Q: What brought you to write Red Genes Blue Genes?
JIMENEZ: I wanted to try to understand why people are so crazy when it comes to politics. There are few areas of life where people talk as much nonsense as they do in politics. Human beings have a well-known penchant for irrationality, but it seems strangely and particularly acute in politics. Surveys repeatedly confirm that people know virtually nothing about political issues, and yet people are extremely confident and even arrogant in their political views. If you watch political talk shows on TV, you become accustomed to the lowest kinds of prejudice and sloppy thinking. Sometimes, it’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out. Since I’m starting to lose a little too much hair for that, I decided to try to understand why people are so crazy when it comes to politics, and I think I’ve come up with a pretty good explanation.
Q: You say that most people’s political thinking is characterized by “political irrationality.” What exactly do you mean by political irrationality?
JIMENEZ: Well, there are lots of different kinds of irrationality that we can witness in politics, but I focus above all on what I call our “characteristic mode” of political thinking. When the average person hears political news, how does that person react? Political irrationality is the tendency to arrive at political opinions emotionally and instinctively while attributing those opinions to logic and reason. Most people blindly follow the party line as determined by their friends and family, but if pressed will pretend that they hold political opinions because those opinions are somehow more logical or sensible than the opinions held by their political rivals.
Thus, most people deceive themselves continually in politics. We don’t really analyze issues, we just try to figure out what “people like us” are saying, and then we adopt and repeat those views. For most people, politics is tribal rather than logical. The art of political development is merely of learning which tribe we wish to belong to, and how obedient we want to be to that tribe.