Sunday, March 13, 2005

I Can Do That!

There must be an election approaching. Pop psychologist Oliver James' column in today's Observer makes what might possibly be the most, on the face of it, fatuous declaration backed up by scientific evidence:

Eighty-eight studies reveal that fanatically right-wing people hate uncertainty, are averse to complexity and have excessive needs for order (see Psychological Bulletin, 2003, 129, pp339-75).

They dislike ambiguity, are dogmatic and unusually scared of death. They tend to have had very strict upbringings and to secretly hate their parents and authority but, rather than face this, identify incredibly strongly with them. Oddly enough, there is virtually no reliable scientific evidence about the psychology of Lefties but, alas, I suspect it is by no means as simple as that they are merely the healthy opposite of this pattern.

But why all this comical talk of 'Lefties', as if everyone who follows one particular school of political thought can be reduced to something akin to a Ben Elton routine? Fortunately I have met few people on the far-right during my time on this planet, but growing up in a post-industrial new town in the north of England during the 80s and 90s meant that one or two heated ideological discussions with skinheads were par for the course. By 'heated' I mean me being on the receiving end of violence that John Reid's Special Advisers can only dream of meting out. The one common thread that was evidential among these people (skinheads, not New Labour SPADS, I hope) was a constant sense of low self-esteem and the need to belong to 'something' they could bestow their faith in, not to mention the belief that a politically-correct elite of posh people from London was dictating to them what they could and couldn't say. Erm, wait on a moment...

As for the 'Lefties', I had two stints at university to become only too well acquainted with people riddled with either guilt or, more commonly, the belief that the reordering of society would somehow be for their own pecuniary interest. A contemporary, who suddenly discovered his homosexual and class-conscious side while we were at university together, was last heard of teaching English in Africa and boasting of how many servants and girlfriends he had -- a far cry from the days of being a camp Trot bemoaning the fact that his uncle (who owned a well-known national sports retailer, apparently) never saw fit to bung any money his way.

Pop psychology, it's easy as writing a blog.


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