For the past couple of months, we’ve all stood by and watched in stupored horror as the CyBeRnInJaS had their way with the Maricopa County ballots and voting machines at the behest of the Arizona GQP senate in the so-called fraudit of the county’s presidential election. Unfortunately, all they’ve succeeded in doing is soiling those ballots and machines that they can no longer be trusted. The ballots cannot be recounted ever again because they no longer accurately represent the election and the machines cannot be trusted to accurately record future votes and must now be replaced. Now, we are being treated to the specter of the same petrifying process being visited on other Democratic voting counties in Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania as delegations of GQP state legislatures flock to the re-count site to observe the process. It puts a new meaning on monkey see, monkey do, don’t it?
There has been lots of kvetching on liberal social media about this process, the lack of prosecution of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and friends, and the Congressional Dems not being able to magically implement their agenda like passing the infrastructure and For the People Act. While the causes of these things and so many others in the news today either happening or not happening vary greatly, they all have one thing incommon, they take many experts in their fields to accomplish.
We live in a vastly complex society with over three hundred million members. To function successfully, we rely on physical and social systems to deliver the necessities of life to each individual in sufficient quantity on a daily basis. It is nearly overwhelming to imagine. For example, during the 2020 year of #COVID19, we consumed over 337 million gallons of gasoline per day! As the recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack demonstrated it takes an entire complex, yet hidden, system of refineries, storage facilities, pipelines, and trucks to get each person in the US the gasoline they need to get through their day. And that is just one commodity that we all rely on.
Everyday we rely on experts and professionals to do their jobs to get us the things we need, and yes, GQP even the care some of us need, to get us through our days. Each of those experts and professionals have family members and some of those family members need care that the expert or professional cannot deliver directly but must trust is there in order to do the job that we rely on them to do. It is a vastly complex interconnected system. Making sure it remains intact and functioning is the focus of the American Jobs Plan aka the infamous infrastructure bill, but that ain’t what this post is about.
Complex societies like ours are called ultrasocial. As explained in Finding Happiness in Trump’s America: the Log in the Conservative Christian Voter’s Eye, ultrasociality is a complex society that is characterized by a large dense population, a complicated division of labor, and convoluted, cooperative, coordinated activities. Sounds about like modern human existence, don’t it? It also sounds like the social insects to those of us who think about those things, but that is the subject of another blog post on someone else’s blog. Who can be snarky, sarcasticky, and profaney about the pro-social behavior of ants, amirite?
Let’s just take it as gospel that we evolved to work in groups of about 100 to 150. And, if you are now scratching your ass and thinking, wait a minute, we haven’t lived in groups of 100 to 150 for about 40,000 years. You’re right. Like so much of what ails modern homo sapiens, we’re trying to fit 40,000 year old hunter-gatherer savanna equipment into the internet savvy information age environment. The fit is just barely functional. We are trying to live and work in groups of hundreds of millions. No wonder we are having difficulty living and working together.Finding Happiness in Trump’s America: the Log in the Conservative Christian Voter’s Eye
Many of the problems we’re facing from the failure to vaccinate in sufficient numbers to the failure to confront climate change to police reform are all caused by our failure to trust our experts and professionals. Not that there are not disagreements among experts and professionals on what should be done, but they have a much better understanding of these complex situations and have a much better idea of how to cope with them.
It is another of the lasting legacies of the anti-democratic Republican-led right. It predates the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, but he sure did exacerbate it with his narcissistic overconfidence in his own expertise on all subjects. No where was this more obvious than in his handling of the #COVID19 pandemic.
The increasing insistence of the conservatives on basing all of their decisions on “my opinion is as good as your facts“ for the past forty years or so and our steadfast belief that the rugged individual who is willing to go rogue and disobey all the rules to do what he knows is right, in short, to go all John McClane on your ass, will prevail and win the day. You know everyone of those fools who stormed the Capitol during the 6 January Insurrection had images of John McClane dancing in their heads egging them on.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case down here in reality in our ultrasociality existence.
Think on this for a moment, our hunter-gatherer savannah existence in groups of 100 to 150 was so complex that we evolved shortcuts, biases and heuristics, to deal with them so we wouldn’t expend so much energy on thinking and evaluating and could save our dumb asses from predators and rival tribes. If that was the case, how can we pretend to cope with the overwhelming amount of information available to us and all of the decisions we have to make nowadays in this utra-technological electronic age? We can’t.
Our evolution has taught us to rely on those around us to process large amounts of information relative to hunter-gatherers and base our opinions on those of people in our 100 to 150 member groups, so that’s what we’re doing now. And, now, we have media information outlets that are willing to parrot the lies told by those promoted by those who want to manipulate us. We have social media to repeat the lies, make shit up, and argue over the lies promoted by people deliberately running disinformation campaigns.
For ultrasociality to work, those with the most power and influence have to promote the “good” of the society not just their own self-interest as the Koch Brothers and others are doing now. It is critical that those who are elected to public office to enact laws and execute policy have a clear understanding of what is best for us as a whole.
However, what we have nowadays is an electorate that is satisfied with the sweet nothings their politicians whisper into their ears about how we’re the greatest country in the history of humankind and if we just keep on with what we were doing before the New Deal, we’ll continue to be the greatest country in the history of humankind when all those rural conservative Christian white voter whisperers are doing is transferring the nation’s wealth to the 1% as quickly as possible in exchange for allowing those voters to be as racist and misogynistic as they wanna be since we all know that racism and misogyny are what made America great.
To survive this threat to our democracy, we have to be aware of these human fallacies:
- We form our opinions based on those of the people around us, both online and IRL and the media we watch.
- Our political ideas are heavily influenced by the politicians we like and much less by the “principles” we think we hold.
- We must rely on experts to help us navigate some of the hardest most complicated decisions that humankind has ever faced and that threaten our very existence.
- We cannot fall into the trap of following what we want to hear. We must do the hard work of getting a sufficient understanding of the problems we face so we can make accurate and informed choices about the expert opinion we follow and the politicians we elect to office.
If we don’t do these things, our democracy is doomed and perhaps all of humanity.
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Categories: Social Psychology