Sunday, January 29, 2012

DOGMA AND PREJUDICE

These are very interesting times.

I just read an article in the online media that those with socially conservative views are disproportionately (though not always) less intelligent than others that do not hold these views. I would assume this group would also fall under the same types of people that believe everything candidates like Stephen Harper feed to them about how tax cuts create jobs, and how we have to keep bowing to the corporate gods, or we will be hit with financial disaster. I didn't buy it then, nor do I buy it now, but then again, I have a higher level of tested intelligence than average.

The actual article raised a level of consternation in the many communities I published it in today, likely for good reason. People who swallow the corporate line, or buy into Christian fundamentalism, don't like to be told they are stupid. They are not stupid, in my view, but the issue of integrative complexity was well known even when I was in university many years ago. At that time, many published studies found a higher level of integrative complexity among those who did not hold extreme views, both on the left or the right, as well as those that were able to acquire critical thinking.

It is unfortunate that most of the politicians elected these days do not appear to have a high level of either integrative complexity or critical thinking skills, especially if the believe the bile they spew out at the voters during elections. It is either that, or they know the largest common denominator of the general public is less educated and they can hire media spin artists to make people believe what they want them to believe. I have a business education, as well as other disciplines, and in one of my year one courses, the professor told us that corporate tax cuts do not lead to more jobs. This professor was an economist, specializing in behavioural economics and fiscal policy. He taught me both micro-economics and macro-economics, as well as a course in how economics impacts on public policy.

I also don't believe anything the fundamentalists try to shove down our throats either, where they want to mix their own personal religious and moral beliefs with the policies of those governing us. We seen what happened when the Women's Christian Temperance Union pushed for and successfully passed prohibition during the 20's and 30's. All this did was create a very large underground and mob-financed network of booze cans and other illicit gathering places for alcohol consumption. One can argue that the main reasons for its success was because they also supported the women's suffragette movement, also supported by other groups.

To me, these people are the same individuals who believe that somehow testing applicants for welfare for drug use is an effective tool to prevent fraud. While many places have implemented this policy, it was found to be an expensive, cumbersome program that yielded few positive results. These people are stingy when it comes to giving people enough to live on and remain healthy, but will spend unknown millions on tests that might result in the denial of benefits to less than 2% of those tested, while at the same time feeding into more misguided public hysteria that the amount of welfare fraud is actually much more than it really is. My suggestion is to test the politicians first, then test everybody else. In fact that was a proposed amendment to another state's provisions to do just that, and bingo, the bill was withdrawn.

Many of these politicians, many of them with limited critical thinking skills, and many born and raised with a silver spoon in their mouth, understand very little about how their laws will impact people on the ground. They talk so much about getting "government" out of the face of the population, yet this right seems to exclude a portion of it: the poor. I tend to be a follower of the categorical imperative, in place by theorists like John Rawls and Immanuel Kant. The categorical imperative, in short, means that if you are going to make a rule, it must have universal application upon both the ruled and those making the rules. Rawls would argue that one making the rules should, in preference, not be aware of their social position or level of power, once the rule was made and passed. The person would not know if they were a king, a peasant, a merchant or a working class person, and as such, would ensure that such a rule would be fair, as it could very well apply to them too. It was the universality of a rule that would place lawmakers at a vulnerable position they only wished to impose on "outsiders", that caused them to withdraw that legislation. The issue here is most social conservative rulers tend to believe these issues do not count for themselves, as they see themselves as being morally superior to others.

At the same time, persons such as myself, neither a ruler or a naive person, can get very irritated and despise getting lied to. During the election campaign, I pretty well let one of the representatives of one of the mainstream parties "have it" when they parroted a clause in their campaign book that if their party got elected to power, they would allow the higher earner of a family to write off up to $50,000 of their income to the lower earning partner, to reduce the total family tax bill. Not only is this an expensive proposition, but it also assumes those that will listen even HAVE $50,000 or more in annual income. I discussed this with people on a Tim Horton trek, which is defined as meeting people at coffee shops, cafes and other low budget eateries to ask them what they thought of this concept. Almost all of them said they did not even earn a total HOUSEHOLD income of $50,000 and they questioned who will actually benefit from a measure like this? According to economist, David McDonald, those individuals earning $100,000 a year or more would benefit the most. My questions upon reading reports on this particular proposal was, where are the $100,000 jobs? Most of the jobs around here pay next to nothing.

