Have you ever wondered why people have such different points of view, particularly with regard to political opinions?
It’s really not the case that “the other side” lacks intelligence, has no morals, or are just loonies.
It really comes down to personality traits – the temperamental inclinations we are born with.
Pre-cognitive screening means the world actually presents itself differently to us, and not that we see the same thing and ignore some aspects and accept others. We don’t see the same things to begin with.
We can only pay attention to a limited set of things at any moment, in terms of their utility to us, and most things go unnoticed. My temperament dictates what I pay attention to, which is likely to be different to what you pay attention to. Sure there’ll be some overlap at times, but often we are seeing very different realities.
There will be some situations and problems which I will be better suited to deal with because of my temperament, and there will be other situations and problems, where you’re temperament will be better.
We each are a broader resource for the other.
We are more effective working together, to solve problems, than each of us are alone.
The battle between the political left and right is a necessary aspect of society because the two opposing forces push and pull against each other, and will probably give us a better version of society than a society under complete influence of one side or the other.
So, it can feel like a lot of effort to deal with the idiosyncrasies of people we don’t naturally agree with, but actually, they may be able to teach us something that doesn’t come easily to us.
It may be better to listen to people with different points of view and ideas, to see what you can learn from them, rather than dismiss them as foolish or idiotic, because you may well be the foolish one.
Dismissing the opinions of people you don’t agree with is not very intelligent.
Positioning yourself to win an argument closes you off from learning new, possibly important, information.
Holding tightly on to a position means you’re overlooking alternative perspectives, which may significantly improve your knowledge.
Different perspectives can be right or wrong depending on context at different times. Dismissing one approach at the expense of another without full consideration is a lazy, unsophisticated way of thinking, and can be very dangerous.
Open your mind to hear all views, engage in discussion to thrash out ideas in full.
This is the sophisticated, grown up way of finding the best approaches and solutions.
If you can’t debate your point against an alternative, maybe you’ve not fully fleshed it out yet, or maybe it’s just a bad idea.
Better for it to fail early while it’s still just an idea, rather than failing later with real-world consequences, for you and possibly other people.
Better results come out of better actions, which come out of better thoughts, so mindset makes all the difference. You become the consequence of your thinking.
Fix your goal on who you want to be in 5 years, then craft a path towards that destination.
Make the journey as meaningful as you can, because it is the journey that will consume your time and attention, and these two resources can’t be repeated or replaced, they are consumed and finite.
You are the hero of your own journey, a transformation from who you are into who you aspire to be, not just for you and yours today, but for you and yours into the future.
The secret is in doing it for the betterment of society. While society can be corrupt and tyrannical, it is also a safe space to grow in. Outside of its protective embrace is the dragon of chaos.
Each individual who values rights must also accept responsibilities to move their society closer to God and away from the Devil. You have the power in your Being, and you have work to do.
Don’t fall by the wayside, don’t be a contributor to evil, don’t shun your responsibly, don’t settle for being king of the lost.
You may not be religious, but the divine is part of what you are.
Carry the love in your heart into future generations. They will be tomorrows custodians of this great planet we call home. Don’t short-change your children, and your children’s children. You owe them the chance to live their own hero’s journey, to pass love forward, to make the world a better place to live and thrive.
You have your challenge, stand up and accept the meaning that comes from this great responsibility.
What should we believe?
What beliefs are worth investing in?
What beliefs should we avoid?
What we are all trying to do is satisfy our biological needs today and in the future, for ourselves and family and more widely for society.
Why society, because if society is not functioning well, chaos and anarchy could be just around the corner and that’s not good for us or our family’s futures.
You can either ignore problems society has or do your part to make society better. You don’t have to make a huge, life-changing contribution, but just be nice to others rather than nasty.
Be a positive influence to those around you rather than a negative influence.
Link your behaviour – including what you say and do – with what kind of world you want for yourself and family in the future.
Don’t get suckered into ideologies–which only tell part of the full story of the world. The full story comprises the good and bad of…
• The Knower–we are the “knowers”. A mix of good and bad, persona and shadow.
• The known–“society/culture” . The protector against chaos on the one hand and tyrannical on the other.
• The unknown– “nature”. The life giver and life taker.
All these elements make up the whole of life experience.
