Friday, January 15, 2010

The Heart of a Conservative

The Heart of a Conservative

What do Victor Frankl and Newt Gingrich have in common? Seemingly not much but if you study their works you will find they do share a basic belief in the individual vs. the collective.

Frankl who was a survivor of a concentration camp in WWII started up a new school of psychology (Logotherapy) founded on what he learned from the camp experiences. It is based upon “Man’s Search for Meaning”; which is the title of his book. Here is a quote from that book.

“I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium, or as it is called in biology, homeostasis. What man actually needs in not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”

In an article in Reason Grover Norquist quotes Newt Gingrich.

There will be conflicts, and this is where Gingrich's observation is so critical. The majority governing party does not eliminate conflict, doesn’t resolve conflict. We agree to manage conflict.

Victor Frankl would agree with Grover and Newt that managing conflict is the job of all.

Frankl’s logotherapy’s school is based on the notion that each individual has a meaning and the best a psychologist can do is to manage the individual’s path in finding that meaning and fulfilling it to the best of their ability. Further the struggle itself is the therapy in which an individual becomes whole.

Frankl, Grover and Newt again I think will agree on Frankl’s next quote.

“Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.”

I highly recommend Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” as it is a double edged sword. First it is a firsthand account of the concentration camp experience. Second it flushes out a very conservative message. That message is that man has a meaning to his life. Life is talking to him and it is the individual’s responsibility to listen and act upon what he hears. Individual man’s happiness is rooted in how well he handles his problems not the number of problems.

Thomas Sowell’s classic work, “Conflict of Visions” goes also to the heart of a conservative as it explains the two basic visions of man. One Vision (Conservative) is that man is not perfect and conflict and inequalities are and always will be with us; therefore it is up to the individual to decide which way they will go in life according to their own lights. The other Vision (Liberal) is that man was born perfect and only corrupted by their society or circumstances and that if we change society and make it perfect, man will again become perfect and happy.

Frankl seems to say along with Newt that the first Vision is the correct one. Namely that we get our meaning in life by how we manage our tensions or conflicts which determines our state of happiness.

We have had plenty of efforts at making a perfect society that tries to create a tensionless homeostatic individual throughout history. None has worked. Our unique American Experiment in putting a premium on Individual freedom has worked for a few hundred years. Combined with the complimentary tool of “Free Markets” Individual exceptionalism has been rewarded and all the people in the American ship have floated higher and sailed more secure upon the troubled waters than the rest of the world.

This ideal of individual freedom is being challenged at its core by the socialistic manifestations of the liberal administration. The attack on the Free Market system is an attack on the one way individuals have of making themselves and their families better.

Will we as individuals get further ahead by going on welfare and letting the government take care of our problems for us; or will we be further ahead by seeking our life’s meaning by defining our own problems and how we will react to the tensions and conflict that arise?

The heart of a conservative is warmed through the use of their freedoms. There is a certain sense of fulfillment in actually using freedom, a sense of well being. The real control over one’s own life is what that often quoted phrase “The Pursuit of Happiness” is all about.

Regards, Live Dangerously Be A Conservative

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