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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:

 

Wednesday: Don’t step out of line

Sun Spotting:  I saw the sun as I was coming out of the grocery store yesterday.  There was this intense, glaring light in my face.  Seriously, I almost couldn’t figure out what was going on.  I had to shade my eyes with my hand, having ditched my sunglasses *weeks* ago.  “Bright light!  Bright light!”, I squealed.  It was the sun, that brilliant star from our illustrious past.  We have been in the Dark Ages in NJ for so long that we no longer recognize it and our pale, sweater swathed bodies have to reacquaint ourselves with the notion of light and warmth.

Alas, it did not last.  By the time we were ready to eat on the deck last night, it had started to rain again.  The clouds are presenting a united front this morning as well.  Solid, gray, endless.

I’m going to Puerta Vallarta:

John Dickerson at Slate covers the president’s press conference yesterday.  Is it just me or is there something Orwellian and creepy about the fact that you can’t eat your lunch anymore without seeing his mug on every TV in the cafeteria blathering on about something. Even though I tried to concentrate on my food, I managed to catch some of his remarks on Iran.  His words were a teensy bit stronger and I can understand why he doesn’t want the US to get involved, since that whole 1979 hostage crisis went over so well for Jimmy Carter.  But if you look carefully at his words, injustice and human rights apply only to protest and dissent.  He doesn’t say anything about the election being rigged and voters disenfranchised as being egregious and unsupportable.

Well, why would he?  He doesn’t believe in self-determination any more than Ayatollah Khamenei.  Sorry to tell you this, dear Iranian readers, but it’s true.  You may have missed our infamous 2008 Democratic presidential primary but it was no less a stolen election than yours.  The difference is we weren’t allowed to protest the way Iranians did last week.  No massive protest would have been possible in Denver.  I should know because I was there.  The city was on lockdown.  There were police in riot gear everywhere.  Step over the line even once and they’d simply force you to the ground, cuff you and haul you off to some gitmo-esque, wire holding pen an hour away from Denver until they got around to letting you make a phone call.

Juan Cole has a bit more to say about it in his comment this morning:

I applaud the Iranian public’s protests against a clearly fraudulent election, and deplore the jackboot tactics that the regime is using to quell them. But it is important to remember that the US itself was moved by Bush and McCain toward a ‘Homeland Security’ national security state that is intolerant of public protest and throws the word ‘terrorist’ around about dissidents. Obama and the Democrats have not addressed this creeping desecration of the Bill of Rights, and until they do, the pronouncements of self-righteous US senators and congressmen on the travesty in Tehran will be nothing more that imperialist hypocrisy of the most abject sort.

Juan seems intent on presenting only the Republican Convention police abuses.  He conveniently forgets about what the Democrats did last year.  Believe me, I saw it with my own eyes as a confrontation was brewing between a line of anti-war activists and the riot police in Denver.  The protesters didn’t have a chance and they were barely raising their voices.  I was on my way to a march for Hillary Clinton on the anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States.  Talk about irony and symbolism.

Tehran?  Nope.  Denver 2008.

Tehran? Nope. Denver 2008

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Obama hasn’t made any moves to get rid of the draconian tactics and surveillance of those who will not fall in line for him.  He needs to preserve these options for the next time he and his crew decide elections for us.

Speaking of elections and people who covered themselves with shame, I got an email from Donna Brazile AND Claire McCaskill yesterday.  Lucky me!   What prompted all this attention all of the sudden?  Donna wrote to tell me:

In a decision announced this morning, the Supreme Court upheld the 1965 Voting Rights Act — a law that has done more to expand and strengthen our democracy than any other.

It’s good news — but the fight to protect voting rights doesn’t end there. Attacks on this critical law will not stop. And voter suppression tactics will continue to plague our elections.

Well, she ought to know.  She saw all the thuggery at the caucuses and, as a DNC official, did nothing to stop it.  She was a ring leader in the notorious RBC hearing where she accused Hillary Clinton of being a cheater.  Takes one to know one, Donna.  What was the point of this email?  It was so that we could make a contribution to the DNC based on our identification with voting rights issues.

Ahuh.

Think of all the bandwidth the DNC could save if they just stopped sending these unbelievable messages to those of us who can’t stand the sight of Donna Brazile’s face.  I won’t buy Ms. either until she’s off of their editorial staff.  But once July 20 comes around, I might join and donate to NOW.  That’s the day that Terry O’Neill takes office and kicks Kim Gandy and her Obama groupies to the curb.  Maybe we can do it en masse.  More updates as the day gets closer.


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