Sunday: Ok, I think we’re on to something here

We few, we happy, happy few Conflucians might be a shrieking band of paranoid holdouts, or some such Kossakian nonsense, but we have something the rest of the left blogosphere doesn’t have with few exceptions (corrente, Ian Welsh and Avedon Carol, for example): The pain of independence.  What the heck does that mean?

Well, it’s just a single point right now and I need to collect more data.  (“fricking scientists”, they mutter)

The term “pain of independence” is what psychologists say  people experience when they refuse to conform to peer pressure.  Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” cites a psych experiment where a group of people are shown a couple of 3D objects and are asked to decide whether the first object can be turned into the second.  Think of it as an exercise in group mental paper folding.  You have to turn the object around in your head and look at it from all angles.

There were a couple stand out features of this experiment.  First, the subject didn’t know that the group was seeded with people who knew the right answer but deliberately gave the wrong answer.  The other thing was that everyones’ brains were being monitored. The experimenters already knew in advance that a certain percentage of people were going to go along with the group and give the wrong answer too.  The question that the experimenters were asking was, did the subjects choose the wrong answer because they knew that it was wrong but consciously decided to go with the group to fit in (pointing to the prefrontal cortex) or were their perceptions changed unbeknownst to them (pointing to the parietal and occipital lobes)?

The disturbing answer is that the subject’s perceptions were changed and they weren’t even aware of it.  Yep, peer pressure affects your sense of space.  Maybe this is not entirely mysterious.  A sense of space would seem to be important to how you fit into a group of individuals.  Think of herds or flocks of birds.  People presumably once travelled in such pods before, hundreds of thousands of years ago.  So maybe this is an artifact of that.

The question that next occurred to the experimenters is: what was happening to the brains of the people who didn’t go along with the crowd?  Ahhhh, this is interesting.  It turns out that their amygdala was activated.  The amygdala is the small almond shaped structure located near the middle of the brain that processes emotions.  If you were a holdout, your amygdala lit up indicating the emotion of knowing you were alone on this one.  Sending this signal to the prefrontal cortex is too cold and logical.  No, to be a dissenter means you know the emotional pain of not fitting in.

And that, my friends, appears to distinguish the dissenters from the joiners.  The dissenters appear to be able to tolerate that pain better than the joiners.

If you were a Hillary holdout in 2008, because you had used the rest of your brain to process the information about the candidates, you likely knew the pain that comes with resistance to peer pressure.  And it *is* painful.  No one likes to be left out from that emotional tug that enveloped everyone else.  That’s why love bombing is so effective.  It alleviates the pain of being alone and drops your resistance to peer pressure.  If you attempt to dissent later in the indoctrination process, the love is withdrawn and you know the pain of independence.  It is not pleasant.  Ask the many former Hillary supporters who changed their allegiance in 2008 because they didn’t want to be ostracized.  Oh, yes, the emails I got during that summer when the pain got to be too intense for some people.  Talk about embarrassing.

Cain reports that something like 40% of the people in peer pressure experiments will go along with the group.  It’s hard to believe that there are 60% of us who won’t because we always seem to be on the losing end.  On the other hand, our elections have been really close over the past 12 years.  Gore actually won, Kerry probably did, we know that Hillary beat Obama in the primaries by a slim margin in spite of the horrific peer pressure tactics.  So, there are more people resisting than it appears but the bad guys keep winning anyway.  I suspect that’s because there are a lot more people who experience the pain of independence than care to admit.

According to Cain, the reason why democracies exist is because  of the dissenters.  That would be the 2008 PUMAs who were mocked and humiliated, and the Occupiers who were treated like radical, lice ridden troublemakers.  And maybe I shouldn’t be surprised to have counted myself in both groups’ numbers.  A Jehovah’s Witness child knows all too well the pain of independence from the group.  We have been brought up to be isolated.  Our very first day in the classroom is a lesson in dissent when we are instructed by our parents to not salute the flag.  (when I think about it, it’s a shitty thing to do to a 5 year old, but I digress.)  Our amygdalas have been exercised so much throughout our childhoods that we are used to the sensation, even if it is still unpleasant.  We realize that we aren’t going to die of embarrassment or ridicule if we don’t go along with the crowd.  I’ve said in the past that my purpose here at The Confluence is to give people a place where it is safe to be unpopular.  I knew it was important but until today, I didn’t know why.  Same with Lambert, Avedon and Ian.

