Tuesday 30 May 2017

Bridging the generational divide

The results of the latest ICM poll paint an extraordinary picture of a shocking inter-generational divide.

Just look at the graph in the header image and consider the fact that Labour are outperforming the Tories by almost 5:1 amongst the younger generation, who see Jeremy Corbyn's transformational investment based manifesto as a beacon of hope for a future with decent opportunities after seven bleak and ruinous years of Tory asset stripping.

Unbelievably, despite the Tories' despicable Dementia Tax policy of imposing a huge stealth inheritance tax on anyone who hasn't hidden their assets in shady offshore shell companies, the over-65s are going to come out in force for the party that plans to strip them of their winter fuel allowance, scrap the triple lock on their pensions, and asset strip them if they end up suffering from age-related degenerative diseases.

It's alarming that so many millions of pensioners are not only intent on voting to allow the Tories to trash the aspirations of their grandchildren by gutting education funding, keeping exploitative zero hours contracts, enforcing the highest fees at public universities anywhere in the world, chronically under-investing in infrastructure and innovation, and gutting public services in order to fund their tax cuts for corporations and the super rich, they're also intent on voting against their own interests too.

For goodness sake why?

Obviously not all pensioners are intent on voting for a dystopian future where the aspirations of the young are crushed and the assets of the old are asset stripped in order to fund tax cuts for very wealthiest in society, but a huge majority are.

The reasons why are not clear cut and identical for all elderly Tory voters, but here are two of the big ones.

Echo chambers

The first big reason is that the older generations are very much more likely to be stuck in a mainstream media echo chamber, where their only sources of political news are the television, a single (incredibly biased) newspaper or their favourite radio station.

Independent media simply has no way to reach the large percentage of pensioners who don't even have access to the Internet, let alone social media networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Mainstream journalists often talk derisively about social media echo chambers, and the problem of selection bias on social media is undoubtedly a real one ... but anyone who thinks that people who use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are suffering a worse echo chamber problem than those who only ever rely on mainstream media for their news has got the situation so ridiculously backwards it's beyond parody.

Mental decline

There's no polite or politically correct way to put this so I'm just going to come out and say it (with evidence to back it up of course): The older people get on average, the more gullible they are, the crapper their mathematical abilities, the more they're likely to over-estimate their own expertise, and the more attracted to right-wing authoritarian leaders they become.

The Online Privacy Foundation carried out some very interesting analysis into the political psychology of the 2016 EU referendum vote. You can view the results here.

One of the most remarkable results was that Brexit voters are very much more attracted to right-wing authoritarianism than Remain voters, but also that older generations are very much more attracted to the right-wing tyrant style of leadership than the younger generations (here's another study into older people and right-wing authoritarianism)

Theresa May is undoubtedly the most right-wing authoritarian Prime Minister the UK has ever had

Yes Margaret Thatcher crushed whole communities in pursuit of her hard-right ideological agenda, but she never openly fantasised about trashing the European Convention on Human Rights and scrapping our human rights!

Another thing that the research revealed is that the older people get the worse their critical thinking skills and mathematical abilities become, meaning they're very much less able to see through shockingly misleading political propaganda, blatant smear jobs, misleading push polls and the like.

People like to think it's the young who are gullible and naive, but the research shows that the wisdom of old age is a total myth. Once you start getting older, you start becoming ever more susceptible to believing in ridiculous economic fairy stories and mathematical jiggery-pokery.

One other thing that the research shows is that older people are very much more likely to suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is the problem that people with a very limited understanding of a subject are liable to significantly overestimate their level of expertise, while actual experts are liable to underestimate their level of expertise (the more you know, the more you realise you don't know too).

The older people get, the more likely it is that they end up as a blowhard know-it-all on all subjects, even subjects they actually know next to nothing about.

Obviously not all old people suffer this kind of mental decline (the best ways to avoid this kind of mental decline are mental and physical exercise, a good diet, and avoiding brain cell wrecking substances like alcohol as much as possible) but on average most people do end with declining cognitive abilities.

Most older people end up losing their ability to critique the things they're told, seriously over-estimating their own expertise, and craving harsh dictatorial right-wing governance.

What we can do

The only way we can try to stop the older generations from wrecking the aspirations of their children and grandchildren is to talk to them.

We have to try to bridge the generational divide by getting them to rekindle the skeptical abilities they had in their youth.

We have to try to make them understand that the majority of the mainstream media, and especially the right-wing dominated newspapers are trying to con them into voting for the Tories.

Older people tend to suffer significant mental decline, but one hugely important thing that really stands in older people's favour is that they are very much more likely to be conscientious

They're far more likely to care about other people, behave selflessly, and put other people's needs above their own.

Appealing to older people's-interest is a reasonable strategy. Telling them that the Tories are going to rip them off by scrapping their winter fuel payments, abandoning the triple lock, and asset stripping them if they get ill and need social care might work.

However the cynical Tories know that they're more likely to be conscientious, so they've dressed these ideologically driven economic assaults against pensioners up as necessary sacrifices for the greater good. 

The Tories are so depraved that they know older people can be tricked into accepting massive personal impoverishment by telling them it's for the greater good, rather than a way of funding yet another round of lavish tax breaks for corporations and the super-rich (as it actually is).

If you're going to try to appeal to an older person's self interest, it's absolutely vital that you make sure they understand that the Tories are lying through their teeth: That the cuts aren't for the greater good at all, but actually a way of funding even more giveaways for the millionaires and billionaires.

Probably a much better way of appealing to older people is to talk about the significant differences the Labour manifesto makes for the younger generations, their own grandchildren.

Talk about how the Tories are going to scrap free school meals and slash education funding so the kids of today have worse opportunities than previous generations of children.

Talk about student debts. Explain that tuition fees in the UK are the highest in the whole world, and that nearly all the good jobs need a degree these days. Tell them that an incredible 70% of today's students will never be able to actually pay off their student debts despite paying a 9% tax for their entire working lives.

Talk about exploitative zero hours contracts and how they represent a modern incarnation the unstable employment days of the 1930s where dockers and steelworkers waking up at the crack of dawn to queue at the gates in the desperate hope of being called to work, and having to go home with absolutely nothing if their name wasn't picked.

Help them understand that the Tories aren't just taking wealth from the older generations, they're robbing wealth and opportunities from the younger generations too, just to stuff the already bulging the pockets of the super-rich elitists who totally bankroll the Tory party.

Give them a copy of the Labour Manifesto to read, and ask them to consider it for themselves. Tell them that you really like it, and that they should disregard what the Tories and the mainstream media say about it and judge it for themselves.

Good luck

The only way the Tories can be stopped from getting a whopping great majority, with which they can rob all generations in order to line the pockets of their super-rich mates, is if we all talk to our parents and grandparents and plead with them to disbelieve the Tory lies, think of themselves, and above all think of their grandchildren's futures.

Good luck.

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