10/19/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

If Paul Reiser is Right, What Does That Say About America?

Paul Reiser's blog points out the differences between the candidates -- one treats us like children, the other doesn't. Using this analogy, one must conclude that half of Americans like parental figures in power, half do not. Why?

Perhaps the half wanting control from the top-down find security there. If someone tells them what they can or can't do (e.g. no more choice), their world is less stressful, less full of personal decision-making. Perhaps this is why that half so wholeheartedly puts their trust in God. To this half, God will take care of things, we can be released from too much personal responsibility. Life is a lot less stressful when someone else is running the show and all you need to do is deliver your lines (agree, Paul?).

The other half wants to have 'self-control,' a bottom-up system, where trust is placed in our personal choice, in self and self-regulation. There may or may not be accompanied faith in God but for this half, society is in our hands, its what we do personally day in and day out, that shapes our world and society.

In human evolution, extreme examples of these stages occurred, the first before our ancestors had self-consciousness, the latter after its emergence (see Julian Jaynes book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, 1976, for an illustration). With self-consciousness once established in humans, there remains variability in its depth. Even among the early Christians (for America is a big Christian nation) near the time of Jesus, these two kinds of people existed. In The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels describes the minority of Christians (the Gnostics) as those who saw the key to knowing God in discovering oneself, in self awareness, while the precursors of modern Christianity were those who followed rules, a hierarchy of parental figures, to discover God, their Father.

The good news is that even in our Christian nation, about half of Americans want self-control, want self-awareness to be our guide, with faith (many faiths) a part of the individual's journey. This proportion (half) is magnitudes more than 2000 years ago (the Gnostics made up a small minority).

The evolution of self-consciousness and all that accompanies it is increasing, it just may be hard to see in the short window of a single lifetime.