Endless Curiosity

June 18, 2010

We Talk, They Act

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Psychology, Republicans — Alec @ 5:48 pm

I’ve blogged before about the ability of people to vote against their own interests, and after reading George Montbiot’s great article in the Guardian, I decided to write about it again. Montbiot has some interesting perspectives that are worth spending a few brain cells pondering.

The simple idea is that the right wing persuades people to fight for things that either don’t affect them, or indeed, harm them. Sample quote:

[The new conservatism] blames the troubles of the poor not on economic forces – corporate and class power, wage cuts, tax cuts, outsourcing – but on cultural forces…The anger of the excluded is aimed instead at gay marriage, abortion, swearing on television and latte-drinking, French-speaking liberals. The working-class American right votes for candidates who rail against cultural degradation, but what it gets when they take power is a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

So let’s look at this. If you don’t want to marry someone of your own sex, don’t. Other people choosing to do so affects your life not at all. If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. Other people choosing to have an abortion affects your life not at all. Perhaps you don’t like swearing on television, or seeing Janet Jackson’s nipple. Neither affects you, and be assured that your children have heard worse and seen more. And believe it or not, liberals actually have the interests of the middle and working class at heart.

Conservatives are really good at getting people riled up about things that have no impact on their lives, which then allows conservatives to implement the policies they really want – the ones that benefit them. It truly makes me wonder. 

Is it because people somehow believe that a country that doesn’t allow gay marriage or abortion is somehow a better country to live in? Perhaps they should try living in one of the Arabic or African countries where these things are banned. Is it because they ultimately believe that a Christian nation will be fair and just? They should have tried living in the Dark Ages, a time when religion ruled, and life was worth little.

Monbiot’s other interesting point is how ineffectual the left is. We prefer to talk and blog (as I am doing), hoping someone will adopt our brilliant ideas. The right, by contrast, does. It organizes, marches, gets people out there. As Woody Allen famously put it, 80% of success is just showing up, and that’s something the right does far better than the left.

Tea Party members who proclaim their rugged individualism will follow a bucket on a broomstick if it has the right label, and engage in the herd behaviour they claim to deplore. The left, by contrast, talks of collective action but indulges instead in possessive individualism. Instead of coming together to fight common causes, leftwing meetings today consist of dozens of people promoting their own ideas, and proposing that everyone else should adopt them.

So read the article.

Update: For another view of what things will be life after people like the Tea Partiers elect a Republican government, read the article Tea Party in the Sonora in the July 2010 issue of Harper’s Magazine. You may not be able to read the article if you are not a subscriber; if you can’t read it at Harper’s, click here.

Here’s one passage from the article to whet your appetite.

The general unsightliness of the capitol makes it a fitting home for today’s Arizona legislature, which is composed almost entirely of dimwits, racists, and cranks. Collectively they have bankrupted the state through a combination of ideological fanaticism on the Republican right and acquiescence and timidity on the part of G.O.P. moderates and Democrats. Although dozens of states are facing budget crises, the situation in Arizona is arguably the nation’s worst, graver even than in California.

While I don’t like what’s happening, it does make fascinating viewing. Since I’m one of those liberals who prefers to talk and blog rather than do anything about it, I might as well sit back and enjoy the show.

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