Daily Apotheosis
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Daily Apotheosis

Conservatives are Envious, Liberals are Jealous

As much as I hate assigning a ‘liberal vs. conservative’ spectrum to political beliefs, it can be helpful as a way to start a deeper search. What’s interesting to me isn’t so much what people believe, but why. Just like in any other realm of psychology, our prime motivators when it comes to politics are un- and subconscious — namely, our most common emotions.

Along these lines, it’s helpful to ‘method act’ our way into a deeper understanding of political views — to try to look at the world from a ‘conservative’ vs. ‘liberal’ perspective, push the boundaries of those belief systems, and see what emotions underpin them.

As a long-time writer, playwright, and former actor, I’ve done this sort of ‘method acting’ for many years. I feel comfortable placing my mind and emotions inside of other people’s ‘realities’, no matter how seemingly foreign to me, and attempting to understand, from their perspective, the inner logic of their beliefs. So, when I practiced this ‘method acting’ approach to investigate the hidden motivators for people’s seemingly polarized political beliefs, the key distinction arose clearly to me. Our political views have little to do with rationality, and almost everything to do with our primary emotional states.

At their worst, conservatives are motivated by fear — namely, jealousy — and liberals are motivated by anger — namely, envy. That is my realization, in a sentence. To understand, we have to acknowledge the distinction between jealousy and envy. Jealousy is fear of losing what you already have. Envy is anger that you don’t have something that someone else does. Once you understand the difference between these primary, hidden emotional motivators, many of the seemingly ‘bizarre’ things people say and believe will make sense to you.

Conservatives’ obsession with borders (people coming to take ‘their’ land), taxes (the government coming to take ‘their’ money), affirmative action (the government taking away ‘their’ opportunities), etc. is all rooted in a post-Emancipation terror of the ‘other’ coming to take away what they already have. When Obama said conservatives “cling” to things, he was right. They are terrified — and this explains why even poor white people often ‘vote against their interests’: because they are not worried about getting more, but about losing more. Just like many of the rich, who live in fear of the estate tax, poor conservatives see the world as a zero-sum pie, where they are terrified of ‘sharing,’ of giving up the little they do have. Even conservatives who don’t consider themselves racist are still primary motivated by fear and jealousy of losing what they have, and that someone — the government, black people, immigrants, etc., will take it from them or destroy it. Hence, they hoard guns, build bunkers under their houses, rail against Black Lives Matter, and prepare for the coming war. It’s a very stressful life.

On the other hand, ‘liberals,’ at their worst, are motivated primarily by anger — envy. They see other people having more than them, or others, and they get super pissed-off. “It’s not fair!” they cry. “It isn’t right!” Even rich liberals live on the constant verge of a meltdown. They are angry at billionaires for having so much money. No matter how that person made the money, they don’t think it’s right. “Someone oughta do something to stop this — there oughta be a law!” is their rallying cry. They are driven by an inner righteousness, a sense of justice about how the world is ‘supposed to be’, that taints their enjoyment of everything. Unlike conservatives, who never feel guilty, liberals also turn that envy inwards, and constantly feel guilty about everything. Every time they buy from Amazon, they blame themselves for contributing to global warming and Jeff Bezos’ bank account. Every time they read about Black Lives Matter, they silently curse themselves for not doing more to help. Their anger turns into resentment. They are angry at the world for not being fair, and they are angry at themselves for being hypocrites. Unlike conservatives, who can have a good time as long as they’re not thinking about it being taken away, nothing is ever good enough for liberals. If someone throws a big wedding party for $100,000, they celebrate on the surface, but secretly curse the wasteful opulence of the bride (“that money could’ve gone to Syrian refugees”). If they have 20 demands and you give them 19, they fixate on the 1 that is missing. For them, the world is meant to be perfect, and anything that deviates from this ideal is proof that humans are failing.

No matter where you place yourself on the so-called ‘political spectrum’, your political views, at their worst, are mainly motivated by your primary emotions. Are you generally more jealous, or envious? What pisses you off more — the government taking 50% of Jeff Bezos’s money, or the government not giving reparations to the ancestors of slaves? In the emotions that arise inside of you — if you’re willing to look at them — you’ll see the crux of your so-called ‘beliefs.’



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