Saturday, October 12, 2013

“Doomsday Preppers”, Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, and Shutdowns.

Oh the places we will go... 
      This is one of those post that I am not sure which place I should have included it.  I have two different approaches to writing to each of the two blogs.  Both are hoping to get what I rarely do, which is comments. But, "The Human System" is written in a way that is meant to be observatory, insightful, and invite comments. Here, on LAP, I try to be inciting, aggressive, and very opinionated. Under the current conditions, I realize this is a very political issue, and the level of insanity has become a problem, not merely and observation.  So, it ended up here. 

"Shut-Down, Go Ahead and Give It To Me.." 
     So as I write this, we are again in a government in "shutdown" status. Now I would love to be my normal dismissive self and say this is just an overstatement, people making a large mountain out of something trivial.  But, the bigger danger here is making something trivial out of an entire mountain range. For good or for ill the US has a unique role in this world. What it does has impact beyond even its population and voters. The world isn't watching the GDP of Tunisia to determine how their markets are going to go.  No one is measuring the the rupee against the shilling. Countries falling into civil war are not calling upon Russia, China, or even Great Britain or France.  They call upon the US,  and that is the position we have obligated ourselves to take.  For years we have beat our chest as being a "Super Power" and then "the only remaining Super Power". Well what is the quote from "Spider Man".  "With great power comes great responsibility."  Guess what? We are not acting very responsible.

     Part of the reason there are those who can irresponsibly hold the government hostage is because we are bandaging the effects of what would really happen if the US government, a government over a people who have no concept of what it means to be "self sustainable", no idea of what the world looks like without a government, without civility of a real "shut down". As in turn the switch off and go home.  The problem is that, like a steel furnace or a nuclear reactor, if you shut it down completely and for too long, you can not restart it.  But like children unaware of the consequences of playing with matches, there is a faction in congress and politics in general that are like undisciplined children.  They are ignorant to the possibility of the things that they do.  They test the boundaries of what they have been told.  Striking match after match and saying, "see the house didn't burn down."

"Dooms Day Preppers" and Cognitive Dissonance
  This is were the debate over which blog this post belongs on stems from.  The utter lack of understanding of the situation we are put in by not continuing and fixing as we go along leave me wondering "what psychology is driving this doctrine? It is most obviously dysfunctional."  Turns out I don't have to look any further than myself and my family to gain that understanding.

   I remember the first (and last) time I saw an entire episode of "Doomsday Preppers".  I thought, They made a show out of my childhood?  For those of you old enough to remember the movie (I think they just remade it too.) "Red Dawn", that was more like a documentary of events not yet happened to  me. I think I was 10 yrs old when I first realized that not everybody had a gun in their front door, loaded and ready... for, you know, when the Russians come.  We canned, and planted, and fished, target practiced, reloaded our own bullets, and stored things in bulk. My dad watched (and still does) every episode of 60 min. We watched "the day after" as if it were a biblical prophecy, and speaking of which Armageddon was the most commonly quoted text in the bible. I didn't help that at school, I started at the end of the "duck and cover" campaign that just scared the living crap out of us. My parents generation was the first to totally leave the home, go to work, and send us off to that jungle of public school to get trained in social Darwinism .  They worked hard and did make our lives better than they had it.  But that came at a cost of not teaching us to be bested, shake it off, and win the next time.  We had to win every time! We were guarded from reality of life and that didn't teach us to think rationally.  The media we saw was flooded with this ever present reminder of "The Russians" and the cold war, and the nuclear threat. So we got transferred (which is often amplified) anxiety from our parents experience in 1945 and combined with this artificial protection from consequences for our actions.  The connection of humanity to each other and how our actions impact the lives of everybody from coast to coast and around the world was diminished. Instead we started this "us and them" and "enemy" mentality.  First against other countries and now against each other. If this were the psych blog, "The Human System" I could go on into the depths of this a very long post. But for LAP, it is just gonna have to be enough to say we have a section of people who are unable to accept a political loss and move on, that view these losses as "The end of the world" and fight as if some movie plot against all hope, to the bitter end, even evoking irrational and immoral tactics to "win".

