George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘ideology

EMOTION AND POLITICS

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Much of the rancor one sees in political life is basically rooted in emotion, and therefore irrational in its fundamental state. Ideology stems from the same root, which is also not rational, and hence the more ideological things become the less reason prevails and the more susceptible people become to nonsense claims, usually about the other “side.”  Now since the response is emotional it is also personal, which frequently involves projecting personal concerns or deficiencies out onto others, or society. That being the case it can never be ameliorated as long as that false understanding prevails, and so such people are never happy, and seemingly always angry about something someone else is doing. 

There have been many academic studies purporting to explain irrational political behavior, but it is always ends up as characterizing only the right, thus betraying the left-wing bias of their world view, especially in fields like psychology. For while there is an emotional basis for ideology, it applies to both sides, and in fact there is arguably more intense emotion on the left. This is evidenced in the remarks of an actress suggesting that the new President hates “foreigners” among other things, irrespective of the fact that he is married to one, thus attacking a yahoo straw man that does not exist.  It was a perfect example of an emotional argument making absolutely no sense. The angry response was also beneath the dignity of a President, along the lines of: you attacked me so I’m going to attack you.

Nevertheless, the emotional component is far more prevalent among those on the left. They are forever trying to shut up and silence anything they don’t like, or preventing others from speaking. Failing this they will attempt to organize boycotts that never gain any support, and indeed often provoke a reaction that is the opposite of their intent. They will also threaten and blacklist, i.e. entertainers who have the temerity to try and appear at a presidential inauguration. If they can’t get their way directly they will try and get in indirectly, i.e. by trying to boycott advertisers on a medium they dislike. It is true that corporations have folded with this kind of pressure from the left, though whether that will continue in the age of Trump is another question. There is thus a disturbing totalitarian proclivity to shut others down, cause them to lose business, or even to ruin their lives. 

Surveys also show that those on the left are three time more likely than those on the right to “defriend” someone on Facebook over political matters. The reason for this disparity stems from a world view, unique to the left; one that believes that all aspects of life have a “political” dimension, and are therefore fair game for political action. That vast array of activities and circumstances that exist for most people in the private sphere are an inconvenience for them. If something is not perceived as political they will politicize it, and obsessed with symbolism, they will seek removal of the most innocuous  item that offends their sensibilities, even if totally innocent of their mischaracterization. 

This does not necessarily apply to true “liberals,” at least to the extent that they are true to liberal principles regarding freedom of speech and thought, although they are more likely to cave into the hard left when it comes to unreasonable demands. But this totalitarian tendency to threaten or force others to behave or think a certain way or eliminate what offends their sensibilities has to be vigorously resisted. Failure to do so undermines the legitimacy of  liberalism itself. 

Thus the more ideological the perceptions the more emotional and irrational the attitude the outlook and behavior. This does not characterize all emotional responses to things, i.e. empathizing with suffering, a swell of patriotic feelings, listening to music, etc. but rather emotional reactions that underly ideology and that are political in nature. Anyone whose world view leaves them constantly miserable and compelled to make political statements needs to engage in some honest reflection as to why they believe what they believe with such intensity, and the consequences it has for their personal life. It means perhaps recognizing that personal needs are being projected out onto society. Finally it means examining why political perceptions are so intense, and how they can cloud what truly exists in the present moment. Quo vadis.

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Written by georgesarant

January 21, 2017 at 7:14 PM

POLITICAL JUSTICE

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The failure of the FBI to file any criminal charges in the blatant targeting of the administration’s political opponents by the IRS is deeply troubling. The investigation is a sham, given that many of the targets themselves were never interviewed. As the Wall Street Journal noted “That’s like investigating a burglary without interviewing the burgled.” The Justice department is also stonewalling the congress, refusing to provide any witnesses involved in conducting the investigation. 

None of this is surprising. Apart from counter-terrorism activity in recent years, anyone who has ever had any dealings with them knows that, contrary to their TV image, the FBI essentially consists of messenger boys for the US Attorneys. It is not all that different than the relationship between the local police and district attorneys. 

