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Fundamentalism: The Disposition that Fuels the Jerks of the World

Most disagreeable people have this common trait.

Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This woman had the RFB without the "R" part.

It was all bitch face. She looked angry sitting there, she looked angry when she gave her presentation. My friend who had invited her to speak said to me, "Geesh, she could've just declined."

We've all known mean people whose unpleasantness manifests itself in all sorts of ways: impatience and anger, sarcastic and sassy exchanges, abrasive and acerbic comments, unkind and uncharitable ideas.

But you ever wonder what kind of mental disposition underwrites the mean person's daily life?

In some cases, I guess it could be an ongoing physical illness or other problem that's external to their soul.

I'm talking here about the person who's mean because, well, she's just a nasty person.

Disagreeable People Tend to be Fundamentalists

I had a Newton's apple moment last week.

I suddenly understood what every disagreeable person has in common.

Let me be clear: I mean "disagreeable" in the most expansive way possible. I'm talking boors and bastards; cretins and creeps; jerks and their one-handed cousins, jerk- and jack-offs; and every derogatory term derived from the nethers of the human anatomy.

I exclude only the "disagreeable" who carry no blame. The addled, for instance, and toddlers.

I'm including mean people like the bitch face woman last week, but I'm also talking about adherents to various movements.

Why did early reformers in the Protestant Reformation defecate in holy water fonts and urinate on beautiful altars?

Why were the Puritans such pricks that Roger Williams preferred to take his chances with the savage Indians?

Why did the Soviets send people to the Gulag for making jokes?

Why do extremist Muslims smash irreplaceable masterpieces of sculptures and architecture?

Why are libertarians, Q-Anoners, Antifa and BLM rioters who tear down sculptures, Catholic Rad Trads who spit on everything about the Novus Ordo Mass, college professors in tweed jackets, and that guy with a strong opinion on pretty much anything so annoying?

Answer: They're all fundamentalists.

The bitch face, that guy in the office everyone avoids, the tiresome Catholic who tells you that you're praying incorrectly?

All fundamentalists.

And that's why they suck.

Fundamentalism Rejects Conflicting Truths

The author of The Straight-A Conspiracy, Hunter Maats, went on Joe Rogan back in 2017. Hunter strikes me as a guy from a leftist worldview cocoon who butterflies against it.

He says early in the interview (minute 30:00) that his "big beef" is with fundamentalists "across the board." He says he doesn't care what kind of fundamentalist. He doesn't like fundamentalism in general.

He points out that a balanced person can respect two contradictory truths. In Maats' example, he says a balanced person can acknowledge that capitalism has helped us immensely while also acknowledging that it brings problems. The person must then struggle to reconcile them, which takes time and effort.

Fundamentalists, Maats points out, aren't "burdened with that problem."

Fundamentalists know there's a good thing and there's a bad thing; there are good guys and there are bad guys. Help the good thing, help the good guys. Hurt the bad thing, hurt the bad guys.

I would add the observation that, if the contradictory truths cannot be reconciled (e.g., if a paradox is involved), a balanced person accepts it. Not so the fundamentalist.

"When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let them thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say it is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever says he is 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal."

Fundamentalism Naturally Comes from the Left Hemisphere

Iain McGilchrist repeatedly points out that the left hemisphere is the hemisphere of "either/or" (the right hemisphere is the hemisphere of "both/and").

Fundamentalism is as proper to the left hemisphere as exercise is to an athlete.

It's not the left hemisphere's fault. It is tasked with action: to do this, to avoid that . . . so we can survive. Without the left hemisphere, we wouldn't thrive in this world and society's material conditions wouldn't improve like they have over the past few hundred years.

If everyone is holding an alms bowl, no one is giving alms.

To work effectively in this slop that we call "earth," the left hemisphere needs certainty. It can't allow "paralysis by analysis." It needs to assess and act. It naturally inclines toward the fundamentalist way of thinking: "That's good; I'll pursue it. That's bad; I'll avoid or kill it."

But if a person allows his left hemisphere to underwrite his existence, his mental world rests on a bedrock of fundamentalism.

The Mean Person: Fundamentalism in Daily Life

It's impossible to judge the nuances of a person's mental world, much less his soul.

But I think it's possible to identify a general "tilt," especially a left-hemispheric one.

The mean person has a general tilt that says, "I'm better than others." If you doubt this, watch Mean Girls. That was the essential core of the Mean Girl clique.

The arrogant idea comes in all sorts of shades. It might be brazen like the Mean Girls. It might be the underlying assumption that one's projects, aims, and time are more important than others'. It might be a feeling that one is "put upon" more than others or one has had the luck or "breaks" he deserves.

But no matter the shade, it rests on the basic premise: "I am elevated over others."

That's generally why they're okay with being unkind to, biting at, dismissive of, and judgmental toward others.

Theirs is a fundamentalist disposition brought to everyday life. Me: Good. Others: Less than.

My opinion: smart. Others: less than.

My looks: fine. Others: less than.

My projects: important. Others: less than.

My time: valuable. Others: less than.

It's either/or all the time.

It's efficient, too. If everyone else is a nerd, moron, or loser ("less than in general"), there's no need to waste time or resources on them.

The Right Hemisphere is "Both/And"

The right hemisphere, on the other hand, objects to all this. It is the hemisphere of "both/and" so it can hold two contradictory ideas at the same time. It says, "I am loved by God and eternally priceless, but I am stained and, without help, would be flawed for eternity."

And as a corollary, so is everyone else, which means everyone else is lovable and eternally priceless.

That's the part that escapes the mean person's fundamentalist attitude.

In the fundamentalist world of "either/or," a person needs to protect himself first: that's the imperative. It's a world that is essentially competitive, a zero-sum game, one of winners and losers.

And the mean person views himself as a winner or a person who ought to be winning.

So it's okay to wear the BF all the time. What does she care what the losers think?

Orthodoxy by Gilbert K. Chesterton, Chapter 6
Chapter 6 of Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton, a digital book in the International School of Theology’s Cyber Library, a digital library for graduate seminary research, personal, and ministry research.

"The Paradoxes of Christianity" The right hemisphere welcomes paradox. The left hemisphere recoils from it.