  Watching this "doomsday Preppers" show, I was amazed that people like that still not only exist, but are not mocked and ridiculed into obscurity. It turns out that this paranoia is good business.  Not just the small potatoes stuff of a few people overloaded with guns and ammo, growing a few vegetables in their front lawn, and thinking that will suffice for survival when the zombie apocalypse comes. There is money in selling RV's and water makers. But the real money is in the politics of these people. What happens a person who makes a public assertion as if it is truth it is that from the moment the first one utters a paranoid conspiracy about poor people or the end of the world, to the moment they buy their first related item, to the moment they are support a political candidate is a progression.  One driven by the"Self-fulfilling prophecy" as Freud called it.


The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Doomed To A Dysfunctional Ideology
"A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior." Now a self-fulfilling prophecy requires at least two people. The Believer and the perceiver.  The Believer can hold a belief all he wants. Resolution of cognitive dissonance is easy if the belief is not known outside the believer's mind. They have no more constraints than a dream as long as nobody else knows. (Yes this is going to get that heavy for a second. Bear with me.) But, once the believer states it publicly they now have a set of constraints that must be observed and held in check by the perceiver if the believer is to remain valid. In a nutshell once you say something out loud, you then have a bias to encourage that to happen so people don't think you are a liar or crazy.  Nobody wants to be wrong, and as I pointed out above, we are not teaching our children how to be wrong, admit it, accept it, and move on. The attempt to rectify cognitive dissonance in an attempt to prove our beliefs to others, results in some pretty irrational behaviors and assertions. This comes by way of exaggerating the benefits and minimizing the consequences and opportunity costs. (Hopefully I didn't lose too many of you there.)

  So, when you have a few people, that become a movement that say, "my dad said we would live to see doomsday" out loud, they now have committed to a vested interest in seeing that is accurate.. even if they have to make it so themselves. And they are.  This movement of people cling to irrational beliefs as examples of the government not working.  Then they use that to elect people to make sure the government doesn't work. Evidence can be seen in "issues" such as "the birther movement", the Patriot Act, two manifest wars that didn't solve anything, and making mountainous public issues out of what used to be small incidence such as those in Benghazi. Also not making enough out of big issues such as global climate change. Facts, science, and natural understanding goes out the window when the sole drive is to justify an unrealistic belief. This is why there is validity when people observe "religion has caused more wars than any other issue." This movement has found financiers who manipulate and control them through the media.  These financiers have monetary interest in things like fossil fuels, wars for profit, and wage disparity. These media outlets just feed this paranoid desire by giving them information (or rather misinformation) in a form that look like it is backed with science, reason, and logic. Those that want to believe get no pleasure from questioning their own beliefs. So they are hopelessly doomed to this dysfunctional ideology.

Reality, The Race Is On.
   The reality that human civility is such a fragile arrangement.  The fabric that separates us from other societies that are less civilized and from the natural world that is uncivilized is so thin its transparent. Civilization exists strictly upon "gentleman's agreements".  We agree to take sheets of cloth and trinkets in exchange for the fruits of our labor and the dedication of our time.  We agree to obey laws.  we agree to support judges and jailers when those laws are broken.  We agree to allow those that the group elects to govern us even when we, the individual, did not support that election. "E pluribus unum" out of many opinions we arrive at one agreed upon one decision.   And at our highest level of governance, we agree to procedure and  systematic tradition in order to maintain... order. But it takes men (and women) to do that. Adults, not children. The reality is that we could go on to fix things, make the system better, right the wrongs, and find a civilized, advanced version of world peace. But just as easily, if not with less effort, we could bring this system down like a house of cards.  We could fall back into a civilization that looks more like the tribal regions of Pakistan than the advance society of the US.   We could devolve. Imagine having a house of cards in a room filled with kindergartners on recess.  You spend much more time trying to protect the existing structure than you do strengthening and improving it. This is the conditions in which Washington DC has become accustomed to in recent years.  Only, unlike thousands of years ago when we were still emerging into this form of civility that we know today, we now have the ability to destroy the entire world for all living things. We have the ability to fulfill the prophecy of doomsday. 

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