Interesting Links: July 25, 2016
Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They contain a few articles about the general unraveling of society in USA (and other “developed” countries to a lesser extent) by Chris Arnade on Medium.
Trump voters may not vote the way I want them to, but after having spent the last five years working in (and having grown up in) parts of the US few visit, they are not dumb. They are doing whatever any other voter does: Trying to use their vote to better their particular situation (however they define that). Labeling them dumb is simply a way of not trying to understand their situation, or what they value. In choosing a candidate, a voter is buying into that candidate. It is, in an oversimplified way, like buying a stock. In that sense, it is helpful to use some basic analysis from finance, to look at how/why voters make the choices they do.
Link 2: Granted, however….
There is a growing move to blame Brexit, or Trump, on voters just not trusting experts. Or being too uneducated to understand experts. This is wrong for two big reasons beyond being contemptuous, beyond having the goal to demean those who you disagree. Reason 1: It creates an unnecessary laziness in political discourse. Rather than really working at explaining a position, you default to the much simpler, “Well the experts say.” So when I hear arguments like, “The voters didn’t understand the consequences of Brexit,” I am also hearing, “I didn’t explain my positions very well.” Reason 2: It ignores the huge mistakes experts have made. Like the Iraq war and the aftermath of the global financial crisis (TARP anyone!) At the risk of borrowing from David Brooks (!), let me get a bit pop-sociology/ psychology.
The “expert class” are very slow to admit they are wrong which is a direct result of our system that rewards the most educated, and the cleverest. Rising to the top now means being clever as fuck, knowing how to game rules, and most important, being able to always argue your case. It is almost like we now reward that kid on the playground who when tagged during recess, replies, “You didn’t ACTUALLY tag me. You only tagged my clothes. Which isn’t technically me…..” Or the person who when they lose a bet for 100 dollars, says, “I didn’t say dollars, I said, Doll Hairs.” or responds, “We never actually signed a contract.”
In all of these places people are turning more and more to drugs to combat a growing sense of hopelessness, meaninglessness, and anxiety. Some are also turning to angry and disruptive politics. Why? Over the last fifty years we have pursued a political and cultural agenda shaped around rationality and efficiency. We worship free markets and have maximized the power of capital while rendering labor only a cost to be minimized. We now define success through simple numbers — rising GDP, rising income, and rising profits. Our economic policy, driven by this rationalism, has morphed into a national version of the Hunger Games, pitting every worker against each other. We sort by education and by wealth, giving the winners a larger share than they need or deserve. It has created anxiety, one especially acute in lower income neighborhoods.
Now the poor are seen as losers and failures, increasing their anxiety. They are told they have failed to pull themselves up, failed to educate themselves, failed at a system that rewards the advantaged and the aggressively clever. We have also completely changed our culture in other ways, devaluing what once gave people meaning: A sense of community. It is easy to ignore these changes because community is a hard to measure metric. What once defined many neighborhoods —a tight social structure focused on community — is giving way to the ordinariness of strip malls, franchises, and disposable jobs. It is a deadening banality of both style and purpose.
What do you think? Comments?