The left blogosphere might want to think about that for awhile.  If it thinks that nothing it does makes a difference to the powers that be, maybe it should try dissenting and allow the pain of independence work its magic.  DON’T say you’re going to vote for the bastards even if they treat you like shit.  And then mean it. They’re counting on you to go along with the crowd in order to alleviate that pain and fear.  Peer pressure only works if you let it.  And those of us who have resisted from the beginning can’t reason with you to make you see our point of view.  Resisting peer pressure is something you need to come to grips with on an emotional level your own.  It *is* painful but worth it when your thoughts are your own. It’s sometimes physically disorienting and nauseating, I won’t lie to you. People aren’t going to like you.  They’re going to call you stupid or mentally ill.  They’ll say they were wrong about you and you’re not as sexy and smart as they thought you were.  They’ll tell you that you will bring Armageddon down on everyone’s head if you let the Republicans win.  They know how the brain game works because they’ve read the studies and it’s always worked this way.  If you give in to them, they win and they can do whatever they like because they know you will go along in order to feel good about yourself.

They need you more than you need them.  They still need the momentum of the crowd, the frenzy of the mob, the mounting pressure as the election gets nearer.  They need your vote.  If you refuse it, you monkeywrench their entire peer pressure apparatus and then they have to start paying attention to you and addressing your demands.  They’d rather not have to do that.  They have other people to win over.  It’s easier for them to know that they have checked you off their list so they can move on to tougher nuts.  Don’t make it easy for them.

Accept the pain of independence, learn to dissent and triumph over them.  Think of it this way, dissenting is the best way to preserve our democracy.  That’s an idea that is worthy of the pain.

********************************

The dissenter’s theme song since 2008:

 

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34 Responses

  1. It is a family trait that we’d rather be right than be popular and I’m proud to say that, though sometimes it is a little uncomfortable…hehe. It’s ironic that I take so much comfort from finding there are others like us, lol!

  2. good morning to us happy few Conflucians :)

  3. What a wonderful essay, rd.
    As a child, I thought that women were as smart as men and black people were equal to whites.
    I know the pain of independence very well. It’s been a lonely road but, now, like my idol, I “welcome their hatred.”
    Last time, I was a Hillary supporter to the very bitter end but ended up voting for the lightbringer in the general becasuse the two living pols I admire most in the world told me I had to do so. Yes, I see the irony of that statement.
    This time it’s different, turns out I really can’t be fooled again.
    Was it nice to wake up this morning, knowing that your siding is fixed?

  4. Ha-ha! I was looking for that post from Kos where he called us a “shrieking band of paranoid holdouts” and came across a comment from litigatormom at TalkLeft where she thought that by November 2008 even I would come around and vote for the lightbringer. But she was wrong. And the reason she thought I would come around sounds petty and trivial to me. She thought it was because of the treatment I received at DailyKos when I was banned. I can say to litigatormom and all of the others with utmost confidence that I got over my banning from DailyKos rather quickly. Like, within hours. Maybe even minutes. I quickly wrote a note to Kos saying in essence, “Goodbye and thanks for all the fish” and landed here. I did not beg for reinstatement. For one thing, it would have been pointless. For another, I didn’t want to be on a group blog where my opinions had to be self-censored, especially when I knew I was right. That would have been stupid. So, no, banning me from DailyKos wasn’t that bad. The place is addicting and for a few days, I felt myself typing the url in automatically. But I guess I don’t really have a strong addictive personality and I just got on with other things.
    No, the reason I didn’t vote for Obama and won’t vote for him ever, is because of the way he participated in disenfranchising Florida and Michigan when it was convenient to him and the rest of us 18,000,000 voters at the convention. I consider that a conspiracy to deprive voters of the right of self-determination which is about the worst sin you can commit in a Democracy. And every bad thing that has followed can be traced back to his actions. He pushed out of the race the more qualified candidate who would have had a better understanding of the mechanisms of government to manipulate during an economic crisis and one who came prepared with a well thought out set of policies on everything from mortgage modifications to infrastructure to healthcare.
    The end (his nomination) justified his means (the manipulation of primary and caucus votes) but the rest of us suffer for it.
    That, in my humble opinion, is the best reason to not vote for him. It has never been my personal comfort in the blogosphere and absolutely has never had a racial component. I wasn’t brought up that way and grew up in the post civil rights era for the most part. So, I knew that whatever crap the Obots were throwing at me didn’t match with my own internal thoughts. I could therefore dismiss them. What was outrageous on their part was the relentlessly negative and misogynistic bullying we received from them. And Obama didn’t ask them to let up or hold any of them accountable for that. I have to assume he approved. Yet another reason to never vote for the man. He’s no better than a Republican operative in that respect. He has no scruples, no values and no character. So there. Don’t count on me this November either. As far as I’m concerned, we have the worst of the Republicans already.

    • Why in god’s name would anybody want to be a (male reproductive)member of the Kos community?

