Sunday, October 3, 2010


This weekend I was treated to another example of the extreme--yet unacknowledged--cognitive dissonance between the average Republican party member and that party's leaders and patrons.

Today I've been watching the Mormon church's 180th General Conference. As you should know, Mormons are overwhelmingly Republican, and Utah possibly the most conservative state in the union.

General Conference is a biannual telecast from Salt Lake City, in which a succession of church officials offer advice as to what Mormons should do and not do.

The current head of the church is President Monson. In his Sunday AM talk he quoted the Roman stoic philosopher Epictetus, saying basically that we shouldn't gripe about bad luck but should be grateful for good luck.

On the other hand, yesterday I listened to a PBS radio show called "This American Life"--an episode titled "Crybabies." Its prologue dealt with manufactured outrage, a staple of right wing politics (and of left wing politics, to be sure--but wielded far less effectively). Then the first chapter investigated why Wall Street's movers and shakers--almost uniformly Republican--feel exactly zero gratitude for we taxpayers bailing them out, such that while we deal with over 10% unemployment (more if you include underemployed and discouraged workers), Wall Streeters have enjoyed record profits and bonuses.

The Wall Street workers interviewed stated uniformly that their success was due entirely to their superior intelligence and drive--it had nothing whatsoever to do with any supposed bailout--and, moreover, that President Obama was out to destroy American Business, and they were promoting any and all efforts to demolish him.

The segment went on to note that the wealthy of Haiti had exactly the same attitude about Haiti's travails and the elites' successes.

It appears that the fabulously wealthy almost invariably ascribe their success to their genius--not luck or corporate welfare--and they were the quickest and loudest to protest if anyone did anything to reduce their profits by the slightest increment.

Hence Christ's comment about a rich man having the same chance of getting into heaven as a camel of getting through the eye of a needle.

Anyone can do a few minutes' research and find rich people who are the very souls of virtue, and who came by their fortunes honestly. But I'm making a sociological observation, and statistically I'm right.

Which takes me back to President Monson's talk. I know many Mormons who live by the precepts church leaders like him have laid down. Yet they vigorously support party leaders who have nothing but the heartiest contempt for them and their principles.

Why don't they demand that their political leaders live by the principles they themselves live by?

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