December 5, 2016

Pearl-clutching Primate Politics

By Harry R. Hopps, (1869-1937) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Just read yet another article busily deconstructing the methods that the liberal left is utilizing to communicate with 'middle america' and assessing the effectiveness of various strategies in convincing those poor deluded folk that they are WRONG. Hence the pearl-clutching reference...

To be crystal clear here - I am a spittle-flinging lefty socialist from way back. So I am just as appalled as everyone else by the direction our nation has seemingly suddenly rotated, and suffering the same amount of disorientation and grief.


I also have a very good understanding that we are all pretty much just primates with cars and designer clothes who are not that far removed from the campfires and caves of our evolutionarily recent ancestors.
And when you strip away all the loaded language and the rationalizations what you see is pretty simple and clear. Divide and conquer is a very old and effective strategy. And our primate brains are very, very susceptible to that sort of manipulation because it goes along with how we see and interact with the world.
Using phrases like 'how we are wired' causes pain to those whose jobs involve both neurophysics and anthropology, but it is an easy shorthand to discuss the ways we classify and learn about the world and our place in it, based on how our brains have evolved over time. And our cultures reflect both the ways we are wired to think, and the strategies we have come up with to overcome a lot of those instincts in order to make living in large and often congested groups possible.

Part of that wiring is differentiating 'self' from 'other'. Most of us of a certain age can still sing the song 'One of these things is not like the other'. We classify and name things reflexively. We draw maps so that we can create imaginary lines to separate 'mine' from 'theirs'.
Using that to solidify your own position at the top of the tree by getting those below you fighting with each other to maintain their current position rather than eyeballing yours is a pretty basic and simple strategy.
And getting primates focused on easily identified differences in appearance to facilitate that unrest is not exactly rocket science either.
Which also explains why folks are willing to vote against their own apparent best interest.
Because they can always see someone down below them who they are higher than on the tree. And it is pretty easy to convince people that kicking the folks below them down if they try to climb up will ensure their place in the pecking order. Because the alternative of offering a hand up to those below is seen as a threat to the place at the top.
So you convince white men that they are threatened by everyone 'below' them. You convince white women that they are threatened by people of colour.
You convince people of colour that they are threatened by 'illegals' who shouldn't even BE here - so long as those illegals are brown-skinned of course.
And you convince everyone that they are threatened by 'Muslim terrorists' identified most easily as women in head scarves...
Most importantly, you convince everyone that they are far better off keeping the guys below them off their current branches and fighting to maintain their current position so everybody doesn't suddenly realize how much nicer the view would be way up on top.
In essence, you get the primates so busy fighting with each other that they fail to notice you packing up the silver and looting the vault.

So rather than wringing our hands about how we convince the other guy that they are WRONG, SO WRONG - how about we just point out that we should all be watching both Trump's hands and counting the spoons? And if we give each other a hand up, we can ensure there will be enough for everyone and not just the fat orange primate decorating the top of the tree?

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