The narrative of this election is that of Stability v Chaos, Recovery v Ruination. In accepting this, the opposition parties have made a major mistake. Leaving aside the fact that Capitalism is inherently Unstable, by giving the Incompetent Incumbents control of the narrative, they immediately have to defend against a crime they haven’t committed yet. How do you disprove a hypothetical negative…?
This narrative deflects from the real issues of the campaign; the war zone that has been made of our Health Service (war zone is not too strong a term, Ireland ranked just above Ukraine; an actual war zone) the crisis of homelessness, the debt elephant in the room, the fastest growth of working poor in the states history and the obfuscation of the Governments position on the 8th amendment, I could go on…
Instead, we have name calling, mudslinging and schoolboy bullying. Sinn Fein point out the Governments miscalculation of the “Fiscal Space” and the Government shout “Slab Murphy!” When Paul Murphy sticks to his electoral pledge of opposing water charges, he’s labelled a loony lefty and is made a target for officialdom.
There is a term in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that explains such lamentable situations: Confirmation Bias. You see, like it or not, we are wired to interpret events in a way that reinforce our world view.
When I see enda kenny fist pounding in Mary Lou McDonald’s direction, I see misogyny. The pro-government viewer sees an involuntary arm twitch. When I hear Leo Varadkar say “I am not so naive to think that I can make every problem in the health service go away”, I hear a Minister who has surrendered and is looking for the exit door. The Leo fan club applaud his “pragmatism” and bathe in the reflected glory of his pre-planned failure. When Catherine Murphy courageously challenges Denis O’Brien in the Dail, I see a Stateswoman of great merit. The Irish Independent Editorial desk sees an adversary…
Try discussing this insanity with people and you might be given the tried and trusted refrain; “Ah sure, what’s the alternative?” So what to do, how do we get “Mr/Mrs No Alternative” to at least explore the real issues? Well, there are two simple techniques we can use and you don’t need to be a CBT master to use them:
Thinking Fast & Slow – The “secret” can be summarised as: when we think fast, we are guided by our inherent beliefs, instincts and biases. But when we stop and take time to consider our options, we make better decisions, that can lead to better outcomes. And it really can work. A study of young males in a Chicago high-school showed how a CBT class (called Becoming a Man) reduced school dropout rates by 80%!
Cost Benefit Analysis – In a nutshell; “Mrs No Alternative” takes stock of her options, engages with the issues and makes a choice based on which outcome offers her the most benefit AFTER potential costs are factored in. Now, she may still go with her initial gut decision, but at least having done the cost benefit analysis, she is participating rather than simply going with the flow.
But, I hear you say, what happens when bias is so deeply routed that the “Ugly Fear of Change” manifests itself? Then we explain, the overused but nonetheless apt, Einstein’s definition of “insanity… as doing something over and over again and expecting a different result”.
How can we expect to break the cycle of boom and bust if don’t veer from this well worn path? Only by changing what YOU do, can YOU hope to change things for the better. It is our own prejudices and confirmation bias that are speaking when we declare no alternatives.
There are alternatives. It just requires us to face our prejudices and biases. Easier said than done? No! Remember the techniques and the next time someone blurts out “Ah sure, what’s the alternative?” look them straight in the eye and say “A working Democracy. Not the current Chumocracy!”
Take back the narrative.
Tony Groves Feb 2016