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So here's the ChangingMinds Blog, from site author, David Straker. This is my more personal ramblings, though mostly about changing minds in some shape or form. Please do add your comments via the archive or the right-hand column below.  -- Dave


Sunday 13-August-17

Selfishness, Capitalism, Democracy: where are we going?

At the turn of millennium, the world seemed so nice. Well, mostly. Communism had been defeated and democracy was spreading. Peace had had its chance and was spreading nicely. But now, elected leaders everywhere, from Russia to Turkey to even the USA are working hard to restore the natural order of dictatorship. Efforts in the Middle East have also gone to pot as wars intended on bringing democracy have turned to anarchy and warring factions instead.

The world, it seems, is going to track and ruin. It's a common coffee table conversation. Political upheaval, climate change, population explosion. What next? Perhaps the revolution of the robots might be a good idea if it leads to a more sustainable world.

But why? Humans are at the top of the evolutionary did chain? How did we get into such a mess? Much can be explained by considering two forces act on us: selfishness and unselfishness.

Selfishness focuses on me and mine, leading to competition, elitism and ultimate dictatorship as the most powerful rise to the top of the pile. Unselfishness, on the other hand, focuses on equality, fairness and the broader society. Unfortunately for the world, we are more selfish than unselfish. Most of us take more than we give, resulting in an unequal society.

This is what Communism rails about, yet the selfish streak also invades Communist societies, making them unequal and hierarchical too. The best counteraction we have is democracy, not just in the critical one-person-one-vote principle, but also in the legislature and independence of key institutions that distribute power.

Effective democracy depends on wisdom of the masses in discerning candidates who will promote the greater good, yet this, too, is flawed. Wise voting increases when voters are educated and socialized. Yet education is chronically uneven and voters are of course affected by the selfish-unselfish imbalance. They are also subject to the whole raft of human fallibility, from biased thought to being persuaded by irrational, emotive argument.

And democracy is more blind than wise. If you can persuade the masses (and get them to vote), you could have a fool in charge. The best way to do this is to avoid reason and appeal to emotion. Get them angry and promise to heal their wounds. Play to their hopes of a better world. Then betray them while telling them how much you are helping them. It is amazing how long people will believe what they want to believe. Just make sure that, by the time they wake up, it is too late.

Also, power does not stay spread out. Power attracts power and begets power. The powerful get that way by building and gathering power. They become elite by banding together and keeping others out of their little cabal. Dictators survive by having a small such group who keep them in power and who are richly rewarded for this, much as medieval kings played politics with their barons. Yet uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, and kings do get deposed, though they often just get replaced with other kings, often tougher ones, unless the underlying system itself is changed.

Democracy survives when enough egalitarian people want it and are prepared to fight for it. This is not easy when human nature plays in the opposite direction, yet it is our only hope.

Sunday 06-August-17

Capitalist Carpe Diem: Hedonism and Despair in the Modern World

Do it now, say the adverts. Buy it now. We live in a capitalist culture that thrives on accelerating spend, where having drives status and dreams are sold on shelves, online and on every possible occasion. We live in an apocalypically intense time, where pleasure looms large. And so also does threat, as danger and death are shockingly peddled by monetized pages in our clutching hands.

Experience it now, say the young Millennials. Let us drink and be merry for tomorrow is hopeless. We will have no houses, no pension. Our Boomer parents have broken the world so let's have fun while we can. We work for it, though. Oh, how we work for our perfect careers that never happens. We were told we were wonderful and would have it all, but why is it so hard?

Ski, reply the Boomers. Spend the Kids' Inheritance. Vacation, cruise, again and again. We've worked hard all our lives, for what? Our profligate kids? We've given them our all, so now it's our turn. We silver surfers, we band of Peter Pans. We stave off age until decrepitude forces lavish care upon us, lapping up the last of our fortunes.

Or else we Boomed but never shone as jobs slipped through our fingers, as technology, elites and migrants stole our futures. We have struggled too, and every day we seize what we can, as our broken dreams fuel impotent fury. Why us, we silently cry. Who will save those left desperately clinging on?

