Conversations with Conservatives: Lies We Tell About Ourselves & Others

  1. I was eating at a place that has communal seating. An older white man, mid-70s I’d guess, declares himself a conservative, and later, within the context of another table with, presumably, fellow conservatives says, lightly paraphrased: “Women would rather not work. The only reason they do so is because of economic necessity.”
  2. An older white man, mid-60s I’d guess, starts up a friendly conversation in small town America and quickly turns the conversation to how great a job President Trump is doing. My lack of enthusiasm makes it clear I don’t share his point of view. In a subsequent conversation, he claims he can walk six miles in an hour. As a runner, six miles an hour is a 10 minute per mile pace, which I do on my easy running days. While I’ve heard that there are Olympic race walkers that can do a mile in six minutes, I think there is no chance that this man can walk that fast. I say so. He doubles down and assures me he can do it, and would I like to join him? I tell him if I were to do so, I’d need to run.

These two exchanges got me thinking about the stories we tell ourselves. Does Conservative 1 not have any female family or friends that could let him know that economic independence is an important precondition for many kinds of self-actualization, which is just as important to women as to men?

Conservative 2 raises a more interesting question. Is he making this kind of out-sized claim about his ability because he is insecure? Or, do these kinds of lies serve a signaling function? By pretending that I’m impressed and taking this claim at face value, am I letting him know that I value our relationship over some kind of “objective truth”, which signals that I am part of his political tribe? By not doing it, am I signaling the opposite? Was this the point of this obvious, white lie?

And, is this also going on in the first example? Maybe the point of claiming that women don’t want to work is to shore up the rationalization of patriarchy among conservative men and to form them into a tribe of shared interests? The reality may be besides the point.

Extend this out far enough, and it starts looking like a feature of our times: left, right and center. Aren’t antifa leftists, liberal Democrats, and pretty much everyone else with a political viewpoint basically trying to signal that they buy into a particular narrative? And don’t all of these narratives have winners and losers, with the losers being some kind of Other to the tribe with that particular set of beliefs?

2 thoughts on “Conversations with Conservatives: Lies We Tell About Ourselves & Others

  1. To some extent, especially among younger Left-Wingers and non-Whites, the narrative is all that matters, both as a signal of their allegiances and virtue and as a point to use against their enemies with differing narratives.

    To another extent, the issue is that we have differing, often conflicting, group-based definitions definitions for common terms, e.g., “racism” or “sexism.” And I do mean that literally. Hence, the very words used in the disparate narratives have differing meaning even though the same words are used.

    A case in point:

    Conservative 1 said something to affect that “Women would rather not work. The only reason they do so is because of economic necessity.” And you heard that one way and rejected the statement and speaker to a large extent.

    But, he’s objectively correct or, at least, not incorrect if one goes by various psychological and sociological studies. As compared to men, who derive the majority of the happiness through their jobs, women would rather not “work” – as in work outside the home to earn necessary income. Indeed, financial stress aside, studies show that women who do not “work” for a living by choice are overall happier and healthier than those that do.

    But – and I don’t fault you for this – you heard “rather not work” in a completely different manner, one that implied laziness or some such thing I would guess.

    So yeah, narrative … but also lexicon.

    1. It’s everyone. The idea that this is exclusive to groups you don’t belong to just misses the fact that it’s a cognitive bias. The problem is that it is not only a cognitive bias. Sometimes stories are wrong. To name a few: denial of the impact of people on climate change, people that think vaping isn’t harmful to health, people against vaccines and fluoride, etc.

      The idea that women would rather not work is among them. There are people that would rather not work, but it’s neither gender dependent nor are they the majority. Sure, there are issues around social structure and responsibility for childcare, but this is simply how the incentives of the environment are structured, not some innate feature of someone’s gender.

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