Voters have no reason to act rationally.

So, if we’re emotionally attached to a belief, what could make us change our minds? Well, we do tend to shift our beliefs when they appear to do us direct harm, such as when they cause us to suffer a financial loss. Ultimately, the only time we’re forced to act rationally is when our personal interests are on the line.

For instance, say you have a shop and personally believe you should only sell goods to people of a specific religion or political view. You might feel good since you can abide by your emotional beliefs – but simultaneously, you’re losing out on loads of potential customers. As soon as these lost customers start to seriously affect your bottom line, you’ll likely reconsider your beliefs, or at least their influence on your business practices.

The problem is that, during an election, voters have little reason to think that how they vote will have an impact on their actual lives. In most democracies, millions of people vote, and any given vote is of little importance. In fact, even when elections come down to the wire and require recounts, as happened in Florida in the 2000 US presidential election, the chances of a single vote changing the outcome are basically nil.

So, since there’s virtually no reason to think that our individual votes will change anything, there’s also no reason to behave rationally. After all, if the only thing that can force us to change our beliefs is the threat of personal harm, and if we don’t see such a danger as being connected to voting, then there’s no reason to change our beliefs when it comes to electoral politics. As a result, people will continue to vote for whatever politician or party is closest to their emotionally determined beliefs.

In other words, there’s no reason for people to vote rationally; instead, it’s much more comfortable for people to stick to their biases or emotions. Understanding this reality is essential since our entire democratic system is based on the assumption that rational voters are in the majority.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Awakening to Our True Self

The term “perennial philosophy” . . . refers to a fourfold realization:

(1) there is only one Reality (call it, among other names, God, Mother, Tao, Allah, Dharmakaya, Brahman, or Great Spirit) that is the source and substance of all creation;

(2) that while each of us is a manifestation of this Reality, most of us identify with something much smaller, that is, our culturally conditioned individual ego;

(3) that this identification with the smaller self gives rise to needless anxiety, unnecessary suffering, and cross-cultural competition and violence; and

(4) that peace, compassion, and justice naturally replace anxiety, needless suffering, competition, and violence when we realize our true nature as a manifestation of this singular Reality.

The great sages and mystics of every civilization throughout human history have taught these truths in the language of their time and culture. —Rami Shapiro

Education as it is currently understood, particularly in the West, ignores the human soul, or essential Self. This essential Self is not some vague entity whose existence is a matter of speculation, but our fundamental “I,” which has been covered over by social conditioning and by the superficiality of our rational mind. In North America we are in great need of a form of training that would contribute to the awakening of the essential Self. Such forms of training have existed in other eras and cultures and have been available to those with the yearning to awaken from the sleep of their limited conditioning and know the potential latent in the human being. —Kabir Helminski [2]

.. These are key reasons that the Center for Action and Contemplation is dedicated to reinvigorating the teaching of Christian contemplation. The consistent practice of contemplation helps to uncover our essential Self, our connected Self, our True Self. 

Unfortunately, separateness is the chosen stance of the small self which has a hard time living in unity and love with the One, Ultimate Reality, and the diverse manifestations of this Reality (i.e., ourselves, other people, and everything else). The small self takes one side or the other in order to feel secure. It frames reality in a binary way: for me or against me, totally right or totally wrong, my group’s opinion or another group’s—all dualistic formulations.

That is the best the small egotistical self can do, yet it is not anywhere close to adequate. It might be an early level of intelligence, but it is not mature wisdom. The small self is still objectively in union with God, it just does not know it, enjoy it, or draw upon it. Jesus asked, “Is it not written in your own law, ‘You are gods’?” (John 10:34). But for most of us, this objective divine image has not yet become the subjective likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). Our life’s goal is to illustrate both the image and the likeness of God by living in conscious loving union with God. It is a moment by moment choice and surrender.

When Liberals Become Progressives, Much Is Lost

In recent decades, the label “progressive” has been resurrected to replace “liberal,” a once vaunted term so successfully maligned by Republicans that it fell out of use. Both etymologically and ideologically, the switch to “progressive” carries historical freight that augurs poorly for Democrats and for the nation’s polarized politics.

.. Historical progressivism is an ideology whose American avatars, like Woodrow Wilson, saw progress as the inevitable outcome of human affairs.

.. The basic premise of liberal politics, by contrast, is the capacity of government to do good, especially in ameliorating economic ills. Nothing structurally impedes compromise between conservatives, who hold that the accumulated wisdom of tradition is a better guide than the hypercharged rationality of the present, and liberals, because both philosophies exist on a spectrum.

