Vanity

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One of the most fertile consent mechanisms is to play to an individual citizen's vanity by coopting a person's natural self-interest, self-preservation, egocentricity, and tying it to a group identity that's bound to an existing power dynamic. The expectations of the group identity are defined by its ruling elite, purity tests broadcast throughout the daily lives of the individual group members. When an individual's identity and sense of self-worth is locked into that group identity, failing to stay pure to its ideology or falling short of its expectations - if and when called on, by authority, to act on behalf of the group - the pressure to conform is everywhere, without it ever having to be violently imposed. The reality of an "us" and "them" becomes a day to day life of "us", where the subordination of the citizen to the dictates of the orthodoxy is covered up by at least being part of the 'best most exceptional' group. To act against the dictate of the group's rulers ends up challenging the very foundations of the individual's sense of self-worth, because it contradicts the in-group identity with a world of out-group self-determination.

CASE STUDY: CONFLATING SELF-WORTH AND NATIONAL IDENTITY

One of the most attentive students of American political culture and institutions, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the 1820s that the United States was an exceptional nation. He commented on the energy of its people, the ease with which they formed private associations, and their passion for social (though not economic) equality. America constituted for de Tocqueville a new species of political life offering a glimpse of the world's future. What he was witnessing was the first country where the ideas of classical liberalism took full bloom with no serious ideological competitors. As this is true of no other democracy, America remains a truly exceptional nation.

Every country has one—a political culture comprised of attitudes, values, and beliefs about how government should operate. Understanding a country's political culture can help you make sense of the way a country's government is set up as well as the political decisions its leaders make.

Some aspects of American political culture are similar to those in other democratic nations. However, because of the philosophies and political ideologies (e.g., classical liberalism has its fingerprints all over our political culture) that guided the nation's Founders, there are aspects of our political culture that make us unique. Our political culture was born out of a revolution and stresses individualism, personal liberty, equality, private property, limited government, and popular consent.

  • Political culture is a phrase used to describe popular attitudes and beliefs about the appropriate role of government in a society. Many political observers have claimed the United States is different from most other developed democracies. In a word, they describe the United States' political culture as "exceptional." To what extent is America an "exceptional" nation?
  • Religion played a significant role in the founding of the American republic and is part of the fabric of American life. Many have described the United States as a "Christian nation." Is this accurate?

The students get their vanity tickled by the implicit inclusiveness - as an American - and given a list of associations to connect American identity, personal identity, exceptional identity, unique identity. The goal here isn't to inform the student, or even to encourage a discussion of American history. It's wholly indoctrination. It uses fireside collective pronouns "we" "our" to sugarcoat the propaganda. It avoids mention of any detail - because specifics are nuanced and weaken the conditioning by undermining the simplicity of the message - and, as a final flourish, makes a final association of "Christian" religion with American identity (and therefore the student's). Vanity is a powerful tool, much misused.