 The US Attorneys are in turn political appointees, and decisions as to whom and whom not to prosecute are very often political. The notion that there is impartial justice at this level is laughable, at least when it comes to government or political activities. There is a frivolous argument floating around that other administrations have behaved politically as well. True enough, but none have been anywhere near as extensive as this one, which has clearly crossed the line in terms of blatant political calculation. Under Eric Holder the Justice department is driven by ideology more than the law. 

 Consider the ramifications here, whatever your political viewpoint. Sooner or later the other party will return to power. What if they behave the same way? If justice becomes a political process, based upon friends and enemies, then the legitimacy of the entire legal system is undermined. If politicians and bureaucrats can act arbitrarily according to what they want, believe in, or oppose rather than what is legally mandated, then the law becomes something of an afterthought, to be applied when convenient, and ignored when it is not. This is the kind of behavior used by authoritarian regimes. It only becomes a difference of degree between what is left of the constitution and a banana republic. These factors, along with extraconstitutional actions that are actually being applauded by radicals puts over two hundred years of law and precedent in jeopardy. 

Furthermore a serious abuse of power, by any measure, has been grossly underreported, with very little follow up and even less explanation provided about  this scandal. What happened here was harassment of political opponents, leaking of their confidential taxpayer data to political allies, lying to congress by senior officials claiming there was no targeting, then claiming it was only the work of low-level employees, and otherwise deliberately obfuscating what transpired. We are talking about the IRS dealing with taxpayers based upon political considerations rather than objective facts, thus undermining the legitimacy of that institution, perhaps irreparably. The seriousness of these infractions cannot be overstated, for if they were to become commonplace the constitutional system would be fatally undermined.

 This all stems from an administration that seems to be permanently in campaign mode, where it is quite effective, but disastrously inept when it comes to actually governing. International affairs are rudderless, and domestic policy is in complete disarray, in large measure because everything is perceived through an ideological framework. When the justice system is run this way it is simply no longer just. If the rules are ignored by those in charge there is every incentive for everyone else to do the same. Thus, political justice ultimately means no justice for anyone. 

 

HELPING THE FEW BY PUNISHING THE MANY

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The Obama administration forced through a radical overhaul of the health care system despite public opposition, and the results have been disastrous. Not only does the system not work, but it is actually causing real harm to people, particularly individuals who purchased their own health insurance. Under this dysfunctional system they are being dropped from their existing policies since their existing coverage does not conform to Obamacare, thus losing their coverage while facing steeply increased premiums. But it gets worse. Since the website does not work they cannot even get a new policy at the Obamacare “exchanges,” leaving them with no coverage at all. All of this is happening while the president promised that people could keep their existing plans under Obamacare, but he knew, it now develops, as far back as 2010, that this was not true.

This is a sad example of the consequences of the warped thinking of the left, which demanded that the entire system of coverage for 80-85% of the population be upended because a minority did not have health insurance. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of people were satisfied with what they had, and the number of people lacking coverage was fluid; it didn’t matter, because the left-wingers cannot abide any distinctions. In other words, they insist on disrupting society if a minority (pick any one you want) is somehow allegedly not included in what prevails among the majority of the population. So we must endure continued social, cultural, and political disturbance for some misconceived sense of justice. The state must ameliorate any discrepancies, no matter what the cost. In addition, the true cost has been buried, for in order to pay for the minority in this instance, the costs for the majority must inevitably go up, bearing what effectively amounts to an additional tax.

It is also part of the liberal delusion that they know what is good for you better than you do yourself. For the left, government is an instrument through which they can impose their policies, values, and beliefs on other people. If the government manages more of our lives and the world around us, they think it is good. For them any flaw in society can only be changed for the better by the state, usually with some costly, vast new program. This faith in government planning and supervision remains unshaken by the facts.

