Thursday, March 14, 2013

My bias shows its petticoats (again)

I have been observing, recently, what a powerful force is bias. I have no doubt that we are all biased to one degree or another. Not only do we slant what we say to emphasise a particular point of view, but we only see and hear what we want to see and hear. On top of which, we also interpret the things we see and hear in a very particular way.

Politics is one obvious area where this occurs. It is particularly evident in Australia, where the political parties have such very similar policies, which shimmer and shift as public opinion changes. To use an analogy from statistics, I suspect that the variance between individuals within a party is equal to, if not greater than, the variance between the parties. What this means in simpler language is that you could probably shuffle the members of the parliamentary political parties around randomly, and it would make little difference to either the appearance or policies of those parties. Yet people still manage to get excited about the “differences”, and cling to belief in a particular party as though their lives (or, indeed something, anything) actually depended on which party was in power.

The bias of the supporters becomes clear when a statement made by Leader A of Party A gives rise to vociferous and energetic objections from supporters of party B; however, the very next day, when Leader B of Party B makes an almost identical statement, supporters of Party B cheer enthusiastically. Followers of Leader A will complain that the media give more time to Leader B; while in the next room, followers of Leader B claim the opposite. An actual study would probably reveal that the time given to each leader fluctuates from day to day and week to week, but eventually evens out. It may not do so, of course, but no one bothers with such objective evidence; and supporters would claim that it was biased, in any case.

I find all this generally amusing, and occasionally irritating. Could it not be that both sides of politics have something useful to say? We are not, after all, following football teams here. Do we have to constantly fall prey to this apparently innate human tendency to see everything in black and white? Is this not one of the main causes of all the problems that we face in society?

My problem in all this, of course (and my particular bias shows its petticoats here), is that in Australia there is, in fact, only one side of politics, and it is all to the right of centre. So the very “centre”, if that lies between the parties, is eccentric. There is, unfortunately, no longer any major political party in Australia that represents my views. This makes voting very difficult indeed. Yes, I am certainly out of step with the current mood and the dominant culture. As far as I am concerned, that is the only sane and healthy position to adopt.

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