Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Where There's A Will

A friend sent a link to this article, discussing willpower and why it's so difficult. This section struck a familiar chord: 

...There’s a part of you who is looking to the long-term and thinking about certain goals, and then another part of you that has a completely different agenda and wants to maximize current pleasure and minimize current stress, pain and discomfort. The things that require willpower pit those competing selves against each other. Willpower is the ability to align yourself with the brain system that is thinking about long-term goals — that is thinking about big values rather than short-term needs or desires. 
The reason that so many things can trigger that kind of conflict is because that’s the essence of human nature. Modern cognitive neuroscientists see this as the fundamental structure of the human brain — that there are competing systems that think about the world differently and that respond to challenges differently. I think of it as: the immediate self versus the future self. We need both systems for survival.  But a lot of our modern challenges really tempt us to be in the mind-state of immediate gratification, or escaping immediate discomfort. It can be quite a challenge to access the part of you who is willing to take that big picture and tolerate temporary discomfort...
To me, it describes the current stalemate in our political system between liberals and conservatives. Liberals are the willpower narrative. Conservatives the short-term, immediate gratification screw-the-future side. I've written about the need, at one time in our evolution, to have "shoot first ask question later" brains; and how, in these times, it's not only no longer necessary, but, in fact, a detriment. As we see every day in Congress. Putting the modern equivalent in terms of willpower is an interesting way to look at it.

It seems pretty clear that today's R party, the ones they elect, have zero willpower. They want what they want, for themselves (and for their oligarchical overlords). Now. What we need to survive -- addressing climate change, spending on education, research, health care, infrastructure, reinvigorating the possibilities of "the American dream" -- that stuff requires will power and the ability to think beyond. Not exactly their cup of tea.

Too bad for the rest of us.

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