A guest post by Panda Paws
Channel 4 recently broadcast “The Mill” a drama based on the true stories of mill workers in Cheshire in the 19th century. It covered the Chartists fighting for universal suffrage and the Mill owners objections to the Factories Acts. Apparently outlawing children under 9 from working at all and limiting those over 9 to only ten hours a day would hinder their competitiveness. I saw it as a reminder of how brutal life used to be for the working classes. IDS and Gideon apparently saw it as “blue sky” thinking for their next manifesto!
The political centre is a movable feast. When Thatcher was PM many regarded her as an extreme right wing zealot. Today, she’s practically to the left of Blue Labour. In Scotland Tories are toxic so if you are a right winger with ambition the party to join is Labour as Jim Murphy and Tom Harris demonstrate. So why has this happened; why have people and the main political parties apparently moved rightwards?
Scotland has plenty of Tories/right wingers. I live in East Renfrewshire among a good number of them. Are they all callous swines? Some are but others use cognitive biases to help justify their views and depict the poor as “other”. These biases often overlap and thus cement apparently hard hearted views.
Firstly the “Just World Fallacy”
Basically this boils down to you get what you deserve. Therefore if you are poor it is your fault, you are lazy, stupid or not hard working enough. Hard work is rewarded and they are well off because of merit. Therefore most of the poor can be regarded addicts or wasters in sinkhole estates. It’s acknowledged that “good people” can fall on hard times – e.g. the genteel poor or those with disabilities, but mostly it’s a fault of the person and not society. Thus society does not need to change and radical politics is seen as being soft on welfare (sic). This leads onto another cognitive bias
The deserving and undeserving poor.
AKA Daily Mail land - “I don’t mind my taxes paying for the truly disabled but most are faking it. And as for the unemployed, pay them nothing. Work or starve”
They acknowledge that there are SOME deserving poor but posit that most are faking ill health/disability or if healthy too lazy to work. It ignores the fact that while many with long term conditions could work, few want to employ them in a world where there are too many unemployed to choose from and not enough jobs for all.
Whilst there are always those who are “difficult to reach” or as Marx called them the “lumpenproletariat “, these are a small minority. Society has a duty to determine how to best to “cope” with this minority without punishing the majority who have fallen on hard times. At best, the aim would be to educate and help equip them to achieve their potential, at worst to give them just enough to survive on and not turn to crime or riot.
Most people are aware of what stereotyping is. They may not realise that stereotyping leads to “divide and conquer” since one of its main consequences is “othering” whereby those who are different or even slightly outside the mainstream can be denigrated. If you voted Yes don’t probably need any further explanations! Seeing someone as “different” can lead to a lack of empathy towards them and their situation. This can be used, especially if the “strivers” don’t have any personal contact with people in the situation, to mould public opinion against them. Thus we have a situation whereby seemingly decent people are not up in arms about the treatment of disabled people or the use of workfare during a time of labour surplus.
So effing Tories (of all colours) - selfish gits or people that have been manipulated by spin doctors with more than a passing knowledge of social psychology? IMHO, the latter is why seemingly decent people can have very harsh views on the have-nots. What to do about it is a whole other article!