Selfishness, Capitalism, Democracy: where are
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Poverty and the dysfunctional focus of chronic
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
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
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
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?
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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