Scott Goodson’s Uprising!!! Episode 6: The New Anger Movement, featuring Julian Baggini – author, philosopher, TED speaker. Why is it happening? How can we stand against it?For more ideas on Uprising and movements, cultural movements and movement marketing, follow Uprising!!! on Facebook. We’ll continue to publish brand-new columns on a regular basis. Hey, do us a favor and please give Uprising!!! a review on iTunes. Scott Goodson is the author of best-selling book ‘Uprising: how to build a brand and change the world by sparking cultural movements,’ available on Amazon.com. Scott has helped create and build some of the world’s most iconic brands. He is founder of StrawberryFrog the world’s first movement marketing agency.
Uprising Interview transcript
Announcer: Welcome, to Uprising.
Each episode looks inside what it takes to lead the most dynamic and successful cultural movements. Some of them in the business world, some in the social realm. Some in politics, and some in between. To see why people start uprisings. What gives those initiatives the momentum, and keeps them going? And most important, what lessons can you learn from these movements, and how to apply them to your business, and even personal life? Let’s explore the secret to sparking movements that move people into action.
Man Voice 1: Passionate ideas.
Woman Voice 1: Controversial ideas.
Man Voice 1: Uprising ideas.
Woman Voice 1: The power is now in the hands of anyone.
Man Voice 2: To start a cultural movement.
Man Voice 1: Your movement.
All Three Voices: To move the world.
Scott: There is a new movement in America, beyond the United States, and it seems to be a new way in the world. Everyone has a way of being, and many seem to be moving to a new way of being, and they seem to be very angry. There’s rhetoric, there’s xenophobia, fear-mongering, there’s an angry movement underway. What is happening out there?
Julian Baggini is a world renowned philosopher and author. In his TED talk, Baggini claims there’s no “real you”, in the sense that you are a separate thing. There is a you, in that you are a collection of your experiences, and thus change with time and new encounters.
Julian: Well, thank you Scott. I’m Julian Baggini, and I’m probably best known for a book called The Pig that Wants to be Eaten, which is a book of philosophical thought experiments, although more recently I’ve written Freedom Regained and The Ego Trick. I think it’s a complex phenomenon, basically what’s going on. I know many are trying ways to understand it. I think the simplest way to understand it begins by somewhat taking it at face value. People say they’re angry. They don’t sort of like, well when you point it out that they’re angry, they don’t go, “Oh gosh! I hadn’t noticed. I thought I was behaving calmly.” They’re angry, and they believe they have a right to be angry. And the reason they’re angry is they believe to use a somewhat troublesome __(02:08)__ the political elite so forth have betrayed them, left them behind. The ordinary person has been given a pretty bum deal by the global economic system and government. And people are angry. Perhaps, they don’t understand necessarily the causes of this, so they will channel their anger into whoever expresses it in the most powerful and what seems to be an effective way.
Scott: Do people have a sense of hopefulness in the midst of all this anger, in the anger movement?
Julian: Well, I think possibly it does. I mean, anger is an interesting emotion. I think it’s not always a negative one. There are times when it’s exactly right to be angry. Anger has actually driven a lot of social justice and social change movements. In America, populism has a particular meaning which isn’t the same elsewhere, just to sort of clarify that. Trump is a populist in European, or global terms, meaning he someone who basically uses rather simplistic rhetoric to sort of rally the people as a lump and mass against the elites. And there is a sense of justice behind a lot of the anger. Sense that something is wrong and people want it to be better. Therefore, as you say, there’s a hope aspect to it as well.
Scott: Do you see any similarities in the way that you think about the individual being an entity made up of cells and bacteria and other elements, and also a movement? Do you see similarities in how those are formed?
Julian: I think political movements are quintessentially like that. Because within a political movement, you have people who can wildly disagree about all sorts of things. It’s just true, it’s an obvious truism that any political party is in it of itself a coalition. In Britain and America actually, which had traditionally two-party systems that were very broad coalitions in lots of ways. If you think about Republicans in America, you got socially religiously conservative people, and you also got socially liberal, and economically liberal…there’s economical liberalism, there’s political liberalism. So these groups are broad coalitions, and what happens is that they gain a sense of identity, when whatever it is that is bringing it together seems strong enough and in this case, people are rallying around this sense of injustice and grievance. And so, this is bringing together a lot of people in so many ways just wouldn’t agree at all politically, but they agree on this one thing, people are being screwed.
Scott: Anger is almost an imperfection of how you behave as human beings. But, in this kind of mass movement, is it a form of __(5:09)__?
Julian: The problem is not so much that people are angry. It’s just that the anger, it’s too raw, it’s too unreflective. Not enough thought is going into what it truly demands, what will solve the problems that are causing it. So, the emotional outburst is just being allowed to completely dictate how people are behaving and what people are doing. That’s a character fault we may have.
Scott: How will we get back to being reasonable and rational human beings?
Julian: We have lost sight in the value of reason and rationality. The problem is though that we can’t blame entirely on the people who are overtly against it or attacking, or…
Scott: But now today, it seems like that whole concept of rationalism is disappearing. There seems to be a total lack of, what I would describe as a rational culture.
