Finding your place in society is not easy. The last time you felt completely fulfilled was probably in pre-school. The agenda for children seems to be largely homogenous. Especially being that their intellectual needs pertain, mainly, to playing tag, throwing objects and hitting trees with sticks. Of course this is a rather male-centric view, but I digress. As you develop certain traits through environmental and biological interactions, such as with epigenetics, a feeling of isolation sets in. You are no longer defined solely by co-dependency and unrestricted play time. You start to develop interests and differentiate your opinions.
By age 16 the majority of people can express themselves on a wide range of topics. This isn’t to say they understand them fully, but you will find a semi-cogent understanding of literacy, social structures, meta-cognition etc. Some of their opinions are highly predictable by just looking at peer influence. These include a vocal opinion on race, gender, sexuality and social equality. Some opinions will differ but are still kept within the accepted bounds of social normality. One teenager might express the opinion that smoking is bad for society and should be banned, whereas another sports freedom of choice over external control.
Political Psychology is a useful area to study when talking about these social changes. While a minority of people set themselves apart in a large way, the majority fit into two categories. Conservatism and Liberalism. Right wing and left wing. These are not merely political ideologies. They can be predicted by but a few of your opinions but predict, nearly always successfully, most others. This particularly holds true in Western democratic societies. It is not a coincidence that there is a near 50/50 divide in political opinion within America, a country of 300,000,000 people. Despite the differences between party politics and populist opinion, the voters still cast predictably.
The liberal view attracts people who feel they are open and accepting. People who believe in unrestricted freedom of choice, so long as actions do not harm others. While these are very subjective definitions, they can be simply applied in the majority of legislative decisions. They are often pro-choice on abortion, drugs and sexuality. They favour equality in all reaches of society and forcefully oppose opposite opinions. They believe that the moral checklist they employ for situations makes them immune to error. Immune to fleeting, contemporary norms. Their opinions and values hold true both retrospectively and will continue to do so.
Let’s take a model from the previous discussion. A bright faced 18 year old, fresh out of high-school. Equipped with an arsenal of opinions and arguments. Confident and happy. Intelligent and aspiring. Progressive and left wing. She knows, without a doubt that gay men and women deserve equal treatment. She knows everyone in general society deserves the same. She knows religion and social classes have their pros and cons. ultimately, these are irrelevant as people are people. And people need to be treated with unrestricted equality. She also knows gender inequality, however skewed toward women, exists in both sexes.
Our fictional girl meets new groups out there in the world. In the workplace. In her classes. On the internet. People who seem to be her. They mirror her opinions. They espouse, almost word for word, her innermost feelings and beliefs. Creating a feeling only comparable to the most sexually attractive male or female walking up to you in a bar and talking to you. Seductively licking their lips, smiling brightly and saying exactly the right words. Conjuring images of romance and copulation previously intangible. You are instantaneously infatuated and devoted to this sudden stranger. You read blogs. Magazines. You find people who you have never met but begin to feel like ideological family. You watch videos and write letters. You talk to people at work and in class.
This is the honeymoon period. The time when everything fits. When everything has an explanation. Everything has an answer. I am proposing here that this behaviour is a self defence mechanism. A mechanism to cope with life. A way of generalising subjects but coming up with seemingly concrete, rational and complex answers. Fool proof to most, even yourself.
I do not deride such a mechanism. It is highly productive in terms of evolution. Group cohesion relies on consistent beliefs and behaviours. This trend exhibits in nearly all mammals with a reasonably sized cerebral cortex. But we are the most evolved of our kingdom. Should there not be a higher standard for attaining cohesion? The implications for a different system are more complicated than I can care to think about. I know we are fated to live out the incrementally changing tautologies of the current zeitgeist. This is not a ‘bad’ thing.
I am not saying this is liberal exclusive either. It is a phenomenon in all free societies. With all political wings, however similar.
Being aware of this behavioural mechanism means my honeymoon is over. It has not caused an acute flip in any ideology, but it has caused me to be more aware of the validity of my opinions. The science and facts behind the circumstance I wish to discuss. I occasionally try to blanket an issue; call it an infantile regression if you will. But overall this new species of meta-cognition has helped me become a better thinker. A better person. An improving person.
The honeymoon may be over but I still retain my wife. My bloated, fun loving and easy spouse. To extend the metaphor; the difference is I now realise the potential outside the orthodox, Lutheran and monogamous relationship with a person set in her ways and impervious to change.