A myth-debunking study has potent implications for USA, Iran and Arab world

by FG


focuses exclusively on America but its findings would seem to have universal applicability.   If correct, they'd also have predictive value, especially when it comes to the question:"Is it possible, in a given nation, to reverse undesired socio-political change?" 


...While there is some evidence that today's seniors may be more conservative than today's youth, that's not because older folks are more conservative than they use to be. Instead, our modern elders likely came of age at a time when the political situation favored more conservative views....In fact, studies show that people may actually get more liberal over time when it comes to certain kinds of beliefs.




The findings above "work" better than the sterogypical theory in answering certain questions: Why is the older white generation in the USA so much more conservative than everyone else?  In the Middle East why do advocates of major change face such potent and violent resistence?  Why is it likely that change will take longer?   Is the impulse to change permanent or transcient?  Is repression more likely to encourage change than succeed in repressing it?  

The study does ignore other factors which clearly effect how conservative or open minded we become later.  In any society people who are married or religious tend to be more conservative. Those with higher education tend to be more liberal though it varies with one's field of study.  But in comparing age cohorts some of these factors even out.

In one or more subposts I'd like to look at the implications of this theory for the USA, Iran and the Middle Eat. 


more from FG

Letter to the Supreme Leader (sent today)

by FG on

(Note: THE ORIGINAL HAD PARAGRAPHS.  Perhaps because I started the letter on Khamenei's home site, the software here fails to recognize paragraphing.  Even so, you may find it interesting.)  Thank you, thank you, thank you dear Supreme Leader and thanks to our dear Islamic Republic! In 1979 everyone loved and respected our clergy.  Hardly anyone was an atheist.  The mosques were full. How different it is today!  You changed all that and opened our eyes for good. Never have the clergy and Islam been held in such low regard as now in 2012. Believe me, dear sir, we hardly need Mossad, the CIA or foreign NGOs to brainwash us when we have you and 30-plus years under a system that keeps getting worse except for a few at the top. Who loves repression or those who occupy the boot that stamps on one's face?  This is a regime that even goes after family members in order to stomp anyone who criticizes. A new study asks, "Is it true that people grow more conservative a they grow older?"  It found that to be untrue.  How conservative people are is most strongly shaped by prevailing conditions and attitudes when they came of age.   Bearing in mind that most of Iran's population is under 30, political and social attitudes you are shaping today--especially since the election of 2009--will tend to stick.  Thus, people who become distrusted or hated will remain so.  As children come of age under current repressive conditions they too will have their attitudes shaped permanently by what they see of your your courts, your jails, your censors, your social police, your Guardian Council pre-rigged elections and security force thugs.  You did it!  Congratulationd! According to the study, people like youself and, Mohammed Taeb, Ahmad Khatami, etc. were shaped into what you are today by the time you were 20 years old.  Age did not change you.  Already as a young man you were a reactionary- intolerant to new ideas and resentful of change.  Sadly, this means that no amount of effort can old days in which the clergy and Islam were respected and obeyed without question will never return.   Again, thank you, thank you, thank you. For a report on that study about how early experiences shape people's views in any society see: A myth-debunking study has potent implications for USA, Iran and Arab world //iranian.com/main/blog/fg/myth-debunking...


Applying the theory to Iran & Arab world

by FG on

Until very recently Iran and the Arab World were very conservative societies in every sense: social, political, religious and economic.   Massive contact with outside societies and with western technology has produced massive changes in a compressed period of time, especially among the young and mentally flexible who in turn demand changes.  Since the older age cohorts are much more conservative their resistance is far greater and nastier than in the West. The potential cultural clash is substantial and compounded by the relatively youthful populations of these countries.

Khoumeini, Khamenei and most of the in-crowd were never liberals or tolerant even in their youth.  Nor were the majority in their generation.  To the degree attitudes have changed since 1979, some former big shots have liberalized to varying degrees (Moussavi and even Rafsanjani) as the study suggests we can expect.  Most did not.  

The Islamic Republican has alway faced an insolvable problem caused by ambitious goal and the means required to accomplish them.  The IRI sought to provide a model of "success" that others would want to emulate.   It always engaged in an imperialistic dreams in the regime.  It has always aspired to be the strongest military power in the Persian Gulf.  Self-evidently, Iran could not achieve such goals without a highly educated populace with substantial access to technology and contact with non-Islamic societies, especially the West.  

Over time the IRI has become the very model of failure--one that has tainted Islamists everywhere.  Those with the most eager access to new ideas were the most mallable--young folk of mallable age who learned of the social, political and cultural freedoms enjoyed by youthful counterparts elsewhere. That exposure inevitably created the demand for change.  No plots by the CIA, George Soros, etc., were required.   The importance of events in 2009 and since is that it "contaminated" so many other Iranians as well with an incurable disdain for this regime and its Supreme "moral examplar." 

If the theory is right concerning the permanent impact of formative years, the IRI is f@$%ed!  These young Iranians and many older ones will never be changed into young conservatives, socially or politically.  Call them the lost generation.  Worse yet, the disdain for everything associated with the IRI is spreading to younger age colhorts thanks to social and political repression.   The most notable example is in the 180 degree changes in attitude since 1979 when it comes to respect for clerics, Islam or even religion itself.  

