Human Nature is a Lock Albeit With a Key
The Real Reason Conservatives Always Win
Why do Progressives repeatedly lose ground in American politics? How can they win? This 2012 article is from TruthOut, Jun 25.
by Joe Brewer, Cognitive Policy WorksSelf-styled Progressives almost always have the facts on their side. Yet Conservatives have the best political game in town. They Ö
* dominate political discourse.
* establish which frames shape the most important issues of the day.
* blast their value of rugged individualism through mass media outlets.
Why is it that Conservatives are so good at winning?
A fundamental insight from evolutionary biology goes like this:
When two groups compete, the one with the most social cohesion wins in the long run.
Note the irony here -- a political group whose ideology elevates the individual over the group (Conservatives) has managed to cultivate more group cohesion than the political group whose ideology blends community well-being with that of the individual.
E.O. Wilson's book, The Social Conquest of Earth, shows how humanity's social nature enabled us to dominate every ecosystem we have entered in our 2 million year history.
The argument goes something like this:
* Throughout history, a tiny number of species have developed a capability known as eusociality -- advanced social organization comprised of large numbers of individuals with differentiated roles including members that span more than one generation.
* Most eusocial species discovered in the fossil record are the social insects -- ants, bees, termites, and wasps. Every one of these species has been so successful at thriving that their bodies contained more than half of the biomass in the ecosystems where they lived, meaning that they completely dominated the niches populated by them. This pattern continues up to the present.
* Humans are the only eusocial species to have the additional properties of strong emotional bonds between group members and advanced cognitive abilities that enable us to form coherent gestalts of meaning -- especially the capacity for shared cultural narratives and tribal identities -- which have enabled us to out-compete and dominate less socially adept animals in every ecosystem we have entered.
* The key strategy underlying this pattern is that well-organized groups, which elevate the needs of the whole over those of individuals, are more successful at acquiring resources and consolidating power than those individuals or groups that are less organized.
In American politics, we see the top-down authoritarian worldview of Conservatives enabling them to fall in line. They form strong loyalty bonds through religious affiliation, old money networks, and various social clubs that give them an immense capacity for social cohesion.
Progressives are divided into issue silos, unable to form lasting coalitions. Our funders almost never fund the operational needs of our advocacy organizations.
Presently, pollsters, bloggers, public intellectuals, elected officials, etc, all go their own way. Each issue group clings to its own ground, unwilling to share power with those progressives who were motivated by something other than their pet cause. And worst of all, a small cohort of elite players sabotages up-and-coming progressive talent in order to preserve the fiefdoms they had built.
Human nature, research shows, not only favors the conservative modus of operation but also the progressive. There are clear trends toward increasing empathy and trust throughout history. Jeremy Rifkin documents the tale in The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. Our capacity for cultivating shared identity, and the social cohesion it enables, is stronger than ever before. Itís a rising tide that should lift all progressive boats.
Meanwhile, this is the real reason why we lose: Our opponents set the agendas and we react to them, plain and simple.
Progressives need to unite in communities of shared identity. United, we can take the values that resonated with hundreds of millions through Occupy and activate those people for our collective good. Beyond Occupy, we've got to seek out others who resonate with our values at the core level of their personal identity.
Then we must transform the political and economic systems that stand in our way.
Itís by first winning the cultural war that we can brighten our collective future.
To read more
JJS: When wanna-be reformers rethink ways to succeed, Iím encouraged. Itís something that professional sportsmen (people), enterprising businesses, and research scientists do routinely. Those types of personality put an open mind above ďwhat weíve always done beforeĒ.
But political types are like religious types and do not normally open up to change. Itís why Progressives will probably not have much to do with the world becoming a better place; technology and demography likely will play bigger roles. Itís not only because progressives ignore the advice of the author above but mainly because, like most people, they see only a black and white reality, of left and right, and fail to see the truths that lie off the conventional political spectrum.
The biggest blind spot -- the power of the land -- is right in front of your face.
* Itís the vacant or underused lot in the middle of downtown; in Manhattan, at one of the most expensive intersections on the planet, sits a vacant, rundown building -- untaxed.
* Itís the rise in housing costs relative to income; before there wasnít but now the old neighborhood has a community garden, a stylishly decorated cafť, more newcomers moving in, and itís the owners and lenders who reap the increase, not the regional residents.
* Itís the sprayed food in your nearest supermarket and the clear-cuts on distant mountains, both made cheaper thanks to you when you paid taxes that became campaign-paybacks that became subsidies for agri-business and timber monopolists.
* Itís the price at the pump; you see the obvious supply problem and maybe the solution of leaner engines, cleaner fuels, lanes for bikes and buses, but do you see a compact city without wasted land, without land speculation, but with owners paying land dues instead?
* Itís the cost of medical attention and the distracting debate over socialized medicine, overlooking the collusion of doctors, insurers, and pharmaceuticals, and a living beingís need for a healthy environment and stress-free lifestyle of more leisure than labor, something technology could deliver yesterday.
Were Progressives less concerned about their opponents and more concerned about what works, could they conjure up the courage to abandon woe-be-us and demand a fairs share of societyís surplus?
We have our common wealth, we donít now share it. Our Earth has immense worth, we let a few corral it. Together we spend fortunes on all the nature we use, creating class, creating hierarchy, when instead we could direct that spending into the pockets of everyone -- and come as close as possible to creating heaven on Earth.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the ďLand RightsĒ course, click here .
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