As an ex-liberal/socialist, I am in a unique position to judge the differences, and under more conservative beliefs I have seen an improvement in mood, confidence, and most importantly, ambition. Whether this is a psychological difference between the two, or simply just the result of embracing a new ideology, one which is exciting not only because I have seen the truth about what a lot of liberals advocate, but have heard arguments I have never heard before, and increasingly everything I’ve been afraid to say under liberalism is now encouraged. But a question comes from this, is it just a “honeymoon” period, or is there a correlation between liberal values and anxiety, depression, and a lower self-esteem?
In an article by Konrad Marshall, he explains something called the “climate of despair”, a reaction to alarmism, and scaremongering. He talks about a key note speech on climate change, where an environmental scientist, Nicole Thornton, found herself “actually watching grown men cry. They were senior diplomats from small islands, begging larger countries to take action so that their nations would not drown with the rising seas.” He continued to make the case that alarmism in this sense, but it could be allocated to either political stance, leads to uncertainty and to anxiety as a result – “despair,” as instilled by futurist doom sayers. And I suppose it’s true, that on either side of the political pendulum, is a sense of “if things continue as they are, the world will end.” So it would seem obvious then, that either extremes would harbour depressive tendencies, and yet, in a survey by Brack and Zhang, studying Anxiety and Depression Levels by Political and Gender Cohorts, it was found that those who identified as either liberal or moderate reported higher anxiety ratings than those who identified as conservative, by 35.85% for liberals to 24.03% for conservative (moderates were only slightly higher with 25.73%). For depression, liberals reported 34.27% compared to 24.27% for conservative.
One reason why this might be is that typically even alarmist conservative views operate on the principle of “this needs to be done in order to save us,” whether it’s wrong or right, whereas liberals are the opposite. Liberals, at least more recently, identify the problem but fail to offer up certain solutions, for honesty’s sake, perhaps, although sometimes for lack of having one. By and large, however, conservative values are considered to offer less uncertainty, thereby limiting the feeling of anxiety. In a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience this January, it was found that non-invasive brain stimulation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (typically associated with planning, decision making and cognitive flexibility) can increase conservative beliefs. The study was conducted at the University of Sussex, and showed that the “enhanced DLPFC (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) may have resulted in an increased preference for security, certainty, and social dominance; traits which have been proposed as the defining characteristics of a conservative or right-wing ideology.”
The great tragedy, I think, in liberal ideology is in its adherence to the ignorance of self. Modern liberalism certainly has its hooks in what can best be described as Impulse Politics, attempting to propose surface level and temporary solutions for what makes them feel good in the moment, however, why modern liberalism now appears to fail in that regard is that these surface level solutions have not stood the test of time. Where a stance on welfare has served only to create a dependent poor and an exempt rich; where a stance sympathetic to illegal immigration appears only to be in favour of an enslaved foreign population (under paid, out of union, and working dangerous jobs) benefiting the richest in society and hurting the poorest; and a hatred of selective schooling as elitist, and yet ridding the country of grammar schools served only to secure a two-tier system based on equity over ability and eliminating some of the best chances working class children had to move up in the world. These contradictions have split liberalism down the middle, where one side, which we can call the despondent liberals, who have lost interest in politics but still bare a deep hatred for the right wing perspective, and stubborn liberals who insist, without reason or evidence, that there are underlying “structural” flaws in society which doesn’t allow for these principles to work, rather than admitting that the principles themselves are flawed.
But is ignorance bliss? Surely if liberals are unhappy, that is rather a sign of intelligence, than ignorance, but I don’t know if I would claim that liberals are ignorant. In the words of Ronald Reagan, it is that “they know so much that isn’t so.”
What I think is the underlying cause of the “liberal blues” is that its pillars promote the sacrifice of self for the happiness of others. “But do conservatives sacrifice others for the happiness of self?” I suppose it could be argued, although I would maintain that conservatives understand that helping others has a direct correlation with helping the self, and so it is through selfish means that they do not put others down. After all, dogs eating dogs can only result in a food shortage, businesses have an incentive for the public to be happy and well off, for otherwise they would not be able to make money off of them. Liberals however, are far more likely to tear down those who have worked hard, and who have become successful, in order to appease their humanitarian addiction.
But what I think lies in the forefront of a modern, or progressive liberal mind, is the idea that unless you are a minority, then you are damaging to minorities. An innate victim-status, oppression hierarchy at which self pride is only valid if it is not a pride of whiteness, heterosexuality, or masculinity. When you think “black pride,” you think the civil rights movement, you think black history month, but when you think “white pride,” you think the KKK, and neo-Nazis. So I think what could best tie liberalism to the lack of identity, and to depressive tendencies, is the promoted ideal, that a virtuous person is one who is ashamed of who they are, because of sympathy for who they aren’t. Why are more and more people identifying as genders, races, ages, and even species that oppose their biology? What else can this be described as than an elimination of self?
Liberalism is the politics of morality, over reality; equality, over quality; and most importantly, liberalism is the politics of guilt, and I think it is here that some of the data can be explained.