Authoritarianism, religion and nationalism

The Normal Distribution Curve (or Bell Curve) is a powerful, but sometimes frightening, tool in statistics because it applies to so many physical, psychological and social variables.

For example: a few people are exceptionally short (the left hand end of the curve), a few are exceptionally tall (the right hand end of the curve), but most of us are in between.

An authoritarian personality is in favour of enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom. An individual may be personally authoritarian (bullying, abusing, physically violent: "I was beaten as a child, and sent away to boarding school but it didn't do me any harm!") or may feel the need for an authoritarian leader: "a strong man at the top!"

Unfortunately, being beaten as a child, not being exposed to physical love ("we didn't do hugs in my family!"), or being sent away from family for long periods of time, does cause considerable psychological and emotional harm - it can harden a personality ("It will make a man of you!") and can create someone incapable of empathy. We see this every day in many of our political and business leaders.

Throughout history authoritarian secular leaders have been supported by authoritarian religious leaders: ",do as I say or you will go to hell!" Stray too far from the official religious line and the stake awaits! Only recently, from the second half of the 20th century in Europe, have some religions begun to move away from this authoritarian line - but it is still predominant in many other religions throughout the world.

Some people never grow up

Becoming an adult, and accepting full responsibility for your own life (and often responsibility for the lives of others), is a huge step and one which many of us welcome. We relish the feeling of freedom, of personal choice, of personal responsibility. We know we are responsibly for everything we do and everything we say - we can't hide behind others - we carry the can for our own behaviour and our own destiny.

Unfortunately many people don't make it that far - they look outside themselves for responsibility, they like guidelines drawn up and rules enforced by others - they feel comfortable when someone else, or something else, tells them what to do. Armies are full of people who prefer to take orders rather than responsibility but, unfortunately for them, the Nuremberg Defence ("I was only following orders" doesn't work - the law demands that you take personal responsibility for your own actions.

When Sigmund Freud described religion as "an infantile form of wish fulfillment" he was not insulting religion, he was simply pointing the very high correlation between the personal need for religion and the personal need for an authority figure and an authoritarian set of rules. Transferring responsibility to an external source (a "god" and a holy book) avoids having to take on the full responsibilities of adulthood. A "god", along with "holy men", takes the role of a parent and the holy book becomes the rule book - and god help you if you follow the wrong "god" or the wrong holy book!

Correlations

A correlation does not prove a cause - there is a high correlation between being an elephant and being grey - but not all grey things are elephants!

However, correlations are hints and they give food for thought.

  • In the USA there is a high correlation between evangelical Christianity and authoritarianism. "Make America Great Again" is the perfect exemplar of authoritarianism - put a strong man at the top and all will be well. Couple that with the equally high correlation between evangelical Christianity and nationalism and you have a potentially explosive mix.
  • Globally there is a high correlation between lack of education and authoritarianism.
  • There is an almost 100% correlation between being authoritarian and being right wing.
  • There is an almost 100% correlation between psychopathy and authoritarianism - all psychopaths and sociopaths are authoritarian - and many of them are highly motivated to become political and business leaders - they enjoy the feeling of power.

    They also tend to be self-serving and financially greedy - they see money as a token of "success", a reward for their self-perceived "strengths" and they go out of their way to avoid taxes (trusts, non-dom status, tax havens etc.) to pay for the social good.

Nationalism

"I'm proud to be English!"

Unlike religion, which should be a personal intellectual choice (but which is usually forced onto young people by family and community), you are English by accident of birth - you had no choice.

"I'm proud to be English!" is like saying "I'm proud to have blue eyes!" - you had no choice!

No doubt if you had been born in France of French parents you would be saying "I'm proud to be French!"

What exactly are you "proud" of?

What have you contributed to society in order to be "proud" of it? Which parts of your country's history are you "proud" of? Which parts of it leave you a little ashamed? Have you studied your country's history, warts and all? Are you really an equal and active citizen in your own country or do you simply bow down before those who control real power and wealth? Are you happy when the rest of the world sees your country through different spectacles as a result of decisions made by your political leaders under the influence of those with wealth and power?

Nationalism, like religion, has been used throughout history to divide and rule, to extend the wealth of the already wealthy and to entrench them in positions of power.

The problem with all this is that it leads to gang mentality. "My gang is better than your gang", "My religion is better than your religion", "My country is better than your country - and I will fight you if you say otherwise!"

Nationalism and history

Those interpreting history are advised to follow two simple rules: "Question everything" and "Follow the money". Nothing happens by accident and someone always gains - while others lose.

Our media is owned and controlled by those with wealth so the picture it paints is one that favours them - often lies and half truths. For example: who benefitted from the collapse of the Soviet Union? Answer: US and UK banks, US and UK businesses, oligarchs who stole the wealth of the Russian people under Yeltsin The Drunk, yacht builders, London Estate Agents happy to take Russian blood money and politicians happy to take Russian money - particularly the Conservative Party and Labour leaders like Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson. Wealth and money poured out Russia leaving the Russian people with next to nothing.

In spring 2022, during the war in Ukraine, every time the Russian army destroyed a storage depot or a convoy of US and UK supplied weapons, a cheer went up in the boardrooms of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grunman, General Dynamics, Airbus, Thales, Honeywell, Rolls Royce etc. War is great for business because every weapon destroyed is an order for a replacement and every building destroyed needs a JCB to clear it away and rebuild. Even better is a proxy war where others fight and die using weapons you supply - the ultimate form of low-risk capitalism turning taxpayers' money into wealth for the already wealthy - and saddling other countries with massive debts. (The UK finally paid its debts to the USA in 2006 - 50 years after the end of WWII - the USA doesn't "give" - it lends, with interest.)

One third of the population is authoritarian!

This is scary stuff.

It means that even if we try our hardest to educate people and convince them that the best sort of world is one where people work together in harmony in the best interest of everyone in society (the basis of humanism and liberal democracy) - even then, we have no chance of convincing at least one third of the population.

You can check your personal authoritarian score by following this link.

Is the normal curve cast in stone?

No - there is hope.

For centuries those with power were determined that those they exploited (by way of labour, taxes and tithes) should not be educated. Teaching people to read was dangerous - who knows what they might find out? Translating the bible into a language that everyone could understand would mean "ordinary" people could read the Sermon On The Mount and question the "god-given" rights of their rulers.

After all,

     The rich man in his castle.
     The poor man at his gate,
     God made them, high or lowly,
     And ordered their estate.

was surely the way god intended things to be? (From verse 3 of the hymn: "All things bright and beautiful" - now usually edited out)

Who knows where this could lead? Possibly as far as:

     "when Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?"

one of the most revolutionary questions ever asked in English history.

The normal curve is not cast in stone. Education is the key to opening people's eyes to the realities of the present and the past.

However, this has also been identified by authoritarians as the key to their future success - hence the political struggle to control the history curriculum - to return it to covering Kings & Queens, British military victories (ignoring defeats of course) and "The Empire as a good thing".

Shifting the curve

If we are in favour of a society run with fairness and justice for all, our task is to shift the distribution curve away from authoritarian fascism towards liberal democracy.

From this:

To this: