T: The power of human stupidity seems overwhelming these days, J, and I feel like I spend half my waking hours trying to figure out why. My latest theory is that it’s evolutionary.
I’m reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, and his take on how we evolved jibes with my take on backwards thinkers. I don’t mean thinking in a backwards way, so much as people who look forward to the end of all this dammed progress. I don’t think these people are stupid. I simply think they have a conservative view of evolution. In short, they are agin’ it.
The conservative segment of society wasn’t happy with the agricultural revolution, let alone the current technological revolution. They aren’t that backward, of course, but an emotional need to return to the simple life is like an addiction that conservative thinkers never really kicked.
J: I don’t think it’s so much the simple life that people want to return to as the quieter life, the ability to turn off the outside world when they want to. No one is really, seriously advocating being total Luddites and going back to the Stone Age. Even the Amish use electricity now. People just want to be able to disconnect for a while, whether it’s an hour, a day, a week, whatever… but they want the ability to come back to civilization when the pork rinds and the trail mix run out.
T: Progress is always complicated, even if it’s simply learning how to make a two-tined hand ax. But if you add in our capitalist system of selling ideas instead of teaching them, that principle of selling ideas makes evolutionary complications themselves doubly complicated.
Learning itself is competitive in a sell-not-tell culture. Have you ever tried to figure out how to use all the features of a cell phone? Not just talk, text, screen saver, add photos and stream music, but really make the sucker do a rain dance? It’s enough to make my brain hurt.
J: I don’t have a fancy cell phone; I just have a flip phone because no one really wants to call me, anyway, and I have all the computer access I need here and at work. That being said, though; I would have to devote some time to learning a cell phone’s features, and my standard for “is this function worth taking the time to learn?” is probably not much higher than yours. I don’t lack the ability. I just lack the interest.
T: That’s a perfect analogy.
I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that evolutionary conservatives feel that sort of brain-hurt about the nuances involved in social evolution. As a result, they are characterized as social conservatives. But what they really are might better be expressed as evolutionary conservatives.
J: You’re suggesting that there’s an evolutionary spectrum, like the political spectrum?
T: I hadn’t thought of it that way, but that I think that scans.
J: Now that I think about it, that actually makes a good deal of sense. There does seem to be a spectrum of acceptance of change, some people are more ready to embrace change than others. It’d be interesting to see how that spectrum correlates to the political spectrum. I’d bet it corresponds pretty closely.
T: Can I use Covos for social/evolutionary conservatives, and Provos for social/evolutionary progressives? Do those terms work for you?
J: Sure, they work. Those are short, pithy and sweet.
T: Just like that girl who – never mind.
Bear with me, I have another analogy: If you want cake, you can (1) make one from scratch, (2) make one from a box, adding a few things, (3) buy a frozen cake and bake it or (4) buy a premade, prebaked cake. There are other variations – other choices – because we as a species are really into cake.
But of those four, which would you guess fits the Covos? Which fits the Provos? I think you and I are somewhere between one and two, closer to two. You might be closer to one than I am.
J: I think you’re probably closer to one than I am; you have that need to know the “why” of things. You’re more comfortable digging into the nuts and bolts of events and human nature and stuff than I am. I’m more of an observer, the “why” of things is less important to me than the effects they produce.
T: That’s a good way to describe it.
J: I think Covos are fours. They want their worldview handed to them prepackaged; they’re not comfortable with actually analyzing the “why” of things and they don’t really care about the effects. They are, fundamentally, simple people. The simplicity of slogans like “Make America Great Again” resonates with them.
T: They should be fours, and the fact that they don’t think they are fours is a big part of why I get frustrated with them as a group. They absolutely want their worldview simple, straightforward and prepackaged, with a brand name that connects them to others who also use the same product. Eat the same cake.
The problem is, they don’t see themselves as fours. In their minds, that cake with the Rocket Bakery sticker on it? They think they baked it. If I asked a Covo this question, I think the more modest and intelligent ones would call themselves twos while the truly cement headed would say they were ones.
But, like you said, they are fours. Brand name politics, brand name religions, brand name anything is a four. I’m a four in lots of ways, as are you, Mr. Coke drinker. I doubt anyone can be a one in more than one way, or even a two in more than a few chosen ways. A busy life simply does not allow the time it takes to read all the instructions.
J: I don’t agree that people can only be a one or a two in a few chosen ways; people can be agnostic about lots of things: religion, global warming, the flat earth, Bigfoot, whatever.
Granted, there aren’t enough hours in a lifetime to get into the nuts and bolts of everything, but people can inform themselves well enough on lots of topics to form an opinion without necessarily getting Ph. D.-level deep into the minutiae.
T: Get your phingers out of my minutiae.
J: J: How’d you like that 12-dollar vocabulary word I snuck in there?
T: I’d ask for my money back.
Anyway, so we go to the bakery for most of our worldviews and we prioritize the times we use the oven to make a view from scratch. The Covos can’t see that their packaged and sold ideas aren’t from scratch, largely because social media gives them a sense of cookership™ that massively exaggerates the amount of cooking they actually did.
By reading Trump’s tweets – his prepackaged politics, and some pretty cheaply packaged politics at that – they became convinced that they were “cooking” their own worldview.
But it’s all from the Trump bakery.
End of stretched, tortured analogy.
J: Now I’m hungry for cake.