Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jumping To Conclusions

I have railed in the past about political partisans leaping, sometimes in successive ridiculous springs, to conclusions whenever the new outrage-du-jour comes on the scene. I have attributed this largely to a tactical attempt to capture narrative battle space in the national discussion, coupled with a reflexive belief of four-legs-good, two-legs-bad.

I have noted that this leads to everyone ending up with poster children that they really shouldn't want, or in another metaphor, hills they really don't want to die on.  George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin are my current best illustration of that. Yet I have also learned over the last few years that perhaps this is what people want.  They want to demonstrate that they are foxhole companions, that they are down with the struggle. 

One of the things that psychologists are good for is noting that if a person keeps repeating an action that seems to be working against them, they are getting something out of it that you don't see.  Perhaps they don't see it either.  The Motivational Interviewing  and LEAP" styles do not go straight to "let's find strategies to get you to stop smoking weed," but ask "what does marijuana do for you?"  The answer is not the same for everyone.  Some seek to relax, some to get high, some to be social, some to stick it to their parents or society, etc.  Once that is learned it is easier to find an alternative strategy.

But I digress.  At some level, people don't want better poster children.  They don't want better hills to die on.  They don't really want to arrive at a just, balanced conclusion based on the real data. Jumping to conclusions is just one more way of showing that you really do Stand With Jesus, or believe black lives matter, or support our troops, or really really care about lesbians and gays trans people (I'm so 2015). I think there is a greater tendency when one is not an obvious group member - men who want to show they support feminism likely have to jump more quickly, as do white people trying to show they care about African-Americans.  That goes in reverse as well, though more subtly, I think, of females feeling pressured to display early on they're "not that sort of feminist," or blacks that they aren't that difficult sort you've reading about on the internet.

When you look at the news and the absolutely insane things people are saying this may be part of the explanation. Some of these college deans, I imagine, once had the reasoning skills to look at what is being demanded and think "this is nuts." But being down with the struggle is a positional good, and if you do not clap loudly enough, comrade, it is just as bad as not clapping at all.

Sometimes I remember to be that guy who says "wait and see what develops" about Ferguson, or Kim Davis, or Paris bombings, or whatever. It's not entirely natural to me, as I leap to conclusions as well. It can be a particular failing of intelligent, especially socially intelligent people, to size up what the popular answer is going to be and get their first.  I keep kidding myself that if I can get good at caution it will be a useful public service to remind others to do so as well. And they'll relax, and be grateful, and we'll all get along better and come to better decisions.  It's not fun to realise that this is never going to happen.  People don't really want the right answer.

*Xavier Amador

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

I've been so wrong about things I was sure about for the last 45 years. I like to think I've become more cautious.