The psychology behind globalism, nationalism & political tribalism Jonathan Haidt

The psychology behind globalism, nationalism & political tribalism Jonathan Haidt


we just had the most divisive election
since 1860 and there was just about zero violence leading up to the election
there was essentially zero violence on Election Day
there’s been just a little bit of violence afterwards I don’t think
anybody has been killed at but my point is the democracy in America while it’s
sick in many ways it actually worked the voting was honest I mean there were
observers coming to make sure that you know well you know are we a Banana
Republic as many people are now saying but we all behaved actually pretty
civilly not in our discourse necessarily but in terms of violence there was
essentially none and ultimately what happened there’s a there was a really
beautiful column by the conservative columnist Peggy Noonan in which she she
pointed out that that there’s actually something kind of beautiful about what
happened that Trump had no ground game no real research he was a mess it was a
terrible campaign nobody called the voters nobody drove them to the polls he
won because people were sick of what was going on and they chose to go themselves
and the election was won by basically a dispossessed a very large group of
people who nobody’s been speaking for who a lot of people been speaking down
to and they whether you like it or not it actually was a demonstration of
democracy in action now for the bad news the bad news I mean much you know what I
don’t think that Donald Trump has the temperament to be President I’m
concerned about many things but what I’m most concerned about as a social
psychologist who studies political civility is that things were getting
really bad in terms of our ability to listen to each other and trust each
other before and now if you can just imagine what it was like for the left to
believe that it was on the verge of demographic eternity like this is it you
know the Republicans will never win again and the only question on all of
our minds was how big will the victory be will will the Democrats take the
Senate they might could they take the house if possible and so to go from that
and my wife and I were with some neighbors on Election Day evening the
New York Times had this incredible meter that showed you the exact odds at every
second given every bit of information and it was
70% 80% 70% 80% everybody you know there was a mood across the whole nation on
the left and then you can you can imagine what it felt like for those
needles to dip to 50 and B and then they dip to it and so you can understand why
people on the left it so my report from America it is the zombie apocalypse if
you walk around there you will see people in a daze they have no idea what
has happened but they know it’s really bad and they want to kill someone so
that’s my report from America NIC over to you so I mean the way that I
think about populism and democracy populism is like the sword of Damocles
hanging over the politicians populism is a problem because it’s really really
hard to make good economic policy and when populist have influenced that
economic policy is usually much much worse
just ask Argentina and compare it to Singapore or Sweden so populism is I
think a bad thing in terms of governance and economic policy but it’s a very very
good thing in terms of their being a sort of Damocles their being in case of
emergency and massive dissatisfaction break glass let the demons out we don’t
want the demons to come out but if politics if politic and you say this
very well in your book it’s something about liberally the essence of it is
holding politics to account if politicians are not don’t have the
threat of people saying no I hate this then it can go much much worse so we’re
not here to say populist SAR bad I think we’re here to say what went so
wrong that there’s an angry populist backlash which we both understand and
even to a large extent empathize with and how can we avoid this happening in
the future how we get better politics so I think we’re again we’re very much on
the same page there I’ve been reading with a history of capitalism and what
happens when nations adopt free-market policies and what happens is wealth goes
skyrocketing upwards and it’s not just that the rich get richer is that
everybody gets richer and then a generation or two later everyone gets
rights and so that’s why in the long run the world is getting better and better
and better and if we were having this conversation two years ago I would very
much agree with my libertarian friends who say look I mean the broad sweep is
resumes how good everything is what’s amazing
what’s happening but there are some interesting paradox as there are some
interesting ways in which the progress of a free-market society creates
conditions that undermine either the progress of a free-market society or
democratic capitalism and so here’s here’s the main one I want to put out
here for our discussion I’ve spent a lot of time reading the work of the
psychologists and sociologists who create the world value survey they
survey it started in Europe now it’s global every 7 years that you can see
these beautiful maps showing the whole world and where they are on this
two-dimensional value space and so Sweden and Scandinavia in the
upper-right that means they have their values are the most it’s a it’s a
freedom-loving emancipated that’s the word emancipate freedom or emancipated
values and they’re the most secular rationals that’s Sweden and then the
