Thank you, Lord, for keeping me unhappy!
By Ben Tanosborn
Online Journal Guest Writer

May 15, 2008, 00:08

Last Sunday, at our annual family gathering celebrating the clan�s mothers, and their constant efforts to keep the men-folk firmly footed in reality, I assigned myself the task of counting happy and sullen faces at the reunion, excluding those of youngsters -- all my grandkids are happy by default, what one might call by birth-fate.  Well, more than counting, I was trying to derive some obvious direct proportionality between happy faces and political conservatism.

Sole purpose of this exercise was a curiosity-check on my part, a sort of small sample verification of the recent findings in a scientific study funded by the National Science Foundation, which headlined as: Conservatives [Are] Happier than Liberals!

Duh!  I could have told the two NYU researchers that; but, if scientific validation was the primary reason for the study . . . let�s just say that the money was well spent!

Well, the truth is that our family did not prove to be a good sample, being rather happy folks by their very nature . . . forget the politics.  And our politics are basically centrist; the extremists� overflow divided down the middle.  Bottom line: there was nary a sullen face in the crowd . . . except for mine, but that is a given for this progressive head of the clan.

According to the results of this study, us lefties are just a bunch of displeased, sad, discontent, sorrowful, depressed, dejected, joyless, miserable, gloomy, disconsolate, hapless, melancholy (plus a whole lot of other adjectives) folks.  And that frame of mind apparently shows in our faces by being morose, sulky, gloomy, somber, glum, sour and moody among other things.  It seems, or so the study interprets, that we liberals are truly bothered by the social and economic inequalities which prevail in this world.  And that because of biological or mental malformation, we were dispossessed of that magic gene that all conservatives have: the rationalization gene.  (That�s my take.)

Results from many sociological and psychological studies tend to indicate that liberals succumb to the effects of inequality in such a fulminatory way that they feel impotent to counteract it by grasping for some measure of rationalization; while conservatives do not find a great problem in replacing any moral order with something more congenial to their needs or convictions.  Little surprise then that the Pew Research Center found in a 2006 survey that 47 percent of conservative Republicans in the United States described themselves as �very happy,� yet only 28 percent of liberal Democrats made the �happy� list.

When American conservatives claim adherence to family values, or to a certain moral order, they are not really coming down the mountain after having talked to the Creator.  Those values, and the moral order from which they are drawn, satisfy nothing but the permissibility of their desires, �their families� . . . values that are exclusionary as the very private reasons that created them; values that rationalize inequality in the crudest of forms, most particularly in social and economic aspects.  Thus, they may advocate the sanctity of life for an unborn child; yet neutralize, via rationalization, the genocidal killing of a million Iraqi children, or America�s warring involvement anywhere in the world.

Perhaps rationalizations which focus on the behavior of specific individuals can find eventual remorse and the return of one�s conscience in its original state, undamaged.  But group rationalizations, as those being used in society which permit the strong to abuse the weak in economic matters, or the subjugation of peoples, or the taking of human life no matter the circumstances; no, there is no return of the group conscience, not in its original state and, most definitely, not undamaged.

Aristotle said it well over two millennia ago when he wrote (The Ethics) that, �men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives.�  Perhaps we could add cultural to revolutionary to find greater applicability to modern times.  Indeed, it is their private lives that drive conservatives to modify their conscience and take the low road of rationalization when it comes to inequality or defining social justice.

� 2008 Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm. Contact him at

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