      I went there during the summer of 2011 and the first posting I see is from some scold chastising the doubters of Obama because it’s oh so hard to push legislation with a hostile Congress so cut him some slack. I’m thinking to myself are they that stupid, Obama had the House and Senate and did nothing of consequence for two years.

      Kos’ treatment of Hillary was the reason became a Clinton supporter. I wanted no part of any candidate who would stoop so low to win an election.

    • Brava, RD. I am not going to reward O’s behavior with my vote. I’m sitting out the top of the ticket or writing in HRC (same thing in my state). I will be voting in local races if there are candidates with a backbone in the right place.

  5. My one indulgence is Starbucks coffee. The new blond roast is delicious. I will have to ration my little stash carefully.

  6. No wonder my head still hurts when I remember those dark days of 2008. I witnessed HRC supporters among family and friends gradually align themselves, one by one, with the party’s chosen one until I was the lone holdout. Were it not for The Confluence, I would have felt completely alone. Your voice makes a difference, RD.

  7. The humanimal-being is probably the only animal which can hack its own brain (except possibly for certain whales and dolphins).

  8. Very interesting post. Very useful too.

  9. I come from a family of Democrats. Everyone supported Hillary in the primaries. But after Obama was selected most of the males voted for him but most of the females either wrote in Hillary or refused to vote for a president on the ballot. It seems the women felt threatened by Obama’s style but the men saw no threat to their freedom. Why did the men go with the pressure, but not the women?

    • You have exceptional women in your family. Just think of all of the Amanda Marcottes and Naomi Wolf’s who voted enthusiastically for Obama.
      We were under intense pressure to give in. It was brutal. It’s easier for the powers that be to come down harder on women and they abused that power in 2008.
      Let me guess that your female relatives were adults and were in the 35+ age range. If you’re in the workforce and you’ve put up with this shit for years, you recognize it for what it is. What it is is four years of obscurity and neglect and the feeling that your work and opinions are not as good as your male relatives. Obama is all about the corporate mindset. I didn’t really want more of that in my life.

      • Actually our ages ranged from 19 to 70 with all the decades in between represented. But even the youngest had some unhappy experiences with males in their chosen fields, though the younger ones felt empowered to speak up.

        • Wow, I was hoping that younger women wouldn’t have experienced that stuff yet or weren’t quite tuned into it. It’s worse than I thought.

  10. I don’t know how to make a rational sounding comment when you so throughly cover the point. But, really Riverdaughter… this is important.

    Being different can hurt but, it’s a good hurt. When I make the right decision I can almost feel all the pieces of my brain align where they belong. But, when I’m making the wrong decision, those same bits feel scrambled and wrong. I might be excited, I might think I’m THERE. But, I’m just not comfortable.

    When I turn away from that wrong decision, I might feel a tug (I WANT the excitement, I want to be THERE) but, it’s not long before that connection snaps and disappears completely (like an old rubber band)

    I have to read your post again — there was a lot to absorb. ….

    Also, I’ve had a crazy week — wild and dramatic stuff. Near tragedies and huge rewards for people in my family. It’s amazing how drama and adrenaline surges affect the brain and emotions. I feel like I’m just now returning to normal.

  11. I never considered voting for O based on his lack of experience and character, but what I felt was not peer pressure, but a sickening dread that yet another fraud would prevail, similar to Bush v. Gore, and the country was going to suffer. I was careful to keep my opinion of O to myself after his stunning acceptance speech in front of the faux columns, carefully assessing the degree that someone had fallen for the media concoction, then tried to open up a bit of doubt. Of course I had no idea how fast and far O the brand would fall. I expected that there had to be a bit more to him than I grasped.

  12. I clicked through to Ian’s blog, and it was all gloom doom already too late.

    So, here’s a thought experiment. If things were really that bad, would Hillary really plan to retire rather than make one more try to do something about it? She talks about going selfish, just being a grandmother. But would she really?

    So, how would she try to make a difference?

    • She’s already heavily involved in the Women in Public Service Project.
      I have no idea if she could be persuaded to run. IMHO, she is the ONLY Democrat you could run who would be more popular than any other candidate of either party. I know that other Democrats would prefer Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich but those guys would never make it out of the starting gate. The main objection to Clinton seems to be her perceived hawkishness. But I’m not so worried about that. The main problem that we have is economic. It’s a bit of a luxury to be overly concerned with two wars that are winding down right now. If you’ve got time to fret over that, you probably aren’t suffering in this economy. But if you really want to end the wars, you have to deal with the economy first. Getting people back to work and more secure is a great way to turn their attention to foreign affairs.
      As for the Clinton legacy, I think Clinton was a good president and people who remember the 90s would agree. The anti-Hillary Dems are setting an unreasonable standard for her that they did not apply to Obama. And I wish they would ask themselves why that is. There is a reason that has nothing to do with Hillary, I’m sure of it.

