‘Peoples’ perceived reality tunnels don’t always jibe with the sociological reality around them. As a matter of fact, I don’t think there are any two people living in the same reality tunnel. Arlen and I have been together for nigh on forty years now, and I swear we have separate reality tunnels. There are times when we can’t understand each other at all. We’re just being tolerant.’
– RAW (Trajectories #15, segment on Anxiety Culture)
Here’s a letter I got from RAW in 1995. It comments on a few of the things I wrote about in a modest zine I DIY-published at the time. (More context below).
Incidentally, Bob appeared to get into the creative spirit of pre-internet zine culture – in which people sent each other all kinds of cool stuff by snail mail (see also Ivan Stang’s ‘High Weirdness by Mail‘ and the Factsheet Five Zine Reader). This letter came in an envelope with a big sticker of Marilyn Monroe on the back; it contained art postcards (including a Warhol pop art rendition of Monroe) and a ‘The Far Side’ comic strip from a calendar, dated 23 February.
Later that year (December 1995), in Trajectories #15 – an audio edition – RAW commented further on several of the items in Anxiety Culture (which went on to be a website), including a study on people hating their jobs, oddities in crime stats, and the main two underlying messages in adverts. Here’s the segment:
Before coming to your blog today, I just read an article explaining that left and right in the USA are victims of each other misdescribing the other side. I was wondering if that is not overblown, on purpose, as RAW notes, in order to further the divide and conquer methodology of the Corporatocracy. I think there is some truth in that, but I tend to agree with RAW that the culprit has more to do with an inbred moralistic mindset that uses guilt as a cudgel.
One of the things I liked about Jaron Lanier’s take on social media is that it doesn’t require positing top-down manipulation (Ruling Class divide & rule etc) – the algorithms do their own thing based on monetization and those anxiety/guilt/shame/masochism tendencies that RAW lists (albeit with people like Bannon wanting to exploit things). Interesting notion (in the linked piece) that Trump’s appeal to his followers comes from his lack of virtue & his shamelessness. Having been quite influenced by Lakoff’s Moral Politics thesis, I see it a little differently – with different political identities expressing fundamentally different moral hierarchies. For his followers, I think Trump has the virtues that Lakoff’s model predicts are most important to ‘conservative’ morality – eg ‘Moral Strength’ (as in “winning”, “fighting”, “might”) & individual self-interest. I can see how his shamelessness in terms of what Lakoff calls ‘liberal’ morality has obvious appeal for his fans. But Trump’s real fear & shame no doubt come from losing – the ultimate sin in his moral hierarchy. And in that model (Lakoff’s) I think the fear/guilt/shame follows the moral hierarchy – ie completely different cognitive/behavioural triggers & manifestations according to moral-political identity. Something a lot of cognitive scientists seem to be interested in mapping, by stated political stance.
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I think RAW described that dynamic most often as Patrist vs Matrist, but what could also be Dominance vs Cooperation models. RAW’s model has always suggested to me that the left is viewed as stereotypical female by the stereotypical right. Complaints from the left are heard as comments from a “nagging wife.” Trump’s, and the right’s, attacks on the left could be seen as a form of domestic abuse.
That’s a great way of putting it. When I get around to it, I’m hoping to write a post on the parallels between the Patrist vs Matrist thing as RAW describes it, and my understanding of Lakoff’s Moral Politics thesis.
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That issue of Trajectories happens to be the only one I have.
It’s one of my favourites, and not just because of the mention of my zine. I think RAW says at one point that a main theme is “sociological detail” – the kind of thing we might overlook, particularly if we’re using big sweeping generalisations and presumptions in our thinking.