I used to believe the 2012 prophecy.

It should be apparent from my blog and for anyone who knows me, that I prefer to take a rational, evidence based approach to things.

I’ve recently been considering that truth shouldn’t trump all, and that if someone gets comfort out of say, believing horoscopes, then why should rationalism seek to destroy that? On the otherhand – I think the willingness to believe conspiracy theories, also has people believing that climate change isn’t happening, and that’s concerning to me.

What might not be apparent – is that I didn’t always take a rationalist approach, and it’s easy for me myself to forget that.

I used to genuinely believe the 2012 Mayan prophecy. If you’re not already familiar with it – it was a prediction that ‘the world as we know it’ will end on December 21 2012 – the date that the Mayan 5,126 year calendar ends.

mayan-calendar

What ‘the world as we know it’ ending means wasn’t exactly clear. For me, at the time it meant a collapse of the global system of governance and an anarchistic uprising.

My belief in this prophecy did have real world effects. Most concretely in that, when I was 18 years old (in 2004), I took out an interest free overdraft with no intent of paying it back – the global financial system will have collapsed by then. Other shortsighted decision making – like my reckless disregard for getting criminal convictions for graffiti also stemmed from this belief that it wouldn’t matter in eight years.

By the time 2012 came around – I had long stopped believing the prophecy.

This part of my life is a useful look in at how beliefs are formed, and why people hold the beliefs they do.

For me, a big part of believing the 2012 prophecy was that a lot of people who I thought were cool around me also either believed it, or enjoyed talking about it, and from memory, I didn’t hear much of a counter opinion to it..

I think this shows that the kinds of beliefs people have about things, does depend on how common the belief is in the people around them, and also how offering countering beliefs in a civil and persuasive manner is probably genuinely useful in grounding people’s beliefs, even if it doesn’t change their mind at the time.

It also give insight into why someone will hold a belief, for me, it’s because I liked the idea of this great prophecy, and a new world populated by people like me.

I think belief in especially end of world prophecies, but also global elite conspiracies are indicative of a cognitive shortcut – it’s much easier to imagine the world coming to an end, or some dramatic change – that is to image what the world is going to look like in ten years, or twenty years, or thirty years, maintaining the status quo.

So I guess I should be more sympathetic to people who I think hold irrational or baseless beliefs – but at the same time this actually encourages me to speak out more. I might have made less bad decisions if someone had taken the time to explain to me that there was no objective reason to believe that the 2012 prophecy was true. But of course that would have me then questioning whether my friends were as cool as I thought they were.

A redrawing of political lines.

The election of Donald Trump and the subsequent discourse demonstrates a radical redrawing of political lines.

Previously, I think we could have drawn political divide the following way:

Left Right
Socially progressive (pro LGBT+ rights, minority rights, pro abortion rights) Socially conservative. ‘Traditional values’, pro-life
Believes climate change Climate change deniers
More athiestic More religious (Christian)
Rationality based reasoning Values based reasoning
Suspicious of ‘corporate America’ Corporate America an example of American values

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, I’ve noticed a radical divergence from this model – where people who I’d previously put on the left of the spectrum, now appear to either support or apologise (defend) for Donald Trump.

On the other hand – the pro-trump community takes pride in being a pro-LGBT community.

The Skeptic Community

The skeptic community is one that is typically atheistic, rational, and tends to be liberal leaning. What we see now is members of the skeptic community supporting or apologising for Trump primarily  out of a reaction to the SJW community, or because they believe that Hillary is worse than Trump.

This tends to be justified with ‘science isn’t the most important thing’

Conspiracy Theorists

Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, (full disclosure: I don’t follow Alex Jones, so my research for this section is just a few google searches I’ve made now) haven’t ever been particularly supportive of any government.

For example, look at this old article from when George W. Bush was in power.

Now have a look at this video of Alex Jones talking about Donald Trump:

Alex Jones appears to like Donald Trump – because he’s an anti-establishment politician, I guess.

It’s an interesting pivot – from always being critical of those in power, to now supporting the current government.

Trump supporters aren’t just idiot rednecks.

It’s clear to me that Trump supporters, or Trump apologists aren’t just idiots who couldn’t see through his lies. There are clearly quite a few Trump supporters or apologists who are capable of reasoned debate.

I think the difference between a rational person who opposes Trump, and a rational person who supports Trump (over Hillary) comes down to values. Note I stop short of saying ‘I don’t think all Trump supporters are hateful’, because I think that that is the essence of it.

I think rational Trump supporters don’t mind watching the world burn. 

Perhaps this is a reflection of my own privilege. I think the world has been becoming a better place. People are more educated, people are more informed (or perhaps not?), we have more freedom over our careers, we are healthier and living longer, we’re more comfortable. Climate change is concerning, but we appear to be making progress.

But of course, I say that as an educated, middle class white man, who works in IT. I can see my career progressing. If I a working class man in the manufacturing industry, not knowing whether I was going to have a job next year – I might not share my optimism.

It’s my optimism that has me dispelling the idea that Hillary Clinton would be awful. Sure, Hillary Clinton might be the status quo, but the status quo has been serving us OK.

I get the argument that Trump might shake up the political establishment, and cause more radical change, but I don’t think things are so desperately bad that they warrant electing someone with such hateful and alarming rhetoric.

I can accept the argument that the disenfranchisement  of white lower or middle class voters caused the election of Donald Trump, but that doesn’t make it right or a good result.

Sure, the election of Donald Trump shows that there are issues societal disenfranchisement, but the election of Donald Trump is not the right solution.

On ‘Trump is a reaction to social justice warriors’

I agree that the left has a problem with letting SJWs run unchecked. In my opinion, a lot of what is labelled as SJWry is people finding reasons to hate others, in the guise of social justice.

However, there are extremists on all ends of political spectrums, I don’t think SJWs are a problem with left itself. I do think think that the left needs to take bigger efforts to shut it down.

I don’t buy the argument that ‘feminism is redundant’ for example. Glass ceilings still exist, our dating culture can be improved, and certainly in the US, several states make it difficult to get abortions. I make a distinction between feminism that is aimed at improving our dating culture, getting consent being added to the sexual health curriculum, and feminism that is aimed at shaming men for the way they sit on a bus.

However, I don’t buy the argument that SJWs are so bad, that you’d elect someone who thinks we should bomb terrorists’ families, or questions why we can’t use nukes. Instead I would suggest viewing SJWs as a concerning bubble, which should be addressed isolation, just as we address anti-vaxxers or 9/11 conspiracy theorists. That is – address them for sure, but don’t throw out your whole political ideology to do so.