Recently we’ve been hearing a lot about transgender identity. That made us wonder… what makes us the gender that we are? And what should you do if your kid doesn’t fit the mold? To find out, we talked with endocrinologist Dr. Joshua Safer, psychologist Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper, and psychologist Dr. Colt Keo-Meier.
But in a cult of personality, truth is replaced by belief, and we believe what the leader wishes us to believe. The face replaces the mind.
.. The transition from democracy to personality cult begins with a leader who is willing to lie all the time, in order to discredit the truth as such. The transition is complete when people can no longer distinguish between truth and feeling.
.. Cults of personality make us feel rather than think. In particular, they make us feel that the first question of politics is “Who are we, and who are they?” rather than “What is the world like, and what can we do about it?” Once we accept that politics is about “us and them,” we feel like we know who “we” are, since we feel that we know who “they” are. In fact, we know nothing, since we have accepted fear and anxiety — animal emotions — as the basis of politics. We have been played.
.. The authoritarians of today tell medium-size lies. These refer only superficially to experiences; they draw us deep into a cave of emotion. If we believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim born in Africa (an American lie with Russian support), or that Hillary Clinton is a pedophile pimp (a Russian lie with American support), we are not actually thinking; we are giving way to sexual and physical fear.
.. These medium-size lies are not quite the big lies of the totalitarians, although Mr. Orban’s attacks on George Soros as the leader of a Jewish conspiracy come rather close. They are, however, big enough that they help to disable the factual world. Once we accept these lies, we open ourselves up to believing a whole raft of other untruths, or at least suspect that there are other, vaster conspiracies.
.. We imagine that we make choices as we sit in front of our computers, but the choices are, in fact, framed for us by algorithms that learn what will keep us online. Our online activity teaches machines that the most effective stimuli are negative: fear and anxiety.
.. As social media becomes political instruction, we prime ourselves for politicians who reproduce the same binary: What makes us afraid and what makes us feel secure? Who are they and who are we?
.. The empty heterosexual posturing, the shirtless photo ops, the misogyny and indifference to the female experience, the anti-gay campaigns, are designed to hide one basic fact: A cult of personality is sterile. It cannot reproduce itself. The cult of personality is the worship of something temporary. It is thus confusion and, at bottom, cowardice: The leader cannot contemplate the fact that he will die and be replaced, and citizens abet the illusion by forgetting that they share responsibility for the future.
The cult of personality blunts the ability to keep a country going. When we accept a cult of personality, we are not only yielding our right to choose leaders but also dulling the skills and weakening the institutions that would allow us to do so in the future. As we move away from democracy, we forget its purpose: to give us all a future. A cult of personality says that one person is always right; so after his death comes chaos.
Democracy says that we all make mistakes, but that we get a chance, every so often, to correct ourselves. Democracy is the courageous way to have a country. A cult of personality is a cowardly way of destroying one.
You remember the photo, taken in early August, of two men at an Ohio Trump rally whose matching T-shirts read, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.” (Now you can buy them online for $14.) It was a gibe that spoke to our moment. The Republican brand — as with presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney — used to be pointedly anti-Russian; Romney called Moscow our chief global enemy. In the Trump era, though, you can be a Republican Russophile for whom Vladimir Putin is a defender of conservative values. American politics, it has become plain, is driven less by ideological commitments than by partisan identities — less by what we think than by what we are. Identity precedes ideology.
“The Democratic Party today is divided over whether it wants to focus on the economy or identity,”
.. So does the assumption that the great majority of Republicans who support Trump are drawn to his noxious views. (That’s the good news in the bad news.) Among candidates who led in the Republican primaries, after all, his percentage of the vote was the lowest in nearly half a century.
.. Identity groups come to rally behind their leaders, and partisan identification wouldn’t be so stable if it didn’t allow for a great deal of ideological flexibility. That’s why rank-and-file Republicans could go from “We need to stand up to Putin!” to “Why wouldn’t we want to get along with Putin?” in the time it takes to say: Rubio’s out, Trump’s in.