.. A liberal can believe that government can do more good or less, and one can debate how much to conserve. But progressivism is inherently hostile to moderation because progress is an unmitigated good. There cannot be too much of it. Like conservative fundamentalism, progressivism contributes to the polarization and paralysis of government because it makes compromise, which entails accepting less progress, not merely inadvisable but irrational.

Hillary Clinton, for example, called herself “a progressive who likes to get things done” — the implication is that progress is the fundamental goal and that its opponents are atavists.

.. Unlike liberalism, progressivism is intrinsically opposed to conservation. It renders adhering to tradition unreasonable rather than seeing it, as the liberal can, as a source of wisdom.

The British philosopher Roger Scruton calls this a “culture of repudiation” of home and history alike.

The critic of progress is not merely wrong but a fool. Progressivism’s critics have long experienced this as a passive-aggressive form of re-education.

.. Because progress is an unadulterated good, it supersedes the rights of its opponents. This is evident in progressive indifference to the rights of those who oppose progressive policies in areas like sexual liberation.

.. The ideology of progress tends to regard the traditions that have customarily bound communities and which mattered to Trump voters alarmed by the rapid transformation of society, as a fatuous rejection of progress.

.. Trump supporters’ denunciation of “political correctness” is just as often a reaction to progressive condescension as it is to identity politics.

.. Where liberalism seeks to ameliorate economic ills, progressivism’s goal is to eradicate them.

.. Moynihan recognized this difference between Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which he always supported — as exemplified by his opposition to Clinton-era welfare reform — and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which he sympathetically criticized.

.. The Great Society partook more of a progressive effort to remake society by eradicating poverty’s causes. The result, Moynihan wrote, was the diversion of resources from welfare and jobs to “community action” programs that financed political activism.

.. Conservatism holds that accumulated tradition is a likelier source of wisdom than the cleverest individual at any one moment. It fears the tyranny of theory that cannot tolerate dissent.

.. Liberalism defends constitutionalism. One of the finest traditions of 20th-century liberalism was the Cold War liberal

.. progressivism, by its very definition, makes progress into an ideology. The appropriate label for those who do not believe in the ideology of progress but who do believe in government’s capacity to do good is “liberal.”

A Renaissance on the Right

Liberal individualism doesn’t produce the sort of virtuous, self-restrained people that are required to sustain it.

.. But about 300 years ago something that he calls “the Miracle” happened. It was a shift in attitude. For thousands of years, societies divided people into permanent categories of race or caste. But, Goldberg writes, “the Miracle ushered in a philosophy that says each person is to be judged and respected on account of their own merits, not the class or caste of their ancestors.”

.. Tribalism was always there, lurking under the surface. It returns now as identity politics, which is reactionary reversion to the pre-modern world.

.. Identity politics warriors claim they are fighting for social justice, but really it’s just the same old thing, Goldberg argues, a mass mobilization to gain power for the tribe.

Earlier movements wanted America to live up to its ideals. Today’s identitarians doubt the liberal project itself.

.. The core problem today is not tribalism. It’s excessive individualism
Excessive individualism has left us distrustful and alone — naked Lockeans. When people are naked and alone they revert to tribe. Tribalism is the end product of excessive individualism.
.. Gratitude is too weak a glue to hold a diverse nation together. Renewal will come through the communitarians on the right and the left, who seek ways to improve relationships on a household, local and national level.

How to be Rational about Rationality

So when we look at religion and, to some extent ancestral superstitions, we should consider what purpose they serve, rather than focusing on the notion of “belief”, epistemic belief in its strict scientific definition. In science, belief is literal belief; it is right or wrong, never metaphorical. In real life, belief is an instrument to do things, not the end product. This is similar to vision: the purpose of your eyes is to orient you in the best possible way, and get you out of trouble when needed, or help you find a prey at distance. Your eyes are not sensors aimed at getting the electromagnetic spectrum of reality. Their job description is not to produce the most accurate scientific representation of reality; rather the most useful one for survival.

It’s Not Too Late on North Korea

August is also when the United States and South Korea conduct major joint military exercises, which always set Pyongyang on edge. In August 2015, tensions escalated into cross-border artillery exchanges after two South Korean soldiers were wounded by land mines laid by North Korea. This juxtaposition of tough sanctions and military exercises has predictably heightened North Korea’s threats.