What you do really matters! You have a greater impact on others than you might think. You can use your power for good or bad.
If you take a pathological path – you will have taken away from the world, rather than contributed to making it a better place.
What positive impact have you had on others?
If you try to spread love rather than hate, you make a huge difference to your life and that of other people. If others love you, then you must have positively impacted their life in some sense. This is a big deal. Just a smile or a kind word can make a vast difference to the receiver. If you help an elderly neighbour, you make a huge difference to them.
You don’t have to make a big difference to a lot of people; just one other person is enough. If you’re nice to one other person, that may put them in a better mood and they may be nicer to others as a result, and so positivity can spread very quickly.
The opposite is also true; your boss shouts at you, you shout at your kids, they kick the cat. You have surely experienced how negativity can impact your own life; when one person makes a nasty comment to you, it can really spoil your day. Negativity can really linger.
Don’t be king of the lost boys or queen of the lost girls. If you interact with other people who are not helping themselves, others and society, don’t aid and abet them. Don’t use other people as an excuse not to be as good as you can be.
Try to reach across the divide with people who are not like you, who have different opinions or affiliations, even people you see as your enemies. Don’t fall into divisive in-groups and out-groups. Division is bad in all situations. Sure it’s easier to get on with those with similar ideas, it’s much harder to do so with those of differing opinions, but we must try.
We humans are more similar than we are different. We have much more in common than we think we do. All people generally have a desire for pleasure and a need to avoid pain and suffering, but we differ in our strategies to achieve those goals.
We need to understand and empathise with other people who have different ways of thinking. Find some way of connecting with those people. If they are so ingrained with hate for your position, then don’t throw hate back at them, that’s just an Ego defence response. It will not work, hate only creates more hate, only love can defeat hate. Your responsibility is to shine light into the darkness.
Take on this responsibility where you currently are. Don’t wait for a future time, state, circumstance or situation. Do it with your next social interaction. Be a light in someone else’s life. You’re walking down the street – smile at people who you walk past you from the opposite direction, or say a friendly “hello”.
Don’t get annoyed with them, if they don’t reciprocate. You’re not doing it for what you get back from others, you’re doing it be a positive influence on your environment. This may seem strange at first, but eventually it will become habit.
Have a positive energy, have a kind word to say to others. If you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing, because that’s better than saying something nasty.
Do something nice for others. If you don’t do something nice, then certainty don’t do something bad.
Go out of your way to help others. If you can’t, then avoid doing anything to harm or hurt others. Don’t criticise others, don’t belittle others, and don’t be rude to others. Try to judge others less, you don’t know their circumstances.
If you’re thinking this is too difficult, or lame, I’d suggest taking a closer look at the way you’re orientating yourself in the experience of life. We all have a shadowy side, often filled with negativity and aggression, even hatred and fury. We need to find a way of virtuously channelling that aggression for good rather than bad. It’s important to integrate the shadow aspect of personality into a healthy life that makes the world better for us, our loved ones and the rest of society today and into the future.
Now that’s something we can all commit to straight away, that’s worth doing to make life meaningful.
Life includes a great deal of struggle and suffering. But what if I told you there is opportunity for hope? What if I told you that you could improve your life, and the life of your family, and make things better in your community?
If you’re not interested in doing this, then you should accept you have no cause to complain. If you are unwilling to make the necessary changes and take the actions to make life more bearable, then that’s a conscious choice that you’re making. But stop pointing an accusing finger at others and realise your own lack of effort contributes to the problems you complain about.
It’s difficult to deal with the human condition; our vulnerability in a world that often seems possessed with negativity and malevolence.
This negativity starts with the tyranny of the culture and society we live in. Value hierarchies become power grabs that benefit the few, rather than value structures that serve the masses. Some people benefit, not because they provide more value, but because they wield more power. The old way of doing things holds back new ways of doing things.
The negative aspects of nature include all of its destructive elements. We’re talking about things like the aging process, illness and disease, natural disasters and the inevitability of our own deaths. All these things are out to get us and our loved ones. Loss is part of life, some people experience greater losses than others, but we all experience loss at some point in our lives. At the end of it all, we know we must face our own mortality.
If all this wasn’t enough, we also face the cruelty of human nature. We see it in the actions of others and see the potential in ourselves.
