bills could be paid with chickens.  And while those things did happen, particularly during the Great Depression when money was sparse, that wasn't the norm.  Like with my family.  My grandparents weren't farmers and neither were their parents.  I've read my family's history going back to Europe and there doesn't seem to be a farmer in the bunch.  They were businesspeople.  They lived in cities.  They paid their doctors in cash. 

And they had problems, just like we do.  One of them moved to America for mysterious reasons.  Another was an alcoholic.  Another had multiple divorces.  One great-grandfather barely spoke English.  Another ruined his father's business due to incompetence.  They had problems, just like everyone does.  They didn't live in some agrarian utopia.  They were real people, just like us, and they bought their food in stores, just like us.

Mythical Foundations

But you can't convince some people of these things.  They all want to believe that their grandparents shot their own meat and farmed their own food.  But that's a myth.  For the past ninety years, a majority of Americans lived in cities.  And even the rural folks weren't all farmers and ranchers.  But this is the foundation they've laid for themselves, which is why they still want to hold to their rural roots, even though most of them are urbanites like us, and a large majority of rural folks are part of the same culture as the rest of us. 

So they drive pick-up trucks that never get dirty and listen to "country" music that's nothing more than pop music with a twang.  And it's all a sham.  A desperate bid to get back to a time that never existed.  And the more they feed on fictional food, the hungrier they get.  And they get angry that everything doesn't seem to fit on the foundation that never existed. 

So they'll say incredibly stupid things about how we might be able to pay for our cancer treatments with chickens, not because it makes a lick of sense, but because it's all they've got.  And they'll point to a mythical time when our grandparents did the same thing as all the justification they need, even if their grandparents never did anything of the kind.  How sad.

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