Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Protecting Feelings II

Update:   There is likely something in this of why black males are defecting to Trump much more than black females, but I can't quite see what that is.  Offer suggestions you think might fit.

As I developed this, I think I came upon an explanation of the Sanders/Biden split in the Democratic primaries as well. I almost made that into a separate post because I am striving for shorter essays these days, but the one topic just flowed into the other. Bear with me, and be charitable.

James uses the word "perverse" to describe the elevation of feelings over actual sickness and safety in the comments under Protecting Feelings, just a few days ago. It is also revealing of the motivations of those folks.  No one who has been sick near death would say having their feelings hurt was worse, nor would we say that if we had had the experience of watching another go through a terrible illness. It is rather like those people who tell us that various verbal oppressions are just as bad as physical abuse, or that sexual harassment is just as bad as rape.  Those who have been abused or raped might give a different answer, don't you think? These must either be people who do not believe that the danger is real, or are vulnerable enough that the social death of hurt feelings is the worst they can imagine.

This latter came up in reference to Jonathan Haidt's The Coddling of the American Mind, which I discussed about ten weeks ago. He identifies the highschool classes of 2013 and 2014 as a sharp break point, with anxiety, depression, and suicide rising in that group and remaining high.  He attributes this to this being the first cohort which had personal devices starting in middle school. They really do live in a world where social death is more frightening, because it can strike in an instant and there is no effective fighting back.  Those whose personalities were formed outside of internet life have resilience against this.

If we expand this idea of internet living increasing vulnerability to believing in social death, this elevation of feelings over real danger is likely more intense with those on social media, of any generation.  To live in the metropolis of social media, one has to be concerned with fashion and with expert reading of social cues. Getting those wrong can get you sent to the outer darkness. Therefore, that group was likely predisposed to liberalism to begin with.

I still retain a few liberal and Democrat readers here who are likely already irritated.  I do recognise that this is not all liberals.  I would in fact estimate that this is less than half, and along the continuum of social vs intellectual primacy, less than a third are strongly in the social-only category.  The Sanders/Biden split is related to this. But liberalism is mostly spread socially rather than intellectually, so I think you will have to just swallow a fair bit of this.  The quick test of whether it's you I am talking about is if you think that Trump support is mostly socially driven. If that's you, you are projecting, and missing an important distinction.*

Tangent: I discussed the association between reading social cues and political liberalism many times years ago, though I don't think I have mentioned it as much the last few years. I even had them named as the Arts & Humanities Tribe and contrasted them to other American tribes. I consider it a main reason why entertainers and artists, students, academics, and those deep in bureaucracies tend to be liberal. They read social cues extremely well and confuse that with intelligence.  Some are also intelligent, of course.  There is likely even some correlation between the two. Just not the same thing, despite the fact that late night comedy makes its living on pretending that the one is the other. If you are interested in this, enter "humanities" in the search bar.

There.  I just explained all that eye-rolling and those condescending tones to you. You're welcome.  /tangent

At some level those of us with some immunity to the threat of social death really don't understand those others who think that black people feeling good about themselves because of some positive aura around blackness in general is much more important than, y'know, having a job, a family, health, friends, and a sense of purpose and meaning. While they would agree in the abstract that of course those other things are more important - they can read the social cues and know how to answer test questions, as noted above - their actions suggest they don't quite believe it. They know it should be true, but their emotions activate them around the former much more than the latter. They don't turn out for demonstrations and politicians who uncover ways for Native Americans to get jobs, but for demonstrations and politicians which prevent working-class jobs from arising for Native-feelings reasons. If it doesn't result in money given to the government which we can dispense to Native Americans, we don't want it. That the government, and the government-lovers get to play God and be the distributors of vote-buying justice is the most important thing.

Now to the Sanders/Biden split.  Bernie is clearly in the feelings group.  Joe may be corrupt, he may be senile, he may be completely misguided about how the poor can actually get more good things in this world, but he is definitely in the camp of improving black lives by getting them jobs, getting them education, getting them justice. There is the cynical accusation (openly from fringe conservatives, more quietly from even some mainstream liberals) that African-American votes are entirely about being given stuff, if not for themselves than for friends and relatives who AA's think can't make it without help. The Sanders-Biden split among black voters speaks against this theory.  Black voters want things they believe will get them jobs or justice or educational attainment they believe is being denied them.  They may be entirely wrong about how that occurs, and I think they are.  But only some are in the give-me-free-stuff camp, and the most liberal of young people of  all groups may have them beat on the percentages of that. Most POC's are in the fine American tradition of wanting to be given advantages, not gifts, just like the rest of us.

This is written just after Super Tuesday, and look at the states where Biden trounced Sanders: Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alabama, with large black populations. Hell no, don't give us one of those socialist bastards who want to destroy the system.  We just want our people to get their cut. Sanders wins the states where white liberals want socialism - California, Colorado, Massachusetts - and (Democratic, not all) Latinos are deeply radicalised. Sanders appeals to abolish-the-system voters.  Biden appeals to game-the-system voters. The latter believe they are improve-the-system or fix-the-system voters, and this is at least true in theory. They are also fallen humanity who cannot endure uncomfortable truth, but I don't think any worse than I am on that score.

*That distinction is not entirely to the credit of Trump supporters, but you first have to have the humility to accept other explanations before I can tell it to you. The old Yankee Fahmah joke was that the old codger you asked for directions sent you on a long series of complicated turns and bad roads so that you ended up back in front of him a few hours later, not very happy.  "That was just to make sure you know how t' follow directions, because this next paht is goin' to be complicated."


Christopher B said...

At some level those of us with some immunity to the threat of social death really don't understand those others who think that black people feeling good about themselves because of some positive aura around blackness in general is much more important than, y'know, having a job, a family, health, friends, and a sense of purpose and meaning.

This is a matter of matching cause to effect. I think it bears on a brief exchange you and I had in the comments regarding the impact of attending an elite school. Those who are chosen and then credentialed as successes will find it much easier to believe that the causation goes feel good about yourself >> get a job, have a sense of purpose. That's their experience. People whose experience runs the other way, building from small successes to recognition and reward, look at that and shake their heads.

Christopher B said...

I do agree with your 'advantages vs free stuff' split.

I've taken to saying that the reaction against Sanders is a revealed preference the majority of Democrats realize his policies would kill the capitalism part of 'crony capitalism', leaving them nothing to redistribute, regardless of how many times they say there's nothing wrong with socialism.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Christopher B - I think you are onto something that is different among those who go through the elite doors, of whatever race. Let us think on this some more, because I suspect some further large insight about self-esteem vs self-respect is in this observation.

bs king said...

Doesn’t undo your thesis, but I want to point out that Bernie didn’t win MA. Biden did, by about 6.5 points.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Ah, added that in after the first draft, working from memory. It shows how quickly memory can change to fit narrative. Well, my memory, anyway.

james said...

"black males are defecting to Trump much more than black females"

I hadn't heard of this, and wonder if they have meaningful statistics on the matter.

It wouldn't astonish me, though. Trump is a man who doesn't put up with disrespect, and takes the initiative against his opponents. Why wouldn't that be admirable?