So it’s understandable that against all this potential for suffering the predicament for human beings is a difficult one. We must find something that counteracts this negativity and makes the suffering worth enduring.
The way to do this is find meaning in life, something of a hero’s journey that offsets life’s tragic circumstances.
First, we must recognise that society, nature and human nature each have their positive aspects that offset their negatives.
Culture and society is a protector that shields us from nature and the darker side of human nature. Most of the time we interact with others free of fear that they are going to attack us, take our possessions and make our lives a living hell. Society does this by socialising people, teaching what is expected of them in a civilised society. Sure, there are some that break the rules, but imagine what the world would be like if chaos reigned. We take this aspect of society for granted, but realise it’s not a certainty, it’s a privilege that we enjoy because of the sacrifices of those generations that have gone before us.
The push and pull of liberal and conservative traits holds hierarchies in unstable equilibrium and it needs both to maintain the tension in which hierarchies function best. The conservatives maintain the necessary hierarchies, the liberals hold them to account by standing up for those souls that accumulate at the bottom. Hierarchies tend towards tyranny if left unchecked, so we require liberals, hierarchies are necessary and so we require conservatives. If you think the answer is to tear all hierarchies down, you don’t understand their function nearly well enough. Hierarchies give something for people to aspire to, they focus productivity and they work as long as they remain fair. We must all fight for equality of opportunity, social mobility, and ensure we remove tyrannical power from the game.
Nature is not just a threat to life, it is a life giver. It is the creator of all the beauty that surrounds us. We take much of this beauty for granted, but it only requires us to open our eyes to see the majesty that nature has gifted us.
Now let’s consider the positive aspects of human nature. Sure, there is much evil in the world. Those who would rather destroy, than build, those that spread hate rather than love. These people get most of the attention from media, but fortunately they are in the minority.
The other side of human nature is the capacity for love and connection, for innovation and selflessness. There is much of this positivity out there if we look for it. Many of the things we get enjoyment from comes from human endeavour and ingenuity. Again we take these things for granted, but it is truly amazing that these things are so routine and stable, that we can take them for granted. Water flows when we turn the tap on, electricity is available at the click of a switch. We have heating, shelter, food, the internet, the power of functionality in the phones that consume much of our lives. We have cars and roads to help you get to places, and planes to fly to far-off lands for a few hundred pounds. Wow.
So life is not all about suffering, there is much to be grateful for. Everything contributes to the rich tapestry of life and makes it so interesting.
But it’s important to find meaning in life, something to aim for and aspire towards, a sense of direction.
You don’t have to come up with the next big invention to make a difference in the world. You can work small, but work at beautifying it to the best of your ability. Jordan Peterson posits it starts by “tidying your room”. By making the space you inhabit the best it can be, you improve your house, by improving your house, you improve the street, by improving the street you improve your community. And if everyone did this…wow.
Growing up, I remember the little old ladies sweeping the pavement outside their front door. Just this simple act of sweeping the pavement would make me think how this little old lady was contributing to keeping her space neat and tidy, and how it demonstrated her pride in where she lived, and I thought I should do the same. It rubbed off on me, and I’m sure it had some impact on others who witnessed her doing the same thing over the years.
I see many people complaining about where they live, but I wonder what they do (apart from complaining) to actively make things better.
Communities are made up of people, not inanimate objects. People can make the most dismal places feel like a nice place to live. The tenement block becomes a depressing place because the community lets it become one, the people that live there allow it to become so.
I like the example used by Jordan Peterson in many of his talks about finding meaning in the smallest endeavours. He talks about running a modest café and it being a microcosm of communal activity, a place for neighbours to meet and congregate. A place where people rest before they go and do their important work. A place to nurture and educate their employees to be better and find pride in their self-sufficiency. This isn’t just about talking up a menial job, it’s about recognising the contribution it makes to the people who benefit from it.
The taxi driver is not just a taxi-driver, he/she is an important part of the economy, who serves to help people get to where they need to go. Without him/her many people would suffer greatly. They would be isolated, unable to get to important appointments, unable to get to the shop, unable to get home safely from a night out etc.
