psychpol

January 5, 2013

POWER AND BLAME

Filed under: Psychology and Politics — psychpol @ 6:36 pm

Many would like to see a Federal government that is responsive to the real issues facing our country. Others do not really care unless something directly affects their personal life. Some us have the motivation and time to attend to what is happening politically, while others are simply too busy managing daily demands.

The one direct impact we can have on the political process is our vote. In the recent election, about 47% of eligible voters did not participate. That is a lot of people who could have impacted many elections at various levels. There were undoubtedly various reasons for this, although the largest surely involves apathy, and perhaps a sense of futility.

What is my vote going to do? Money runs the whole thing so what difference can I make?

Elections are really about the ownership of power in society. In theory, the winners provide a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

However, we have entered a new era of consolidation of power by an ideological cadre’, with their decisions influencing our daily lives. Such holders of power are becoming less and less responsive to the real needs of our country.

In this current phase, blame and anger are central mechanisms for dividing people, maintaining power and avoiding public or media scrutiny. We receive several daily doses of one group blaming another via various media outlets.

In fact, power has become an end in itself. Media handicaps who is up, who is down, who is winning and who is losing. The issues are addressed less and less. It is about who is outraged with whom. It is a kind of entertainment fueled by anger and blame.

Depending on the bias of the media outlet, inferences are made about who is to blame and who is not. So, certain outlets blame the Democrats, while others blame the Republicans. Some try to provide fairly objective information about what is happening. Others simply attack the opposition around the clock.

Many of us have chosen our sides. This revolves around  “fairness” in our society regarding matters of wealth. In fact, the recent election was determined by this issue. The Democratic strategy was not to present new ideas. It was simply to stoke rage at the wealthy opponent. And it worked.

The Democratic campaign strategy was to ” Kill Romney”, not how to better the lives of real Americans or provide leadership to address our real problems.

With the recent Fiscal Cliff battle, the central issue for President Obama was taxing the wealthy. Here, ” millionaires and billionaires” were defined as making $200 thousand a year for an individual, or $250 thousand a year for a couple. That number was raised in the final deal to $400 and $450 thousand.

However, such wealthy persons are not literally “millionaires and billionaires.” This simple fact was not addressed by the left or liberal media. It was a blatant numerical lie. But, no matter. The purpose was to stir anger in order to solidify power and advance an agenda.

The publicly stated purpose of the left was to “protect the middle class.” As many will soon learn, the payroll tax holiday was ended, raising everyone’s paycheck taxes by 2%. The buzzword now is “revenue” and not taxes. And the government is “investing” our dollars, not just spending it.

This process of distraction and blame has become the central feature of government, and many of our fellow citizens. The government’s disdain for the American people is truly unprecedented and remarkable.

But, have you ever seen so many angry people in society? The examples are countless: athletes fighting during sporting events, people blaming those who think differently, liberals hating conservatives and vice versa, fans fighting in the stands, road rage, gang violence, rudeness, insolent kids, child abuse, proliferating lawsuits about trivial issues, someone is angry about who knows what, ” in your face ” behavioral styles, “getting real” which simply means angry, fighting about a Christmas tree, bizarre crimes and mass murders, a steady stream of violent imagery in our culture, angry hip hop or metal musicians.

Many people are offended, often about something trivial, and on and on.

Leading the charge are the politicians in Washington DC. They play a significant part in setting the public tone of blame in America.

Here are some interesting facts about our government. There are a total of 535 members in the Senate and the House. In the Senate, 60% are lawyers. In the House, 37.2% are lawyers. Of the 535 members of Congress, there are 81 Republican lawyers and 123 Democratic lawyers, This is by far the largest occupational group in Congress.

Other groups with representation include medical providers and real estate developers. The Democratic controlled Senate has the greatest proportion of true millionaires. The President is a multi–millionaire and a lawyer.

So, what do lawyers do? Well, many serve valuable social functions with respect to the pursuit of justice or the distribution of assets.  A central skill set is arguing and trying to prevail on behalf of, either one’s client, or, in the case of government, one’s position. In practice, some lawyers will settle an issue by seeking compromise. But for many, the objective is to discredit the opponent and win.

