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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Syria’

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

Israeli Stupidity in Gaza! #2

How ironic that, around the same time President Barrack Obama authorises American airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq to prevent ‘genocide’ of Christians and Yazidis, senior and influential figures in Israel are reported to be advocating ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, if not outright genocide…? Ostensibly this looks as though the US will take decisive action to protect minorities in northern Iraq but will ignore butchery of the Palestinians. On 4 August Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, was reported by some media – eg: the Daily Mail’s Jill Reilly – to have posted on Facebook a detailed plan for the “conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters”. The survivors from “maximum fire power” would be put in what are effectively concentration camps, prior to being shipped out of the remains of Gaza to “relevant emigration destinations”. In other words, ethnic cleansing. An influential rabbi, Levi Brackman, has used the Torah to justify such a course: “Some 3,500 years ago, as our ancestors, the ancient Israelites, prepared to enter into the Land of Israel, Moses warns: ‘If you do not… Read More

2 Presidents, 2 Crises

In the past I’ve doubted Barack Obama does 2nd Tier thinking – Obama a 2nd Tier Thinker? –  and wondered if maybe Vladimir Putin does – Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker? The latest state of play in world crises seems only to confirm my view of Obama. As for Putin, he’s certainly had a few wobbles in the last month or so and it may be he’s not as in control of Russia as he is usually portrayed to be…but his denunciations of president Petro Poroshenko’s renewed assault on ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, as reported by the BBC’s Oleg Boldyrev, have made him seem reasonable and Poroshenko the aggressor. A 4-way teleconference on Monday (30 June) between Poroshenko, Putin, French president François Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel had raised hopes the fragile truce of the previous week could be renewed – but Poroshenko’s ordering of fierce shelling of Kramatorsk dashed such hopes. Even in late Wednesday’s announcement that the foreign ministers of the 4 countries were working on steps for a new ceasefire, the Russians appeared more reasonable than the Ukrainians. As reported by BBC News (2014b), Ukraine’s Pavlo Klimkin, was all demands, including the release of hostages and security of its… 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

Could the Increased Islamist Presence provide a Way Out of the Syrian Impasse?

In the wake of the Russo-American agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons, the war rumbles on, with a daily litany of shelling of civilians, torture, rape, murder and summary executions beyond the normal carnage of government soldiers and rebels butchering each other on whatever street, field or town square is their latest battlefield. Especially given the short timeframe for the identification, acquisition and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, the United Nations’ weapons inspectors have a truly daunting task ahead of them. A task the diplomats and the politicians may not appreciate the difficulty of. Paradoxically, given the Americans’ apparent readiness to resume the threat of missile strikes, it may be ‘their side’ – the rebels – which most jeopardises the inspectors’ mission. As Bashar al-Assad’s military have pretty much held together as a disciplined military force, the Russians will be able to lean heavily on the Syrian Government to let the inspectors get on with their job. However, the rebels are said to have fragmented so much that there may be up to 1,000 different groups now ranged against Assad. How on earth is any kind of centralised control going to be exerted on them to stop them hindering the inspectors? Without sufficient… Read More

Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker?

Has Vladimir Putin just revealed himself on the global stage this week to be a world-class statesman? While a number of American commentators seem to have taken offence at Putin’s letter to the American people in Thursday’s New York Post yesterday, around the world other commentators, such as Der Spiegel’s Uwe Klussmann, postulate that Putin is saying what others around the world actually think. Already the Internet is alive with discussion of who seems the more reasonable, assured and statesmanlike: Putin or Barack Obama… with many people coming down clearly on Putin’s side. Obama might have argued in his televised speech on Tuesday evening that what makes the United States ‘exceptional’ is its resolve to intervene in the truly horrible…but Putin’s riposte that no one has the right to consider themselves that much more exceptional than others is hard to beat. From an Integrated SocioPsychology perspective, Obama’s argument comes from a vMEME harmonic of BLUE nationalism and ORANGE status-seeking; Putin’s more complex argument comes from the GREEN vMEME and possibly beyond. Back in February 2009 I posited whether Obama [was] a 2nd Tier thinker. Despite the huge sense of optimism in much of the world at his election, within weeks I wasn’t impressed that… Read More