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About Me:18-year-old sixth form student, studying English Literature, History and Government and Politics. My articles will broadly cover topics from the current affairs of politics to reviews of books and albums, as well as adding my own creative pieces, whether it be short fiction or general opinion.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you will be fully aware of the division within society as a result of politics. In the British two party system both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party have jolted further to the left and right respectively. Something similar can be seen throughout Europe, especially France which saw the likes of Marine Le Pen gaining serious traction, and also in America with Trump, the so-called ‘alt-right’ and the socialist wing of the Democratic Party emboldened by the policies and success of Bernie Sanders.
With this materialisation of division, I felt a strong pang of discomfort. In one of my creative pieces published on this website, I crititqued and attempted to understand the reasoning behind such tribalism and the increasing partisanship of the population. But even channeling my thoughts into a fictional piece seemed unfulfilling and empty.
That’s why when I came across Jonathan Haidt’s book, ‘The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Relgion’ I bought instantly. And I knew it wasn’t just mere conjecture; knowing that it stemmed from moral psychological studies, the claims put forward would be empirical.
And for the beginning half of the book, this rang true. Haidt’s biggest asset is using the ‘Elephant/Rider’ metaphor for explaining how the human mind works. In a nutshell, this basically explains that our rational logic comes second to our intuitions. This explained to me why people can come out with the most tenuous points for supporting a party. For example, the day before the last general election I asked some of friends the reasons as to why they were going to vote Conservative. Once they had given their reasons, some valid (the £10 minimum wage that Labour was proposing is unsustainable for a small business owner), and some not (Jeremy Corbyn is in collusion with the IRA), I then asked that if I were to show their reasons to be unfounded or too weak whether they would change their mind. Not one person said that they would. According to Jonathan Haidt, this was a display of the elephant (human’s innate intuitions) overriding the rider (rationality). People are not guided by their rational thought, which is why deeply emotive political campaigning works best: it appeals to their elephant. Even Jeremy Corbyn, a purposed paragon of novelty within politics, still used the same old tricks as other parties had done. With slogans (for the many, not the few), with rallies, with appeals to the emotions rather than the mind, Corbyn fit the same old model. And credit to him – because it worked and has worked for decades. But Haidt does not let this information that people are guided by their elephants hang loosely and fatalistically in the air. Instead, he teaches the readers of his book to become more accustomed to how human beings are fine-tuned to these means of persuasion. To get someone to agree with you, first appeal to their elephant and then try the rational side of it.
Image Credits: amazon.co.uk