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View Diary: Morning Feature: Sticky Narratives, Part I - How Many Are We? (199 comments)

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  •  Good morning and hugs (9+ / 0-)

    Another sunny day here and the snow is disappearing fast.  I just can't help but smile, even though I kind of liked the snow.  I can't seem to formulate a coherent comment about the diary, although I think it is very interesting.  I guess I keep thinking anecdotally and can't see the big picture on this topic.

    •  Yes, today's topic is ... icky-sticky. (11+ / 0-)

      It will make more sense tomorrow, I hope. The key is that individual experience is rarely broad enough to determine if the stories we live by - our Big Narratives - are reliable:

      Jim Fixx quit smoking, changed his diet, took up running ... and died of a heart attack at age 52.

      Or, more relevant for progressive politics:

      Americans can still get wealthy if they work hard. Look at Bill Gates! Poor people are just lazy.

      If the Canadian health care system is so good, why did Danny Williams (Premier of Labrador and Newfoundland) come to the U.S. for heart surgery?

      Conservatives (and some progressives) often use those individual examples to "prove" or "disprove" the stories their Big Narratives ... the stories they want us to live by.

      The individual examples may be factually accurate, just as the G.I.'s impression of combat - that it doesn't matter whether you "do everything right" because who lives or dies is random anyway - was true from an individual perspective.

      But how many are we?

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      •  It makes me crazy (7+ / 0-)

        Best health care means, among other things, modern surgeries that have better outcomes, so people come here for them.

        Best health care does not mean everybody gets care.

        And yet the Rethugs use the first as if it meant both.

        Let there be light. Then let there be a cat, a cocktail, and a good book.

        by JG in MD on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 06:15:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, but some people don't even (7+ / 0-)

        recognize an individual perspective because they have no awareness of themselves as an observer.  What they see, in an almost myopic sense, is what is.  If they were color blind, to boot, there would be no red or green or blue.
        And it's not just what they see.  It's also what they hear.  And while hearing is harder to shut down than seeing (eyes can be shut; ears can't), sound is like smell in that, after a while, unless it's a smell you like, it goes unnoticed.

        That's probably why Limbaugh and ilk keep repeating what their followers like to hear.

        by hannah on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 07:06:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Figure/ground problem (9+ / 0-)

          ... they have no awareness of themselves as an observer.

          I believe I've seen you make versions of this point several times, and it always interests me.

          I've had a similar insight, but phrased the other way 'round: conservatives are narcissists, in that they have no sense of the world as existing separate from themselves, or of its elements as having significance separate from their utility to themselves.

          It's a figure/ground phenomenon, I guess. No sense of the world existing separate from themselves is about the same as no sense of the self as something not identical to the world.

          BTW, I came to my "conservatives are narcissists" recognition through a kind of reverse-engineering process. If the cardinal trait of liberals is empathy, and empathy consists of awareness of others, their situations, and their feelings, and if conservatives lack empathy, then what can we say about conservatives? That they are narcissists.

          Actually, there is one other possible construction. Conservatives could be aware of others, their situations, and their feelings, but simply not care about any of those things. The word for that is "sociopath". If I were them, I'd prefer the "narcissist" tag.

          •  Our 'we' is bigger.... (6+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JanF, DBunn, NCrissieB, addisnana, kktlaw, sjterrid

            When liberals say 'we', it's usually more inclusive and more likely to refer to humanity at large. When conservatives say 'we', they're more likely to be exclusive and  mean their family,  their church group, their party or people who share their view, period. The rest of humanity are assumed to be competition, opposition or enemies, where we seem more inclined to perceive others as potential friends and allies. The narcissists only see what's directly related to their personal interests because nothing else really exists for them. The sociopaths just don't care. The conservatives, or at least their leaders,  seem to be mostly a mix of the two types, though a certain percentage have just been raised without exposure to anything else. ::sigh::

            I think they're more likely to assume a scarcity of resources and are inclined to reserve as much as possible for their immediate allies, where we see a more complicated surfeit and recognise that there can be enough for all if we work it right.

            It does come back and bite us when we are afraid to recognise implacable opponents or those who will always be opposed, regardless of how much they are appeased. That weakens us. We need to acknowledge that there are those who will never be recruited. They can only be contained, the way the body encapsulates an infection and turns it into an abscess to isolate it from the healthy tissue and then expels it.

            Hmm, a not flattering way to view conservative/evangelicals, an abscess in the body politic.

            Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

            by FarWestGirl on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 09:55:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The perception of time also seems key. (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JanF, DBunn, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl, sjterrid

              Conservatives are, in the main, stuck in the present.  Their existence is in the present tense from which they resist being moved.  If everything is happening in he present, then everyone's wants and needs cannot be satisfied.  Never mind that not everyone wants the same things anyway.  But, when time is taken into consideration and we envision people taking turns, then it's immediately obvious that many people can use the same thing, just not all at once.

              A sense of time is of the essence.

              It struck me as peculiar from the start that all economic data and the analysis of it aims to represent a point in time.  In other words, economists are looking at a snap-shot as the economy keeps moving on.  So, they and their analysis never catch up.  Galbraith said the problem is that none of the economists' models are dynamic, taking changes over time into account because the web of trade and exchange is too complex.


              by hannah on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 10:13:05 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  That's a key insight, FWG. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JanF, addisnana, FarWestGirl

              Yes, progressives tend to argue from a bigger 'we' - what you might call Systems Think - and sometimes we forget that most people don't see the world that way, or they don't most of the time. We need to be able to (and take the time to!) tell progressive narratives that work for people who don't do Systems Think.

              Good afternoon! ::hugggggs::

            •  you said it exactly right, n/t (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
          •  Yes, it strikes me as strange that (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JanF, DBunn, NCrissieB, sjterrid

            the narcissist is self-centered without being self-aware.  But, how else to explain that their behavior is so often self-destructive?

            Which is why I now hypothesize that not having an awareness of self makes it impossible to be aware of the other because there's no basis for comparison.  How can the other be different when there's nothing for him to be different from?

            I was actually influenced in my thinking by Grayson's observation that Republicans have no conscience.  Conscience, basically, means to know with or in conjunction, similar to empathy.  But, if there is no knowledge, there can be no knowing with or without.  So, knowing is key and "know thyself" is not a platitude.

            We tend to think of conscience in connection to guilt for having done something inconsiderate.  But, again, to con-sider is to be on the side of--i.e. not autistic nor autonomous.


            by hannah on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 10:03:33 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Further thoughts (5+ / 0-)


              The sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good

              Well, there it is: requires a sense of one's own character.


              Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French considerer, from Latin considerare to observe, think about, from com- + sider-, sidus heavenly body

              A bit more complex, but seems to suggest gazing at distant astonishing entities such as the stars, and contemplating one's place in the universe.

              Your comment about time was also interesting

              Conservatives are, in the main, stuck in the present.

              Puts me in mind of a comment by Orinoco from a few days back, I believe in the context of why we pay taxes, something to the effect that conservatives seem to think that the world sprang into being when they first noticed it, and that all the good things that we accomplish through the medium of government are either automatically there without anybody doing anything, or somehow pay for themselves without them (the conservatives) having to contribute anything. Yet another instance of narcissism, or of lack of awareness of oneself as part of a whole system.

              That lack of awareness of systems seems to characterize a lot of conservative thought. Whether it's the environment, the economy, climate change, or why the terrorists hate America, conservatives just don't seem to get that there are dynamic systems out there, that we are part of those systems, that what we do affects how they operate, and that whatever we are experiencing at a given moment is likely to be greatly impacted by their operation.

              One could go on, but one also has to stop sometime. Just one last thought, about conservatives' sense of time and of self in relation to what we call conservative hypocrisy. First, the definition of hypocrisy:

              A feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion

              To be sure, we see enough behavior from conservatives that exactly meets this definition. But we also see cases where conservatives' contradictory statements and/or behavior are separated by some amount of time. For instance, the fellow who bellows about high taxes and big government one day, and then cries out for government help when it's his home that is flooded. For this guy, both positions were true reflections of how he actually felt at the moment, so they are not dishonest in that sense. The contradiction arises from the lack of a sense of the continuity of identity over time.

              •  Great thoughts, both hannah and DBunn. (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                hannah, JanF, DBunn, addisnana

                Our 'testing' of Big Narratives hinges on something we progressives too often take for granted: a large enough 'we' (in numbers and over time) to be a good sample set. I call it Systems Think, and not everyone does it. Fred usually doesn't, as I noted back in November:

                In terms of being in touch with ordinary people's lives, his "news" is as good as or better than than what he'd get from the media. It's anecdotal, but that's okay with Fred. He's not a systems-and-statistics kind of guy. He takes life one day at a time, one person at a time, and one problem at a time. On the one hand, that means he's pretty grounded; he knew there was something wrong with the economy long before the media were thinking of using the word "recession," because he saw it happening in the lives of his regulars.

