Friday, November 18, 2011

Creativity and ideology

I'm still working on a longer article about ideology but in thinking about the subject I came to something of an epiphany.

Now I'm sure most people recognize that individuals involved in creative endeavors tend be more liberal. But have you thought about why this is the case?

Undoubtedly conservatives will claim it's because of the influence of leftist professors, or attribute it to a lack of pragmatism from naive fools with too much time on their hands or some other insulting explanation.

However, I think the reason is far more profound. I propose that the reason people who work in creative fields tend to be liberal is because creativity itself is a liberal trait.

The core distinction between left and right ideology is that the right assumes all that which needs to be known is already known and there for we should leave things well enough alone or move back to an earlier idea that worked better, while the leftist thought is predicated on the idea that through new ideas things can be improved.

Consider, what is a prerequisite to thinking things can improve? The ability to imagine a better reality. Unless one can imagine something different than what has come before you can only refine existing ideas, not come up with truly new ones.

Now I'm not saying that self proclaimed conservatives can't be creative. I actually think personal ideology is more nuanced.

However someone with a prevailing conservative bias will tend towards refining existing ideas as opposed to seeking out completely new ones.

This is why the more experimental a creative activity is the more liberal the participant will tend to be.

This is why scientists tend towards liberalism while engineers have a more conservative tendency. Seeking the new vs refining the old.

One can see example after example in various creative fields. Consider acting, think about well known conservative actors, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis , not exactly guys who take parts with a wide range, in fact if you really think about it in most of their work they pretty much play the same part just with a different name under different circumstances.

Well known liberal actors however? People like Matt Damon, Ben Afleck Dustin Hoffman, and Sean Penn these guys take a wide range of roles from traditional leading man hero's to criminals on death row Angels and on and on.

Now of course there is a bit of a chicken and the egg thing going on here, is it simply that more liberal people are more likely to take up creative activities or does taking up more creative activities train one to be more liberal?

We know for instance that liberals and conservatives end up with brains that are fundamentally different we just don't know whether it's a case of nature (genetics) or nurture (learned traits developed as the brain forms).

This of course has a number of  ramifications.

The most important of which is why it's so difficult for liberals to change a conservative's mind. Understand we know that about 25% of the population are authoritarian thinkers. These are people who want certainty in their lives and have no interest or patience with wishy washy doubters. They tend to believe a view point mostly on the basis of how certain the proponents are of their positions and how they reinforce their preexisting assumptions.

They tend towards fundamentalists religions and are the most likely to doubt scientific conclusions that are at odds with their preexisting beliefs.

Liberalism because of it's core aspect of always questioning; intrinsically lacks the certitude that the authoritarian requires from a concept. Because part of being able to imagine something greater is an admission ignorance. In order to innovate one must first admit to a lack of knowledge.

Consider science, the reason these authoritarian types won't believe in scientific theories such as evolution or human caused climate change is primarily because scientists don't tend to talk in absolutes, instead couching everything with qualifiers, such as  "probably","we think", "data suggests" etc, you'll almost never hear a scientist describe something in absolutes.

Conservative leaders never use qualifiers. No matter how wrong they might be and how many times they've been shown to be wrong they will barrel right on through insisting that it's dark outside when the sun is plainly visible. And their followers rather than saying "hey he's full of shit" will turn around and explain to you that you shouldn't trust your lying eyes.

Ok I exaggerated that last a tad. Conservative leaders tend to keep their lies in places where there is some ambiguity of what the correct answer may be. But the fact remains that the quickest way to lose those authoritarian types is to admit to error.

That's why the GOP base doesn't like "flip-floppers" in general and Romney in particular. Changing ones position is a sign to them that one lacks certitude of conviction.  

This couching answers in qualifiers is part and parcel of the creative act, without the ability to accept ignorance of a potential outcome one can not come up with new ideas.

So what is the practical benefit of this observation? Well I'm still working through that.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy your diarys very much. Did not comment, because its much easier to "snark" about ArgleBargle and other idiots than actually have a rational discussion.

    I remember reading an essay on creativity that pointed out how a lot of creativity was generated by the creative person's lack- lack of money, opportunity, education, and such; or the creative person's being physically handicapped in some way.

    Not surprising that the ordinary conservative way of thinking (not including our current batshit conservatives) is connected to economic stability and safety, if not wealth. And often, people born to wealth don't usually show the creativity actually needed to deal with our ever-changing world.

    That is leaving out geniuses such as Mozart, Einstein, Newton, and so on.

    Anthropologists current claim is that the our very distant ancestors did most of their evolving into "humans" while living in the Great Rift of Africa: an area given to rapid and radical changes in environment. So we learned to adapt, not just to our environment, but our environment to us. And that takes flexibility and creativity.

    I'm just blathering- took pain meds 20 minutes ago. Makes me feel smart for a while.