13 March 2013

Rationality and Prejudice

Last year, Aretae wrote an interesting post and I commented.  I’ve been meaning to drag that comment into a post here, but didn't get round to it.

Aretae’s post was interesting — I’m tempted to paste it all here, but that’s a bit off, so you should read it there.  The part that inspired me is this:
There is massive pre-rational discrimination that occurs at a subconscious level in many people, that is visible in interacting with them, which comprises the reality of a lot of discrimination claims that are reflexively dismissed by a lot of observationally biased folks on the right.  
Aretae’s main point is that this is independent of, and so not in contradiction with, HBD. But that’s not the interesting aspect for me.

For me, the implications of that one factual assertion were the important thing. The relevant bit of my comment in reply to it was this:

Sure, the first thing that follows from it is: “this applies to me. If I take conscious steps to overrule this pre-rational subconscious discrimination, then I will perceive the world more accurately, and will be able to draw better conclusions.”
That’s a good start. But what about everybody else? I do not by any means share your extreme anti-authoritarianism, but the power to dictate how other people see each other is not something I expect to have, want to have, or want anybody else to have, either. So this “pre-rational subconscious discrimination” can be taken to be a fact of life going forward for all mixed societies.
And what follows from that?  Bluntly, that, when the chips are down, I want to be surrounded by people who have a positive pre-rational subconscious reaction towards me, not a negative one. Further, I can assume other people think the same way, and will rationally act accordingly, wanting power for their in-group.
To the degree that I live in a society that is stable, peaceful, and populated by the unusually rational — that is, to the degree that the chips stay up — these considerations hold minor importance. If those conditions weaken, or look like they might weaken in the future, the considerations grow in importance.

What finally triggered me this evening to dig up the link and paste it here was Scott Alexander’s Thrive/Survive Theory. He writes... well, he writes a lot, and Isegoria has already summarized it:

My hypothesis is that rightism is what happens when you’re optimizing for surviving an unsafe environment, leftism is what happens when you’re optimized for thriving in a safe environment.
I propose that the best way for leftists to get themselves in a rightist frame of mind is to imagine there is a zombie apocalypse tomorrow.
There’s a lot more. This isn’t a response to Scott Alexander’s post — I haven’t really begun to think about that, but there’s a clear need before I start to show the degree to which I’m already looking at things the same way.

(Somehow, my argument now makes me think of this. But I stand by it anyway.)


A Nonny Mouse said...

As a part time Chicagoan, I might have something to say about Aretae’s thoughts. What is termed racism (anti-semitism etc) is often a clash between group A and group B for control of a particular area. In Chicago the clash between Blacks and Whites for control of the city is very bitter. That Austrian Jews nearly all ended up gassed while those of Denmark all escaped with the connivance of their Christian countrymen was due to the fact that Jews were approaching half the population of Vienna but a tiny, tiny minority in Denmark.

Of course, it is a well known habit of would-be dictators that they like to create some fictional danger to the body politic in order to advance their own power: be it the Cataline conspiracy for Cicero, the Jews notoriously for Hitler, and now, it seems, hypothetical Zombie attacks for the American Survivalist Right.

As I said before, the type of government which an area elects tends to be one which is suited to the conditions of the terrain. Major cities, and particularly inner cities, generally favour left-wing, interventionist governments; suburbs elect Centre-Right, partly interventionist governments, while far out in the sticks you might find Libertarians and Survivalists. Genuine, non-ceremonial Autarchy or Monarchy seems most suited to small tax-havens like Monaco and ocean-going liners.

Anomaly UK said...

True that it's about power, but the question for an extremist progressive is why are people aligning on the basis of something as unimportant as race? Why is it blacks and whites struggling for power, rather than, say, Librans and Sagittarians, or Star Trek fans and Dr Who fans, or thin people and fat people?

The “pre-rational subconscious discrimination” is an answer to that question, though not the only one. It doesn’t matter whether it is innate or learned: the observation that it exists is sufficient.

A Nonny Mouse said...

In any country or society there will be always be at least two factions on questions of governance. For the society to develop a serious fault-line, the factions have to be extremely cohesive in themselves. You could not have a Star-trek v Dr Who division, because it is possible to like both, or neither, or, after a particularly boring episode with the Vulcans or Daleks, change your allegiance.

Neither could you have a society based on the Libran/Sagittarian dichotomy, because two Librans could marry and then have exclusively Sagittarian offspring.

Marx stated that class-consciousness only arises when it dawns on you that you are stuck where you are forever, with absolutely no hope of bettering yourself. Thus it can easily be dissipated in a society with lotteries, or even better, a genuine chance to better yourself through hard work.

A black man in cities like Chicago must very early in his life realise that he was born black, and will die in the same state, excluding rare cases like Michael Jackson. Crossovers do occur, because the Americans pitch the boundary beyond the visibility line, but they are comparatively rare.

Blackness in Chicago is (in the eyes of whites) intrinsically associated with illegitimacy, drug use, gang-rape, drive-by shootings of innocent bystanders, gang warfare, armed robbery and other undesirably traits. Whiteness (in the eyes of Blacks) is generally accompanied by a narrow eyed meanness which is determined to refuse Blacks access to housing, education, jobs, and sometimes even the purchase of groceries in a store.

These stereotypes, which are in my experience based on real events, obviously reinforce each other, with your Black youth justifying his shooting or rape with memories of discrimination and exclusion, and the White man justifying his discrimination with memories of shooting and rape.

It is nice to hear that things are better in Houston. It is hard to see how they can improve in Chicago, because the numbers are against it.