December 13, 2011
from PreventDisease Website
A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, illuminates the conditions under which we’re motivated to defend our systems - a process called “system justification.”
In this lapse of values like equality and fairness, no one can now stay behind personally comfortable walls with people like ourselves and ask someone else - politicians and other "leaders" - to solve the problems that we all let fester, thinking we were immune to catastrophes that only affected others.
The cooperation and compromises we need
for change will not happen until "we the people" demonstrate that it
can be done in our local communities. Wherever we live, we must
model it before we demand it of others.
All of us must learn again that when a
singular government becomes the central orchestrator of a complex
society and distorts its laws to benefit the few, it will kill "the
goose that lays the golden eggs."
When we’re threatened we defend ourselves - and our systems.
Before 9/11, for instance, President George W. Bush was sinking in the polls. But as soon as the planes hit the World Trade Center, the president’s approval ratings soared.
support for Congress and the police. During Hurricane Katrina,
FEMA’s spectacular failure to rescue the
hurricane’s victims. Yet many people blamed those victims for their
fate rather than admitting the agency flunked and supporting ideas
for fixing it. In times of crisis, say the authors, we want to
believe the system works.
However, if they felt dependent on the
government, they liked the policy originating from it, but not from
The FDA, USDA, NIAID, NIH, CDC nationally and the WHO internationally are just a few examples of agencies whose implicit purpose is to support corporate entities such as pharmaceutical conglomerates that destroy rather than advance our health.
They spread their octopus-like arms as mechanisms to convert and re-allocate large percentages of the nation's common resources (its human labor, nature's riches, and citizens' creativity) to a small percentage of U.S. citizens and international corporations. This process includes not only the transfer of general tax revenue.
Even more important is the use (or
non-use) of regulatory power to economically favor certain groups,
particularly the largely amoral financial and corporate sectors.
That includes feeling okay about things we might otherwise consider undesirable. The authors note one study in which participants were told that men’s salaries in their country are 20% higher than women’s.
Rather than implicate an unfair system, those who felt they couldn’t emigrate chalked up the wage gap to innate differences between the sexes.
But in fact, the more stuck they are, the more likely are they to explain away its shortcomings.
Finally, a related phenomenon:
The research on system justification can enlighten those who are frustrated when people don’t rise up in what would seem their own best interests.