Before the Wuhan Coronavirus, the left was all about openness. Leftists wanted open borders and an open society with no walls or boundaries. They called everyone who disagreed racist and fascist. Now, after the crisis, they are all about keeping things closed and having borders and boundaries everywhere while conservatives want to reopen. The left responds by calling an open society racist and fascist. How is it possible to completely flip political positions so dramatically in a matter of months?
Open Mind, Totalitarian Mindset
The answer may lie in the psychological makeup that often distinguishes progressives from conservatives. Neurologically, a more open mind means fewer inhibitions. Open-minded people tend to associate more freely, which is a good quality for creativity and mental agility. They also tend to be more impulsive. In some cases, that is a good thing, but when, for instance, Harvey Weinstein felt the impulse to assault women sexually, conservative self-constraint would have been better.
Progressives don’t like rules and borders because these inhibit their impulsivity. From an early age, they learn to see boundaries as something negative, something that prevents them from living out their urges as they please.
However, the flip side of an open mind is, paradoxically, totalitarianism. To understand this, consider a wave of neural activity in the brain. In a completely open mind, the wave spreads uninhibited. It means that there is nowhere that will be untouched by this wave: In the mind of a progressive, everything is part of everything. If a progressive gets scared, that idea then propagates to every nook and corner of his brain. He will be more likely to consider everything dangerous and, therefore, in need of total control.
Even before the pandemic, one could see this psychological tendency in progressives. They started out being terrified of racism and other so-called toxic behaviors. By the end of their journey, they saw racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and islamophobia everywhere. One of the downsides of a borderless mind is that any negative emotion spreads and escalates until it becomes hysterical and totalitarian.
That’s why leftists today are scared senseless of a virus that is practically harmless to the healthy and young.
Borders for Freedom
Compare and contrast this to conservatives. They value boundaries, but unlike progressives, you will never hear a conservative tout borders as a Utopian ideal. They are not ideologically invested in walls. Progressives want an open society for the sake of openness, but no conservative sees walls as a value in itself.
A boundary is a practical tool for segmenting the world into little domains of freedom. Walls protect you from other people and guard your liberty, property, and privacy.
To the conservative mindset, the doors are just as important as the walls, because they create a semi-transparent world that connects private spaces to the economy and society at large. That’s also why they are so adamant about reopening the economy.
Progressives appear to be generally incapable of such nuanced thinking. Their psychology favors thinking in terms of broad categories. Either everything is open, or everything is closed. By contrast, conservatives – who are used to making distinctions and judgments – are more prone to find the right balance between walls and doors.
Read more from Onar Åm.
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