The psychology of ‘Not’: Meet your (unexpected) inner conservative


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamIf conservatism is famous for anything, it’s famous for what it doesn’t do. Conservative platforms since Thatcher and Reagan have been all about ‘Not’:

  • Not regulating.
  • Not funding.
  • Not culture.
  • Not education.
  • Not public health.
  • Not social justice.
  • Not science.
  • Not environment.
  • Not modernizing.
  • Not listening.

These Nots are basics, monotonously droned out by conservatives in every Western country on Earth without exception. They’re therefore usually ignored, and therefore not at all understood, by progressives. This range of Nots are everything about conservatism that any progressive has ever claimed them to be, and devalued accordingly.

The problem is that’s a very simple, and shallow, way of looking at conservatism. It’s also a great way of totally misunderstanding what Not really means in practice.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas. “Passive voice”, eh?

For example – The usual appeal to “tradition” is often based on a personal reward. It brings back to you things that barely exist anymore. Tradition, however, is also the incarnation of a range of Nots, too, if you spin it that way. These appeals to tradition are great for those lost in the modern world, modern thinking and modern initiatives.

Tradition can be a huge reward. It’s a return to the womb or the family home of childhood, a safe place in your mind. (You could call it a luxury, on that basis.) It’s also a well-known psychological manipulative process. It’s guaranteed to appeal to the insecure, the overstressed and the under-acknowledged. It’s particularly effective on the modern psychological plague, anxiety.

This is the major, classic version of ‘Not’. These pre-adult nostalgias are at their core all about things  that are ‘not’ the things now bothering you. It’s like watching an old TV show from when you were a kid; you’re back home, somehow, at least for a while.

Let’s be fair about this –

  • Everyone over 10 has an established ‘Not’ zone, and a range of experiences and preferences to back it up.
  • The ‘Nots’ are real, perfectly valid psychological buttons, and they work on anyone. People use their Nots as valid reasons.
  • There’s a natural, and reasonable, right to insist on your personal ‘Nots’.

The problems with ‘Not’ as a basis for anything start with the ultra-dangerous “Not real”. This is a double entendre in a whole new class:

  • It can mean your personal Nots are real.
  • It can mean that any reality which isn’t a Not, isn’t real.

The separation between reality and Not is based on deep Fight or Flight catalysts. Fear is always effective, delivering adrenalin to upgrade non-specific Nots to personal crusades or deeply held, sudden beliefs in anything and everything.

Case in point – Many people fear change, and by extension, progress. Others may fear ideas, which leave them lost and totally unprepared for the thinking that goes with new ideas and new things.  They feel insecure, and disadvantaged by these things, and, in fact, they are. Their Nots have excluded them.

This is another universal human experience. It can be a very honest experience.  Many are highly distrustful of the often fake, facile logic of business culture. They distrust it, both on the job and in general.  That distrust is usually backed up by truly lousy personal experiences, and the belief in Not, which is a natural defensive reaction to adversity, becomes entrenched.

It’s a type of logic, perhaps not very focused, but it can drive a drastic response to anything. It can also drive a demand for more Nots. Nots are both a combination of conflict evasion and a position for conflict. Any Not can be used as a stonewall reaction to any group. It can be a rallying point. Add some dopamine, and you can even use it as a basis for “friend or foe” relationships.

The reality or unreality of Nots in history

Put enough Nots together, and you have a society based on Nots. That would be all fine and ducky, but Nots have a 100% record of failure over time.

  • China had a policy of not introducing foreign goods, for decades; look at China now.
  • Tsarist Russia had a policy of two very separate economic classes, not connected in any way and a strict social hierarchy on that basis; look at Russia now.
  • The sun did not set on the British Empire; Not-style mindsets destroyed it with unpreparedness and mismanagement based on the Not mentality. Look at the UK now.

The moral of history is that it’s not about Nots. Nots are straws in a hurricane. Life isn’t, and can’t be, entirely about negativity. The question is this: Does everyone’s inner conservative, the usually self-serving Not-addict, recognize the risks? Probably, Not.




In defence of escapism


Pic max effects1What is escapism? Supposedly, the desire to escape the real world. Check out the real world. What’s to like? What’s the intrinsic appeal of a nuthouse with built-in politicians, psycho bullies and criminals? What’s the appeal of a restrictive, obsessively materialistic society, based on endless acquisition of essentials?

I suggest to you that anyone in their right mind would be trying, hard, to avoid such a world. It’s ugly, it’s dangerous, and the only “reward” is another day in the same situations. Escapists in this sense are ultra-realists, survivalists par excellence.

