Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Explaining Conservative Support Among “Ordinary People”.

Only 39.7% of voters, or 24% of the Canadian population supported the right wing Conservative Party in the last Canadian general election. The base for this party consists of religious extremists, but these make up only about 10% of the population. Then there are the five percent of the wealthy and near-wealthy who naturally vote Conservative, since their policies allow them to skim-off ever more of societies riches. Ideologically-rooted haters and greed creeps are the natural basis for far right parties. But how does one explain the support the remaining 9% of the population, neither cultists nor rich, give to the Conservatives? How to explain the support given by people who will be directly harmed by much right-wing legislation?

In order to explain this seeming contradiction we have to examine four factors:

  1. education and culture

  2. alienation

  3. social psychology

  4. age, gender and ethnic factors

Education and Culture

Regardless of the formal level of education, this is a group that is not well educated nor has a particularly high level of culture. Our schools do not teach people to think critically and to argue rationally. Thus, the uneducated do not discuss and debate, but mutually reinforce their prejudices. Anyone who steps out of line is either shouted down or ignored. They do not recognize a rational argument and thus are easily bamboozled by the strings of fallacies spouted by right-wing politicians. This is made doubly easy since these politicians pander to their prejudices.

Their culture consists of kitsch, corporate mass culture, or at best a philistine adoration of the “classics.” Anything beyond that is deemed “highbrow”. “modern”, or “intellectual” and thus not worthy of consideration. Attempts to raise the general cultural level or to introduce critical ideas are seen as a threat, and thus right-wing politicians who seek to cut back on government support for the arts get the backing of the culturally unsophisticated.


Right-wing voters tend to be suburbanites. They do not live in communities, but are isolated in the suburbs, and even when connections are made, they tend to be with people similar to themselves. Isolated, with their only window of the world being the TV, they are subject to the fears and prejudices whipped up by the mass media. They don't encounter the people thus demonized, so only have the media stereotypes to go on. This situation, combined with prejudices they have inherited from their parents, leads to the creation of an unconscious “hate list”. We all know their list - tree huggers, anarchists, trade unionists, protesters, feminists, leftists, hippies, intellectuals etc. If a right-wing politician can tar his opponents as such or promise to harm the individuals on this list, he has the vote of the alienated suburbanite in his pocket. A certain amount of the right wing vote is simply a desire for revenge against other citizens deemed unworthy or a threat.

Social Psychology

Most of these people will have been brought up in an authoritarian manner. They react to this in two ways: They identify with the dominators, desire a “strong leader” and hence are open to someone as anti-democratic as Harper. Their attitude toward people deemed “beneath them” (remember the hate list) is that of the bully. (The idea that “these people ought to be suppressed.”)

One important result of an authoritarian upbringing is denial as a life-long procedure when faced with an unpleasant reality. Generally, their personal lives are ruled by denial, not just the political realm. Hence, when disasters result from right-wing policies, these are denied outright, or they latch on to a conspiracy theory to get them off the hook.

It seems that denial is not only a function of a repressive upbringing, but is inherent in the way we think. Neuroscientists have come up with a “theory of motivated reasoning” which helps explain the persistence of irrational beliefs. Our reasoning process is overlaid with emotional content. These emotions are what arise first, in advance of the reasoning process, when someone is confronted with an idea or situation. Our emotions bias us in advance. This works for everyone, progressive or reactionary. Since right-wingers have such a long and bitter catalogue of biases, I suggest that “motivated reasoning” leading to denial plays a much greater part in their decision making process than with left-wingers. (1)

Since the 1960's, old-fashioned authoritarianism has been augmented by narcissism. Old fashioned authoritarianism had the benefit of encouraging modesty and projecting an air of solidity and decency – even though those at the top were free to build their pretentious mansions and engage in their orgies. Today, modesty, solidity and decency fly out the door. Suburbanites simply must have their tacky McMansions and all the consumer goods that go with them. And they must have it all now, not ten years down the road like their parent's generation.

People who are insecure about themselves, something which authoritarian parenting mass produces - tend to substitute things to make up for that lost sense of worth. They will buy houses and cars that are more expensive than they can afford in order to project to the outside world that they are “somebody”.

All these obese houses and expensive toys mean a massive debt, which in turn creates a great deal of financial insecurity which right-wing demagogues freely prey upon.

Those of us who oppose this narcissistic consumer lifestyle are seen as a threat. Building houses for the less-fortunate or encouraging public transit are seen as “lowering property values” and “raising taxes.” Once again, the demagogues can read off their hate list of “cyclists, urban elitists, environmentalists” etc. and the narcissists gobble it up like Pablum.

Age, Gender and Ethnic Factors.

Polls taken during the election showed that youth aged 18-25 overwhelmingly rejected the Conservatives. Women too, though not to the same extent. Nor was there any of the much-touted “breakthrough” among “ethnic” groups. The real basis of Conservative support consists of white men over age 50, Micheal Moore's “Stupid White Men.” There is much sense to this rejection by youth, women and minorities. When these Stupid White Men are rotting in their graves, today's youth will be suffering the dire consequences of all the cut-backs and piratizations, not to mention climate change and peak oil. Women are generally raised to have empathy and are thus not so attracted to the sociopathic concept that only corporations matter and people don't. People of colour would be fools to support the party that contains most of Canada's racists, even though they pretend not to be.