                On the other hand, Fred doesn't have a unifying political theory. He'd like to feel more secure in his job and his home, and he'd like to see his regulars happier than they have been for the past few years. He'd like government to help where it can, or at least not make things worse, and that's his political theory. Because Fred is a people person who takes life one day, one person, and one problem at a time - based mostly on personal anecdotes from his own life and the lives of his regulars - he's what George Lakoff calls biconceptual: progressive on some issues, conservative on others, often depending on how the issue is discussed. His core values are mostly progressive values, but he doesn't trust government enough to be a reliably progressive voter.

                That doesn't make Fred "badly informed." It makes him "differently informed." It doesn't mean Fred "reasons badly." It means he "reasons differently" ... one day, one problem, one person at a time.

                The problem that presents for progressives is that many of our Big Narratives are best proven by facts that only apply in Systems Think. So we often won't do well appealing to Fred with Systems Think facts-and-figures. That doesn't mean we can't appeal to Fred. It means we need to appeal to him differently.

                Good afternoon! ::hugggggs::

                •  Agree, of course (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  hannah, JanF, NCrissieB, addisnana

                  We can't make a case to Fred that depends on him understanding an arcane concept that he is not familiar with. And we really can't get mad at Fred and call him stupid because of that unfamiliarity. Both because that's bad politics, and because Fred really isn't stupid. He just doesn't live inside our brains, thinking all the same stuff that we think.

                  Al Gore proved that with his film 'An Inconvenient Truth', where he had two uninterrupted hours to explain climate change in systemic terms. Not too many Fred's left the theater failing to understand, and the overall impact of the film was to completely change the political defaults around the climate change issue.

                  Now, we're not often going to have two full hours to explain our systems case, and most of us won't have so well developed an explanation ready to go anyway. But we might be able to talk about relevant, connected parts of a system. Like for instance, the way that our broken, wasteful health care system hurts the economy, so fixing health care is necessary for job creation. If Fred started the conversation worried about jobs, he'll leave it wanting to help Obama fix health care.

                  If even a limited systems approach won't work for a particular Fred, then a specific example of how rising insurance costs have resulted in jobs being cut at a local business might do the trick. By illustrating systemic effects, we can activate systemic awareness even if we never use system-type vocabulary like "the economy" or "capitalism".

                  Oh, almost forgot-- huggs etc!

              •  I think we forget this sometimes (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                hannah, DBunn, NCrissieB, addisnana

                the fellow who bellows about high taxes and big government one day, and then cries out for government help when it's his home that is flooded. For this guy, both positions were true reflections of how he actually felt at the moment, so they are not dishonest in that sense. The contradiction arises from the lack of a sense of the continuity of identity over time.

                When we forget this, we start sounding as ridiculous as the teabaggers because it is what leads us to thinking that these people are stupid. They aren't...they really don't get the connection. But some of these people (not all) can be made to see the connection and can be a purple voter trending  blue.

                We sometimes forget that the complaints about "high taxes" and "big government" have been burned into people's brains since 1980 when the Reagan republicans said it so often that it became "the truth". You can't blame people for believing well developed propaganda.

                We can counter it with our own stories and convince some of these people.

                Here is the Orinoco quote (it won a Nuttie™):

                "One of their problems is an episodic view of reality, that the freeways; the houses with electrical outlets on each wall, eight feet apart; the drinking water piped in from a large reservoir, have always been there, will always be there, are just part of the scenery provided for their benefit. They don't get that this stuff was realized because prior generations deliberately decided to do the work."

                Much of life is knowing what to Google

                by JanF on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:38:07 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  Jeebus on a cracker (7+ / 0-)

        I read the Premier of Labrador (woof!) story in a LTE in my local paper this a.m.  The "writer" went on to yammer about how HCR would destroy the "Best Healthcare System in the World."  (Should be intoned in KO's "Worst Person's" voice).

        The "best healthcare" meme has stuck, despite the reality that being number 37 is not generally considered "best" in most rankings.

        :::bangs head against wall:::

        Oh wait.  Must stop before I injure myself.  I still have $5000 to go before I meet this year's deductible.

        There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

        by puzzled on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 08:33:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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