The same people proposing this income splitting exercise also push the idea of one parent, usually the women with this particular Christian sect, to stay home and raise the kids, while the man works and brings home the money. Even in situations where a husband actually earns that much, it still isn't right for the woman, as her marriage to him is not guaranteed, his health and his future employment may not be guaranteed and who is to say what will happen if he got hit by a Mack truck the next day? How will she continue to financially keep her family together? Not only is that type of set up scarce as hen's teeth, but it is certainly bad for the female half of the family, should disaster strike. One might argue against divorce, that it is against Biblical principals and so forth, but to me, so what? How does that decrease the divorce rate? How does that decrease spousal and domestic abuse? How does that decrease the chances that the sole earner becomes disabled or absent from the family due to reasons outside of his control?

The problem with Christian fundamentalism is that it is not practical, not realistic and if it were policy, it would be very expensive, if not difficult to enforce. Those espousing these philosophies do not see any difficulty enforcing it, or even want to consider the costs of the same, even as they might consider themselves "fiscal conservatives" as well. To me, this is just hypocrisy at its best, and its precepts only benefit the most powerful people of society.

This is the same about the question of abortion. Many people reading this are horrified by the idea of abortion. They listen to the "right to life" and evangelical types carry on about how women should not be permitted to have an abortion, yet their own precepts if you believe Thomas Aquinas that stated that a fetus was not a "person" until it was ensouled, which meant that life in Aquinas' vision started at some point well after conception. Certainly, the Catholics and other fundamentalist Christians felt abortion was always wrong and sinful, but they certainly disagreed fundamentally as to when life actually began. On a practical basis, the pro-lifers do not have an answer as to how they will physically prevent women from acquiring abortions they feel they need anyways. One wonders if these same people, who believe so highly in the right to life, and for the welfare of the women involved, would recommend we return to the days of back street abortionists that ply their trade with coat hangers and Coca cola douches.

I once had a discussion with my mother who is devoutly religious in the Jehovah's Witness faith. She complained about the increasing numbers of people in our country who came from abroad and have learned different customs, practices and ideas, and want to continue to practice them here. She is one of those people who think if you come to Canada, you do everything the rest of us do. Unfortunately, if this was taken literally, we would not allow Muslims to practice their faith, wear their head coverings, or take part in their Friday prayers. Doing this is "not Canadian". So, is it okay for somebody like my own family members to tell somebody else who feels and believes as much in their own religion and culture as she does hers, that they should not be able to practice it once they cross our borders? The shoe can easily be on the other foot, and she as a Jehovah's Witness is familiar with the history of persecution against her own religion. These acts took place in Canada, and in other countries, they were even more extreme, and sometimes people of this faith were put to death. In the Holocaust, they were also a group of people targeted for round up for the death camps. Of course, this is NOT okay ... so why is it okay to attack people of OTHER religious faiths? As we speak, there is a growing animus in North America and Great Britain against Muslims, both within and outside their faith. This is no more right than the prior attacks on persons of Jehovah's Witness faith.

As a non religious person, I sometimes feel under attack because some religious people, particularly those of more fundamental sects, believe it is wrong not to be a believer. I would not call myself an Atheist either, but I just don't have the strong "black and white" narrow integrative concepts of right and wrong. Atheists and other non believers are seen somehow as morally inept, approving of all sorts of sins and iniquities. This is certainly far from true, as most non believers are very highly moral and ethical. We just don't get fed our moral and ethical concepts at church, only to do the opposite at home.

There are other people who push for "freedom of speech" which is just a disguise for a push for their right to express, provoke and promote hateful and discriminatory behaviour towards others. They want to remove the right of human rights commissions to find certain persons guilty of promoting hateful speech, or printing it. While there are some issues with how hateful speech and expression is defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act, it needs to be revised, not repealed. Freedom of speech is a fine thing, but there are limits. One cannot print or say something damaging about another person the writer or speaker knows to be untrue. One cannot cry "fire" at the back of a crowded movie theatre. One cannot also willfully promote the hatred against any particular group. However, these people try to argue they are only saying things, not doing anything. The evidence shows that hate speech hurts.