To achieve such ends it is apparently okay to misinform, mislead, and even to lie to reach a desired goal. In the case of health care, the administration was, at the very least disingenuous in its claims. Given the foreknowledge of what was going to happen to individual coverage, suspicion can only be aroused that the intention all along was to force everyone into government health care program. I cannot subscribe to the notion that Obamacare was somehow designed to fail to achieve this end, because I think the people responsible thought they were doing good. It is rather a glaring case of ineptitude, overreach, and an example of what happens when ambitions far exceed the abilities that are applied to them. No, what is insufferable here is the conceit that they still know best and the continued smugness of the administration in the face of cascading failures.

They continue in damage control mode, while the rational answer would be to pull the plug on this monstrosity and cut their losses, or at least postpone implementation until they are presumably able to do so competently. The latter is unlikely to ever occur given the ill-conceived nature of this whole fiasco. The Democratic party will likely pay heavily for this, having forced it through when they controlled the congress, at least in the next election. The media also have a lot to answer for as well. They have been carrying water for the administration since its inception. Only now are they beginning to report on the magnitude of the problems, although they still have not come to grips with the fundamental flaws of the whole endeavor. What we need now is some public humility, if not contrition, across the board.

Written by georgesarant

October 29, 2013 at 8:48 PM

PARTISANSHIP, IDEOLOGY AND TRUTH

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It is troubling how partisans of each side predict a win in tomorrow’s election for their candidate based upon differing favorable polls. This is at best wishful thinking because no one really know what is going to happen. There are simply too many variables, in terms of who turns out, in what numbers, etc. Predictions of decisive victory are mostly based upon a best case scenario for their candidate, which seldom ever happens any more than the worst case does. What is disturbing is that while people are entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts, as Senator Moynihan once said- or are they? 

Increasingly we find people in many fields seeking out facts to support their preconceived notions or preferences. These things may in and of themselves often be factual, but taken out of context, or ignoring contradictory evidence makes their veracity highly questionable. This happens even in scientific pursuits, and is one of the main reasons why so much innovation is brought about by individuals who are not bound by the conventional wisdom. This sort of fact mining is especially bad in social sciences, where studies are concocted to prove that other people, (especially conservatives) are crazy. But when I hear a social psychology professor has conducted a study to prove great similarities between conservatives and Nazis, it makes me wonder about the value of “social psychology,” to the extent that it can seriously entertain such ideologically biased nonsense. This does not mean that truth is just relative, or that there is no  objective truth, but rather that you can only begin to perceive it when you dispense with all blinders. 

Fact-mining  is at its worst and most obvious in political campaigns. Even where there are “fact checkers” they may also bring their own biases into the process. The reality is that people are predisposed to believe the “facts” conjured up by someone they agree with, less due to the facts than due to their own preferences. The root of all of this is more emotional than rational. People’s sense of right and wrong is based less upon information than feelings, and that sense is at the root of political ideology, for those who are driven by it. Most people are not that political, otherwise we would all be at each others’ throats all the time. Many people do have crypto-ideological predispositions they may not be aware of, so the goal of political campaigns is to try and bring them to a conscious level, or at least to the point where individuals intuit that someone is saying the right things. Others simply are unaffected, if not uninterested, and these are the ones who make up the bulk of the “undecideds,” who ironically often decide the election outcome. 

It disturbing how much of this election is predicated on one side getting out “their” people to vote as opposed to the “other,”  often motivated by a fear of what the other might do if they get power. This has lead many observers to bemoan the extent of “hyper-partisanship,” although to me it does not appear to be especially different from the past. Obviously things would be more congenial if there were a broader appeal, but we don’t get there by laying all or most of the blame on one side, as does a coterie of intellectuals formerly associated with the right, much to the glee of liberal media. They have spun a new myth, that it is all the fault of congressional Republicans, largely because they don’t like some of the things many of them, or more particularly their supporters, believe in. In this category are people like Norman Ornstein of the supposedly conservative American Enterprise institute, David Frum, and the editors of the British magazine The Economist, who get off on pompously lecturing us on what we ought to be doing. I personally do not agree with some of the social positions now attributed to the party, but I find the notion that one side is mostly to blame for this preposterous. All these observers are doing is expressing their own biases. 

