After observing children- my own children as well as my grandchildren- for the past 30 years, I have come to the conclusion that they are born liberal, except perhaps for that short ‘me-first’ two-year-old phase. Neither of my children and none of my grandchildren show any signs of ‘conservative’ traits except for conserving the environment. Did you ever notice those nightly news spots where some kid collected food for the poor? Or to send money to the starving people in Africa? Or to help with the flood and hurricane victims here in the U.S.? Our hearts melt at the sight of these young angels of mercy.
Of course, as every school child knows, there was always one nasty kid in your class who belied that angelic image. One kid or maybe two who made life miserable for all of the others, but generally, we all got along and looked out for each other. Brothers and sisters, too. Bullies were easily recognized and shunned. So were cheats and snitches. Anything out of the ordinary- out of the order of things- was met with group hostility. We were quite the adhesive community both in the classroom and at home, on our home turf. We cared for the general welfare of each other, especially within our own close circle of friends and family.
That ‘group meme’ has persisted in our DNA for tens thousands of years because it is a survival meme- the community looks out for their own. Tribes and clans, each structured around mutual interdependence. Twenty-first century kids know that intuitively; they understand the benefits of mutuality. It is innate, inborn. That’s why we see kids helping others. Even though clans and tribes have disappeared here in the United States, the ‘collective meme’ is strong and persistent.
The question arises: When and how does a person move away from that important and long-lived instinct of mutuality and towards valuing narcissism? How do socially-interactive and interdependent children grasp individualism as a philosophy and way of life during their adulthood? What moves children in that direction?
The right-side of the political spectrum has many destinations, yet the crossing-over from the center signifies a disconnect with past social values to those of self-concern, self-centeredness. The further to the right, the closer one gets to that pejorative, narcissism and further from the common welfare meme that helped groups survive in the hostile environments of past millennia. The Wild West of film lore expressed that divide quite clearly.
Today, especially in the Republican Party, the Tea Party and in the group known as Libertarians, we see many people who wish to sever that sacred social contract between people. They wish to strike out on their own, much like the frontiersmen, the pioneers, the prospectors of the 18th century, leaving behind that need for mutual interdependence. That is fine if that is the decision they choose, but they ought not work to tear down that social netting that binds most people together. If they wish to go off and explore new areas and begin a new life for themselves, they are free to do so, yet they ought not blow up the village upon exiting.
I, personally cannot understand that urge expressed today by the groups I identified above. My experience from my grandfather to now, as a grandfather, is one of mutual caring for both family and society in general. I have had no experience, no heritage of sacking the village and heading out on my own. The social fabric is, in fact, part of my fabric as a person, a father, a grandfather. That’s why I ask the question today- a question that I cannot answer: When and why did you move to the right-side of the political spectrum and away from the binding fabric of a society?