In political science, a reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which that person believes possessed positive characteristics absent from contemporary society.
Increasingly since the 1960s, terrified conservatives and the power brokers behind them have pursued increasingly extreme political efforts to turn back time. What terrified the people were the changes wrought by new technologies and ideas of personal liberty. Suddenly women had legal access to effective contraceptives and by 1973, to abortion. To many, even more upsetting were the ramifications of the Civil Rights Act.
What terrified the power brokers were the Baby Boomers who rejected corporatism and the war machine. Young people from all kinds of families turned to the counter-culture in its denunciation of the war in Vietnam and the draft, its embrace of psychoactive substances that expanded consciousness, and a revolutionary denial of consumer culture.
The shock and horror was met by a series of efforts meant to reclaim the past. Called everything from the Silent Majority, Tea Party, and now the so-called “Freedom” Caucus, these political mavens proclaim their ‘freedom’ to not accept progress, to hang by their fingernails clenching the coattails of a vanishing way of life.
The effort puts the nation and humanity at risk.
Fundamentally, the resistance stems from love of money coupled with extremist religion (always a useful tool). Only God knows how viruses work. God doesn’t want people to question His will. God will take care of us. Et cetera. Fear drives these knee-jerk reactions, fear of learning enough to question certain religious beliefs, fear of having to think for oneself. Fear of personal responsibility.
Fear incited by behind-the-scenes power brokers.
Take, for example, the reactionary refusal to vaccinate. Science tell us that the availability of unprotected humans gives viruses fresh grounds in which to breed. And clever viruses reproduce with slightly altered offspring (mutations) that make them more likely to succeed—more virulent, or more resistant to medicine, or less likely to be stopped by the vaccine. Sadly, many reactionaries are unaware of this because they are not well informed on the nature of viruses, or of the nature of biological entities overall.
That’s because many reactionaries resisted the lessons of science that were offered in public schools. Either underpaid, overworked teachers failed to connect with the student or, more often, the student refused to allow the information to process in his/her mind. The resistance had been long taught at home through parental dismissal of science, passed on through generations.
Yet, remarkably, the same reactionaries usually turn to science when they fall ill. Vaccine refusers end up in hospitals partaking of the latest technologies and therapies science has to offer. And it doesn’t take a virus to incite their embrace of the latest scientific-medical interventions. Or take cancer, for example. Few if any persons facing a cancer diagnosis are interested in waiting for God to heal them. They rush to embrace chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
But perhaps I overstate the point.
Reactionaries’ views on the financial world progress much faster than their views on advances in the social order. The proliferation of the extremely wealthy resonates in reactionary minds as a promise of what they might themselves gain if they play their cards right. Conditioned by clever propaganda put forth by the rich, the reactionaries wait for the ship to come in, much as a serf waited for the lord of their domain to grant a favor, perhaps by granting an extra field to plant or a new wagon in which to haul the harvest–which coincidentally largely lined the lord’s pockets, not their own.
This faith in the wealthy stems from several religious concepts, that God grants wealth to the virtuous and that people who are rich are God’s favored children. Therefore, in reactionary logic, by accepting and respecting the excessive wealth of a few, they are acknowledging God’s plan. If they’re extra good, God might also reward them with a windfall.
Never mind that the same teachings embraced by reactionaries state that wealthy men cannot expect to be accepted by God.
A darker side of this primitive thinking is the compulsion to protect those things so honored by God. If material goods of the wealthy are threatened by angry mobs, the appropriate reaction by God’s people is to kill the mobs. Hence Kyle Rittenhouse. Hence the thousands who believe young Kyle did the right thing. But this is apostasy: valuing material things over human life is a big NO in Scriptural teachings.
Another favorite mindset among reactionaries is the accumulation and embrace of multiple prejudices. Supported by twisted interpretations of Biblical bits and pieces, the religious reactionary becomes a racist, sexist hater ready to take up arms against any effort to bring them in closer, more accepting contact with people of different color, ethnicity, or gender. The actual cause of these prejudices is not religion but rather fear—fear of the unknown, the Other–as well as the urgent need to cling to what is known.
Ironically, eliminating fear is a fundamental objective of religion. Except, of course, fear of God. In theory, if a person is suitably fearful of God, and therefore religious in following God’s rules, then God will take care of everything else. This is called faith.
For many people, this narrow faith doesn’t quite get them past that man’s dark skin or that woman’s clever mind or that ‘person’ who pretends he’s a woman when he’s probably a man. Faith doesn’t provide any assistance in dealing with people who don’t have the same religious beliefs, or who speak a foreign language.
Faith has no suggestions on how to deal with sexual desires toward a person of same sex, so the default response is to call it sin and try to ignore it. But the desire never goes away and to compensate, the person in this quandary may direct his sexual frustration in other ways, such as child molestation.
Trapped in their unquestioning religious beliefs and narrow-minded view of the world, these folks hardly experience the ‘freedom’ their mantras espouse. And the power brokers don’t hesitate to play on their ignorance to enhance their financial opportunities. Not only are conservatives bound up in their tunnel vision of the world, their every effort is to restrict the freedom of others—banning books, restricting speech to avoid words they don’t like, forbidding medical care to women—there’s a long list of freedoms the Freedom Party would eliminate from American life.