Job page 19In practice, escapism is no more or less than going to a preferred mental state and situation. It’s the difference between having a broken leg and wishing you didn’t have a broken leg. You prefer affluence to poverty, so you think that way. It’s natural, and a lot healthier than the alternatives in each case, giving a sense of preferred direction.

As a matter of fact, you can’t be “escapist” without a legitimate desire to escape from something which you dislike. You don’t try to escape from things you do like. It’s a realistic approach to real issues- Find a way out.

The only real objection to escapism per se is that most of the escapes are temporary/theoretical. They tend to be distractions from the sewer-like world in which humans unwillingly participate. A real escape from money problems is provided by money. Escaping an unpleasant society is achieved by moving to another society.

Job page 16It’s this lack of ability to get out of unwanted situations which is the real issue. Societies in general don’t provide many options for remedial escapes to better environments. They tend to spread the problems, rather than the solutions. The result is human misery, well documented since the beginning of recorded history.

Exactly why anyone thinks they have the right to criticize “escapists” simply for doing what they prefer to do isn’t even debatable. It’s hypocrisy on a gigantic scale. Everyone, without exception, does what they prefer to do, given the slightest chance.

The ultra-real world advocates will demand attention to any and every material or social situation as a way of “living in the real world”. They’ll then talk your ears off about their favorite movie, something fictional which even by their own standards, doesn’t exist in the real world. They’ll rave about their holiday, a physical departure from their own normal reality.

Mass Media page 2Even hyper-successful people in the lottery of the “real world” tend to succeed, then spend the rest of their lives in pursuit of quite literally nothing. They’ve won the game of Monopoly, and that’s their straitjacket. They know nothing else.

Materialism isn’t “wrong” simply for being materialistic. It becomes wrong when it buries all else in people. Materialism isn’t the only game which must be played. The other game is personal. Can you “win” yourself? Are your emotions protected by your obsessive need to buy a new widget?


It’s difficult to imagine a less relevant approach to living.

After all, who’s doing the living?

Who’s feeling the feelings?

Some people are so “personally dyslexic” they can’t even read their own emotions.

Some trip over major psychological conditions when they suddenly realize they don’t even have feelings when they should.

Live_Lazy_and_Love_I_Cover_for_KindleThis “emotional illiteracy” is actually quite common. The environment imposes a different range of priorities, so the person simply adapts to those priorities, rightly or wrongly. You’re supposed to grow out of it, but many don’t.

The real world includes a lot of possible personal disasters. The personal game is very hard to win, for many people. Arguably, those whose personal game is a third class citizen in their minds are the typical losers. Money-grubbing can’t make up for catastrophic personal situations. All the money does is minimize the possible impacts of other problems. It can’t undo catastrophic emotional damage. It can’t kiss it better. It can’t be “Muuuuummmmmmmy!!!!”

Psychologically, there’s a huge irony here:

Materialists, basing their existences entirely on objects, could be said in some ways to be effectively escaping from their own personal lives. A brain could be said to be a material thing, but its products and processes, when articulated, or in the processes of articulation, aren’t. Emotions are physically generated, but the feelings on the personal level aren’t, in terms of their effects.

Ads_Cover_for_KindleDenying the realities of one’s own existence in so many ways, particularly in the name of “realism”, is an argument comprised largely of holes. It’s absurd. Equating yourself with the furniture is also wrong by definition. However much you may want to be a deckchair, you’re not one.

OK, that’s the obvious described.

Now- Another view of escapism.

If the human race had a single working brain cell in its entire media-addled carcass, it’d encourage escapism. Escapists are also the people who find a way out of situations. It’s their natural forte, something they’re good at.

You’d need an ethical, emotional and spiritual generation of Houdinis to find the way out of all the situations with which humanity inflicts itself on a minute by minute basis, but it’d be worth doing.

I should know. My books, particularly the Threat-Hamster books, are all about situations nobody’s ever been in before. Escapism? Not really. People are often trapped in situations of their own making. Writers, of all people, should know that.

Fun, yes. How do you find an escaped symphony? Obviously, you use a kid, an Scottish wildcat, and Autumn. How do you escape from a world with seas made of packaging while besieged by phone sales people? You uncover the war between cheeses and biscuits, naturally.

If you’re getting the idea that the logic of escapism is a bit different from anything materialism is able to produce, I’ve made my point.

Ask yourself-

What/who is escaping from what/who?

Can your emotions escape from themselves?

How much escaping from materialism’s nasty little hobbies do you do on a routine basis?

If “corporate” is the definition of uber-reality, how “corporate” are your wildest desires?

Which do you prefer, your wildest desires, or “corporate”?

If you answered “corporate”, get a close friend to introduce yourself to yourself. You may not have met before.

You may also have to escape from yourself, to achieve either preference.

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