Julian: So if we look at the kind of irrationality of this anger movement, it has certain aspects. Part of it, is just a kind of laziness if you like. Because it’s actually hard work to think things through properly. And often what we do is settle over what seems rational, instead of really just testing that, seeing what really is rational. The way a lot of people see it is we’ve been told certain things by very smart people for a very long time, who claim that this is rational. It’s all for our very own good. It’s trickled down economics, that liberalization is in favor of everybody and so forth. And look, they’re talking nonsense, it doesn’t work. Yeah, we’re still left off. So there’s a disillusion with the intellectual elites. People go, “Yeah, right! I’m fed up of listening to all these intellectual, over-fabrications of things. That’s all nonsense, let’s tell it like it is!” I think the mainstream is guilty, is partly responsible for the degradation of this culture of rationality. Because for too long now in many countries, certainly in Britain and I think in America as well, campaigns have been led on what is shown to have worked by marketing people, basically simple slogans, simple messages that stick in the head. There’s been very little faith that it’s possible to put forward good arguments for some time, and I think that unfortunately has opened the door then for people with even simpler messages to come in and be even more compelling. If the choice is between that kind of authentic, real kind of person who is just offering simplistic slogans, and someone who looks like a fake, spin-doctored, political machine who cannot really reach the people, then it’s not so surprising that perhaps who’s coming out on top there.
Scott: As a philosopher, do you look at Bernie Sanders and say, “Wow, this is a really positive development.”
Julian: I think what’s encouraging about some of the, what we might call insurgent political movements is that they do have a serious engagement with ideas, and they have a serious sort of…one doesn’t have to simply accept the status quo. Straightforward as it is, that change is possible, and for too long we have been told that things are just the way they have to be. And I recognize the fact that that’s not true. The political system don’t just spring into existence through the forces of nature. They’re always constructed. We always have the option to reconstruct them.
Scott: In a recent article in Scientific American, they found a rage disorder linked with a parasite found in cats. It seems that the parasite hijacks the brain, and they think it does it in humans, too. It is possible, that one of the political candidates out there that exhibited signs of rage is suffering from toxoplasmosis. That might explain so much of what we’ve seen on the campaign trail. Is this angry politician, really angry?
Julian: The sure answer is no. But I also think that way of thinking isn’t very helpful, actually. To dismiss people like that, well you know, they’re suffering from some kind of pathology that had been taken over by a virus, that’s not going to help us really understand what’s behind it, you know? No matter how unpleasant we might think these leaders of certain organizations are, most of the people that support them are ordinary people. So I don’t think we should think of it like that. I don’t think, in the question of what forms his identity is the most important thing. It’s what is it that’s leading other people to identify with it? And actually there’s a lot there which is relevant around identity actually. Identity is a multiple thing, so a person may be a Christian or a Democrat, or an American football fan you know all these things. There are lots of things that are our identities. And in politics, what often happens is that certain forms of identity are prioritized or made central. They’re made more salient. And this is a very dangerous thing to do when it leads to division. I think one real problem is around religious identities, for example. A lot of times, countries like Britain in particular, religious identity was just not an issue. It wasn’t a problem either way. You could be a Christian or Muslim, whatever you were, and it wasn’t a problem. At the same time, you wouldn’t have to advertise the fact. Now what’s happening is that for various reasons, partly to do with events in the world, religious identities are being made really important. So now you got policies being proposed, which stop people from entering a country on the basis of just one of their identities to a particular religion. That could be dangerous because it divides people. And also, by privileging that particular identity, by making that the most identifying thing about a person, their religion, I think that’s very un-American, actually. Because you know, I think the American tradition is that an American citizenship is an inclusive thing, which enables beneath that to have all your other identities. Privileging of the religious identity is a deeply problematic aspect. It is used to, it happens because that’s a way of rallying people together. It creates ingroups and outgroups. It creates a very dangerous division.
Scott: How do we stand up to the anger movement? How can we recover a sense of equanimity and peacefulness?
Julian: Well, that’s a big question. Maybe we stick to the political side of that for the moment rather than personal. I think one of the important things we got to remember is politics is a sort of business negotiation about competing interests, in which not everyone can have what they want, but we have enough of what we want so we can all live together as peacefully as possible. And I think what people have to recognize is much as their anger with the political establishment leaves very justified, there’s all sorts of things wrong with the political establishment, and people are quite right to want change. Though in their anger, they shouldn’t just jump onto equal and opposite forces which have their own ___(12:36)__ aspects. And I think we have to accept the fact that this is hard work and the first thing we got to do is calm down. But at the same time, there has to be a demand. And people have to vote not with their feet, but literally vote with their crosses for a candidate that is going to try and move in that direction. You’ve always got to go in the least perfect option at any given point, but we got to keep pushing in that direction. We got to keep the pressure on the political establishment. Be more responsive and more responsible, but not circum to the temptation to back more simplistic voices who sort of claim that actually, “You know what, it’s straightforward. Let’s just bomb them all, or build a fence,” whatever it might be. So there you go, I have come out on where I stand on that. *laughs*
Scott: Marketing culture has embedded the need for catchy, simplistic messages. The Anger Movement. Julian Baggini, philosopher and author. Thank you, for your wonderful and inspiring words.
Thank you for joining our uprising today, and listening to our show.