Many have wondered why people vote against their best interests by electing candidates that support policies and laws that will hurt them. Why do so many people believe what Donald Trump says when it is so clear that he is lying? Why do we have an election in which so many voters are angry and disaffected and in a “revolutionary” mood?
These questions are baffling. I mean, we are the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid, aren’t we? But what could explain it? We are the greatest nation on earth, why the fuck are we so mind-numbingly dumb as a group? I thought I’d plumb the depths of evolutionary psychology and psychopathology to find some answers. Yes, boys and girls, evolutionary psychology and psychopathology does explain why we are the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid.
Unless we are from one of the more stupider states in our union of stupid, we know something about evolution. Evolution tells us that the genes that support the abilities, skills, traits, and other miscellany and sundry stuff that makes an individual member of a species more likely to reproduce is passed on to the next generation where it will, hopefully, make the resulting individuals more likely to reproduce, and so on ad infinitum ad nauseum and until we reach the present day, god willing.
Evolutionary psychology focuses on how behaviors and mental processes affect the likelihood of successful reproduction — I can see why those religious types don’t like evolution much; it has way too much to do with fucking, don’t it? — and the genetics supporting the brain structures get passed on. This is one reason why people all over the globe and throughout history have been so similar in behavior and mental processes. The principles of evolutionary psychology gives us a way of looking at various behaviors and deciding whether they are more likely to help us get laid and if so get pregnant and if so have the baby. Oh sex. Exciting.
Evolutionary psychopathology occurs when these normal behaviors become twisted into unhealthy pathological behaviors. So, if natural fears of animals and dangers such as snakes and heights can lead to phobias, an adaptive level of detail-orientation can lead to obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and naturally occurring mood swings can lead to bi-polar disorder, then what is the normal behavior that leads to voting directly against your best interests?
Emotions & Decisions
A seemingly unknowable unknown can become a known known with one weird
trick: People are emotional decision-makers. Emotions are affective states that alter our response patterns to situations giving us an advantage. So, like if you get really angry in response to standing on a tall cliff, you are far more likely to plummet to your death than if you get scared and wet your pants. This is the redneck, Hey dude, hold my beer. Watch this! basis of evolution. So, why haven’t rednecks died out? They would if we lowered the drinking age.
After eons and millennia of generations, the people who were angry on cliff faces died without reproducing and those who went home to change their pants found widowers and widows to reproduce with. Thus, we have developed a pre-disposition for emotional responses to specific stimuli.
Important NOTE, so pay attention: These responses are predictable! If someone can manipulate the situation, that person can predict the EMOTIONAL response people will have. We are really vulnerable to this type of manipulation which is why advertising works.
Our environment and types of stimuli have changed drastically since our hunter-gatherer days, but our responses have not. Our responses are not as well-matched to the stimuli as they once were. Again, we are manipulable. We can be tricked into doing things so unbelievably stupid that no one believes them because our emotions are reacting to hunter-gatherer stuff and our environment is a thoroughly modern one.
Reason for HOPE, so pay attention: Just because we have a genetic tendency for a behavior doesn’t necessarily make it inevitable. Many of these behaviors can be changed radically if not eliminated: fainting at the sight of blood or resolving phobias. SERIOUSLY, if you or someone you love are suffering from a mental health disorder, seek help. It is available. It is effective. And your life will get better.
Some behaviors are so weird so as to defy explanation using the old canard of making it more likely that you’ll get laid and get pregnant, but are explainable if you consider that it could get your brother, sister, or cousin laid and pregnant. Thus, the wingman is born! It has been speculated that altruistic behavior developed because of kin preferences.
So, now I think we have the ground work to take it to the next level.
People work best if we work in groups even you lone-wolf types (Insert inappropriate and too soon lone-wolf terrorist joke here because I don’t have the stomach for it. And, I suppose that if you’re really proud of that goddamn joke, you can put it in the comments.) Reciprocal relationships — the wingman thingee from just up there — help promote healthy functional groups. Our emotional reactions to those around us help refine those relationships. This is what education and other social interactions are all about. Supposedly, our experiences with others and all of our learning will help us exist in groups without being exploited or rejected. One reason why the whole candy is dandy but liquor is quicker adage died, and thank god, too. I mean, can you say date rape? On second, thought, we need a lot more work here, don’t we? Remember, behavior can be modified.
So, this whole work in a group set up helps explain the horrible voting record of poor whites. You just need to look at the predictable emotional reactions people have to specific stimulus to understand how people are being manipulated to vote against their better interests.
Fear & Anxiety
We can all identify the emotion that demagogues exploit: fear and fear’s BFF, anxiety. Way back in the hunter-gatherer days, fear and anxiety indicates danger. Okay, it still does… at least some of the time. But, back then, especially, a dangerous situation was probably not the best time to experiment because that new thing just might not work and then your dumb ass would be vulnerable and at risk and your fucking days — not your fucking days, but your fucking days — might be over. It is far better to be risk averse and stick with what you’ve been doing before — and, again, we’re some how back to date rape. Evolution favored those who were predisposed to becoming more conservative, meaning risk averse, when fearful. Risk aversion was an adaptive behavior when we were hunter-gatherers when most of our evolution took place.