There were a few nut bars in the 1980s, for example, that went around telling everybody, including teaching children at schools, that the Holocaust during the second world war did not happen. Along with these statements were very disparaging statements about the Jewish community itself. Does free speech include something like this, which would certainly spark very negative behaviour by some persons against members of the targeted group? Evidence of this is well known in Great Britain since persons with disabilities were removed from society's idea of being a protected class, and the number of hate crimes against persons with disabilities has been growing, along with policy makers more willing to deny benefits for them and force them into deeper poverty and deprivation. Writer Katharine Quarmby has tracked the history of hate crimes, how they evolved from words, attitudes and prejudices and then into actions against individuals with disabilities. Almost 300,000 persons with disabilities were exterminated in Nazi Germany as being "life unworthy of life", and well before Hitler's campaign against the Jews began. The public attitude towards doing this was softened through a massive propaganda campaign, not unlike what we hear about today, about how persons with disabilities aren't "contributing" to society, and how wasteful it was to allow them to have and raise children. In Great Britain, these spiteful attitudes have made it to policy makers and disability allowances have been largely discontinued for a significant portion of the population of persons with disabilities. Very few of them are moving into jobs, as policy makers had hoped, but instead are committing suicide, getting involved with other crimes and losing their housing. Many advocates in Ontario are fearing the same attitudes might be imported here.

Personally I do not like most of the conservative candidates of today, because most like to outdo one another as to how much they want to trash the poor, attack racial and religious minorities, and so forth with proposed policies. In the United States, a good watch of the Republican primaries and the debates between each of the candidates to lead the next election against the current President Barack Obama should be instructive for people who are concerned about our future. Many want creationism to be replace teaching about evolution in our schools. They want to run the country on "Christian principles" (or more accurately, THEIR own Christian principles). They want to continuously lower taxes on the wealthy and on profitable corporations, thinking somehow this will spur an economic recovery. (Newsflash - corporate and personal taxes have been declining for the past twenty years, and it doesn't look like the US is in any kind of recovery yet). Listen to their arguments with an open mind. While you may believe some of their moral principles, ask yourself whether forcing the same on a diverse population is really the best thing to do. If I were in the US, I would probably have to vote for Obama, not because I necessarily like his record, but because I want to keep something more horrible out of my life.

Unfortunately, much of the Republican type dogma has come to Canada and into Ontario, where corporate taxes have been cut without consideration of their impact on the increase of the size of our deficit over the years. Only recently we got a report that states that corporations are not using their gains to hire new people or increase investments. It's not that they ever did, as my economics professor taught me when I first started my business courses in the 80's. In fact, many of them, including Electro Motive Diesel Company, or EMD (now under Caterpillar) have locked out their workers and are taking the companies back to their headquarters. In the case of EMD, this is Indiana. EMD took a billion dollar tax cut before all of this happened, now it just wants to shed its 500 workers and move on.

There are lots of connections between prejudices, low education and a lack of forethought. I do believe if EVERYBODY sought to educate themselves about these issues, and questioned their political representatives about them, and make them answer these questions truthfully, we might just start to see more accountability and less lies being fed to us.

Your thoughts?

2 comments:

christ11 said...

i think 'education' has proven to be limited in its ability to improve people. has 'education' stopped Israelis from abusing Palestinians? has black history month prevented blacks from demanding 'separate but equal' schooling? has liberal/feminist 'education' prevented women from becoming sexist/supremacist/separatists? it's not information, ideas abstractions that prevents injustice-the nazis and the slave owners had Jesus ideas in their heads as do the wife beaters,the rapists and the pedophiles the golden rule. it's what's in our hearts that determines what we'll do. conservatives are people who identify with society and not with people(poor or otherwise). the politically correct identify with ideology not white males.

Littlemountain said...

OMGoodness Angela, I think I found my soulmate! Your words espouse to what would come out of my mouth!

I too have a degree in Bus Admin and Psychology/sociology. Reading your article was like reading one of my text books.

But the key point is that it is exactly how I think about issues.

As far as prejudice is concerned, I experienced it first hand being married to a Canadian Indian and having 4 Status children. When I first met my Mother she said to me: "How could you do this to our bloodline!" then she said: "I hate your husband and I hate your children." I basically got the same message from other family members.
As far as the current Gov is concerned they are running rough-shod over everyone! When you look at Harper demographically, and know (the West hates the East) I knew there would only be trouble coming from that direction.
Scary times are upon us and there is no doubt in my mind that our little piece of earth is going to be shook up pretty good.
What I see in the North American continent is that it is filled with what I coined "Gerry Springers"

Thank you for taking the time to write such a great post.
Colline