Monday, August 4, 2014
Cracking the Code, Chapter Twelve
Continuing from this post.
We are motivated to move away from pain and toward pleasure. In the short run the former strategy is more effective, as it's based on our most primitive drives. Hence we get conservative frames like if we vote for liberals we'll get attacked by terrorists; they bring you pain, we avoid it. Over time it becomes less effective due to over-stimulation of this drive. Moving toward pleasure tends to be more subtle and resilient in the long term, and more indicative of the liberal view of a world that gets progressively better. Both drives are needed for motivation, so it serves us to know both to know when we are being manipulated as well as to consciously enact our hopes and dreams.
Some parents only know the pain avoidance strategy and thus use punishment as a sole motivator. They start by yelling, and when that cease to work they escalate to hitting, which escalates to more severe punishments. Which of course leads to serious dysfunction in latter life, including becoming a Republican. (Sorry, couldn't help it.) And yet this is a typical strategy for conservative politics. Citing Bush/Cheney, it was a story of an evil, dangerous world that needed a 'decider' to protect us. Remember that 9/11 happened on his watch, that he was informed it was coming and did little to stop it, and then took full advantage of the fear that created. Sure, it worked in the short run but in the long run many historians already view Bush/Cheney as two of the worst politicians in American history for the damage they caused not only to our actual security but to our economy.
Contrast it with FD Roosevelt, who used both motivational strategies during World War II. He acknowledges that there were serious security issues that we needed to address. But he also created a positive future vision of what we needed to move toward, like freedom of speech and religion, a burgeoning economy with equal opportunity. He understood that we need to address our lower drives while also activating the higher, putting them in context to create a better world.
To create support of public policy we need to use both strategies. Thus we need to frame the benefits of programs like social security, unemployment insurance and national healthcare rather than just the factual features. Conservatives frame social security as a big-government nanny state that steals our money to give to the undeserving poor who didn't plan properly or work hard enough to have a retirement program. Whereas a liberal frame is that many people, though no fault of their own, need such programs to survive, since perhaps their jobs did not have retirement programs or disability insurance, etc. It's a different vision that wants to take care of the needy and abused instead of throwing them out in the street, as disaster can strike anyone no matter their station. While acknowledging the fear and possibility of such disaster, it builds on higher drives like care and compassion for each other.