A recent study of occupations from the business school at Dartmouth University found that lawyers were the most conforming and least creative thinkers of any occupational group. Other studies have found them to be the most disillusioned of any occupational group, with this often occurring quite rapidly after graduating from law school.

Today, America has more young folks in law schools than in medical schools. America has 2/3 of the lawyers on the planet.

So, this group of professionals who are trained to argue  and assign blame is the most represented in our government. Thus, we have a government of conforming politicos who follow their party line and blame the other party for things not working.

In fact, the more a legislator has been elected, the more power they will have, and the greater the likelihood that they have been corrupted by the process in Washington DC. They may have started with noble principles, but these are likely to have been eroded over time for most.

The chief tone setter for the blame game appears to be the president, and many believe that his favorite targets are the successful in our society, business and the Republicans.

Currently, gun owners are also targets for the left. The left tells us that the cause of violence is gun ownership. Of course, right now, there are millions of guns not shooting anyone.

A gun harms no one unless there is a predator, mentally disturbed or irresponsible person firing it. In some cases adults have irresponsibly failed to protect children from access to guns.

Nonetheless, it is the blaming that matters, and the resulting pitting of people against one another, not an analysis of a very complex problem. But, hey, blame the NRA, blame the conservatives, blame the gun owners, publish their names, and many will feel angry, righteous and alive.

Perhaps you have seen the recent video of Hollywood liberals decrying guns, and their juxtaposed films blowing things up and shooting people with automatic weapons.

 The current administration of leftist radicals have their favorites as well, including big business, Wall Street, coal companies, big oil/pharma/banks, mining companies and other targets. The right has their targets too, usually the established Democratic leadership or non-productive citizens on entitlement programs like Food Stamps or AFDC.

One might passionately disagree with another’s position, and that is a good thing in a thriving republic. Being able to respect and hear the other is a basic requirement for any compromise to occur. Blame blocks that possibility and conflict resolution will be driven by time pressure, necessity and political gamesmanship, not reason and sensible solutions.

It may be that anger blocks the critical thinking centers in the frontal areas of our brains.

The truth is there are valid points to be analyzed beneath all this blaming. Why don’t we simply address those issues, for example, energy independence, environmental protection, civil commitment laws, preventive mental health, who our true enemies are, what works economically based on history and data? 

Answer: Because blame can make the people feel “right,” thereby supporting the power base of the status quo.

Many of us feel energized when we are angry. It may produce a sense of righteous purpose, not always the worst thing to experience, especially if it motivates action in service of principle. For some, it can be a source of being enlivened, perhaps something missing from parts of our work or intimate lives.

It is interesting to consider the work of Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg, a psychologist who studied the development of moral reasoning in children, adolescents and adults. He identified six stages of moral reasoning as a result of his empirical studies over many years.

Whereas broad developmental theories in psychology always have room to be critiqued in terms of methods, his research yielded some interesting ideas.

In the early stages of moral development, when fitting in with social conventions is irrelevant, a child will have a “what’s in it for me?” orientation to the world. The needs of others are inconsequential to that child. The child may make quid pro quo deals in their self-interest. “I will give you a cookie if you give me your bicycle.”

There is no concern with how the child will be perceived by others. It is an early moral stage characterized by “I-me-my” needs and wants. Normal for young kids.

In many ways, significant numbers of people have not moved beyond that early stage. 

This developmental deficit in moral reasoning occurs more frequently for those without a strong moral foundation derived from a religious belief system or philosophical position that values others. It is well-known that affiliation with religious organizations is lower than ever in modern America.

By contrast, in the prominent media culture,  celebrities, stars, and politicos may be stuck at that early level, modeling a narcissistic, “me first” approach to life.

And so, in government, we see a growing inability to compromise for the greater good. We see the greater good defined by one side or the other. Some emphasize a socialist collectivism, while others celebrate individuality and personal initiative. This is the battle now underway, a “dialogue” of closed minds unable to listen to ideas that could expand their ideological boundaries.

