Friday, October 18, 2013
When two tribes go to war
The article below by an Australian Leftist has some correspondence with reality. Left and Right do seem to some extent to exist in separate universes. The author does not know why, however. I think the answer is obvious. I think that the separation exists because the Left has a reflex of closing its ears to anything it does not want to hear. They do that because their beliefs are so easily open to challenge. They cannot AFFORD to listen. Reality is against them. They have to invent a fictional mental world where, for instance, "all men are equal", despite the perfectly obvious fact that all men are different. All men are (allegedly) equal only in the sight of God -- and Leftists don't generally believe in him/her.
Global warming is a good example of reality denial too. It is agreed on both sides of the divide that the total amount of warming over the last 150 years has been less than one degree Celsius. Why is such a triviality worth notice? Leftists never say. Global warming scientists theorize that the warming might suddenly leap but that is mere prophecy -- and we know how successful prophecies generally are.
Conservatives, on the other hand spend most of their time in politics discussing and refuting Leftist arguments. Read almost anything on Townhall.com, for instance, and it will be discussing and refuting Leftist arguments and policies with appeals to the facts -- anything but ignoring them. By contrast, the fact that Leftists do NOT generally address conservative arguments is what makes them seem alien to conservatives. It makes them seem alien to rationality. Leftists very often mock conservative arguments in a superficial and cherrypicked way but that is a far cry from seriously working through them and honestly addressing ALL the relevant facts -- JR
My parents don't know anyone who would vote for the ALP [Leftist party] or Greens.
My friendship and cultural circles don't know anyone who would vote for the Coalition [conservatives].
Both view those without their voting intentions as highly strange, suspicious and people to fear. The opportunities, and the desire, for conversation are non-existent.
In mainstream political discourse we talk about 'Left' and 'Right', or 'progressive' and 'conservative', as political groups, hanging on to antiquated notions of consistent political ideas, but in fact it is becoming increasingly evident that these are now simply cultural groups.
We can broadly describe a culture as the behaviours and beliefs of a particular group of people. These behaviours and beliefs compound themselves as they are continually practiced. Large distinctions in cultures occur when groups are isolated and not exposed to any different influences or practices.
Both of these cultural groups are what could best be described as 'subscription packages'; with a checklist of positions to hold in order gain membership.
For the 'Left' we have positions that fall under the umbrella of socially liberal and economically interventionist. For the 'Right' it is the binary opposite: socially conservative and economically liberal. Regardless of the outcomes they produce these are the standpoints of the tribe.
These coalitions of ideas feel consistent because everyone in the group continually reiterates them. The beliefs of the group are reinforced by the group's beliefs. With an added constant suspicion of outsiders, any attempt to influence their positions is vigorously resisted.
The internet was meant to be the great conversation, the space where difference would converge and enlightenment would prevail. Yet it instead seems to be forming into information ghettos, where these 'Left' and 'Right' groups inhabit spaces exclusive to one another. Increasingly this is even becoming the way that we consume our mainstream news.
While news outlets have always had perspectives and agendas, we are now experiencing what is best described as the 'Foxification' of news. It is a model that preaches solely to the converted and strokes and manipulates their biases. In the US we have seen Fox's tribal rival MSNBC adopt this model for the 'progressive' cultural group with similar success.
In Australia this is mimicked in a less extreme, but still significant, fashion by the News Ltd/Fairfax divide.
As a result public debate has now become an endless game of Pong, where these two cultural groups simply expel rhetoric into public space to be rejected by the other. The suspicion between the two cultural groups is so strong, that if one iterates a position then the other simply claims the opposite must be the truth.
Persuasive arguments aren't worth communicating because there is little intention of them being considered. Greater comprehension or even conversion are not motives. The objective is solely about expressing one's outrage at topic du jour.
This kind of rhetoric is designed solely to consolidate one's position within the pack. It is a combination of conformity to the group and a desire to increase your power within it. The louder you yell, the more impassioned your indignity, the more removed you are from the other reviled group.
