Maybe It Is That Simple

I was reading a book recently and one of the characters had a line that went something like, “Any person that says they don’t understand people has too high an opinion of themselves.” It is a great line, even if my paraphrasing is butchery of the highest order. It is a simple sentiment that we can see all around us. How many people think they are special and unique and immune to the mistakes of our human nature? Far too many I would answer.

I read a book years ago called Influence. It is about how we are manipulated by cults, door to door sales people, interrogators, and others. The psychologist that wrote the book says we operate not too different from machines. We respond to stimulus and conditions with a function not too different from a machine. A list a few type of influences that cause us to react this way. Stuff like liking, if we see a person that looks like us or from the same social class as us engaging in a behavior we are likely to do it as well, and social proof, if we see multiple people engaging in a behavior we are likely to follow their lead.

The programing of the human mind based on evolution and environmental conditions is nothing new. It has been the central focus of psychologists for at least half a century if not more. Today while listening to the book Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell I had a revelation. That maybe our current political issues and political divide is far simpler than we would like to believe.

We talk about our current political environment as people existing in two different realities and maybe it is something like that, but maybe it is something far simpler. Two different world views. One world view where every action is purely driven by the individual. A murder was born a murderer and nothing could have happened to change that. People may say we need to blame the parents or something like it’s how people are these days. You know, the old participation trophy argument, but that ultimately blames how people are these days. It doesn’t get beyond the person.

On the other side of the aisle people are far more likely to look at the environment. What conditions, economic, social, psychological shaped an individual. How, where, when did they grow up. It is the idea that we aren’t born who we are but we are shaped into being who we are. That every interaction we have pushes or pulls us in one direction or another and who we are today is the culmination of all our education and experiences.

That’s why it appears the people railing so vehemently against socialism don’t appear to know what it is is because they aren’t railing against socialism. They are railing against behaviorism. We aren’t having an economics debate we are having a psychology debate. We aren’t discussing capitalism vs socialism but nature vs nurture.

People aren’t that hard to understand. All we have to do is understand ourselves. We are only a collection of chemical reactions to exterior and interior stimulus after all.

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