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An article donated by Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys

"Brains, Brawn, or Both"

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This is one of a trio of related articles by Susan Humphreys. The others are:

Free Will or Duped, Coerced or Manipulated

Bible Myths, Metaphors and Allegories

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Recent articles on the Internet caught my attention. One dealt with a report:

"Mental Health Analysis of the Special Counsel’s Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election".

I read a Huffington Post article 1 and an Alternet article 2 about this report. A group of psychiatrists and psychologists have used the Muller report to analyze the mental health of President Trump.

My first thought was that we know the mental health state of the president. What we need is a better understanding of the mental health state of his supporters.

Yale University professor, forensic psychiatrist, and lead author of the report, Dr. Bandy X. Lee, made a couple of statements that left me shaking my head in disbelief. First when asked if there is anything she would advise Trump supporters to do she said:

"... the moment they realize they hold the power, and do not have to submit to a strong authority to be safe, they won’t be easily fooled any more."

I think she underestimates a Trump supporter's basic nature and overestimates (what many academics seem to do) the idea that if people are well educated and given access to the facts they will make the right/good choices.

There has been a long standing argument between psychologists and biologists over the issue of nature versus nurture -- how much our genetic makeup contributes to our behavioral choices. It is important to stress here that I said contributes in the above sentence. Our genetics is an influencer, a contributor that affects the choices we make NOT the sole controller of what choices we make.

The second statement she made blames the American Psychiatric Association (APA) with priming "... the public to become the president’s prey."

Two points to make here:

1st: I doubt the average U.S. adult ever reads anything from the American Psychiatric Association.

2nd: The public was primed long before Trump ran for office.

A third article 3 this same week on the Alternet web site is titled "Our culture of ignorance has made possible the rise of a terrible new political blend: neoliberal fascism." I think the author is absolutely right that we are living in a "culture of ignorance. AND it is a self-imposed ignorance. It hasn’t been forced upon us by nefarious parties.

My first article this month was about "Free Will or Duped, Coerced or Manipulated."  I ended by commenting about trying to figure out if others are truly Good or Evil Free Agents or if we (or others) have been duped, coerced or manipulated by unscrupulous folk, or by the passions and fears of our own nature, or of our own out of control Ego.

Can people with the right persuasion be convinced to dump Trump as Dr. Bandy Lee seems to think? What can we do about this "culture of ignorance that seems to have taken hold of our society? What has all of this to do with religion?

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From a biological perspective I think there have always been two strains of humanoids since the great apes first moved out of the trees and walked upright across the savannah. For lack of better words I am calling these two strains "Brains" and "Brawn."

In a previous essay "Moral Foundation Theory I referred to Jonathan Haidt’s book "The Righteous Mind" in which he discusses his theory. I mentioned near the end of my essay that human survival has never depended solely on the mightiest warriors but also on their innovative cousins (who I call the Brains in this essay) who invented the tools and tactics that gave some groups advantages that others didn’t have.

Evolution and Survival of the Fittest favored the Brawn of our earliest ancestors. It took great strength and what we now call a conservative nature to survive when faced with saber toothed tigers and other predators.  By a conservative nature I mean a more fearful, mistrustful, unease about anything new or different; a tough guy persona.

As I pointed out in an earlier essay there were still a few thinkers within this brawny population -- the Brainy, what we now call Liberals and what I called Innovators in my earlier essay. By "liberals" I mean they are more open to new experiences, questioning, and curious, not as fearful or mistrustful. These characteristics made it harder for them to survive. They needed their Brawny siblings/cousins brute strength to keep them safe. BUT these characteristics enabled them to figure out how to make tools, and to think strategically, and that is what changed the tide of humanity. Tools and human ingenuity in tactics gave early humans advantages over those saber tooth tigers and other humanoid groups.

In the earlier article about Free Will I referred to an article by a cognitive neuroscientist where he said:

"The brains of conservative authoritarians as compared to the brains of liberals are quite different from one another.

For example, conservative authoritarians are more fear-centered and tend to fixate on negativity, default to order and hierarchy, and are averse to new stimuli. By comparison the liberals are more tolerant of ambiguity and are more open to new experiences. The brains of liberals also seek out novelty."  

I think today’s Conservatives are descendents of the Brawny side of our ancestral tree and the Liberals are the descendents of the Brainy side of that tree. Does this mean that the differences between us are too difficult to bridge?

Personally I think that societies need both the Brawny and the Brainy -- both people who can work with their hands and muscles, and people who work with their creativity and imagination to create the new inventions. The Brawny have the skills to build and that have made life much easier for all of us.

We need the great variety and diversity of religions -- Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists, Atheists -- and those unaffiliated with any religion, often called the "Nones" or "NOTAs."  They all have something to teach us. All of these religions can help people become better people or they can be used to manipulate, coerce and dupe people into becoming worse people. By worse I mean more fearful, judgmental, hypocritical, self-righteous, and intransigent. We need the great variety and diversity of people -- different ethnicities, nationalities, religions, skills and educational levels, and different sexual orientations: homosexuals, heterosexuals, and bisexuals, We all compliment , complete, and balance each other.

But now I realize this "variety is good" is a Liberal not a Conservative "variety is dangerous" position. The whole idea of Religious Tolerance to which this website is dedicated, is a very Liberal not a Conservative notion. AND it is this very position that is so difficult for us to bridge because there really is no middle ground.  It has to be one position or the other.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. S.V. Date, "Psychiatrists Say Mueller Report Offers More Proof Of Trump’s Unfitness," Huffington Post, 2019-APR-26, at:https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/
  2. Tana Ganeva, "Yale psychiatrist explains how to deprogram trump supporters who've been sucked into the vortex of his lies, Alternet, 2019-MAY-17, at: www.alternet.org/
  3. Henry Giroux, "Our culture of ignorance has made possible the rise of a terrible new political blend: Neoliberal fascism,"Alternet, 2019-MAY-18, at: https://www.alternet.org/

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Original posting: 2019-MAY-29
Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys
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