Fear also activates the fight-or-flight response. In many ways risk aversion is preparation for flight. But, when danger persists and cannot be escaped, fight becomes necessary. Fight requires anger, not fear. Hold on to the fight requires anger thing. It’ll be useful later.
Anxiety results from situations that do not directly threaten our lives. It is more a projection of fear into the future in anticipation to threats. These threats can be to status, resources, property, relationships, or any of a myriad of things that can change our lives substantially, and we all know that those kinda losses make it harder to get laid. Some of the specific threats that evoke anxiety or fear and our typical responses: heights, freezing; social threats, submission; predators, flight (Predators are fought if there is no choice. The risk and consequences of injury is too great to do otherwise.)
Evolutionary psychologists in a desperate attempt to gain tenure have created four strategies for responding to anxiety provoking threats: (1) flight, (2) defense, (3) freezing up, and (4) appeasement. Culturally, Americans are predisposed to defense — just look at the superiority of our weapons, the proliferation of our weapons, and size of our military budget. But, as the above suggests, this may not be the best response in all situations. In other words, welcome to the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid where every idiot can have a gun.
If each response is applied to the appropriate degree and to the appropriate type of threat, then the chances of survival and getting laid are improved. If not, then probably not. For example, too much anxiety and fear disables or immobilizes; too little causes a lack of focus of attention. While we have evolved a prepotency or preparedness for certain threats: the shape of a snake or the pattern of eyes so that they evoke fear, bad smells, nausea, we have also evolved to be flexible. We are hardwired for some fears, but those fears can be modified. We are not wired for other fears, but they can be acquired. Children learn fear from their parents and others around them. For example that genius in Florida who didn’t teach her very young son to fear guns, but to love guns, and he picked hers up and shot her in the back!
Learning to fear new things can be dangerous. Carrying on with ancient fears used to have risks, too, but not so much any more. Being afraid of spiders, for example, can be a waste of energy, but in our current generation, no one really fears a lack of calories. However, a false negative, not fearing someone you should, can have dire consequences. To learn a fear we need repeated exposures to ensure an intuitive reaction and we make mistakes. But, not just the variety in which we end up having our sex lives curtailed. We can start doing some dumb ass stuff, too. Like wearing our lucky underwear on game day. Or, Trump not changing his underwear until the convention is over or he wins the election or some such. That’s because superstitions associate two unrelated events in a cause-and-effect relationship. Or, we end up being afraid in situations that don’t warrant it or are more afraid than we need be and we do something stupid like shooting an unarmed black man who was just reaching for a wallet, or holding a toy gun, or asking for help. Again, welcome to the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid.
How does all of this add up to electing Sam Brownback or Rick Scott or Paul LaPage or any other number of sniveling poor-hating poor-shaming politicians who can hate the poor some more and practically murder them through bankrupt policies like not expanding Medicaid through Obamacare? Follow these easy steps:
- Get the people to identify with you! Make yourself seem the same as them! Joni Ernest wearing bread bags on her feet or castrating hogs — okay, forget the bread bags. That’s just stupid. Or Trump talking with his Bronx accent and talking blue collar tough guy and hating PC shit. Or whoever had the mail carrier for a father. Being white helps, if you want to appeal to white voters, too. Just like people thinking that Julian Castro would’ve helped Clinton with Hispanic voters but Tim Kaine speaking fluent Spanish — Castro, by the way, doesn’t not that it is a prerequisite or anything — won’t. I’m like you has big appeal because back in our hunter-gatherer days, we trusted those who were like us and distrusted those who weren’t.
- Ratchet up the fear and anxiety. The DEFICIT sky is falling on us we’re all gonna die and be broke. The browns are bringing ebola and ISIS and rapists! All your tax dollars are going to support lazy minorities. Clinton wants to destroy America! God, this shit just gets ridiculous but after generations of this kind of demagoguery it is easy to invoke, especially when your favorite drunk uncle spends his days and nights cussing at the TV as Hannity, O’Reilley, and those guys whip up the fear and hate!
- The last step, though, is to really get the anger out. They is keeping you down! You could be rich and powerful, but the browns and blacks and foreigners and liberals ain’t letting you! We got to break a few heads people have got to hurt if we’re going to preserve our way of life. God will abandon us if those sluts keep having abortions! The fear is flight. Flight leads away from the ballot box and runs the danger of immobility. But, anger is fight. And you want to direct the fight to the ballot box and who cares if a few of the undesirables that we’ve been demagoguing get hurt or killed by our scared angry followers?
It is THAT easy!
So, why don’t it work for liberals the same as it works for conservatives? While liberals make emotional appeals, the conservatives have doubled down on the side of identity politics, fear mongering, demagoguery, and emotional issues. Remember, kids thinking is hard; emotions is easy. The scared angry ones will develop tunnel vision for the things that scare them and not notice what’s going on behind the scenes. To start connecting the dots takes thinking.
And that boys and girls, is how you get people to vote against their own best interests.