You have more power than you think, so make a positive contribution, no matter how small it is. A kind word can improve someone’s day, take a few minutes to speak to a neighbour, you might be the only person they get to talk to today. You probably know how upsetting it can be if someone says something mean to you, it can stay with you and really put a dampener on your day. You might know the frustration of letting someone out of a junction, when driving, and not having them acknowledge your kindness.
Little things make a big difference. Find meaning in these simple gestures and acts, and find meaning by pursuing a meaningful goal, regardless of how small a contribution you initially think it makes.
Stop EXPECTING – nobody owes you anything. Be grateful for the time, interest, and generosity of other people. You have no entitlement to anything in life, everything is a gift.
If you’ve been born into a loving family, count yourself lucky, many don’t enjoy that privilege. It’s not like you did anything to deserve it, you were and are just really lucky that circumstances fell in your favour.
If you were born with good health – physical and psychological – you were and are just lucky, many people aren’t blessed in that way.
Be grateful for every day you’re above ground and in the company of people who choose to spend their precious time with you.
Even if you’re not born into a loving family, or you don’t have good mental or physical health, look for the things you can be grateful for. Do you have sight, hearing, are you able form and maintain relationships with other people, are there things you can do that others can’t? Are you free of pain, at least some of the time? Do you have anyone who cares about you?
It’s okay to Feel sorry for yourself sometimes, you should face your negative emotions, but don’t let them consume you, because it doesn’t help you to make things better. Prolonged negative reminiscing will only poison your mind and body.
Be grateful for even the smallest blessings. When you change how you think about the world, the world changes.
It’s important to understand that your attention and perceptions are goal dependant. When you task yourself with finding the great things in life, the world lays itself out around that goal. Your perceptions are motivated to help you attain whatever goal you set your sights on. Here’s a little game to illustrate how that plays out.
So you can pick the goal of playing victim and wallow in self-pity or you can empower yourself with the goal of finding light in the darkness, using gratitude, the choice is yours.
We can probably all agree that being able to get results and achieve success is no bad thing, after all we are exploratory creatures. We aren’t designed to rest on our laurels and be satisfied with what we have. We always want to have more and to be better. We can try to fight our nature, but it’s a constant battle to engage in.
It’s also important to be grateful for the things we have, and to enjoy the fruits of our labour and the rewards of our love, otherwise, what’s the point.
But forward momentum is part of our genetic makeup, and it’s easier to face that truth than deny it.
We currently find ourselves stuck at point A, when we want to get to point B.
Point B is the promised land. It’s the place we aspire to be, if only we could get there. There may well be many smaller intermediary goals that point towards the end destination, and like dominos we need to line them up so each can help knock down the next.
Having a goal gives us a sense of direction, otherwise we are aimless, like a rudderless boat drifting wherever the current takes us. Goals allow us to take strategic action.
The consequences of not moving forward towards goals, towards point B, can be hard to stomach. The initial frustration is later replaced by regret and both these negative emotions drain self-esteem. A disaffected person can easily become embittered and take a destructive path which aims to tear things down rather than contribute to make things better.
We can all have more by being more. To have more than you’ve got, you’ve got to be more than you are, according to self-development guru, Jim Rohn.
Most things in life are unknown to us in any meaningful way. We know just enough about things to get through our daily routines, but meaning is condensed into abstract representations which allow us to manage our interactions with them, but little more.
This condensing of meaning lightens cognitive load, and allows us to focus attention on more important things, usually in pursuit of our goals. Everything is an aid, an obstruction or irrelevant in pursuit of whatever we’re busy aiming for.
For example, if we’re driving down to the supermarket in a bit of a hurry because it’s about to close, every red light, or motorist is an obstruction acting to block our goal.
Everything that’s irrelevant to our goal is ignored or filtered out, most of the time. It doesn’t affect us and our current endeavour so we need not pay any attention to it.
The same is true with regard to the attainment of knowledge, we are motivated to learn things that interest or concern us, but everything else is ignored or filtered out of our conscious attention.
As a consequence of our limited knowledge, most things are unknown. We may know things on a superficial level, especially if we are curious, or as a result our life experiences, but there is always much more to learn, then we could ever know.
The unknown can be a scary place, it’s full of potential, made up of good and bad. The unknown is full of opportunities and possibility as well as risks and dangers. We’ll come back to the unknown shortly.