Seize the voting slip, say the populists. We understand your woes. We name the elephant in the room. We will fix the unfixable. We will borrow, build, bring back jobs and make those who are not like us pay and pay, or else we will send them away. Listen blindly to our trumpeting platitudes. Vote, not really for change, but for numbing your existential agonies.

Oh Ozymandias, do not weep. No matter who you are, Utopia beckons, today. Just grab the promise and forget the cost. You may be lost, but all is not so. Close your eyes and believe, as hard as you can. You are not to blame -- they are, so take glorious vengeance in the moment. Eat, drink and fake merriment, for tomorrow is unthinkable.

Sunday 30-July-17

Transitions, Celebrations and Marking Boundaries

Why do we celebrate birthdays? Why do we need marriage ceremonies and funerals? Why do we riddle our lives with such rituals? It's because life is not linear. It is not a continuum. It goes in fits, starts and stages. And we need something to mark the edges.

When we gaze out at the world, all we really see is a mass of different optical waves, of which we can detect frequencies and amplitude over a fairly limited range. However, this is enough for us to see one another and all the many things around us. It seems instantaneous, but our brains work really hard and in real time to turn that river of hues into things we can name, recognize and react to. Without going too deeply into the neuroscience of perception, one of the most important parts of this process is in separating one thing from another, and to do this, we seek contrast, then line and outline, from which we can recognize and name all the different things.

Edges count. Without boundaries, things would merge into one another, making them difficult to distinguish. Animals use this when their mottled feathers and hair merge into the background and break up their outline so predators cannot see them so easily.

We use this principle in our lives, too. We like to separate out different periods and events so we can name them and hence give them separate meaning. We talk about our school years, friendships, jobs, weekends, festivals and more. For ideas, concepts and experiences to exist as meaningful entities, we have to name them, which means separating them, which means knowing their boundaries, which typically means recognizing when they start and end. It is for this purpose we mark our lives' boundaries with celebrations and other events.

Events can be small, such as completing a task. They can be large, such as getting married. And a way we recognize these is in the size and elaboration of our markers. We punch the air when we solve a problem. We dress up, recite sacred words and eat with friends and family when we marry. However we do it, markers help us transition to new realities. They enable us to say 'The past was good, but it is gone. I must now move on to the new future.' Facing new times can be scary when the competencies and resources that enabled us to succeed in the past may not be as useful as they once were. When jobs change and friends leave, we may fear the strangeness of the new and hark back to the safety of the past. Celebrations help us let go and move on, looking forward with more confidence rather than backwards with regret.

Psychologists talk about the way we go through stable periods punctuated by unstable transitions as stage theory, and note how difficulty in these periods of change can result in us getting stuck in a younger stage, which is sometimes called 'arrested development'. This is effect can also be seen in the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle, a principle that has been taken up in business where changes are recognized as causing a similar staged transition, and where consultants may act to help people through these, much as psychotherapists help people unstick themselves from childhood stages. When we pay attention to marking transitions and using deliberate celebration, we may be saving ourselves from a later date on the therapist's couch!

How and when we celebrate also depends on who we are. Extraverts, for example, will enjoy a good party, while introverts might be happier to just have dinner with a few good friends. Americans often like grand statements while New Zealanders prefer understatement. A person in one company culture will appreciate a pat on the back for a job well done, while a person in another will expect a big financial bonus and public recognition. Older people, used to long periods of stability, may be accustomed to few transitions and hence big celebrations, while younger people who know little but change, celebrate each weekend, perhaps offering silent prayers of thanks that they are still here and their heads are largely above the rising financial waters.

One of the key concerns that we often have when recognized is what others might think of us. It is not uncommon for those who are not the focus of celebrations to feel rather envious, that they are equally deserving and perhaps more so. Even as they smile and applaud us, we may worry that they are secretly hating us. Such fears can drain the pleasure from being the focus of attention and reward, especially in egalitarian cultures where equality is desirable and standing out is not.