A Couple of Fallacies to Clear Up

The Conservative support from the over-fifties seems to clash with the vision of the “radical Sixties Generation.” Some pundits will trot this fact out as an example of how people supposedly become conservative in their old age. But this is not the case at all, since the counter-culture and New Left radicals were only a minority of their generation. The vast majority of 60s rads are still there in the social movements or at least support them. Since the radicals got all the attention (and had all the fun) the conservative wing of the Sixties Generation has never forgiven its left-wing cohorts. Part of the present attack can be seen as a kind of revenge of the losers.

We will undoubtedly be told that today's NDP-supporting, anti-Conservative youth will go right when they get older. This ignores the fact that politics are based upon deeply-held values. These values, such as empathy or the lack of it, tend, in the case of the former, to direct one to a progressive stance, and the latter to reactionary politics. Furthermore, your moral compass is usually permanently aligned by about age 18 or 20. Thus, if you have empathy at 18, you are most likely to have empathy at age 50. If as a youth, you regard selfishness as a virtue, you are likely to do so in old age as well.

1. Cynics and reactionary apologists will claim that leftists are full of biases as well. But there are biases and biases. It is rational for a leftist to be biased toward Nazis – they are violent, racist, antisemitic brutes. It is not rational for a rightist to hate anti-war pacifists, people who wouldn't hurt a flea. Right wing hate lists are the result of the systematic demonizing of groups and individuals, and are not the result of rational analysis.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

End of the World? It's Still Here, Sickos!

The Rupture, er Rapture, I mean, never came off. Must be a lot of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth among the Christofascist set. Imagine being upset because the World didn't end. Upset because billions of “non-believers”, plus all those innocent plants and animals, weren't destroyed by earthquake and fire. Has there ever been a more depraved and evil belief system than this? Even vicious dictators don't want to kill everyone and everything.

This belief system, rooted in hate, revenge and the most appalling sin of pride (I am saved, you aren't!) is nothing short of criminal insanity and ought to be treated as such.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Election 2011 - The Failure of Canadian Politics

None of the major parties talked about the real issues facing us. Yes, the NDP and the Greens said good things about climate change and the need for sustainability, but neither were willing to stand up and shout the whole truth.

The truth is, Peak Oil is happening. We only have a few years left before the era of Happy Motoring is a thing of the past. Right now we should be planning for a future with a lot less automobiles, planes, imported food, cheap junk from China, etc. Couple this with Climate Change. The level of planning, organization and mobilization to deal with these twin crises ought to be about the same level as that of fighting the Second World War.

The second truth has to do with the global economy. No one really knows what might happen with it. Peak oil makes any sustained recovery very unlikely. Patting yourself on the back, that Canada is somehow disconnected from this crisis, is insanity. Not talking turkey about the crisis is foolish in the extreme. We should be preparing people for economic stagnation (or worse) and proposing ways of dealing with it that cause the least suffering for the populace.

The third truth has to do with our neighbour, the USA. Their empire is in rapid decline and they are descending into a possible collapse situation like that of the former USSR. To chain ourselves politically and economically to this Titanic of a country is suicidal. Furthermore, if collapse does come about there may well be civil unrest in the US and Americans will come pouring across our borders.

The fourth truth has to do with the Canadian military. The fact is, we have no enemies, nor are there even any potential enemies looming on the horizon. Armies are also useless for fighting terrorists. No one is willing to ask “Why do we need it ?” – or at least “why do we need it in its present form?” We do need search and rescue, we do need a force to help out in disasters and we need our coasts patrolled. In terms of fire power, a genuine truly defensive force would be a Swiss-style citizen guerrilla army. All of these functions combined would be vastly less expensive than our present military and would have the advantage that it would be impossible for our armed forces to be embroiled in US imperial adventures such as in Afghanistan. But there was not so much as a whisper about this in the campaign.

The failure to talk about the real issues, and the bleak outlook that any politician in the future is willing to discuss these problems, leaves me with one conclusion. - the system is so set up that cannot respond to in a rational way to disasters looming on the horizon. If a system can no longer respond rationally to the problems it creates it has become decadent.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Canadian Election 2011 - our "1933 Moment"

So the psychopaths got their majority. Now they can start dismantling all those remaining hated social democratic aspects of our society and turn us into a Third World country - now we can be just like the USA, the Harpercrits long term dream. Now they can freely terrorize cannabis smokers, impose crack pot religious ideas upon us, glory in war and corporate welfare, destroy the CBC, slowly privatize health care and so forth. But at the same time one must remember that only 40% of the population supported this wrecking crew, and most of that group are old, alienated and ignorant. The young do not support the far right, period. A sad commentary on our pseudo-democracy that 40% can bully the other 60%. What a sad commentary on our pseudo-democracy that all the major papers but one backed the Cons.

At the same time, this election marks a sharp turn to the left with the NDP making huge gains and the Greens apparently electing their first MP. Furthermore, much of this left comes from Quebec and while the rest of the country are candy- asses, the Quebecois will fight back and then some. We are in for a rough ride boys and girls. There are going to be some real brawls ahead. Judging by what our Fuehrer did at the G20 we can count on violence being done to us.

There is one other positive aspect to this otherwise nightmare scenario. When the global economy does its double dip, when the Canadian real estate bubble pops, the Harpercrits will be the ones holding the bag. The country will then become ungovernable.
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