Learning new things involves finding accurate information, and as most information is not acquired from personal first-hand experience, we must find it from other reliable sources.
However, this is easier said than done, although we have more access to information than ever before, there is so much more misleading and incorrect information that has to be sorted through, to find the golden nuggets that will actually help us.
It’s all about learning what we need to move from point A to point B, and this can take a great deal of time and dedication to do. We have to do our research, find the nuggets of information we can use, put that into practice and learn through the experience of doing. It’s a process of learning, trying and failing (if we must), there isn’t really any other way to do it. Try to get better at filtering out the things that will cause you to fail, but don’t fear failure, just make sure you learn from it, and try to ensure it doesn’t put you out of the game completely.
Coming back to the unknown, any kind of meaningful change requires reaching into the unknown as we search for answers to help us move forward. If you’re not taking the actions you know you should be taking, then something is preventing you.
Fear is usually the most frequent reason people don’t chase down their goals. Fear of failure, of discomfort, of uncertainty, of embarrassment if things don’t work out as planned. Fear is even more persuasive if you lack confidence in your ability to do what’s required, or in case you find yourself out of your depth.
The unknown carries within it the monster of all monsters. It is a category of threat that holds all possible fears. But we also realise that the unknown is made up of all potential: all risks and dangers, but also all opportunities and possibilities.
The self-preservation instinct is often our guide within the unknown domain. It’s the biological reflex which causes us to freeze, take flight or fight. It’s easy to fall foul of this initial gut-reaction, which has little interest in anything other than protecting us from pain or suffering. If all you do is listen to your survival instinct, you’re certain to remain stuck at point A.
It’s useful to understand that motivation has two opposing forces: Blocking motivations like fear, but also supporting motivations that help propel us forward towards our goals.
With a shift in perspective, you can make use of the fear impulse to move you forward. Use the fear of regret to propel you towards your goals. Imagine looking back at your life as an old man or woman, having not pursued your goals or dreams. How would you feel about living a life only half lived? Regret can be a positive emotion if you harness it to support your progress.
If you’re anxious about doing something you need to do, you instinctively know that you’re lacking in some department. You have a realisation at some level that you need to learn or acquire something that you don’t currently possess. Carl Jung once said, “That which we need the most will be found where we least want to look”.
Finding inspiration within your belief system will sustain your journey towards your goals.
We weave beliefs into stories that we tell ourselves, and which subsequently guide our behaviours and actions. If your story isn’t serving you, change it for a more inspiring story.
The move from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be), is a journey, a journey of transformation. It’s like any story you’ve read in a book or watched on a screen.
You are the hero of your own story, of your own journey. Like all the great fictional heroes, you have something you need to learn in order to make yourself a better version of who you currently are. You have to find the courage to face your fears and still move forward. Solve your own problems, face your own demons, and you will be stronger for it.
Pick a goal and plot a path forward that inspires and excites you, focus on that path, learn what needs to be learned so you improve as you journey forward. Embrace the challenges and solve the problems that block your path. Each win gives you the ammunition to fight the next battle, all the while you get stronger and more competent to deal with ever bigger problems. If you can pick a goal that also solves other people’s problems, you’re probably onto a winner.
If you’ve ever watched a political debate between a Liberal and a Conservative, you’ll know there isn’t much love lost between them.
You can see this in the US where the Democrats and Republicans tear chunks out of one another.
It is also evident here in the UK, between the Conservative and Labour parties.
The conflict rages between politicians on political stages and programmes, as well as between supporters on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
These interactions are littered with point scoring and one-upmanship; the highlighting of examples of the other side’s failings, taken from a very narrow, self-serving perspective, designed to prove their point of view and enhance their own argument.
Here’s an example to illustrate the point…
Just a quick reference to the backstory for this example.
Leigh is an old mining town, which is located between Manchester and Liverpool
Leigh has always had a Labour MP, it was considered a Labour safe seat due to its historical mining and working class roots.
Recently a Conservative won the seat for the very first time, to the dismay of many of the labour supporting locals.
The local Tory MP voted to end school meal subsidies during the lastest half term holiday, something that went against footballer Marcus Rashford’s public campaign to make funds available for the most needy.
