sim'-pli-cis-m: (n) The belief that the answers to all problems, no matter how complex they may seem, are easy to understand and uncomplicated by nuance or ambiguity.
It has become part of the left-wing's conventional wisdom that Tea Partiers are crushingly stoopid (TBogg calls them "Teatards"). While this viewpoint is not, on the surface, without its merits, I don't believe it's that easy to explain. I don't think most of the people in the video below are so much dumb as ignorant and, in true American tradition, intellectually lazy.
The difference between "stupid" and "ignorant" is one of ability and will. The stupid cannot understand no matter how much information they have, the ignorant can but only if they have enough information for a reasonable analysis, and that requires both the will to search out the pieces and an intellectual work ethic of sufficient strength to connect the dots once the info is in hand.
Not that it would take that much intellectual strength. In most cases an amount of intellectual energy equal to that put out by an 8th-grader writing a short report on a subject about which she cares not a whit would be all that was necessary. Given that the information required to solve our worst problems ought to be a good deal more important to the average citizen than a report on Ecuadorian flax production, one would think most of us would be willing to spend the small amount of time it would take.
One would be wrong.
Too many of us are manifestly unwilling to put out any intellectual energy whatever and a large part of the reason can be traced to the far Right, particularly the far Religious Right. For four straight decades now, conservatives have been selling us economic and political policies based on 3-sec sound bites and sloganeering phrases, some of them barely more than a single loaded word. "Tax cuts", "socialism", "death panels", "death tax", and so on. They have told us over and over again that "liberals" always make things too complicated, and that they do that to bamboozle us suckers.
This has been the origination and the development of a doctrine I call "simplicism": an orthodoxy masquerading as common sense that feeds into the historic American distaste for mental pursuits by promulgating a philosophical paradigm in which all solutions are simple and any solution that isn't must therefore be a trick and should be ignored unless you want to be the victim of a con artist. In effect, it excuses, justifies, and even encourages ignorance as a defense against an unnecessary and supposedly wasteful intellectual effort. Complexity and nuance just confuse the situation, we're told. They muddy the waters and throw sand in our eyes to prevent us from seeing that the answers we're looking for are the simple ones, the ones any moran can understand.
The onslaught of simplicism slung from the political far Right would have been bad enough, dangerous enough, damaging enough to cause the our democracy serious problems in any case, but added to it was the sudden emergence of the fundalmentalist Religious Right's insistence that God didn't make us to think but to obey the Bible in all things, blindly believing every word literally, thereby cutting off all discussion or disagreement.
By tying ignorance to religious beliefs, making one part and parcel of the other, the right-wing created a social and emotional imprimatur for the most primitive kinds of ignorance. If God wanted us to know about evolution, he would have "inspired" one of the prophets to put it in the Bible. Since it isn't there, it can't be true. End of story.
Fundamentalist Xtianity, like fundamentalist anything, has been determinedly moving backwards for generations, trying to re-position society until it emulates 1st century BC Palestine, or at least late 19th century Peoria, a time and place where there were supposedly no black people (and the few there were stayed out of sight or were servants, their natural place in the godly order of things), no Buddhists or Muslims or even Catholics to worry about, no crime except for romantic bank robbers, if you didn't belong to a local Christian church you basically didn't exist, and what law there was came straight out of Bible Belt belief systems on the Word of God (which was what the local power structure of rich and influential said it was.
When the conservative conspiracy planners at AEI in the mid-70's decided to target the religious Right for a perogram of politicization, they did so in order to brand their pro-corporate policies with the unarguable mark of God's favor. Thers caught wingnut Michael Medved this week explaining that dogma.
For more than a hundred years liberals and conservatives have been arguing over the true meaning of justice. The left emphasizes just outcomes-seeking smaller gaps between rich and poor, and a comparably dignified standard of living for all members of society. The right stresses just procedures -making sure that individuals keep the fruits of their own labors and remain secure in their property, without seizure by their neighbors or by government.
This is dogma, which I'm using as a polite term for "a devoutly believed-in article of bullshit right-wing faith." The actual "left" believes that the United States should not be a game preserve, theme park, or toxic waste dump for a highly privileged minority. The actual "right" believes they should be allowed to use the power of the state to ensure that a highly privileged minority gets to piss on whoever they want, and that they shouldn't pay taxes because fuck you.
To understand just how successful the combination of Molochian devil-dogma, plutocratic greed, and religious orthodoxy has been in rendering the faithful blindly ignorant, all you have to do is look at the way Medved conflates God with Republican indifference, callousness and even cruelty to anyone who can't scrape up a Cayman's account.
If the Bible is indeed the word of God (as a big majority of Americans say they believe it is), then it's difficult to escape the conclusion that the Almighty would cast his all-important ballot for Republicans.
Amazingly, the Bible warns us not to "favor the poor" even before we're instructed "not to honor the great," because partiality for the unfortunate counts as an even stronger human temptation.
And what about all the Biblical demands, in both Old and New Testaments, to show compassion to widows, orphans and the poor?
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), the 11th century giant who became the most influential of all Torah expositors, explains that the verse in Leviticus draws an all-important, eternal distinction between charity and justice: "Do not say that since the wealthy man is obligated to help the poor one, it is proper for a judge to rule in favor of the poor litigant so that he will be supported in dignity. The Torah insists that justice be rendered honestly; charity may not interfere with it."
In other words, assistance for the destitute remains an individual obligation on God-fearing individuals, but should not bring a tilt to the law to favor the less fortunate.
So there. Biblical confirmation of the right of the rich to forge a society inimical to the plight of the weak, the sick, the poor. Injustice defined as justice. Selfishness and greed defined as The Greater Good.
Of course Medved, who is, to say the least, no Torah scholar, has cherry-picked and taken hopelessly out of context a complicated argument attempting to precisely balance competing rights and turned it into a display of Randian Molloch worship second to none. Still, if he has done nithing else, he has supplied us with a classic example of the way simplicism is used to cut through morality, ethics, social realities, and basic humanity to the cor of conservative values:
"The rich can screw you because God said it was alright."
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