If this regime and its vicious Supreme Leader can be credited with one superb accompishment--it has been to de-religify so many Iranians permanently.  


In non-Shia areas of the Middle East the gen erational gap is becomingjust as wide for similar reasons--the impact of new ideas via the same means among the same youthful segments.  These are societies where most folks grew up with eternal "verities" and where questioning authority was unthinkable for generations.  The Arab Spring may have had its greatest support among the young  but--as in Iran after the US Embassy siege it may yet be co-opted by conservative oldsters, especially the the Brotherhood.   If that happens the clergy and Islam itself may lose respect even more rapidly than in Iran.  

The main way Sunni regions differ from Iran today is that Sunnis are still in their 1979 stage.   Perhaps, having seen the IRI's failures, the Brotherhood will avoid the same excesses but Morsi's recent behavior is raising doubts.   


Applying the theory to the USA

by FG on


When I graduated from high school, Ike was still president.  We were raised on a steady diet of shows glorifying an idealized suburban family lifestyle.  We trusted our leaders to always to the right thing.  Though none of us were political (yet), we all were implicit believers in American exceptionalism.   It was my age cohort that began and led the cultural counterrevolution of the late sixties, the protests and rebellion and new rock movement and way of dress.  Those who turned 18 five years after us would grow up in the heart of it.  

Those a few years older than us were far more conservative.  That earlier group was (with notable exceptions) exceptional conservative.   Many WW II vets would never have considered a German or Japanese-made car when they began to appear.   Much of that generation fell for Joe McCarthy and endorsed his communist witch hunts (which the Republics never questioned until belatedly because they found it useful).  That generation provided the corps of voters for George Wallace and Richard Nixon.  

Relevance to the above theory: These guys were as conservative at 18 as they are today.  They and some of my own age cohort (especially those from southern states) form the bulk of these older conservative voters who went for Romney.  They didn't change from liberal to conservative.  They were always conservative.

Predictive Value

Over the next four years, a disproportionate number of ultraconservatives will die off or head into senility.  The Republicans may take heart in the fact that the number of older voters must grow as the baby boomers enter retirement. If the above theory is right, any assumption that the new elderly will be as conservative as the previous one may be badly mistaken.   In their formative years, many of these people were fan of Hendrix and the Doors and if not hippies sympathetic to them.    

In their youth a majority of whites outside the South were deeply sympathetic to the black civil rights movement or involved in it. These voters know how the GOP has always supported the repression of civil rights for purpoes of political gain--in its support of Joe McCarthy, in its race card appeal to working class whites after the 1964 civil rights act (inspired by George Wallace), in its stand against women's right to chooe on the abortion issue, in its current opposition to gay marriage and in its continued effort at voter suppression moves aimed at minorities which continues even after Romney's defeat.

 In the last week before the election, I ran into two guys who referred to the president as a "nigger" and a third who said he'd "like to shoot Obama if he came here (Arizona).  In Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama Obama got only 15 percent of the white vote which shows these people "understand" where the GOP stands on race.  In earlier weeks I encountered endless Romney voters in Arizona and relatives in Pennsylvania whose biggest reason for voting GOP seemed to be resentment of minorities (perceived as "takers" in the Ayn Rand-inspired GOP jargon.

Having cynical exploited such measures for mere political gain the GOP is now suffering "payback" and will continue to do so.  Denials of misconduct merely deeped negative impressions.  These things are noticed and despised among the upcoming "New Old" voting group and the current under 30's.  A majority who once opposed the Viet Nam war had their anti-Republican views reinforced by Bush's recent wars and the GOP attempt to exploit thr Libya crisis.  

The only other age group in which the GOP may not be so disliked is the X-generation crowd who came of age between 1980 and 2000 because it was less radicalized than others.  Nevertheless that age group is nowhere near as conservative as present oldsters born prior to the early sixties.  Meanwhile a majority who reached voting age since the late Bush era will continue to be a problem.

A related demographic problem is the age, racial composition and political attitudes of voters reaching the age 18.   Rather than elaborate on that, I refer you to the article below.  Just remember, if the theory is right, many of these people will grow up with a liberal attitude embedded--especially since over 40 percent of this age group consists of non-white minorities and (that proportion will grow to over 50 percent!).  The critical thing again is that political opinions can be shaped for life in the formative years and most youths despised both Bush and Romney.


The GOP's Problem With Young Voters Is Only Getting Worse


( I'd like to note another GOP problem not directly related to the above: the jam it faces on the abortion issue.    Subposts from social conservatives to a Yahoo story in which former GOP presidential candidate John McCain urged a more liberal position show the problem.  Many were quite hostile and blasted McCain.  If he GOP changes position, many of these folks will stay home or vote for third parties in the future.  On the other hand, if the GOP sticks with it previous hard core by seeking to eliminate choice on the issue it will continue to lose women voters by a wider margin than it leads among white males.  Meanwhile some moderate GOP lawmakers, fed up with threats from Tea Party extremists in the primary may become independents)