If you think somebody has done a good job and want help them celebrate, rather than throwing them a party, first stand in their shoes. Do they see their work as something significant? Do they expect a celebration? Do they expect little but would appreciate some public recognition? First, know the culture and know the person. If the culture permits celebration, know its limits, where pleasure would turn to disgust. If the person would appreciate recognition, even if they act modestly, then understand what recognition they would appreciate and feel is appropriate, and how others would see this. Only then move to the planning. Decide whether it should be a surprise or known, large or small, public or private. The bigger the recognition event, the more time and resource you will need, so make sure you have the funds before throwing a big party.

And after it all, you may want a little celebration yourself. Indeed, failing to celebrate can bring unbounded confusion to our lives. It is also good to help others mark the transitions in their lives, but this can be hard work. Yet we do it because the greatest pleasure for many of us is to see those we feel deserve recognition get it, and to help those who need to move on to do this through recognition and marking of change.

Sunday 23-July-17

How much evidence do you need? How do I know I am a nice person?

We all need to think we are good people. Even criminals self-justify by blaming their victims or believing themselves more deserving. But how much evidence do we need? There is a whole spectrum of evidence requirement, although perhaps we tend to cluster towards one or another end.

The exception that proves the rule

One way of seeking proof is to find just one bit of evidence. For example all I need is to think about is one time I have been nice to someone, from which I can conclude that I am a nice person. This is a strategy used by people who are often unkind to others, but have a small circle of friends. In a position of authority they are likely to have favorites, who are typically harmless people who do as they are told.

This is of course a very unscientific method, where repeatable evidence is needed for a conclusive proof. Yet many of us are affected by 'confirmation bias' whereby we seek any evidence and quickly conclude our case is proven. This happens in decision-making too, where we make a decision and then seek evidence that justifies what we have already decided.

Falsification inversion

The reverse way of seeking evidence is also to depend on a single piece of data, but now it is in the reverse sense. Now, all you need is a single piece of evidence to disprove the rule. In the niceness stakes, this means that if you are nasty to just one person, you are a nasty person, so you try to be nice to everyone.

In science, Karl Popper defined this as falsification. For centuries, the approach to science was to find 'enough' confirming evidence and then declaring a general rule. The dilemma is that you cannot find evidence to prove very case, so you just accept a common-sense body of confirming evidence. Popper got around this by suggesting a double negative, whereby if you can devise a clever experiment in which you aim to disprove the rule then one piece of evidence is enough to prove that the opposite is true. Yes, it's tricky. The 'nice guy' check would be to look for evidence that a person is nasty, and that not finding this shows them to be nice.

Nice enough

Few of us are saints, and few are bad sinners either. We're not perfect, but we try to be nice, which is what we want to think of ourselves. It is also what we want others to think of us. So we are nasty only occasionally and mostly when we can justify our unpleasantness.

Sunday 16-July-17

The Psychology of Trump: Three surprising preferences that drive how he behaves

Much has been written about the bizarre actions of President Donald Trump. Psychiatrists, psychologists and pundits have analyzed his machinations and have diagnosed dire mental conditions, yet it seem three preferences he has around particular groups of people go a long way to explaining his actions.

Media and the masses, attention and approval

By and large, the media aim to play the role of representing the wider world. They espouse common values. They alternatively admire and challenge the rich and powerful. And, with shock, awe and information, they entertain the masses, which is something Trump understands well.

And Trump has masses of supporters who lap up his vicious invective. He has given voice to their angry lives and hope to their desperate survival. He feeds their deep conspiracy theories and promises them all the American dream that few could ever find. And in return they blindly believe.

Trump plays this instrument endlessly and effectively, feeding them all shocking statement after shocking statement. The media love this game too, as shock is always good for sales.

The paradox here is that very few people would do such things, as much because of the disapproval they would garner as anything. Just the thought of criticism is enough to keep most of us in line. But Trump is not like this. He craves attention far more than approval, and so continues to say outrageous things.

Another reason Trump cares little for approval is his big boss past. People in power have little to fear from those beneath them and can break social values with impunity. Indeed, such acts are power signals that send a clear message. Pay attention, they say, I could hurt you and get away with it. I am above the law.

