The problems of identity and incentives

Polling in both the USA and the UK has indicated that both populations widely over-estimate the size of their minorities. Whether it is colour/ethnicity' (being black or Asian), sexuality (trans, gay or bisexual), religious culture (Jewish, Muslim) or vegan/vegetarianism, people in both countries have grossly distorted perceptions of the number of people in these categories - over-estimating them by factors of 2 or 3 up as high as 10. To illustrate, in the US, estimates of 'black numbers' by American adults put them at 41% when they are actually 12%. The UK equivalents are 20% and 3%. Other figures are comparable across all categories.


There are at least three important elements to the explanation:


First, numbers are never evenly spread; Brighton and California in the case of gays, Leicester, Southall, Tower Hamlets or the 'Deep South', people congregate, often by choice but sometimes imposed in history... slavery was the 'peculiar institution' (that's what they called it) of the southern United States and this was replicated and maintained for over 100 years after abolition in 1863 by US segregation/apartheid laws;


Second, the fight for 'rights' has given rise to powerful grievance industry lobbies. Don't get me wrong, in the case of the USA, people of colour were treated abominably for at least the first 200 years (c.1780-1980); in England, male gays might be subject to a death sentence and remained subject to brutality and punishment until the late 1960s at the earliest. Turing's treatment was disgusting. (The current BBC series, Gentleman Jack, does usefully show that for lesbians in England, condemnation and opprobrium were limited to cultural intolerance, not legal/judicial punishment);


Third, the media are a key weapon in the 'fight for rights' and the lobbying, so all of these minorities are fighting for coverage and deliberately aiming to maximise their coverage. Without, I admit, having done the exercise, if you totalled column inches/air time in main-stream media or numbers of minorities in soaps and dramas, I am very certain that you would get far closer to public perceptions and the percentages that people think are the case.


In short, the results are true not of the reality, but of what is put before us, what we are told, shown and led to believe.


If the rights industries and grievance lobbies are in fact any good at what they do, then distortion is built in - and their funding and continuation gives them powerful incentives to stoke further, ever pettier and more extreme grievances, not to declare the job done and the ideas war won in our society. The figures quoted above are one result.


Worse, they are also incentivised to distort reality to their advantage. Slavery was a 'universal institution’ from the origin of so-called civilisation (when the first towns and cities emerge with a more settled agriculture/food-supply) until the 19th century. At that point the narratives for the USA and England/the British Empire diverge entirely. The US track record is truly appalling: slavery in the South until 1863 followed by segregation and apartheid until at least the end of the 20th century. Arguably its consequences remain today. In absolute contrast, starting with the case of Somerset v. Stewart in 1772, the English and the British became the major force ending slavery across the world, with a key role for the Royal Navy. British sailors died ending slavery but you would never know this - or the Manichean difference of polar opposites - tyranny v. the drive for freedom - from the 'Black Lives Matter' narrative. The UK is not the USA and the Royal Navy is the antithesis of the Confederacy.


We need to start presenting - and educating our children - with balance and honesty.


Until the European enlightenment at the end of the 18th century, the world was a uniformly horrible place by our standards. Oppression was universal. The life of more or less everyone was 'poor, nasty, brutish and short'. Starting particularly with two 'Anglo-Scots', David Hume and Adam Smith, white male Europeans, especially those who spoke English, began to re-evaluate. Everything admirable which has improved the world - for many people beyond measure - comes out of that thought process! Their intellectual re-think gives rise to the freedom, self-realisation, the experience of 'the good life' and the science, technology and abundance on which it is based for all who have it today. (Yes, my phrasing is deliberately provocative but it is also the truth.)


Moreover, the facts of international migration support this. Why do so many people want to get to the UK, USA, EU, Australia and New Zealand? Why is there no significant flow in the opposite direction? Why do so many, especially fit young men, put their lives at risk in easily capsized dinghies or risk freezing to death in containers or even the under-carriages of aircraft?


As I have written before, let's try telling the truth about the world.


The world is as we know it because the people - especially but not exclusively the 'silverbacks'/elite (alpha/clever beta) males - of the north-west corner of the Eurasian landmass and of the archipelago on its extreme edge (often called an 'Island' when it isn't!) starting in the mid Eighteenth century transformed first of all their own societies and then spread their ideas.


The transformation still has far to go on much of the planet and that is why so many people risk their lives trying to improve them by getting to the 'West'. And people who tell you differently simply know neither history nor what they are talking about!


Tony Brown. Tony was a Political Adviser to the former Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and its predecessor, Europe of Freedom and Democracy


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