Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist, author and former Oxford literary scholar that lives on a small island off the coast of Scotland. Pleasant, likeable, he speaks in clear, simple language, and you would never guess he reasoned out one of the most controversial and profound theories about brain function in the history of human thought,
For a long time, I have wondered how Authoritarians, whether on the Left or Right, can hold two dramatically diametric ideas in their heads at the same time, and not recognize the conflict. Why don’t they apply logic and reason and work out a compromise? As it turns out, according to McGilchrist’s theory, although they can apply logic and reason at times, more often than not, their brain just doesn’t work that way.
A critique of McGilchrist’s theory and his book, The Master and the Emissary, from the Documentary Channel website:
“The left hemisphere (of the brain) likes rules, procedures, technology, and systems. On the positive side, the left has given us science, literacy, and technology. But it cannot solve logical problems, feel empathy for others or connect with nature. It does not understand context. For the Left Hemisphere, the world is made of separate parts, it can’t make connections. Details are important, not relationships.”
The critique goes on to say: “But in the West it appears the Left Hemisphere’s way of thinking has been dominating public life, with massive repercussions…the values of the Left Hemisphere have slowly been gaining influence in society—especially since the Industrial Age.”
A textbook example of this would be a Facebook conversation I had with an ardent right-winger some years back. He asserted the media was controlled by “leftists.” I asked him if that made him a “rightist” and he scoffed at the notion: his mind could not form a contextual relationship between the two. I then decided to play him, because he was just asking for it. Nobody watches Fox News I told him, you are correct, people overwhelmingly prefer MSNBC and CNN because the left controls the media. He scoffed at the notion. Fox News is the number one news channel hands down, he said. Nobody watches MSNBC or CNN anymore. I commented, so which is it, then? Do leftists control the media or is rightist Fox News the only channel people watch? As McGilchrist points out, in this guy’s Left Hemisphere brain, “details are important, not relationships.” Because his perceptions were kept in separate boxes, one never challenged the contradiction of the other.
When we look at the history of the federal government’s interaction with tribal nations, we see a Left Hemisphere mentality that has not only persisted, but worsened, into the 21st Century.
In fairness, I will apply a textbook example Left Hemisphere mangling of thought from the neoliberal left. Many people do not trust the government when it comes to COVID-19, and they do not wish to take the vaccine until it is determined to be absolutely safe. These people are often liberal progressives. But the neoliberal left magically believes that the science is infalliable and incorruptable, even though history teaches us exactly the opposite.
Or to quote columnist Glenn Greenwald: “There are millions and millions of people who don’t want the vaccine who don’t fit into the reductive and simplistic partisan narrative that vaccine hesitancy is about conservatism and Fox. It takes some kind of socipathy to pretend they don’t exist.”
No, Glenn, it is not some kind of soiopathy. It is just the Left Hemisphere unable to reason by applying contextualized logic.
(Contact James Giago Davies at email@example.com)