4Sight Insight: Civics 101

Checks and balances. It works.

The fundamental role of government should be to regulate business. Keep it in check. Unfortunately, capitalism has all but eroded the power of democracy in America. As a result, the politicians take two tacts, neither of which are good. Some sell the public on policy that enriches them by falsely claiming their legislation is good for all. For example, the tax cut. Others sell them on policy which won't work. Affordable housing is a good example. In both instances we're wasting time and money. Here's how they do it.

Emotional Manipulation
A politician needs to get elected. In order to do that, they must motivate the general public to vote for them. The cheapest and most cost-effective way to do that is with hot-button issues. Abortion, gun control, immigration... Topics that, in reality, aren't very important to our daily lives. That doesn't mean that they should be ignored. It also doesn't mean that they aren't really important to some. However, there are plenty of issues that are important to everyone. Homelessness, addiction, abuse, crime... However, these issues aren't really being discussed. We certainly aren't making that much progress on any of them. At best they are a sideshow to the issues listed above. The bad part is that we let them. We are complicit.

The reason why this works is because emotions are very powerful. They make us feel something strongly. We feel it and our higher-level reasoning fills in the blanks, enabling this "base" conclusion. That is, of course, if we don't challenge that feeling. Trouble is, we seldom do.

If you need proof of this, look no further than pretty much every advertisement you see every day. Most all of them don't talk about the logic of their value proposition. They seek an emotional flaw that we have, and then they tell us they have the solution. If we're overweight, use this diet and attend this gym. If we're worried about hitting people, get this auto-navigation system. If we think we're unattractive, there's plastic surgeries, cosmetics and clothing that can help. Oh, and if we're boring or not having fun, there's plenty of answers to that too.

The silly thing, of course, is that none of these "solutions" have a monopoly on fixing things. We can just as easily correct these shortcomings on our own, presuming they're even a flaw in the first place. They're usually not. What they all have in common, though, is their targeting of a deficiency that most of us carry with oursevles every day. The end result is that when this trigger gets stimulated and they solve it, we spring to action. When you have food, clothing and shelter, it's amazing how high-level our desires become. First-world problems as they refer to them.

So what can we do about it? Well, this article itself is a start. If you use it as a presumption, you’ll begin seeing how the manipulation is accomplished. Oh, one more part of the equation. Those deficiencies. You need to understand those and what you can do about them.

Triggers and Mindfulness
If mindfulness conjures images of hippies and new-age gurus, I get it. And I don't necessarily suggest your taking the route that many suggest goes with this latest fad. But what it does teach you is perhaps the best lesson you can ever learn: how to not respond. It is so important that when we "feel" something that is urging us into action - even if it's making a statement - that we put the brakes on and think about why it is that we're experiencing that sensation. It may be completely right, as when someone verbally attacks you. However, save for some rare situations like if you're being physically attacked, an immediate response is not necessary and will often be counterproductive. Here's why.

Inherent in your experiencing a strong emotion is the notion that either the person instigating that feeling is behaving emotionally or - especially if there is no other person - that you're likely overreacting to some trigger and will yourself engage in an emotional behavior. And the truth is that this is the exact reason why we evolved higher-level reasoning. To control and manage our emotions. We also evolved emotions and they did arrive first, so clearly they also have a benefit. However, since reasoning came after, it provided some additional benefit. And this is it.

Emotions, as we know from animals, are very black and white. They leave little room for interpretation or nuance. They certainly aren't designed to savor the moment. They send chemicals through our body to elicit some reaction. Problem is, sometimes the conclusions driving those chemicals are incorrect. More importantly, even if they're right, assigning them a high-priority and immediately responding defeats the purpose. What you really need to do is to consider why you feel that way. If that weren't the case, we'd have mutually assured destruction. And like that acronym suggests, that's just MAD.

The key is to use that emotion. Don't respond. If you're by yourself, then calm yourself down. If you're with someone else, think about their motive and de-escalate the situation. That's what our higher-level reasoning is for. And that's something that is almost completely lost in our modern world.

Gone are the farms and the clans and tribes. Gone is the village and the community. We are immersed in cities, if not directly, then via TV and the internet. The problem is that it causes the disconnect we have with others and the inability to see we're all in this together. We've lost personal responsibility. After all, it's really easy to get away with undesirable behavior when you're not going to be accountable for that action (or inaction).

More coming soon...

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