Many of the local people, particularly labour voters were in uproar on social media about The Tory MP’s vote.
Many of the posts on local Facebook groups raged about the nasty Tory, who was typically displaying a lack of empathy for children in need.
This directly plays into the long standing narrative that Conservatives don’t care for working class people, only for their posh, rich buddies who run businesses, and hold wealth and power.
A critical thinker would probably ask why a Conservative MP would take such a stand, knowing that many of his constituents would be up in arms about it.
Subsequently the MP’s decision for voting as he did was found to be because of funding constraints and the fact that other more targeted provisions had been made through local authorities and welfare payments to look after children and families in hardship. The Tory government had extended free school meals during the Easter holidays and again for the Summer holidays after pressure from Rachford’s campaign, but decided to draw the line for half-term holidays. This is against a background of needing to borrow £372bn to cover spending, in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, to date, according to the Office of Budget Responsibility.
The arguments on social media seemed to play out like this;
Labour- Tory’s being cruel to kids
Conservatives – not bottomless money pit, parents shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford to pay for them
Labour- loss of jobs caused by covid19 and government handling of it to blame, not those parents who are struggling
Conservative – government have done the best they can in such brutal unforeseen circumstances. They have given massive support to people during the pandemic.
Labour- point out all the failings and wasted spending on track and trace etc, and point out the government could have done even more. Many stating Labour would have done better (no way of knowing this)
Conservatives – don’t think Labour would have done any better and may have done much worse under a Jeremy Corbyn led government (no way of knowing this)
Descends into insults and slanging matches
I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of this argument, I just want to use it to illustrate how the opposing views can play out.
The two sides are often talking past one another, with no point of connection.
I’ve tried to play devil’s advocate with both sides and a reasoned debate is just not possible most of the time. Exchanges nearly always descend into argument and name calling. This is also evident whenever you see politicians and/or supporters come together.
This isn’t anything new either, back in a 1968 debate between conservative thinker William F. Buckley Jr and liberal writer Gore Vidal, members of opposing intellectual elites, who had hoped to have a civilised political discussion, soon descended into name-calling and resulted in them suing each other for defamation.
The reason for such differences in opinion is because of the underlying belief systems each of the sides holds.
Conservatives and Liberals think completely differently. They perceive differently and interpret information and news differently.
When you consider that such differences have, throughout history, resulted in many thousands, even millions of deaths, you may and indeed should have cause for concern. If you think such comments are overblown, read a few political history books and see for yourself.
Liberals to the Left
Liberals lean towards the socialist side of the political spectrum. Both the Labour party, here in UK, and the Democrats in the US are positioned on the left. The further left a person is, the more they value big government running key services like education, health (NHS in UK), water, energy, transport, infrastructure building etc.
The government is the expected to redistribute wealth through taxes, taking from the more well-off members of society and giving to the disadvantaged and vulnerable in an attempt to even things up.
The narrative that plays out on the left revolves around preventing the oppressing capitalists exploiting workers. Workers being the ones who create the value within industry, but who often don’t share in the financial rewards as the capitalists do, because they don’t own the means of production.
Liberals also feel passionate about reducing inequality and creating a fairer society for all.
Far left political movements such as communism have proven to be very problematic in the past becoming politically corrupt and leading to most failing spectacularly.
Let me be clear, the majority of liberals are not on the far left of the political spectrum.
Conservatives to the right
The Conservatives types tend to value personal responsibility over socialist ideas. They have a “get what you work for” attitude.
Conservatives believe that if everyone is incentivised to work harder, then everyone benefits. They want to support those who have fallen on hard times for no fault of their own, but don’t like lazy people taking a free ride.
They like the idea of functioning free markets, with less government intervention and regulation, where value drives supply and demand. This is why Conservatives prefer the privatisation of the provision of energy supply, water, transport, postal services, and infrastructure, rather than the government providing them.
Far right people profess to be more patriotic, and believe in the government prioritising its own citizens, before helping other countries. The majority of conservatives are not on the far right of the political spectrum.
You may be asking yourself at this point, where conservative and liberal values and beliefs come from. Why do some people lean towards one end of the spectrum rather than the other?
