The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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The disease that killed freedom

A new mental-health problem has emerged in our land. Its genesis is as old as mankind’s first disagreements and the political bickering that eventually ensued. However, a new virulent and potentially freedom-killing form of political disagreement came to life during the 2000 election that let George W. Bush into the White House. It then incubated in the neocon hothouse at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and has now expanded to pathological proportions in extremist members of the political and religious right.

Bush, Cheney and their fanatical followers are afflicted with a mental malady that might best be termed culturopathic. Though Sidney Blumenthal in his book “How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime,” does not use the term culturopath, he reveals the thinking of one so afflicted.

Blumenthal recounts a New York Times Magazine piece in which reporter Ron Suskind describes a conversation he with a senior White House aide who described his “faith-based” school of political thought.

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality-judiciously, as you will-we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

The common symptoms exhibited by culturopaths are: a belief that anything that they say constitutes a “truer” form of reality that is revealed by the cause-and-effect view that has come to be held by Western civilization. That which our culture considers to be a rationally plugged-in view of existence, life and all of the things that we humans can become aware of is frequently found to be immaterial to the culturopath.

A culturopath like Bush brings something new into existence by doing no more than saying that it is so ( for things that do not appear immediately, like democracy in Iraq or a thriving economy, it needs to be firmly said over and over). If the culturopath proclaims that something exists, but it is not readily apparent and becomes broadly doubted by others, the culturopath disregards what was previously claimed to be true (mission accomplished) and just says it anew in slightly different terms.

If some long-established and respected cultural institution like science presents an unacceptably “inconvenient truth,” the culturopath discredits the scientific position by proclaiming that there exists an opposing “inconvenient truth” that pooh-poohs the other one (after all, one opinion is as good as another, but none are as true as what the culturopath says is so).

Added to these tactical symptoms is the culturopath’s limited capacity for empathy (beyond a wanna-be identification with people perceived to have power, or those considered to be subserviently dependent and like-minded). He also exhibits a disdain for rational thought and has a self-centered concept of all that is good and permissible. These traits lead to a strategic mode of daily living in which the culturopath constantly devalues differing people, places and things.

Those viewed as bad, foolish or evil are to be attacked and destroyed with a continuous barrage of name-calling that pejoratively brands them as un-American, un-Christian, unfit, unthinkable or at least disappointing.

Thus, the culturopath looses a constant harangue against liberals, public education, undocumented workers, abortion, Muslims, atheists, homosexuals, global warming, teachers, taxes, the separation of church and state, welfare, labor unions, evolution, Hollywood, universal health care, the U.N., Social Security, pacifists, the free press, stem-cell research and anything else that reflects some order that is not of their own god’s making-and only they have been blessed with the ability to know what that is.

In the culturopathic thinking of the radical right, politics is just another form of war. They take no prisoners and will not hesitate to destroy anyone or anything that gets in their way.

About the writer:

Sam Osborne is a former college professor and opinion editor from Iowa. He can be reached at [email protected].

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