News has a short half-life and attention flows similarly. Shocking news gains more momentum, yet it too fades. Trump hence keeps up a steady stream of invective, ably supported and reported by the parasitic media. He then drinks from this hose of attention, pumping disapproval to prolong the feast.

Friends and colleagues, loyalty and truth

When it comes to friends, Trump plays a different game, and again an unconventional one. Most of us like friends for who they are. We trust them to keep our interests at heart and accept them as they are, warts and all.

By some accounts, Trump makes a good friend, at least in supporting those in need. However, he sees this as a transaction and expects absolute loyalty in return. There are dire stories of his delight in vengeance against those who have betrayed him, again as a symbol of power and signal to other would-be traitors. He also plays this as a game, promising desired things in return for the promise of fealty, as can be seen in his reference to FBI Director Comey keeping his job shortly before asking for his personal loyalty.

One of the important roles a friend plays is as trusted confidante to whom we can expose our true selves and who will tell us the truth, even if is difficult to hear. Trust is important here on both sides, first that the teller of bad news will not take advantage, and then that the receiver will not take it badly or lash out.

The same principle applies for people with whom he works. He expects blind loyalty in exchange for keeping their jobs. This can be a problem when professionalism dictates truth that is inconvenient for Trump. He is accustomed to dictating what is and what is not as a matter of convenience, and woe betide anyone who contradicts him. Already it seems, his staff avoid giving him news that could trigger an outburst.

Before becoming president he invested a lot in befriending many in the media, yet who now are being critical. Rather than taking such comment seriously, he becomes enraged at this disloyalty and seeks harsh punishment. He also uses such cases as food for his Twitter outbursts that feed his attentional needs.

Family, obedience and love

A final category is his family. You cannot sack your family -- anyway, they carry your all-important name into the future. So you have to treat them differently.

The classic position of the alpha male that Trump takes is of control. Little of import happens in his companies without his approval, even though his family members are running them, and it is probably the same at home. Unquestioning obedience is the name of this game.

The paradox here is that obedience is even more important than love. Sure, he likes adulation, but control is so important for him that the semblance of affection is sufficient. You don't have to love him, but you probably do have to say you love him, even though everybody knows it's a sham.

A question here is whether these who cannot escape might yet betray him the worst. Starved of love and under the thumb, they may react and rebel, biting the hand that feeds them in ultimate revenge for years of micromanagement.


There is the red thread running through all this. Attention, loyalty and obedience are about how people behave, not how they think or feel. Trump cares not what you think or feel, only what you do and only for him. He seems to lack any empathy, which is a deep problem for someone who purports to leadership, though perhaps is a strength for would-be autocrats. And so, in his fantastic universe, he is the puppeteer and people dance. They pay attention. They are loyal. They obey. And heaven help those who dare to disobey, be disloyal or look away. For this god is a terrible god. His power and his glory know no end.

Sunday 25-June-17

How do you pay for your life? The shift to loans, information, donations and subscriptions

How do you pay for things in your life? The old model was a simple transaction. You went to the store and paid money for your food. This still works. But more models have appeared and still appearing and shifting dominance.

You may also have loans. If you have a house then you probably had to borrow money to buy it. Maybe the same for your car. Perhaps you are a victim of short-term, high-interest loan sharks, these days sometimes legitimized with the name of 'Payday loans'. Increasingly, we are paying for today with our futures.

Young people in particular are affected who realize that they may never be able to retire and who do not have the secure pension safety net of their parents. This is perhaps something that is driving the hedonistic 'experience economy' where the young live for today and ignore the cost of the future. Older folks are not escaping either, with a combination of the enhanced 'Bank of Mom and Dad' and the cruise culture draining those of us who are torn between helping their children and spending something of their final years seeing the world after so long at the coalface.

Payment gets even more interesting when it moves online. How do you pay for your online consumption? Facebook and Google take payment in information about you, which they use to micro-segment and sell you things in remarkably persuasive ways based on a deep analysis of your character.

