Thursday, October 23, 2008

Holiday wishes from Republicans that failed Logic

This cartoon, forwarded by one of my neocon in-laws (they are at least pro-choice, but our political agreements end there), is a great example of the one of the pernicious untruths upon which conservative philosophy rests.

This is just one of many examples of this logical fallacy memed-up into jokes and cartoons. It wasn't too long ago I was sent the joke about a girl who returns from school a Socialist, at least until her father suggests she donate one GPA point to her hard-partying friend; when she balks, he says "Welcome to the Republican Party."

Let me try to break this down for the simpletons.

If someone is lazy, they will be poor. Fair enough. But from that, it does not logically follow that if someone is poor, it is because they are lazy.

If someone works hard enough, they will succeed. Again, fair enough. But from that, it does not logically follow that if someone has succeeded, they work hard. (ahem, cough, *BUSH*, cough-cough)

Need a simple proof? If a shape is square, it is also a rectangle. Absolutely true. If a shape is a rectangle, it is also a square. Not so much.

This is important, because it is the base of McCain's "that one wants to spread your wealth around" attacks. The idea that a person's success or failure in a free market system is a direct indication of their desire and ability to work hard and nothing else, that every asshole standing on third hit a triple and every strikeout caught 'em lookin', is a foundational belief of Republicans. And it willfully ignores the realities of our economic system.

Our system has for years skewed wealth upwards - the poor aren't poorer now, the middle class hasn't shrunk, because everyone but the top 5% has gotten lazier. We still fund schools locally, which is a fucking travesty, because it follows that the poorer you are born, the poorer your education and future prospects tend to be. Hard-working people lose their homes because of unforeseeable catastrophic illness, ferchrissakes. Far more than lazy people end up poor, and far more than self-made mean and women end up rich.

It's an insidious myth because it serves so many purposes. It allows the Republican masses to look down upon those "others" who are not living the American Dream as lazy. It allows the wealthy many self-congratulatory pats of their own back. And it keeps the Republican hoi palloi in line, as they think of themselves as hard workers, and so destined to get their just rewards.

And that last part is such a lie.

Can hard work pull someone from poverty to wealth? Sure. But it reminds me of the 10-1 ratio in sports. Roughly 10% of high school athletes believe they will play Division I with a scholarship, when less than 1% actually do, and roughly 10% of college athletes think they will go pro, when less that 1% do.

The Right, because they are shamelessly shallow, has become quite good at perpetuating narrative strands like this. And they are effective in that they manage to demonize and piss off Democrats in one fell swoop.


the beige one said...

This way of thinking was taught to me in school, when I first came to the US. This was in Denver, CO in 1980, not long after the mock election held during the social studies block, where I demanded a recount because Carter lost.

I was indulged in that recount, and at some point in the aftermath, the class was treated to a lesson on "Dem v. Rep" using Halloween candy.

Anonymous said...

John Adams loathed a two-party system.

Most people screaming Socialism have no fucking idea what that means. Most of those people have no idea what Capitalism means, either.

Ask them what Marx (and Engels)wrote in the Manifesto and Das Kapital. They'll probably give you some gibberish about "A Night at the Opera" (if you're lucky enough to have come upon someone with a good sense of humor or some sense of history).

Anonymous said...

well said my friend! thank you for spelling out this important point. it is so frustrating that only one possible explanation is ever spewed (i.e. poor must = lazy) when there are countless scenarios. and in my incredulity when someone springs this on me, i am without words. i think i need to start carrying around a list of the myriad perspectives, or rather just print this post off and read it out loud.