Sunday, May 10, 2015

Changing The Frame

George Lakoff, a Professor of Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley, argues that we all see the world through brain structures he calls frames:

Those brain structures are called “frames.” If the facts don’t fit your frames, the frames stay; the facts are ignored, belittled or attacked. The facts alone won’t set you free.
All words are defined relative to largely unconscious cognitive frames. Hearing a word activates and strengthens the frame. If I say “Don’t think of an elephant!” you will think of an elephant. Arguing against, or negating, frames just helps the other side.

Politicians understand  how important it is to sell their frames to voters. And, for the last thirty years, conservatives have managed to effectively frame issues to their advantage. However, the conservative frame is rooted in denial:

Conservatism means denying a central truth: that private life and business depend on public resources. Indeed, it means destroying public resources and maximizing private control and private gain. It means putting public health in private hands, making everyone pay through the nose for maintaining their bodies. It means destroying unions. Unions are about freedom, freedom from corporate servitude and wage slavery, freedom from unsafe working conditions, and the freedom in later life that comes from fair pensions, which are delayed payments for work done earlier in life. It means destroying nature for private gain, not public benefit.

Progressives see the world through a different frame:

[Progressivism] means caring about others as well as taking care of yourself, and it means working through the government to provide public resources for all. Private business and private life depend on public resources — roads, bridges, sewers, an electric grid, satellite communication, public schools and research universities, public health and national health care, public safety, and on and on. The private depends on the public, both in business and private life.

Canada has always been about

kindness, warmth, hospitality, co-operation, community and what goes with all that, including public education, health care for all, a love of nature and care for the environment, a welcoming of immigrants, a respect for native peoples, an aversion to war. As an American, those were the values that I and other Americans associated with Canada. The centre has been empathy – caring and acting on that care.

Canadians have traditionally seen their country through a different frame than the one Mr. Harper  espouses. The next election will be all about changing the frame.


Lorne said...

I read the article this morning, Owen. It made me think back to the Bob Rae era in Ontario where, as premier, he tried to play the game of being a a conservative and appealing to the business mentality. Business did not accept him, and in the following election, neither did the voting public. Perhaps the NDP and The Liberals should widen their target audience for the upcoming election beyond just the 'middle class,' given how much effort over the past nine years Mr. Harper has put into wooing them.

the salamander said...

.. your last sentence 'frames' it elegantly .. & bluntly

Owen Gray said...

I have to admit, salamander, that I'm worried. At the moment, all three of the major parties seem to be operating within the same frame.

Owen Gray said...

Democracy -- real democracy -- is supposed to be about governing for the whole population, Lorne.

Our retail politics has become the art of appealing to focus groups.

Mogs Moglio said...

Mr. Harper and his sixty Christian Alliance Church MP's make Mussolini look like an Angel.

"To his credit, Mussolini carried out an extensive public works program and reduced unemployment, making him very popular with the people." From:

At least he had a good side to him Harper does not all his 'frames' are skewered the wrong way. His frames are introverted trapezoids mine are not square mine are round. I don't like this "frames" idea. What is wrong with thought process and Point Of View [POV]? Every sees everything through their own POV no choice. But the more open and broad minded you are the more you can understand others POV's. You can respect them even though you don't necessarily agree. Harper fails miserably at that.


Owen Gray said...

The first step on the road to wisdom, Mogs, is being able to see an issue from someone else's point of view.