The Tea Parties and Human Nature

Liberty Leading the People
Liberty Leading the People
The Amity/Enmity Complex is real. The term refers to the dual nature of human morality. Search the listings of any of the major book sellers, and you’ll see that the long and bitter resistance of the Marxists and other ideologues to the notion of innate human behavior, including moral behavior, has effectively ended.

The ideologues have been overwhelmed by a deluge of facts from the emerging fields of neuroscience and brain imaging. They have been forced to accept the vindication of Ardrey, Konrad Lorenz, E.O. Wilson, and all the other old ethologists and sociobiologists, although they seldom have the grace to mention their names. A sea change has occurred in acceptance of the influence of innate predispositions on human behavior in the last two decades, but the old “nurture is everything” behaviorists still cling stubbornly to a few intellectual redoubts. Among these is the notion that morality, while it may be hard wired in the brain, is actually evolving towards the “real good,” which commonly includes such things as universal human brotherhood and abhorrence of anything which might injure the “rights” of any life form, whether bird, beast or “other.” Unfortunately, it ain’t so.

Human brains are wired for a dual system of morality, one that applies to those perceived as the “in-group” and a sharply different one for those in the “out-group.” All sorts of negative characteristics are reserved for the latter. They are unclean, harmful, unjust, “immoral,” and generally evil. Eventually, some bright young neuroscientist will ignore the tabus of her elders and start systematically searching for the traces of the Complex among her fMRI and CEEG scans, and she will find them, because they are there. The Amity/Enmity Complex has always been as obvious as the noses at the end of our faces, just as the influence of innate predispositions on human behavior has been obvious to anyone with reasonable intelligence and an open mind since the days of Darwin. Human history is one, long testimony to its existence. The emergence of the Tea Party movement has provided us with some particularly striking examples of the Complex in action.

Consider, for example, the reaction on the left of the political divide among the “progressives” and liberals, those great champions of the will of the “people.” We’ve just seen exactly what limitations apply to their definition of the “people.” Anyone who disagrees with them is not included.

The Tea Party phenomenon is the only instance of the emergence of genuine mass popular movement most of them have ever witnessed. According to the latest Rasmussen survey, 24% of American voters now say they are part of the movement. Unfortunately, their views do not coincide with those of their leftist opponents. The response of the “progressives” has been to excise this particular bloc of the people with a meat cleaver.

The psychological gymnastics used to accomplish the job are classic examples of out-group identification. See, for example, the “astroturfing” meme at Daily Kos, some of the many attempts to associate the movement with violent extremists here, here, here and here, the Tea Partiers as “frauds” at Huffpo, and a particularly amusing example of the many attempts to associate the movement with racism by erstwhile warmonger Jonathan Chaitt, which includes the rather striking non sequitur,

The Tea Party is not racist. But it is an almost entirely white movement, largely driven by a sense that the government is taking money away from people like them and giving it to people unlike them, with ‘them’ understood in a racial context.

Heap the numerous attempts by these professionally pious and virtuous lovers of the “people” to discredit the movement with deceptions and smears on top of the rest, and you have a textbook case of the Enmity half of the Amity/Enmity Complex.

Far be it from me to claim that the leftists’ ideological clones on the right are any different. I merely use the Tea Party movement as a particularly striking, and therefore educational, example of an aspect of human moral behavior that the recent spate of books on the subject continue to leave out. One must hope that continuing advances in neuroscience will force them to pull their heads from the sand in the not too distant future. True, the Amity/Enmity Complex is an embarrassing aspect of our behavior, but it is also a particularly dangerous one to ignore.

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

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