Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Understanding The Trump Phenomenon. No kidding.

It took me a while, but a few days ago I finally "got a handle" on the Trump phenomenon.  Really.

The amount of ink, physical and digital, that has been expended so far on "understanding" what we are currently going through is likely already the all-time record.  And it will certainly get far worse before it gets better.  We are, pretty much entirely, baffled.  How is this possible?  We cry repeatedly.  This makes no sense!

I'm afraid I know; and the outlook is not wonderful.  But- any real resolution is only possible if we can somehow begin to understand.  I'm driven to understand not only as a scientist, but as a father, and husband to Spice- who is rabidly obsessive about the whole thing.  Inescapable, for poor me.

How does one "get a handle" on what appears incomprehensible?  There are, in fact, historical precedents- which is where one needs to start.  This all makes no sense?  Then - your perspective is wrong.  The universe always makes sense- if you look at it from the right angle.  Find some other viewpoint where the problem at least does not look entirely chaotic.  (Not at all easy.)

One of my starting points was the example from Carl McDaniel; who set out to examine the question of how humans can survive the most extreme evolutionary challenges; looking for any hints as to how we might, perhaps, survive climate collapse.  He wrote a book, which I reviewed here about a year ago.  It is a spectacular example of how to do Science right.  The important bits for this discussion; A) Find a historical example; B) start analyzing it.  I recommend the book not only for the story and analysis but for the beautiful example of how to start tackling what appears to be an intractable problem.

I set out to follow his lead.  Are there historical examples, parallels to the Trump phenomenon?  There certainly are; too many, actually.  The word demagogue goes back to ancient Greece, to at least 5 BCE.  The phenomenon was very well known before the word was coined; demagogues are something humans are susceptible to.  We have been, as far back as we can see historically; and we clearly still are right now, all around the globe, in all cultures apparently.  I prefer Napoleon to Hitler as a quintessential example- millions dead in both cases; and both sold their genocides under the illusion that it was for the benefit of humanity that millions must die.  Napoleon was more cheerful about it, I think.  Which is worse, to me.

But.  When you start looking at parallels from "politics" and/or "governments" - it quickly becomes clear that sifting truth out of such history is problematic- facts are slippery, and very frequently intentionally distorted.

So- I asked myself; are there other human phenomena that parallel the Trump phenomenon, non-political ones?  Realms where humans will faithfully stick to beliefs with not only no evidence of truth, but with actual repeated proofs of fallacy?

A big fat obvious one suggests itself - Astrology.

Astrology is very ancient indeed- and during its entire existence, serious thinkers/philosophers have taken considerable pains to point out that it cannot possibly be true.  Modern science has actually tested the validity of Astrology with full rigor - and found zero evidence that it works - ever.

And - in all those thousands of years - people have continued to believe in it, defend it, and order their lives by it.  Regardless of the absurdity.  And - trying to talk them out of it - never, ever, works.  They will continue to believe.

Just exactly like Trump believers.  Exactly.  I would challenge you to find some way in which astrology believers differ from Trump believers.  I can't find any, so far.

Is this helpful?  Maybe.  It suggests no solutions; but it does suggest one solid point - it is an utter waste of effort to try to find some key fact that will suddenly open the eyes and minds of the Trumplings.  We should quit wasting time on that idea- it is clearly pointless.

That, for many of us, should be a relief.  "There's got to be a way to make them see this!" we keep hoping - and?   Nothing.  Not one Trumpling converted.  A few middle-of-the-road types, perhaps; but they are not the problem.

Us reasonable types will quickly ask "why?"  Why do people continue to believe- in Astrology, and Trump?  My firm belief is - why does not matter.  And it may not be easy to find out- remember rationalists have been trying to find an answer to why for Astrology literally for thousands of years- and have discovered nothing that will help to free these delusional people from blatant fallacy.  There is a suggestion in there that perhaps current human thinking is not capable of understanding why.  Fine- the heck with "why" - move on to - finding a way to go around them.

What is needed is a way to change the outcome of voting; and hence the makeup of our government.  There are plenty of ways to work on that which have nothing to do with enlightening Trumplings.

And who knows; thinking about it all from the Astrology perspective might eventually lead to some way to reduce their impact on the world.  Think about it.

One more starting point - it's fascinating, to me, that the percentage of Trumplings, and the percentage of people who say "astrology is scientific" - are shockingly close; hovering around 30% each by multiple measures.  And- both have been increasing, in the past decade - not decreasing.

Chew on that.  It just might go somewhere.

1 comment:

lkemp said...

This endless search for explanations, reasons, conspiracies and strategies also drives me nuts. Trump is irrational, impulsive, paranoid and without strategies. The proper response is solid resistance, and deeper participation in democracy to change the outcomes in 2018 and 2020.

I too fall for endless speculations about how he might fail and leave office early. But that could also bring new problems, so maybe dragging out massive resistance is the way to go.