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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Bashir al-Assad’

Putin, Trump and the Endgame for Syria

A  couple of years back I stopped writing about Syria. It wasn’t a deliberate decision. It just seemed to happen. The routine nature of the horrific atrocities committed with relative abandon by both sides, with advantage seeming to swing first one way and then the other and then the other and then the other yet again seemed endless and wearisome. Everything that could be said seemed to have been said…and yet still it went on. Meanwhile, the Crimea, the Ukraine, the Scottish independence referendum, the Peshawar Massacre, Charlie Hebdo and other UnIsamic State atrocities, Jeremy Corbyn, the Brexit referendum, Jeremy Corbyn (again!), Donald Trump…. So many other things have happened in those 2-3 years and so many of them ‘closer to home’…and, as the apocryphal ‘McClurg’s Law’ postulates: the more something is closer to you (racially, nationalistically, culturally), the more newsworthy it is (Stephen Moore, Steve Chapman & Dave Aiken, 2009). Thus, it is understandable (in some senses, at least) that Syria went ‘off the radar’ at times not only for myself but for many other ‘thinkers’ and much of the Western media. Now, though, as what seems to be the final, heartbreaking agonies of Aleppo are so grim and apparently so decisive, they actually break through the news barrier and Syria becomes… Read More

Social Change #2

PART 2 Lower Left Quadrant and zeitgeist The Lower Left is also where we need to consider how zeigeist morphs and its influence on the ‘climate’ for social change. As discussed earlier, the 1950s was a deeply conservative time in the United States. Stephen Perrin & Christopher Spencer (1980), in trying to explain their failure to replicate the results of Solomon Asch’s famous  lines experiment (1951), attributed the difference in conformity to the conservatism of 1950s America as against the liberalism of England in 1980. They particularly pointed out the effects of ‘McCarthyism’, the strong ‘all-American’, anti-Communist hysteria across 1950s US which made many people frightened of being different for fear of being branded ‘un-American’. In contrast, having gone through, first, ‘hippie culture’ and then the ‘punk revolution’, Britain at the start of the 1980s was a much more liberal, anything-goes/express-yourself kind of place than it had been. Support for Perrin & Spencer comes from Nigel Nicholson, Steven Cole & Thomas Rocklin (1985) who found a modest but quite definite level of conformity among British students. Nicholson, Cole & Rocklin attributed the increase in conformity to the greater sense of national social cohesion which developed from Britain’s engagement in the Falklands… Read More

Social Change

Updated: 17 May 2017 Social change means some aspect of society, culture or sub-culture changes. The changes may be overt and dramatic and obvious to everyone or they may be more discreet and less obvious…until people come to a realisation society around them has already changed. An example of this is the attitude of the general public in the UK towards welfare and benefits. As Elizabeth Clery shows in the results of the 2012 British Social Attitudes survey – see graphic above – there is an increased perception that people on welfare are over-reliant on their benefits and that cutting benefits won’t harm too many people too badly. The following 2 years’ surveys  showed only the most marginal reversal (3%) of this trend (Sarah Alcock, 2015) and the election in 2015  of a Tory government determined to cut even more could be seen as voter approval of these strategies. This is actually a major attitudinal shift in a country that, for many years, had largely prided itself on a generous attitude to welfare. Yet these more subtle changes in public perception often only become news when surveys like the British Social Attitudes annual survey pick them up. Of course, sometimes a slow growth in… Read More

Miliband was right: Cameron IS responsible!

It’s astonishing just how quickly Ed Miliband’s assertion last Friday (24 April) that David Cameron has a clear line of responsibility for the migrants who have drowned in the Mediterranean over the past month or so, has become a non-issue. After being a leading news feature all day, effectively it had disappeared as a news item by mid-Saturday. 4 pages into a Google search and I can find nothing about Milliband’s speech or the furore it created more recent than ‘4 days ago’, online or in printed media. On the Friday, I anticipated the Sunday papers being full of analysis, argument and counter-argument about the speech. Nothing!..or at least nothing I could find. Undoubtedly Milliband was subject to a decidedly-vitriolic response from the Tories – environment secretary Liz Truss saying: “It’s absolutely offensive that Ed Miliband should be suggesting that David Cameron is directly responsible for those deaths, which is what he appears to be suggesting.” (BBC News, 2015b) Even Cameron’s Liberal Democrat coalition deputy Nick Clegg called Miliband’s remarks “pretty distasteful” and accused the Labour leader of “political point-scoring” on the back of a “total human tragedy”. By mid-afternoon Friday Miliband was, in the words of the Daily Telegraph’s Ben… Read More

Has Vlad played a Blinder?

Was the Russian takeover of Crimea daring RED opportunism that took advantage of ethnic tensions in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea exacerbated by the new Kiev government’s apparent willingness to discriminate against ethnic Russians…? Or was it 2nd Tier-level strategic thinking that had been working towards this potential outcome, while balancing a whole load of other issues, and was ready to move when the time was right…? Last Summer I speculated Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker? and was rebuffed by some complex thinkers who saw Vladimir Putin more as a ‘wily’ RED-driven opportunist who seized his moment. Yet it has stayed with me just how tactical and strategic Putin was. He rescued Barrack Obama from the corner he had painted himself into with his ‘red line’ announcements about Syria and became the hero of the Summer by levering Bashir al-Assad into agreeing to give up his chemical weapons. Yet Putin’s solution allowed Russia’s client, Assad, to continue his brutal and ruthless war with conventional weapons. Syria only makes the headlines occasionally these days but the daily slaughter grinds relentlessly on. The West remains directionless and indecisive about Syria but increasingly less inclined to support the rebels as they become increasingly more dominated… Read More

What Kind of Endgame? What Kind of Syria?

Of course, you can find a steady drip of news from Syria if you look for it; but there haven’t been that many front page headlines about the Syrian conflict since the US stepped back from the brink of a missile attack in the Summer. Under tentative Russian protection, the Syrian Government appears to have co-operated fully with the United Nations weapons inspectors who are reported to be making good progress (BBC News, 2013b) While no one should underestimate how dangerous the inspectors’ task is – and they haven’t yet been able to access some sites which are in highly-contested areas – their success has been without the kind of nightmare casualties I envisaged in Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker. (The BBC’s Jonathan Marcus (2013b) was just one expert who foresaw similar scenarios.) So far the weapons inspectors have done remarkably well, the Syrian Government is credited with meeting its obligations to the UN Security Council and Vladimir Putin with getting them to do that…and the world has breathed a collective sigh of relief. Given the commercial media’s RED/ORANGE rapacious appetite for new and exciting events to draw in the audience, it’s not too surprising the media’s attention has largely gone elsewhere.… Read More