      • The print and broadcast media would have to savage Hillary Clinton should she decide to run if only because they don’t have the moral fortitude to admit what they did th her in 2008 was wrong.

        • Well, she could savage the media in return somewhat like Gingrich did in that recent debate he was in.

          But she won’t run. She has moved on to other things just as Al Gore has. And she will be effective just as he has been.

      • The way to set the stage for economic survival at this point would be to abolish all the Free Trade Agreements, repeal the law which repealed Glass-Steagall and force the zombie-banks through a GM/Chrysler-style restructuring and savage burndown of the non-viable parts, repeal the legislation which repealed PUHCA, etc. Also
        restore the Clinton-era tax rates and tables for all.

        If Hillary Clinton decided to become a primary candidate after all and if she made the case that she wanted to do all that, I would give her a respectful listen. In fact, I would vote for her over Obama in such a primary in any case. Then, in the general election, I would see if she really appears to be less pro-kleptocratic than Romney would be. (Of course, if the general election was a Gingrich vs. Clinton election, I would vote for Hillary regardless . . . for the same reasons that I will vote for Obama if it is Gingrich vs. Obama).

        But she won’t be running. She probably won’t campaign very hard for Obama either. I think her approach will be a very polite version of:
        ” you filled your toilet, now swim in it.” She has other effectiveness-areas to apply herself to now.

        • Oh . . . also . . . if a primary challenger to Obama indicated he would appoint a rule-of-law Attorney General to take savage prosecutorial action against whatever FIRE sector personnel deserved it, that would be popular too. Also a loud and noisy repudiation of Obama’s effort to achieve a crime-coddling coverup-settlement to the whole area of
          lending fraud and mortgage fraud and fraudulent foreclosure, etc.

          • ” What!? No he Or she?” Well, since Clinton won’t be running, and neither will Marcy Kaptur, that leaves a few random MBPs to challenge.
            And none of them will, either. At the national level, the Democratic Party is the party of Kos, Digby, David Atkins, and Larry Summers now.
            And nothing else. State level Democratic Parties may still vary.

  13. I don’t care if Satan is running against him, I will not vote for Obama.

  14. The only member of my family, who have always voted as Democrats, who voted for Obama, was my very mysogynistic brother. He literally hated Hillary, voted for Obama and now rues his dicision. I think that says it all.

  15. I read one of this Ian Welsh person’s blog posts. It was all about how we Americans betrayed and let down democracy at every step of the way and we are all morally culpable and blah blah blah. After he ran away to Canada he has the nerve to lecture us here from his comfortable safe perch in Canada.

    If he thinks he is so smart, let him come back down here and show us how it is done.

    • I just went and read a lot of Ian Welsh, blah blah blah. r u ready, I got the same impression. It was the bit on fracking, liberals favorite boogie man these days.
      I live ground zero for the natural gas industry in Ne PA and see things very differently than the usual lefty. Lots of fracking around here, no real problems with the ground water to speak of. As with everything, the gas industry has been a mixed bag, good and bad.
      Oh well, I won’t go in to it all now. Suffice it to say, I wish people would think about the impact of a boom town economy on the rural poor who have had nothing good happen to them for decades before they get all liberal elitist idiotic and start chanting the latest liberal memes about the evil gas companies.

      • I would need to marshal a lot of details before I tried to argue fracking in detail. Given what little I have read and heard about groundwater contamination from fracking in other parts of the country,
        and given a series of little mini-earthquakes in the Youngstown, Ohio area after a bunch of high-pressure injection fracking there, I would be
        prepared to give the anti-frackers a very respectful hearing . . . even at the risk of sounding leftist. (I was so put off by Mr. Welsh’s tone in just that one post that I didn’t read any others, including the anti-fracking post you mention).

        If it turns out the anti-frackers are exactly right, then the question arises: how to revitalize rural economies without destroying rural ecologies later . . . because destroyed rural ecologies will destroy rural economies as part of the destruction process. That process is playing out in parts of Kentucky just downstream and downslope from the mountaintop removal mining zones.

        • Yes, that’s the rub. The rural poor don’t need things to get worse, either. The environmental aspect has to be considered hand-in-hand with the economic. The usual ‘preserve our pretty spaces to hike in’ presentation is off-putting and doesn’t address the economic issues.

      • And say! . . . . a totally unrelated question occurs to me . . . are there any old sets of American Chestnut roots in the woods in your part of Pennsylvania? Old live roots from which new American Chestnut saplings still struggle upward and grow before the blight kills them down?

    • Um, if I’m not mistaken, Ian is Canadian. If he ran away, he ran away to his home.

  16. Story of my life.

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