Denial Culture

One of the biggest reasons why Congress is deadlocked on everything, why the major political parties are polarized, and why people are at each other’s throats over politics and national policies is, in my view, because we live in a culture of denial, based on the feeling that “we” are totally right, and “they” are wrong or totally misguided.

Despite the fact that the purchasing power of the minimum wage is more than 40% lower than it was fifty years ago, and is possibly worth less than that, given the “adjustments” made to the CPI in recent years, conservatives deny that this has created enormous hardship for poor working Americans, regardless of color or class.

At the same time, while the left understands this and wants change, they deny that there are financial and fiscal limits on federal spending with the simplistic mantra that taxes on the super-rich will fund their entire array of social programs.

While I happen to agree with the fact that the ultra-rich need to be taxed more, increasing their taxes even dramatically won’t come close to solving the problem. The current federal debt is over $26 trillion. So far just this this year, the federal deficit is nearly $3 trillion dollars. According Forbes magazine, the total wealth of all 630 U.S. billionaires amounts to $3.4 trillion. That means that even confiscating the wealth of all those billionaires would barely cover the deficit for two years, let alone provide significant additional revenue for major program improvements. Even if you confiscate all the wealth of those worth $100 million, you only add another $3 trillion.

And there are plenty of other denials.

Anti-vaxxers deny the proven efficacy of vaccines, while the extreme right denies proven public health methods, such as masks and stringent social distancing, to control the spread of Covid-19.

The right denies a history of economic, political, and cultural subjugation of both the poor and minorities, while the left denies the problems created by political correctness.

Even though self-esteem movements, rampant grade inflation, and student evaluations have played a major role in dumbing down education at all levels and in turning out the most fragile students in the history of the U.S., too many of whom are largely ignorant of the history of their own country, the liberals refuse to see it, let alone address it, while the conservatives blatantly deny the negative impact of local education funding based primarily on property taxes, which effectively means that “rich” districts almost invariably get better education.

The extreme conservatives deny the human-caused aspect of global warming and the future costs of not slowing or preventing it, while the far left denies the magnitude of the costs of mitigating global warming.

The far left can’t recognize that EVERY form of power generation has environmental downsides, while the fossil-fuel intoxicated conservatives ignore the immense climate and immediate pollution created by excessive and unregulated use of fossil fuels. In fact, the best we’ll ever be able to do is fit the environmentally appropriate power source to the climate, geography, and water resources of the locale it serves.

The right denies that Trump has any significant flaws, while the left did the same for Hillary Clinton.

And both reject compromise, especially significant compromise based on verifiable facts.

9 thoughts on “Denial Culture”

  1. Jeff says:

    Looking back, I wonder how different things would be if Clinton impeachment ended with a conviction. I doubt Trump would have stood a chance and we’d have better candidates all around… maybe?

  2. Tom says:

    “Denial is a defense mechanism proposed by Anna Freud which involves a refusal to accept reality, thus blocking external events from awareness. If a situation is just too much to handle, the person may respond by refusing to perceive it or by denying that it exist.”

    In search of a cause and in search of corrective action – did we get into a “denial culture” because life is too complex to handle? If so, is this because of our lack of learning to accept reality in order to find a means to deal with life? Trump has the answer: Patriotic Education! Perhaps life is too much to deal with and thus we are embracing “reality shows” as a means to deal with real life? New life/culture will start when our world grinds to a halt since we are all in denial until we realize that there are too few humans left to support society (and the transient anarchy did not work after all).

    Let us be positive. We will save our democracy by voting for reality! Come on: it has to be right or left, just not extreme right or extreme left.

  3. shannon says:

    This post presents almost exactly what I think about America today. Thank you!
    Tom makes a good point. Personally, there are times when I find life too complex and I have a BS and a JD. Even with that, my education is lacking, especially in history, humanities, and finance. Are we expected to know too much? Is our education system failing? Is there a way out of this mess?

  4. Chris says:

    Expecting everyone to understand all the complexity around them is probably too much of an ask at this point. Getting people to accept that life is hard with almost no easy answers is probably a more realistic approach. How realistic is still probably low though.

  5. Gabriel says:

    Many people are uninterested and lack the motivation and/or funds for further education or autodidactism. They work all day and often have families. Too many lack the desire and capacity to understand the complexities of modern life (not to mention the likelihood that our intelligence has likely been dropping for thousands of years). Far too many have lost touch with how difficult and just how real life can be. This a protective/insulating function that is both psychological (as the denial quote above explicates) and societal. Remember the old nursery tales. How often do people read those these days?

    Television provides people with drama that is not their own.

    As to public education I remember becoming very good at multiple choice answer selection and not necessarily at all skilled at actually learning a subject unless I was interested in it. That was forty years ago and I don’t imagine that the situation is any better these days.

    When I was in the military as an enlisted there was something similar to the grade inflation mentioned above. It was a rating system from 1-5. You rated those that you supervised. Many overrated their subordinates (typically near a 5 rating), often friends, as it led to their more rapid advancement, so it’s not limited to schooling.

    We, in general, tend to coddle ourselves, our children and our friends. We’re a shortsighted species in general.

    And that’s quite enough from me methinks on this topic. 😉

  6. Hanneke says:

    Michelle Sagara West just had a post about the divide between urban and rural voters, looked at through the lens of different ways of caring for the people around us.

    https://michellesagara.com/social-distancing-journal-18-cities/

    I tend to enjoy her insights, and this seems a very positive way of looking at the human experience basis for the present polarisation, and possibly a way in which good people on both sides of the divide can grow some understanding for each other’s viewpoints. Maybe even make the divide a bit less unbridgeable, at the individual and family level, which seems to me the only way to reverse the continuing polarisation.

    1. Martin Sinclair says:

      thank you for the link – very well presented

      I haven’t come across her books – I will make a point of checking them out when I’m next near a bookshop or library ( the draw-backs of rural living in these COVID-afflicted times )

  7. Postagoras says:

    I have to say that I disagree with you here. I mean, sure, there are elements of “I want a pony” mentality in politics, but that’s not really new.

    What’s “new” is that, since the Gingrich years, the Republicans in Congress has refused any bipartisan engagement on making policy through legislation. And they’ve done a great job of marketing the idea that government can’t solve problems.

    This one-sided refusal to engage has led to our current state, where Congress simply appoints partisan judges and abdicates policy-making to the Courts.

  8. Martin Sinclair says:

    Ironically for this topic, the first of your novels that I read was “Gravity Dreams” which did a good job of expressing an approach that I have tried to use in my current employment – “what do you want ? this is what it will cost – are you prepared to pay for it or do you want to do something else ?”

    I think a large part of this denial culture is the unwillingness of politicians to stand up to their constituents and do the same. Mind you, if they did that they’d never get elected because a majority of voters would flock to a “jam tomorrow” candidate.

    There are times when I think that it would be desirable to have some sort of qualified franchise such as that in “Starship Troopers” or Jerry Pournelle’s “Future History” novels but then I conclude that the wealthy and powerful would probably find ways of gaming the system anyway

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