The Propensity to Shift from Debating the Issues to Personal Attacks is a Result of An Ancient Psychological Mechanism of Suspicion toward Otherness

Democracy is oriented on issues, totalitarianism – on people who support or are against certain points of view. Totalitarianism relies on beliefs while democracy is built on the understanding of issues that equips people to act and vote in a certain way. Totalitarian systems are impregnated with irrationality while democracy is meant to be rational – to be based on people’s ability to grasp the socio-political problems and translate their understanding into meaningful actions.

But what seems so clear theoretically in real life becomes twisted and blurred – while a rational minority exists in totalitarian systems (although doomed to be intimidated, incarcerated or silenced by external pressures or self-censorship), there is an irrational near-majority in the democracies. People who were never “irradiated” by humanistic education (liberal arts, serious art and cultural enlightenment) continue to perceive social life and human society according to country-life style (when everybody feels and thinks nearly identically) and in an archaic (emotion-laden) fashion. In “primitive” (proto-totalitarian) communities (for example, group of fans of the same baseball team or the same pop-music star) people simplemindedly judge things around them according to a self-centered (narcissistic) model – when our desires define what is true and worthy and what is not.

While it is very difficult to move from such archaic way of perceiving reality to a democratic style which grows on and out of the experience of living with people who don’t reflect our values (the ability to tolerate human otherness, to lose irrational fear of it and to develop taste for it), it is very easy to regress back – everything new in human experience is just a transparent veneer on what was repeated again and again in our past history. We as creatures of modernity are just several centuries old – we still don’t understand with our heart the difference between a high-tech war and regular ways of destruction. We don’t understand that our archaic (phobic) reaction on human otherness through our relentless search for more power and wealth has become dangerous for all of us – so close we are toward each other on today’s earth overwhelmed by the density and quantity of human population.

We are made of our bodies. Our mind is “trapped” there – it is mind of the body. The issues and problems for our “bodily” minds are still abstraction for us but we react on the bodily presence of other humans with passion and determination as if other human bodies are somehow connected to our own body via an invisible tie. For this reason it is so easily even in democratic societies to regress from issues into “personalities” (to react on other people as bodily incarnated presences). This reduction of human beings to their bodily presence is the perceptional basis of scapegoating – unconsciously confusing the problems and issues with those who are considered as their source – their authors and followers.

Instead of addressing the problems people tend to concentrate on other people as the reason for the problems, especially when existential situation becomes more desperate, more anomic and stressful. It is here that the right wing enflamed reaction on their opponents becomes such an important political factor. We have a deal here with a massive regression from a democratic mode of political behavior to a classical totalitarian way of reacting on the very existence of social problems. Thinking becomes entrenched in beliefs, logic in feelings, and discourse with opponents is transformed into fight with enemies.

The Right wing politicians, the hate talk show hosts and a rich minority in US put moneyed passion to stimulate this regression to get rid of their opponents. This method of transforming issues into hated people is so well known in history that it is amazing that it still can be used today. To see human culprit behind an issue is like not to see the forest behind the trees. It is enough not to educate people (not to finance their humanistic education) to make the return of the pre-democratic past inevitable. US as a democracy have lost its political game in the non-political area of humanistic/cultural education.

That’s how Bill Clinton became a “child molester”, Hillary – Vince Foster murderer, John Kerry a “fraudulent fake” war hero and Obama – “Osama”, “Barama” and citizen of Kenya. That’s how human freedom came to mean freedom to make buck by any price. That’s how human prosperity came to be measured by the quantity of houses and cars one owns and pizzas one consumes.

For centuries hate for scapegoats was connected with belief that concrete people are responsible for social problems, not the organization of life in the society. Rivalry, hate, discord and adversity are like secretion of hormonal glands of the human body, our historical essence. Today in US our internal murderer (whom Christ tried to enlighten and transform and whom democracy tried to tame) returns after the pre- and post-WW2 democratic intermission, with money as a weapon, with hate, destruction, wars, torture, stupidity and contempt for life and humanity as such.