.. The best predictor of ideological animus, the study found, wasn’t a respondent’s opinions or even how strongly she held them, but what label she embraced, conservative or liberal.
.. Mason calls this “identity-based ideology,” as opposed to “issue-based ideology.”
.. Either formulation is a polite way of saying that political cleavages are not so much “I disagree with your views” as “I hate your stupid face.” You can be an ideologue without ideology.
.. “Implicit bias,” and the special tests designed to measure it, come up often in the wake of police shootings and #BlackLivesMatter. They show in-group preferences among whites and among blacks. But experiments suggest that partisan in-group preferences are far more powerful.
.. between 30 and 60 percent of people who identify as Democrats or Republicans want their kids to marry in the party.
.. Long before anyone instructs children to group people into categories, research tells us, they’re programmed to do it anyway, and one of our basic ways of making sense of the world is to form generalizations of the sort linguists call “generics” — such as “bears eat people” or “tick bites give you Lyme disease.” Those generalizations count as true, but it’s not easy to say why. Hardly any bears have eaten people , and less than 2 percent of tick bites transmit the Lyme spirochete. But, as the philosopher Sarah-Jane Leslie has argued, we’re more likely to accept a generic if it involves a reason for concern, such as getting eaten or getting sick.
.. generics encourage us to think of the class in question as a kind, a group with a shared essence. To show how this works, Leslie joined with psychologists Marjorie Rhodes and Christina Tworek to design an experiment in which 4-year-olds were shown pictures of a fictional kind of person they called a Zarpie. The people in the pictures were male and female, black, white, Latino, Asian, young and old. With one group of 4-year-olds, the experimenters made lots of generic remarks. (“Zarpies are scared of ladybugs” and the like.) With another group, they made specific statements, not generic ones. (“Look at this Zarpie! He’s afraid of ladybugs!”) A couple of days later, they showed the kids a Zarpie and said he made a buzzing sound. It turned out that the children who’d heard a lot of generics about Zarpies were much more likely to believe that all Zarpies made buzzing sounds. Generic talk encouraged them to think of Zarpies as a category of person.
.. Generic remarks about people, in short, encourage you to think of them as a kind, and you’re more likely to accept a generic claim about a group if it’s negative or worrying. (Liberals hate America; conservatives are bigots.)
.. As everyone knows on some level, we’re tribal creatures. We not only belong to groups but are easily triggered to take arms against other groups. Evolutionary psychologists think these dispositions helped our ancestors survive by creating groups they could rely on to deal with the perils of prehistoric life ..
.. True, that was before cable news and social media. But those us-and-them instincts remain an indelible part of human nature.
.. if tribalism is responsible for some of the worst aspects of our politics, it’s also responsible for some of the best. According to the historian David Herbert Donald, the 19th-century abolitionists belonged to a tribe — essentially, an old-line Northern elite displaced by a new commercial and manufacturing class — that sought to regain its position through ethical crusades. The moral math was correct, but social identity was what helped it spread.
.. Almost the entire South went in 1976 for Jimmy Carter, who won by wide margins in notably white stateslike Arkansas and Tennessee. Voters who had supported states-rights candidates got behind the progressive from Plains, Ga., because — well, they were Southern Democrats, and so was Carter
.. the region didn’t become reliably Republican until the late 1990s. A generation of Southern Democrats had to die first.
.. To wish away identity politics is to wish away gravity. It burdens us, but it also grounds us. A workable politics enlists its force — and broadens its scope
On that day, you will know that you are in me and I am in you. —John 14:20
.. My experience with [perennial wisdom] convinces me that all diversity is part of a greater unity; that my sense of a separate self is a functional necessity rather than an absolute reality; that all my suffering is rooted in mistaking my limited and labeled self (male, Jewish, white, American) as my truest Self; and that I can, with practice, shift my awareness from that limited egoic self to the infinite divine Self that is all Reality.