It has been found by one researcher that the similarity between extremists, between terrorists, is that of what is called, cognitive closure.
When I discovered that it really made me think.
I am not an extremist, never have been. I have always, and always have tried, to have an open mind. That would be antithesis to one who is deep into the rapture of cognitive closure.
Cognitive closure gives one a feeling a security, of self assurance. A belief that the world is understandable. Cause and effect are discernible. Clearly discernible. It is an easy way of existence in one sense. It may lead to physical difficulties, it may lead to death. But mentally once you achieve cognitive closure, you are pretty much done. No more thinking is required, because you have arrived.
At that point further information, especially information that is diametrically opposed to the closure, is not only unnecessary, it can cause a very negative reaction. It can cause actions that feel required in order to drown out the contrary view points.
This is an especially attractive condition when one lives in certain environments, be those endemic, or even caused by the individual.
Poverty is a strong precursor. Then to be dashed further down in poverty to where it is life threatening, not only to the individual but to those around them. More especially if it is not just those around them but is happening to a specific group, especially if it is the group the individual is a part of.
It gives one a sense of well being, of being special, elevated, even part of the divine. Thus, if it exists in an environment with religion, it is a heady, and dangerous cocktail of emotion and action.
Another precursor is two fold. Ignorance and unfairness. Ignorance in an individual, or group, who cannot access the information they need to make decisions, or ignorance in being fed incorrect information by a group for a specific political purpose. Or political religious purpose. Unfairness in that it is either perceived or real. If you add into that, poverty, or oppression (either perceived or real), you have an intense brew for extremism.
Conservatism lends itself well to this outright because it requires similar ways of thinking.
Milton Friedman lays out four money spending modes, most efficient to least:
a. Spend your own money on yourself.
b. Spend your own money on someone else.
c. Spend someone else’s money on yourself.
d. Spend someone else’s money on someone else (which happens to be how government spends money).
Conservatives would argue that you should spend your own money because you know best what you need. That breaks down so fast it could give me a nose bleed. Conservatives use this tactic to bolster their agenda and too many who hear it, don't catch what the issues are about it.
Truth is we need hybrids of most things in order for a system to work. That's what breaks down with racism too, at least, purity of race type racism. As for spending money, you need a hybrid system of spending your money, spending others, others spending your, and voila! You have a country. One that is functional and can be and remain strong.
If all the moving parts are allowed to work together properly and no one abuses their share of the pie. And therein is what has been going wrong world wide. The belief that free commerce, capitalism run amok, is good. The cream will rise to the top and only those at the top will reap those benefits. That is where government comes in, to hone the process so it is more equal too all.
The natural course is to give to those at the top. Altering that, appears to those at the top and others who vote against their own best interests, see it as a conspiracy. But that is in part what a government is supposed to do. To conspire to make things work, keep the country strong, and increase the quality of living...for all citizens.
This is how the conservative argument always goes. Because the natural course HAS to be altered to protect and save the process, it appears to be a hidden agenda to subvert the natural course of either democracy or capitalism. Mostly, capitalism. The two easily get confused by many.
The concern is getting the balance right, and having a balance to, well, balance. When all the money goes to the top and there isn't any to use, or when a country disproportionately spends the money, skipping over necessary programs and efforts, things begin to break down.
A pure democracy, or communism or socialism for that matter, without other elements involved is going to be dysfunctional. Pure capitalism is a nightmare. While there are those who say democracy shouldn't have any socialism, or capitalism should run free and so then the market will correct its path, in practice that has been found to be untrue.
These concepts can sound great to the uninformed. However they fail if not properly handed and with great damage, without more involved with them to give them the support they need. They can become in fact nightmares for those living within them. Just as purity racism can and frequently has gone so wrong in the past.
That matters little to one who is addicted to cognitive closure, though. Like any junkie hooked on drugs, they can be mean when they don't get their fix, or support, but once satiated with their drug or deep into exercising their beliefs, they are in bliss. Try again to take that away and at some point, bad things will happen, even to the point of sinking a ship and taking down all hands.
We have been seeing this of late quite a bit.
There is one other issue involved in this type of thing. The group. Those who feel successful, feel more independent. Those who feel more frustrated, more abused, adhere more to the group. Extrapolating that out to our current 2016 presidential election, we see a large group of the disenfranchised who are being very vocal, very angry and very frustrated.
They are actually a group that shouldn't be as effective as they are. Much like terrorists in groups like ISIS, or Al Shebab. The similarities there are not in how despicable their actions are but in their need for the group, their similarities in a need for cognitive closure and other elements mentioned above.
On the other side, the Democrats do not feel as downtrodden, as disenfranchised. They too feel the other things of the economy and lack of upward economic progression, but they do not as much feel the need for the group. Intelligence, and a sense of control or success in life, allows one more independence from the group.
This consideration overall has much to do with our present day world. That of terrorists, discontent in difficult and downtrodden parts of the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. Of the American conservative feeling so much desire to vote for someone who says ridiculous things but things they wanted to hear. They want to feel that cognitive closure, that security, that need for the group, that end to their perceived (or real) pain.
We will have to find a way to educate these types of people to understand what it is they find overwhelming, but we will also need to find ways to satisfy their reasonable and necessary needs for security and requirements merely to live, and further to live well, or at least in such a way as they find it fair and reasonable.
The warning here is if you feel a need for this kind of cognitive closure, it can be a warning sign that something is wrong. Some might argue that it also indicates a need for God, deity, community, or even, love. And that has some truth to it. Still, in certain circumstances, and there have been many of these of late, and seriously so, it is a warning.