For those who are savvy on economics and the American economy, most observers realize there is big trouble ahead for us. However, polarized and blaming leftist leadership appears immune to issues such as huge debt that could bankrupt our country and devalue our currency.

Instead, leftist politicos blame the opposition while advocating for economic policies that have historically failed in other countries. Look at Southern Europe today, the stagnant economies and high rates of unemployment.

This ideological tunnel vision is setting the stage for class conflicts in America. The natural result of  The Blame Game is promoting attacks upon the opponents. Whether deliberate or not, this is the effective agenda of the current administration. It is a shameless exploitation of the base emotions of people.

It is a factor in the bizarre violence that we see in our society. It sets the table for a choice between restraint or acting out by the most disturbed and enraged among us.

It is classic socialist, class warfare strategy. Anyone familiar with ” people’s revolutions ” readily understands the mechanisms for stoking angry emotion as well as the dire consequences for all when true liberty is lost. It is the party chiefs, not the people, who always divide the spoils.

Nonetheless, in such social “transformations,”  it is the angry power of the people that overthrows the social order. The people serve as foils and unwitting tools for the political manipulators, ostensibly to gain security. That is the promised trade. We are approaching this kind of situation in America.

To return to the issue of guns, the US city with the highest murder rate is Chicago. In fact, it is on track for becoming the most violent city in the world. This is the president’s adopted hometown. Where are the Democratic voices on the social conditions that produce murderous psychopaths terrorizing neighborhoods?

Answer: Not to be heard. Poverty and violence are someone else’s fault.

Instead, we hear advocates for gun control, as if that was the only cause. But in fact, Chicago has one of the strictest gun control laws of any city. Eliminating  legal availability of guns may only harm potential victims, not remove  guns from the violent.

But there is little discussion as to who these perpetrators are, and what can be done to stem the rising tide of their rage. If called to account, someone might be offended, and this is more important than a horrendous social problem that takes lives and terrorizes innocent citizens trying to live in peace.

But, as a reflexive position, let’s blame the gun owners or the wealthy. They are the problem. It isn’t a ” level playing field ” or ” fair.” Take their unjust money, give it to others who are “deserving”. America is unjust socially and economically. The founders were corrupt men that had slaves. We are imperialists. The poor and middle class are exploited by the Big Banks. And on and on. Pick your favorite class enemy and blame them to avoid analyzing any complex issue in today’s America.

Tempting to blame your life on someone else, isn’t it? Many of us seek rationalizations for our sense of personal frustration. And a favorite is to blame someone else. And there can be some reality to that, for example, kids that are abused, impoverished backgrounds, domestic violence, parents abandoning their children, destructive schools, etc.

But it is now that we can make our choices once we claim our power. Now.

And as someone once said, “did you ever notice that every time your life doesn’t work, you happen to be there?”

So blame is the anger generating fuel espoused by our president and his party. It is designed to divide us, thus keeping us relatively ineffective as an empowered populace seeking a better life.

We must find a way to wake up and stop being emotionally manipulated. If you have a position, left or right, that is great. Now, let’s meet and find compromise and solutions to the problems facing us all.

But the opposite strategy drives our political leadership today, from the top down. These are ideological fanatics who poison any chance for constructive dialogue that informs the voters as to choices and consequences of policy.

So, we can reclaim our birthright of power by exercising something as simple as a vote. We can write, call or email or representatives.

We can stop being sucked in by con artists in Washington DC and their media advocates. We can talk to our friends and family, and try to educate ourselves about the issues of our time. We can stop being so angry with one another, open our minds, find common ground as Americans.

Many of us long for this kind of country. While there has always been battling politically, this is a new and dangerous low point. Many of us are fed up with the blame game in service of preserving those in power. We don’t want our leaders to act like small children fighting for a toy.

We can do better as adults demanding a sane society that is responsive to people, respecting individual liberties and acting collectively when needed.

Most of us are reasonable folks when push comes to shove.

Personal Note: A big thanks to the growing reader base of the psychpol blogs. Thanks for sharing these blog posts with others in your life. Let’s keep thinking, talking to one another and being involved with our world.  It’s the only one we’ve got!

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