Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Maybe It's Time We Talked About A Maturity Scale Rather Than The Ideological Spectrum

Don't be fooled by the flag pin.  When all is said and done, it's all about Sarah 24/7.

One of the indicators of people who have moved from reasoned position of advocacy to a narcissistic need to excuse their unbridled 'enthusiasm' is when they make it very obvious the things they purport to espouse do not apply to them.  Sarah Palin's latest video in defense of her purposefully militant rhetoric is a classic demonstration of this pattern.  First she states the following to distance herself from any culpability in the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords:

"Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them."

Shortly there after she says this to make herself the victim, apparently oblivious to the fact she is now accusing the left of doing precisely what she says the language of the right does not do:

"Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn."

Sarah Palin is asking us to believe the left is capable of influencing the actions of others through rhetoric and association, but the right is not.  When a mentally ill young man actually does use an assault rifle to target a congresswoman Palin herself has asked to be targeted, that 's just an unrelated coincidence.  It's the rhetoric of the left that causes all the problems.

This is a neat trick because it works with people who primarily use their reasoning faculties to support their own positions and then tear down their perceived opponents positions.  As I wrote the other day, this is sort of the classic use of intellectual reasoning for people James Fowler has described as Stage III on his spiritual maturity scale. The more emotion behind Stage III people, the more illogical their own take on things.  The human capacity to generate reasons for personal behavior is virtually limitless. Some of the hardest clients to work with are intelligent people who use their intelligence to generate one rationalization after another to avoid personal responsibility for their dysfunctional behavior.  It can sometimes seem like an endless battle in a therapeutic setting.  In a political setting, used by a national leader, it's damned dangerous.

I wish someone with more computer savvy than I have could put together a Utube video juxtaposing the thinking of Gabby Giffords with Sarah Palin.  It would certainly serve to illustrate the difference in world view and conceptual thinking between two very different politicians.  This ability to get beyond one's own narcissistic needs and move into higher levels of spiritual maturity is not dependent on a progressive or conservative world view.  Two of my all time favorite priests were sacramental and theological conservatives, but totally other centered, and way way beyond using their lives to serve their ego needs.  Just as I have met many a progressive whose 'other centeredness' was just barely skin deep. Scratch the surface and I found a narcissist in liberal clothing.  Maturity is not totally influenced by one's political or religious views, but one's level of maturity certainly does influence how one expresses and acts on those views.

Maybe the way around the political impasse is to stop categorizing people on the basis of the political scale, and start looking at politicians from a narcissism or maturity scale.  If a given politician's motivation is really all about them, it doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum their public persona happens to espouse.  The odds are their constituents are going to get screwed.  The same is true with religious leadership, and unfortunately for Roman Catholicism, our current leadership is too full of clerical Palin's rather than clerical Gifford's.

The one thing I don't get about Pope Benedict and his constant homilizing on the evil's of selfish secularism, is why he refuses to see that same self centered culture has been fully instrumental in the formation of our clerical culture. The rise of 'pomp and ceremony' clerics with in the priestly ranks is not a sign of the Holy Spirit energising the traditional church so much as it's a sign of enculturated narcissism playing out in a clerical setting.  Hardly the mental formation from which selfless saints are made.  Truthfully today's young conservative cleric resembles the clergy of Benedict's youth in clerical clothes only.  Just as the political Palin's of our current political climate do not resemble the politicians who had the guts to make tough decisions for the good of this country in previous generations.  Back in the day when the government actually worked somewhat for the common good.

One of the discussions I hope the US might start to embark on is what do we really want in our politicians. If maturity is a desired trait, then the Palin's of the world need to be exposed.  It's one thing to have a Palin personality espousing personal delusions as a talking head on Fox, but another thing entirely to have her representing the most powerful nation on earth from that same level of intense faultless self absorption. That scenario would be akin to having our own version of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and that's a scary thought.  



  1. We do have many "know nothings" again in politics, but I think it is because there is a high level of frustration in a country where there are also a lot of "know nothings" that equate their own opinions to facts. This is true in many issues, but no more true in the numbers of people that believe greedy corporate officials attacking climate science. It is also very true in stem cell research as it was recently true of so many that supported Bishop Olmstead. Yes, it is important to expose ignorance, but don't always count on some to recognize what you expose. it is really important to also recognize expertise for what it is and quit criticizing (not quit questioning) those that show a high degree of expertise. It is important that we as a country try once again to promote expertise in our citizenry rather than take the very non structured tact that every one is his own expert. I recently got into a heated discussion with a father that felt physicians should teach to the community the skill of endotracheal intubation. This is a skill that requires some anatomical and medical background and it is frightening to teach to the undereducated. I remember more than once seeing a person intubated by para medics arriving in the trauma unit blue and with the endotraechial tube in the stomach. The stomachs were so full of air that the person even if trying to breathe on their own had no where to expand their lungs. What I am saying is that it is difficult to teach even the paramedics and resident anesthesiologists and ER docs all they should know about this skill. Yet this father wanted to use school funds to “teach” the general public. There is so much foolishness in this world that even when exposed, many just don’t get it. There is a lack of respect for expertise in general! dennis

  2. Try this article out and understand more of what is happening with the "know nothings."

  3. @ Dennis,

    There is an astoundingly anti-intellectual streak in American popular culture. The linked article is quite interesting.