Websites also, are feeling the pinch. The heady days of the early internet where everything was free are sharply narrowing. One way they are coping is by asking for donations. Adverts on many websites, including this one, help pay for the site. However, ad-block software will stop these. But I can detect this, so put a 'please donate' request up when ads are not allowed. And some kind people have donated (thanks!!). Donations are also being sought in a kind of 'telethon' style, such as the big requests that Wikipedia put out from time to time, with a persuasive 'personal appeal' from founder Jimmy Wales.

Other places are moving to flat subscriptions where you can avoid large up-front payments but have to pay on a regular basis. Adobe now do this, as does Microsoft in Office 365. Variations this appear in other areas, such as the 'freemium' service, where the basic product is free and desirable premium extras cost you. An example of this is in podcasts where I recently listened to Sam Harris pontificating about this.

Look out for the web payment model to continue to change. The principle of Net Neutrality is being challenged again. Websites are looking more and more to monetization. They are getting less generous and more cynical, which I have seen in the decline of guest articles. I do get offered thinly-veiled and content-weak advertising articles, but I turn these down on a daily basis.

So what will I do at Changing Minds? How will access to the site change in the future? I have no great plans to change it. I am retired, and should have about 20 years or so of writing left in me. I've a modest pension and income from adverts and books are very welcome. I started the site on a premise of making it all free, so I've no plans for subscriptions. I may experiment with advertising, but do not want to over-do this. I may extend the donation model, but I won't be over-pleading as I know that too much guilt-induction makes people give up and go away. I also don't use information about people, as again I realize that privacy is a critical personal issue. Also don't worry about the site continuing: my daughter also has a M.Sc. in Psychology and will likely pick up the site when I'm pushing up daisies.


Sunday 18-June-17

Poverty and the dysfunctional focus of chronic lack

When we have too little of something we need, whether this is time, food, money, love or whatever, we focus on it. And when this lack becomes an intense constant, it closes off our world, until all we are is that lack and we dysfunctionally act to sustain it. This is real poverty. It is constricting because it narrows our focus. It stops us thinking about wider issues and alternative possibilities as we obsess about the lack.

Poverty, in this sense, is not without its rewards. Indeed, it would not be self sustaining if there were no satisfaction, no matter how perverse. This inward collapse can boost our sense of control as it excludes much of the messy outer world. While we do not have the control to satisfy the lack, this is all we need worry about in those periods of painful focus. In this way, there can be a means-ends inversion as the sense of control that focus gives becomes a reward in itself.

Poverty can also find satisfaction in our sense of identity. When I think 'I am poor' I am attaching poverty to my core sense of self. Money is not me and can acquire a strange revulsive property. Likewise the lonely can come to hate love and the busy to feel twitchy when there is nothing to do.

There is a similar effect in addiction, where the intense pleasure of chemical consumption leads us to repeatedly seek it out, to the exclusion of everything else. Again, this in an inward collapse, where our functional world in replaced by a single point. Addiction and poverty can this be seen in the same light.

George Orwell said 'The essence of poverty is that it annihilates the future'. Not only does lack limit our choices, it stops us thinking about them.

A danger of poverty is dependency on kind rescuers. In our desire to help the vulnerable, we give, and so condemn them to dependence on us while entrapping our selves as perpetual saviours. Backing off is no answer either, as their suffering just continues.

There have been many government initiatives aimed at educating the poor and the addicted, yet few have much effect. Those that have the greatest effect change self-image through rewriting the stories the poor tell themselves about themselves. In other words, to raise people from mental poverty we should focus on their sense of identity.

A radical idea that seems to be gaining ground is of a universal basic salary. This would replace many welfare handouts that say 'you are poor' with 'you are the same as everybody'. In this way, at least the basic lack of food and shelter can be satisfied, helping raise the people to think about wider issues.