bottom left from my perspective I’m left is like mostly African and Islamic
countries that still have the values appropriate to an agricultural society
that has no trust in government that has no faith that there will be food six
months from now so it’s very very different sets of values as countries
get wealthy they move up and then to the right they move to that zone where
Scandinavia is now and that’s a good thing it’s a wonderful thing what
happens is then everyone’s values change in the next generation they really begin
to care a lot more about women’s rights gay rights animal rights human rights
the environment so you get this very progressive shift in values okay so with
this sort of audience I’m sure that all sounds great
so that’s step one but here’s step two once you have these incredibly
prosperous peaceful progressive societies they do it the people there
begin to do a few things first of all it’s not everybody who has those values
it’s everybody in the capital city and the university towns they all have these
values there so if you look at our countries you know in America we’re like
pretty retrograde in some ways but if you look at our those are Bubble places
they’re just like Sweden and that means that these people now think that you
know nation-states they’re so arbitrary and you know just just imagine imagine
if there were no countries it isn’t hard to do you know imagine if there was
nothing nothing to kill or die for no religion to
so this is this is the way the value shift and when it’s so this is what I
and others are calling the global it’s like the new left/right is like the
globalists and versus the Nationalists and so the globalist ethos is tear down
the walls tear down the borders nation-states are arbitrary why you know
why should my government privilege the people who happen to be born here rather
than people who are much poorer elsewhere and so you get this globalist
idea you begin to get even a denial of patriotism the claim there’s some
horrible horrible there’s some pictures going around right-wing media now in the
United States protestors anti-trump protesters holding up signs that say
patriotism is racism so you get people acting in this globalist way inviting
immigration spitting on the nation States spitting on the country and
people who are patriotic and very opposed to assimilation when there is
integration because that as we say in America on the people on the Left would
say that’s cultural genocide so this is step two is you get wealthy wonderful
successful societies that are so attractive to poor people around the
world you get a flood of immigration and they’re met by the globalist who say
welcome welcome welcome don’t assimilate because that would we don’t want to deny
you your culture and this leads to step three which is this triggers an
incredible emotional reaction in people who have the psychological type known as
authoritarianism that’s a very negative term but there’s a lot of psychological
diversity in this world there are some people who are attracted to the Leninist
vision the the John Lennon vision there are other people who are more parochial
and I don’t mean that in a bad way I mean there are people who really care
about hearth and home and God and country and they are actually friends of
of order and stability and they can they’re friends of many good things
about civic life but when they perceive that everybody’s coming apart
the moral world is coming apart that’s when they get really racist
homophobic they want to clamp down they want to restore moral order and if
anybody here saw Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican
National Committee that’s exactly what he said he mob himself after Richard
Nixon’s 1968 speech a time when cities are burning there are
riots and Nixon came in law and order will be restored and that’s basically
what Trump’s whole speech was so what I’m saying is successful democratic
capitalist societies create the they change values they generate well if they
invite people in and then they make some of the people act in ways that trigger
the other people to be furious and those other people actually have a point
because you have to have trust in social capital to have a redistributed welfare
state there’s again a little too complicated my point is just that yes
the economy matters and economic changes matter but they matter in ways that
always run through psychology is you have to look at politics I think by
looking for the sacred values of each group so we evolved human nature evolved
for tribalism and religion small scale religion of tribes and that was the way
we lived for the last hundred thousand years with roots going much further back
than that and so what we’re really good at is putting up something it could be a
tree or a river or an ancestor and then we circle around it and then we can
actually all trust each other this is this is one of the main social
evolutionary innovations of human nature is we have the ability to make something
sacred we circle around we all worship it and then we can go fight others and
we are the descendants of people who were able to do that that’s tribalism
now in politics always look for what each side makes sacred and for anybody
who remembers World War two certainly in Britain in America the country the flag
and then freedom democracy all these other virtues and we’ll hope we’ll talk
about universities in a bit but the idea of freedom liberty and then after World
War two fighting the Communists so the idea of freedom freedom freedom Liberty
it was a good time to be a liberal liberal meant liberty freedom fighting