Social media plays an important role in highlighting this phenomenon. There is the obvious echo-chamber of following only those who are members of your tribe.
However, there is also the interesting device of changing a Facebook profile picture to indicate a voting intention, or using a Twibbon to demonstrate support for a cause. These are not intended to be a persuasive arguments, in fact there is no argument at all. The audience is their peers, an indication that you above reproach with your adherence to the team.
This firm adherence to the group is expected of each member of the group, and anyone who would stray will not be tolerated.
Former ALP President and prominent Indigenous Australian Warren Mundine is a good current example of this. It is believed that he is 'selling out' by working with the new conservative government on indigenous issues. Instead it is expected that he get in the trenches and throw solution-less grenades at them. The conflict between the two tribes takes priority over any potential positive results. Conflict is the oxygen that they need to survive.
Conspicuous free-market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs insistence on choosing warriors like Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechtsen to speak at their events indicates that their intentions are combative, and not persuasive.
No other organisation looking to attract sympathisers would go anywhere near such polarising figures. These are hostile acts, roadblocks to conversation that entrench mindsets and make finding consensus increasingly difficult.
During the election campaign I had to explain to my mother that Kevin Rudd's use of the phrase "working families" was an attempt to talk to her. As a member of a family that worked she was offended that someone not from her tribe would use a term that described her in his vision.
It was an indication of the depth of this cultural divide.
I'm not naïve enough to believe that differing political allegiances have ever simply been disagreements in the approach to problem solving. Yet the idea that we view our opposing group in this political culture as actively nefarious is highly detrimental to any problems being solved.
Longing to be a Victim
These days, being seen as a victim can be useful. You immediately claim the moral high ground. Some people want to help you. Lawyers and politicians brag that they force others to help you.
This turns some people into whiners with little sense of responsibility.
Joe Biden's niece was arrested recently for throwing a punch at a cop. The New York Post says she's addicted to alcohol and pills, but rather than take responsibility for her actions, she blamed them on the "pressure she faces" because her uncle is vice president.
Give me a break. America was founded by people who were the opposite of victims, by people with grit. Overcoming obstacles is the route to prosperity -- and happiness, too.
I had to overcome stuttering to work as a TV reporter. Had today's disability laws existed when I began work, would I have overcome my stuttering problem? Maybe not. I might have demanded my employer "accommodate" my disability by providing me a job that didn't demand being on-air.
Now that the laws exist, it's no coincidence that more Americans say they are disabled.
Tad DeHaven of the Cato Institute writes that this is part of a disability-industrial complex : collusion between specialty law firms, doctors vouching for applicants with dubious claims and federal administrative law judges awarding benefits.
It changes the way people calculate their options.
Despite improved medical care and the workforce's dramatic shift from physical to mental labor, the number of Americans claiming disability keeps growing. You start to feel like a sucker if you're not one of them.
On my TV show, DeHaven said today even poor parents "try to get their kids on psychotropic medications in hopes of qualifying for a check that goes to Dad and Mom."
Since the 80s, there has been a 300 percent increase in disability claims for hard-to-prove illnesses like back pain, stress and other "non-exertional restrictions." Over the past two decades, the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits grew from 4 million to 11 million.
"It's like any other government program," says DeHaven. "You start off with good intentions and then it becomes something that it was never supposed to be."
We all want to help the genuinely disabled, but a wide range of subjective ailments are affected by attitude. Labeling people victims, telling them they need help, teaches some to think like victims. Social scientists call that "learned helplessness."
Private charities are pretty good at separating real victims from malingerers. But government is not. Its one-size-fits-all rules encourage people to act like victims.
Whether people have real physical ailments or just see the economic deck stacked against them, the most damaging thing say to them is: Give up. You can't make it on your own. Wait for help.
Pessimism changes what we think is possible. It shrinks our horizons.
We in the media keep an eye out for people who are victimized. Sometimes that's a valuable service. But it often means looking for victims when they really aren't there. This makes reporters feel like heroes -- noble sentries protecting the powerless.
