Vicious Circles in the Current State of Politics

Apologies to long-time readers for the long absence while I got my PhD back on track and sorted out some health issues, I’m back with a complete change in subject: politics!

This is the first in a series of planned posts that will talk about some of the issues in our political systems and later start to lay out some possible solutions (and will be mercifully shorter to boot).

In this week’s issue of Nature Chris Clark laments the rise of populist nationalist parties in the US, UK, Poland, France, Germany and others and the problems with the rise of anti-immigration and isolationists principles and the fallout from the failures exposed in neo-liberal economics. This got me thinking about the psychology behind the sad state of British and global politics at the moment and how our current situations have several vicious circles built-in to it that will only make things worse:

When people feel hard done by they lash out at those less able to defend themselves and they vote for more right-wing parties, these parties make austerity measures and take more money from the less well-off and give it to the more well off making people feel more hard done by and yet more likely to vote for the same thing.

As people have less money the threat of mortality, especially from communicable and preventable disease, increases as they have less money to spend on treatment or basic nourishment. It is well established in psychology that fear of death makes people think and act more conservatively, such as voting for more right-wing parties. As Jonathan Jong summarises in The Independent (8th February, 2016):

‘Besides making us more punitive, thinking about death also increases our nationalistic bias, makes us more prejudiced against other racial, religious and age groups, and leads to other such parochial attitudes. Taken together, these dozens of studies show that being reminded of death strengthens our ties to the groups we belong to, to the detriment of those who are different from us.’

Worldwide, conservatism, including authoritarianism and ethnocentrism, correlates inversely with mortality rates for contagious, deadly diseases. Again, these things are more likely to lead to votes for people who will seem to be good candidates to help, but will only exacerbate the problems.

Climate change will only make the threat pestilence and starvation increase, but conservative politicians are the least likely to believe in climate change or to take capitalism-curbing measures to deal with it, yet the most likely to get into office.

Over the coming weeks (when I have time between working sessions to wrap up my PhD) I will present some ideas about how to break some of these cycles aiming to start discussion and actual political action on some radical but simple and practicable changes to politics and democracy.

Stay tuned!

Matthew Dickinson
The Spiritual Materialist


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