Pulling Society Away from Goodwill

Some of the ways we as a society are divided and pulled away from goodwill, purpose, harmony and joy:

Note that in politics the reason and the strategy are different.  For example, slander is a strategy not a motive.  Using crowds and creating energy can be viewed as a strategy for any reason. Suppressing dissenting voices can be a strategy of any regime in power whether it believes its end goals are good or bad.  Pride, convenience, and fear are both strategies and motives.  For example, if you are mostly motivated by convenience (tax cuts) but you need votes, you might play up an immigration fear as a strategy or insecurity in foreign affairs.  Voter suppression, gerrymandering congressional districts and playing games with court seats are all strategies.

Greed – Seeking pride and convenience through monetary means at the expense of the ecosystem, seeking security (fear avoidance).

Convince others society isn’t selfless / compassionate – if society isn’t viewed as selfless it will convince us to not be a fool and look out for ourselves as well.

Distrust – playing up distrust to the collective and playing up individualism – guns, money, hording, conspiracy theories.

Immigration Fears – creating fear around something complex to get votes.

Strong on crime – creating fear around something complex to get votes.

Economic fears – using the economy or jobs as a fear creator without supplying proper brainwork.

Bringing others down to your level – if you feel you and your group are engaging in something you are not supposed to, you want everyone involved to make you feel more secure.

Exploiting – vote for me and I’ll exploit this country / entity.  I was good at exploiting the system for my company so I can do the same for country.  Making up reasons on why environmental, fiscal or other ecosystems need to be exploited.

Limited Resources – Given goodwill will try to provide for all, you convincing the voting majority that there is a limited resource and if we try to provide for all it will burden the majority.  Examples include healthcare, oil, food stamps, general taxes, water out west etc.

Avoiding accountability – never putting yourself in the brainwork, vulnerability position.  Always having a fall person.

Pride over principles – Turning your political reality away from principles and into “winning” for your tribe. Being a country of principles should be an inspiring reality.  The human heart drives peace but the brain is the peacemaker.  If you chose the self-serving non vulnerable solution for every disagreement and forsake the brain, never-ending war is inevitable.

To owe or to be owed? – it can feel insecure to feel like we owe someone a debt.  That we owe something for the society we are given.  Some will use terms like “taxpayer” to sell an idea of being owed.  The idea of me and my boys are wronged anytime the government does something of goodwill is attractive to some.  A military draft is a great ask of a country upon a family.  Using the tax system to plug a hole so someone can put food on the table isn’t. Those actually in need rarely use an entitled tone.

“A full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Associating wealth absolutely with work – We view work in a positive light and laziness in a negative light.  That doesn’t mean all wealth is worked equally hard for or that we should give up on all of those that need a hand up, or those that need help aren’t willing to work hard in the right environment.  This mindset is oversimplifying and attempts to remove our obligations to those in need.  For example, an Ayn Rand novel.

Stubbornness / Avoiding necessary change – change requires overcoming the fear of the unknown, the inconvenience of brainwork, and overcoming pride that an existing behavior needs changed.

Strongmen/Insecurity – Our insecurity in foreign affairs leads us to be attracted to those promising wins and strength in the face of any foreign disagreement, trade negotiation, disputed territory etc.  We want to see scowls, tough talk, and simple answers in our diplomacy over respect, understanding problems and a will for all countries to be successful.  Giving in to this leads to cold wars, trade wars, actual wars, etc.  Diplomacy is an imperfect art but its greatest adversary is the internal struggle from each country to empower it.  Any decision to have your group put in some effort for those outside the group requires vulnerability which the temptation is to avoid.

Electing the strongman doesn’t lead to freedom…quite the opposite.