The big 5 personality test is considered the most accurate way of identifying personality and is used widely in psychology fields. It’s made up of 5 parameters, which lie on a continuum, with one extreme trait at one end, and the opposite trait at the other end. For instance, extraversion and introversion. Individuals will have traits that appear somewhere along each continuum.
The big 5 personality traits
Extraversion > introversion
Neuroticism > emotionally stable
Agreeableness > disagreeableness
Conscientiousness > disorganised
Openness to experience > closed mindedness
Research indicates that traits are 50% biologically determined, and 50% influenced by social conditioning and upbringing.
It has been well documented in political psychology that conservative types tend to be high in conscientiousness and low in openness and liberals tend to be high in openness and low in conscientiousness.
Those high in conscientiousness
Value order over disorder, so tend to be well organised
Value getting on in the world, so are productive and organised towards a goal
Safety and predictability is important – don’t welcome surprises
Opposite if low in conscientiousness
Those high in openness to experience
Value novelty, so like new things, and are innovative
Value beauty and art, so are creative and artistic
Value new and engaging experiences
Like to travel and sample new places
Opposite if low in openness
Prefer bounded spaces, so like borders and walls, so they can feel safe in their safe space
Prefer order over chaos
Prefer to make and follow procedures and processes, so they know what needs doing and can be consistent in action and outcomes
Prefer to do the things the way they have always done them
Don’t want to be constrained by borders and walls, they want to be free and unrestricted
Prefer chaos over boring and predictable order. Routine is not their thing.
Prefer to wing it, and make things up on the fly over sitting down and making a plan
Prefer open borders, safety is paranoid
Prefer to try new things, change things up
It is easy to see how these personality traits can influence political inclinations. It also highlights the difficulty of bringing the two opposing viewpoints together.
Our tendencies are largely built into our genes. It’s not easy to change who we are and what we believe.
Social conditioning is also hugely influential in what we believe and value. Social conditioning is made up of what our family and those we grow up with teach us and the stories we tell ourselves about our experiences.
Although education can improve knowledge around a particular subject or topic, it’s the core beliefs that influence the stories and narratives we emotionally invest in.
Very educated people can have completely opposing viewpoints. They know the issues in play, but choose to interpret them completely differently.
You may well ask yourself why this is?
People invest themselves, emotionally, into their core beliefs and values and often refuse to compromise on them. If you believe you’re right about something, why would you entertain changing that belief? You’re right and the other side is wrong. It’s easy to think the other side is foolish or ignorant and this comes more easily than questioning our own beliefs, but probability would suggest “they” can’t all be idiots.
The big danger in employing this approach is the risk of falling into the confirmation trap, where we look for evidence to support our beliefs and values and dismiss or ignore conflicting evidence. This is often referred to as “confirmation bias”.
Learn to apply critical thinking in such situations. Question why so many intelligent opponents think the way they do. Be curious. Listen without judgement and try to figure what is going on.
You have to be willing to let go of old beliefs in order to make room for new ones. You have to be willing to admit you were wrong so you can start being right.
Most people fall in between the polarised political positions we have discussed here. They want a fair society that works for all, that catches those who are vulnerable and in genuine need of help. People differ in how they feel this is best achieved. Make no mistake, there are also some people who are pathological; they are more concerned with making society worse rather than better.
There are two sides to human nature.
Because we are social animals who live in a social environment, our best chance to survive or even better flourish, depends on us getting on with other people.
We play the roles we’re expected to play in different social situations; a mother, a daughter, a friend, a neighbour, a work colleague, a boss, a supplier, etc.
Each role requires us to be a different version of ourselves. If we play them well, others are comfortable around us because we are predictable.
If we do random things at random times, other people will undoubtedly feel anxious around us and are less likely to interact with us.
Imagine being in a restaurant with your spouse and halfway through your meal, you jump on the table and start to make a big commotion, kicking cutlery around the room. What kind of reaction do you think you’d get from your spouse, the other diners, and the restaurant management? Better still, imagine your spouse doing it to you. It would probably freak you out. Other diners would probably back off and be very negative in how they look at what you are doing. The police might be called, and you would certainly be thrown out by the owners of the restaurant.