    What happened to public education, to the great educational institutions and the free press? When did they give up on civility? Why don't they seem to have a critical voice anymore?

    The implied threats in cloaked language wouldn't have stood years ago. It is unacceptable and anti-democratic to carry on as so many have in the public sphere.

    Maybe public discourse is a matter of emotional and intellectual maturity. I think of it as a matter of honesty. Sarah Palin is fundamentally dishonest when she denies that she "targeted" her political opponents. Such language debases and demeans the individual and the most important institutions of democracy. She knows that she was threatening and intimidating when she used the violent imagery of "Don't retreat, reload".

    And so does everyone else. Nobody called her on it until now.


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  5. p2p

Sarah Palin is an American symbol of opulence going wrong. The Soviet Union fell for some similar reasons. Even more of their resources were used by fewer people than here, but their military build up bankrupted the country. We are headed in that direction. Sarah Palin is a well payed pipit for those who squander resources, and of course she is also a pipit for right wing neo christians(?).

    the characters to type== bunshit

  6. @ Dennis

    America needs to rethink its world role, needs to re-imagine all that it might be.


    PS love the "bunshit" word

  7. Dennis,
    Thanks for the link-it expresses so clearly what is going on in the country and in the Church. Here our bishop is fundraising to extend the range of his radio station so it can reach the whole diocese--broadcasting his word and EWTN. Hunger, lack of medical access, extreme poverty, etc, not on his band width-just getting his commands and EWTN out to the "simple faithful".

  8. But coolmom, what's the point of taking care of physical needs when you aren't taking care of the most important problem? The saving of souls is the most important thing after all... wink, wink

    But it does point out the that only reason for Catholic health care or Catholic schools or Catholic Charities [as examples] is to spread the the influence of the institutional church rather than meet the needs of human beings. At least this is the case from the point of view of the clerical caste. What it says about the people who actually provide the care, I'm not sure.

  9. Colleen, I was thinking the same thing when I heard Sarah Palin yesterday..... narcissist!

    She's really not fooling most of us, which is a good thing.

    That she said what she said on the very day there was a memorial service for her "targets" was the dead giveaway to her maddening self absorption.

    Sarah has some nerve to say she "hates violence." Yet, her website to her PAC website is nothing but violence. Her entire world view is violent.

  10. Butterfly, Her competency is that of a backwoods hunter, but most backwoods hunters do not allow women to do very much. Hum!

  11. Dennis, the article you linked was great. What's encouraging to me, in spite of the fact the article is not encouraging at all, is the monkey of the Military Industrial Complex is becoming a legitimate issue for discussion.

    The comparisons with China are sobering because they are all true.
    Anyone who thinks Americans won't have to re evaluate their life style is truly a monkee who won't let go.

  12. Excellent article. May I present a challenge? Is there a conservative leader of the church whom you see as exhibiting the conceptual thinking and maturity you want while espousing a more right wing viewpoint? A conservative political leader?

    I fully agree that Benedict's disdain for secular consumerism masks the same line of thinking in our La Cage aux Folles clergy. I don't want to fall into that same type of projections, but for the life of me I can't get a good name out. The darlings of the right are portrayed as so intelligent as to be holy, especially Chaput and George. I've read their writings, and I just don't see it. Same with the politicians, and especially the new Tea Partiers. So is that my (our) bias?

  13. And on the heels of that post, this from Eugene Kennedy and NCR.

  14. I've been thinking about your question for last couple hours. There was a time I respected Orin Hatch, but have lost some of that as the Tea Party has gained ascendancy and Hatch has changed his tune on working with Dems.

    As for Catholic bishops, I can handle a sacramental conservative who is also committed to real social justice, Oscar Romero comes to mind. It seems to me that when one really understands a Christian perspective on social justice, one also stops confusing politics with authentic power, and personal liturgical preferences with God's preferences.

    I have to think about this some more though. These are good questions.

  15. ***"The rise of 'pomp and ceremony' clerics with in the priestly ranks is not a sign of the Holy Spirit energising the traditional church so much as it's a sign of enculturated narcissism playing out in a clerical setting"****

    This is, unfortunately, all too true I think and presents a continuing problem my participation in the Church.

    My love of Catholicism feels like a two fold tragedy- the first, finding that my rich and venerable heritage in this ancient borne system had been largely abrogated in the name of a now failed "aggiornamento". The second, finding that this largely abandoned heritage has since fallen almost exclusively into the hands of uncompromisingly narrow minds.

    "Tradition" is becoming the plaything of identity craft. Who could bear the politics of the Roman clergy with the altars and sanctuaries stripped barren? Or while singing Marty Haugen?

    The intolerability of much of contemporary Catholic life will continue to be dressed up in an alluring aesthetic, I think, so that it feels they have an authentic tradition to fight for- and they love the fight.