The Blind Spots

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.



Filed under Politics

13 responses to “The Blind Spots

  1. Great post Norbrook. This is similar to the paradigm shift Senator Rob Portman recently underwent in his change of attitude with gay marriages once he realzied his opposition in the past was going to have adverse effects on his son who he recently discovered was gay. Conservatives simply live within specific times frames that feed their comfort zones and seldom see beyond those paradigms.

  2. aquagranny911

    You might find this interesting. I had a professor in a Perception class use that card trick & I was the only one who spotted the difference right away. I can’t be fooled by optical illusions either. She had some complicated explanation about the visual cortex & visual processing that I have long forgotten. I just know that I see what I actually see & not what I might expect to see, interesting no. I’m very visually oriented with an almost perfect memory for any image I see. I’ve been tested for this. It’s an odd gift I suppose.

    As to the idea of paradigms, most people not just GOP, cling to what is comfortable, habitual & expected…”the way things sposed to be.” Most people do not want to “believe six impossible things before breakfast.”

    I do feel for the people whose living rests on the opening of these parks on the dates they have always expected. I really blame the media for failing to explain in detail what this sequester would mean for everyone not just ‘the other guy.’ Most people had no real clue just how hard & pervasive the hits would be. I’m sorry it’s painful but sometimes pain is the only way for some to wake up & learn.

    I’m not a bit Irish but to all who are:

    • Vic78

      A lot of those ‘good people’ didn’t give a shit when others were in pain. I don’t want to sound callous but it’s time for them to get off of their bullshit.

      • aquagranny911

        I have to mostly agree except those so called “good people” are not so very good. Really good people do give a “shit” about others. Some not so good people only understand pain when they feel it personally.

        Unfortunately, in order to really bring the pain home to these selfish, insensitive goatfiggers, a lot of innocents get caught as collateral damage.

        The hope I hold is that those who have voted for the GOP because that’s how they always vote or because they are racist figwits will be starting to get a real clue here.

    • I think the biggest problem is not so much that the media didn’t explain it in detail (they didn’t), but that the media that is likely to be the most trusted by these people was saying something quite the opposite, that it was “a good thing,” and that it was being “overhyped.” Along with that is a certain amount of denial, in that they either believed “things will be worked out” or “it won’t affect us.”

      The area I live in is very similar to those areas, demographically and economically. The difference is that we have had enough “wake up and smell the coffee” moments in the past that no one around here blows off “government cuts” as being “a good thing.”

      • aquagranny911

        Nailed that! Lots of people go through life with a touchingly sad belief that it will not happen to them. What ever ‘it’ happens to be at that time. Empathy is definitely underrated.

        I’m glad your area can “smell the coffee.” We went through similar closings in my state a few years ago, at the same time we had record forest fires. People were howling in shock & surprise that the government wasn’t “doing something.”

        Well, our local government was busy doing plenty, persecuting the evil brown people & spending lots of $$$ defending law suits around the draconian laws they were passing. One of our Senators even blamed the fires on undocumented immigrants when it was actually two Anglo yahoos who started a fire for fun.

        These times are sent to try us & I do keep trying, lol.

        • They really haven’t had enough of that, and neither did your area. We went through the loss of two Air Force bases, several rounds of “budget balancing” acts which mainly sliced government offices here to the bone and then chopped off some bone, along with cutbacks in various aid programs. Then to top it all off, the state started closing or cutting back campgrounds and access to some wilderness camping areas. After 15 years of hearing “fiscal restraint” and seeing it mean “jobs & services lost,” and being continuously uncertain, anyone around here who talks about “cutting government spending” is rapidly labeled “an idiot.”

  3. Vic78

    You can say the same thing about Nov 6. I saw it coming without having to look at the polls. It’s like conservatives can’t see themselves as others see them. I think it comes from being coddled in youth and a media culture that caters to their bullshit world view. I think we can call it WASP world. Anything outside of WASP world is not worthy of consideration and only fit to serve. Irish Catholics(Chris Matthews) can be honorary members if they want to be down.

    One other problem is that there is little protection from con artists. The citizens of WASP world are their favorite targets. The blind spot prevents them from seeing threats that are obvious to everyone else. An example of such a threat is that they don’t have the sense to be suspicious of Ollie North and his associates.

    • aquagranny911

      “WASP WORLD” I am totally going to steal that! Considering paradigm shifts…I am thinking that some of the main crazy these days is that WASP World is quickly becoming multi-racial, multi-cultural world & some just can’t wrap their minds around this because that’s “not they way things sposed to be.”

      They just can’t believe that the dominate white culture will have to give way to a growing & getting stronger multi-cultural world with a real voice that won’t be silenced.

  4. see above

    David Sirota wrote a pretty good book a few years ago called Back to our Future about how the nation was sold revisionist history through TV, movies, and the media. Never having been a TV person it didn’t take to well with me and I see others who responded here. People also like to rewrite their own history. Many who came from humble and/or needy backgrounds do not want to remember that and over correct taking on a personna that fits their current circumstances. I’ve also ived by the ‘there by the grace of God go I’ rule. I think eliminating a lot of America History and Civics from the schools also has done a huge disservice. For the most part the publics inability to look at simple cause and effect shows that criticle thinking skills are also missing in many cases. The overall ignorance of how government works is astounding and was on full display at the “Tea Party” rallies with the hands off my medicare signs..

    • Sirota rather blithely ignores that the nation has always been sold a revisionist history – heck, even revised on-the-fly – and quite a number of people still do it. Including Sirota.

      Much of that is due to a human tendency to mythologize the past, some is due to an unwillingness to look at some of the messier or uglier parts. I do think we should spend more time on civics in schools, and also science, speaking of “cause and effect.” At the very least, when it comes to civics, ‘how it should work’ classes. I’ve often been astounded by how many people – including many who should know better – have no idea of the legislative process, or what the three branches of government are supposed to do.

      • Sirota also simplistically believes that if we just developed his sense of “moral centeredness” which encapsulates biblical precepts, that we would all rid ourselves of the evil in the world. The cultural differences amongst us however seem to evade such a simplistic approach because degrees of morality or not always so universal as Sirota thinks they should be. Oh yes, and we should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek economic philosophies.

  5. Snoring Dog Studio

    And a lot of those conservatives will then adopt the NIMBY (not in my backyard) sense of unfounded outrage at being forced to take what many others have had to endure. As long as it’s happening to “those other people” conservatives don’t care a bit about the damage.