By Scott Wittkopf
The severe lack of caring about anyone but himself should be the red flag that provides a values disconnect from the vast majority of people. But the lack of empathy needs to be highlighted at all times, and an example of what empathy looks like must be reinforced as much as possible. Instead, in too many cases, as cognitive science informs us, it is far too easy for authoritarian ideas and values to be reinforced without us even realizing it. And far too often, we can catch ourselves repeating and reinforcing authoritarian values, as our unconscious has perceived and accepted them. The first step to changing public discourse and moving our society forward is being aware of the deep meaning behind words and ideas communicated and expressed by people like Trump, then never repeating them, and then evoking values based on empathy.
Take, for example, this Tweet:
“Prosperity and success are a product of self-discipline and morality. If you are wealthy and successful, you are a moral person. If you are poor, it is your own fault, and your poverty is a just and moral punishment for your lack of discipline. It is your own responsibility to ‘pull yourself up by you bootstraps’, become disciplined, and successful. And it is immoral for the government (big brother, the nanny state, etc.) to interfere in this moral system.”
See how Trump’s tweet evokes this moral worldview? This statement from another tweet evoked the same idea: “They want everything to be done for them…”
Here’s the most important part of this story – whenever this idea is repeated, even in trying to demonstrate how mean Trump is, or how evil he is, YOU ARE REINFORCING THE IDEA BECAUSE YOU ACTIVATE THE METAPHORS! That’s how our brains work – and often it happens without you even knowing it, like those illusions everyone finds so fun.
So what’s the solution? First, know and understand that this is normal – it’s the way we think. Secondly, stop and THINK about empathy and the associated values at work in what’s going on. Then, talk, act, and express those ideas instead. Because the truth is, Trump doesn’t care about people – and that matters.
Talk about, and act on the moral responsibility you and your community have for each other, and how that makes all of us more prosperous, happy, and free. It’s how a society works, and it’s also what we are all hard-wired for – caring for each other. Especially in times of crisis.
So ignore the clown show. Don’t feed into it. Instead, stop, think, and communicate/act on what YOU believe matters – empathy and caring for others.
(Campaign consultant Scott Wittkopf’s Frame for the Future website is a resource for effective messaging. He has recently begun his Daily Dose column to look at current political issues from a values perspective. The columns are behind a membership pay wall, though Scott is generously making one column a week available to Commoner Call readers. You can learn more about his work at www.frame4future.com .)