for liberty so they’re the older generation has those values from
circling around that during the war and afterwards but then we get the new left
in the 1960s we get the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990s in 1989 and then
into the 90s and we get a rise and because I teach at a university I’m
surrounded by so we get a rise of a new set of sacred values around racism
sexism oppression and basically the sacred victim and this is the clash this
is part of the clash if you have a group if you have groups on the Left who’s
essentially their religion is fighting racism well that’s a very admirable
thing to do but if he becomes a religion become
fundamentalist now everything that contradicts that must fall so just to
give a very vivid example I taught at the University of Virginia for 16 years
my children were born there I love UVA and at UVA we all worship Thomas
Jefferson he was the founder of our university obviously the right of the
Declaration of Independence so we worship Thomas Jefferson and every
president who ever of the University who write something always quotes Thomas
Jefferson well all university presidents had to write to their students a day or
two after it’s because the students are freaking out thinking that’s the end of
the world that they’re gonna be murdered in their sleep by Trump fists so every
university present has to write to the student body to say something without
being too political but acknowledging the pain and trauma and so the president
of UVA quotes Thomas Jefferson well some professors joined by some students write
an open letter to the president saying stop quoting Jefferson Jefferson was a
racist a slave owner and a rapist if you quote Thomas Jefferson at a time like
this you are dividing us don’t do it now this is as sacrilegious as could be this
is like going to church they stopped quoting Jesus okay what do you think the
parishioners are going to say the alumni are furious at this but my point is it
is like a new religion and so but every every political movement is like a
religion so to bring it back to immigration the new religion one of the
new religions is all about diversity and inclusion now you’ve got immigrants
coming in my god we all saw those horrible photos of children dying of
course you feel sympathy what do you do about it well if it’s your central
religion then of course you welcome them and if anybody says oh you know there
they’re linked to terrorism there they’re forcing us to change our wait if
anybody says that they’re a racist so you have the dawn of this new religion
which in my view is extremely illiberal and this is one of the things I loved
about your book is that I stopped calling myself a liberal back in in the
American sense because America we butchered the word we made it mean left
that was wrong we made 200 years ago liberal meant left and I was a liberal
my whole life until I basically finished the righteous mind and I realized you
know I gave a chapter to my wife to read and after explaining the conservative
worldview I said to her Jana I don’t think I can put myself of liberal and
meaning on the left because this new illiberal left I think is you can’t have
a functioning multi-ethnic society if you have this kind of kind of attitude
so that’s the clash we have now over immigration is if it’s a central
basically a religious battleground so so I see two problems in that way of
thinking that I see all the time on the left the first is to start with an
economic analysis and to say well why are they voting against their interest
and many people left don’t yet because they are globalist they don’t get that
the idea of the nation is something sacred they don’t get that they don’t
get ideas of patriotism says the first thing is to focus on economic analysis
and the second is to act as though the community is just local because again
they don’t get the nation so so I often untold and whenever I talk about
immigration I get exactly what you said well why is it that the areas with the
most immigrants are the most tolerant therefore if we just flood the zones but
every time with immigrants they’ll all get tolerant okay now that’s hobbies not
gonna work in part because we have an American I’m sure in Britain too people
move where they feel comfortable and so people have a globalist John Lennon type
brain if they’re born in central Kansas they’re gonna get to Chicago as fast as
they can as soon as they can leave home and they’ll get to New York or London
and vice versa so people are sorting into the kinds of
places done with much much more now now because now people we have the luxury of
choosing our lifestyle it wasn’t that easy but you could just choose you know
so so much more now we have a sorta t’v moving and the other thing is after 9/11
happened and and the people you know the people in New York and Washington or in
New York especially were not all gung-ho for war and I remember some of them
saying why are the people out in the red areas why are they so upset about this
they weren’t even attacked as though the 9/11 attack happened to New York City in
Washington DC not the biggest collective trauma to United States since 1941 and
so there’s a kind of a blindness I see over and over again on the Left where
they approach things in economic terms it really is like a colorblind it’s like
they’re missing receptors and I think this is very much a problem with the the
leaders of the European Union and those who want ever closer Union I think
they’re what they’re missing what missing is you can have diversity within
a shared sense of identity and if you don’t have that shared sense of identity