Sunday 11-June-17

Politics, Brand and the Detoxification Problem

As I predicted in last week's blog, the UK parliament is now 'hung', with no party having an overall majority. Prime Minister Theresa May ran a dreadful campaign based on a presidential personal appeal, during which she often appeared nervous and unsure, where she would not even engage in a leader's debate. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn demolished a 20 point poll disadvantage with a very human presentation in which he came over as honest and committed to 'good' socialist principles. Even with the appalling terrorist events that should have played to the natural 'law and order' territory of the Conservative party, May got wrong-footed as she had just presided over a cut in police numbers of 20,000 while Corbyn was proposing restoring 10,000 of these.

So here we are. The Conservatives are trying to make up the numbers for a majority by allying with the DUP party from Northern Ireland. In some ways, it is a natural match as the DUP are right wing. However, it is not that easy. First of all, the DUP represent one side of the Irish divide, with the Catholic Sinn Fein on the other. Sinn Fein are not going to be too pleased with the DUP getting a seat at the top table, especially as the rift between the two means there is currently no functional NI governing assembly.

The other problem is that the DUP have fairly extreme views on topics including gay marriage, creationism and climate change. This is a particular issue for the Conservatives, who are occasionally labelled as 'the nasty party' and who have had a long project to improve their brand image. This has been called 'detoxification' or, more vaguely, 'modernisation'. They have worked for a long time on this, which is natural as changing one's image is hard work. An example was where the previous Conservative government legalised gay marriage. However, they declared it as 'done' far too early. Now, even if the DUP hold fire on attacking this, the mere association with them sets the Conservative image back years. It's a calamity in the making.

As 'Kingmakers', the DUP are also flexing their new political muscles. After the Conservatives announced they had come to an agreement with them, the DUP contradicted this by saying that they were still negotiating.

Meanwhile, the Europeans, who are due to begin Brexit negotiations with the UK in a few weeks must be laughing into their beer. In trying to get an overpowering majority and a strong mandate, the Conservative government has collapsed into a weak pile.

Their biggest mistakes?

  1. Hubris. Taking the electorate for fools. Assuming that Brexit would be the main concern, and with such a large poll advantage they could walk in with a harsh manifesto.
  2. Brand. Not understanding how important this is and how easy it is to damage. Brand is about image and trust, and the Conservatives have played too fast and loose with this.

A key lesson for many of us is that brand is more central to reputation than we may realize, and that if we want to 'detoxify' it, removing elements that harm our reputation, then this is both hard work and requires constant attention. In practice it often means culture change, whereby those who sustain unwanted old views are corrected, contained or ejected. Personally, we also need to realize that when we make friends with a person, then all of our other friends will notice and may change their opinion of us based on what they think of that new friend. This can cause moral as well as personal problems, but it is a reality and we need to be aware of the dynamics of our personal brand.

Back to politics. Here's my prediction: The Conservatives will stagger on for a while in this damaging relationship. Theresa May will be kicked out as leader before too long. They will develop a new manifesto that avoids some of the more toxic elements of the previous one (such as the 'dementia tax' where people pay for elderly care with their houses). The new leader will be much better at self-presentation. And they will call yet another general election. Probably in the Autumn or next Spring. In this, I suspect they will get more seats, perhaps returning to their former position with a reasonable, but not large overall majority.

Let's see.

Sunday 04-June-17

Elections, leadership and the ever-shifting polls

The UK will be voting for a new government this week. A month ago, it looked like a guaranteed landslide for the Conservatives. They were 20 points ahead of a Labour party that was turning further left and whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was very unpopular with his parliamentary colleagues and regularly criticized in the press as being vague, extreme and out of touch. Meanwhile, Theresa May, the Conservative Prime Minister, was charging ahead with the Brexit preparations and appearing to be rather like her forebear, Margaret Thatcher. Indeed, the party faithful must have thought it was some kind of second coming.

Yet so much can change in just a month. Now, with the election on Thursday, the Conservative lead has collapsed to just three points.

What happened? In the recent terrorist attack in Manchester where Theresa May got plenty of air time and gave very Churchillian 'we will fight them on the beaches' speeches. While Jeremy Corbyn also condemned the acts, he was less visible and has something of a history of connections with terrorists. It should have been a massive political boost for the Conservatives, yet after a slight poll uptick, it faded back down.