You might not consciously realise you’re playing roles and behaving in a way that others in society find preferable and acceptable, but you are. If you do things you shouldn’t, you’re certain to get reactions from others around you, ranging from disapproving looks to arrest by the police, depending on the degree of your misconduct. As we grow up, we repeat things we are rewarded for, and stop doing thing we are punished for. This is how social conditioning works.
The other side of human nature is the dark side. This is the shadow side we avoid at all costs. It’s the side of each of us that, given the right circumstances, can make us into monsters, particularly when possessed by high levels of negative emotions such as hatred and vengefulness.
We look back in horror at things like the Nazi party’s genocide of millions of Jewish people and think this would never happen again. This occurred not because one man, Adolf Hitler was evil, but because many others played along with his mad plan, having dehumanised the Jews to such a degree they thought they deserved what they got. Germans blamed Jews for their own suffering and were sold on the story that the world would be better once the Jews had been removed. Hatred took over and resulted in men, women and children being brutally murdered.
We might prefer to think those who perpetrated such crimes were evil by nature, but many were not. They had become so consumed with hatred for an enemy they believed was bringing suffering to their own lives and those of their families and friends. Hitler played to the crowd but also fed off the crowd. It was a mutually supportive escalation of emotions that led up to the horrors that resulted in the second world war.
Having a dark side means we have to be able to control it. Virtue comes from controlling our darker impulses, not from not having them. If I am capable of being cruel or even killing another person and choose not to, then that is something of a virtue. We need to have aggression to be able to be assertive, to be competitive, otherwise others will walk all over us, but it has to be controlled aggression.
If we become tyrannical and bully others into doing what we want them to do, against their will, we will be unpopular and eventually someone will have enough of the tyranny and take us out, maybe it will take two of them to do it or three or four but eventually they will do it.
So cohesion is not a long-term solution for anyone who wants to get on in life, and have healthy relationships. Cooperation and competition is required if people are going to keep wanting to interact with you in a mutually beneficial way.
How society works
Society works by encouraging the people who live in that society to work together for the greater good of all.
Each person brings something of value to the table that others want and are willing to pay for, and an exchange of value is carried out, usually in the form of money for a service or product.
Some are better at producing this value than others. Meritocracy results in those who are better at producing value, rising to the top of a hierarchical structure (triangle shaped structure).
Those at the top earn the most money in our current system. They are incentivised to provide more value in order to get more monetary reward.
Some on the left of politics would say they exploit employees by making more money from the value they generate then they have to pay out to those employees who actually create that value. Some on the right of politics would counter that everyone, given the right skillset, can do the same, so if you don’t want to be exploited, don’t be an employee, instead be a business owner/entrepreneur.
Anyway, those that are particularly good at managing this value exchange earn more money, and rise up to the top of the value hierarchy. If they are fair, not too greedy and look after their employees (those employees get paid more), everyone is better off from the arrangement.
If equality of opportunities is fair, then everyone has a chance of joining in and the value hierarchy is effective at allowing society to function reasonably well. What happens over time is those at the top of the value hierarchy defend their dominant position by stifling competition and use their power and wealth to game the system to their advantage. The hierarchy then becomes more of a dominance hierarchy rather than a value hierarchy and eventually turns tyrannical. All value hierarchies’ become tyrannical if left unchecked.
Both liberals and conservatives have functions to perform in keeping value hierarchies honest and preventing them from turning tyrannical. Liberals are good at coming up with ideas for solutions that bring value and solve problems. Conservatives are good at following through on these ideas, building and maintaining hierarchies around these solutions. Liberals are good at calling out hierarchies that are becoming tyrannical, holding them to account and protecting those disaffected at the bottom of them.
We need conservatives to …
To make ideas reality
To organise and grow businesses – the structures, processes and procedures that make up efficient systems
But we equally need liberals to…
Come up with innovative solutions to problems
To be creative and help make and sell products/services – the creative of marketing
To hold value hierarchies to account – stop them becoming tyrannical
You can see that we need both liberal and conservative types to keep society functioning effectively. We should value both sides of the argument as crucially necessary. We should guard against any one side gaining the upper hand, because society will not function nearly as well, and the consequences could literally be nightmarish.
So next time you feel frustrated at the other side’s lack of cooperation or understanding, realise society works because each side is pushing from opposite points of view and within that tension society is kept in balance.