it’s gonna be very divisive I want to give you just a beautiful example I
heard today I spent two hours today at the open society foundation of the Soros
funded group of people very concerned about immigration and we taught you know
we talked all about the issues with assimilation and afterwards one told me
about a project that that he did they at the Queen’s Jubilee was at the 60th
anniversary of that the Queen’s Jubilee there was a I think it was a refugee
Jubilee party and it was all of these refugees who were celebrating the Queen
and and how great it is to be Brit it to be in Britain to be so that’s the sort
of thing that I’m even just hearing what like as an American that really just
like I got all choked up just hearing about it because that really that was it
was the same thing as we saw at the Democratic convention when Keizer conned
its Pakistani immigrant whose son was killed in the US Army when he spoke I
know I can’t even quote it cuz I’ll get out I’ll start choking up on stage but
basically saying that he stands there with a as a patriotic American Muslim
with undivided loyalty for his country and see this is an American reflex
populism has to be given a chance to succeed or fail because if you know if
if it if things turn out very badly for Britain or the United States then there
would at least be there would be an openness to trying something different
and to returning to new ideas about liberalism which I hope the left will be
reinventing in its think tanks as it licks its wounds all over the all over
the Western world and comes out with a much more appealing version of
liberalism that is not based on identity identity politics and that does but and
this what I can there’s a theme throughout your book is the need for
conversation the need for debate the need to challenge I used to always say
my favorite philosopher was David Hume but now it’s John Stuart Mill in are you
are liberal off that’s right as soon as I cross the Atlantic I’m a liberal John
Stuart Mill one of his one of his lines it’s my favorite is he says he who knows
only his own side of the case and knows little of that and this is what I think
we need to understand about ourselves human nature
human nature is in is is really unsuited for life in large multi-ethnic
democracies we’re a tribal or small tribal living primate and somehow we’ve
created conditions where we can actually do it pretty well but we have to always
be vigilant take it for granted that’s what we’ve done I think you have to be
always vigilant that we’re in a way living above our design constraints and
I think we need to recognize this is the urgent need of the 21st century is to
really think through democracy governance and and morality in America
we have three giant divides race class and left-right one of them has been
getting steadily better over the last 40 years two have been getting worse and
the left is entirely focused on the one that gets better which is race it is
decade after decade it gets better and better and our class divide gets worse
and worse and our political divides getting worse and worse what’s gonna do
us in even though things look tense racially right now what’s gonna do us in
is I ultimately both the populism is in part the class divide but what’s really
gonna do us in is that we’re losing the ability to have a democracy when the
political divide is so full of fury so the final causal factor I’ll put in here
in our discussion will throw it open is we’ve mentioned social media a little
bit I’ve only really come to appreciate the incredible power of social media to
activate all of our tribal sentiments in ways that make democracy unlikely
because I follow a lot of people on Twitter I now see these incredible
outrages it used to be when I was growing up like once a month there’d be
a new story about the terrible things the Republicans did we could all time
how terrible Republicans are and now whichever side you’re on there’s five an
hour because any you know if a swastika is drawn on a locker in a junior high
school in Illinois everybody on the Left will hear about it and if an idiot holds
up a sign saying patriotism is racism anywhere in America everyone on the
right will hear about it and so everyone is immersed in a river of outrage and
it’s very hard to see how we turn down the volume so I think the very idea of
democracy is being severely challenged by new technology by high levels of
immigration without assimilation all I think immigration with assimilation
could work quite well so I think we have our work cut out for us and we really
need to an and again I think the broadly liberal
framework drawing from the hundreds of years of liberal tradition I think is
the best framework for us to start the discussion in

4 thoughts on “The psychology behind globalism, nationalism & political tribalism Jonathan Haidt

  1. oh hes talking about elections that were civil in the past where black, brown, women etc couldnt vote. How about the civility during the CIVIL war. Yea this guys is BS. The reason the dems lost in the US, lula lost in Brazil etc are all the same – half measures have left ppl wanting real change. Obama is a more defensible character but Bill clinton was a republican (crime act, deregulation etc). You want to unite this country, elect Bernie. Once we have UNIVERSAL programs like medicare for all, public university education for all, social security for all, daycare for all etc, the people will unite within these values and we will march under that banner.

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