  1. Elect strongman selling pride, fear, and protection from insecurity
  2. Be afraid of strongman and avoid brainwork/vulnerability, do whatever he says
  3. No morality around to save anyone by way of compassion
  4. His excuses are the law, the actual law doesn’t matter
  5. Dictatorship

Under taxing – it is very hard to have a quality discussion on the federal budget or taxes.  How can you be knowledgeable about the entire budget?  It is also quite foreign in that much of it is misunderstood by the public and controlled by people foreign to us.  Likewise, its effect on the economy is not well understood.  This leads to many picking the most cynical and convenient outcome and using words like common sense, stick within its means, intuitive etc. 

Group supremacy – It can be attractive to be told you are special and you can be part of a group not burdened by morality or homework and win against groups you choose to dehumanize.  Nationalism, gangs, Enron cultures in business are ways you might achieve pride for yourself at the expense of the greater good.

Racism / Ostracizing minorities – being uncomfortable with foreign behaviors and beliefs, a desire for supremacy to another group, a common enemy to unite your group around.

Cynicism – The message in cynicism is you are a fool if you believe the answer is effort, work, hope, understanding, mental engagement.  The fiscal conservative message is largely based on this notion of being cynical around either the safety net, federal institution efficiency, or resources going outside the group without putting much, if any work into understanding the situation.

Spinning words and literature – taking a word or literature that has a positive or negative view from society and giving it another definition without giving the definition.  Family, support the troops, Christianity, patriotism.  In normal discussions these mean giving but not in always in politics.  Family can mean acting selfishly. Support the troops can mean don’t question the war.  You can remove the values from religion and turn it into winning and believe a story. Freedom and liberty can mean freedom from hierarchical oppression or freedom from moral obligations.  Being told what to do in either case creates the same feeling right? America itself can just mean things that make you feel good and are familiar or it can mean something of substance, with values.  Some will emphasize Islamic terrorism or communism to create a simplistic us vs them culture even though the moral wrongs of the groups they reference have little to do with religion or the communist ideology.

Personal Takedowns – it can be much easier to take down the individual making the inconvenient argument than to go after the argument itself.  Political questions by nature involve uncertainty such as healthcare, foreign policy, safety net effectiveness.  Once you demonize the people of the day standing for idealism you then use their names as slander, as something to defeat.  Focusing on gaffes or perceived gaffes instead of ideas.

“I understood the infamous spiritual terror which this movement exerts, particular on the bourgeoisie, which is neither morally nor mentally equal to such attacks; at a given sign it unleashes a veritable barrage of lies and slanders against whatever adversary seems most dangerous, until the nerves of the attacked persons break down….This is a tactic based on precise calculation of all human weaknesses, and its result will lead to success with almost mathematical certainty.”

Adolf Hitler

Other Methods – These were used in Hitler’s 1939 speech in response to FDR asking if 31 surrounding countries are under threat prior to the start of WWII or general techniques the Nazis used in annexing territory prior to armed conflict. He is certainly not the only bad actor to use these techniques.

  • Calling goodwill a hypocrite (US revolution, Indians, Civil War)
  • Doesn’t goodwill have better things to do?
  • My group has been wronged. (Treaty of Versailles after WWI)
  • Intimidate the groups you want to bully and ask them if they feel threatened. (Hitler writes all the countries under threat and “asks” them if they feel threatened.)
  • Make agreements you have no intent to keep and blame the other side when you want to break them.
  • Taking over territory is “liberating” it.
  • Germany is coming in to protect the Germans in the area from getting bullied in stories you make up.

Prejudice – definition: preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

Another definition: Pick the emotionally attractive solution without engaging the brain, usually to avoid problems, avoid fear, avoid change, rebellion against authority, to give into the strongman, or pick the self-serving solution.

Prejudice exists in some form around many tribal belief systems but some of the belief systems themselves were created with prejudice and some were not.  Some morality systems are based on giving and some are not.

Tribalism multiplies temptation or goodwill

  • If it is hard to act in goodwill and not with pride it is harder to ask your tribe to do the same.
  • Once you are in a group that justifies immorality in favor for pride it is hard to stop that snowball.
  • Work or courage for the group is contagious and can bring joy.
  • Honor systems can be effective and warm one’s heart.

Image Reference

Shutterstock: Lightspring

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