The bottom line cause of the Conservative collapse is hubris. When they saw that they had a 20 point lead, they thought they could have a quick landslide election and then do whatever they liked, ignoring the dissenters within their own party who had of late been a rather annoying moderating force. They thought their 'Hard Brexit' position would see them through after last year's referendum vote and the general acceptance now that Brexit is real. 'No deal is better than a bad deal' they kept repeating as they took a strong competitive stance. This, however, seems to have made the electorate rather nervous and Corbyn's collaborative approach seems more desirable. They also got tangled up in social policy where a promise that payment for care of the elderly could be paid through house value after death. This got called 'the dementia tax' and is hugely unpopular, especially with young people who would inherit massively less if their parents have high end-of-life care costs.

Also, Theresa May rather oddly refused to appear in a seven-way party leader TV debate. Unsurprisingly, she got ripped apart on the show and roundly criticized in the press. It's actually not surprising given her rather nervous appearance on other shows where she ignored questions and repeated unconvincing catchphrases, while rather facilely using the interviewer's forename at regular intervals. Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, was relaxed and impressive, answering questions and challenging some of the stereotypes. For example he explained his meeting with terrorists as seeking peace and certainly not giving approval. Whoever has been coaching May should be fired, while Corbyn's coach deserves a big bonus.

Thursday will now be a rather interesting day and not the pushover that the Conservatives once thought. Indeed, there is the possibility that either they will lose or the situation will end up with a hung parliament, where no one party has a majority. According to the polls, they should still win, but at best will be with far less MPs than they once thought they'd have. A key variable will be how many young and old people turn out, which is a major area in which different polls differ. The majority of the young prefer Labour, while the majority of the old prefer the Conservatives. A strong young turnout will be very bad news for Theresa May.

So let's wait and see. My prediction: a hung parliament.

Sunday 28-May-17

Needy or greedy: a blind political assumption

There is a general election soon in the United Kingdom, and the parties are out canvassing for votes. Manifestos are being leaked and steadily revealed in attempts at grabbing the daily headlines. Politicians are thumping the table on TV and in town halls up and down the realm.

The UK, as with other countries is politically divided along socio-economic lines (although this has been complicated of late by separatist issues). And herein lies a common trap. The left looks at the right and caricatures it as greedy, while the right looks at the left and sees it as needy. There is some truth in this, but the whole truth is very different.

The general right wing concern for low taxes and small government seems to indicate they serve the rich only, who greedily want to hang onto their fortunes and not to give any of this for the greater good.

The left, on the other hand, seem concerned only for the needy, who are caricatured as being lazy and given to fraudulent seeking more state benefits than they deserve. In this way, the right also sees the left as greedy, and perhaps themselves still needing all their relative riches.

The UK has a history of aristocracy and feudalism. Paradoxically, it also has a far more generous welfare system than many other countries. This was largely ushered in by the political left which grew out of civil war and industrial unrest. This has led to polarized politics and a focus on the needy-greedy debate. It has also caused internalization of this dualist-materialist view, where each focuses on greedy self-interested needs while framing the other side as being more greedy and less needy.

Within this schism lies a huge middle ground, where people seem more understanding and generous, where they are more than willing to pay their taxes in order to help others and fund a stable, safe society. In the UK the Liberal Democrats perhaps represent this best, yet they have few parliamentary seats as oppositional, polarized views hold sway. Maybe this election will see them recover though, like the left, they have weak leadership.

The most likely result this time will be a Conservative landslide, giving a strong, right-wing government. They have been promising social policies to help the needy, but history suggests these will be weak and subordinate to greedier drives. History also suggests a long rule with arrogant hubris as their eventual downfall. Yet again, the gaping hole in the middle ground could provide an alternative to a reactive swing to the far left.

Who knows. The monochrome, planar pendulum has a powerful tendency to swing between opposites. It will take a strong, visionary leader and an emergent, intelligent following to damp the forces of left-right, needy-greedy history.



For more, see the ChangingMinds Blog! Archive or the Blogs by subject. To comment on any blog, click on the blog either in the archive or in the column to the right.


Best wishes,



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