Monday, March 06, 2017

'Them' and 'Them'

What is a conservative? or right wing? or alt-right? how does alt-right differ from neo-con? and what of the other side, the people across the line, what is liberal? or left-wing? how do the progressives differ from libertarians? is there a difference? why can't there be both?

Most of these questions are uninteresting. Given that there are sufficiently uninteresting people in the world who have no doubt populated wikipedia articles I haven't bothered to verify the existence of with a synthesis of the scholarly history and discussion of the parameters of the nuanced differences between an alt-right or a neo-con or libertarian and progressive vs a new-dealer etc. It would be redundant for me to even bother answering these questions.

But I can share my simple definitions, that are my rules of thumb and inform much of my own behavior as it has quickly adapted. I don't need heuristics for dealing with anyone in my own camp. People in my own camp are like me, and much like the Quakers are not dogmatic and don't really proselytize. In fact, I can't really prove that anyone in my camp is in my camp, we don't tend to talk about it.


The defining psychological trait of a conservative is somebody whose identity is emotionally invested in the 'Just World Hypothesis'

Figuratively speaking, a conservative is somebody walking around in running gear with a medal hanging around their neck, and that medal means the world to them.

Some concession has to be made to the phenomena of medal-less conservatives though who do exist in surprising numbers and whose life's ambition is to obtain a medal just like those with medals whom they somehow admire. The only difference between the two though is whether they are positively or negatively emotionally invested in the Just-World Hypothesis.


The defining psychological trait of progressives is an almost total ignorance and insensitivity to 'belief perseverance', even though they are almost certainly prone to it themselves. Thus behaviorally speaking a progressive expects people to update their beliefs as knowledge progresses.

Figuratively speaking (but bordering on literally) a progressive watches the latest episode of Jon Oliver's Last Week Tonight and calibrates their beliefs to whatever has just been presented.

Or if it's easier to picture, a progressive plays the role of Jerry in the Seinfeld episode 7-16 'The Doll' who informs Elaine that there's an electric toothbrush that is better than the one she has, and can't understand that she likes hers even though he's telling her that it's better.

So What?

You may notice that one is a definition of a broad-catch all political alignment - Conservatives or The Right or whatever whereas the other is a definition of a sub-genre.

This is because everyone is prone to confirmation bias. And if you are reading this you probably share my opinions, where you broadly identify as left-wing, don't particularly like right-wing politics but find many of your own friends annoying on social media who seemingly have the same left-wing orientation as you. These definitions aren't binding, they are simply the way I bet across populations even those bets are placed on individuals in conversations.

And that bet is that both are wrong. But how?

That is an interesting question, to gather the low-hanging fruit, Conservatives are wrong about a natural order, at the very least to the extent they are emotionally invested in one. Progressives are wrong about progress. Best illustrated by putting our two figurative people together.

So a progressive is watching Last Week Tonight on Youtube because it's free, and Jon Oliver does a piece on how some running race is rigged, black people aren't allowed to enter, nor are women allowed to compete against men for the greatest prize money but can only win 30% less and also don't have access to the same trainers, scholarships and what not. If they were born a woman but transition to being men and vice versa they are subjected to testing and not allowed to compete in the category they identify with as well as suffering public shaming and discrimination. Furthermore it is unveiled that many of the people who win the race cheat by breaking a bunch of rules that are inconsistently enforced and take shortcuts and handicaps that are inherited and what not.

Then this progressive goes outside to order some ethnic food for lunch and comes across a person they thought they knew well walking down the street sticky with sweat with a big smile on their face and a medal around their neck. 'Woah!' says the progressive to their acquaintance, 'I didn't know you were a Conservative?!' and they say 'Yeah, I just ran the race today, got this sweet Medal' and they hold it up high anticipating some admiring comments from this Progressive they thought they knew.

'That's disgusting, you know those races are rigged? and you probably cheated cheater. Cheating in a rigged race, aren't you ashamed of yourself?'

The Consevative retorts 'Hey, I worked hard for this medal, and maybe if you did something other than watch youtube and eat fatty ethnic foods you too would have a medal and you'd probably feel differently.'

And the Conservative goes and seeks their own kind to feel reassured and validated and the Progressive does the exact same thing. As we all do.

Hopefully most people would agree that informing somebody who had just completed a a Marathon that the race wasn't actually regulation distance or the supplements their coach had been giving them were actually illegal performance enhancing drugs is a dick move, but consider a capacity in which you are conservative.

Imagine a piece of evidence that supported a 'natural order theory' for example a population census data that supported a conclusion that white people are smarter than any other ethnicity, or a defended and peer reviewed doctoral thesis that found men are more creative than women.

Just in case you are panicking, to my knowledge no such 'evidence' exists to support any of these, but if you are a human being with an identity that leans towards a fair and just society with broad equality - chances are you felt some kind of resistance to the very exercise of imagining a piece of evidence that would convince you that all things being equal some group might have a natural advantage over you or you over them, or that your spiritual connection to the universe is actually a figment of your imagination, or that your migrant grandparents actually didn't arrive with nothing and build themselves up through grit and determination against prejudice but in fact arrived with abundant job opportunities affordable housing and were encouraged to migrate with discounted passage.

And I've had someone say to me 'I don't like evolutionary psychology because it's condescending to women' which is fascinating.

The book superforecasting has a good summary about belief perseverance and should be noted that psychological phenomena is not partisan.

The other great degree in which progressives make common naive errors is in failing to recognize progress is a spectrum, and that we live in a world in which some people alive today maintain the exact same lifestyle as humans lived 10,000 years ago. Such communities are not just goldmines for anthropologists, they are largely ignored by most people because people living in hunter gatherer communities have almost no impact on geopolitics.

But hunter gatherer tribes or stone age communities in the Amazon not only are not up to speed with Transgender issues, they perhaps never progressed to the stage of achieving transphobia, along with bronze working, fly fishing, finance, constitutional monarchy, germ theory and twitter.

And yet these often marginalized people whose way of life is under constant threat from environmental degradation, urban development and religious intolerance are as likely to achieve a real and meaningful life as they are unlikely to participate in combating Islamophobia on college campuses.

And what of conservatives? Why am I so confident they are wrong? I don't believe there is a natural order, nor do I believe that the ordering of our society is entirely arbitrary. Guns, Germs and Steel is a good place to go and have racist notions of a natural order dispelled (provided you are receptive to such a message) but the only tragic conservatives really are those that do not benefit from the status quo except psychically from believing that working hard will deliver to them a better life.

Conservatives who thus are not benificieries of the status quo are sad, and conservatives who do benefit from the status quo have little to no incentive to challenge the just world hypothesis. Except that wealth keeps concentrating, such that Pareto's 20% is itself carved up into 80-20 distribution from which we derive the 1% and even among the 1% you would be naively optimistic to assume the equilibrium has been reached.

But you'd note, I don't have to do anything about that. Conservatives are for the most part due for their come uppance, I just simply avoid their company because they tend to be dicks.

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