.. We have long lived with successive Kims’ belligerent and colorful rhetoric — as ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama administration, I came to expect it whenever we passed resolutions. What is unprecedented and especially dangerous this time is the reaction of President Trump. Unscripted, the president said on Tuesday that if North Korea makes new threats to the United States, “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” These words risk tipping the Korean Peninsula into war, if the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, believes them and acts precipitously.

Either Mr. Trump is issuing an empty threat of nuclear war, which will further erode American credibility and deterrence, or he actually intends war next time Mr. Kim behaves provocatively. The first scenario is folly, but a United States decision to start a pre-emptive war on the Korean Peninsula, in the absence of an imminent threat, would be lunacy.

.. History shows that we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea — the same way we tolerated the far greater threat of thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

.. First, though we can never legitimize North Korea as a nuclear power, we know it is highly unlikely to relinquish its sizable arsenal because Mr. Kim deems the weapons essential to his regime’s survival.

.. By most assessments, Mr. Kim is vicious and impetuous, but not irrational.

.. John Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, must assert control over the White House, including his boss, and curb the Trump surrogates whipping up Cuban missile crisis fears.

.. Fourth, we must continue to raise the costs to North Korea of maintaining its nuclear programs. Ratcheting up sanctions, obtaining unfettered United Nations authority to interdict suspect cargo going in or out of the North, increasing Pyongyang’s political isolation and seeding information into the North that can increase regime fragility are all important elements of a pressure campaign.

Remote Diagnoses

But as ominous or unprecedented as it might seem, Trump’s outburst is far less dangerous than the way we understand it. The opposition between rationality and irrationality has long undergirded the foreign policy doctrine the United States has relied on for dealing with the DPRK. Now it has been applied to our own President. What I have in mind here is not an elaborate Foucauldian construct, although its popularity certainly has something to do with the way post-Enlightenment Western society has conceived of the relationship between sanity and insanity. This opposition is far blunter, more soundbite-friendly—and thus more seductive. And its greatest partisans are the members of the national security establishment that stand to gain the most from the removal of this troubled President.

.. English-speaking analysts are prone to understanding the behavior of the DPRK through the lens of Richard Nixon’s “madman theory,” a strategy the President adopted in 1969 as he sought an advantageous end to the Vietnam War. Following the theories of the Cold War economist Thomas Schelling, Nixon adopted an approach called Giant Lance, aiming to convince the Soviet Union that an American nuclear strike on Moscow or Hanoi was imminent. By demonstrating that his behavior was not subject to ordinary rational calculation, Nixon hoped to achieve a superior bargaining position: “I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe that I’ve reached the point that I might do anything to stop the war,” he told H. R. Haldeman. But the Soviets were not fooled: it was not easy to convince them that a world leader would truly be willing to act beyond material motivations and constraints.2

Instead it is American foreign policy doctrine that continues to divide the world into rational actors, typically NATO countries, and irrational ones, typically not long for this world: Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, the Kims. In this worldview it is not a set of threats or behaviors that makes a leader a madmanit is the determination to maintain independence from American empire, often through the pursuit of nuclear weapons. In such a framework it is always the advocates of continual pressure, threats, and sanctions that appear the most rational, for they are the ones that maintain vigilance against uncontrollable madmen.

.. National security types believe their supreme goal is the prevention of nuclear Armageddon through non-proliferation. But their behavior demonstrates an utter lack at least of means-end rationality, for their policies have made proliferation inevitable.

.. George W. Bush not only invaded Iraq; arguing that he could not negotiate with such an evil regime, he unilaterally renounced the United States’s commitments in the Agreed Framework, justifying North Korea’s weapons program and its skepticism about American dealmaking.

.. Above all, it is the sheer reach and relentlessness of American empire that has set us on knife-edges all over the world. We are constantly told that we have rivals in all corners of the globe—places most Americans, when surveyed, have proven unable to identify on a map.

.. If we are on the brink of nuclear apocalypse, it is because the reasonable people, the Pences and the Frums and the Obamas and the Clintons, have put us and kept us there.

The idle blather of a Trump is nothing in comparison to this threat; if anything, it is a flamboyant extension of it. As a historian I struggle to think of even one instance in which careless words alone started a real conflict. The most grimly absurd adventures of the American military machine—Korea, Vietnam, Libya—were launched by people who were celebrated as the best and the brightest, working from doctrines developed by experts and scholars. To achieve a North Korea policy that does not menace us with nuclear annihilation, we first need to be able to escape their grip.