Activist Monday: Evil Is Stupid
Posted March 13, 2017on:
Good Monday, Widdershins. I hope you had a good International Women’s Day. I saw quite a few women wearing red at my client site last week in honor of “A Day without a Woman.” It was inspirational. I think there are several more actions planned from the organizers of the Women’s March, so stay tuned!
Now to the title of my post. This comes from some research I’ve been doing on the human brain, and the way it works to keep us alive and protect us from threats. This won’t be a super-science-y piece – more of a meditation on the state our country is in, and how it’s possible for sub-human cretins like Drumpf, Bannon and their minions to win even one vote, much less 60-odd million.
As I’m sure many of you know better than I, there are older, more primitive parts of our brains that only exist to make sure we quickly and instinctively respond to threats. From an evolutionary perspective, these parts of the brains are extremely important. They initiate the “fight or flight” response, which actually also includes a “freeze” as well, giving us microseconds to decide either to go to war, or to retreat.
After millions of years of evolution, we actually developed the capability to process these responses and evaluate them. Ah, the frontal lobe! Human beings develop this part of the brain in young adulthood. At least, some human beings do.
…It organizes responses to complex problems, plans steps to an objective, searches memory for relevant experience, adapts strategies to accommodate new data, guides behavior with verbal skills and houses working memory. Its orbitofrontal circuit manages emotional impulses in socially appropriate ways for productive behaviors including empathy, altruism, interpretation of facial expressions. Stroke in this area typically releases foul language and fatuous behavior patterns [bolding mine].
My argument today is that Drumpf and his supporters have either not developed their frontal lobes, or they have developed them, but are unable to use them. Their amygdalae are in charge, causing them to respond unthinkingly to perceived threats without the calming influence of the orbitofrontal circuit. This inability to counter the constant screaming of “Danger, Will Robinson!” makes them extremely susceptible to manipulation by other like-minded people, who deeply understand the constant state of anxiety in which these primitive brains exist.
In other words…they are stupid. And because they’re stupid, they’re evil.
Think about the words bolded in the quote above. Emotional impulses are managed by the frontal lobe in societally appropriate ways. So if you are, say, a candidate for President, and you get exposed as a sexual predator – indicted by your own words on a video tape, and then by the testimony of 12 women who back your words up – a socially acceptable response would be, of course, to apologize, sincerely. (A TRULY acceptable response would be to quit the race in shame. But as Prolix has demonstrated all-too-convincingly, the Mango Meerkat doesn’t do shame.) As we know, apologies were not forthcoming, and this stunned most of America. How could a man who aspired to the highest office in the land be incapable of understanding how disgusted we were by his remarks about women, and his behavior towards them? Well, the joke was on us. As Drumpf said, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and he wouldn’t lose any votes. That’s because his voters are incapable of empathy, which is a frontal lobe enhancement they lack. They don’t care about anything except themselves, and trying to manage through their anxiety, minute by minute, day by day. Der Trumperer himself knows all about this, because he is similarly stupid, and evil.
Yes, I know that evil people can, allegedly, be smart. Bush’s Brain, KKKarl Rove, was touted as a Machiavellian genius. Granny-starving 1% fellator Paul Ryan is supposed to be a conservative policy wonk. And Dick Cheney, founding member of the manifestly dastardly Project for the New American Century, originally argued against the invasion of Iraq because it would cause the country to break apart into warring factions, empower Iran and allow the rise of Al-Qaeda. In your own life, perhaps you know Republicans who have jobs requiring a high degree of intelligence, yet still believe that Alex Jones’ InfoWars is a reliable source of information, there is such a thing as “alternative facts,” and the “lamestream media” is victimizing white Christian males by promoting “political correctness” which prevents them from saying “Merry Christmas” every year. At least anecdotally, this doesn’t square with my assertion that evil is stupid, does it?
First of all, these alleged evil geniuses aren’t really that intelligent. What they are, and this is really important to realize, is willing to go to lengths that we more evolved creatures are not, due to that d*mned empathy and altruism endowed upon us by our frontal lobes. The Roverers and Cheneys of the world develop elaborate schemes to alleviate their constant anxiety and sense of persecution; when they’ve got enough power, people like Ryan take it to an incredible extreme, elevating his own security and comfort over the health and welfare of tens of millions of people. Their inability to regulate their own emotions appropriately also leads to an inability to recognize reality, and to prefer “alternate facts” that play into their overall sense that everyone is out to get them. Bill O’Reilly must be right, because their amygdalae tell them so!
This is a form of stupidity that only a shock to the system can alleviate, such as, perhaps, the threat of removal of life-saving health care – whether it be Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security or the ACA. Again, these people are too stupid to “get” what Republicans are about, because they have no empathy, no ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Their lack of a developed frontal lobe also prevents them from “adapt[ing] strategies to accommodate new data,” so, they aren’t great at changing their minds either.
What in the world should we do with these people? It depends on whom you ask. Some Democrats think they are desperately needed in order to win the next set of elections in 2018. Some pundits think they are the “real Americans” we should all be courting. I think we should let them be, because Drumpf and his friends are very busy curing them of their evil stupidity by trying to deprive them of health care, education and economic security.
While we wait and watch them learn, we can show off our evolved frontal lobes by resisting the stupid, evil agenda being promulgated by the Rethuglican Party. Because that’s the amazing thing about these seemingly powerful men and women – inside, they’re all anxious animals trying to decide whether to fight or flee, and standing up to them makes them run like scared rabbits. Let’s peacefully help them make the right choice, and run them out of town on a rail.
This is an open thread.
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