[Discussion] Black and White, Predator/Prey Thinking and its Effects on Governing

Black and white thinking is a shortcut to grabbing power that leads to corruption. The inability to govern is due to a lack of subtlety.

Current Thought
I have been thinking a lot recently about the current state of politics. North Korea, agendas of obstruction, propaganda and isolationist world views all permeate TV and social media. So I have always wanted to get to the root of these issues but haven't gotten much further than one logic branch down and no closer to a connection between them. Articles have been written about evidence of the differences between thought processes of conservatives and progressives and have made connections but I think there is still one salient thread missing.
The Background
But then I started finding bread crumbs where the significance of the rigidity of the positions and messages bubbled to the surface. It is almost literally a light switch on/off with no in between. Black and white such that if you are black when you should be white, you are weak and if you are white when you should be white then you are strong.
The Warping
But that isn't the whole picture yet either. Because the level of black and white also involves inclusion and exclusion in as trivial as social circles and as extreme as recognition as a human being. Now propaganda and collusion of message change this from a world view to a predatory power grab. In history, you used to have to actually be oppressed with your back against the wall in order to play the defiant revolutionary that inspires people to your cause. But that has changed such that your ability to regurgitate a simple slogan consistently is the path to revolution. And there are other predatory tactics at play here: justification based on whether you will get away with it or whether you can afford the consequences and manipulating an environment where the consequences effect somewhere else or are delayed beyond the attention span of the audience.
A Deeper Look
The common talking point is the party of “No” has failed at governing and is even incapable of governing. The thought is this is a slight against one party or their leadership. But that is a mistake and it goes deeper than that. The reason they cannot govern and must “cheat” to win is because of the black and white world view. After all of this inundation of Trump's tweets, it has dawned on me that in positions of governing, everything positive you do and say will have negative consequences and contradict either itself or recent decisions, actions or speeches. If you talk strongly about your military prowess to one country, you jeopardize the assurances to your recent peace pledge to another in a completely unrelated area of the world. If you back out of a deal because “it was a bad deal”, you are not only losing the potential benefits of that deal to your supporters but you are devaluing their prosperity for personal reasons.
5, 50 or 5,000 Shades of Gray
Governing is even difficult for those that have the most sensitivity to the gray in between. You might have leader back out of that deal for more detailed and sensible reasons but that does not change the fact that you are losing the benefits for your constituents. And any good leader would value those benefits whether they were for supporters or not. I think the key is that the gray viewing leader would be able to adapt their positioning because where you are coming from communicates as loudly and where you are going. Their focus and scope of the message will also be more consistent. Further it will be crucial to mitigate the negative by leaving opportunities open to change. For example, if you are going to be positive, then imply that the duration is ongoing. If you are addressing the negative, then give an assured end date and keep updating the progress towards that end date.

This discussion reminded me a lot of this research article. It talks a about how different groups of voters tend to see the world differently. Some see the world more black/white than others. Some see the world as more just or fair than others. It's a really interesting read.

[T]he second biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans live in a reality marked by decline, and Democrats think the world is getting better.

[T]he biggest difference ... hierarchical. Out of all the primals we have identified, this one is the least intuitive. The “hierarchical” primal concerns the nature of differences. Namely, does difference imply that something is better or worse? For those who believe that reality is hierarchical, if two things are different that usually implies that one is better than the other. Likewise, for those who see reality as nonhierarchical, differences are likely surface and meaningless distinctions and probably distractions.

These primal traits about how people see the world fascinate me.

That is a fascinating article. It begs the questions: is this hierarchical primal learned, environmental, innate to the personality? Is it fear that the world is becoming less segmented and harder to assess? It is more obvious that the temporary strength you get from grouping with people like you is not sustainable. Despite the fact that hierarchical thinking still works to achieve power, it stands out as immoral?

Conservatives tend to believe that if the *process* of something - anything - is rigidly defined AND maximizes individual choice, then the outcome of that process is, functionally, *always* just. People get (literally) what they deserve, in the moral sense. Liberals tend to look at the *outcomes* of the process in light of its overall effects on individuals, and attempt to weigh good outcomes against bad in many categories. If the bad seems to be prevalent, then the process is bad and needs to change.

So, liberals tend to research facts and trends and wide-ranging outcomes to argue for or against a policy, while conservatives look for consistency in the processes, and favor processes that maximalize the role of the individual. Liberals want to increase good outcomes for the majority; conservatives simply want predictable processes (do this, that happens) and the individual liberty to follow them or not; the consequences are, in their view, always created by the individual, rather than the system or other outside effects.

There was a recent article I read that kinda boiled it down to conservatives operate on fear, and liberals operate on compassion/empathy.

This isn't the exact article I read, but I suspect it was based on similar studies:


Conservatives see the world as a more threatening place because their brains predispose them to being fearful (2). They are also predisposed by brain biology to hating complexity and compromise. That would help to explain why politics can be so polarized, particularly in a rather conservative era like the present.

It also explains many of the quirky differences between Democrats and Republicans. My favorite is the mind-blowing fact that four times as many Republicans as Democrats have mud rooms in their homes (3). Got to protect your home from that contaminating mud.

I suspect the mud room thing simply reflects the more rural tendencies of the Republican Party. I can guarantee you that when you come into a house in boots covered to the knee with mud and animal excrement, you'll want to protect your house from that contaminating mud and the smell that accompanies it.

Robear wrote:

I suspect the mud room thing simply reflects the more rural tendencies of the Republican Party.

This. And to be honest with how the voting breakdown of urban versus rural went, I am surprised the ratio of mud rooms isn't much higher than 4 to 1.

And thank you nel e nel for posting that article. That article is one of the ones I was referencing that I feel doesn't go far enough. I have been stuck in a rut for 10 years now with either being under employed or bouncing from contract to contract with never ending false assurances of becoming permanent employee. I am governed by fear from just scrounging $1300 a month to put a roof over my wife's and my head. And that article doesn't explain the greed or "leaders" like Ryan, McConnell, or even Paul or Cruz. And what about Romney and Cheney?

I certainly feel you on the 'economic anxiety', but that article wasn't really talking about that, it was more about fear of the other, whether that's minorities or foreigners, and how a family first mindset can cause people to not really care about the plight of society at large and focus on shoring up defenses and having an overly jingoist attitude. The contrast in attitudes between Obama - who was keen to reach across the aisle and work together to create solutions for the greatest number of people - and Trump - who seems keen to bomb everyone who isn't on his approved list (and deport the rest) - are pretty illustrative of the difference been examined.

Robear wrote:

I suspect the mud room thing simply reflects the more rural tendencies of the Republican Party. I can guarantee you that when you come into a house in boots covered to the knee with mud and animal excrement, you'll want to protect your house from that contaminating mud and the smell that accompanies it.

Right... if you live in a highrise in, say, San Francisco, you probably haven't even seen mud in the last five years unless you went to the countryside. And having a mud room will cost you tons of money.

I don't thinks it's urban/rural. More like mud rooms are a feature in midwest suburbs (historically Trump supporters have been white suburban wealthy conservatives without college degrees) but not so much on the coasts.

It's that one XKCD comic: