“Partisan Polarization” Just Another Pathology of Hypercompetition?

13 09 2011

Conservative ideology and racial resentment swamp every other factor. Maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s counterproductive to even mention racial resentment these days. Maybe it’s unfair to lots of tea partiers who care only about taxes and big government. But unless there’s a problem with Abramowitz’s data, it’s there. Pretending that it’s not doesn’t make it go away. . .

These fears and resentments were of course stoked by right wing politicians, media commentators and websites . . .

There’s been an exhaustion of all patience followed by widespread progressive grumbling (or was that just me?) about the single-minded, spittle-flecked viciousness of win-at-all-costs in our politics, denying the humanity of one’s opponents let alone enemies, up to and including television caesars pandering to the bloodthirsty hordes, Dick Cheney still defending torture for personal profit, Rick Perry supporters cheering executions as pro-life governance.

“How you play the game” isn’t much of a consolation prize for the defeated even when it’s just a game, much less when the stakes are so high that you literally can’t afford to lose. “Living well as the best revenge” only adds insult to injury in forced competition that puts your health, wealth, dignity, liberty and life itself at risk.

We’ve cocked a snook several times at competition versus collaboration in different spheres, wondering whether it’s gotten all out of whack and what those experiences can do TO kids rather than FOR them. We’ve even looked at killer-instinct gameplay about chess specifically, the power of this next story:

I dare say this chess board may survive a nuclear blast! The pieces are made using .223 caliber bullet shell casings, decorated with cuts, slashes, curls and bends.

Photo source

She was, and is, a ferocious competitor, a psychological attribute that is quite separate from purely intellectual ability. As the former US chess champion Joel Benjamin reported after playing her: “It was all-out war for five hours. I was totally exhausted. She absolutely has a killer instinct.

Well, there you go! If only all our daughters were so ferocious about “winning” think what full and happy lives they’d have, right?

. . .”It was not that chess was too much for me,” [her sister] said, “but that it was not enough.” By this she meant that she wanted a life that allowed her to be a good mother, and to have hobbies and pastimes -– in other words to enjoy a whole world entirely unconnected to the black and white struggle over 64 squares.

See also Teaching Our Girls (Boys Too) to Dance With Democracy:

Effective leaders are attuned to other people’s feelings and move them in a positive emotional direction. . .

Typically, the most effective leaders can act according to and skillfully switch between the various styles depending on the situation.

and Nursery University:

Following five Manhattan families as they navigate the cutthroat competition for elite nursery school spots for their pampered progeny . . . otherwise sane adults succumb to anger and frustration.

“We’re used to getting what we set out to get,” says Heidi, an entrepreneur determined to save her son, Jackson, from “a public school in Harlem.”

and Lucifer Effect Includes Calling Other People Cockroaches:

“You think of them as worthless animals. That’s the killing power of stereotypes.”

It’s working on C Street, Doug Coe telling some well-connected elected white men that they’ve been chosen by divine will to be better than ordinary people, even their own wives and children much less their constituents. That they answer to a higher morality and aren’t bound by ordinary accountability . . .but it works even better if you keep really secret! I’m wondering if the cockroach trick will work for Rush Limbaugh, to turn enough of us against our president that someone will treat him like a bug?

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7 responses

13 09 2011
bpbproadrunner

Women with killer instinct are often rejected as unfeminine–regardless as to how they came by it. And yes, comparing your opponents to vermin is a popular method of propagandizing their objectification and dehumanization.

After all, you can only murder a human, but for everything else, you simply take out the trash.

I too am sick of this vitriol.I am mostly angry at the press for normalizing it though. In their hunt for ratings they will cover anything that is controversial, no matter the cost it inflicts on our society.

14 09 2011
JJ

I’m watching Florida’s governor Rick Scott on cable this morning, and they played a clip of Rick Perry saying that he and Scott are competing to get jobs from each other. Then Scott said he and Perry compete “every day” and how they are the two top job creators. Joe Scarborough is talking about how Scott is “battling” to bring unemployment in FL down and Scott’s taking credit for “generating 70,000 jobs this year.”

14 09 2011
JJ

So if this is all competition and the players (coaches?) are the governors of all the states working against each other to see who wins and loses, what is Congress, what is the president? — the controlling sports association, the professional umpires?

14 09 2011
JJ

Gov Scott is claiming that he created those 70,000 jobs because he added “merit pay” (using student test scores to fire teachers) while eliminating teacher tenure and making state employees contribute to their pension funds out ofd their long-depresssed paychecks (but the contributions only started last month and caused double retirements, not new jobs!) — and killing tenure doesn’t go into effect until 2014 and that’s only if pending lawsuits don’t prevent it ever happening at all, so how could anything he’s done in nine months of firing people, sucking up to BP and pandering to TEA-vangelicals possibly have created jobs??

Oh, and he added that drug-testing public assistance recipients was something he’d done to help create jobs. Again — huh?? Unless he’s counting private drug-test clinic jobs, hmmm . . .still it wound up costing the taxpayers money rather than saving our money, because so few applicants “failed” the test and were denied benefits, far below the general population drug use percentage in fact. That meant we the taxpayers had to pay for all those tests (and testing jobs?) on top of the benefits we already would have provided, for no ahem, BENEFIT coming from anything he’s done!

Finally, there’s something he didn’t take credit for, and I wonder why he wouldn’t want to brag about this and claim it’s created jobs already too — overturning FL’s constitutional Blaine Amendment.

The FEA is already squared off against the Legislature, having earlier this summer sued to overturn a proposed constitutional amendment put on next year’s ballot to lift the state’s more than century-old prohibition on tax dollars flowing to religious institutions.

14 09 2011
JJ

Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth
By PATRICIA COHEN

. . . some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments.

. . .According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another.

Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth. . .

14 09 2011
bpbproadrunner

Certitude only works if the other side isn’t stark raving insane.

23 09 2011
JJ

From the chairman of Favorite Daughter’s Phi Beta Kappa, whose blog her mother has taken to enjoying — great minds DO think alike!

Puppy Love:

Surely, this is what we had thought we wanted: Give reasons! Tell us why you think that! Let me offer you my reasons, and we’ll sort this out! But no, apparently not. The evidence seems to be that people’s positions actually harden under such circumstances. That is, all parties became even more firmly convinced of their initial views, and more firmly convinced that their opponents were just wrong. Apparently confirmation bias feeds on contradiction. . .

[Quoting Plato’s Republic] It is likely that people trained in these skills will be “always contradicting and refuting others in imitation of those who refute them; like puppy dogs, they rejoice in pulling and tearing at all who come near them.”

. . .The real question is this: What differentiates mere pulling and tearing from the dialogical pursuit of truth?

The answer is, of course, the aim of the interlocutors. What game is being played? If the game is defined as competition and the aim is “my side wins,” . . . we stiffen and become more fixed in our views when confronted with opposition. I learned this playing football.

. . .However much we might love it, though, this isn’t the pursuit of truth. It’s a contest of will and power. . . the game must be structured differently. The structure of the game flows from the character of the interest we bring to it. Plato thought you could overcome the competitive emphasis on winning the argument by bringing people to love the truth.

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