Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fighting Back Against the Right

The Right doesn't have a monopoly on values, so why do progressives allow them to pretend they do?  It's a phenomenon that took hold in the United States but as The Guardian's George Monbiot laments, it has spread even to his own Britain:

"...So here we are, forming an orderly queue at the slaughterhouse gate. The punishment of the poor for the errors of the rich, the abandonment of universalism, the dismantling of the shelter the state provides: apart from a few small protests, none of this has yet brought us out fighting.

The acceptance of policies that counteract our interests is the pervasive mystery of the 21st century. In the US blue-collar workers angrily demand that they be left without healthcare, and insist that millionaires pay less tax. In the UK we appear ready to abandon the social progress for which our ancestors risked their lives with barely a mutter of protest. What has happened to us?

It's a subject examined by Paul Krugman in the New York Times in which he exposes conservative "values" as often buoyed up by a tissue of lies.   One of these is that the Obama administration has recklessly plunged America into a death spiral of debt on stimulus programmes and Wall Street bailouts (actually initiated by Bush).

 ""...The answer to the second question — why there’s a widespread perception that government spending has surged, when it hasn’t — is that there has been a disinformation campaign from the right, based on the usual combination of fact-free assertions and cooked numbers. And this campaign has been effective in part because the Obama administration hasn’t offered an effective reply.
  Back to Monbiot who says the answer to why so many voters embrace supposed values contrary to their own interests may lie in a report released by the WWF:

"...Common Cause, written by Tom Crompton of the environment group WWF, examines a series of fascinating recent advances in the field of psychology. It offers, I believe, a remedy to the blight that now afflicts every good cause from welfare to climate change.Progressives, he shows, have been suckers for a myth of human cognition he labels the enlightenment model. This holds that people make rational decisions by assessing facts. All that has to be done to persuade people is to lay out the data: they will then use it to decide which options best support their interests and desires.

A host of psychological experiments demonstrate that it doesn't work like this. Instead of performing a rational cost-benefit analysis, we accept information that confirms our identity and values, and reject information that conflicts with them. We mould our thinking around our social identity, protecting it from serious challenge. Confronting people with inconvenient facts is likely only to harden their resistance to change.

...Our social identity is shaped by values that psychologists classify as extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic values concern status and self-advancement. People with a strong set of extrinsic values fixate on how others see them. They cherish financial success, image and fame. Intrinsic values concern relationships with friends, family and community, and self-acceptance. Those who have a strong set of intrinsic values are not dependent on praise or rewards from other people. They have beliefs that transcend their self-interest.

...By changing our perception of what is normal and acceptable, politics alters our minds as much as our circumstances. Free, universal healthcare, for example, tends to reinforce intrinsic values. Shutting the poor out of it normalises inequality, reinforcing extrinsic values. The rightward shift that began with Thatcher and persisted under Blair and Brown, whose governments emphasised the virtues of competition, the market and financial success, has changed our values. The British Social Attitudes survey shows a sharp fall over this period in public support for policies that redistribute wealth and opportunity.

 Common Cause proposes a simple remedy: that we stop seeking to bury our values and instead explain and champion them. Progressive campaigners, it suggests, should help to foster an understanding of the psychology that informs political change and show how it has been manipulated. They should also come together to challenge forces – particularly the advertising industry – that make us insecure and selfish.

 People with strong intrinsic values must cease to be embarrassed by them. We should argue for the policies we want not on the grounds of expediency but on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind; and against others on the grounds that they are selfish and cruel. In asserting our values we become the change we want to see.

Bear in mind what is at stake in reviving progressivism in the West, including in Canada.  Our country, like the rest of the planet, is embarking on what will be a century of change and likely upheaval.   Tough decisions will need to be taken and they're going to necessitate, in some instances, limitations and sacrifice.   The Right will seek to cushion the impact of change, on themselves, by shifting as much of the burden as possible onto others.   The rise of oligarchy in the United States is not happenstance, nor is the evolution of today's "bought and paid for" Congress.   Already the American people are being groomed to see entitlement programmes, programmes the blue and white collar classes have paid into their entire working lives, as parasitic and "socialist" (which, they're taught, is of itself intrinsically evil).   American democracy is being destroyed by influence peddling while the thieves convince the voting public to blame progressivism.  Brilliant, diabolical but brilliant.

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