The past few posts have been devoted to the angst being experienced by various conservative Republican areas as a result of the recent budget sequestration. What has been a somewhat regular theme for me is that very often these same areas simply cannot see how dependent they are on various forms of government spending. What is “obvious” to someone outside of those areas is not to people in those areas. In effect, they have a “blind spot” in their perceptions.
Some 20 years ago, I was dragged to a “management retreat,” which for the most part was three wasted days. The interesting part was a presentation on paradigms. What was used was the social sciences definition:
the term is used to describe the set of experiences, beliefs and values that affect the way an individual perceives reality and responds to that perception
In a larger sense, the terms “group think” or “worldview” have been used. Another definition I’ve heard use is “a set of rules or filters by which we see the world around us.” One of the demonstrations used in that retreat was a deck of cards. Dealing out a set of hands and showing them, we were asked if there was anything “unusual” about them. The answer was no, that we didn’t see anything unusual. It was then pointed out that the colors of the suits were reversed. Black suits were red, while red suits were black. Once it was pointed out, it was “obvious,” but at the time, we all perceived them as “normal cards,” because we expected to see them that way.
So what does that have to do with the screams about the sequester from various conservative areas? They’ve had a rude awakening to something that is breaking their paradigm. Let’s take a look at the Yellowstone National Park area, for example. Yellowstone has been in operation for over a century. It’s the first national park in the world. Over that time, it’s become a “part of the makeup” of the area. It’s predictable. While there may be ups and downs in the number of visitors from year to year, it’s a reliable facet of the local area’s economy. That’s been their experience, and they have had a very long time to back up that experience. This year, that changed.
I live in an area that in many ways is very similar – the largest state park in the country. There’s a rhythm to things. Right now, we’re coming out of snow season. Next month, the preparations for the summer begin. Buildings are unshuttered and reopened, campgrounds begin to clean up and get ready, and by the middle of May, they’ll be starting to open for business. Every year it happens, and the “shutdown” will happen around the same time, in September through October. Everyone knows that, businesses make their plans around it, and state facilities are often the linchpins.
That’s what the people who live around Yellowstone knew. They knew the rhythm, they knew when things were going to happen, and it’s “always” been that way. Except this year, they were told “No, it’s not that way. ” Instead of the day they expected, it’s two weeks later. It’s not something they’ve ever experienced, it doesn’t fit into their paradigm. Yes, sure, they’re against “big government,” “spending,” and think that the budget needs to be cut. What never occurred to them was that meant … Yellowstone. It “doesn’t happen.” Until it did.
That’s what many areas that are being hit the hardest, the conservative Republican areas, are now experiencing. It’s not just that it’s their spending. They didn’t see it as government spending. Which was why they had this huge blind spot in their perception of themselves. Yes, I have no doubt that they are hard-working, self-reliant, and help each other out locally. I’m sure that local business owners took risks and worked their butts off to make their businesses profitable. ` They all know someone who has had a run of bad luck, had a serious injury or illness, or just doesn’t quite make enough to get by, and “needs the help.” They never made the connection that it was due to government that they were able to do so, or where that “help” came from. Oh, somewhere in the back of their mind they may have realized it, but as a general recognition? No, it’s “just normal.”
Because of that, these cuts blindsided them. It’s not that they didn’t see it coming, it’s that they couldn’t see it coming. It didn’t fit their paradigm, that spending cuts would impact them. Now, they’ve received a brutally painful shock. Whether it leads to a paradigm change in their perceptions, whether it forces them to “make the connection” remains to be seen. If it doesn’t, well, they’re likely to receive some more lessons, and it’ll be something they asked for.