A dispatch from red state Georgia on empirical and spiritual issues

Attended Sunday services at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Statesboro, Georgia. The speaker reviewed The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. The book sets up a dichotomy between WEIRD people and not-WEIRD people. WEIRD people identify with Western values, are relatively well educated and are relatively independent, rational and democratic. Not-WEIRD people identify less with Western values, are less educated, and relatively put a higher value on tradition, community, hierarchy, authority, loyalty and patriotism.

A major thesis of the book is that people make decisions emotionally and sub-consciously not using free will based on prior programming; and what they say are their decisions is after the fact rationalization.

Abraham Lincoln said a house divided against itself half slave and half free cannot stand, and the house he was referring to did not. He also said there are two kinds of people who don’t amount to much in life: those who cannot do what they are told and those who cannot do anything but what they are told.

The same might be said today about WEIRD and not-WEIRD citizens living in the US and the politicians they elect for various state and US governments, especially the US presidency and Congress, as WEIRD is defined above. Many not-WEIRD people living in the US seemingly put more value on the Jewish beliefs and traditions in the Old Testament of their Christian bible than formal US education, current facts and rationality.

Yesterday, September 19, the newspaper in our town ran at the top of page one in large bold letters this headline: “House Votes Against Planned Parenthood.” Given the layout and wording of the article it appeared to me the paper thought this was a good idea, or at least hoped readers would believe they thought this, since they knew most of their readers are not-WEIRD. The article told us in an almost total party line vote not-WEIRD Repubs in the US House of Representatives voted to discontinue Planned Parenthood funding and WEIRD Demos voted to continue it. In my opinion both sides hoped to increase their chances of getting reelected by voting as they did, pandering to their voters, the Demos voting correctly ethically as fate had it, in my opinion, but not necessarily more morally than the Repugs, since they just accidentally happened to be on the right side of the issue.

Planned Parenthood-like organizations and policies are now indispensable aboard Spaceship Earth. The Earthian human population is now about 7.5 billion humans, expected to grow to 10 or so billion in the next 25 years. About one billion humans are now starving and about one billion more are malnourished. Earth’s resources are being depleted, its atmosphere is being polluted and warmed, its polar ice caps are melting, thousands of its species of flora and fauna are becoming extinct—largely caused by humans attempting to feed, clothe and house the current human population, and satisfy the insatiable greed of the elite rich. How much worse will the problem become in 25 years if Earth’s human population growth and economic system is not reversed and corrected? Will human life be worth living?

I recently heard Barry Commoner, the author of The Population Bomb, use the above numbers in making the argument in a video interview on the Internet.

It seems to me anything Earthians can do to reduce Earth’s human population growth, barring war and mass starvation, is a good thing; and funding Planned Parenthood is one of the most responsible and ethical things the US government could do to save as many Earthian species as possible from extinction, while serving as a good role model for poorly developed not-WEIRD countries with relatively high population growth rates.

Although the US is generally considered WEIRD, about half its population is actually not-WEIRD, who vote for Repubs for irrelevant ideological reasons, getting enough of them elected to jeopardize the sustainability and development of the US, even set the US back, with votes such as the Planned Parenthood vote last week in the US House of Representatives.

The same newspaper last week reprinted an editorial written anonymously by someone at the Washington Post casting doubts that Bernie Sanders, the most WEIRD of all presidential candidates on the 2016 horizon, is truly progressive, in an apparent attempt by the local paper to cause even fewer progressive locals to vote for Sanders. Apparently not-WEIRD Repubs with money around the country are getting worried Sanders might get elected president, so they are stepping up their spending on negative propaganda about him, emphasizing his Jewishness and his loyalty to Demos, some even calling him a warhawk.

Sanders was one of a handful of US congress people who voted against the Iraq War, for god’s sake, a major plus, as I pointed out to a prominent local businessman, a former student, who is more WEIRD than not-WEIRD, who is considering voting for Sanders. He rejoined, “But Sanders voted to fund the Iraq War,” as if this were a negative, to which I replied: Yes, after the unethical Repubs and Demos in Congress voted to empower Bush II, The Stupid, to invade and destroy Iraq, a nation not posing a military threat to the US, one can build the case an ethical and rational politician in the US Congress should have voted to fund the troops who got sent to hell, with no say so in the matter, sent on a fool’s errand that has caused untold misery for innocent Iraqis, with little or nothing positive gained for ordinary humans anywhere in return for the horrible cost in lives, limbs, minds and money the debacle entailed.

US oil companies may have made a profit off the Iraq war, but even this is uncertain. On the other hand, there is no doubt US defense contractors, munitions manufacturers and hardware manufacturers made a lot of money on the war.

In my opinion Bernie Sanders, though imperfect like all humans, remains the best bet for president in 2016.

Unfortunately the class war in the US between polarized WEIRD voters and not-WEIRD voters shows no signs of abating. An antidote for the dilemma is for both sides to become more empathetic to work out compromises, empathy being a recommendation of Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind.

But alas, the probability of this happening any time soon, in my estimation, is near zero.

Hopefully, Abraham Lincoln won’t be proved right again about governmental houses divided against themselves being unable to stand; and, hopefully, we shall not see another civil war in the US, caused this time by a divide between WEIRD and not-WEIRD citizens.

Richard John Stapleton is an emeritus professor of business policy, ethics and entrepreneurship at Georgia Southern University. He writes on the Ship’s Log of Effective Learning Company.


3 Responses to A dispatch from red state Georgia on empirical and spiritual issues

  1. William John Cox

    Once again, Professor Stapleton speaks truth to power. Thank on behalf of the WEIRD everywhere. ~wm

  2. David B.Handlen

    As always I love reading your writings and as always do not agree with everything. But you do raise interesting discussion points. But come on Dr. Stapleton, Sanders for President???? You know how I was in school, always used the numbers and known facts to defend my positions on the Cases. Now a days I am a little older, HaHa and really at times I don’t know which
    to believe………….Thanks for remembering to copy me. David

  3. yes, David, you were a top student, without doubt one of the best, as your career achievements in the so called real world of business shows. congratulations and way to go. if you are implying my editorial is lacking in facts and numbers substantiating my opinion of bernie sanders, i agree. my opinion is based on a lot of reading here yon and everywhere and my own particular daemon. thanks for your comment