Even the newly crowned Miss America, Nina Davuluri, who sure seems like a winner by conventional standards, was portrayed as a victim in many news stories. Since she's the first Miss America of Indian descent, some trolls on Twitter made racist remarks.
But skeptical writer Gavin McInnes did a little digging. He found those racist Twitter users were almost certainly just irresponsible little kids. One of the media's most quoted tweets, "You look like a terrorist," was sent by a Twitter user with zero followers.
If millions of people are familiar with that remark now -- and some Americans grow up a little bit more frightened that they will be victimized -- it will be largely because media hyped racism rather than because of the handful of racists themselves.
America is full of success stories. But if we obsess over stories about victimhood, that is what we'll get.
Obamacare: Sticker Shock Hits Obama's Home Town
Ballooning premiums leading to huge deductibles. And for many medical problems, huge deductibles mean ZERO insurance cover. You have to be rich to afford Obamacare -- JR
This law is harmful and damaging for reasons far beyond the shocking incompetence of its launch:
(1) While we're on the topic of the online exchange meltdown, you'll likely be interested in the Washington Examiner's report that the Obama administration only entertained one contract to build the now-infamous federal exchange website. Several years and nearly $100,000,000.00 later, Obama's no-bid contract has produced a complete mess. Lest you'd forgotten, liberals railed against no-bid contracts during the Bush years, muttering endlessly about Dick Cheney and Halliburton, for instance. Barack Obama pledged to reform the government procurement process; like many Obama promises, it has gone unfulfilled. The result is the monument to government ineptitude known as healthcare.gov.
(2) CNN estimates that a paltry 117,000 Americans have enrolled in Obamacare so far -- a statistic that may or may not suffer from the duplication issue that's plagued the suppressed-then-leaked federal numbers. In individual states, things continue to go badly. In most states, enrollment data is incomplete or unavailable.
(3) Hospitals are shedding staff, and insurers are still pulling out of markets, both phenomena will exacerbate consumers' "access shock" in places like California and New Hampshire.
(4) In Massachusetts -- the state-level laboratory for Obamacare -- an acute doctor shortage is becoming more severe, raising access concerns. Obamacare expands this issue on a national scale.
(5) The San Francisco Chronicle has discovered a brilliant method of lowering one's healthcare costs under the new law: Earn less money. To come out ahead under this scheme, individuals or families would have to reduce their income to the point that it dips below the maximum threshold for government assistance. What a message that sends. Work less, earn less, get more from Uncle Sam hard-working taxpayers.
(6) Finally, and importantly, we're witnessing more premium shock for average people. We wrote about Obamacare's terrible consequences for a disabled mother of a young child on Friday; now the Chicago Tribune introduces America to some additional victims of the president's "Affordable" Care Act:
"Adam Weldzius, a nurse practitioner, considers himself better informed than most when it comes to the inner workings of health insurance. But even he wasn’t prepared for the pocketbook hit he’ll face next year under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. If the 33-year-old single father wants the same level of coverage next year as what he has now with the same insurer and the same network of doctors and hospitals, his monthly premium of $233 will more than double. If he wants to keep his monthly payments in check, the Carpentersville resident is looking at an annual deductible for himself and his 7-year-old daughter of $12,700, a more than threefold increase from $3,500 today. “I believe everybody should be able to have health insurance, but at the same time, I’m being penalized. And for what?” said Weldzius...
A Tribune analysis shows that 21 of the 22 lowest-priced plansoffered on the Illinois health insurance exchange for Cook Countyhave annual deductibles of more than $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for family coverage. Those deductibles, which represent the out-of-pocket money consumers must spend on health care before most insurance benefits kick in, are higher than what many consumers expected or may be able to stomach, benefit experts said."
Premium shock is only one part of the puzzle. Out-of-pocket sticker shock is just as pernicious, and just as unaffordable for many working families.
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Posted by JR at 1:35 AM