Monday, December 24, 2012

Fading the public and political correctness

This blog is entitled "The Essence of Normality" which comes from a book called The Denial of Death ... by Ernest Becker, the rest of the quote is this - "The essence of normality is the refusal of reality."  And my argument is essentially that, for lots of various reasons, we don't have a clue of what's really going on in our world.  We "refuse reality" and very often it's because those in power don't want us to know what's going on and are "pulling our strings" to see the world in ways that is most advantageous for them and their interest.  I would argue it's generational, our parents and grandparents beliefs were established this same way and then passed on to us as "family values" or family beliefs.  It's easier to believe what our parents told us, and look only for confirmation from other people and ideas who share or reinforce our world view, then to suggest to ourselves that our parents were idiots, or that we've been duped.

I make this general argument on a number of fronts, some silly, most political, but others not.  I've written a couple of times about another book I thought was fascinating from the world of self-help, The Four-Hour Work Week by author Tim Ferriss.  This is one example of my overall theme in that early on in that book Ferriss challenges one of our most basic assumptions - if we work hard, pay our taxes, invest in our retirement, and play by the rules, at some point in the future we'll be able to retire and live the life we want to live.  Bullshit, Ferriss points out, it almost never works out that way for lots of reasons.  Then he challenges us to live the life you want to live now, take mini retirements, and basically follow your bliss (in the words of Joseph Campbell). 

However, most of my examples and blog post are from a politically liberal look at the issues of the day where I get the sense that one group or the other is trying to maniupulate public opinion.  I am a liberal/progressive/leftist call me what you will, but having been born and raised in the South in rural areas well below the Mason-Dixon line,  I like Joe Bageant's idea of a "LeftNeck", which he describes as a "gun toting liberal who can change his own oil"...probably describes me pretty well.  But, I'm also bit of a contrarian by nature and am arguing against "conventional wisdom",  arguing to in essence "fade the public" on a variety of issues.

The political pendulum in the United States has moved way to the right in the last 30+ years.  For all of the bloviation of demagogues like Limbaugh, Beck, Fox News, etc. arguing about some mythical socialist/progressive movement, I think it's clear that political correctness is now firmly in the hands of the conservatives.  The range of debate is now remarkably narrow on a host of issues, from taxes, to deficits, to government programs, guns, etc., modest gains recently regarding marriage and marijuana notwithstanding.

Paul Krugman's piece today in the NYT is interesting, accurate, and in large part, in line with this general theme.  Entitled "When Prophecy Fails", he first lays out the research that suggest when prophecies do fail, those who are most invested in them, the champions of the coming prophetic moment don't lose faith, they double down on their faith.
"Back in the 1950s three social psychologists joined a cult that was predicting the imminent end of the world. Their purpose was to observe the cultists’ response when the world did not, in fact, end on schedule. What they discovered, and described in their classic book, “When Prophecy Fails,” is that the irrefutable failure of a prophecy does not cause true believers — people who have committed themselves to a belief both emotionally and by their life choices — to reconsider. On the contrary, they become even more fervent, and proselytize even harder."
Krugman's piece is primarily about economic myths and prophecies and the true believers.  But, it's relevant in a number of areas of politics and our daily lives, he ends his piece saying:

The key thing we need to understand, however, is that the prophets of fiscal disaster, no matter how respectable they may seem, are at this point effectively members of a doomsday cult. They are emotionally and professionally committed to the belief that fiscal crisis lurks just around the corner, and they will hold to their belief no matter how many corners we turn without encountering that crisis.
So we cannot and will not persuade these people to reconsider their views in the light of the evidence. All we can do is stop paying attention. It’s going to be difficult, because many members of the deficit cult seem highly respectable. But they’ve been hugely, absurdly wrong for years on end, and it’s time to stop taking them seriously.
Twice recently (HERE and HERE) I tried to make this point, Krugman does it much more concisely.  If whomever you follow, whatever you "truly" believe, has been dead wrong for years now... do you, or I, have the courage to step back and wonder who's been pulling your strings?  And, perhaps, consider stop taking them seriously?  

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