I have been a post-materialist since about 2000, but learned I was one yesterday. Before, I had understood it as a matter of spiritual maturity: people move from a position of condemning non-conformists and out-groups to seeing that every human being is doing their best, under difficult circumstances, to agreeing with Blake’s line, “Everything that is, is holy”.
I welcome diversity, which is part of the flourishing of each person, for the good of humanity. This is part of my identity, how I see myself as a good person.
Then the NYT explains me, quoting Ronald Inglehart: when people grow up taking survival for granted it makes them more open to new ideas and more tolerant of outgroups…bringing greater emphasis on freedom of expression, environmental protection, gender equality, and tolerance of gays, handicapped people and foreigners. It is no merit in me, but an accident of birth. This was shocking, even if in retrospect obvious.
As a post-materialist, it means I should seek understanding of my out-group, which previously I thought of as less mature: if you feel under threat, you circle the wagons. Less mature in me does not mean less mature in others. What is possible, for a person?
It might be that if you can make people feel safer, they will be less angry with the outsider, foreigner or non-conformist. Mr Trump and Mrs May go the other way, encouraging the anger. If you feel looked down on by “liberal elites” who tell you not to feel that anger, you may be tempted by moneyed elites who tell you the anger is right. Trump, never worried about survival, bends others’ anger for his own ends. Encouraging the anger, making people feel OK in themselves and rejecting liberal scorn, pleases them so that he does not need to give them anything worthwhile. How do you benefit, really, from excluding refugees? What gain is there, from making Muslims feel as excluded, powerless and angry as you feel?
Are Trump’s patsies capable of empathy, or of recognising their own feelings? Unable to admit how angry and frightened he feels, a man clings more tightly to his world-view, we are right and everyone else is wrong, and those people over there are a threat. This is simply the truth for him, separate from any anxiety he feels about being able to pay his rent.
Is Trump going to permit discrimination against LGBT on “religious grounds”? The NYT said a draft executive order has circulated, but administration officials denied it would be adopted. They take the pulse of the nation. Will this energise their support, or the resistance? What are people saying about the proposed order? The order would increase hatred, and disempower non-conformity.
I am post-materialist because I am in one of the first hate-groups to be victimised. Thank God for the Windrush, I say, bringing Afro-Caribbean workers to Britain, beginning our long march to tolerance from which I benefit.