Underlying this sort of thinking is the notion that things would be fine if those other people would just disappear. But life is never that simple, and that sort of thinking was the foundation of the murderous totalitarian excesses of the last century, where regimes actually did “disappear” perceived enemies. In a democracy what you have to do is try and reach some kind of consensus, starting with the things you may agree upon. For in reality many of the most daunting problems we face don’t have that many options and whoever is in power can only act within certain parameters. Other things are totally unexpected or beyond our control so that anyone in office is inevitably constricted by the circumstances they find themselves in. Approaching these things through the prism of ideology just leads to more problems, as we have seen over the past several years. 

Given that we are handing over power to someone else to see to things that may affect us, the real choice we have should depend on character and judgement, since no one knows what particular events are likely to occur in the future. My own view is the less they stir the pot the better, because every action has unanticipated consequences, and when it comes to government they are usually not good. That said, there are important  differences and I am supporting the candidate of my choice, but I don’t begrudge anyone else who thinks differently. 

 

Written by georgesarant

November 5, 2012 at 10:05 PM

POLITICAL PASSION

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Nutty ex-President Jimmy Carter, has pronounced that the country is more divided today than at any time since the Civil War. This is factually incorrect. There were over 600,000 dead in the Civil War. Where are the casualties in the “culture war?” Furthermore, anyone who was around in the late 60s/early 70s knows that the country was far more divided then than it is today. Indeed the same people on both sides are still around, and yes, still divided. The difference today is that there is alternative media. Back then, the news was owned by the three liberal networks and the NY Times, and the whole narrative was told from a left-wing perspective. Thus they wrote of i.e. the “youth,” the “women” etc. as if all had the same viewpoint, never acknowledging that there were plenty of us on the right. The effect of this myopic monopoly back then was to alienate the public and increase support for the right, leaving the elites in shock when it turned out there were far more conservatives than they could have imagined.

While what is happening today is similar from the elite standpoint, it is nowhere near as intense as four decades ago. The news monopoly has been broken, and even as the establishment controls a shrinking piece of the pie, there are media alternatives today that lean right. Political differences at the ideological level are fundamentally a clash of values. There is no lower common denominator and that is why we have politics- to settle these divisions in a civil manner. Values in and of themselves are not rationally derived, but stem from family, custom, and belief. The establishment media and academia have continuously portrayed the values of the right as “irrational,” never realizing that their own fundamental values also have no rational basis.

After decades of ideology I have come to realize that it can lead to a type of tunnel vision. That is to say that politics dominates all discourse and judgment and is the prism through which the world is viewed. It involves focusing on one topic- politics, with religious fervor, to the exclusion of everything else. This sort of behavior is actually far more characteristic of the left than the right, because they are the ones who politicize everything and attempt to bring all aspects of life into the public sphere. The right reacts when is basic values are challenged, but it is the left that has made every aspect of life political. The right recognizes a far larger private sphere that ought not to be political, whereas the left wants to subject everything to public policy. This sort of fanaticism results in failing to see the interwoven complexity of things and how millions upon millions of individual decisions are the crux of real life. Ironically it is the “liberals” who are most intolerant. They look at everything in political terms, so that in coming upon something new the first question they ask is where this thing or person stands politically, even though it may be totally apolitical to everyone else. They cannot escape the ideological lens, so that ironically the “progressives,” as they now call themselves, are the most illiberal people on the planet. Conservatives are the true liberals, and indeed in virtually every other place in the world what Americans call conservatism is considered “liberalism.” Milton Friedman spent his life trying to rescue that term but never succeeded. Perhaps it is time to explore the true meaning of liberalism.

Meanwhile the “progressive” establishment media continues to portray the Tea Party as a kind of lunatic fringe that is irrational, extreme, etc. In fact given its focus on government spending, excess, and debt, which are undeniable facts, the Tea Party is actually tone of the most rational movements to ever come along.

Written by georgesarant

September 22, 2010 at 5:55 PM

Posted in Politics

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